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'Growing Erbs' series highlights life on a farm in the 1960s

Growing Erbs1 / 2
Sheila Caza2 / 2

The "Growing Erbs" series, comedic and insightful tales of spending childhood days on a family farm, is now available in book form.

Seven books, including a cookbook, provide a "snapshot of life" on a farm outside of Park Rapids in the 1960s.

Sheila Erb Caza, who penned the majority of the books, was 6 when her family realized every child's dream, moving to a farm, replete with cows, horses and a pony, chickens and pigs, with a dog and cat thrown in for good measure.

The Erbs had been living in Park Rapids when the father of six, Paul, decided to move the family three miles west of Park Rapids.

Three years of agri-adventures ensued.

"Farming today is nothing like it was 30 years ago," Caza said of the simple, rural lifestyle the family enjoyed.

Theresa Erb Henderson, who resides in Park Rapids, agrees, recalling the "wide open place to play, salamanders in the basement, Barbies floating in the cow tank..."

Their somewhat isolated childhood, by today's standards, proved to inspire their childhood imaginations - and shenanigans.

The family had long discussed the possibility of writing books, reunions stirring laughter and some somber memories of their upbringing.

When Caza retired from law enforcement in 2003, she picked up the phone and a pencil, calling her four sisters and brother Paul for anecdotal childhood tales.

"The First Summer" began to gel.

The decision to write was prompted by the death of their father.

Paul and Grace Erb were raised in the Mennonite faith but were excommunicated when Paul enlisted in the Navy during World War II.

Caza considered writing a tribute or a poem, but decided her ancestors' stories should be told.

Modeled after Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie," the books entertain children and stir memories in the Baby Boomer generation.

"The First Summer" shares life and times in the tree house, chicken plucking and encounters with bumble bees and a bat.

"Through the Year" continues the family's adventures, Rozanne Erb Koski adding artwork.

The late Kimberly Erb Lambert assisted with the third book, "Golden Days," where the stories of the family's Mennonite grandparents are told - and revered.

"Time to Go" the last of the series, deals with illness and the family's return to Park Rapids.

Lambert, the youngest, wrote a companion to the series, "Town Girl," after the family moved off the farm - and her siblings began moving out of the nest.

Another companion, "Enemy Cat," was written by Diane Erb and illustrated by Koski.

And Henderson added a culinary ingredient to the mix, her maiden name an irresistible temptation for "Erbs and Spices Family Cookbook."

Initially, the books eluded a publisher, until Caza learned of Create Space at a family reunion.

Now the books are rolling off the press, available through Create Space and Amazon.

Friday, the Erb sisters - along with Grace - will arrive at Bookshelf n' Office Supply for a book signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"I would highly recommend writing a book," Caza said of. "It's a great family project and leaves something behind for generations to come," she said of the legacy.