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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (03/06/08)

TITLE: SCHOOL OF LIFE
By Fern Rice
03/08/08


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“I’m miserable, so miserable, down on Misery Farm.
The hens won’t lay, we can’t make hay, it rains all day
Down on Misery Farm.

“I’m miserable, so miserable, down on Misery Farm.
We work all day and we get no pay
Down on Misery Farm.”

My Grandmother was singing in her sweet melodious voice as I opened the door to the kitchen and announced myself. The words were sad, and a reflection of the Depression which they had survived with all the usual difficulties, but Grandma sang with gusto and turned it into praise. Not for what they went through, but the fact that right then she was making another apple pie, without wondering if it would stretch to feed all who would turn up at her table for a meal and if there would be enough lard to make the pastry.

She was using the super-length rolling pin my Great Uncle Coates made to help her in her cooking. Her pastry after years of practice, was always the ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ kind, and the apples picked straight off the tree just outside the door, were crisp and tart, just the right thing for a pie.

During the depression times the family had moved onto a small market-gardening farm, as jobs were short and food even shorter. Grandad prided himself in his new career, and grew enough to keep the family fed and to sell to pay for everything else.

Grandma’s cooking was appreciated, and with a family of eight children there were enough mouths to feed. Add their friends to the mix, and out came Grandma’s cooking lore “one for Dad, one for Mavis, one for Frank, one for ..... “ until all the family had been named, and then would come “... and two extras and one for the pot.” There were always enough takers for the extra food.

Grandma, by the time I was old enough to know that she just wasn’t my “Grandma” but had a life, long before I did, found humour in everything. She sang hymns all day as she went about doing all her chores. She knew the Sankey Hymn Book off by heart. By then she was getting a little withered, like some of the apples I’d helped her peel over the years. She was less buxom than before, and her hands slightly arthritic, which didn’t stop her un-pulling old garments and re-knitting all her grandchildren the most beautiful jerseys that anyone could ever want. She never got over being extravagant with her love and careful with everything else.

We had our soap-making days with the old copper in the outside wash-house, where all her family would gather and have a once-a-year soap-making party. The back lawn, kept in pristine order by my meticulous Grandad, hardly was big enough when we were all there, but somehow we managed to squeeze in. For us as children this was a super picnic with a large batch of cousins to play with and lots of goodies that Grandma had baked, plus what all the parents had brought. Even home-made lemonade! For Mum and the Aunts, who had saved up all the clean fat from the roast lamb every week, it was a chance to work together and catch up on all the news. Enough soap was made to keep us all going for the year to come.

Next came the bottling. As we got old enough to hold a knife safely these family gatherings to bottle the pears, plums, peaches, make apple and plum sauce, along with the pickles, tomato sauce and anything else that needed to be done became part of our school of life. There was also the jam to be made, but before that we had to pick the black and red currants, gooseberries and other fruit. There were no sexual discrimination practices here. Boys and girls together washed, peeled, cut and otherwise prepared the goods for the pot or the jars. We didn’t count it as work but felt as if it was a special fun time where we could all be together. Competitions ran to see who could make the longest peel. We did the running round playing hide-and-seek, hopscotch and stiff candles when the work was done.

Grandma’s adage was “waste not, want not.” And we never did!


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This article has been read 309 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 03/14/08
Lovely and nostalgic visit to the past, where I could see, hear, and smell everything described.

Your grandmother's song was funny and sad, but the fact that it nearly quote the proverb of the week may have lowered your rating a tad.

I enjoyed your writing style and this journey out of my living room.
Lyn Churchyard03/15/08
For just a short time I was transported away from my laptop and enjoyed a visit to your Grandparents farm. I felt I was sitting on the back step watching everything happening. Oh and how I could taste that apple pie !!
Well written, I loved it.(the story AND the apple pie).
Yvonne Blake 03/16/08
Wonderful Description!
I'd love to know Grandma. They certainly knew how to make the best of a little back then.
I know the song fit the topic exactly, but it might have hurt the judging by using the exact words.
This would great as part as a memoir or autobiography.
Thank you for writing this.
Joshua Janoski03/16/08
Your descriptions were wonderful. You transported me there. This reminded me of my grandfather, who grew up in The Great Depression, and who also made the tastiest apple pies.

The song at the beginning really setup your story well.

This was a delight to read. Thank you so much for sharing it. :)
Mandy White03/16/08
I enjoyed this very much. Thanks for the woonderful descriptions.