I spent a significant amount of my childhood growing up with my grandparents on their farm. I believe that is where my love of all things environment and conservation started.
I’ve heard that people who lived through the great depression and WWII are often great sources of information when it comes to using items to their full potential, getting creative, or just doing without.
I thought I would share some memories from growing up with my Grandparents on their farm and I feel it helped influence me.
Reusing, Repurpose, and be Creative
My Gram seemed to keep everything!
What I remember the most is the big bag of rubber bands from the mail deliveries and our homemade coolers. These coolers were made from old apple juice jugs, empty sugar bags. She would fill the jugs half way with water and freeze. They fit perfectly into the empty sugar bags. Fill one up with water, slide it into a sugar bag to insulate and put this into some plastic shopping bags. They would last almost all day out in the fields.
She also kept milk bags.
We would wash them out and reuse them for anything that required a plastic baggie.
Food storage, little item storage. I don’t remember many plastic sandwich bags being used.
If you needed gift wrap or tissue paper — go to Grama!
She would keep almost every scrap of reusable wrapping paper, tissue paper, and ribbon. I’ve carried on this tradition, but not so much with the wrapping paper. I use gift bags or get sales papers from family to wrap gifts. I also have a huge roll of paper from Ikea that the kids use for art or random scribbles that sometimes get reused to wrap packages.
Sometimes, she would just keep items for me on hand to get creative with.
I remember making bird houses from cartons.
She really encouraged creativity and it was great to have all these items at my disposal.
… and hand-me downs.
I think my younger sister and cousin benefited the most from our hand-me downs. When my Aunt got married, we gained a new source of hand-me downs for me. To this day, I prefer to give away clothes and appreciate it when people share with me.
Second Hand Shopping
I was so embarrassed by this when I was younger. Especially when it came to clothes. Looking back, it turns out my Grama had style and I was just a weird socially awkward kid. I never had the cool and new fancy brands, but they were stylish for the time period. There was a church in town that had a weekly clothing sale that I would attend with with my Aunt and Grama. This would have been the closest thing to a thrift store in our small farming community. All I can remember is there being so much stuff that I found it overwhelming.
Hitting the yard sales is another great memory.
I was taught to look for a good deal and try to buy something used before buying it new. I’m still proud of a cool orange coloured black and white TV that I bought when I was around 10 years old. Yard sales were one way that I bought presents for my family members.
Farming and Gardening
Everyone was expected to help out.
I learned how to grow my own food and even how to preserve it. I would help out as much as I could when it came to baling and stacking hay. I would go out and help feed the cows. More than a few times, we had to jump up from the breakfast table to herd the cows since they had found a way to escape their pasture. I helped in the fields. As we got older, we would be expected to contribute more to the gardening and farming.
Growing up on a farm, I was taught how to use tools.
I may not know what they are called, but I can use them!
If it was broke, we fixed it. Furniture, showers, toilets, fences, motors.
It started with hand sewing.
When my Gram figured out that I was sneaking and using her sewing machine she taught me how to use it. By the time I took home economics, I had mad sewing skills. My Grama kept all kinds of fabric and fabric scraps. I made doll clothes, purses for my sister and cousins, gym bags, doll house textiles and even tried my hand at designing my own clothes.
The one thing that my Grama personally gave me as she was dying was her sewing machine. Sewing is a very handy skill to have.
This is a big one!
Not to brag, but it almost seems like a lot of people my age and younger lack a strong work ethic. I noticed it being a retail store manager for almost a decade. I was taught to do a job, do it well, and take pride in it. Maybe it comes from working on a farm?
When I would go places with my grandparents and ask to buy things they would keep track of what I spent and I was expected to pay it back by working on the farm.
We somewhat do this with the kids now.
They have chores that have assigned monetary values and we ask them to pay for their own random treats and trinkets. I believe it help teaches the value of money.
My Grandparents both passed away in the early 2000’s. Even though they were in their sixties, they made it a point to always keep learning. My Grampa was right there on the cutting edge of computers and the internet. He was teaching himself to digitise his old VHS tapes and was trying to scan all of his old slides on to his computer. He was the cool Grampa with Napster. They were always open to learning new things.
My older sister and I both agree, the ONE memory that stands out the most about our Grama was that she always brought the family together and loved to celebrate and made everyone feel included.
She always made sure that siblings got a small gift on their birthday to make they didn’t feel left out.
Birthdays were a big deal. Holidays were always a big family affair. I can barely remember a weekend as a child when we weren’t together as a family. Our family had four birthdays in the first two weeks of July when I was a kid. What did we do? Have a BIG pool party celebrating the birthdays, Canada Day, and Independence Day. The families that my Aunt and Uncle married into were invited, because we were all family now!
Everyone would pitch in, bring something and we would have a wonderful time. It was easier then because the family wasn’t as big and we all lived relatively close. Most of us grandchildren have all moved to away to the city, but we try keep to get together at birthdays and at least Christmas.
I always like to throw this one in there, but my Grampa was the one who taught me how to tell tell time “the old fashioned way” (as my kids would say) and whistle. He also showed me how to make a cup out of a leaf.
Summary of Life Lessons
Love your family.
Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or Do without!