I've talked about my family's cottage and the fun gatherings we have enjoyed at the lake. There's another place near and dear to us that has also been an important place in our family's life. That is my husband's family home, the farm where he was born and grew up.
Being raised on a Wisconsin farm with seven siblings was quite an adventure I'm sure. Milking cows, weeding the gardens, helping with field work and tending to younger siblings was all expected in such a big family. But there was always a playmate at hand. As they married and had families of their own the large family gatherings at the farm, particularly in summer, became quite an event! We still meet there, now with four generations of family enjoying the farm, but my fondest memories are of those days when our kids and their cousins were small.
A typical summer gathering would include an outdoor meal at tables set out on the lawn. Fun was had jumping on the big round hay bales in the field, chasing giant bubbles made with coat hangers, rolling down the barn hill, searching for kittens in the barn, going to the creek, potato cannons and water balloon catapults, swinging on the tree swing, getting rides in the garden cart, playing softball in the field, running through the corn rows, and just running, running, running!
The food is memorable in itself. There was always Polish sausage, Grandma's homemade bread, rhubarb drink, corn on the cob, and cheese curds to name a few standbys. With the bounty of the big gardens, the apple trees and numerous nearby cheese factories we never went hungry. Nor did we ever leave without a carload of produce to enjoy at home.
Grandma always expected a "show"of some kind from the grandkids. Whether it was a song, a dance, a story or a play it was always fun and silly. Afterwards the kids would be rewarded with treats or a handful of coins. They never left without a treasure of one kind or another.
Everyone from young to old enjoyed the wagon rides. Grandpa would hitch up the hay wagon to one of the old Allis-Chalmers and we would all pile on. We'd bump along behind the chugging tractor as he made a big circuit of the farm fields all the way back to the woods and along the creek.
There's a white wooden porch swing out front that everyone enjoys taking turns with. Swinging gently on the porch while enjoying the sounds of the birds and the wind chimes or a distant tractor is very calming. Cars pass on the gravel road leaving a plume of dust behind them. The wind is always blowing on the farm. It would be a perfect spot for a wind tower.
There are often side trips to check out a few favorite spots. Almost always there is a visit to a cheese factory to buy curds and cheddar, colby or gouda cheese. In the last few years many Mennonite and Amish have been moving into the area. We like to visit their little country stores to buy bulk pantry items like flours, spices and herbs. One of my favorites is a sewing shop run by Mennonite women that has all manner of fabrics and notions, as well as ready made clothing and household items. It's fun to see the buggies and horses tied up to a post or trotting down the road. Passing by farmhouses with clotheslines full of colorful dresses, aprons, overalls and bonnets blowing in the breeze is a common sight. You can always tell the Mennonite homes because they don't have power lines running to them.
When the house was remodeled a deck was added to the back with a ramp so that my husband's nephew, who was in a wheelchair, wouldn't be left out. He would roll up in his motorized chair and right into Grandma's kitchen. My daughter has fond memories of riding on the back of his chair as he zoomed down the ramp or sped along the driveway.
Most of the grandkids don't remember when there were cows on the farm. But the barn is still there and they would have fun climbing the hay bales up to the top. They would come out dusty and itching and then roll down the barn hill.
The drive home at the end of a visit to the farm was usually very quiet. Our three kids worn out from a day of fresh air and sunshine, playing with cousins, and bellies full of good food, fell asleep quickly in the back seat while us parents enjoyed a rare peaceful hour of quiet driving into the setting sun. Beautiful memories.