In my last blog, I mentioned our local Farm and Home Store. It’s where we purchased our first rabbits. It’s also where we recently purchased some catfish and bass to stock our farm pond.
We’ve never done this before. We’ve always just let nature take its course. In the past, we’ve gotten fish in our pond when the creek flooded and brought some in from other ponds upstream. But the fish brought in with the flood waters were mostly carp, sunfish, and bullhead catfish, not the varieties for which people actually fish. So, we stocked our pond with some largemouth bass and channel catfish.
When Danny and I fish, it’s pretty much catch-and-release. Well, truth be told, Danny fishes while I typically read a book. I will look up and smile admiringly when he says, “Look at this one!” Then, I will immediately go back to reading.
Growing up Catholic, we ate fish every Friday. Often, that fish came out of our farm pond. I watched the fish being gutted, beheaded, descaled, deboned, washed, and finally fried. I wonder how many kids today have seen that? How many kids think that fish come out of the water in boneless, breaded squares?
Today, our food supply is so sanitized. People see no blood or guts, hide or feathers. They don’t have to pick worms off their garden plants; they don’t watch a corn crop grow for months only to find it eaten by a raccoon the night before harvest. They never lose an entire season’s worth of fruit to an early frost.
When you grow, raise, hunt or catch your own food, you learn to appreciate the hard work and long hours that go into preparing every single bite. You don’t take food for granted. I have never, ever, seen a farm kid who was a picky eater.
My point is, I no longer care to prepare the fish that Danny catches. But I would if I were hungry enough.
But I digress. Let’s talk more about this Farm and Home Store. It’s called Orscheln (Or-shell-in, with the accent on the first syllable, and say it fast.) It is, without a doubt, my favorite store. I’ve been to big cities with 3-story malls filled with designer merchandise. I’ve been to Saks, Nieman Marcus, Nordstrom and Macy’s. I’ve been to Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason in London.
I always come back to Orscheln.
Do you have a store near you where you can buy a bridle for your horse, a pair of women’s jeans, Watkins vanilla for baking, a birthday card for a friend, some old-fashioned licorice, a kitchen faucet, a bag of feed pellets for your calves, and toss it all in the same shopping cart?
Then outside, you can pick up flowers for your front porch, a rocker for your side porch, a grill for your back porch and a round bale feeder for your pasture.
Besides live fish, you can buy live chicks, ducks, geese and turkeys in season. Oh, and baby rabbits. I buy my wild bird seed in bulk every fall, and fresh produce from the farmer’s market in the parking lot every summer.
But you want to know the best part? As soon as I walk in the front door of this gigantic store, I hear, “Hi Mary.”
“Hi Holly,” I say back.
“How’s it going today?” Holly asks.
“Oh, not too bad. You?”
“No complaints. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with today.”
“Will do,” I reply. But I rarely ask for help. I’ve got every aisle memorized.
As I check out with five forty-pound bags of oats for my horses, Holly always asks, “Need any help out with that?”
“Nope. I got this,” I always reply. “Thanks anyway.” I figure if I can carry it all into the barn by myself, I can load it into the back of the Tahoe by myself.
But inevitably, as I’m loading the bags into my Tahoe, some farmer either entering or leaving the store, someone whom I’ve never met before, will go out of his way to cross the parking lot and help. He’ll grab one of my bags out of the cart, say, “Here. Let me help you with that,” and toss it into the back of my Tahoe without even asking. I never object. That would be rude. I let him help me, then I always say “Thanks!” with a big smile. Even though I know I could have done it myself.
And that’s the best part about Orscheln, Farm and Home Store. It’s the people who work there, and it’s the people who shop there. And that’s no fish story.
(If you want to read more about producing your own food, read the October – Hard Lessons chapter of my first book A Year on the Family Farm.)
Next Week: It Was Worth Getting Up For