It was late summer of 1954 that we moved from Strong to the farm at Livermore Falls. Even though the farm did not have electricity, running water or central heating, this was a big upgrade for us. During the summer months, we could actually have a bed all to our own. It may have been a mattress on the floor, but it was only mine. The top blanket may have been an old fur coat. I did not have to share it with two other brothers during the summer. The bedrooms actually had doors on them, which was a big change. There was one of those hand water pumps in the kitchen hooked directly to a well. As long as the well had water in it, we did not have to run for water. This was great because now the adults did not complain if there was not any water for the morning coffee. We still had to walk a mile to catch the bus for school, but that was better than walking two miles to school. Then of course walk back up the hill after school. Because we arrived at the farm so late in the summer, we did not have time to plant crops or gather enough firewood for the winter. There was an old barn that someone had partially torn down, that supplied wood for a while. All I had to do was take the bucksaw out and begin cutting enough for the week. Thus began a weekend ritual of gathering wood for the house. There was a woodshed there and any spare time we had was trying to fill the shed. This was the job until the snow totally covered the old barn. Once snow came, we had to be careful not to fall through holes in the old floor. On more than one occasion, my brother and I had to venture out into the forest to cut down a tree. We would cut the fallen tree just small enough so we could drag it home. We would then have to cut, split it and carry it inside. We would pile the wood behind the stove in such a manner it partially dried before the stove needed food. This was the winter, I learned how to properly file a bucksaw to make cutting wood easier. If one had to ride the saw, and the saw cut crooked, it was time to file the blade. A properly filed saw, all one had to do was keep it moving back and forth. In those days, I never wondered why at age nine, it was my job to go into the woods and bring in trees. When I got older, I remembered my brother had a problem with seizures. The job fell to me to do a lot of the chores. That was a hard winter, but spring finally came. We no longer had to stand outside and wait for the school siren to blow. If it did not blow by a little after seven, we would walk the mile through the snow to catch the bus. Once in a while, the road did get plowed though. Now with spring here, the family began the preparations for the next winter. Dad was able to haul wood to the mill and buy seed and animals we desperately needed. Things were coming together nicely and there was hope this was going to be a great year. For a while, the ground would freeze, and we hauled out wood for next winter. Trees were tapped for the syrup and slabs were hauled from the mill to boil the sap down for next winter. As it does every year, summer finally came into full bloom. This was not the time to slack off though. Fields were plowed and harrowed. Gardens were planted and berry picking was just around the corner. It seemed as though there was always something do to around the farm. Fields had to be fenced in for the goats, the horses had to be tended. Gardens were sprouting up and someone had to keep the weeds under control. This was one task I did not have to do because I tended to pull out more than just the weeds. It was not long before we had to start gathering food for the winter. This started with the dandelions, the fiddleheads. There were chokecherries, strawberries, blueberries and many other berries that had to be picked and canned in a variety of ways. It was great that there were only five of us kids home at the time. There were less mouths to feed yet, but fewer hands to work the farm. We all remembered what the last winter was like. There was more than one episode of cold and hungry. With the warmth of early summer and the wild berries, that was not a worry now. But there was one time, hunger came to visit. I ventured about the farm for something, anything to eat to fill the hole in my belly. The tomatoes had not ripened yet, but I wanted to try them. I found an empty Crisco lard can, sliced the tomatoes and put them in the can. Put this on the wood stove with a small onion. I cooked them and that was my snack to fill the belly. I found out years later fried green tomatoes was a normal thing to eat. Good thing I did not know that then. Most probably there were would not be much left to ripen. Darn goats will eat anything when loose. But it was a great year for vegetables and the mason jars began to fill up the shelves in the cellar. Along with this were the variety of apples and potatoes. Bins were getting full, each to their own. Everything was harvested, canned or dried, depending on what mother wanted to do with them. Sliced apples were strung to dry along with herbs for seasoning or medicines. The next job was to cut more wood for dad to haul and wood for the winters heat. Soon school started again and then the snows came. This was bringing one of our best years to a close. There was plenty of goods canned and all of the shelves in the pantry were full. The bins down cellar were full and shelves down there held all they could. All was great and then along came four other kids to stay with us for a while. One of my aunts got sick and mother was asked to take care of them for a while. There was no hesitation. We had plenty of food and bed space just meant we had to double or triple up for a while. By the time our family shrunk back down to normal, the food supply had shrunk also. The huge baking potatoes had vanished, and we were down to potatoes for mashing or soups. Potatoes were even important for making doughnuts. Soon we would be down to small potatoes for soups and frying up red flannel hash. Now, our family was used to mulligan stew, so it was almost life as usual. Then came the last potato. Now, normal folks would not worry about the last potato, but we were not normal. Just about everything we ate was centered around the life supplying potato. It was a vegetable that could be used for just about anything. There was baked potatoes, fried potato and onions, potatoes for soups, for doughnuts, and the list goes on. But there was none. This was just about the only time in my life that I felt poor. There were other things to eat, but no potatoes. I guess I survived though, cause here I am.

Have a fine day folks Ken W mountainman


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