Making An
Agrarian Family Calendar

Dateline: 14 February 2006

For the past few months I have been buying my wife, Marlene, issues of the magazine, Cooks Illustrated. It has no advertising and is a very informative & down-to-earth publication. Maybe the real reason I like it is the editorials by Christopher Kimball (no relation). Mr. Kimball grew up on a farm, still lives on a sort-of farm ("two herefords, nine hens, two pigs in the summer, six horses, and two or more beehives, depending on how many survive the winter."), and writes of his family and country life (at least he has in the past few issues). I’m going to quote from the first two paragraphs of the recent (April 2006) issue and then comment......


“Anyone who has spent time on a farm knows that a year has a rhythm to it, one that is determined by the weather. My mother, Mary Alice, who inherited a love of farming from her father, went so far as to create her own calendar with notes about planting garlic in the fall, when to add fuel stabilizer to chainsaws and mowers, and the best time to order baby chicks. Every day had a purpose and more than one task at hand, so when, for the first time in a year, the wood cookstove had to be fired up before sunrise and the air was so sharp it caught in your throat, it was time to turn the page on the calendar and get busy. There was work to do.

The advantage of this system is that you always know where you are in the grand scheme of things. It’s time to tap the trees, site your gun, feed the bees, clean the pig house, call the ferrier, split the kindling, prune the trees, or plant the corn. Life runs on a schedule and you better not fall behind. If you do, the apples get coddling moth, the hay goes to seed, and you miss the good runs of sap. For old-timers, a good calendar was a matter of life and death.”


I think the idea of a family calendar is a nifty idea. Along with the seasonal agrarian tasks that Christopher Kimball mentions, family birthdays and anniversaries and even deaths of past relatives could be recorded and remembered. As could important holidays that are not normally found on any other calendars (i.e. Robert E. Lee’s Birthday).

I’m pretty sure that Cheri Shelnutt (a.k.a., Tennessee Farmgirl) has done something like this. I’ve heard her mention the calendar she has put together. Cheri, if you read this, I’d like to ask you to post at your blog sometime telling us more about the calendar you have created.

In any event, Christopher Kimball mentions in his editorial that he still has his mother’s calendar, “the one that tells me when to clean out the garage and check the carrots in the root cellar.” It is a family heirloom. What a wonderful thing to create and put to use and pass on to future generations.


P.S. The web site for Cooks Illustrated is:


Emily said...

Oh, this really appeals to my must organize everything in sight brain! What an excellent homeschooling project to work on with my daughter! We could make it into a notebook-type calendar in a nicely-bound scrapbook, and include drawings, photos, essays, etc. Thank you for the great idea which could indeed become a family heirloom. I've seen Cook's in the store but always thought it was simply another glossy magazine full of recipes I would never try, but now I'll have to check it out. I like the way Christopher "no relation" Kimball writes!

Leslie said...

I really like the idea of a family heirloom calendar. I am into genealogy and have several times thought of creating a family calendar with birthdays and anniversaries on it, and with old family photos I've scanned.

Adding seasonal tasks is a nice touch! It would have to be pretty generic, because folks sowing and harvesting depend on your USDA zone... but many other tasks could easily be included.

TNfarmgirl said...

I will post on my calendar soon!