Valuing the bounty of the harvest

By Kay Braddock        

        Retirement years for Wes and Elza Plann haven’t been strictly designated to rocking chairs and lazy afternoon naps. 

“I firmly believe we were designed by our Creator to work our bodies,” Elza explains. “I believe that I’m healthier and in better shape because I do stuff like this.”
The “stuff” Elza is referring to that consumes much of the hours in her days includes raising chickens and tending to the maintenance required to keep up the couple’s small stretch of land located between Terry and Fallon, as well as harvesting the couple’s four or five acres of wheat crop.
The couple purchased the small strip of land in 1986 after Wes retired from the state highway department.
“It was a scrap of waste land basically, between two roads, a frontage road and a highway,” Elza said, recalling the property met nine of the 10 requirements the couple had been seeking. Water and access to health care and shopping facilities were a few of those requirements.
“We like to be off where we have a lot of privacy,” Elza shared. Adding, “Not that we’re unfriendly or anything like that.”
Elza explained that she and Wes, who both are only children and have raised four daughters, value a self-sufficient lifestyle that enables them to use and make do with what they have on hand.
Elza raises anywhere between 18 and 40 Buff Orpington chickens. Her small poultry farm includes about eight chicken coups, detailed index cards filled with information on each chicken and a wealth of knowledge she has gathered over the years. Some of that knowledge comes from her previous experience of raising rabbits.
When the rubber roller on their 1953 Dearborn-Woods combine shattered early on during harvest, Elza couldn’t allow the wheat crop to go unattended.
“It was such a beautiful stand,” Elza said, sharing she began thinking, “Oh, we just can’t let that go to waste. I’m going to try and get it.”
With clipping shears in hand, Elza began cutting the wheat heads. Like any exercise routine, Elza explains the handwork began slowly. As the days grew on her endurance increased, allowing her to add more hours to each cutting. She estimates she’s filled about nine big, black garbage sacks, but her estimates on how much time she has spent on the project are a bit more elusive. 
“I’m not adding them up,” she said with a hearty laughter.
When asked what she thinks others may be thinking as they watch her cutting routine Elza responded, “I wouldn’t care less.” 
For this 80-year-old Holland native, each harvest is a blessing. The experience and the crop harvested are both worthy of valuing.
It’s a life philosophy she best sums up with, “I find stuff to do, where I use the old body.”

Published Sept. 1, 2010

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