Monday, November 19, 2012

Preserving the Harvest--A Hundred Years Ago!

I'm rereading a book that was written by a woman who was born in 1899, and lived in my area. At the time, it was extremely rural, and they would go into town several times a year to buy the things they couldn't grow or otherwise produce on their farm. The annual trip to town was a several-day affair, and because the road into town was so dusty, they would bring a change of clothes, stop at the Rest Cottage at the edge of town, and change into their Sunday best before doing their shopping. Because the trip was arduous, and because money was tight, they grew or raised most of the food and grains they and their animals would need throughout the year.

The name of the book is True Story of a Mountain Girl and Pioneer Happenings by Pearl E. Montgomery. My  copy says "Fourth Edition Printing, August, 1986."

Here is a section (found on page 13 in the book) that has the heading "Preserving Fruits, Vegetables and Meats":

"Mother canned lots of fruit. She also made big stone jars of pickles and sauerkraut. We baked light bread two or three times a week. We grew our wheat and took it to the mill most of the time. From our orchard we harvested apples, pears, four kinds of plums, prunes and cherries. Then there were strawberries, raspberries, loganberries and grapes.

"We had about two hundred and fifty gooseberry bushes and my job was to do most of the picking. We would run the berries through the grain cleaner to get the leaves out and then ready for market. I delivered all the orders around within five miles on horseback.

"In the fall we had potatoes to dig. We filled fifty to seventy-five 100-pound sacks which were stored in the cellar. There were carrots, parsnips and turnips. Dad sold turnips and fed turnips to our dairy cows.

"We dried fruit, usually around fifty pounds of pears, one hundred of prunes, twenty-five of plums, one hundred pounds of apples. After drying, Dad made apple cider in fifty gallon barrels. Ten barrels were taken to Eugene for sale. He took a load of farm products. The wagon load included two or three veal weighing three or four hundred pounds each. The veal were dressed out and the hide left on.

"It took a day to go to town, a day to trade, and a day to return home."

Interesting! I love to read true stories of local settlers, and I'm often reminded of just how little they had, and how content they were anyway. It's a good lesson for me to practice contentment in my own particular circumstances.

As my nod to days gone by, I'm canning. Yesterday I canned 7 jars of diced ham that was left over from a birthday dinner for two of my kids, and tonight I'm canning 6 jars of chicken. Since this summer, when my garden was producing it's annual bounty, I've canned more than 300 jars of food. Granted, that's not as much as in years gone by when 600 jars were more the norm for me, but I'm content.

Let the winter storms come--I can feed my family, and that's a great feeling!