Well, it’s Thanksgiving week and I’m working toward getting my pies made.  In my family, Turkey Day dinner isn’t complete without pumpkin pies and Shoo-fly pies, and this year my oldest daughter and her husband are hosting the celebration and it’s my job to bring the pies.  My best friend had given me a pumpkin when I had her and her sisters over to dinner one night; this was a picture-perfect pumpkin that has graced my dining room sideboard all fall.   Today, I decided it was time to get it cooked up and to roast the seeds.  The seeds are fresh out of the oven with the aroma of freshly popped corn and the pumpkin chunks have now boiled into a nice mush, which I will cool and bake into pies in a few days.   There will probably enough to freeze for more pies at Christmas-time.

I really enjoy doing things the old-fashioned way.  I don’t mind the extra work it entails; I would have been very happy to have been born 100 years ago, before the modern gadgets and convenience foods came on the scene.  Come to think of it, I’ve already been there.  When I was first married, we lived in an eleven-room sea captain’s house that had been boarded up for 30 years and had last been up-dated in 1926.  We know it was 1926, because the building inspector’s 3×5 index cards with the information carefully typed on them and his signature on each one, were still thumb-tacked in various places around the house.  The house was still heated by wood stove, which also provided our hot water, except during the summer, when we made our own solar hot water.  We had goats, chickens, bees, fruit trees, vines and bushes and huge gardens, so we produced most of our own food.  We did a mass food order twice a year to buy sides of beef, 200 pounds of flour (I baked all our bread), cases of toilet paper and all the other stuff that we couldn’t make ourselves.  It was  happy, healthy, lifestyle and I still miss it.   Every fall we’d be awash in food; we had several chest freezers and they’d been jam-packed full, with the veggies, frozen fruit, and meat; there’d be dry  goods in the pantry, potatoes and carrots in the root cellar and the cool attic room full of squash and pumpkins.  We’d pull food from the freezers and gradually, as they emptied, combine contents so that we could shut off the empty freezers and keep the ones still running, full.  By the time next year’s garden was producing, we’d be down to one freezer and the pickings would be rather slim as it would contain all the stuff we liked the least, having eaten our favorites long ago, and the attics and root cellar would be just about cleaned out; but at least we knew we could look forward to juicy tomatoes, mouth-watering butter & sugar corn on the cob, crisp snow peas and other fresh veggies, soon.

Two of my goats, and yes, that is a swimming pool ladder, used to climb over the electic fence!

I look back on those days with warm nostalgia; not only because of the peaceful way of life, but because my children were young and I had a busy, happy household to manage.  It seems so long ago.  My daughters now have families of their own and they, too, remember our little homestead fondly.  I wish I had more photos from those days, but before digital cameras came out, it was rather expensive to get film developed, so most of the time, we saved our precious film for special occasions.  I have a few photos of the goats and chickens, but none of my gardens, and not many of the house I worked so hard to fix-up, literally painting and/or wallpapering every room over a period of 5 years.  I had admired the house from the time when I was in my late teens, when I was renting a room down the street and I walked past it on my way to work every day.  I saw the empty home, looking dignified even though it was more or less abandoned, and I thought it was a shame that the old house was just sitting empty.  Not too long after that, I began a relationship with the man who was to become my first husband and without knowing how much I liked this house, he wrote to the two elderly ladies who owned it and made an offer on it.  They accepted his offer and the lovely, almost 200 year old house was brought back to life.  The place was suffering from 30 years of neglect; the wind whistled through the windows and doors, and snow blew in through the gaps around the chimneys, covering us with a fine, icy silt as we slept, but, we gradually made the house air-tight.  It was a good, solid, oak Post and Beam construction so it was worth fixing.

Bath time!

I tried to keep it’s decor true to the early 1800’s period when the house was built, but as a young couple on a tight budget, it was furnished with various freebies and family cast-offs.  I remember that our bed had blue and pink bunnies on the maple head board, so I’m guessing that it must have been in a children’s bedroom at some point.  It was old enough to have metal springs and a horse-hair mattress and it fell apart often enough that we just gave up and put the spring and mattress on the floor and left the head board balanced against the chimney, behind the bed.  This meant that it was hard to vacuum under the bed, but after we’d been married for a year, I decided it was time to move the spring and mattress to vacuum underneath, and I was aghast to see that there was a perfect rectangle of curly, black hair about a 1/2″ deep where the bed had been.  My husband had black hair and was a very hairy man and I gasped out; “Holy Christ!  Dan must be molting!”  But, after inspecting the underside of the mattress, I discovered a small slit which allowed the horse hair to leak out, so I was relieved to find that a plausible explanation for that poodle-trimmings worth of hair!

Our renovations brought to light some amazing discoveries.  We found the ship’s log for the sea captain who had lived in the house and possibly had built it, too.  He had a coasting schooner, used to bring supplies up and down the coast, before the days of goods being delivered by train or by truck.  He also owned teams of horses and hired them out for things like moving buildings or other large loads.  The log covered a period from the 1830’s to the 1860’s and detailed all his business dealings and expenses.  We also found a sketch book from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. an ivory fid (used for rope work) and a collection of Civil War era clothing for men, women and children.   All these things were sealed into floors, walls, ceilings, so they were tucked away like time capsules, just waiting to be re-discovered.

I’ve been doing some digging of my own during the last few days; going through piles of junk in the garage that my hoarder ( recently) ex-husband left here and have thrown away heaps of trash.  But, while I was in the cleaning mood, I started cleaning out my closets and found some long-forgotten photos and correspondence that brought a smile to my face.  Some of the letters were from friends and relatives who are now deceased, but it was still pleasant to see these reminders of happy times with them.  I cherish these serendipitous visits, whether happening onto some old photos of my own or a glimpse into a distant time that belonged to someone else.  It’s a reminder of sweet days that might be lost if not for these gifts from the past.

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