The perspective of a child often reveals what really matters. Perhaps that’s why the Master taught “Suffer little children, and forbid them not… for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14
I never remember thinking that we were poor. But, of course, I realized we exercised principles of thrift and frugality. But I thought that was more a way of life than a consequence of the economy. To my knowledge, we never wanted for food or necessities. It seemed we always had the essentials when we needed them. That’s not to say that we didn’t get help. Many guardian angels on both sides of the veil assisted us and ensured we had all the necessities. One specific incident does not come to mind, but dozens of separate notes combine into a majestic chorus of fiscal success orchestrated by a Power superior to our own.
It didn’t happen all at once. In most cases, the progress was slow and sometimes imperceptible to a struggling family with hopes of prospering from all the hard work someday. But persistence paid off, and project-by-project the ten acres transformed into a useful, beautiful farm. Fenced fields, out sheds and animal enclosures, pig pens, chicken coop, turkey hutch, and cellars were completed over years of hard work and dedication. My father was the lead engineer and figured out how to plan, build, and deliver our ideas. Mother inspired the dream, and it was her vision that was being realized. She contributed to the homestead and provided the feminine touch to help make our labor and projects fun. I have many choice memories of fresh vegetables from the garden, fruit trees and shrubbery laden with fruit covering the property: peaches, apples, plums, pears, and nectarines, strawberries, currants, grapes, berries and more. We never purchased prepared food from the grocery store. Whether it was because we couldn’t afford it or just liked homemade better didn’t really matter. Many folks bought pies from the bakery; others bought pie shells and filling to make pies at home. We did it all from scratch. My mother made and formed pie dough, rolled it out and crimped the edges, then put the crusts in the oven to bake. The filling was homemade, too. Apple, cherry, mincemeat, pumpkin, and occasionally cream pies were frequent fare at our home to everyone’s delight, but none of it happened without hard work and exceptional effort. I remember my father saying “Kings and queens all across the world couldn’t eat any better than we do.” And I believed it. Fresh bowls of strawberries picked daily, sweet corn-on-the-cob picked just before cooking so the sugar didn’t turn to starch, lean tender home grown meats. We didn’t have oodles of money, but we had the best food on earth—at least we thought so.
Take for instance the fresh-squeezed apple cider. That is one of my favorite memories on the farm. We would gather bushels of fallen apples, wash and prepare them as needed, then put them in the grinder of an apple juice press. The sweet, fragrant meat of the apple was shredded and fell into the juice net, and soon we began turning the press down until it compelled the natural, syrupy apple juice through the cloth, trickling down the cedar press into bottles. Frequently, we slipped a glass just beneath the spout long enough to fill it to the brim so we could sip the heavenly nectar. I remember turning the press and enjoying the work, thinking this really isn’t work at all.
Times are changing quickly. Today is much different from the era when I grew up. I was reared in a time and place that would be hard to replicate today—nigh impossible. But the opportunities and memories I am helping make for my family now are just as important as those which were made for me.
And if I ever wonder about that, all I have to do is think of my children.
“The most important of the Lord’s work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee , 134)
“No other success in life can compensate for failure in the home” (David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 5)
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.