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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

* Family Day at Harvest Time

A couple of years ago I was eager to start having family gatherings that my grand kids could take part in. Something more than just getting together for family dinners and birthdays; something centered around family, and what being a family means. I wanted to create a strong sense of belonging to one another, a knowledge of how we came to be together, and a knowledge of our unique history as a family.

You have to understand that I was starting all this from scratch. This was not a tradition passed down to me, though my family did have some pretty strong roots. I had a vague sense of what we should be as a whole, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to get there. I thought that if I could get us all together and involved in activities, tell them a little family history in a fun way, that would be a good starting place. So I began what I called Family Days, and the first one was at Harvest time. We now have Family Days that are centered around different themes through out the year. I am careful not to overload everyones busy schedules by taking into account family birthdays and not scheduling Family Days at busy times.
Our first Family Harvest Day was in 2009; and my two oldest grand kids were three years old. (read the About Me page for an explanation of my many grand kids under age five) I only invited the ladies and the kids of the family, the only man there was Papa who was needed as an assistant at times during the scarecrow construction. Our first Harvest Day we made scarecrows with the kids, and I served lunch that was made from family recipes. A bread recipe from my grandmother, a fruit salad recipe from my mother, and a chicken salad recipe that was mine. I used vintage table clothes and napkins. It all turned out great; the kids needed a lot of help of course at their age with the scarecrow building. We used real straw and they had more fun throwing it and playing in it than they did making the scarecrows. Boy oh boy did we have itchy kids afterwards! And I was vacuuming up straw bits that were in their hair and clothes that had fallen off in the house for days after. We use plastic store bags now to stuff the scarecrows, soooo much better!

Last year, 2010, we had Family Harvest Day again and it was wonderful! Actually, that is how this blog got started, because of all the request for pictures and recipes of the day. (again, read the About Me page to see what happened) We had all our family there this time ( men too), and a few friends with small children. Everyone was encouraged to dress for a day on the farm and to come with clothing they had chosen for their family’s scarecrow that they would be making.

Papa and I provided the inner support structure made days before, and the scarecrows head also made by me before hand. We also had a few other activities that day around the theme of Harvest, like a pumpkin toss, and pin the nose on the pumpkin. For the pumpkin toss I purchased three very small real pumpkins for them to use. The oldest kids were four then, so we keep the activities age appropriate and short.

The ‘pin the nose on the pumpkin’ game was made from poster board and construction paper with two sided tape on the back of paper triangles for the nose. We used bandanas as a blind fold for this game.

The food for Family Harvest Day 2011 was all cooked by me, also a ‘down on the farm at harvest time’ menu. I chose Chicken Salad again because it is mostly enjoyed by everyone, kids too, and can be made ahead of time. I roasted root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and included green beans. I made Irish Soda Bread served with home made honey butter. Dessert was dutch apple pie baked and served in half pint Mason jars.  I also had a pitcher of buttermilk and a Shoo Fly Pie for everyone to sample, if I could get them to!

I like to use and have ‘real’ things instead of artificial, but I am also very conservative with money, you know, frugal, tightwad, penny pincher? So, I did buy artificial decorative items to go with the harvest theme, and you can be sure I saved them to use again this year. I gave in though on using real pumpkins because I thought I would later make pumpkin pies from them. That’s another story for another day. At our second Harvest Day, because the amount of people attending was beyond what we had for ‘real’ service items, we used disposable plates, cups, etc.

the 'scare' security crew reporting for duty

My plans for future Family Harvest Days include having enough flatware to go around, and hopefully at least most of the plates and drinking glasses needed. It can be stored and used over and over for any family day gatherings we have. I have purchased some flatware at a thrift store already, and now I’m trying to decide if I want to have ceramic plates, enamelware plates or use pie pans instead of plates. I will probably use..... guess what; Mason jars, for drinks! The fun thing about the theme of Harvest is that nothing has to match giving it an even more down on the farm feel, and can be as serviceable as a pie pan for a plate. I am sticking with a down on the farm feel of everything I do for the day. I want it to be a fun experience for all; something that takes attendees out of their usual status quo and brings the farm life to them.

Currently I am planning this year’s menu, games and activities, and looking for a location because my place is way too small. I have sent out the first of several e-mails to everyone attending with the expected date of Family Harvest Day, and to remind them to save their plastic grocery bags to stuff the scarecrows with. It takes a LOT of plastic bags! I am expecting more than 50 people to attend this year! 

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