Spring is coming and that means I, again, have the agricultural urge. It’s in my blood you know. Both of my grandfathers were farmers.
Grandpa Bath in Ohio
My paternal grandfather, Jesse Racolon Bath, started farming his place in 1872 when he was just 18. He rented at first but later saved up enough to buy it (and more). A 1916 history of Erie County, Ohio, describes his success.
As a result of his long continued operations as a farmer [Jesse Bath] now owns a fine place of 197 acres, devoted to general agriculture. For a number of years he has been a dairyman, keeps a herd of high grade Durham cattle, and sells a large quantities of fine cream to the creamery at Bellevue.” A Standard History or Erie County (1916) p. 878.
Farming wasn’t his only interest (he also taught school and served on the school board), but 61 years of labor and his great success are certainly a testament to his devotion. And if he hadn’t died in 1933 from blood poisoning, contracted (of course) in a farming accident, he might have farmed even longer.
Grandpa Jackson in Utah
My maternal grandfather, William Elijah Jackson, farmed in a different place and time. He inherited a 160 acres in Eastern Utah in 1924, which he’d worked with his father. He and my grandmother, Mae, lived on the farm in a wall tent until they were able to build a small home.
I don’t know how much he loved farming, because he worked at other occupations and lived away from the farm a couple of times, once for almost ten years. But that may have been due more to the difficulty of making a living in Utah (especially during Depression and drought) and ambitions for his family. In any case, he kept coming home to the farm and died there working it in 1965.
Me and the Farm
Although my parents were both raised on farms. Neither of them seemed to miss it after they left. My father became an electrician and my mother a waitress and we lived in the city. We had a garden when the yard permitted, but didn’t raise any animals. I got the feeling that they thought there were easier ways to make a living.
I never knew my Grandpa Bath or his farm, but did spend time, as a boy, on Grandpa Jackson’s farm. For me it was just a place to play and visit family. Their home was small and, even as a child, I wondered why they didn’t have more.
As I grew up, I didn’t think much of farming as a profession. I respected what farmers did, but knew it wasn’t the life for me. My only motivation for working the land was the fact that President Spencer W. Kimball put growing a garden way up on the list of being a good Mormon.
It Was Different With Debra
Debra brought a different attitude into our marriage!
Coming from a long line of farmers and raised on farms and ranches, she preferred the country life. She didn’t miss the hard work and worry of farming so much as she missed nature and being on the back of a horse. We’ve lived in both the county and city during our 42 years together and, without doubt, she was happiest when we were in the country.
In each place we have lived, Debra has made sure there has been a little bit of country going. There have been gardens, some fruit trees and a couple of FFA sheep. Some projects were disasters and others were successful.
We had the best success in Washington state and actually bought an extra piece of property to expand our efforts, but were transferred before we had the chance to use it.
My Growing Interest
Over the years, I have developed more of an interest, especially in growing fruit. I’ve come to love the coming of spring and the potential that it brings. I think that a blossoming fruit tree is a most beautiful sight and thrill at new spouts coming out of the soil and the sound of buzzing bees at work.
Gardening at our current of of 16 years has been frustrating. The soil is terrible making me wonder how this area was once this valley’s major agricultural area. It was actually called The Farm. [That is why Granite High students chose the Farmer as their mascot.]
The only thing I can think is that builders must have hauled in tons of sterile filler when they built the subdivision. We have composted, fertilized and worked the soil to no avail and have only had success gardening in boxes.
Time constraints have added to the frustrations.
Professional Scouters put in a lot of hours all year long, but summer is a whole new level of busy. It’s called summer camp. If you work at camp, if can be hard to just keep up a lawn, much less care for a garden. Almost all the yard care and gardening have fallen to Debra for the last twelve years, but she has also worked and done extra duty at camp.
We finally decided to bag gardening altogether, until retirement. We had a country plank in our retirement plans. Top on our list was location – a nice place in the country with room to spread our agricultural wings.
But now that we are finally both retired, circumstances are dictating that we stay put for the foreseeable future. So, we will have to do the best with what we have.
Most of the yard belongs to Debra, but she has graciously left me a 15 by 35 foot strip to “garden”. I have affectionately named it my 1/100th Acre Farm. It is not much, but with the Still’s and the RA, it is about as much as I can handle. I am really kind of excited about it. I want to try out some non-traditional methods and see how much I get my little farm to produce.
I will keep you posted.