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"Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."
- Unknown

"That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."
- Handed down through the ages.

"Life's tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid."
- John Wayne

The Homesteading Ethic in An Old-Timer

I recently heard that the mother of one of my office building-mates was being nominated for Senior Citizen of the Year.  I asked if I could write a letter of recommendation for her?

A little back story:  she, we're going to call her Joyce, and her husband raised 5 (I think) children in a VERY modest three-bedroom home about 19 miles out of town.  She gardened and housed quite a flock of chickens in a long, low chicken barn that I (today) envy!  Matter of fact, that house and piece of property is now owned and worked by Tanglewoods Homestead.  (Patty, I didn't know you were sick!  I'm SO sorry . . . and GLAD you're feeling better now!!!)

Anyway, Joyce's husband was an old curmudgeon.  He was a heavy equipment operator, and built all three of the ponds my family had on our 80 acres where I grew up.  You never saw him on his Cat or bulldozer without his large, stainless steel thermos by his side.  We later learned that it held not coffee . . . but whiskey!  ;)  Joyce's husband died years ago, but she's stayed right here in the community and now lives in the lower story of her youngest daughter and son-in-law's home.

Here's my letter:


I’d like to recommend Joyce Swanson as 2011’s Senior Citizen of the Year.

Because I grew up in "the small community" where she and her husband, W, lived, I’ve known her my entire life but recently had the opportunity to meet her again after many years.  Her daughter and I share office space in the same building, and Joyce came to one of our building’s birthday parties last year.  She looked exactly the same as I remembered this wonderful woman looking from years before (she just celebrated her 90th birthday, if I’m not mistaken).  I sat down next to her and introduced myself.  “You may not remember me,” I said, “But I remember you!  I’m Chicken Mama, and my folks are Mama and Papa Pea.”  She took and held my hand as a big smile filled her face and exclaimed, “Oh!  ANY friend of Mama and Papa Pea’s is a friend of mine!”

When I told my folks about seeing Joyce again, we reminisced over the past 38 years since first meeting her.  Here are some of the things they said:
  • "Joyce and W were instrumental in supporting us during our earliest years in the county even though they didn’t know us."
  • "Joyce has always been a terrifically hard worker!"
  • "She’s loyal, supportive and generous; whether dealing with friends or the community at large."
  • "Joyce is always ‘chirky’ and ‘up’ with a positive, can-do attitude."

The words ‘helpful’ and ‘generous’ kept repeating during our talk, and that leads me to Joyce’s (a.k.a. “Grammy’s”) particular and current contribution to the county.  With no one prompting her to do so, Joyce has taken on the elementary school's Breakfast Program as her personal mission.  Purchasing the materials and providing all the labor herself (and keeping nothing in compensation for her time or expenses), Joyce makes and sells potholders.  Each set of potholders sells for $3.00 (square-shaped) or $5.00 (fish-shaped), and 100% of the proceeds go to the PTO.  To date she has, single-handedly, raised just under $3,000.

My parents’ final comment regarding Joyce sums it all up:  “Even in her latter years, she feels the need to be active and giving to her community.  She’s a wonderful inspiration to both young and old!”

Joyce Swanson IS an incredible asset to the county, and I’m proud to be called a friend by her.  I can think of no one more fitting to receive this Senior Citizen of the Year award!

Thank you for your time,
Chicken Mama


  1. Here Here "-To Joyce"

  2. That was a wonderful letter and very kind of you to submit it! I hope she is awarded! She sounds very deserving.

  3. What a wonderful letter and tribute, thanks for sharing her story!

  4. Thank you, Chicken Mama. I am feeling much better. What a neat post this is! I feel so privileged to be a partaker in Joyce and "W"'s hard work here on our little homestead, and so thankful for that "chicken barn". It now houses one of our two flocks of chickens, 18 rabbits, and two goats. :) Thanks for posting!

  5. Ummm....when you write a blog that anyone around here knows who you are talking about anyway, why don't you use her real name. It just doesn't seem right to see a strange name when I know who it is anyway....and to those who don't, it doesn't matter anyway. I mean, a lot of what you write about, they wouldn't be offended if you used the name, especially just the first name anyway. :)FoxyLady

  6. FoxyLady, 'cause that would pinpoint my (geographic / Minnesota) location, silly! And I've always tried to maintain some small semblance of anonymity here just for safety's sake. If you Google her name, the very first result names our town!

  7. To tell a little more of the story, when we first moved up here it was to land that had been abandoned for almost 60 years. You can imagine the size of the trees on the 20 acres we needed for hay fields. We had very little money (that's an understatement!) but had a couple of hundred dollars budgeted for help getting the land cleared. After doing all we could ourselves, we hired Joyce and her husband (they were a team!) and their heavy equipment. When we had used our saved up money, there was no more but the work was far from completed. Joyce and her husband said they would finish clearing the land and we could pay them whatever we could each month (no interest) until our bill was paid off. We paid them $50 a month for a couple of YEARS and they could not have been kinder to us or more gracious. They literally put us years ahead on our homesteading efforts by their generous willingness to help out.

  8. gees momma pea ,we all should be grateful or not that we had such squishy lives but than you'll live 10x longer-you my lady have had a tough life

  9. judy - No, I've not had a hard life . . . but I have worked hard in my life. But you are right in that it's kept me in good shape. I can still do more physical work than most women half my age. And for that, I'm very grateful. Plus, not only do I know my hubby and I can survive (and prosper!) under difficult circumstances, our daughter was raised so that she can, too! (Yay, go Chicken Mama!)


If you are familiar with me and where I live, please respect my right to retain some anonymity by not referring to me by anything other than Chicken Mama nor mentioning city/town/villages by place names. Thanks!