Saturday, September 8, 2007


It all started one day when my mom came home with a goat in the back of her car...
Me walking through my mothers garden. I was about 4 years old here. It was morning... I don't remember that particular day, but I can imagine the feel of everything about it. It was the same every June. My mother would plant, and I would watch it all grow.

It always has amazed me what my mom did when we were little. She lived on one acre and bought very few things at the store. We had goats for milk and cheese (although we still enjoyed Tillamok Cheddar just like my kids), we had chickens for eggs, we had two huge apple trees, a hazelnut tree, a HUGE garden, a potato patch, blackberry bushes along the back property line, a huge patch of fall raspberries, and dogs for protection. All 5 to 6 (my brother came every few weekends) of us lived in a 24X24 ft house in the middle of all of this. And this was in the MIDDLE of Olympia, WA. Just off the freeway, across the street and down the drive way from two different car dealerships.

Kids garden.

We never bought much. My parents were dedicated to living off as little as possible. That partnership in living on less than the mean of the world income is the only thing I envy about their relationship. I think there was less than a year out of the 25 they were together that they were happy. But to me, growing up on that little goat farm, watching my mom can, and cook, and pay us a dime a day to go out and feed chickens and collect eggs... well, it was my heaven. I think that was a lot of why I wanted to have that for my kids. City or not. Because I had seen it done. It wasn't a magical existence. There was always yelling, always discord.... but there was also lots of hard work. Neither my mom or dad are put off from doing something because it will be a hard job. They produced 90% of what we used as a family. My mom made our clothes, most of our food, and some of our furniture.

My dad walled in a small back porch so we could have a bedroom, and made or traded work for the furniture we had. He also built the green house on to the little house that is behind us in the picture of my brother and I on the swings. He built a barn for the goats and made a shed (a very rickety shed) that was half chicken roost and half woodshed. The two of them slept in the living room on a red covered foam futon that doubled as a couch.

It was Extreme Simplicity at it's finest.

Here is my big brother and I harvesting the winters potatoes.

I remember a lot about that little place. I think I am the only one who remembers it fondly. My younger brother feels like he was missing something being that outside of the rest of the world. My older siblings remember a lot of fighting (they aren't wrong, I was just more oblivious being at least 8 years younger).

I remember mornings, walking through the mist, with my mom waking up to find me out of bed, and in the garden. Watching the dew dry on the leaves and picturing the bounty to come. Hiding in the raspberry bushes and making forts in the hazelnut tree. Playing in a hill of dirt and striping down to my unders because I know mom will get angry if I come home covered in dirt, again. The feel of milling fresh applesauce when I was barely old enough to turn the crank and the smell of warm goats cheese. What cheese looked like hanging above our sink in it's cheese clothe and the 'pat pat pat' of the whey dripping into the sink. How the window panes above the sink (an old, divided window) split my shadow into lines along the kitchen floor. Eating blackberries until I could burst, next to a goat grazing on a tether. Getting eggs and being SO excited when there were two yolks in one.

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It paints your life so small in comparison to the things you have lived. But I hope I am creating some memories like that for my kids.


Lizz said...

Oh so wonderful!

Very much what Tobny and I are working for. And to have these folks as parents-you are blessed!

Thanks for sharing.

Hippies! wink

Anonymous said...

Oh, how sweet to share this reflection of your youth!

So beautifully written and a great tribute to your parents.
Kate Talley

Dawn D. Lion said...

Fun to see where you'e from. ;)
Looks like a beautiful place!

S said...

what an amazing post, and with that song "delilah" going on in the background I was brought to tears. My parents were similar as your, we lived on very little, more from necessity than choice but those are the sweetest memories for me. We also lived removed from others somewhat. I grew up on 135 acres in rural CA. We did alot of playing outside and that is what I wish I could give my kids instead of the apartment living they are having instead. The pictures of your garden are just breathtaking with the mist coming in and all. What wonderful memories.

Katie said...

I love hearing memories, thank you for sharing such wonderful, intimate details of your youth & the pictures, I feel like I was there with your rich description, it sounds so magical....

Becka said...

That was so beautifully written. We lived very simply growing up but did not have the empowerment of self-sufficiency but rather the bondage of government dependency...still, my memories are fond.

Val in the Rose Garden said...

A lot of these first 9 years sustained me through the onslaught that was my young teen and teen years. The memories that things can be simple and forgiving... connected to the earth that brings you food. When I was 9 we moved into an apartment and gave up all our animals. And we never got that back. I think it was a huge part of why my mom got depressed later on (that and many other things). She was not necessarily happy there, but she had a purpose. It was her space, her job. And after that, she was "just a stay at home mom" when before she had been a Domestic Goddess. Even my dad had that view somewhat. Esp after we were older and all in college.

I have told her many times about how I treasure this place, and she laughs. She misses it too... but she is a 'by circumstance'... she goes where the wind takes her and doesn't fight for what she wants unless it lands in her lap. So she never got this peaceful exsistance back after that.

I want to paint this for my kids... I don't want to wait until after Alex is too old to benifit from this type of experience. So I created it, right here... as much as I could. I hope he has a little bit... becuase Logan will remember very little else. And him being my third... perhaps he will treasure it like I did.

Brie said...

I absolutely loved reading this Val! I have worked so hard to remember good things about my's so easy for me to only remember the bad. There is good everywhere and it's a choice to cherish it.

simply patti said...

Wow Val... that post was so tender; full of truth...

your heaven certainly wasn't your brother's... isn't that something?

Thank you for sharing a precious part of your past.

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