Jim and I both grew up in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Not only is Bradford County considered a rural county, we lived in the countryside of Bradford County. Jim’s school district had no red lights when we grew up, so driver’s ed students went to Towanda, my school district to learn about driving in traffic where you might encounter a red light. We had one red light in the school district as I remember, back in those days.
Anyway, all of that to say, growing up where we did impacted our own child rearing practices, as did the years we lived in Africa when we were raising our three.
We both learned not to worry when we could not buy something we wanted or thought we needed. We found a way! As did our parents back in the day. Just ask any Bradford County farmer what he does when a piece of equipment breaks or he needs something he does not have a hand. He figures it out and makes do. As I see it, a lot of those “make dos” work out better than the store bought one.
I think that is where we developed that “make do” skill, by watching our parents. In Africa I baked in a metal box with a shelf inside and a door big enough to fit a cookie sheet We positioned the box over an outside charcoal stove….think a mud brick affair with two l-shaped openings – we cooked over the top opening of the el and scraped the charcoal ashes out of the bottom opening. That was Jim’s solution for my need for an oven.
No Certo or fruit pectin to make jam out of the plentiful mangoes from the mango tree in the back yard; just cook the fruit and sugar cubes longer. Yes, sugar cubes. The fruit juices dissolve them. Sugar cubes were the only way sugar came to us in Chad.
No apples for apple pie – slice eggplant and season it like apple pie…it does work, or did work. Just don’t tell anyone what they are eating till after they say “That was good. Where on earth did you get the apples?” They didn’t grow in Chad and we could not afford the imported ones, over a dollar a piece back in the seventies and eighties.
Anyway, it rubbed off on my children – that creative thing, only they took it the extra mile. My Beth is a fiber artist and quilter and educator. You can see a hint of her work at http://bethannwilliams.com/
My Amy is a potter and educator. She makes everything from a set of dishes to serving pieces to sculptures – and she paints and she quilts and…
Our Jim and his wife Jessica have a website called https://bluebarnyard.com/ Jim works for a pharmaceutical company as his day job, but the rest of his time is spent with his family at the Blue Barnyard. There he helps build the structures they design together to support their ever increasing animal family of Nigerian goats, pigs, turkeys, ducks and heritage chickens, all organically raised. And if you ever drive by, you just might see an alpaca or llama. Oh Jessica is also an educator and makes goat milk soaps, and they sell all kinds of wonderful organic things like eggs and meat.
I guess my point is this, when our children were growing up, we could purchase very little where we lived in Africa where the Sahara Desert and the African jungle intersect. But we did take lots of books, how to books, and my kids grew up creating their own ways, like the farming stock they came from, to pass the time, and to make what they wanted or needed, with maybe a little coaching from us.
Now my children and their families demonstrate what happens when your first impulse is not, or maybe cannot be, just run to the store and buy it. Or run to the computer and play games when you have nothing to do.
They learned by reading about it, then figuring out how to do it or make it with what they had. As I say that, I think about, not just my children, but the amazing children of our classmates, men and women who have gone a long way with our Bradford County roots. Some have stayed locally and some have left the area, but all of them are the richer for having the marks of Bradford County roots.
I have to admit there is only one Walmart in the county and that’s on the northern edge of the county up near the New York State border. And from my home town, it’s about an hour in three directions to a real shopping center/mall. A problem? No, I think a real asset.
Thoughts from Carol Brennan King
Stop light photo from Wikimeida Commons
Mango tree photo borrowed from http://www.treesthatfeed.org/trees
Goat photo from Blue Barnyard