A New England Homestead

| 9/2/2011 3:05:29 PM

wooden spoolThis story is from Ellen Allwood, submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear. 

Mom was always waiting for the next Great Depression. She was born in 1930; the start of the Great Depression, and it left a lasting impression on her. Mom was born in Maine and raised by frugal Scandinavian parents.

She raised six children in a city outside of Boston, Mass. The way we lived it felt more like the backwoods of a New England homestead. We lived on a quarter of an acre on a dead-end dirt road. It did not have a lot of space for a big garden. Mom kept chickens, pigs and, one time, a beef critter.

Mom picked and cooked with wild mushrooms she found in the woods around our house. An elderly Italian neighbor taught her which mushrooms were edible and which ones were poisonous. Mom would fry up a batch and, boy, were they tasty. As a refreshing late summer drink she made Indian lemonade from sumac berries. In summer she put us to work foraging wild blueberries, blackberries, grapes and choke cherries. She froze the berries for cakes and muffins; and made jellies and wine from the grapes and choke cherries. She saved watermelon rind to make sweet pickles.

We had one ancient Baldwin apple tree in our yard. It was rumored to be the last tree from an orchard once owned by Col. Loammi Baldwin, whom the apple was named after. Mom said they were good winter apples, which meant they kept over the winter without going bad. She cut around the wormholes to make pies and applesauce.

Saturday mornings Mom would do all her baking for the week: bread, pies, cookies and sometimes cake. The surplus went into the deep freeze to be enjoyed later in the week. Breakfast in the summer was puffed rice or puffed wheat. In the winter it was poached eggs on toast or hot cereal. Lunch we were on our own. Supper was simple fare; no steak or roasts unless it was a holiday. All leftovers were eaten sooner or later. For snacks we had rye cracker or Swedish coffee bread and a pot of coffee was always available as long as you were over 12 years old. The best meals were made for the holidays. The Fourth of July meal was baked salmon, new potatoes and fresh peas. On Thanksgiving we had roast turkey with all the trimmings and jars of mom's pickles and blueberry pie from the berries we picked that summer. Christmas was a roast beef and a smorgasbord of Swedish foods.

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