Thursday, February 26, 2009

Learning from Grandpa's Chickens...

The following is written by a man named Bob who posted it on the LDSfreedomforum. It is cut and pasted here...

"I grew up in Utah during and after WW II, my father was in the Army during the war and my mother had to make ends meet with two children. I’m sure that everybody here knows that WW II was preceded by the great depression, and in fact that depression didn’t end (for us) until after the war had ended. My parents and my grand parents never tired of telling us, their grand kids, how they survived during those hard times. And to be honest, I remember some of those days. I’ll ask your forgiveness in relating a few of their and my experiences, they just might be helpful to some of you, I’m also aware that most of you already know these thing, so please, bear with me.

My grand parents on my fathers side were hardheaded Dutch immigrants from Holland, they were very hard working people who went to bed as soon as it got dark and got up before it got light. I never knew them to do anything different. They were both very stingy, if a nickel rolled across the floor in their presence and you wanted it, you’d better be prepared to suffer serious injury to get it. During the depression and the war, (not after) all of my grand parents neighbors thought they were rich, but in truth they had very little. But what they did have was chickens, laying hens and a few roosters. They started out with a few hens and ended up with over two hundred laying hens. Grandpa could get anything he wanted with the eggs from those hens, you talk about a powerful bartering tool, those eggs were it.

Dad always commented how much he hated eating chicken, but that’s what they ate at dinner time, once a day. For breakfast they ate eggs, for lunch they ate whatever they were able to get in trade for the remaining eggs, that weren‘t sold or eaten. Chicken soup and dumplings was a common table fare because grandpa would only allow tough old layers that had stopped laying and young roosters to be killed and cooked. He knew which hens weren’t laying by looking at their combs. Roosters, except for one lucky one used to fertilize eggs for hatching, were table fare, that was it! Grandpa knew which hens were sitters and which were not, the old rooster didn’t care---- but he got locked up with the sitters.

Because of those chickens my grandfather who started out as a dirt poor immigrant, he and grandma spent their first five years in America living in an old chicken coop with a bad roof. But by the time the depression and war were over they owned that coop, the big house next to it and little over two hundred acres below it, all because of those chickens, and, my grandpa’s very stingy nature. It didn’t take grandpa long to discover just where what little money there was,-- was! Using a three wheeled bike he made himself he delivered fresh eggs to the people who lived up on the hill, people who still had a job and a few bucks, or who were simply rich. He got “his” price for those eggs, nobody cheated grandpa! Grandpa only sold eggs to the rich, he traded some eggs to the “lesser” populace for what ever he needed, and “only” what he needed.

Grandpa was in no way pretentious, he wore the same clothes until they were completely wore out, biked because he wouldn’t buy gas and tires, oh he hated tires, until one day he found out he could melt them down and make things like door mats out of them. That didn’t last long, but he had amassed a large pile of tires, but he had tried. Then he started using tires for chicken nests, he laughingly claimed to have invented the tire chicken nest---- made especially for chickens that wanted to sit and hatch eggs, he would only allow five chickens to sit on eggs, and then each chicken could only have 6 eggs to hatch. While grandpa was out selling and trading eggs, grandma was busy house keeping and making and selling egg sandwiches off her front porch that she sold for 5 cents. Using the right ingredients she could make three sandwiches from one egg.

Grandma was a tiny bit more charitable the grandpa was, but not much. She had a delicious egg soup that she sold along with the sandwiches, she would feed the hungry when grandpa wasn’t there, but if he were home, the hungry stayed hungry. There were days when she made more money then grandpa did, boy she enjoyed those particular days, she would really give him a bad time, she relished those days. As soon as grandpa walked in the door grandma would ask him how much he had made, if grandma had made more she would tell him she had made only five cents more, and save the rest for the next days accounting. That .5 cents was a family joke for many years. Grandpa and grandma, my dad and aunts and uncle didn’t have a years supply to fall back on, they made do with what they had, and did very well for themselves."

There is much to be learned from this story. Namely being prepared to barter in hard times...being production...hard work...the value of owning chickens...having skills in animal husbandry...and so on. other main thing to learn is why it is important to have a variety of foods stored so that you don't have to eat the same thing every day!

When I was a missionary in the south I met an elderly gentleman whose families story was basically the same thing...but with shrimp. They ate shrimp for breakfast...lunch...and dinner! While he appreciated the income from the sale of the shrimp...his stomach would turn just thinking about having to eat them again!

There is something that is quite real called appetite fatigue...where a person would rather starve than have to eat the same thing again. Vicki Tate offers some good advice on how to avoid the "7 mistakes of food storage" of which is the mistake of having too little variety.

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