As some readers know, I grew up on my father’s family farm. Just outside of Boston, but in the late 50s, early 60s, there really were rural places like you read about. And that included our property, a 12-acre farm that used to house horses, boars, chickens, and the rest. But not exactly like that when I lived there.
The tired farm of my childhood
When I was young, “the farm” was still a property of about 12 acres. It had multiple outbuildings, fields, an old well (which my youngest brother fell in one day), and no driveway from the street. Also, the boars and horses were long gone. We just had ducks and chickens. We also had a long dirt track as a driveway. It led through a field from the street but ended up running through what became our neighbor’s front yard when my grandfather sold off some of the acreage. Hallelujah, that resulted in our getting a paved driveway!
Did it snow more in the 60s?
I have memories of that driveway, at least 70 or 80 feet long if not more. Every winter my father would try to get us out there to shovel it. Obviously, he needed to be up and out in the morning. We did not, and did not want to spend the hour or two we had to ourselves after dinner, out in the cold dark night, shoveling snow. But outside we’d go, and I remember the brightness of the stars overhead, the brightness of the snow in the moonlight, and our voices, whining and complaining. Eventually, without enough shovels, and our getting very little done except clearing enough space to pull the car in off the street, my father would give up. We’d walk back up to the house through the thigh-high snow, and he’d get out the snow blower to carve a path to the car. I know winters are awful now, but did we have way more snow back then?
But what about the farm animals?
The fun thing though on our “sort of” farm, was that we had plenty of ducks, bantam hens, and even a horse one morning, who happened to wander away from his own stable down the road to our house! We were so excited that morning to look out the window and see a horse in the backyard. Being the oldest, and a lover of animals from the time I could walk, it was my daily task to collect eggs from the few ducks that lived in our two-seater outhouse (which we didn’t use for its original purpose thank God!).
I did try eating one of those eggs and quickly decided they were for my father. They were too strong for my 3 or 4-year-old taste buds. I don’t really remember what those ducks looked like. But I DO remember my pet duck, Mr. Duck. He accompanied me everywhere. If you can picture a big white duck with a bright yellow bill and yellow feet following behind a little girl in braids and jeans you’ve got a picture of who I was as a child.
My best friend – Mr. Duck
Although the baby book my mother kept for us indicates clearly that my best friend as a child was my cousin Stephen, in fact, it is clear to me that Mr. Duck was my everyday friend. On warm summer days, my mother would set a tub filled with warm water outside in the sun to give me a bath. Mr. Duck would sit right next to it, sipping water, getting splashed, and clucking contentedly. In the winter, my father would plow a large area behind our house. He had an old truck fitted with a big metal plow blade. I’d sled down the mounds of snow he created. Somewhere I’ve got a picture of me out in the snow with my father, and Mr. Duck by my side. When I went sledding, Mr. Duck would waddle along next to my sled.
Long after Mr. Duck had a second and final tussle with a raccoon, my family took in a flock of wild ducks. It’s no wonder I’m partial to those little yellow balls of fluff at the Topsfield Fair when we go. When I got older, maybe 7 or 8, we took in a flock of wild ducks. The outhouse shelter was only big enough for 2 or 3 ducks, but we also had a duck house out behind my mother’s clothesline. I was in charge of herding the ducks under that shelter and then handing them out to my mother to place in the house away from danger. I’d wait until they returned home from wherever they’d been during the day, then I’d cluck and squawk and hold out my arms to herd them through the opening under the duck house. Ah, but that was only the first half of my job.
Keeping our feathered friends safe
The second half involved me crawling under the house with them. I’d be talking to them, spluttering feathers out of my mouth, and convincing them that I was only there to help them. One by one they’d get handed to my mother who carefully placed them inside for the night. I remember that it was warm under that house, and smelled a bit like ducks do. But putting them in for the night was an important task. It kept them safe from raccoons, foxes, and any other creature looking for a duck dinner.
Because that’s what happened to our bantams and Mr. Duck one horrible summer night. My mother filled her bucket with chicken feed and walked over to feed the bantams and ducks. But rather than a raucous clucking and squawking morning chore, my mother found a silent and apocalyptic yard. Someone, no doubt a wily raccoon, had set up a way to get over the fence and cleared that yard of all life. Except for Mr. Duck, who survived, healed up, and continued his summer for a bit longer, until the culprit came back.
Farmers are used to this kind of thing, aren’t They?
My parents tried to be “farmers” about it, and cooked the poor guy up for lunch. But when it came time to carve, it was quickly decided. Our neighbors enjoyed that roast duck dinner. I’ve never eaten duck in my life, and never will!
But although my father had boars on the farm when he was growing up, we never had pigs, and I can’t tell a lie. We totally enjoyed this recipe for Cider Braised Pork which I made for Christmas this year!
Cider-Braised BBQ Pork Butt
- 1 – 2 TB salt
- ½ TB fresh ground black pepper
- ½ tsp chipotle chili pepper
- 1 ½ tsp ground mustard
- 1 TB cinnamon
- 1 TB garlic powder
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 3 tsp minced garlic
- 1 5-lb pork butt
- 12 oz of your favorite hard cider
- ½ cup BBQ sauce (I used my apple whiskey sauce)
- Combine all ingredients except pork, BBQ sauce, and cider well.
- Rub mixture over pork butt, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or longer.
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
- Unwrap pork and place in a deep roasting pan. Cook uncovered for 45 minutes until well browned.
- Remove from oven and pour cider over the top. Covered tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil and poke holes through the foil to allow steam to escape.
- Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and return pork to the oven.
- Cook for 2 ½ – 2 ¾ hours. Pork should be tender and easy to shred.
- Remove from oven and remove foil.
- Transfer pan juices to saucepan along with ½ cup BBQ sauce, bring to a simmer, and cook on low heat until thick and reduced by half, 20 – 30 minutes.
- Shred pork, and when reduced, pour the sauce over all.
Serve with additional BBQ sauce on the side if desired. I served this pork with Citrus Basil Rice. Recipe coming soon!
Looking for a slow cooked pork that’s pretty easy to put together and just a step or two to finish up? Try this one. It’s pretty much fool-proof.
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