Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thrifty Acres: Seasonal Reading

Hello! I've developed a liking for seasonal reading - books or magazine columns that describe life through the course of a year. Traditionally country folks are more in tune with the changing of the seasons than city slickers, and the seasonal reading I've done reflects this. All the writers lived (or live) in the country. 

So when the calendar changed to November, I dug out the two seasonal books I currently own. The one I've had longer is this:

Jean Hersey's The Shape Of A Year (1967). I first read this book in the early 1990's, when a co-worker who was a devoted gardener loaned it to me. I liked Hersey's month-by-month descriptions of her life in the Connecticut countryside. Not only did the Herseys have a thriving organic garden, they also had a greenhouse where dozens of orchids luxuriated. Hersey painted, hiked, traveled, cooked (several recipes are provided) and entertained family and friends. She also wrote gardening articles and gave talks to garden clubs. 

I enjoyed reading this book but of course had to return it to my co-worker. Online booksellers weren't around then, so what were the odds I'd find my own copy? Well, I did, a few months later in a used book store. As you can see in the above photo, mine is getting pretty beat up, but that doesn't detract from my reading pleasure. 

The second book became mine earlier this  fall:

I'd been wanting to read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2007) for awhile, and finally got my chance when I bought a copy of it at a used book sale. 

This book describes the efforts of Kingsolver and her family as they decide to become localvores for a year. They worked the land of their Virginia property, and it was very hard work indeed: produce was prepared and preserved in various ways, chickens and turkeys that they'd raised were "harvested" (ie killed and butchered), and many meals were planned around their bounties. I got rather tired reading of their activities, but I admired their can-do spirit. 

I doubt I'll become a localvore to the extent that the Kingsolvers did, but the book did make me think of some steps I could take to lessen winter purchases of produce that was grown far away. Thus, I took advantage of our tomato season with this recipe for oven-roasted tomatoes and froze several bags' worth. It'll be nice to avoid those rather tasteless winter versions, which I'd always forced myself to buy since I don't consider a sandwich complete without tomatoes.

As with Hersey's book, there are recipes included. I bought a five-pound pie pumpkin recently at our farmer's market so I can make Pumpkin Soup In Its Own Shell. I've never made anything like that before and it sounded interesting. 

I didn't take a photo of another source of seasonal literature, a series of "Simple Country Pleasures" columns penned by Jo Northrup. These writings appeared in Country Living magazine, which my mom subscribed to in the 1980's and 1990's. Mom would pass her magazines on to me after she was done with them. I got rid of the magazines during a pre-moving purge but kept the SCP columns. Northrup wrote from Southern locales, discussing flowers, farm markets, her childhood memories(I loved her description of the local country store at Christmastime), trips, dogs, antiquing, weather lore and other topics that qualified as "simple country pleasures". 

I've owned other publications with seasonal themes. I liked Barbara Webster's The Green Year (1956), in part because her southeastern Pennsylvania property was only about 20 miles from where I was living when I found her book at a 1990's rummage sale.

Gladys Taber wrote many books about her Connecticut country home, Stillmeadow, and her 1948 The Book Of Stillmeadow has a seasonal theme. I used to own it, but had read it enough times after purchasing it at a 1980's garage sale that I tired of it and gave it away. But I still recall her discussion of making the most of ripe strawberries (they grew their own at Stillmeadow): make strawberry shortcake - and have that be your entire dinner. That way you can really indulge in this treat, rather than trying to save room for it after dinner. Every June since, I've told my husband that Taber's idea would be a good one to follow, but I haven't been able to convince him yet. 

I also bought Rachel Peden's Rural Free (1961) in the 1980's, at a used book sale. I enjoyed reading about her family farm in southern Indiana, but as with Taber's book, it eventually lost its luster and I gave it away. I decided to give it another look and checked it out via inter-library loan this past summer. It was nice to read it again. Hmm, maybe I should check out Taber's book to read again as well? 

It's good to pause when we can and take note of what each month has to offer us - and seasonal reading is a great way to do this! 

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