Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Living on a farm, you learn not to waste things. If you can possibly find another purpose for something, then you don't throw it out.

We grew a lot of our own produce and did a lot of freezing and canning. We had a huge garden - and unless it was a bad growing year there was always enough to feed an army! What we couldn't use, would be donated to the hospital or seniors lodge. We'd spend hours picking, preparing and canning/ freezing fruit and vegetables. Mom and I would make a huge pot of pasta sauce every year. She would also do canned tomatoes and make her own tomato soup.

My mom made jams, jellies, pickles, relish and even made home made salad dressing (mayo). I never tasted bought mayo or relish until I was in elementary school! My dad did a lot of fishing and after the fish were filleted, mom would can or freeze what we didn't eat. The jars were reused until they cracked. If the seals and rings weren't rusted/dented they were reused. If the freezer bags that were used for produce weren't stained or had holes, they were washed and used again.

We lived on a mixed farm. In other words, we raised grain and animals, I only remember raising pigs and chickens, but dad also raised cows and other animals. The pigs would eat all the vegetable and fruit scraps. They loved corn cobs and watermelon rinds! Once a year we would have a pig slaughtered for our own freezer as well as buying a side of beef. Every fall we'd spend a couple of days slaughtering chickens and cleaning them for freezing and canning. Luckily, by the time I was old enough to help with that whole process, dad had switched to strictly grain farming!

Any old clothes that couldn't be mended or resown into something else were used as rags. We didn't buy a lot of canned goods, but when we did, the tins would be cleaned and used to store nuts, bolts, nails, screws or whatever else in the garage. Old coffee cans were used for taking grain samples to the elevator to be tested to see how dry the grain was (ready to be harvested). Empty plastic containers with lids would be used to freeze soups, sauces and other things. The waxed paper that lined cereal/cracker boxes was wiped clean and saved to use between steaks, chops, burgers to be frozen. Paper and plastic bags were reused until they ripped. Any flyer's we got with printing on only one side were cut up for scrap paper and lists.

We washed and saved old waxed milk cartons, then cut them down about halfway and dad used them to start his tomato and bedding plants every spring.

When my dad was young his parents even had a smoke house to do meats and bacon. They even made there own butter and ice cream.

We never had a shower until the mid 70's. We hauled our own water until the mid 90's. Unless the water was filthy, we'd add a little more hot water and the next person would have their bath. If it wasn't really disgusting after everyone was done we'd also use a partially cut gallon jug or an old ice cream pail and bail water to help flush the toilet. We never did a half sink of dishes or a small load of laundry - that wasted too much water.

Farmers are a resourceful lot. Farming is a risky business, You may have a great crop that is almost ready to harvest when you are hit by a bad storm or the prices plummet, Upkeep on farm equipment has become astronomical in the last thirty years and many hearty souls have had to give up the dream of living off the land.

The truth is that even if you aren't a farmer there is a lot you can do to reuse, reduce and recycle.
- buy reusable bags to carry groceries and other purchases.
- if you have the room start a compost
- keep your car in good repair as it uses less gas - and don't leave the car idling!
- turn off lights when they aren't needed and use low energy bulbs.
- buy energy efficient appliances
- recycle paper, plastic, glass and metals whenever possible.
- if you can use public transit or walk/cycle to work.

Every little bit adds up to make this world a better place for the coming generations.

Today is Earth Day and there are all kinds of events planned worldwide to celebrate and to help us be more environmentally conscious of the impact that each and everyone of us has on this little planet we call home.

Check out these links for the history of Earth Day and some great ideas on how you can make a difference.


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