A recent survey of 1,500 British grandparents indicated that young people are more likely to turn to Google for information on how to perform such tasks as ironing a shirt or boiling an egg than to their elders.
Easy to believe. You can find about anything on the Net, from recipes to rebuilding engines.
However, not everything is available. The other day we were talking about cooking while we were doing the chores. We talk about cooking a lot while we are working. It passes the time and expands the menu, without doing harm to waistlines, unless someone actually follows through.
Liz was in a baking mood so I suggested Grandma Lachmayer's Nut Tussie cup cookies. These are fussy little cookies, delicious, but a real pain in the neck. She is much more patient than I, so I thought she might like to make them. Then she could bring me some and I could eat them.
I dragged the old recipe notebook out of the drawer and hunted around until I found the hand-copied recipe. The notebook was purchased from the local college bookstore circa 1970 when a certain country girl wannabe was attending school there. Once upon a time it had a lovely photograph of the Big Sur area on the cover. Nowadays it doesn't have a cover, but it is filled with recipes from grandmas, aunts and other advisory folks from my youth.
Families, particularly farm families, often pass along recipes, weather wisdom, and general life guidance of the sort that isn't taught at college or generally found on the Web.
Things like time-honored advice about spreading bovine-derivative fertilizer on the land, usually passed from father to son (although other mentors are possible, and some daughters and wives cope with the chore on occasion). It deals with how, when the wind is blowing, no matter what the GPS may say, direction is everything. Direction, direction, direction. Wind direction as compared to tractor direction in relation to traveling direction (or perhaps trajectory) of the cow end product.
It is the kind of advice that really matters.
I remember learning similar farm stuff myself, even though I didn't grow up on one. Things like don't pet heifers and calves as if they were doggies and kitty cats. When they grow up they will still want to play and romp with you, only instead of being waist-high they will weigh three-quarters of a ton. Better to admire from a safe distance. Not college course material but meaningful just the same.
I asked my fine farm, ranch and rural friends across the nation to share tips they had been blessed with in such a manner.
They responded kindly as they always do.
From a well-known rancher, saddle maker, cowboy poet, and musician from South Dakota, in his own words: "I am not sure who told me this first, but it is absolutely true... 'The only thing in life that doesn't change is that all things change...' Most of us hate change and fight it hard when we really need to embrace change, as it is the only way we will ever survive, adapt and change...to meet every situation. And the advice I gave my children, and it is absolutely true, 'Find out what you enjoy doing and then go find a way to make a living at it, and you will be happiest. Don't worry about the money, you won't need as much if you're happy. Life is too short to make a living at work you hate and if you enjoy it, it's really not work, is it?'"
And, "One more I just read the other day, 'When you are chopping wood, after you get tired of using the dull side of the axe, try using the sharp side, it's much easier."
From a fine gentleman from Alaska, who grew up close to family farming, before moving to a land where they have enough weather to go around even if they shared it with the whole lower 48 (and bears too; they have lots and lots of bears, as well as moose, which are a lot like bears only taller and meaner).
"My maternal grandpa farmed all his life and knew a LOT about weather, farming, conditions in general, politics, and life.
"People tend to the politicians they deserve."
"In times of drought, all signs fail."
"Treat your neighbor like your family. You never know when you'll need help, too."
"Always give back more than you got, and it doesn't cost anything to be nice."
And, speaking of bears while we're on the subject, this truly useful bit of handed down advice comes from a fellow farmer from Maine: "When hiking in bear country, you don't need a 'bear gun;' rather, you need a hiking partner whom you can easily outrun."
Makes sense to me.
All of us who have ever been young parents remember lying awake at night listening to the gentle breathing of treasured children, beloved even beyond life itself, and so in need of constant oversight and prayer. A dear friend from Ohio shared this bit of familial wisdom" "Dad never coaxed more than a few vegetables from a neighbor's plot of land ... but he did produce a nice crop of kids.
When I was a young mother ... and frantically nervous about my new infant son ... dad turned to me one day and said, 'Cathy, children are born to live.'
I didn't become 'laid-back' ... but his wisdom softened my intensity and I will always be grateful."
Though perhaps we have indeed moved away from the inter-generational exchange of advice and ideas, there are so many things that neither a college education, however useful that will be to modern-day farming, nor the Internet can offer. Of course, ironically I suppose, the down-to-earth, practical concepts above did arrive via the Internet.
And even more ironically, just for the heck of it, I did a Google search for "Nut Tussie Cups" and found dozens of recipes for "Nut Tassie Cups."
Fultonville dairy farmer MARIANNE FRIERS
is a regular columnist. She blogs