Memories of Winter on the Farm

Jung’s, Gurney’s, and Burpee seed catalogs arrived in the mail, usually the first week in January, about the same time as the tax bill. The bright vibrant colors of the pictures of vegetables and fruits contrasted sharply with the barren fields and snow-covered hills surrounding the Scheckel farm out on Oak Grove Ridge in the 1940s and 1950s.

I enjoyed looking through the Gurney’s Seed Catalog. They had a little biography of Charles W. Gurney in one of their issues. Charles W. Gurney was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Civil War. Gurney was born in Massachusetts in 1840, moved to Iowa in 1852, and enlisted in the 3rd Iowa Infantry. They had a profile picture of Lt. Col Gurney and he looked very distinguished with a bushy goatee mustache. He looked like an honest seed seller to me.

Then we had Ground Hogs Day on February 2, which just happens to be my oldest brother Ed’s birthday. The folklore is that if the groundhog sees his shadow when he pokes his head out of his burrow, there would be six more weeks of winter. Or was it the other way around; a very short winter and early spring?

I could not keep that straight. Besides, we did not have groundhogs on Oak Grove Ridge. I found out later that the groundhog is the same as a woodchuck and we had plenty of those. I figured that the smart woodchucks, or groundhogs, did not come out of their holes on February 2. They stayed in the warm sweet slumber of hibernation until at least April. It was the stupid or mentally retarded groundhogs that would make an appearance in the dead of winter.

In the summer we had picked wild blackberries in bushes we found down in Kettle Hollow and a secret patch on the Bernier farm.  Mom canned those berries and it paid off big time in the dead of winter. We could bring up a jar of raspberries or strawberries from the basement and Mom would bake a “short cake” and the berries, along with the sugary syrup, was spread over the top.



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