Summer was a busy time on the Scheckel 238-acre farm, in the heart of Crawford County, two miles northwest of Seneca 1940s and 1950s. Putting up loose hay (no bales) seemed to go on all summer, days of cutting and shocking oats and wheat, pulling weeds, fixing fences, threshing grain, cultivating corn, mowing lawn, as well as the daily chores of feeding the hogs and chickens, and milking cows morning and night.
Seared deep in my memory is the task of keeping to up with the garden. Or I should say, 3 big gardens. After Dad plowed and smoothed the ground with the walking plow pulled by Dolly, the gentle big, jet-black horse, the garden was Mom’s domain. She had 9 kids to feed.
Some of those gardens had rows of sweet corn coming up. But we didn’t always wait for the garden sweet corn to get ripe and ready. Phillip, Bob, and I went out into the cornfield and got some field corn for the dinner table.
There was a short “window of opportunity”, perhaps 2 weeks, when the DeKalb ears were tender enough to pass as sweet corn. The kernels didn’t taste quite as good as the real sweet corn, a bit on the chalky side. But it was OK until the authentic sweet corn was ready. Slap enough butter and salt on an ear, and it came up to about 80 percent of the legitimate stuff, I would judge.
The peas were ready. Pick ‘em off the vines and into a “paint can converted into a pea bucket”. Then sit under the maple tree, the one with the rope swing, and shuck the peas. Phillip, Bob, and I, later joined by younger sisters Catharine, Rita, and Diane, were condemned, or I should say, assigned this task until we reached “working in the field” age.
I do believe there were times when more peas went “down the tubes” than ended up in the shucked peas’ bowl. Of course, this was followed by one of the sisters yelling “Ma, Lawrence is eating all the peas”, which was a big lie, because it was only about half of them!
Then there were the strawberries. Tons of them it seemed. Pick the berries from the garden, sit under the trees and remove the tops or hulls. I was more reasonable on the strawberries, I believe. Only ate about one in four or five.
We kept an eye on the carrots. As soon as they displayed any size, they uprooted from the ground and taken to the windmill so the fresh cold water coming up from the deep well could wash off the dirt.
Rhubarb came up every year behind the garage. It did not require any attention, which my kind of garden plant. The celery-like stalks were crisp and had a strong, tart taste. The neighboring Kozelka kids claimed they put sugar on their rhubarb. Not the Scheckel boys, as we preferred to dip the stalk in salt.
We learned by experience not to overindulge in the partaking of the rhubarb. Rhubarb has some strong natural laxative properties. It will keep you on the run, if you get my drift.