Friday, July 27, 2012

A snippet of memoir: Making butter

Me at age one.
The path that took me from the first signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and the accompanying depression when I was a child to the official diagnosis sitting in a psychiatrist’s office when I was 26 is not a straight one.
Though the OCD and depression have affected me most of my life, I remember times when I didn’t obsess about sin, dirt and danger, when I didn’t wash my hands and pray constantly to try to rid myself of that sin, dirt and danger.
I was born in 1963 and grew up in South Central Virginia, in the Piedmont area of the state about an hour from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west.
My father was a full time farmer when I was born, and my mother was a homemaker. They brought me home from the hospital to two older brothers, one 11 years older and one two years older.
My mother has told stories about how much I slept as a baby and how the doctor told her to wake me up to feed me because I wasn’t gaining weight as I should have.
I don’t believe my mother was deliberately not feeding me enough or was neglecting me. But I do think it was probably a relief to her that I slept a lot and was a low-maintenance baby. She had a lot of other responsibilities to tend to.
Our farm was a full working farm. We had milk cows, beef cows, pigs and chickens, plus my father raised tobacco. There were animals to care for and crops to tend and things like butter to make and eggs to gather to sell.
One of my earliest memories is watching my mother make butter.
For some reason, I don’t remember her churning the milk from our milk cows, though of course she did. What I remember is what she did with the result of the churning.
I remember her at the kitchen table, holding a golden yellow ball above a glass bowl of water, splashing it and washing it off.
At the same time, she moved her hands quickly, turning the ball and smoothing it.

Butter press.

Then she pushed the ball of butter into the wooden press her father had made. She pushed the butter in tight with a small wooden paddle.
Inside the butter press.
The butter pressed up against a flower design inside, and when she pushed the butter out on wax paper, it was round with petals imprinted on top.
I have that butter press now, and it brings back good memories.

Have you ever lived on a farm? Would you like to? What about living on a farm appeals to you? What old way of doing something, like making butter, would you like to try?

19 comments:

  1. Hi Tina, My mother and I went to a farm out in the country for a few days, a getaway of sorts. There were milk cows, beef cows, horses and pigs. I loved the experience, of being out of the city, in the quiet setting of the farm. Clean fresh air, surrounded by nature, even being able to see many many stars at night with no light pollution. The thing I loved most, was milking the cow and feeding its calf. That was a special memory I will never forget. I would love to live on a farm, it's my dream :) Susan.

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    1. Susan, I'm glad you and your mom got to spend some time on a farm. And seeing the starts at night like you cannot in the city--that's awesome!

      I never learned to milk cows--not sure I want to do that!

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  2. I have not lived on a farm, but I currently live in a rural village in England and it is such a welcome change from what I have always known. Grass all around, trees, rabbits in my yard, fresh air, etc. I even hear the birds chirping as I am doing my housework and I feel like Cinderella. It is so beautiful and peaceful. Watching my neighbors teenage daughters riding their horses in the middle of the day is so serene. I wish I had animals and owned the land. :)

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    1. Yaya, I love having animals nearby, too. Rabbits are so sweet! And I love hearing the birds, especially in the morning and at dusk. Your village sounds lovely.

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  3. You were an adorable baby :-) I have churned butter exactly once in my life. It's hard work!

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    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! I don't remember churning butter, but I've heard that it's harder than it looks!

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  4. Does it smell yummy? We had a butter churn growing up and I loved the buttery smell of it. Neat memories you shared today!

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    1. Lisa, Thank you! It smelled and tasted yummy!

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  5. I didn't grow up on farms, though I am descended from a long line of farmers. I didn't start gardening until age 51, and I instantly felt as though I connected to a piece of my soul that I didn't know existed. In our new home, we have a nice chunk of land that we converted from a steep, sandy slope into terraces. This has allowed me to double the size of the veggie garden and still have room for lots of shrubs and flowers.

    Lately I'm feeling the urge to learn how to spin yarn, and I'm waiting *impatiently* for fall and new classes so that I can learn. It looks so peaceful and relaxing!

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    1. Our first farm was call Terrace View Farm because of the terraces in the fields. They were so pretty.

      I'm interested in spinning, too, and then making something with the yarn. That would feel very satisfying.

      Good to hear from you!

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  6. You are so cute! I love the baby photo.

    I didn't grow up on a farm but I do live in an area that is predominately "country". We have a little mall and whatnot, but we are in no way a city or anything of the sort.

    I can't say that I've ever desired to live on a farm but that's mainly because living in this area has always made me desire to live in a bigger city. Still, I find the country absolutely breathtaking. And I would LOVE to have my own cows, horses and chickens! :)

    I hope you're doing well, Tina. I've been so out of the loop on here!

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    1. Hi, Alisha, good to hear from you! I am doing well and hope you are and hope your mom is doing well.

      I was ready to live in at least a town and not the country when I went away to school, and I still wouldn't want to live too far in the country. But I like the country ways.

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  7. I grew up in a farm community in Iowa but I lived in town, a small river town. There were tons of farm kids in my school but none were close friends of mine, they really hung together depending what rural town they lived in and did not do extra-curricular, after school activities. Now I know why, they were getting up early to do chores and probably did a lot after school. I moved away from Iowa and lived in cosmopolitan cities for the last 30 years, just came back to Iowa recently and we have 2 acres in a tiny country town. Our back yard butts up to a farm and we are surrounded by farmland. It is so peaceful.Most of the people I know now are farmers. I have learned so much from them and I am amazed at how hard they work, how much they love their land and what wonderful business men and woman they are! I wish I could have a country house with a barn and lots of dogs and animals...and a big city loft to escape to. My husband would gladly stay and tend to the land and animals while I took a weekend every so often to be a city girl. I don't think I could have taken the stress of being a farmer. Like now, so many are losing their corn to the drought and fretting. I don't do well when I am faced with financial difficulties and to constantly worry about early freezes, crop destroying pests and rain..it would put me over the edge.
    One of my friends gives me fresh eggs from her chickens and I think that is just so cool..and I really admire the people who raise bee's and make their own honey.
    Lovely post Tina. Your pic is so cute.

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    1. Thank you, Krystal. Where you live sounds lovely. I would love the quiet. Having a big city loft and a farm sounds the best of both worlds!

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  8. This is a wonderful snippet of your life. The butter press conjures up vivid images of your childhood.

    I haven't lived on a farm, but my husband and I bought 16 acres of land with a 1920's barn on it which we renovated and lived in for several years. We learned how to flood irrigate, harrow the meadow and burn the ditches (in between him zipping around the world and me running our busy photo studio). It was hard work, but worth the beauty and solitude. Winter was my favorite time of year when the land was covered in snow and we could cross-country ski around the meadow under the moonlight, listening to the coyotes howling in the distance.

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    1. Your house in the meadow sounds wonderful! Cross-country skiing under the moon with coyotes howling conjures up a vivid image.

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  9. Tina,
    what a lovely memory. I LOVE that you still have that butter press. It is PRICELESS.

    I think I love the "idea" of living on a farm more than I'd actually want to live on one.

    ...for example, barn cats thrill me! Horses! Goats roaming. Brown eggs.... & rolling in the hay with my man! Haaa

    Xxx Kisses

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