Saturday, July 14, 2018


Ina's pretty little garden notebook

Daughter Hallie commented on how lovely it would be to grow and put up your own food – and to be organized about it so that you prepare for the whole year – perhaps as her Great-grandmother Ina (1870-1957) had done on the farm.

I found a little notebook in which Ina and her daughter(s) kept notes, titled, “Garden Book.” Entries were made intermittently from 1934 through 1941. These are someone else’s rough notes and not easy to read.

Entries made in 1935:
·      Peas: about 2 ½ rows, early and late. Decided to plant all marrowfat in 1936. [According to Wikipedia, “marrowfat peas are green mature peas that have been allowed to dry out naturally in the field, rather than be harvested whilst still young like the normal garden pea. Marrowfat is a traditional, starchy, large-seeded variety of pea.”]
·      Beans: 1 row white stringless, 2/3 row brown
(Got peas and beans from Bertha [her sister] for part of canning because of short crop.)
·      Onions (pickling) – 9 short rows were plenty into fall
·      Tomato seed saved from best plant; note date on package of seed in box.
·      Plant 4 rows of head lettuce; thin for early use.
·      2 dozen tomato plants well spread is enough.

Canning Record for 1935
Probably written by daughter Shirley, not Ina
·      Peas: 23 qts. -- canned the 3-hour way. My note from 1934 was tried and proved. Can like this in 1936. Cook open pot until tender, then process 1 hour. Taste fresher.
·      Beans: 24 qts.
·      Beets: 6 qts.
·      Tomato puree [no number]
·      Cherries (olivet): 16 qts. [apparently a sweet cherry]
·      Apricots (from Clarkston, WA): 24 pts.
·      Peaches (1 box Elberta): 15 pts.
·      Pears (local): 13 pts.
·      Elderberries: 3 pts.

On August 2, 1938, Ina planned her garden for 1939:
·      About 1 row peas or less, this of all kinds
·      1/3 row beets, parsnips, and carrots
·      8 or 9 short rows of onions are ample
·      4 rows of lettuce are ample
·      1 row radishes
·      1 row cress
·      3 rows Swiss chard
·      3 rows golden wax beans
·      6 cucumber hills are ample
·      2 garden queen squash [acorn squash]
·      1 doz. muskmelon [probably cantaloupe]
·      1 doz. watermelon
·      About 6 or 8 squash – zucchini squash

I wonder why carrots, spinach, and corn are missing from the list. They did grow potatoes, but I think Grandpa Jack took care of that. In 1941, "Jack cut three 10-quart pails heaped up of potatoes – 1 pail Irish C. [perhaps Irish Cobbler?]. Made 2 rows south of orchard. 2 pails Early Rose on flat and 1 pail small Irish C. on flat. Planted May 2 on flat."

I have no idea of the size of the garden, so I can’t even estimate the length of a row. I remember picking string beans and strawberries on the farm in the ‘50s. Even as a child, I thought picking was backbreaking work and cruel and unusual treatment of a child. “Get up!” I remember Daddy yelling, half jokingly, as I collapsed on the grass. I’m sure Ina expected all of her children to help with the garden, but I was never a farm child.

It seems to me I remember the garden on the north side of the house near the chicken coop – or where the chicken coop had been – and that's probably good fertile ground. We don’t operate our little gardens there today because by the same token, that's where our best lawn is. I also remember my dad stirring a large compost pile on this side of the woodshed.

Ina and her daughter Myrtle (Aunt Lynn) stand at their garden, 1950
Ina and her children were all good gardeners, but that doesn’t mean it always went well. There were years when the weather just wasn’t right – too wet, too cold, perhaps even too hot. The growing season in the upper country is shorter than in the valley. You might lose your garden to frost if you planted too soon, and in Ina’s day, you probably didn’t expect much produce after the first of September. Hot July days would find you slaving over your woodstove to can peas, beans, etc., as Ina mentioned in 1933.

Eventually, my dad only planted corn on the farm, and he moved the plot from year to year. Ina probably moved her garden, too. KW

Thursday, July 12, 2018


The grain is ripening quickly in the July heat

Fruit is very scarce here, no cherries or prunes to speak of, apples scarce and poor, no currants or gooseberries, and only a few raspberries. It was too wet and cold this spring. We had a good crop of strawberries . . .  Ina Dobson, 1933

Well, when we last went to the farm, the riding mower wouldn’t start. We were discouraged since we hoped the new mower would be trouble-free. When Mike was unable to fix the mower, we trailered it to town for service. You might not be surprised to learn that those pesky mice were the culprits. The shop said they found a mouse – maybe a nest? – between the flywheel and the starter, which knocked the starter out.

Anyway, it was ready yesterday. So, after yoga – yes, we went to yoga class first – we picked up the mower and headed to the farm. Mike had anticipated that we might need to rake the grass since he hasn’t mowed in about a month, but actually, it wasn’t that bad. We don’t have a wonderful lawn there, and we don’t water either. We had a lot of weed heads – whatever those weeds are. Mike set the mower as high as it would go. Otherwise, he mowed according to his usual pattern.

It was a lovely day. The cool breeze made the July heat bearable – sort of. While Mike mowed, I carried water to my garden beds and trees. I expected to find the zucchini wilted in a heap, but this was not the case. It looked a bit stressed, but it’s blooming and I even picked one small fruit. I poured plenty of water on it, sprinkled a little fertilizer, and set four 2-liter bottles of water in the plant nannies.

I missed a picking of strawberries or two, but the good news is that the plants are blooming again. I hope the timing of our visits will coincide with picking. I carried plenty of water to them.

My experimental drought-tolerant bed on the bank looks good. I don’t think all plants survived, but many did, and they should spread. I have yarrow, lavender, and a stonecrop groundcover there. I need to weed and gradually expand that bed. (“Gradually” because it would be overwhelming to do it at one time.)

Laurel tree
Hallie’s laurel trees look good. The grass has grown up around them, but Mike cut a path for me so that I can water them. Even without water, they are doing well. Mike suggests the proof of their ability to survive might be the winter.

But – like Ina in 1933, I notice a lack of fruit. I see no pears on the old pear tree. If the cherry tree bore fruit this year, the birds got it, but the tree has lots of new growth and looks good. In fact, I think a cherry pit might have sprouted in the raised bed. I left the plant there to see if it really is a cherry tree. I’m afraid the gooseberry bush might be dying. And I had already decided to quit trying so hard with the raspberry patch, though some of the bushes look good and are bearing – or did bear. And as Ina said, apples are scarce and poor.

A view to the north
I didn’t have time to check out the serviceberry bushes, but the black hawthorn trees have plenty of berries. And the elderberries in bloom look wonderful. The farm kitchen won’t be ready by jelly-making time, and my town stove isn’t adequate for that process, but I can make juice for the freezer.

Oh!! And I had an encounter with a rattlesnake. It pays to be on guard at this time of year. I was crossing the yard in front of the house when I heard the telltale rattle and stopped dead in my tracks. I just caught sight of a little vole scampering away, my sudden appearance undoubtedly saving its life. I hailed Mike, who was mowing on the backside (east) of the barn, and he removed the rattler from the yard. It didn’t seem exceptionally large, but having ten rattles, it was a mature snake. I was busy keeping Bess back and didn’t get a picture. (Bess has had her antivenom shot and booster – just in case.)
Torn apart

I did unlock the kitchen door and take a picture. As you can see, the sub-floor has been removed, and this is where we are in the process. Materials to lay a new sub-floor are on the front porch.

By 3:00, we admitted we were tired. It still took us some time to put everything away and load up for town. Mike is planning to camp soon, so we brought the 4-wheeler back to town as well as one of his bikes.

As we drove down the grade, I watched the thimbleberry bushes on the bank for berries, and I saw some. We couldn’t stop to pick. Thimbleberries are delicate but lovely.

You haven’t forgotten about the little zucchini, have you? I wasn’t sure about its quality, but I cooked it up for supper with onion and green pepper, and it was very good. It made a nice side dish with the bass that Ken gave us. He also brought a big bag of raspberries from his garden. KW