Route 3. A dirt road in Leake County, Mississippi that holds fond memories of my grandparents’ farm making mud pies, playing on the swing on the front porch, and red clay dirt.
It was on Route 3 that I learned the basics of life on a farm. My grandparents taught me that it was important to grow your own vegetables, work hard to prepare for the slow times, and that farm eating was the only way to eat. Unfortunately, I didn’t really appreciate those lessons during my youth as I should have. As always, hindsight is 20/20.
Fast forward to the year 2013 when I had to make life changes after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and my son battled with epilepsy. With both medical conditions I researched and studied medical protocol, but despite the medicines and the medical procedures, I was led back to some basic principles of nutrition and holistic living that helped our family manage those two illnesses.
We do trust our medical professionals, and we do take all prescribed medicines. We also discovered that how we eat and live are just as important. The basics of farm living that I experienced more than 30 years ago now helped me educate my children and live according to the principles that I’ve learned from the days on that Mississippi farm. Remembering the tips listed below helped us all feel better and do better.
1. Locally grown is good. Homegrown is better. My grandparents grew most of their own fruits and vegetables. If they didn’t have good luck with a particular crop that season, they would share and trade with other farmers, friends, and relatives in their community. There were no pesticides, no chemicals, and no added preservatives. Many commercial grocers are now recognizing the benefits of locally grown produce and are featuring it. As a consumer, it may take an extra two steps to get the locally grown organic apple, but it’s worth it.
2. If no one will hire you, hire yourself. My grandfather was an independent farmer. He worked his land for himself. Consequently, he’s one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known because he knew he was responsible for his success. Was it hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Definitely yes.
3. If you start it, finish it. And put everything you have into it. My grandfather’s favorite quote for many years was this: “If a task has once begun, never leave it till it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” Apparently, he recited it so much during my mother’s childhood, she stills hears it from time to time in her sleep. It’s one of those things that is necessary to hear but so true. As a culture, we’ve become a little lazy an full of procrastination. We make excuses and we sometimes don’t finish the tasks we begin. If you’ve started the paperwork to return to school for an advanced degree, if you’re training for the next half-marathon, if you really know you should saving an additional $500 a month for retirement, stay the course.
4. We were made to coexist with animals. If there’s one piece of parenting advice I could give, it would be to get a family pet and have the children play equal and appropriate roles in caring for that pet. Over the years we’ve had fish, cats, and dogs since the kids were really little. I’m convinced caring for an animal teaches them to appreciate the value in living species that are different from us as humans. At the farm on Route 3 the pasture was our front and back yard. Cows, horses, chickens, pigs, cats and dogs roamed the land freely. Seeing them interact with each other was normal, and we also understood that the farm was just as much theirs and it was ours.
5. Sunday is a day of rest. I can remember my grandmother cooking Sunday dinner on Saturday and making sure that we even ironed our church clothes Saturday night because Sunday was a day of rest and praise for the Lord. Our information and technology-driven culture requires that we feel connected and wired all the time. Our brains need to relax. Our bodies need to relax. We need time to unplug and focus on our power source from the universe.
6. Life is better when it has a little flavor. My grandmother cooked with spices, and she was one of the best cooks I know. My grandfather was also an avid fisherman, and he performed a ritual by spitting on the bait to give it “a little flavor.” Today my 15-year-old’s favorite word to describe something fun and exciting is that it’s “spicy.” Flavor makes the world go round. It is fun, it takes us out of the mundane, and it gives us diversity in life.
These tips led to some small changes in our household that have proven to be effective. Today I am cancer free and my son hasn’t had a seizure in two years. When stress and illness plague us, the first thing we evaluate is our eating and our lifestyle. Sometimes going back to basics help us more than we realize in our quest to live better lives.
Have you ever lived on a farm? What did you learn from it?