The Accidental Farmer: Respect for my elders

May 26, 2015

As a child and certainly as a teenager, I used to bristle when I heard an older person talk about how easy “kids these days” had it.  At the time I was absolutely certain that they didn’t have a clue about what having it hard was (extra homework, hour long bus ride, doing the dishes and bringing in firewood, et cetera).

Brother was I wrong.  Becoming an adult and all the responsibilities entailed taught me that; having children added a whole extra dimension.  Add to that a farm where the animals health and well being is squarely on your shoulders and it’s a full plate.

Since moving to the farm, I now feel a sense of admiration and respect for the elder generations.  I have all manner of modern conveniences and I still struggle to get my work done during a day.  I couldn’t fathom doing some of the things that my great-grandmother, Nellie Joplin, had told me about.

Nellie, married at 15, raised 7 children and a grandson during World War 1 and the Great Depression on a farm.  Anything they ate, wore, or had she was responsible for.  All their food was raised on the property; a vast garden, hogs, milk cows, and chickens kept the Joplin family fed. Cooking and canning was done on a wood stove that she split the wood for. Clothing was sewn by her on a treadle sewing machine and laundry day involved a scrub board, lye soap and kettles of boiling water, to be finished the next day with a flat iron.  Pillows in her home came from the geese she kept; she would pluck the down and sew pillows.  Kerosene lighted the home and indoor plumbing didn’t exist.  (The Joplin’s outhouse must have been pretty nice though.  I have heard an amusing anecdote about a neighbor lady that would only visit when she needed to use the privy.)  Her house was always neat as a pin and her children well cared for.  Nellie was an active member of her church and wasn’t shy to help out anyone in need despite difficult financial circumstances.

She moved to town in the 40’s and later looked after yet another grandchild, my father, Raymond Joplin, after her kids were grown and out of the house.  As she aged she didn’t slow down until her mid-80’s, but was still canning her own food and doing things most 20-somethings couldn’t now days.  A life of hard work served her well and she lived to the ripe age of 108, a few weeks shy of 109.

As a child, we’d visit grandma Nellie.  She would tell me interesting stories that I wish now I had listened to a little better and still played the piano quite well.  Every visit ended with a hug, a piece of candy, and an admonishment to help my parents and be good.

So now when I feel overwhelmed by my kids, animals, and everything else my new mantra is to quit whining and get the work done.

It’s still less than what grandma did.

Nellie Joplin and grandson Raymond in 1999.

Nellie Joplin and my father Raymond in 1999.