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The Holiest Word I Know


Recently I posted a garden photo on Instagram and remarked about my love for this land we currently live on, for what a fine teacher she has been. As a result, I was asked why we don’t stay - we might regret leaving the family home - especially given how much I’ve expressed my appreciation and love for this place. 

It was a great question and reminded me that some folks have not been reading here (or on IG) for years and years, so many may be unfamiliar with our motivations to not live here permanently. I’d like to answer that question, and am sure it will exceed the 400 allotted word count on IG, so I’ll dive in here. 

I first need to back up and explain why we're even here, and have been for so long.

We currently live in Connecticut, in the home I grew up in. My parents built this house in 1978 (literally built it - they hired one highly skilled local carpenter to assist them, one of my uncles was the plumber, another uncle the electrician... you get the idea). I was a newly minted five year old when we moved in and my parents have owned it ever since. I moved back here with my family in January of 2012; my parents had just bought their dream retirement home on Eagle Lake in northern Maine, and given the ho-hum Connecticut real estate market, they didn’t feel compelled to sell this property at the time. Dad asked if we’d like to rent it as we were looking to make a swift departure from our urban home (guns in the street outside your front door will prompt such things), and we said yes. We also said it would likely be for only six months or so because Connecticut was not part of our long term plan (which my parents knew), and he thought that was great because maybe things would look up with the spring real estate market. During this time, and for a few months leading up to this point, dad had not been feeling well. He was experiencing extreme fatigue and tremendous pain, especially in his back. This was not the norm for him as he had always been a hit-the-ground-running-each-day kind of guy, with no major health concerns or chronic conditions, and only 64 years of age. We were all concerned, and as things sometimes go medically, the doctors couldn’t figure out exactly what was wrong with him for several months. Well, other than telling him he had a “broken back” (why??). We pressed on with getting them packed up, and Adam made many trips to Maine to bring their belongings to the new house. With their new house still in boxes, mom and dad enjoyed the holidays in Connecticut. We moved in here on January 1, 2012, as mom and dad drove south to visit my sister. Dad was still in tremendous pain with no answers yet from his doctors, but he was as stubborn as they come and felt determined that he and mom would spend some time in Florida with my sister before settling up north and getting to the important work of lakefront, Maine-woods retirement. 

Twelve days later dad was finally diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma while vacationing at my sister’s house. There was no cure. Treatment could prolong life, which it did by almost six years, but terminal cancer would become his task moving forward. We all felt that if you need to seek cancer treatment, better to do it in Florida than the remote regions of northern Maine. My sister insisted her home was theirs for as long as they needed. Unable to leave Florida, it would be nearly a year before dad was well enough to venture north and step foot in his new home. Boxes sat unpacked, dreams were put on hold. Everything changed for our family. All this to say, we wound up staying here longer than six months; we were all so focused on dad, it made little sense to disrupt anything else. Add to that, my parents still maintained storage here in the basement, attic, and garage. If we moved out, they would have a lot of decisions to make in that regard, and were already dealing with so much. Months blended into years. We considered buying this house for those first two years, but our town’s taxes (as is true for most CT towns), are incredibly high and the monthly cost would be what most people’s mortgage payment is. We couldn’t bite the bullet. Add to the high taxes a state with no clean public waterways, a statewide policy of nature closing at sunset, and very little public land that can be explored “off trail” - it isn’t for us. Surprisingly, Connecticut does have excellent homeschool laws and has reasonable laws regarding local food production, raw milk access, etc. And we happen to boast more stonewalls than any other state in the country, which I admit to having deep pride and affection for. To my eyes, the thousands of miles of stonewalls are Connecticut’s claim to fame. 

After careful consideration, about two years into living here, we knew we would not buy this house. We stayed because it was easy - for us and for them. Every few months I’d ask dad if they’d like to sell the house - we could depart anytime - but he kept saying no-no-no, it’s working out great for me, as long as it is for you. At this point, not only were we concerned about making things as easy for mom and dad as we could, we were also pretty deep into Emily’s high school years; she was entrenched socially and academically. For all of my previously listed Connecticut grievances, we did have plentiful opportunities as homeschoolers with a decent population of fellows on the same path. And I’m glad to say this is not something I’ve only come to appreciate in retrospect, I knew it then, too. I felt fortunate and at times even overwhelmed by the choices and opportunities surrounding the renegade counterculture of homeschoolers here. No regrets about staying during that time. 

But now, my father has passed and Emily is off to college and beyond. Mom is beginning to make a new life for herself in balmy Florida where my sister lives, and the time is finally right for us to move on. 

In a nutshell: Connecticut is an obscenely expensive place to live, with little to offer in return. Sure, it’s possible to muscle your way through five-figure annual property tax bills (in many towns) during your income earning years, but try pulling that off in retirement (I’m sorry, did all of my Gen X readers just laugh out loud after reading the “R” word?). Add to cost of living the lack of truly accessible public land and clean waterways, a fast-paced culture of consumerism and an abundance of traffic and concrete - it’s just never felt like home to us. 


I’d like to wrap this up by adding that of course we are grateful for a home at all, especially one with well water and heat and relative safety and for having any dang choice in the matter for goodness sake... but if we can move on, the call to do so has always been there, and the time to do so is now. I’ve never been a “bloom where you’re planted” kind of girl, and phrases such as “home is wherever I’m with you” do not ring true for me. You can feel grateful for the immense privilege of what you have, without it feeling like Home

For me, home has my name on it. Home is where blueberry bushes mature, woodlots are managed, and animals are buried. Anything else is a blessed place to hang my hat for a while, and I’ve had many wonderful places to do so over the years, but Home is where our roots bury deep into the earth and out across time. Home is a place where I’ll never have to think about what’s next for me, other than a pine box in the ground. Home is the holiest word I know.  

A Little Effort in August


Awake at 4:00 seems reasonable when you go to bed at 8:00. It is true what our elders tell young parents, that the day will come when sleep returns. Days and nights all our own, and just to emphasize the cliche further: yes, you will miss those little buggers and their pointy-elbows-jammed-into-your-neck-snuggles. At the same time, you’ll revel in sleeping all starfish-like in your very own spacious bed. Writing by 5:20 and it’s still dark outside. Summer has felt relentless this year with oppressive humidity and rain, heat too, but that’s not the challenging part. It’s the humidity that’ll do you in. These last few days we’ve been blessed with a taste of autumn. Nothing committal, but enough to make having the canner running for most of the day a pleasant experience. Forty quarts later, we’ve got plenty of peaches to fill our wintry days and nights. I was hoping for fifty quarts, maybe next year. In the meantime, forty isn’t something to complain about. And we’re still on track for one hundred quarts of fruit overall, which was the main goal. 

I always take the time to peel peaches when canning or freezing, which seems terribly laborious, but given yesterday’s cool breeze and the fact that I’d set the day aside for the job, was not something I minded. Plus, peach skin in your yogurt or cobbler is not pleasant. The skins have to go. The trick to easy-ish peach processing is to make sure you have freestone peaches, that they are of perfect ripeness (underripe peaches do not peel well, overripe peaches can turn mushy), and to score a large “x” on the bottom of each peach with your knife before dropping it in the blanching water. By "large" I mean let the “x” go up the sides of the peach a third of the way. Score it like you mean it. Then, after blanching and after they’ve sat in the ice water bath for a couple of minutes, you just peel up each corner from where you made the “x” and the skin slips off in four easy sheets. Truly, not troublesome. Sure, it takes some time to get through a large quantity, but it’s not a frustrating task when done this way. Those score marks combined with the perfect ripeness are everything. Once peeled, just slice wedges of peach right off the pit with your paring knife. They pop right off when using freestones. I actually do this right over the jar when canning, as I try to handle the delicate slices as little as possible. Place a wide mouth funnel in the jar to direct your aim. To be sure, preserving peaches - no matter how efficiently you come at it - is still a sticky mess, but that’s nothing a little soap and hot water can’t take care of. Cracking open a jar of summer peaches on a wintry day to make cinnamon scented crisp, sure makes a little effort in August seem worth it. 

You Never Know What You Might Learn


I remember the last story my father told. He never thought himself a storyteller, though in the last few years of his life, I came to appreciate that he was an excellent one. A perk to distance living. Our visits became more like Visits, not just a quick shared meal or casually stopping by to help with something as was common when we lived two towns apart. When out-of-staters visit, you linger more around the dinner table, over coffee in the morning. There is time for more interesting conversations. 

Dad’s stories were always simple and brief, merely a contribution to the conversation, in his mind. Each taking only a minute or two. My father was anything but a bullshitter and he never spoke on things he did not know about. In the company of those who talked beyond hunting, fishing, family, the outdoors, snowmobiling, boating, cooking, the trades, and a few other topics, he was a listener. I mean, he was friendly and excelled at small talk like any good Yankee, but bullshit just for the sake of being heard? Nah. There is a line in a song, “Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different; we love to talk on things we don’t know about.” It was the first song I'd heard on Friday, January 13, 2012, after hanging up the phone with him, learning of his diagnosis. I thought, that is not dad. He knows when to not talk. 

He had a way of speaking clearly, pausing at just the right moment, offering the perfect inflection as needed. So subtle. And yet, having no idea that he was such a fine communicator. He was also funny; again, having no idea. In going through papers recently, we came across his "report cards" from his time in the Navy. Each one contained handwritten comments that spoke of his wit and sense of humor, that he was a real boost to his comrades in that regard. What a fine thing to have said about you. 

The last time we saw dad it was a quiet visit. There was much listening and taking it all in on his part. But at one point he said, “I have a story to share with you.” Story. It was the first time he’d ever used the word to my knowledge, and likely his last. Maybe he always knew. He spoke of a recent hospital visit (he did a lot of out-patient trips for platelets and such) in which his doctor had a beautiful tattoo of Elvis on his forearm. “Not 70s velvet-Elvis, but ELVIS.” He said it was the nicest tattoo he’d ever seen, and how he’d never in his life commented on someone’s tattoo before, but felt compelled to acknowledge this one. The doctor told him it was the work of his nephew, and that he was a contestant on Ink Master the year prior, and won! He was deemed the top tattoo artist in the country. 

Here was a man who never felt the need to discuss a tattoo in his life, and the one time he does - in a tiny Fort Kent hospital no less - it turns out to be the work of America’s top tattoo artist. Guess he knew a good thing when he saw it. Dad taught us many things in life, and in that moment, I was grateful for the reminder to engage in small talk with strangers, you never know what you might learn. 

You Don't Need Six Staplers


The rain is relentless. It’s been a few years since we’ve had such plentiful summer rain. Actually, the first half of this summer was in drought, but now, it’s rained nearly every day for three or four weeks. Too much, really. It feels reminiscent of the time our farmer’s market had to cancel the tomato festival and replace it with a fungus festival. A cheeky nod to the blight that wiped out every single tomato in the state of Connecticut. Was it 2009? I can’t recall. It’s only been since then that commercial farmers started using high tunnels as the norm here - not something our generous growing season requires, but tomatoes do stand a fighting chance - disease-wise - under their protection. As a bonus, farmers can now offer those ruby reds a few weeks earlier. 

We’ve started packing our house. It will be listed at the end of September, and we’ll be moving on. I’ll share the details of that when the time feels right, which is not today. It’s been great to go through every item we own and determine its worthiness and fate. Is this useful in our life? Is it a tool of some kind that helps us perform a task? Is it a family memento? I’m keeping a designated number of totes for mementos, and that’s it. I am about to embark on the boxes of family photos, and while I have no problem keeping actual family photos, do we really need to keep those random pictures of nothing significant that we all have stacks of from the film days. We’ve got to be realistic about this, because not only are we getting older and do not feel like managing extraneous stuff, my next consideration is perhaps my biggest: Will this be a burden for Emily when Adam and I are no longer? This is huge for me, and is something I ask myself with every single item my hands touch in this packing process. We are not minimalists by any stretch, nor is it something we desire, if only because our lives are filled with in-home production of all sorts. Too far in the minimalist direction, and you run the risk of spending extra money whenever you need a task done. Need to cobble together a chicken coop? You’re better off with a boneyard on your property to rummage through first, before buying brand new goods at Home Depot. Several months ago Adam acquired one of those electric lawnmowers, and having no need for it, put it on Craigslist. It was sold to someone an hour away who couldn’t come get it because he had a tiny hybrid vehicle and the folded up small lawnmower would not fit, so he paid Adam extra money to deliver it with his truck. 

We need gear to make maple syrup, tools for butchering deer, garden implements, food preservation supplies, fabric and yarn, tree cutting paraphernalia, a decent library for pleasure and reference, Adam’s tools (I don’t really know what he has, but he seems to always have what is needed to get a job done). Things like that. I don’t have service for twelve china or much “decor” to speak of. What you see around our house are the things we use in daily life. Still. Somehow plenty of random items make their way here and are stashed in closets, attic, basement, garage. It’s relentless! These things require scrupulous consideration as we pack to move. A two-person, non-homeschooling household does not need six staplers, two is plenty. Getting rid of those extra four? That feels downright liberating. Yesterday I made a Goodwill run and dropped off more than twenty games after cleaning out the game cabinet. We kept the six or so that we actually play. It feels good to go through and release nearly half of our belongings. That’s the track we’re on at least. It‘s an arbitrary percentage, really. As I go through each section of our house, I wind up culling about half of what I touch. I did not set out to do this, but it feels pretty good on the other side. Meaning, what we’re left with does not feel like a horrifying amount of stuff for my child to deal with. Well, as far as homesteader-prepper-type people go. (Sorry kid, I did my best. But hey, you’ll have all the power tools and canning jars you could ever need...)


This summer has not allowed for much writing time, so I’ve decided to set a timer for twenty minutes a few times a week and just write. No plan, very little editing. Likely no point. But at least I’m writing. It’s a muscle that surely atrophies without use. My timer is up for today, so I need to end this here. Thanks for stopping by, and remember, you don’t need six staplers. 


Summer Soul Camp :: Self-Paced Online Retreat

Fall decor may permeate store shelves, and cute children in new shoes may be stepping onto school buses, but the earth promises plenty of summer remains. Don't let it slip away too soon.

Summer Soul Camp is an online workshop that I created years ago, a brief respite for us grown-ups so we too could enjoy the whimsy, creativity, and quiet reflections of summer camp. Many of you know I will no longer be offering new online workshops, but I have promised to make all of my past workshops available as "join anytime, self-paced" options. I've pulled some of the most popular elements from the archives of Summer Soul Camp and wrapped it all up in a permanently accessible self-paced format. Today it is available for you!

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Think of Summer Soul Camp as the place where old fashioned living meets our modern day desire to slow down and enjoy life's simple moments. Summer Soul Camp is a self-paced online retreat - a place to celebrate the light and warmth that summertime brings. A place to savor the sunshine, linger into the evening, welcome creativity, and allow time for stillness and spontaneity. Every summer has a story, perhaps this retreat is a chapter in yours.

If you've enjoyed Hibernate, you'll find this workshop to be the perfect summertime compliment. Summer is fleeting, always gone too soon - gathering for two blissful weeks feels like the perfect length of time.

You will pick and choose the projects, prompts, recipes and inspiration that speak to you, there is no need to do every little thing offered. Simply moving through camp in a way that fulfills you, is perfect.

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Summer Soul Camp is filled with ideas to help you connect deeply to the beauty of the season. A place where it feels perfectly normal, encouraged even, to linger under a shade tree, sipping lemonade and shelling peas all afternoon. While I love to fill my workshops with plenty of projects and ideas so you receive a wonderful value, I also hope you understand that these offerings can last a summer or longer. You may feel inspired to try only two or three of the projects this year, and revisit the rest next year. That is perfectly fine. After all, we need to leave plenty of time for staring at the sky in search of the perfect cloud unicorn.


A peek inside:

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I'd love for you to join this self-paced offering. Take your time, move at your own pace, enjoy the season.


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(Please note: Summer Soul Camp log-in will be sent to the email associated with your PayPal registration.)

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A Hunting Tale & Life on the Farm

The pace of summer has kept me from writing much, hence the easy way out by sharing snippets on Instagram. Sometimes I do manage to thumb my way through the almost 400 words IG allows in any given post, usually while taking a shade break from garden work. Micro-blogging. I do not mind it. 

Adam and I are spending time this summer in Maine packing up my parents’ house, and in doing so I’ve been reminded of some great family stories that I’d like to share here. Not because I expect you’d find my family stories particularly interesting, but because if you’re like me, you find human stories interesting. In reading through the family memoirs, written by my 3rd cousin, Lucien, I was struck by how radically our lives have changed, and how much human capability has been lost after thousands of years in development, in two quick generations. And, how these stories could be the stories of nearly any rural, northern New England family, living in the early part of the twentieth century.

I’ll let Lucien’s stories speak for themselves, only adding that Eddie was my great-grandfather (Pepere), and Yvonne my great-grandmother (Memere) for context. Also, Lucien - the author - never lived in Eagle Lake, hence his tales of “visiting” there. His mother, Clarinda (Eddie’s sister), left Eagle Lake sometime in her teens and made her way south to Lewiston, Maine, where she took up work as a seamstress, eventually settling in Augusta, Maine, and raising her family there. So, Lucien was a city dweller, who loved his northern roots. He was a decorated war hero, and in civilian life, a bright, successful business man, but even with such worldly preparations, the first story illustrates that hunting with the Simard men in Eagle Lake presented great challenges! 

I’d like to also note that Lucien spoke French, despite having been raised far from Eagle Lake, due to his parents both sharing their native language at home. This was helpful during his Eagle Lake visits (and the stories he was able to share as a result), as French was still the primary language spoken in the region at the time. One more thought: Lucien’s genealogy work traces our family back much further than the time of these stories. He takes our family back through the early settlement of Eagle Lake (we were among the first recorded names), to Quebec, and even further to a small village in France in the 1600’s. Much of his reporting did not come via internet genealogy sites, but by visits to these places and physical research once there. 

My absolute favorite reading has always been rural memoir from early twentieth century. Simple prose retelling everyday life. The pull so strong and familiar that I’ve long felt convinced I must have lived that life before. Finally beginning to wise up at 45 years, I realize that indeed I have. The lives and stories of Yvonne, Clarinda, Eddie, Samuel, and many more are locked into my DNA, passed down through generations. Of course I’ve been there.

In a world of shiny Pinterest ideals, grocery stores filled with boxed caloric units called “food”, and Twitter diplomacy, I call on the skills, grit, wisdom, integrity, and presence of mind that is in my not-too-distant past. It is in yours, too. May we all remember. 

And with that, I’ll turn it over to Lucien. 



A Hunting Tale

Sometimes in November, after the first snows each year, many of the men in Eagle Lake went deer hunting. Pepere Samuel, my uncles Eddie, Artie, and Fred, and my cousins all did. The rest of December and the first days in January, the men stayed home to enjoy the Christmas and New Year’s holidays with their families. Then, some of the men left home again, this time to go deep in the woods to work in lumber camps, until sometime in the Spring. 

Over the years, mon oncle Eddie had worked for several lumber companies, and he knew his way around lumber camps and tote roads all over northern Maine. As a certified Maine Guide, he led tourists, who came to Maine to hunt and fish, in and around the Allagash region. 

Thanksgiving week 1947 was just around the corner, and I was itching for my first deer hunting trip with my Simard relatives in Eagle Lake. My brother-in-law, Leo Pelletier, had never been deer hunting before and wanted to go with me. He was a nice person and a good guy to be with. Leo offered to drive the two of us in his new car, and off we went. 

Leo and I arrived in Eagle Lake raring to go deer hunting for the first time. We dressed warm, with heavy hunting clothes and boots, to withstand the freezing outdoors weather. Leo was paired with mon oncle Eddie, and I was paired with my cousin Fernand. 

The four of us went to the boat landing at Eagle Lake, got into a large canoe at the mooring, and canoed to the mouth of the Nadeau River. That morning, there was a thin layer of ice on the lake, and we had to cut a path with the canoe to get to the shore near the river. There was a good two or three feet of snow on the ground. 

Once we had landed, mon oncle Eddie and Leo went in one direction, while cousin Fernand and I took off in another direction. It was very difficult walking in the deep snow. We walked all forenoon without finding a trace of a deer. I could see the Nadeau River nearby. My back was killing me. I was tired and hurting all over. 

Well, I told Fernand that I could not go back to the canoe in my condition, it was just too far. He said something like, “What are you going to do?” I told him that I was going to hold my rifle over my head and cross the river, and follow the railroad tracks to town. 

Fernand couldn't talk me out of my plan, and so he crossed the river with me. The river was around three feet deep at the place where we crossed, and our legs got very wet. Once we were out of the water on the other side, our legs iced up quickly. We walked along the railroad tracks, the four or five miles, all the way back to mon oncle Eddie’s house in Eagle Lake. 

Ma tante Yvonne, could not believe it when she opened the door and saw us. She made us take our frozen clothes off, and gave us each a robe to wear. She heated the oven, opened up the oven door, and told us to sit as near to it as we could, without burning ourselves. Next, she gave us a tall glass of hot water, with gin and sugar to drink. It tasted awful. But neither of us got pneumonia!

Meanwhile, mon oncle Eddie had killed a deer and had dragged it back to the canoe. He waited for us until almost dark, and then left with Leo for town. He got home to find us mostly thawed, but in pretty bad shape. He was glad to see us, but he laughed his head off when he heard our story. 



Lumber camp photos, great-great- Memere and Pepere Simard, baby Lucien (author) in Eagle Lake. 


Life on the Farm

On April 15, 1929, President Roosevelt called a special session of Congress to deal with the mounting problems of the nation’s economy. In particular, farmers were becoming deperate for finacial relief, and the tariff needed revision. On October 24, 1929, the New York Stock Exchange saw some 16,000 shares sold at declining prices. “Black Tuesday,” as this day was called, was the most catastrophic day in the market’s history and foretold of the Great Depression to come. 

My father worked for the Fuller-Holway Company from the time he got out of military service in 1919 until 1927, when he accepted a better paying job with the Cushnoc Paper Company. He worked on the grinders at this paper company until it shut down, due to the Depression, in 1933. 

It was common during these years, for a large number of workers to ask for their annual vacation during the month of July. In addition, paper mills, textile mills, and the shoe shops shut down for needed mainteneance and necessary repairs on machinery for a week or two in July. Since my father was not part of a repair or maintenance crew, we were able to take our annual family vacation for the first two weeks in July. This was our chance to visit my mother’s relatives in Eagle Lake. 

My memories of our visits to the Simards in Eagle Lake are some of the happiest memories of my childhood. First, our Dodge sedan would always be in tiptop shape and raring to go. It would have to carry us 300 miles, over paved roads; some with frost heaves from the previous winter, and over gravel roads too.

About a week before we left on our trip up north, my mom would pack enough clothes for the two week visit, to last us for a month. On the evening before our trip, she would pack a big lunch, including bottles of root beer on ice. The long trip at 45 miles an hour, from Augusta to northern Maine, meant seven to eight hours of some pretty rough riding. This lunch would have to keep our bodies and souls happy until we would reach Pepere Samuel Simard’s farm in Eagle Lake. 

During the trip, my mother would tell us about Pepere Samuel’s farm. There were several horses, many cows, quite a few pigs, lots of chickens, and a few sheep. There was a dog and several cats. The closer we got to Eagle Lake, the more excited we became. Before arriving, my mother would remind us to be on our best behavior at all times. 

What excitment! We would arrive, and the grandparents, the aunts and uncles, and the cousins were so happy to see us, and we were so happy to see them. The hugs and kisses all around took quite a while. We were going to have such a good and fun time together. 

Suddenly, someone rang a cowbell and hollered that supper was ready. There was a real big table set-up in the large kitchen with an enormous amount and variety of food that could feed an army. The eating arrangement was systematic and well organized. In no time at all, everyone had eaten to their hearts content, and the leftover food was put away. The female crew washed and wiped the dishes, and Memere Marguerite put them away. 

Afterwards, the entire family gathered in the large living room for storytelling, music, and just a good time. On occasions, Pepere Samuel started telling us about life on the farm. He told us about the never-ending work that started before dawn and continued until dark. There were jobs for everyone in the family. It was a rough life, and parents largely depended on help from the children to get all the work done. 

All year around day after day, there was milking the cows, taking care of the milk, seperating the cream, and making the butter, among other things. Cleaning the stables was an ongoing chore. Then, there was collecting the eggs from the chickens every day. 

I was still quite young, when Pepere and Memere told me that I was big enough to collect fresh eggs from the chickens in the barn. Memere said that she would give me a penny for every egg that I brought in. No doubt I didn’t want to miss my chance to collect as many pennies as possible... because I began knocking the chickens off their nests to get the eggs. Well, one day, Pepere caught me doing this, and he let me know that I should give the chickens a chance to do their job. I got the message!

During those evenings after dinner, we heard stories about how in the Spring of the year, the fields were ploughed to produce wheat and other grain. They planted fields of potatoes, as well as a good-size vegetable garden. By mid-Summer, the big job of haying the fields had to be done. In the Fall, it was a matter of harvesting the grain to convert it into flour. It was also time for the big job of picking potatoes. Vegetables from the garden were harvested and canned in quart jars. Later still, some of the cows, chickens, and pigs were slaughtered and the meat preserved by canning and/or storing in wooden barrels with layers of snow between the layers of meat. In some cases, pork and other meats were immersed in a salty brine solution. Before cooking meat cured this way, it was necessary to soak it again in fresh plain water, to leach out some of the salt. 

Some of my uncles and older cousins told stories about taking tourists out to fish in the Spring and Summer, and to hunt deer in the Fall. They also told stories about when they hunted and fished to provide food at home, and about when they trapped for fur pelts in the wintertime to provide additional income for their families. 

During hard times, after Christmas, Pepere Samuel and his eldest son, Eddie, left the farm to go hunt and trap in the wild Allagash region of northern Maine. Mon oncle Eddie told stories about how they left the warmth and comfort of their home during some of the harshest weather of the winter, carrying only salt pork and a few other supplies in a knapsack on their backs, and with a pair of snowshoes slung across their bodies. They would have to live off the land and in the woods for a couple of months, trapping fur-bearing animals for pelts, and killing deer for food. They would use the deer hides for cover from wild animals and the elements, and as blankets to help keep warm at night. These were great adventure stories for a young boy like me to hear!

At some point during the evening, Memere Marguerite would start to play the accordion, and ma tante Gertrude Michaud would play the piano. Pretty soon, some of the family would sing, and still others would dance. We all had such a good time. 

During my years growing up, we made several trips to Pepere Samuel’s farm, and were always well recieved. I got to know my Simard uncles and aunts and cousins well. They were always good-hearted and wonderful people to share with and to have fun together.

After each of our two-week visits, the Simard family would send us off on our long journey back to Augusta, loaded down with canned jars of deer meat, garden vegetables, and a 50-pound bag of potatoes. These visits not only connected me to my mother’s family, but they also taught me a lot about the kind of person I wanted to become in life. The visits with my Eagle Lake relatives, and listening to the stories they told, were for me, lessons in the value of hard work, being honest and generous, and of having fun. 


Thank you for reading two small excerpts from Lucien's memoirs; he would be truly tickled to know anyone found them of interest! I hope you find that similar stories have been written down by someone in your family. May we all do our part to carry on with such important traditions.