My neighbor and friend, Freeda, working in her kitchen.
Monday through Friday, while their mother works, 89 year old Freeda babysits for her two year old, 4 year old and 6 year old great-grandchildren. She also gardens, keeps house and quilts. When I talked to her today she had made grape jelly and grape juice from her homegrown grapes. She also told me about freezing her special cucumber and onion mix.
When she is not busy with chores, Freeda says she loves to read.
Today, I got one of Freeda’s almost impossibe to get quilts. Freeda only accepts a few orders per year so her waiting list is years long. But, this was my lucky day. One of Freeda’s customers failed to pick up an order and Freeda thought I might be interested.
I was not a hard sell.
My new quilt is cream with a wedding ring pattern in shades of lavender with green accents.
While DH and I were admiring some of Freeda’s other quilts, she talked about growing up and living Amish. I was spellbound. I was also hoping Freeda would reveal her secret to being such a youthful almost 90 (in December) year old.
Freeda grew up in North Dakota during a time of dust storms and the depression. She was the fifth child from a family of eleven. Her nearest neighbors were a mile away.
“We raised most of our food,” says Freeda, “mother always had a big garden. We had small fruits like strawberries, currants, red and black raspberries, gooseberries and Juneberries. We had our chores to do. We carried wood, coal and water.
“We had chickens to feed, eggs to gather and cows to milk. I started milking when I was ten.
“Mother set her own hens — sometimes 24 hens at one time. She also had turkeys, ducks and geese. The little peeps were my job when I was old enough to do it. I would feed them clabbered milk and hard boiled eggs with chick powder mixed in. In the winter, chickens, calves, cows, sheep, pigs, sheep, cats, dogs and horses were all in the same barn. When the doors were opened, the steam rolled out. Frost gathered on the inside of the walls so thick that we would write our names there while doing chores and it would stay there until spring.”
The barn was 100 feet long. In the summer cooking was done in the summer kitchen in front of the barn.
In 1936 Freeda married Eli and by 1959, they had eight children. Then they further expanded their family by taking in foster children needing a home. Over the next 25 years Freeda and Eli took in 46 children including those with handicaps and serious illnesses.
”Several children came that were so undernourished,” says Freeda, ” one girl was hit on the head by her daddy and was blind and paralyzed because of it. She had surgery on her head and was able to see and walk again. She was soon adopted after that.
“It’s hard to give up children in foster care. They never left without tears and a prayer, knowing that God would take care of them wherever they are.
“After 25 years we quit foster care. Five years later they wanted us to start up again, but in the meantime, friends and neighbors had started bringing in their babies and I started daycare. I did not realize it would last until now, over 20 years later. I just thank God for my health so I can continue to have the children since it helps pass the time and the days are not so long.”
Eli’s first horse and buggy.
In 1981, Freeda and Eli traveled to Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and Denmark. In 1987 they took a 6 week trip to Alaska. They went up to see the pipeline. While in Fairbanks, they saw an eskimo lady sweeping the sidewalks.
She said, “Are you what we call Amish?” She told Freeda and Eli that she had read about the Amish and that there were just a few left. Freeda told her there were Amish in almost every state in the United States.
Says Freeda, “She had the Shaker people in mind. There are just a few of them left.”
In 1990, when Eli was 80 years old, he and Freeda went to Paraguay, South America for two weeks for a wedding. In 1993, Eli had flu symptoms and a pain in his side.
Only it wasn’t the flu. Eli had had an abdominal aneurysm. Freeda and Eli had been married 57 years when he died. Together they had bought and paid for their farm. They had traveled around the world. They had raised 8 children and fostered 46. In addition, Freeda has 20 grandchildren and 24 greatgrandchildren.
“We had a good life,” says Freeda, “It was a busy one, I’m still busy and I have no regrets. The Lord has been good to me and for that I am grateful and truly at peace.”
Freeda’s Frozen Cucumber and Onion Mix
Slice your cucumbers and onions
Cover cucumbers and onions with 2 tablespoons of salt.
Let sit 2 hours.
Then drain the salt off.
Boil sugar and water to taste.
Put cucumbers and onions into freezer container and cover them with boiled sugar water.