It was hard to imagine that small sapling would ever bear apples, and then there they were.  |  Alma Barkman photo

Childhood love affair with apples grows old

Apples come with a certain amount of romance, but then reality sets in and something must be done with all that fruit

I was one of the kids on the station platform the day the Canadian National Railway train chugged into town, and the minute the door of the baggage car rolled open, I knew they had arrived. I could smell apples — boxes and boxes of luscious McIntosh apples from the orchards of British Columbia. With […] Read more

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Cracking the case of Mrs. McCoy’s elusive pie

A young girl decides during a fall supper to get to the bottom of the rumours about a local woman and her famous pastry

The brick schoolhouse that usually sat vacant during the long dark evenings suddenly burst into the limelight the night of the fall supper. Farm trucks backed up to its doorway to unload sacks of potatoes and carrots while middle-aged matrons fussed and fumed as self-appointed overseers of the impending feast. Soon the smell of brewed […] Read more

Canning time prompts the author to think about the various farm women down through the decades whose hands have also prepared these sealers for winter storage of food.  |  Alma Barkman photo

Canning about more than just preserving fruit

A stash of old sealers helps preserve memories of an art that has been passed from grandmother to mother to daughter

It was a weathered old wooden box with a slant lid. To get to it, we had to cut a trail as far as we could go with the lawn mower, then resort to the scythe, and finally the hatchet. Before we could open the lid, the lower limbs of a gnarled maple tree had […] Read more

A good swimming hole would attract children from across the community.  |  Alma Barkman photo

Swimming hole brought hours of enjoyment

It didn’t matter that the water was often cold, muddy and teeming with leeches — these river spots were the place to be

Behind our farmhouse during spring runoff, angry churning water boiled through the little riverbed in a vicious hurry downstream, taking with it everything that dared stand in its way. When the water receded, my older brother scouted along the edge for a deep pool carved out of the riverbank. He usually found one. We caught […] Read more

Wrens once made their nest in one of the author’s father’s work boots he had hung by the laces over the clothesline to dry. This house looks more comfortable.  |  Alma Barkman photo

Child’s fascination with birds fed love of nature

A girl’s feathered friends were the source of much wonder, from recently hatched eggs to divebombing hummingbirds

The sight of a big black crow flying lazily through the morning mists meant other birds would soon be arriving on their annual migration. The sound of a robin’s “cheer up, cheer up” was the surest sign of spring. When I was about three years old, my mother took me for a walk down to […] Read more

When a schoolyard became a garden

Day after day we had been cooped up in a stuffy classroom, plugging away at our Grade 5 lessons. But who could concentrate on a dull history assignment when brand new lambs were gamboling in farm pastures, white-faced calves were racing around corrals and fluffy yellow chicks were peeping out from under brooding hens? We […] Read more

The school picnic was a time to forget about class for an afternoon and revel in fun in the sun.  |  Alma Barkman photo

School picnics were time for games and treats

The entire community gathered for a day of three-legged races, ball games and ice cream — if the weather co-operated

A few days before the big event, the caretaker was busily rounding up boards for the makeshift booth. The sound of his hammer as he nailed it together was a major distraction, especially when the teacher opened the windows for some fresh June air. I could picture the boxes of chocolate bars, the suckers, the […] Read more

Surprise performer brightened rural community for weeks

On a warm afternoon in May, a car bearing strange licence plates pulled up in front of our four-room school at recess time. Play was temporarily suspended as all eyes followed the tall portly driver striding across the school grounds. He approached the principal, who had been umping a rowdy game of scrub baseball. “I’m […] Read more

The author’s mother, seen here with her husband, is remembered as someone whose trust in her daughter spurred her on to greater heights of achievement.  |  Photo courtesy of Alma Barkman

Mom was cornerstone of confidence

The author remembers the important role her mother played in her childhood growing up on a prairie farm in the 1940s

I was about four when I first took note of what my mother wore. She was going to a wedding and she wore a black skirt and a white blouse with a spray of hand-painted flowers on the left shoulder. When told I couldn’t go along, I had to keep back my tears of disappointment […] Read more

The lure of running maple tree sap can become a powerful temptation for youngsters with thoughts of free candy dancing in their heads.  |  Alma Barkman photo

Prairie farm kids follow the sugar rush

The prospect of turning trees into candy was too tempting to ignore for a couple of young farmers with their eyes on the prize

I thought Mom’s molasses cake covered in thick brown sugar icing flavoured with imitation maple was about as good as anything I’d ever tasted until an uncle brought us a box of real maple sugar candy. Each piece was in the shape of a leaf, and Mom rationed them out sparingly, carefully cutting along the […] Read more