Making it through the Winter with all that had to be done to get ready for Spring, was sometimes quite a chore but one that was enjoyed by all six of us girls - most of the time anyway! Each of us would have our chores: Judy would post a list for the week/weekend on the fridge and the earliest riser got the best job/s. Back then, I was not one of the early risers - especially on the weekends - so I usually got stuck with the worst and the messiest job on the list. Even if I thought I was being smart, one of my foster sisters would sabotage my plan and sneakily turn the alarm of without my knowledge!
Thinking back, I remember the worst job EVER was the cleaning of the chicken coop! It wasnt so bad in the Winter but as the weather started heating up in the Summer months, it was the worst! The smell of chicken poop is bad enough without heat added to it... As Winter faded and Spring showed itself around the farm, it was my most favorite time of year. New farm babies were everywhere; there was the annual Spring cattle drive to move the cattle from their Winter pasture to the Spring pasture - that was a week long adventure in itself as we would be involved with giving vaccinations; de-horning the steers; castrating the ones we didn't want to be breeding bulls; finding wandering cows with their new born calves and so on. It was a very busy time and once all the animal and critter related work was taken care of, then came the gardening - my favorite part of Spring! Time for all those plants and herbs to come out of the cellars and be planted in the gardens. To see all the hard work we had done over the Winter: all the nurturing of the seeds to turn them into seedlings and plants - they were now to be planted to make a huge Fall harvest once again and this was very exciting to me.
The huge task of gardening and cultivating began...... Using the tractor to till the soil; hooking up Margeret the mule to make the rows; then the planting and making homemade trellis's, tomato cages, raised beds, and a compost pile. We were up by 4am every morning - some of us making breakfast, some chopping wood, hand milking the cows, feeding the other critters, gathering eggs from all the fowl (chickens, geese, chukars, guinea hens) excetera. Morning chores took until about 10am to finish, then it was off to the gardens: sowing, planting, watering, running soaker hose lines, and setting up sprinkler systems after everything was gathered from the tool barn and cleaned and repaired if needed.
When we stopped for lunch, the food preparation took a good couple hours as there were a family of 16, with up to 46 ranch hands, so it was a mad house in the kitchen some days/nights. After lunch came the afternoon/evening chores, which were basically the same as the morning ones with the addition of anything left over, plus making sure everything was put to bed for the night. Then, somehow, there was time for homework, dinner, baths and bed. Depending on how busy and long the day was, sometimes bedtime didn't come before 11pm - long days for sure but you knew the meaning of hard work and what wonderful rewards it brought at the end of the day.
Sometimes in the evenings we would make Spring tonics and refurbish our stock of handmade soaps, lotions and any salves we had run low on from the Winter. We handmade taper candles from the tallow of the spring slaughter of the beef, or from bees wax from hives that had been gathered the previous day. Sue would sit with one of us girls (we would rotate, so everyone learned something new) and show us how to turn raw freshwool into yarn for spinning and knitting in the Winter months. I loved the farm. Everyday was learning experience of some kind and yes, there were bad times but good lessons were learned......
Lessons like when a mother cow would die, leaving her calf all alone, or when a calf would die, and the mother cow was mourning badly, we would take the hide from the dead calf and tie it to the orphaned one, so the mourning mother would accept it as her own. If that didn't work, many times we would bottle feed the orphans. Occasionally, groups of unruly cows would get through the fence into one of the gardens and tear things up pretty badly so that sometimes, we would have to start from square one again with our planting. Once, my new Labrador puppy, Goober, was in the yard "helping" Judy to plant new flowers and he was bitten by a rattle snake, whilst trying to protect Judy. His poor little nose swelled up bigger than his head, the poor little soul. Sue made a poultice for his nose that pulled out the poison. She also made an herbal concoction of anti-biotic and anti-inflammatory herbs that she mixed in with his food. He was a very sick little guy for a few days but he survived and after that he had hero status around the ranch! :)
Everyday there were trials and tribulations of one kind or another but all in all we girls could not have had a better environment for learning. All the while, no matter what situation arose, Sue was there with her magic books of herbal recipes, making things better. Here are a few homemade remedies to share with you...... Raw ingredients from your kitchen cupboard - such as garlic, ginger, and herbal teas provide some of the most useful first aid remedies.
- Garlic is highly antiseptic and can be rubbed on acne and other pimples, and even applied crushed to draw on corns.
- Aloe vera can be used to soothe sun burn, burns and scalds: just break off a leaf of the plant; squeeze out the jelly, and apply to affected areas.
- Onion brings rapid relief to insect stings, nettle rash or hives caused by food allergies.
- Ginger - chewing a piece of crystalized ginger prevents nausea and travel sickness.
To be continued......