I remember when I was newly married (before farming was even a thought in our minds), Joelle and I were visiting her grandfather Henry at his house on the banks of the Snohomish River. Henry was a sawyer by trade and a man full of wisdom. From the vantage point of his home, he could see all of the farmland between Silver Firs and Snohomish, an area known as marshland, and for the most part had lived all his life in that area.
He had told stories about shipping eggs to NYC by rail during the Great Depression. One time he was recounting a story about how his sisters would help wash the eggs. They used a dry brush system, much like a golf ball washer that one would find on any course around here. Grandpa Henry was industrious, always a tinkerer, so I am sure he designed that washer. As Grandpa would tell the story, he would be outside fixing this and that, when all of the sudden there would be this clamoring from the “egg processing area.” Then a wry smile and twinkle in his eyes would appear as he paused and said, “She broke another egg.” While funny to him and us, when that egg washer came across a soft shelled egg, it would send the contents everywhere. I never found out if he improved on the design or his sisters went on strike. Sadly, his generation is now passing quickly and soon we will have to have those rich history lessons only from history books.
Another time we were visiting, he showed us the tractor he had made, designed for mowing hillsides and, by adding a counter- balanced buzz saw, for cutting rounds. It definitely was not OSHA approved, but back then people took personal responsibility for their actions—sadly, there were accidents, but also great discoveries.
But the most profound things that Grandpa Henry ever said to me had to do with the seasons. Although I can’t remember the exact context of our conversation, we were talking about the change in weather and how winter was coming. I do remember that it was around this time of year, maybe early November, and it was getting cold. I commented, “Looks like winter is coming early.” He thought about my comment and said, “The coldest months are January and February.” I knew he was talking to me, but you could tell that he was fondly remembering another era. Those moments are priceless when you get to step back in time and relive them with someone.
Our conversation wasn’t small talk, I was actually trying to garner some wisdom and Grandpa was teaching me some important things about life. He and his family were impacted by the seasons—spring, summer and fall were for the winter. And when it came to something as simple as a comment on winter, he made sure he and I got it right.
As a farmer now, some twenty years later, I am much more attuned to the seasons, even to the salmon berries and the walnut blossoms. I will never forget that spring, summer and fall are for the winter. Winter is its own gift, when the land rests and so does the farmer.