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Old 01-03-2010, 05:30 AM
1,297 posts, read 3,050,226 times
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We lost my Grandmother last week and so an 86 year legacy came to an end. Since 50,000 people go to the common ground fair, they probably saw her and never realized it, nor did they realize what she knew, what she had accomplished and what she had to offer the people of Maine. But as you read this, please realize that this is not just about losing my Grandmother, this is about a generation that made this Country and this state what it is. She could have been anyone's Grandmother on here, she was a hardy Mainer and it is too bad we are losing them at a fast rate. I do not see them being replaced in the proceeding generations unfortunately:


It is almost ironic that as fifty thousand visitors stampede the Common Ground Fair in their search of information on farming, homesteading and forestry, these young people, convinced of living a simpler, greener, self-sufficient lifestyle would have only realized that a wealth of information lay not with the nationally known speakers, or expensive exhibits beyond, but within a within a small white haired lady, small in stature, quietly folding shirts one after another in udder obscurity in the MOFGA store tent. They could have simply stopped and spoken to a woman that truly devoted her life to Waldo County Agriculture. Today it is idolized and called such lavish names as self-sufficiency and homesteading, but for my grandmother, it was simply called growing up poor.

Born in a household with a father who had just passed away from pneumonia, and six other sisters, Wilma’s love of cooking can be traced back to these early days. Living off handouts from others during the depression, her family lived on her faith in God and the ability to cook parts of livestock that others did not want. Today that legacy lives on in a tattered orange cookbook; ripped and festooned with loose recipe cards, and of course hand written with oddities such as Milk Braised Beef Heart and, Squirrel Stew and Beer Battered Beef Tongue. Any number of these recipes could be a chef’s signature dish at a posh Manhattan restaurant, but for my grandmother and her family, such dishes simply meant the difference between eating and starvation.

Once wed to my grandfather, she lived a life that was as close to self-sufficiency as anyone can get. Together they raised potatoes as was common in Waldo County then, and later switched to broiler chickens. This was in addition to one hundred and fifty so of sheep, a couple of dairy cows, replacement heifers, pigs, and who can forget their greenhouse that she claimed netted more income then the other commodities combined. Of course this meant harvesting twenty five cords of firewood to burn in their main stove, a basement stove, and the greenhouses. It was a daunting task to say the least.

They also harvested wood and sold it to the paper mills and sawmills in the winter, cut and harvested hay for all the animals, and made butter and cheese from the few dairy cows they had selling that to make a bit of cash. In fact one of my earliest memories was watching cartoons on a Saturday morning taking turns with my brother and sister endlessly cranking the butter churn from the butter fat they skimmed all week from the Jersey’s they always had. A less stellar memory was the “blanket parties” we used to have, the entire family be summonsed to grab blankets and chase after Houdini…the pig that somehow could get out of any pen my grandfather constructed for him!

That was just a few memories of growing up on a farm, but I doubt today many people could do what she did to get by...a truly self sufficient lifestyle. I know many talk about it, but the draw of the worlds lazy conveniences are just too much. Not for my grandmother though, while electricity might have came to Northern Waldo County in 1920, just a month ago she could be seen on the porch pumping away at her old treadle sewing machine making every stitch the old fashioned way…the hard way.

Many of us will remember that iconic picture of her, or her passionate views on politics that often curled the paint on the town office walls if someone dared to disagree with her. “You are a Horses-Rhinorsurous”, she would often yell, a combination of animals that makes me laugh to this day, and yet she would go home and bottle feed a lamb while sitting in her recliner…yes that was just my Grandmother.

But perhaps my good friend, a dairy farmer, said it best. One day while riding across our Big Field in his tractor, while looking across the valley from our farm to his, he said something quite profound.

“You know, when it is all said and done, and the coffin goes in the ground, it is truly the farmer that is the richest of them all.”

That is oh so true, because he was not talking about money; he was talking about a lifestyle filled with family and friends.

So today there is little to be sad about. My Grandmother will soon be taken to a small knoll right beside where she grew up, in view of her church, and in the town of Jackson that she dearly loved. A stroll through that cemetery will reveal that she is truly among family; nine generations to be exact. I am glad to say, after a lifetime of farm life, my Grandmother can finally rest!
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Old 01-03-2010, 05:44 AM
Location: Southwestern Ohio
4,112 posts, read 5,724,980 times
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Sorry to hear about your Grandma. I lost my last and favorite 6 years ago this month.
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Old 01-03-2010, 06:01 AM
Location: Maine
566 posts, read 1,255,782 times
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Wow. Your post itself is a tribute to your Gram. This should be perhaps written somewhere for generations to come. What a beautiful way to honor your Gram.
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Old 01-03-2010, 06:04 AM
Location: Maine
1,949 posts, read 2,595,290 times
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My condolences to you, BrokenTap, on your grandmother's passing. A great generation of people, and those that are lifelong Mainers are exceptionally hardy, for sure.
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Old 01-03-2010, 06:29 AM
Location: Corinth, ME
2,712 posts, read 4,914,794 times
Reputation: 1863
My condolences, Broken Tap. And it is indeed sad that more young folk don't take the time to listen to, and learn from, the "stories" the older folk tell.

There are several of your Grandmother's peers, I think, that frequent the store where I work... they come in for gas and a pack of Old Gold or Lucky Strike and maybe Allens or a beer... always with snow on their boots or wood chips or hay coming out of their pockets with the change... pretty much the same as they used to. Most of them are fellows, but there are a few ladies as well... and of them all I always ask about their lives, what they are up to, and always I learn something.
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:18 AM
Location: Mississippi
228 posts, read 406,868 times
Reputation: 249
Sorry to hear about your and Maine's loss. She sounded like a strong, wonderful woman. I lost my Granny last year, and it is tough on a family. Atleast she is finally resting, though. Have a Blessed Day.
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:30 AM
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
1,457 posts, read 3,323,392 times
Reputation: 1460
I'm so sorry for your loss of your grandmother. I have the utmost respect for people like her. I only wish our society was more like that.
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Old 01-03-2010, 11:35 AM
13 posts, read 31,796 times
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The writing on your tribute is beautiful. Sorry for the loss of your grandmother. I lost mine a few years ago.
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Old 01-03-2010, 11:37 AM
1,096 posts, read 1,830,969 times
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Actually, I think I might have met your grandmother...She had come to me and asked me if I was okay (This was just after I fractured a verebrae and was walking slowly and with some pain) I told her I was going to the car to rest a while, she offered me an escort to make sure I got there. And she referred to me as YOUNG...it's been a very long time since someone called me young. Later I saw her in the store tent.

I'm sorry for your loss, but very glad you have such a history and memories of her. From what little I know of you, she taught you well, and her legacy continues with you.
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Old 01-03-2010, 11:51 AM
Location: 125 Years Too Late...
10,336 posts, read 9,975,609 times
Reputation: 9086
Sorry about your loss. There aren't many like your grandmother left. My grandparents were quite the same as yours--self sufficient their entire lives. Thanks for sharing your wonderful post!
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