My Picture, My Story- Darlene Nordstrom

Everyone has a story, and a picture says a thousand words.

Pictured is my grandma, Darlene Nordstrom, holding up a photo from 1930, of the barn on her family farm in Leduc, Alberta. When my grandma was ten years old, her family inherited the farm from her grandpa. Life on the farm was dedicated to labour, food, and family.

At the tender age of ten, Darlene was milking cows, riding tractors, plowing the grain, and skinning chickens for meat. My grandma admits that the thought of this happening today is absurd, but as she says, “All I knew was life on the farm. I didn’t know any different.” During the harvest, the time to gather ripened crop to sell for profit, Darlene would stay home from school for weeks at a time, to help. She would be in the kitchen all day, cooking for her dad and neighbours who were working in the field. My grandma’s responsibilities on the farm instilled in her a strong work ethic and determination that she carries with her today.

On the farm, Darlene and her family lived off the land. Their food was obtained through harvesting grain, gardening, milking cows, and butchering animals. My grandma ate freshly baked bread from harvested grain, cheese and yogurt from cows’ milk, vegetables from the garden, and meat from the cows, chicken, and geese. This lifestyle has greatly influenced my grandmas cooking today, in her selection of non-processed, organic, whole foods.

The most notable difference from Darlene’s childhood to now is that she grew up with no cellphones. My grandma wouldn’t have wished it to be any different though, saying, “We weren’t distracted by cellphones or electronics, so it allowed for more connection with family.” Having to work together to manage the farm, put food on the table, and generate heat in a house with no electricity, brought the family and their efforts together.

Darlene’s oldest brother, Denis, inherited the farm after their parents died in 2007. This makes it three-generation owned. This photo of the barn and memories of life on the farm are near and dear to my grandma’s heart. One look at this photo and she is brought back to riding a horse and buggy to school, catching pigeons in the barn rafters, and drinking milk straight from a cow’s utter. Although her present life resembles nothing of her past, Darlene still carries life lessons of hard work, eating good food to live good, self-sufficiency, and the strength in working together.

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