Chicken Feathers

   When I was a young girl, our family would travel bi-yearly to my mother’s homestead, located south of a small sleepy town in southern Saskatchewan. My grandparents had emigrated from the Ukraine when they were first married in 1905. They purchased land and built their homestead. Life was not easy on the prairies but they persevered, and seed sprouted where once there were rocks. I admired their work ethic, “intestinal fortitude” and deep faith.

   My parents would pack up our station wagon with all kinds of goodies as we prepared for our mid-summer road trip. My four siblings and I would heartily barter for a window seat and then settle in for the nine-hour trip. As we traveled, we would talk endlessly about all the things that we were going to do when we got to the farm - we had all kinds of plans. The journey to the farm seemed to take forever, but Baba always welcomed us with a huge hug, a warm cup of fresh farm milk and homemade cookies. We always looked forward to sleeping in her feather bed. That was an enormous treat. Gido, a man of few words, gave us a big smile and a hearty handshake. In the morning we often woke up before the roosters’ crow. Baba usually made a big breakfast, including eggs, ham and the best homemade bread and jam. Good times.

   On one particular visit, we awoke early in the morning to find Baba’s tiny kitchen full of aunts, uncles and cousins. We wondered what was going on. Aunt Mary said, “It is chicken butchering day on the farm. So you city kids are in for a treat.” I gasped, “I can’t do that.” This was a new experience for us. We had no idea what to expect, but we soon found out. We all gathered by the barn to receive our chore duty for the day. I was assigned plucking feathers off the processed chicken. After I calmed down, Aunt Lucy kindly guided me through the feather-plucking process, and eventually we got the job done. I also had many opportunities to milk the cows, feed the pigs, learn how to make butter and operate the cream separator. I was crowned an official farm girl by the end of our visit. 

   The Outdoor Village at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) not only reminds me of my grandparents’ farm but also retells the incredible story of the perseverance and “intestinal fortitude” of the Russian Mennonites who immigrated to Canada. They made their way through difficult circumstances, and they used their ingenuity to create beauty out of ashes. They were very innovative and excelled to become top producers in their “fields of expertise.” 

   I find it very hard to choose just one building on the museum grounds as my favourite. Each building has its own rich history and is a vital part of the whole story. Each building communicates that “it takes a village to raise a child.” The MHV staff and volunteers work tirelessly to provide visitors with their best “pioneer” experience.

   This is my second season as manager of MHV’s Gift Shop, Reception, and General Store. I have had opportunities to chat with visitors from all over the world. Guests have stated time and again that the Mennonite Heritage Village museum is one of the best they have visited this year. It is clean, informative and family friendly. Our Reception staff are knowledgeable and friendly and endeavour to introduce our guests to a top-quality museum experience.

   It is an honour and privilege for me to serve alongside a talented group of staff and volunteers at MHV.

Calendar of Events

September 4: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM - Fall on the Farm festival

September 17: 11:30 AM – 5:00 PM – Open Farm Day

About the Author

Gary is responsible for the overall management of MHV. Guiding the staff, informing the board, and networking with officials, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual donors and other guests. He has a business diploma and a MA in Global Studies from Providence Theological Seminary. With his family he did humanitarian work for 18 years in Asia, including being a CEO of a Compost Enterprise in China. He loves to discuss the Mennonite story and how it is relevant in our world. Learn more about the MHV. is Steinbach's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.