MeadowCroft Farm is a fifth generation working family farm
in the rural community of Swoope, located in the middle of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Bill and Judie both came from an agricultural background, having grown up on family farms in Augusta County, Virginia. Responsibility, work ethics, and on the job training were instilled in us at a very young age, even before we were out of diapers. Growing up by the side of our parents and grandparents, we participated in whatever was to be done on the farm: milking the cows, feeding all the animals twice daily, collecting chicken eggs, building and repairing fences, checking the cows and calves, shelling corn, and tending the sheep during lambing season in January’s cold winter.
Riding on the tractors was something we looked forward to every day. This was how we first learned how to drive, and, yes, there would be a lesson or two on the mechanics of how keep the John Deere running properly.
Springtime was the season we looked forward to it coming. Seeing the first green grass appear in the fields told us that it was time to start branding calves before sending them out to pastures where they would graze all summer. Time now to sell all of the spring lambs, plow the fields and plant the grains that would later feed the animals for the next year. Our grandmothers reminded our granddaddies “the soil is ready for plowing the garden THIS evening”. Off we go bare footed to the garden so we could walk through the row just plowed and pick up the night crawlers (worms) knowing we could go fishing in the stream that ran through the lower field the next day if we got all our work done in time.
Nanny (Judie’s grandmother) had a special treat. “Tomorrow, we are going the cellar to get the older canning jars, you know the ones with the zinc lids, emptied out and washed so that we will be prepared for the upcoming Summer harvest.” I looked forward to doing this because I could play in the dish pan and if we had any dented or broken lids I would get to play with them. I used them to make mud pies. I thought they looked just like Nanny’s chocolate pies until one day Granddaddy came in from working and found that I had gone to the hen house and got some eggs. Little did I know that I was messing with his livelihood. A huge lesson learned. I got to meet John Henry (Granddaddy’s leather razor strap). Needless to say, ‘A VALUABLE LESSON LEARNED.”
Summer is rapidly approaching. Time to have fresh greens and onions from the garden and soon to come were beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and corn. All the berries and fruit trees were ready for the picking. Now this is where our grandmothers came in. Time to go to the garden in the early morning and late evenings. Yes, it’s time to gather our food for the long winter. After picking came the preserving. Nothing was going to be wasted. The porch swing became “the area”, always the coolest place during the heat of the day to snap green beans, shell peas, cap strawberries and hear a story or two. Our grandmothers kept us entertained by working but we thought it was so much fun. I guess we learned that getting in the dirt wasn’t a bad thing. I like to think of it as being grounded! Now, time to go to the hayfield after the dew has dried. Long, late days of cutting, raking and baling hay are ahead. The first cutting of hay is on the ground. The corn in the back field is up and looking good. We just need a little rain now and then to have a good crop for the winter!
Fall is just on our heels with those cool nights approaching– time to prepare for the cold winter. The last of the vegetables need to be picked and the potatoes dug. Sounds like we will be canning soup–sure can taste it already. Granddaddy was busy sawing and splitting downed wood to stack in the woodshed. This was how he kept the land groomed as well as provided warmth and more importantly wood for the cook stove. I learned from him how to identify the trees and which ones were the best to use for a hot, lasting heat. He knew exactly how grandmother wanted her biscuit wood. Time has come to get the horses in shape and check the trucks for moving cattle back from the pastures. “Roundup Time” meant numerous trips over the mountains hauling 800-1100 pound steers to be sold at the livestock market. The market was like a homecoming. You got to see your neighbors, exchange stories and spend half the night at the sales ring waiting for your cattle to be sold.
We had our first frost last night. Winter is almost here. You walk outside and smell the smoke from the chimney on a chilly 40° morning. Oh, I know it won’t be long until it’s time to butcher the hogs. We call a few friends and neighbors and make plans to prepare our meat for the winter. What a long day! The men cut up the meat, grind the sausage and cook down the lard. The ladies make the ponhoss (cornmeal and meat stock made into a loaf, then fried and eaten with maple syrup or molasses) and can the meat to preserve for later meals. Granddaddy had a special recipe for curing the hams, shoulders and bacon. I loved to watch him as he salted and hung the meat in the smokehouse. We would be living “high on the hog” with all this food, not to mention tenderloin and gravy for Sunday dinner. This makes me hungry just thinking of how lucky I was to have been raised “On the Farm”.
If you’re ever in our area, we invite you to come by (you don’t need an appointment) and tour our pickle factory and the fields where we grow our produce. Visit with our sheep and other friendly animals too! It’s easy to find us. We hope to see you soon!