Saturday, March 5, 2011

Memories From My Pioneer Days

In my last post, I shared about my 24-hour power outage story and my journal entry addressed to my late husband, Buck. When my power was restored the next day, I mentioned my little adventure on my Facebook status, and my friend, Tess, commented that she remembered me being a pioneer woman when we first met many years ago.

Her comment made me think about those days when I was in my twenties and thirties and a flood of memories took me down a long-neglected memory lane. According to the dictionary, I didn't fit into a pioneer profile in any way. But, I think it would be fair to say that Sarah's dad and I explored the road less traveled with our back to the basics, self-sufficient lifestyle, as did many of our peers. We heated our little cabin in the woods with firewood from our property, raised pigs for our neighbors and ourselves and enjoyed fresh, brown eggs from our Rhode Island Red hens. I'll save my memories about the beautiful, but equally mean rooster, named Harold!

We grew a gigantic garden, and I canned tomatoes in every possible form: whole, chopped, tomato sauce and juice. I even made ketchup to use up some of the bazillion tomatoes that we couldn't give away. That's what happens when you combine good manure-rich soil with newbie gardener's ignorance and plant 100 tomato plants! I dreamed (well...had nightmares would probably be more accurate) about bushel baskets full of the beauties . Bill and I did learn our lesson and were more reasonable in our future gardening efforts after that first bumper crop.

I remember the many days of picking, cleaning and snapping green beans and canning them in mason jars in my canning pressure cooker.  I also recall making homemade sauerkraut on several occasions. We were blessed to have an orchard near by, where we picked peaches and apples when they were in season. It was our custom to pick about forty pounds of their sour cherries when they were available in early summer and I would pit (more dreams) and freeze them for future use. I loved picking blackberries and wineberries from wild, roadside bushes and using them to make jams and homemade pies with the lard from our pigs. There was nothing better than a made-from-scratch fruit pie in late winter!

I recall participating in a street festival in Bel Air, Md. in the seventies with some of our neighbors. I spent days making all kinds of baked goods and actually selling my homemade pies for two dollars each! I wonder what one would bring today? Making our bread was another endeavor I enjoyed. My bread-baking day would yield six loaves. This was my routine for a season, until Sarah and her dad decided they only liked my whole wheat bread on baking day and bread from the freezer didn't appeal to their taste buds.

I was thrilled to find this photo of a Home Comfort stove that was identical to the one I cherished many years ago. Notice the tank for heating water on the side.
Website for this image

Tess had a vivid memory about coming to visit and seeing my wood-burning, cook-stove in my country kitchen. She also erroneously thought I had baked the cake in the cook-stove that I served to them that day. Nothing could have been farther from the truth, as I never even came close to mastering the art of baking in that stove. My brother, John, also has a memory connected to that stove and will never let me forget the "stone pizza" I tried to feed him that was prepared in that oven. No Tess, clearly, I had baked that cake in my electric oven! I'm so glad you shared your memory about that day. It was good to think and reminisce about those days again.

I sincerely hope this post didn't come across as boastful in any way. It was my attempt to share several verbal snapshots from my past. I hope you enjoyed walking down my memory lane along with me.


  1. This was wonderful Renee. What a peaceful existence this seems to be. How long did you and your family live there? My Grandma and Aunties used to make their pies like this. I remember that they were incredible.And, there is NOTHING like homegrown heirloom tomatoes.Thanks for sharing friend, I really loved it!!!

  2. Thank you Tonya! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I never know if my readers will find my subject matter interesting. I always push the publish button with a little hesitancy and trepidation. How about you? Do you experience that as a writer?

    I lived at the cabin property for twenty-five years and then Buck and I married and I moved to his house about 15 minutes away. My daughter and grandson lived there for several years after I left. I sold it about five years ago. Many fond memories there! More to come in my next post!