Thursday, April 16, 2015
Chapter 7: Tiemann Memoirs/Foraging in Cavendish
Following Chapter 7 is an article “foraging” in Cavendish. To read the prelude and other chapters of Tiemann’s Memoirs go to Coming to Vermont (Cavendish): Memoirs of Philip Tiemann.
We thought at first that the heavy Labor Day frost had done little damage, - altho leaves were wilted, it did not show on the squashes and pumpkins mature enough to have hard shells, and these were laboriously carried. to the upstairs hall and attic for temporary storage. It was not until some days later that the children came to me, big-eyed: "Gee, Dud, have you seen the pumpkins and things?"
A survey disclosed that almost all had developed black spots, and in a day or two more they had subsided into messy piles that had to be shoveled up. Cucumbers, citron, and tomatoes ware the same, and few were saved. So it was indeed fortunate that a supply had already been canned. Carrots and turnips, having been in the ground, were all right. And we picked about five bushels of unshelled dry beans. There was a big apple crop and about a peck of plums. To us city people it looked like a lot of produce.
During this month, having first of all removed the privy back of the shed kitchen, I also ripped off the sheathing in that area, built in door and window frame, re-sheathed, and finished with building-paper. This made the room considerably more attractive; and placing some stone steps outside the door gave us a rear exit. We still had the intention of using this for a kitchen thru the winter.
But as September advanced it was steadily getting colder. The wood-stove did not hold a fire thru the night, co in early morning the kitchen was pretty frigid. We hung on for a while, partly because I was stubborn but more for the sake of the open fires we were enjoying each evening,- Moving in the range would put an end to that. It was really cozy, reading by the light of a kerosene lamp, with the kids playing games or doing homework; or sitting on an old split.log bench watching the fire and perhaps toasting marshmallows.
"If only we could be as warm in back as we are in front," Isabel lamented. For we quickly discovered that the nine draft drawing the flames up the chimney also pulled cold air into the room: closing all the doors helped, but then it of too stuffy! Also, an open 'fire is a glutton for fuel.
As the kitchen range had been rapidly consuming such stove-wood as had been left us, we now had another problem of magnitude. Whereas we could get rid of almost any kind of refuse in the fireplace, to produce heat a stove must have hardwood, preferably well seasoned. In the shed there remained a few "chunks" which defied splitting, and not much else. So it was evident that something must be done. First (and the only thing in sight) was to get delivery of the wood due me in exchange for corn, and this was easily arranged: it was brought already cut, but not split, and I stacked it as it was thrown off the wagon into the shed. Not too well seasoned, so Wy and I split it as rapidly as we could, but we never did get far enough ahead to do much good. And there obviously was nothing like enough to go the winter.
I asked the driver, "How much more do you think I will need?' "Oh, you'll probably not burn more than ten or twelve cord," he replied with 'a grin. - When laid up, a cord of wood measures eight feet long by four feet high, in four-foot lengths, or 128 cubic feet. Ten times that? Whew!
Again we met with unexpected luck, as a neighbor dropped in one evening to say he had some extra wood I perhaps could use. The roadsides on his property, just below us, had just been cleared for the width of the right-of-way (two rods) leaving useable wood stacked in more or less four-foot lengths, and of course quite accessible. Even tho the town had done this work, it always is assumed that the wood belongs to the owner of the adjacent land.
"It's green, and some of it not too good, but I'd like to sell it and I won't be too hard on you," he told me. "That sounds all right," I replied, "How much do you want for it?" "Well, by rough measure I'd say there is close to seven cord. You can check it if, you like. Say (so much) per cord." The exact figure I don't have a record of but it seemed reasonable and I accepted with thanks.
Here was a real boon, as I had neither the time nor the know-how to tackle a big chopping job. Yet, before it had been consumed this ready-cut supply proved very instructive. It included about every variety of tree in 'the area, from rock maple (by all odds the best for burning) to shad (practically worthless) Beech and yellow birch were good; white birch burned too fast, altho while green was better than some others. Elm is the devil to split and perhaps the slowest to dry, but fine when well cured. The soft woods had little heat but “caught" well and so were useful for starting a blaze. "Popple" was in this category with pine, spruce, and hemlock. We had no oak.
All this wood was relatively green and heavy to handle, and many logs had to be split before I could lift them. And green (hard) wood gives tremendous heat when several logs are nestled together,- but it also produces copious amount of creosote. I have touched on this elsewhere.
Cavendish Foraging/What’s Edible: The frost on Labor Day weekend was a foreshadowing of the winter to come. The winter of 1933-34 would turn out to be one of the coldest on record for Vermont.
Given the combination of a harsh winter and the “Depression,” many families had to look for ways to supplement the food budget. Fishing and hunting weren't recreational activities as it was an important source of food. More than one boy would bring his rifle/fishing rod to school so he could provide or supplement the evening meal.
Like the early settlers, Depression era families looked to what grew locally. In fact, there are a number of elderly Vermonters who don’t care for blackberries-“That’s all we had to eat some days.”
However there are lots of things that are edible in Cavendish besides blackberries, fiddle heads and maple syrup. Below are edible plants that grow in Cavendish. Please Note: DO NOT EAT any of these species until you are positive in their identification, as some edible plants and fungi species look very similar to poisonous varieties. This is particular important when it comes to mushrooms.
For more information, check out Josh’s Journal: New England Wild Edibles Monthly Guide