Saturday, August 11, 2018

Those Were The Days: Childhood Summers on the Farm

Priscilla du Preez |

As a kid, I never thought we lived in an interesting place. To me, it was just so ordinary. Plunked on a small farm in the middle of rural Alberta, there were no lost pirate treasures to be found, no abandoned spooky cabins or fairy tale cottages to be discovered, no caves or forests to explore. The adventures the kids had in my storybooks were way more exciting and exotic than what was going on in my small regular life. How I used to long for some of those adventures.

Little did I realize, when I look back now, we had everything we needed to stoke our imaginations. Warm summer mornings would call to us as breezes blew on our faces. Our little chores done, we would be free to play the rest of the day. The entire farm was our oyster. There was nothing much that we could really get into trouble with either, which is probably why Mom had no problem with us playing anywhere. We just had to tell her where we were heading.

Half the fun was deciding where we'd explore on a given day. We could go down past the chicken barn to the woodsy area. Tall willows and poplars created a shady spot where weeds grew tall. There we'd make tracks in the nettles for games of Fox and Goose, or we'd play on an old swing left over from my dad's youth. When we tired of that, we'd move down towards the creek, always a fascinating draw for us. We would hear the warning Mom would give on our way out the door, not to get too close to the creek. We were mindful of her words and we did tread carefully, but mostly because we didn't want the water tipping into our boots as we hunted pussy willows. 

The creek ran through the southeast corner of the farm, and the only time it amounted to anything would be the few days during spring thaw. From the back meadow, the deep drifts of melted snow would rush and roar their way through the worn gully down to the creek bed, at which point the water would carry on through the culvert into the neighbour's land. I used to love that roar as it gushed past the barns. It was that sound that I imagined when I read about the wind soughing through the fir trees Heidi used to listen to as she fell asleep in Grandfather's chalet loft.

Out behind the barns there were rock piles and the family's collection of refuse -- old tin cans mostly-- that provided many happy hours of exploration. We didn't put our garbage there, so I always thought it was from my dad's time as a boy. That felt funny to think about. Sometimes we found little pieces of coloured glass or odd shaped bottles. Climbing around on the rock piles and past the low tree branches was always an exercise in agility. Who needed a playground? The rusted out body of an old car (1940's?), hauled out there long before our time, created hours of playtime, driving and braking and signaling as we turned corners on imaginary roads. 

Sometimes we'd decide to walk along the fence line where shrubs and bushes and wildflowers grew. We'd watch the butterflies and hear the bees buzz past as we'd tromp through the fields. Mom would say one sunny day that the berries were getting ripe, and we'd be sent out with pails tied to our waists--to keep the spillage to a minimum. A happy trek to the outer edges of the property line where we'd find the tall Saskatoon bushes-cum-trees. Some years they would be loaded with fat, purple berries. The best bunches always seemed to be on the top branches and we'd have to fan-dangle ways to bend them down low enough to pick from -- usually that required team effort. Other years when there had been less rain the berries were small and harder. Still tasty. It was always a sad little moment to hear the lonely plunk of that first berry as it hit the bottom of the pail. Such an echo merely echoed our own secret thoughts at how very long it would take to fill our pails. We'd sing all the songs we knew to help while away the time as we picked. 

A walk past the barn to the west would bring us to the gully where the spring waters had run. In the deep of summer it was completely dry, so it created a lovely dip and hill for our bike riding and hiking. Up and down we went, the dog always happy to have company as he explored his trek of gopher holes and smelly rotting piles.

Amelia Bartlett |
We took for granted all the wildflowers and grasses that grew on our farm and ditches along the roadside. How freely they grew: nettles, alfalfa, clover, purple vetch, wild sweet-peas, yarrow, cowslip, yellow sow thistles, fox tails, goldenrod, chamomile, to name a few. We'd go out and gather bouquets and then play wedding in the front yard. The cement steps always made for good seating for the wedding guests. There would be dress-up clothes and much planning of the big event. We usually played this when we had playmates for the afternoon. 

Some days our explorations took us to the barnyard and the big barn. Ours was not painted the usual red colour. Dad decided on silver when the new barn was built. And we always loved that it was silver. We'd slide the big door open and walk into the cool darkness. Sometimes there'd be sows and their piglets to see. We were always told to stay out of their pens as sows could be nasty. Stanchions stood ready for milking time, when fresh hay would be put down for the cows. I never learned to milk as the cattle were sold and we never kept cows after that. But I still remember what it felt like to have the calves suck milk from my finger tips. Or, watch the cats slurp milk still warm from the cow. 

The hayloft was a fun spot. Climbing the ladder on the side of the wall and then playing in the hay. Looking for kittens. I remember it being hot and steamy up there and how poky the hay felt if it got down our shirts. Sunbeams would stream in through the loft door, showing the air was alive with dust and bits of hay. Birds would flit in and out. Definitely pigeons, maybe barn swallows too.

There were other days we'd opt to stay near the house...especially if it was too hot to stump over hill and dale. So, we'd play house under blanket tents we'd become expert at pegging to the step railing. We'd don our bathing suits and use the water hose to make a tiny spray park. We'd sit with our snacks in the shade of the big poplars and read our books, or sit on the back step slurping Popsicle's and eating watermelon, the dog panting at our feet.

Some afternoons we'd tromp half a mile across the fields to meet our friends on the next farm. It never seemed far, and what a happy sight when we caught sight of them waiting for us at the property line. We'd while the afternoon away learning to whistle blades of grass, or watch cloud formations in the blue sky, or trek through their swamp to stay cool.

Funny, for such a small ordinary life lived on a small ordinary farm, we never ran out of things to do or places to explore and re-explore. Our days were full of everything and nothing. How happy these memories of summers on the farm make me feel today. I hope they stir your own happy memories. Truly, those were the days, my friends, those were the days.

Hugs and blisses,


  1. Wonderful! I'm eight years old again! Thanks for the memories:)

  2. Big happy sigh. Every child would benefit from just such a summer. Thanks for sharing, Brenda.

  3. Thanks Brenda, Those are great memories!!

  4. Yes,those were the days.I grew up on a small farm as well.Never did learn to milk a cow, but spent lots of time with the pigs and chickens.Thanks for stirring a host of memories for me.

  5. Such warm, delicious memories! Do you remember the smell of the earth when you slipped under trees? Nothing like it.... sounds like a most magical time!!!

  6. Good memories, from another country girl!


  7. What a lovely post, reminding me so much of my own childhood in post war Cornwall, free and without barriers. Our children and grandchildren will never quite know those joys.

  8. Ahhh, yes, such lovely memories stirred. Your descriptions are delightful.

  9. Ah, Brenda, those truly were the days. I didn't grow up on a farm, but dreamed of it actually. However, we did play outside all day, only coming inside to eat and often taking our lunch outside and having a picnic. I think children are missing quite a lot today.

    This was a wonderful post and I could read your happiness all over it. I thank you for stirring my own sweet memories.

  10. What treasures these memories.....and this blog post are! What a wonderful post.

  11. Yes, those were the days. I didn't grow up on a farm, but have similar memories of visiting both sets of grandparents who lived on farms. I wonder what today's children will remember of their childhoods? I think many will have similar memories.
    Thank you for your beautiful words that evoke so many wonderful memories.

  12. I grew up in the suburbs so I enjoyed this country flashback. A child's imagination is the best toy!

  13. I grew up in crowded L.A. county in Southern California, though in my childhood it wasn’t as crowded or crazy as now. We played in the empty lot next to our house, rode our bikes two blocks away to play at the park, roller skated. We had a swing set, and for several years an above ground pool. My mom wanted us to play outside and we did!

    Lovely memories, you shared today!

  14. I too grew up on a remote farm Brenda. Reading your words brought back vividly summers spent exploring hill and dale with my brother. Ah to be eight once again! Hugs friend.

  15. You may have written about the ordinary days on the farm as a child, Brenda, but your writing here is anything but ordinary. It's entrancing, worthy of being in a book. And I was not only right there with you as you went about your day, it took me back to my own childhood and visits to my grandparents' farm. And it brought back that yearning I grew up with, wishing I could stay longer instead of returning to the suburbs of Nashville. I don't think that yearning ever really left me. How about you?

  16. It is funny how it takes hindsight to appreciate what we really had. This sounds like the perfect childhood, and yet I can understand you craving the adventures that appeared in story books. I could feel myself there with you as you described your days.

  17. Brenda, in many ways you were recalling some of my own childhood. Those hot summer days spent on my grandparents' farm and all the adventures I found through the fields and woods. Such innocent times! After our family moved to the Island, we moved around a lot but I had an imagination and could find my fun wherever I found myself. Here's to childhood and precious memories! I so enjoyed your post. You inspire me! Blessings to you...Sandi

  18. Great article..I am looking so forward to your blogcomment and
    I love your page on your post.. That is so pretty..


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo