To add to your own Thanksgiving traditions, have a look at Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and Plimoth Plantation (2005). And, more about Thanksgiving and early life in New England at Plimoth Plantation.
Archive for the ‘Speaking from the Past’ Category
I marvel at all the people raising chickens…in the city. My food colleague, Janice Cole, has written a lovely book about it: Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes (Chronicle Books, 2011). More about that in another post. Back to the actual animals.
Up to the 1960s and 70s in chickens were raised for what was called, ‘egg money.’ Farm wives sold eggs to have a little more money for groceries, things for their kids, and maybe a bit for themselves. Eggs were 30 cents a dozen. I rode my bike a half mile into the country from Irene, South Dakota, to Gladys and Edwin Larson’s farm to pick up cartons for my mom.
Gladys and I walked into the hen house, the chickens scattering out of our way, as we picked the warm eggs, sometimes marked with a light smear of feces. All this seemed only natural. Though it was natural, as well, that we didn’t raise chickens ourselves.
I won’t be joining the ranks of chicken keepers in Minnesota. However, I do have a duck. I’d noticed a Mallard pair in my garden in early April. I’m a block from a pond, only accessible by crossing two streets. Didn’t think they’d find my yard very hospitable. And, then, there is the neighborhood coyote (I pronounce it ‘KY-yote.) But, last week, I saw the ducks quite close to the house and not particularly concerned that I was nearby:
Yesterday, I saw her, the hen, nesting in a pile of last fall’s maple leaves. She’s made a thick nest of those neglected leaves between a peony and the brick planter wall.
Today, the male was watching from further out in the yard. I understand that duck gestation is 28 days. We’ll see.
I started gardening in raised beds last year. Special thanks to my neighbor Terry who built them for me! This year I’m adding four more beds.
Simple raised bed tips: 1) Use screws, not nails, to connect the boards. They’ll hold together longer.
2) Brace the corners.
Before filling with 1/3 peat moss-1/3 vermiculite-1/3 mixed variety compost, I lined the beds with newspapers to discourage weeds and chicken wire to discourage burrowing animals.
(A side note on the chicken wire: Always reminds me of homecoming parades in our small town in South Dakota. Instead of flowers as they use for the renowned Rose Bowl parade, we stuffed fluffed-up paper table napkins in the chicken wire to create our creations.
Coming up with the design was great fun! Really!)
But, I digress. Gardening season is here and I’m ready!
I was a teenager in a prairie town when I first read Willa Cather’s My Antonia — accent on the first ‘A.’ I’d read the Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” books and identified mightily with them. But, My Antonia was a revelation. I suppose I was beginning to know there was a big world beyond my little town. This wasn’t a kids’ book. Here was a story about the immigrant life and the promise of something more. For Antonia, the promise lies in the prairie. For Jim, the narrator, it’s in cities and universities.
Cather wrote My Antonia and her other novels about prairie life long after she moved east from the Nebraska prairie. This and others of her novels mined her memories of the prairie, its harsh beauty, and, most importantly, the people.
Last week, I experienced a world premier stage production of My Antonia at the Illusion Theatre in downtown Minneapolis, showing through March 20, 2010. If you’re in or near Minneapolis, I highly recommend the show.
The stage was simple and the adaptation faithful to Cather’s book. Allison Moore captures the essence of the characters and the actors are just right in each part.
I’m fascinated by the clues found in historical records. Sure, the outcome is often known, but the details can change the modern reader’s perspective. I love to imagine a moment in the past, when in command of some facts and moved by imagination, I recreate a moment to better understand its significance.
A picture on a calendar from 1929 gave me such a moment. It’s a beautifully mounted photograph of a sunny child with two German Shepards.
The 1920′s were kind to small farm towns in the Midwest. The post-world war years were times of plentiful rains and good crops. Irene, South Dakota had a lively main street and thriving businesses, including Johnson Bros. & Iverson General Merchandise. Down the street, my grandfather operated C.H. Gunderson & Son, the son being my dad who was born in 1923. Grandfather sold tractors and cattle.
We know that in late October of 1929, a different era began. Within a few years, the rains stopped, the dust blew, and prosperity was a memory.
The current financial crisis has often reminded me of the stories I’ve read and heard from my parents about their childhood years in a lean time. This image from the calendar is both optimistic and bittersweet. It reminds me of the waves and rolls of time: what we keep, what we must relinquish, and what is sometimes gone against our wishes.