Saturday, July 02, 2011

Summer Reading #4

Last night I finished Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart.  Sort of ironic isn't it that the inaugural book on the Kindle was hand-written correspondence by a spunky pioneer woman?! Perhaps that's a little personal statement that I am not wholeheartedly in the digital age.  Some days, I'd very happily throw my Kindle, computer, and cell phone away and travel back in time to the frontier.  Some days, I think I was born in the wrong century.

I loved reading these letters, loved imagining the strong, brave, tenderhearted, practical woman who wrote them, loved the time and place, the beauty of the rugged country, the community of neighbors, the hard but fruitful labor of turning a wilderness into a garden.

Some of my favorite sections are descriptions of her travels, including this one:
"Soon we came to the pineries, where we traveled up deep gorges and canyons.  The sun shot arrows of gold through the pines down upon us and we gathered our arms full of columbines.  The little black squirrels barked and chattered saucily as we passed along, and we were all children together.  We forgot all about feuds and partings, death and hard times.  All we remembered was that God is good and the world is wide and beautiful."
and this one:
"Our improvised beds were the most comfortable things; I love the flicker of an open fire, the smell of the pines, the pure, sweet air, and I went to sleep thinking how blest I was to be able to enjoy the things I love most."
and descriptions of the work she did, like this lengthy section:
"I never did like to theorize, and so this year I set out to prove that a woman could ranch if she wanted to.  We like to grow potatoes on new ground, that is, newly cleared land on which no crop has been grown.
Few weeds grow on new land, so it makes less work. So I selected my potato-patch and the man ploughed it, although I could have done that if Clyde would have let me  I cut the potatoes, Jerrine helped, and we dropped them in the rows.  The man covered them, and that ends the man's part.  By that time the garden ground was ready, so I planted the garden.  I had almost an acre in vegetables.  I irrigated and I cultivated it myself.
We had all the vegetables we could possibly use, and now Jerrine and I have put in our cellar full, and this is what we have: one large bin of potatoes (more than two tons), half a ton of carrots, a large bin of beets, one of turnips, one of onions, one of parsnips, and on the other side of the cellar we have more than one hundred heads of cabbage.  I have experimented and found a kind of squash that can be raised here, and that the ripe ones keep well and make good pies; also that the young tender ones make splendid pickles...They told me when I came that I could not even raise common beans, but I tried and succeeded.  And also I raised lots of green tomatoes, and as we like them preserved, I made them all up that way....I milked ten cows twice a day all summer; have sold enough butter to pay for a years supply of flour and gasoline. We use a gasoline lamp.  I have raised enough chickens to completely renew my flock, and all we wanted to eat, and have some fryers to go into the winter with.  I have enough turkeys for all of our birthdays and holidays.
I raised a great many flowers...
I have tried every kind of work this ranch affords, and I can do any of it.  Of course, I am extra strong, but those who try, know that strength and knowledge come with doing.  I just love to experiment, to work, and to prove out things, so that ranch life and "roughing it" just suits me.
One tough lady.  Now I want to go out and pull weeds and move stumps.


Susan said...

Beth, this is one of my all-time favorite books! I don't think I ever had more fun reading a book, and I was inspired to think that even in the very far-flung wilds of the west, there could be such neighborliness and "community." We don't even bother to know our next-door-neighbors nowadays, and in my case, I think they much prefer it this way. But that's okay. I will wear them down with friendliness! :-)

How do you like your kindle?

Beth said...

I really, really like my kindle. I'll never read everything on an e-reader. I like the feel of real books too much and of course, there are just some books you want to own, for their beauty and place in your life and for lending to friends. But I like being able to stick the kindle in my purse and enjoy the ease of using it, the ability to change font size (helpful for my aging eyes), and all the freebies that are available. I think we're also going to find it very useful when we travel abroad and don't want to carry extra weight. So, yes, I'm quite happy with it.