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As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder

Gardens and Orchards

“Just potatoes and clams, potatoes and deer meat, potatoes and fish, potatoes and this, potatoes and that.”

Across the other end of the village there, my dad, his mother had a large orchard there. They had a great big grape – not a vineyard, but they had this big house – he always had the biggest of everything! And so he had this big tool shed–woodshed combination. It was made out of tin. I don’t know where he got that from. I think from the mill, when the mill was first being built. And I don’t know if this was discarded, but they’re great big slabs of, like, galvanized tin material. And he built this biiig big shed out of that. And then he grew the grape vines on one side of that. And it covered the total shed. And there was all kinds of green grapes there. And he had this huge orchard! He had apples and plums. We had loganberries and we just had this huge orchard – yeah, we had a lot of apples. And so did my grandparents. And they had a vegetable garden. They always had potatoes and carrots and turnips – mostly root vegetables. And, course, you know, they had the plums too, and apples. They had a lot of that up in toqʷɑnən. My grandparents had a big orchard up there. We used to go back there every summer and pick the plums – they’re the Italian plums? Really nice plums. Then they let the cows run amok up there. There was a farmer up there that had cows. And they were just free range, and they went on to the reserve, and they did so much damage to the fruit trees that were there. So there’s no longer anything like that up there. Course there’s no one that’s there now. But the reserve is still there. Maybe one day it’ll come back to life, and people will want to go back up there and live. My grandmother used to always dry apples. My mother-in-law did that. She would have apples hanging all over the house, you know, on strings, drying it in the house. So everything was dried that way and preserved. Once it was dry, then you’d take just a bit of it and soak it and it comes to life! Or you could just eat it in the dry form.

I guess the people just did not eat a lot of greens. I just remember very plain diet when I was growing up. There was no things like we have today, salads and all this kind of stuff. Corn was used a lot when I was growing up. That was what my grandparents purchased or they grew, once they started doing some farming. Potatoes, corn, carrots, turnips – mostly root vegetables. That was something that was a new addition to the diet of two hundred years ago, I guess. As long as I’ve been around, we’ve always had potatoes. But prior to that, I never did see what they used for – like, as a substitute. They did have some kind of a root, bulby material, although I never saw it myself. That they would use, more like a turnip kind of a – I’m not sure what it was. And our people lived long lives, you know. My grandparents were very old when they died, as well as all the others that I remember as a child. People very old. They lived a long life. So I guess that was not really that important for them, to have all this, like, your different fruits and your vegetables. They lived on meat, clams just very plain, like I mentioned. Just potatoes and clams, potatoes and deer meat, potatoes and fish, potatoes and this, potatoes and that. So it was very plain. There was no additives.

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