A Holiday: Fourth of July Memories

From the “Around the Kitchen Table” Guest Blog Series

Guest blogger: Alvina Valencourt

(Alvina is the cousin I mentioned frequently in Ira’s Farm. Her dad was Uncle Mike who brought the Monopoly game on New Year’s Eve in 1937.)

A Holiday

It’s getting around the 4th of July time of the year, taking me back to a childhood memory of the one time of the year when we did anything together as a family.

Dad was a hard-working farmer, often bragging that “the day wasn’t long enough or the work hard enough” to suit him. Consequently, a day of leisure together as a family was rare. The 4th of July was the exception. So, with his brothers and their families who lived nearby, we would all converge on Green Lake near Interlochen for an all-day picnic.

We would scurry around getting ready which necessitated I go upstairs into the attic to retrieve my bathing suit from a large black trunk that reposed there. The attic was dark (no electricity then) and smelled strongly of mice. But thinking of the treat looming before me, I opened the trunk and retrieved the green knit moth-eaten bathing suit inherited from my cousin and ran downstairs to help Mama with the food,

The family piled into the Ford and our holiday began! Upon arriving at Green Lake, Dad would treat us kids to ice cream cones, a real treat in those hard times. Then into my bathing suit, plunge into the sparkling green lake. It was cold to my skin at first, but soon became pure joy as we splashed about.

At noon we had the picnic lunch and later in the day made ice cream the old-fashioned way – turning a handle on the wooden freezer. So delicious!

And so, back to the farm, never knowing that some eighty years later the memory of that simple pleasure would remain with me.

From Suburbs to Soil

From the “Around the Kitchen Table” Guest Blog Series

Guest blogger: Mallory DeVries of Woodside Acres in Charles City, Iowa

The year was 2013 and I was deep into learning how to cook. I’d been learning for a few years, mostly through practice and America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks. Growing up, we lived out of Hamburger Helper boxes, bags of cereal, and Nutter Butters. But I was determined to feed myself and future husband something more satisfying and complex. It wasn’t until I watched Food, Inc., however, that I really began to think about where our food was actually coming from. I began grocery shopping in an entirely new way: by seeking out food. Real food. Local food. Ingredients rather than ready-made meals and condiments.

It was in this same documentary that I was first introduced to Joel Salatin and his work on sustainable agriculture and holistic management of livestock. I very quickly began questioning every aspect of food; not just what was on my plate, but what was on America’s plate and why. I found some answers to the “why” a few months later when I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by (my now favorite author) Michael Pollan. This book impacted my life and future in ways that I couldn’t begin to fathom.

Having grown up in Iowa, you would think that I would have been exposed to lots of farming, but I was not. It wasn’t something young people really talked about. We knew that the combines driving down the highway were a huge inconvenience to us and that there were cornfields EVERYWHERE, but I didn’t even know what that corn was used for. I just didn’t care. But just before my husband and I turned 30, we made the decision to “go back to the land” and purchased an 11-acre property in Northeast Iowa.

Fast forward to now, Spring 2019, and our very first large-scale gardening adventure is in full swing. Our fifteen Wyandotte hens are busy preparing and fertilizing our garden area just to the East of our new home in Northeast Iowa. Our flock is also tasked with converting our food scraps into compost. An entire room in our home has been converted into a “garden room” filled with very eager tomato, pepper, onion, herb, and flower plants. The asparagus patch and rhubarb have sprung into production. There are buds on the existing apple, pear, peach, and cherry trees. Two new pear trees just went in the  ground. There are beet greens popping up in a large tub near the front yard. The most wonderful time of the year, indeed.

It is my hope that other “young” people will begin this journey with us and start questioning everything around them. I hope the next generation will be drawn to the land. To care for it and receive care from it as well.  I see it working when our toddler asks to go dig for worms or help daddy mulch the fruit trees. And when she laughs at the chickens doing funny things. She wants to be outdoors, rain or shine. It is working.

If you want to follow our journey to sustainability, follow Woodside Acres on Facebook!