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Saturday, November 27, 2010

MARGARET'S HILLSIDE ROOT CELLAR -- BUILT 1971

FRONT VIEW OF MARGARET'S OLD ROOT CELLAR
MADISON COUNTY, KENTUCKY
Margaret's husband built the above concrete block root cellar in 1971 -- thirty-nine years ago when she was thirty-seven. Today, Margaret is seventy six and  no longer uses it. 


Our recent chat revealed that they once had a very large garden where they grew a wide variety of vegetables. She canned huge amounts of the harvest. One year she canned about 500 quarts of green beans. She gave lots of her vegetables away. Now she only grows a small patch of tomatoes as her husband helper passed a few years ago.


Some root cellars are inside houses, usually the basement. My mother had one in our basement that she called her fruit cellar. Maybe it is just a matter of semantics whether one calls the cellar -- fruit or root?

Most root cellars in the U.S. are built into sides of  hills. The idea of root cellars was born in 17th century Europe and traveled to the U.S. They became a traditional part of rural living. They are not used in great abundance anymore but still can be found in some country areas.

SIDE VIEW OF MARGARET'S HILLSIDE ROOT CELLAR

This particular cellar was built by Margaret's husband of cement block. He lined the walls with shelves to store the glass jars of canned goods. The floor space was saved to spread out  potatoes. It was kept chock full. 


The cooling and insulating properties of the surrounding ground preserve the freshness of the fruit and vegetables. 

CLOSE UP VIEW OF UPPER FRONT DOOR AND CEMENT BLOCK ROOF

The temperature of these outside root cellars remain slightly above freezing during the winter which slows down spoilage. Produce stored in indoor cellars, usually the basement type,  do not have the same storing qualities as the outdoor cellars. 


A wide variety of food could be stored in Margaret's cellar if she desired -- cured meats, milk, cheese, dried foods, canned food, fruit and vegetables. 

GHEEN, MINNESOTA, FARMER PUTTING DIRT ON ROOT CELLAR ROOF
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, LEE RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHER 1937

Here are a few Farm Security Administration photos of root cellars in the western part of the country. Photos were taken by the photographer Russell Lee who worked for the FSA during the depression years. 

I have captioned my post's last three photos with information known about each one. These pictures represent the "hey day," of root cellars.



HOMINY THOMPSON IN DOOR OF THE ROOT CELLAR HE BUILT
SHERIDAN, MONTANA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, LEE RUSSELL, PHOTOGRAPHER 1937
Root cellars appear to have had their peak periods during the 1800s through about 1950. Modern refrigeration put an end to the popularity of building such structures. That is except Margaret's husband who built his in 1971. Recently, with the back to land movement, there has been renewed interest in root cellars.


For a good discussion site on root cellars click here on nativestones.


OLD ROOT CELLAR ON FARM NEAR NERTHOME, MINNESOTA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, LEE RUSSELL, PHOTOGRAPHER, 1937

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

THANKSGIVING AND NEW FOOD TRADITIONS IN THE U.S.

FUTURE PUMPKIN PIES?

Tomorrow is a historical food holiday -- Thanksgiving. A time for family to gather and eat a meal that traditionally derives from the past. It usually includes some of the following; ham, turkey, stuffing, vegetables, pumpkin pie, potatoes and cranberries. It is a time to sit down around the table to eat fairly  "good for you food." 


The day after Thanksgiving, many folks return to the present American way of eating which is -- fast foods, soft drinks and junk foods. This present way of eating has been with us since 1980 and the results are obesity in the general population, especially in children. I'm sure you know all this. But why is junk food eating not declining or stopping altogether? Why aren't our children slimming down? Perhaps the answers are to be found in the video below titled Fault Lines: Obesity in America.


One of my favorite blogs on food is -- The Slow Cook -- where writer Ed Bruske takes us through many topics on eating good/bad food especially within the school lunch programs that children in large numbers consume every day. It is an eye-opener blog that tells it like it is. He is one of the persons featured in the video,  Fault Lines: Obesity in America -- one that everyone that eats in the U.S. should view. I have made it available below from youtube. You can also find it on the The Slow Cook site. 


I thank Ed Bruske for providing a blog with such in-depth coverage on what we are allowing to happen to our food systems here in this country. 


Have a great Thanksgiving and be sure and watch the below video, Fault Lines ---


Saturday, November 20, 2010

IDA GREEN'S COUNTRY GROCERY STORE

IDA GREEN


Eighty-two year old Ida Green greeted me with a wide smile as I stepped into her country grocery store. She stood at her small checkout counter facing the front entrance door to her 24’x34’ store. I introduced myself and told her that I heard about her store through a local man who has lived most of his life in the area. We did a bit of small talk and then I proposed that I write a little story about her life of fifty plus years of being an owner of the only store for miles in a rural part of Madison County. She agreed to do so but corrected me and told me that the fifty-two years included early years when her mother was the original owner. She became the owner after her mother relinquished ownership. However, family is family – Miss Ida was still involved in the operation of the store for the fifty-two years plus.  

MISS IDA'S SHINY WHITE GROCERY STORE SNUGGLED ALONG
A COUNTRY ROAD WITH A FEW OTHER HOMES

The cement block grocery store remains physically the same as when her mother first bought it. 



MISS IDA'S OUTDOOR SIGN

The following is part of her story of how times were different fifty-two years ago from present times:


When I first started with the store, folks around here all had large gardens, horses, a milk cow, chickens, hogs and other animals. Most could feed themselves with what they had except for a few staples and that is where we played a part. During those early years most of our sales were in bulk. Coffee, sugar, corn meal, and flour were our big sellers. We sold other things like fresh meat that we would cut and wrap with paper and string  for our customers. I still have the paper cutter in the store but don’t use it. Can’t sell fresh meat anymore as we don’t have running water and the health department tells us we have to have it to sell fresh meat. I still have the old meat case that kept the meat cold but now I only put pre-prepared food that needs refrigeration in the case. 


COW BELL SERVING AS A STORE BELL ANNOUNCING CUSTOMERS
WHEN YOU OPEN THE ENTRANCE DOOR

In this area, times have changed considerably from fifty years ago. It used to be that people lived more independently on their small farms, were trustworthy, and really no crimes were committed. The doctor in the area made house calls – he even set up a clinic once in awhile in our store to give vaccinations. Horses were still used, in some cases, for transportation. Today one has to deal with drugs, break-ins, and dependence on large grocery stores for your everyday food. Raising your own food is becoming rarer as time passes. 



CUSTOMER STANDING AT THE SMALL CHECKOUT COUNTER

Many of the old time farmers grew tobacco for their way of earning money. They would run a charge at the store until their crop would be sold and then they would pay us. This could be up to a year that we would carry over their charges on our books. No such thing as charge cards – we just wrote it down as they put things on charge. They always paid their debt.

At one time we had a gas pump where we sold Ashland gas, mostly to farmers for their tractors. 

VINTAGE SCALE STILL ACCURATE

I am a native of Kentucky -- married and divorced with four children. I have lived in the same house for sixty years right near here. Recently, the post office named the street after me as I had lived the longest on the street of any of my neighbors. It is now called Ida Green Lane. She smiled as she said it.



VINTAGE WHITE ENAMELED  MEAT CASE

Miss Ida has a spot located in the back of the store where she has two very comfortable upholstered chairs and a large screen television. She laughed as she told me that this is where she sits and watches soap operas when she is not busy with the store.


COMMUNITY BULLETIN BOARD
ON FRONT OF CHECK OUT COUNTER

The place where the store is located has had many names over the years – Bear Wallow, Dreyfus, and Waco. It was called Bear Wallow during the  early settlement days as bears were frequently seen at the local salt lick. Bear Wallow is still commonly used to designate the location

THE OFFICIAL SIGN ANNOUNCING THE
NAME OF THE LANE THAT MISS IDA LIVES ON 

Overall, the store contains a variety of goods and vintage pieces. It is neat as can be and a charming place to stop to pick up a few essentials

Miss Ida is a realist, she knows that times change and she is making adjustments to the supplies she carries to keep pace with present needs. Ida Green’s Grocery does serve the locals well. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

CONTEMPORARY CRAZY QUILT BLOCKS -- ROUND ROBIN STYLE


CRAZY BLOCK MADE INTO A PILLOW


As I stepped into the Berea Appalachian Fireside Gallery this past August, I was met with a small exhibit of contemporary crazy quilt blocks. The blocks were artistic, diverse, colorful, and had particularly fine needlework. There was a sign near the quilt blocks that introduced the exhibit as "Out On The Line IV." The artists of the blocks were women from a group called The Berea Depot Quilters.


BLOCK MADE INTO A DISPLAY PIECE


The sign's information also stated that the blocks were made using the round robin method. I was totally unfamiliar with round robin. I contacted the quilt group and talked to Carol Ann White about the the method. Basically it is a few quilters working on crazy quilt blocks. 


A BLOCK IN THE MAKING


Above is an example of a block that is just beginning to be worked on. You can say it is pretty much in its raw state. As you can see the block has ten crazy quilt pieces. This means that ten quilters will be involved with working on this particular  block. Each crazy quilt piece of the ten pieces of each block will be assigned to one quilter who will add her unique needlework during the round robin. 


Each quilter will have a block of ten crazy pieces to be passed around simultaneously to all ten quilters  -- each quilter getting only one of the blocks at a time.


As each quilter has the block for a month it will take ten months for each of the  quilter's blocks to be finished. Each of the ten blocks will contain a collage of all the persons involved with this particular round robin. 


Hope this explanation is understandable -- please send me a comment with any questions about how to do this round robin.


LION DETAIL ON A FINISHED BLOCK

The lion block above displays some of the work accomplished on one of the blocks. Below are some of the individual blocks that were in the exhibit.

CRAZY QUILT STYLE ON A FINISHED BLOCK


WEB AND SPIDER SURROUNDED BY OTHER DESIGNS

MIX OF VIBRANT COLORS AMONGST THE CRAZY QUILT PIECES

A DELICATE ICE CREAM CONE SURROUNDED BY LACE

GARDEN VARIETY OF CRAZY PIECES 

BEE, BUTTERFLY AND FLOWER PIECES


LACE, 2009 DATE, AND A PORCUPINE

I felt the quilt blocks were both eye-catching and striking -- certainly a reflection of the quilter's love of their craft.


The quilters involved were: Rita Barlow, Pat Jennings. Linda Murdoch, Deannee Oliver, Barbara Taylor, Sarah Vaughn, Ginnifer Watts, Carol Ann White, and Jo Ann White.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A SIMPLE FALL DAY


Misty morning finds my son
collecting straw out of the old barn to mulch the garden 


This morning started out with cool temperatures, gray overcast,  and a misty rain. Very conducive to wrapping yourself in a blanket and reading a book. But, my son  decided to remove the old straw that has been sitting in the worn old barn since I moved in -- a left over present from the former owners. He wheelbarrowed many loads down to the garden and mulched it to bed for the winter. 

I made a quinoa and veggie dinner and then we decided to take a long hike with the dogs Sal and Lil.

It was a simple fall day of good company, good food, and good deeds.
Lil and leaves in creek 

My son and Sal hiking in the woods

Maple leaves cast odd colors in the late sun of the day

Fallen leaves line creek bed while Sal and Lil roam

Thursday, November 11, 2010

OUTHOUSES -- A THING OF THE PAST?

Two Section -- Two Door Outhouse
Small Town Commercial Area
 Paint Lick, Kentucky
Now most folks will think that outhouse use is past history. Oh yes, there are the national and state parks that have outhouses -- but do households have them? Well according to my 2010 edition of The Old Farmers Almanac there are plenty of outhouses still being used in this country. In fact, 670,000 U.S. households are without indoor plumbing. According to the U.S. census this number is part of the approximately 114 million households in this country.

Outhouse basic design is a small space with door/s, roof and walls over a pit for human waste with a bench seat above covering the pit. The bench seat has usually one to three holes depending on traffic use. No air conditioning, heat etc. It is just a plain place to get in and out as soon as possible. 

Unpainted Household Outhouse
Madison County, Kentucky
Toilet paper was not used in early outhouses. Various items were used in place of toilet paper -- corncobs, leaves, rags, newspapers, catalogs, etc. Really this was a good thing. Why? It was a good form of reuse.

Today we are using up 27,000 trees a day globally to produce toilet paper. How long can we keep this up as our population grows. Using recycled toilet paper helps alleviate the strain on forests

General Store Outhouse
Estill County, Kentucky
Outhouses were not just used by households. they were also used by commercial establishments, schools, and churches.One problem with them was waste leakage into the ground water. Another was odor -- a factor that resulted in many outhouses being placed a distance from the the main structure. For household members -- this could be inconvenient as dipping temperatures were difficult to deal with in the middle of night. Usually chamberpots were used for human waste during the night. 

A one hole interior of a farm outhouse
As outhouse pits (holes) became filled a new hole would be dug and the outhouse moved over it. The old became a place where one threw away unusable items to eventually fill the hole. The items that were thrown in the old hole became history layers from items such as dishes, tools, etc  -- telling the story of the household over time. Archaologists and anthropologists are aware of this and use these old pits for archaeological digs

Leaning from age -- a country church outhouse
Madison County, Kentucky
There are even regular folks that are aware of the items to be found in these pits --  folks called diggers. They are particularlly interested in old bottles. 

So the lowly outhouse still serves a vital part in many households but also serves to tell us about our cultural life. Outhouses are as alive today as in our past.. 


SOURCES:


Monday, November 8, 2010

IS IT WINTER YET?

BARE BRANCHES AS WINTER STEPS TOWARDS US

This last Friday, while outdoors doing some yard work, I glanced at the sky and thought that it looked like one that signaled the impending approach of winter. The trees were half bare and a heavy cold feeling was in the air. 

Officially winter does not begin until  December 21 with the winter solstice. Yet, in the UK and Ireland winter begins November 1st. They consider the winter solstice as midwinter. The shortest days and weakest solar radiation  are during November, December and January therefore, it seems reasonable to use the November date.

LOOK CLOSELY TO SEE SEE THE "LIFT-OFF" OF THE BLACKBIRDS IN MY YARD
About a week ago the yearly flocking of blackbirds paid their late autumn visit -- hanging around for about two days.  I stepped outside to take a photo of their hundreds and hundreds --  to capture the density of their population.  My appearance outside created a dynamic "whoosh" of nature -- synchronized instant take off and flight. They were beauty in motion with the sound of hundreds of wings flapping. It was a mixed flock and I believe there were even some flickers in the numbers.

GATHERED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
Friday, I gathered the last harvest from my garden -- butternut squash. There were seven large ones that had hidden themselves in the weeds of my garden. They were beautiful and will surely be delicious, hopefully. I realize that they had been sitting on the vine for sometime. 

PROLIFIC GOLDEN COSMOS -- STILL GOING STRONG
The only other plants in the garden that were still producing were my golden cosmos. They had outperformed this year with stalks six feet tall and laden with glorious gold blooms.

BUTTERNUTS WAITING TO BE CLEANED UP
 FROM LYING IN THE GARDEN SOIL
Saturday brought a light frost. No snow flurries as had been predicted. Really, I thought, why do we wait until the winter solstice to declare the official entrance of winter? I am going on the Irish winter schedule -- it just seems more in tune with nature. Happy winter everyone.

Friday, November 5, 2010

NATURE'S INALIENABLE RIGHTS

ROAD TO MY PLACE IN THE FALL

Where I live -- is on a ridge surrounded by woods and fields that provides some of nature at its best. That is best using today's standards. During Audubon's time -- who knows how we compare. I imagine the time that he spent in Kentucky was one of a prolific constant maze of nature. I can only imagine this by his writings and work as photography was not developed then.


Today we have surveys and tagging and modern technology to record nature -- all kept in articles and journals for us to peruse. We are aware of nature's decline because of these documented records. We can't compare Audubon's time to today's time but we now can compare the changes of nature over the last few decades. And what do we see? Degradation, that is what we see -- to our oceans, mountains, land and air and more. And, what is being done about it? Not much government wise. Small organizations, located within various countries around the world, are working diligently, attempting to stop this march toward a natural Armageddon.


OVERCAST WINTER DAY AT MY PLACE
Now we can maintain hopelessness in our psyche and tell ourselves it is inevitable that we are a world scheduled for natural disaster down the road or... we can look at a wonderful concept that has taken hold in Ecuador. It is  brilliant and is wedged into a legal document. That being Ecuador's constitution -- where the citizens of Ecuador overwhelming voted to include inalienable rights to nature.

Ecuador is the first nation in the world to make such a monumental move toward saving Mother Earth. 

The group that helped Ecuador formulate the language to insert into their constitution was the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund located in Pennsylvania. 


REBIRTH OF SPRING ON BEAR MOUNTAIN
Now some of you might wonder why I am just writing about this now when the Ecuadorian constitution was passed by its voters about a year ago. Well, we just had a national election and to me that election fortifies my belief that we as a country are becoming the "vessel" of give-aways. 

We are giving away  our natural resources to corporations. How? By buying off our elected officials with corporate money. Buying them off so the newly elected, corporate funded, congressional members will support scraping off every bit of mother nature to place money in the corporate funders pockets. All short term thinking. 

As an example the gas and oil industry put 19.5  million dollars into the coffers of some candidates (of this past election) who will probably repay them back by voting for such projects as drilling in the Artic National Refuge in Alaska.


SWIRL OF SUMMER LIFE IN MY GARDEN
The Ecuadorian constitution would not permit such a corporate holocaust to happen. But, we are up for grabs as we do not have a tight legal defense. Our laws have so many loop holes. We need an all encompassing statement in our constitution that will stop this wholesale robbery of our resources.

That statement could read like the Ecuadorian constitution: 

The new constitution gives nature the "right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution" and mandates that the government take "precaution and restriction measures in all the activities that can lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of the ecosystems or the permanent alteration of the natural cycles." 

I live on a ridge with clean air and water and almost non-existent  introduced chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. I consider myself fortunate. However, every form of life should have this opportunity to live safely, thoroughly and lively.  No ifs, ands, or buts, about it as my father would say.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

GRAPHIC 2-SIDED GAMEBOARD

HANDMADE GAME-BOARD -- DATED 1986
I like graphic items that are funky and display individual creativity. For me, handmade gameboards usually characterize these attributes.  

Gameboards have been around since ancient times. Some examples would be  checker boards or Chinese checker boards. Individually made boards can be painted in any color, have designs other than the game design painted on the board, be of different sizes, be of any age, handmade and sometimes signed by the maker

FUNKY PAINT COLORS ON ALL WOOD BOARD

This particular board is dated along its wooden frame -- 1986. Not that old but still of the folk genre. It also has a faint name next to the date, M... Lam., difficult to make out. It has two game sides. One being checkers and the other a game I do not know. I guess I wasn't much of a board game player when I was young otherwise I would know.

This board is both folk art and a symbol of a folkway. Folkway, as the individual  crafting of a gameboard  is a socially established custom. 

CHECKER BOARD SIDE 
From ancient times to the present --  gameboards have been made by individuals reflecting their personal interpretations of how the board should appear yet keeping with the game design.


For folk appreciators -- its not the game that is important but the construction, colors, and spark exuded by the visual design that matters. No matter the age.