A Look At Life On the Homestead – Part 2

By Linda Stewart, 1 March 2019

As spring approaches I start thinking about flower beds and gardens.  Since it is just my husband and I, my definition of a garden are large pots on the patio filled with herbs, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and okra planted in the blueberry bed.  Before my father moved to heaven, if you were to ask him his definition of a garden, he would say that nothing less than an acre would do.

Even though we always had a large garden, my mother never canned vegetables.  She would freeze them.  My Grandma Ruth Paschall did can the vegetables from her garden.  As a child, I remember seeing a book case with a feed sack cloth hanging in front of it.  I moved the cloth and saw jars of carrots, potatoes, squash, etc.  I thought the jars looks so beautiful on the shelves.  I asked mother about it and she said, “It’s your grandmother’s canning.   I always wanted to learn to can.   After a lot of questions and research, I am now a canner.  I teach classes on this lost art.  Yes, it is easier to go to the grocery store and purchase a can of beans, but every time I can, I always get a sense of satisfaction.  The jars still look so beautiful on the shelves.

One of the stories submitted to the John T. and Mary Cook Paschall book, courtesy of Barbara Love Logan, speaks of her mother and great grandmother canning.  Lois Mae Hines says she helped Mary Ann Frances Paschall Fletcher in the yard one day.  They built a fire under the wash pot and Lois was sent to the corn crib for buckets of corn.  They shelled the corn and Mary poured the hard dry kernels into the boiling water.  After a bit she went to one of the mounds of ashes where there had been a washing done.  She scooped up wood ashes, dumped them into the boiling corn.  Lois said, “Oh, Grandma, you have ruined your corn!”  As Mary stirred with the shovel she said “No, honey, this will take the husks off.”  (Lye is made with water and wood ashes.)  After a while she washed and washed the corn, now it was hominy.  Mary canned it in glass jars. Lois said they had hominy all winter, thanks to her Grandma.

So the next time you talk with your grandparents, or aunts and uncles, ask them about their childhood.  Record them as they talk.  These stories are oral histories.  Oral histories are just as valuable, and in my opinion more valuable, then written histories.    It is the oral histories that are passed down that keep the family and their traditions alive throughout the generations.

I would recommend that you watch this wonderful video about oral histories “The Hidden History of Native Americans with Chief Riverwind and Dr. Laralyn Riverwind”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og_YWTsOze8

Happy Hunting! LS

A Look At Life On the Homestead – Part 1

By Linda Stewart, 24 February 2019

It is February and most of the country is blanked in snow.  In southeast Texas, we are enjoying a few 50 to 70 degree weather days, which is a wonderful break from the cold and rainy days.  The plum tree has bloomed and plums about the size of a lentil are appearing.  The citrus trees will soon be in bloom.  The smell of the orange blossoms is indescribably amazing.  Clover is covering the yard, which the chickens really enjoy.  The Kalanchoe, Narcissus, and Magnolia tulip tree are blooming.  Life on a micro-homestead is growing and changing with the season.  Thanks to the US Census Bureau, we can go back in time and look at our ancestors homesteads by reading the U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880.

In 1880, The Non-Population Schedule is known as the Agriculture Census.  It will list the production of a homestead in 1879.  It shows if the person owned the land, rented it for fixed money, or rented it for a share of the production.  It lists the number of acres of improved and unimproved land.  Improved land is land that had been tilled for planting, cleared for pastures and meadows, orchards and vineyards.  Unimproved land is land that had not been disturbed such as woodlands and forests.   It will give you the monetary value of the farm, i.e. land, fences, buildings, machinery, and livestock.  It also list the cost of repairs and the hired laborers.   It shows the number of livestock they had and what kind, i.e. horses, mules, oxen, cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens.  One Paschall ancestor had 35 chickens that produced 100 dozen eggs.  The Agriculture Census will show what was planted, how many acres, and how many bushels were produced per acre.  It will also show how many pounds of butter that was churned.  Reading the Agriculture Census and including the information in your research, will allow you to peer through a window of time.

So whether you live in the country or city, have 100 acres or an apartment balcony, this spring when you plant your peppers, tomatoes, and flowers remember the ancestors.  Enjoy watching the plants grow and the fruit of your labor.

Happy Hunting!