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Aunt Delphine's Funeral

On the Farm . . . what's happening this week

The sugar snap peas and beans producing so abundantly just a few weeks ago have completely spent themselves, and the new plantings of these same crops are up and growing for a fall harvest. I am anxiously checking the progress of the abundant eggplants and peppers hanging on their plants but not quite ready to pick.

We spent the weekend processing the first batch of broiler chickens. Bill had made some adjustments to our process making us more efficient. We finished up the last 50 birds in no time.

Aidan added a couple red New Zealand rabbits to the three white ones he already owns. He is contemplating showing rabbits as well as raising them for meat.

My elderly aunt passed away last Sunday, and the funeral was yesterday. Family was flying in from around the country, and I was determined we would be there despite falling on a harvest day during tomato season. My family helped make that happen. My sister, Nicole and niece, Cecelia came to get the harvest started a day early. It was many hours picking tomatoes (some not trellised – so embarrassing!), pulling onions, hunting for zucchini, and digging potatoes and carrots.

Wednesday chores were completed early, and we commenced removing the layers of dirt behind our ears, between our toes and under the corners of our fingernails not wanting to be obvious about the fact we make our living from the farm today. We pulled seldom worn, dressy outfits out of the back of the closet and discovered that Aidan’s dress pants are too short. Thank goodness jeans have become acceptable wear for a funeral. Belts, dress shoes and earrings located, we left the farm, Bill and I feeling we were playing hooky, and nervous of the consequences later that evening with much work to finish.

The funeral was a fitting tribute to my aunt, the eldest of nine children raised on a farm just north of Spring Green, the very farm I grew up on. Delphine helped Grandma Feiner prepare food, tend a big garden and chicken house, care for younger siblings, make soap with rendered lard, clean the farm house and assist Grandpa Feiner in the barn. She told me once it was a lot of work, an understatement for sure. After she married, she moved to Plain to live and raise her children. She was soft-spoken and careful about her appearance, always looking beautiful, but also a hard worker and tough as nails. Characteristics instilled and encouraged on that Wilson Creek farm. She, along with other women of her generation, took a job outside the home. Throughout her life she felt it important to give to others, donating time to different organizations as well as her church. Del was sensitive to hardships others were experiencing always sending cards and notes with thoughtful messages.

It was good to visit with her sons and their families as well as the aunts, uncles and cousins who came. It was also bittersweet because the last time we gathered this way was for my dad’s death, a year and a half ago. He was the youngest of the big family and died unexpectedly from depression leading to suicide. It shocked us all. While that feeling has dulled in the months since, it is still hard to understand. At the funeral yesterday looking around at all the family surrounding me, I was sad to be again brought up short by the loss of another member of the clan. I also felt grateful for my family. This big, German Catholic, stubborn, yet warm and caring farm stock has made me strong in many ways I often take for granted. I have made often unconventional choices in my life secure in their support.

After the lunch in the church basement we lingered, hesitant to part and resume our lives at a distance. Mom and my sisters (minus one sister recuperating from a bout of summer flu) decided to come home with us to complete the work we abandoned earlier.

You have a box this week thanks to them. They helped collect even more cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, and broccoli. They assembled boxes, sorted produce, packed boxes and selected recipes for the newsletter. They even washed our counter of dirty dishes, chopped vegetables for us and cooked supper.

Mom, Nicole and Cecelia headed home after dark. My other two sisters, Tana and Lauren and my 3 year old nephew, Henrich spent the night. We cleared the table and headed to bed. Hanging on to the last moments together before sleep, we crawled on Lauren’s and Henrich’s bed to read a silly story about a confused dragon.

It felt good to be with family visiting and then working to bring in the harvest while trying to convince Henrich not to bite each cucumber as he loaded them in the crates. I am comforted by the love surrounding me as well as the continuity of working together much like Del and Dad worked together with their parents and siblings on their family farm years ago. Although we've have had to say good-bye to loved ones, those of us left are still connected and rely on each other often.

Life is good.

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