Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat

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I’ve always loved this carol. It was one of the few my Dad could sing on key!

Before we left for a three day trip to the mountains, we went to see Hamilton. I can’t say enough how I enjoyed it. My daughter and her husband bought us tickets in the orchestra, about eight rows from the front, so we were really in the musical. The voices were wonderful, the story great, with lots of humor and also some pathos. The fellow playing King George had us rocking with laughter. I had listened to a CD of part of the production, following along with the libretto, and had no trouble understanding the rap. If you get a chance to see Hamilton, do it. The ticket cost is worth it, and you will learn a lot about our early history from the all minority cast!

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So we spent this past weekend up in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains, near the Pisgah National Forest. Our friends built a house on a low mountainside with spectacular views of Grandfather and Tabletop mountains. It was just what we needed after the energy we expended over Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

We visited a small arts and crafts store where I bought my first decoration of the season. Yes, that’s Garfield in the background – he liked the poinsettia, which it turns out are NOT poisonous to cats but can give them a tummy upset if they decide to chew some leaves. He was alone while we were gone and has been purring and sitting all over me since we got back. I’m sure he’ll have something to tell you soon. He’s been talking to me non-stop!

 

We returned home to find our Japanese maple in its full fall glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a deep breath, make your holiday list, and enjoy the season.

 

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Happy Post-Thanksgiving to My Blog Followers

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I hope you are all enjoying the posy-turkey glow of a full stomach and lots of football and basketball. We had a terrific meal with turkey and all the trimmings (including my great-great-grandothers meat stuffing and creamed turnips) and my two favorite Thanksgiving pies – sour cream pumpkin and bourbon pecan. Belch!

I want to recognize that I have a goodly bunch of new followers. I wish I could recognize you individually as I used to do, but the numbers are overwhelming my time! I thank you so much for being willing to read my scribblings as I wander where my little gray cells lead me from one topic to another.

Since I can’t follow all my followers, here’s a challenge. If you stop by a post of mine that interests you and leave a comment, I’ll wander over and visit you! That way we can keep in contact,

Thanks so much for your support  –  you are the jewels!

ACORNS

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     I’ve been collecting acorns for the last two autumns, mainly to feed my squirrels. When they are full of acorns and fat and sassy, they don’t try to empty my bird feeders.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about these nuts. Did you know that some oaks bear acorns so low in bitter tannins that they can be eaten raw?  One mature Valley Oak can drop 2,000 pounds of acorns in a really good year. We have no oak trees on our property so I have to depend on friends who do, and who consider  the acorns a big headache in the fall.

Other than eating the sweet ones raw (or feeding squirrels), there are other things you can do with the mighty acorn. Several cultures roast and salt acorns and serve them like roasted chestnuts.

Did you know that their innards are a carbohydrate (starch) and you can make flour with them? Turns out the acorn-eatingest people in the world right now are the Koreans. If you go to a good Asian market, there is a good chance you will find acorn flour and acorn noodles, which look just like soba noodles. From what I can tell the noodles are eaten in the same way soba noodles are; and yes, they also appear to a lesser extent in Japanese cuisine. Berbers will sometimes make couscous from acorn flour, and Italians make acorn flour pasta, too

Acorns, which are, for the most part, bitter and need to be water-leached at least once or twice to be palatable. They lack gluten, and acorn cooks up dark, because of the sugars in them.

The acorn may have been one of the earliest foods. From a blog comment (a person named Claire) I learned the following: “I am reading about the Druids and they think the word is cognate with the Greek “drus”, meaning “an oak”, and “wid” meaning “to know” or “to see”. My book says “The origin of the Druid caste has had its root in the ‘food gathering age’ when extensive oak forests covered Europe. We are speaking of a period prior to 4000 BC when primitive hunter gatherers saw the oak as a symbol of plenty, collecting acorns as a means of food and finding them easy to store for more difficult days….According to Pliny, the acorn was ground and baked into bread. Publius Ovidius Naso, the poet Ovid, speaks of the acorn as the first food ever given to humans when they were dropped from the great tree of the sky-god Jove or Jupiter. Strabo speaks of acorn bread as a staple diet of the Celts of Iberia, while the Leabhar na Nuachonghbala, composed about AD 1150, records that in one particular bad year every ear of corn bore but one grain and every oak only one acorn, which indicates that the acorn was still regarded as an article of food classed with grain by the Irish.”

I’d love to try an acorn recipe – maybe a tortilla with acorn flour? – but it would deprive my squirrels of food this winter.

RED OAK

 

Coming Out of the Closet…

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It is with great trepidation that I reveal to my followers and friends…I’m a Republican.

I know this must come as a shock to many of you, and I’ve been afraid, very afraid, to reveal this. Yes, I did vote for Trump. I did not put a Trump sign in my yard, because it would have been stolen or possibly had vile things spray-painted on it. I did not put a Trump sticker on my car because the car would have been keyed. Democrats at my voting place tried to force a Democratic sample ballot on me until I told them to back off because I was one of the Deplorables, a label that truly hurt. That was when I decided to ‘come out.’

I live in a very deep blue area, and being a Republican in this sea of blue is not something you want to advertise. After all, a Republican headquarters just down the road was fire-bombed. When my son joined the military, several people came to console me. Imagine their surprise when I told them I was proud of him. I’ve lived in the closet by choice in order to get along.

What I am not: homophobic, zenophobic, sexist, racist, Islamophobic and any of the other -obics and -ists that Republicans have been labelled. I am one of the women and white college-educated professionals who came out of hiding on election day to give the Republicans their victories.

What I do believe in (adapted and expanded from an article in The Washington Post, which said it better than I could) in no particular order:

  1. An originalist theory of constitutional interpretation that seeks to determine the intended meaning of the text and does not grant judges free rein to think up new rights and powers.

  2. Faith in the private sector to afford opportunity, reduce poverty and create jobs.

  3. A conviction that our debt crisis is real and must be addressed.

  4. Support for Israel.

  5. The conviction that civil institutions including the family, voluntary associations, churches and synagogues are the lifeblood of a society and should be protected from government meddling and pressure. Having said that, I am not against gay marriage and believe that the rights of the LGBTQ communities should be upheld. Where they conflict with the religious beliefs of others, I trust in adjudication.

  6. Personal opposition to abortion – I’m a Catholic – and especially abortion after 20 weeks and definitely late-term or partial-birth abortion, except in the case of the mother’s health. Would I stand in an abortion clinic’s door and prevent a woman from entering to have an abortion? No, but I’d like to know the reasons behind her choice.

  7. A belief in limited government, a desire for less regulation and a defense of constitutional rights – especially first and second amendment rights.

  8. A belief that national security is the first obligation of the federal government.

  9. Rejection of the view that the U.S. has been the problem-making or corrupting influence in the world. I believe the U.S. is a force for good in the world and we are the most generous of all people. Have we done some reprehensible things? Yes, but hopefully we as a people are learning from them.

  10. Belief that the history of our country, both good and bad, is worth learning. It can’t and shouldn’t be rewritten to remove what is offensive. That is part of our history and if we don’t know it and understand it, we are doomed to repeat it.

    11. A reasonable immigration policy. The country can’t afford unlimited, illegal immigration, on many levels – support for the illegals once they are here and the competition for jobs with citizens, just to name two. We are already seeing the effects on our economy, our health care system and schools. Our neighbors to the north and south have strict immigration policies. Why don’t we?

    12.

    The belief that each person is responsible for their own place within society. The government’s role is to enable the people to secure the benefits of society for themselves, their families, and to help those who are unable to do so for themselves, with limited intervention.

This is the one and only post on politics I will ever write. I do not want to get into arguments with anyone, and thus will not reply to any comments to this post. If you still find that I am deplorable, feel free to unfollow me.

I love and respect all of you, because of your many thoughtful and heartfelt points of view. God bless this country. I am so very fortunate to live here.

 

Plymouth History Tour – the John Alden House

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One day I devoted to seeing the John Alden house in Duxbury. John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden moved from the main settlement to a tract of land near the acreage Alden had been granted in 1627. All the acreage had a creek, river or the ocean adjacent to five of the acres so that the owners could sail back to Plymouth on Sunday for their Sunday services. There were no roads in those day – travel was by water.

Here is a map. on which you can see Plymouth and the location of the Alden land.

John Alden married Priscilla Mullins on May 12, 1622. She was the only survivor of the Mayflower Mullins family. They had ten children! Priscilla died in Duxbury between 1651 and her husband’s death in 1687. Both were buried in the Myles Standish Burial Ground in Duxbury.

The house I first saw was built by their son, John Jr. and lived in by subsequent  generations.           

 

There is a path to the site of the original house, through the woods and across a soccer field behind a high school.

This house was ten feet wide and approximately forty feet long and was built in 1632. It had, according to the excavations done there, a cellar at one end and, although poorly visible, traces of a hearth one half the distance from one end to the other. Such an arrangement would suggest possibly a two-room plan, each room ten by twenty feet, although even smaller internal divisions of either or both halves could have existed. The located site is marked by a brick outline.  This would have been the house John and Priscilla Alden lived in for most, if not all, of their lives.

The Alden house I first saw –the second house – is located on a knoll overlooking the Bluefish River. It has been variously dated as built in 1653 or 1700, and was probably built by John Alden’s grandson, John III. This property has been under the continuous ownership of the Alden family since that time, and it is now managed by a family foundation as a historic museum.

This is a model of the original house, to which an addition was made, probably for a kitchen.

Its interior is much more modern than the original Pilgrim’s houses, with finished walls and elaborate fireplace surrounds..

Interesting for me was the ‘women’s work room,’ which contained a small spinning wheel for spinning flax and a loom for making linen, along with a much larger ‘walking wheel’ for spinning wool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alden family figures large in the history of this area. John Jr was a soldier (he held a military command during King William’s war,a politician, a merchant in Boston and a sea captain.  He is most remembered for surviving the Salem witch trials, when he was accused and held for 15 months before breaking out and hiding in Duxbury. He was the only condemned person not put to death, and he was later cleared of the charges by acclamation. He had fourteen children.

Ichabod Alden, John Alden Sr.’s great grandson lived in this house and was an American Revolutionary War officer and commanding officer during the Cherry Valley Massacre.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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To all my followers and readers of my blog: Happy Spook Day!

We live so far off the main road that we don’t get visitors in costume, but where we lived in Evanston, Illinois, our house was frequented by many trick or treaters. Our outlay for candy each year was ginormous. One year, long before all of the razors appeared in candy and drugs were found in treats, I made candy apples for the children. They were eagerly snapped up, and I heard someone yell down the street, “Hey, this lady had candy apples! Come and get ’em!” A stampede ensued.

This year, I offer a picture of my daughter and son in law, who went to a Halloween Party dressed as megalodons, in honor of the recent movie (which I thoroughly enjoyed): The Meg.

A Visit to the Aptuxcet Trading Post, 1627

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One of the days of my research in and around Plymouth led me to the Aptuxcet trading post in Bourne, on the other side of the Cape Cod Canal. I always love driving down that way to admire the Canal and its bridge. I went by boat to the Canal one night when I was in high school to collect plankton.  The Canal is integrally related to the Separatists*!

File:Cape Cod Bourne Bridge and Railroad Bridge.jpgIn 1627, colonists from Plymouth established a trading post at Aptuxcet, about 20 miles south on the Manamet River. They had visited the site earlier to trade for corn and beans and to search for the missing son of John Billington. Aptuxcet is the Wampanoag word for “little trap in the river,” a reference of Indian fishing weirs.

The site was accessed by sailing south from Plymouth and up the Scusset River, then portaging over land to the Manamet River. Construction of a canal linking the trading post to the ocean was first considered by Myles Standish, the Separatists’ military advisor. Trade at the site was prosperous between the Indians of Narragansett Bay and the Dutch of New Netherland, who traveled north to acquaint themselves. The first attempts sat building a canal did not take place until the late 1800s.

Aptucxet was the first trading post established by the Plymouth colonists, and it was followed in 1633 by the Metteneque Trading Post in Windsor Locks, Connecticut and the Cushnoc Trading Post in Augusta, Maine. Because these posts were located at a distance from the colony, they were manned year-round by colonists.

The Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 tore the roof off the post and it was finally abandoned in the 1650s. It has been estimated this storm was at least a strong category 3 when it made landfall on Long Island and swept northward. Much of the area between Providence, Rhode Island and the Piscataqua River in Maine was damaged by the storm. Governor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony wrote that the storm drowned seventeen Wampanoags and toppled or destroyed thousands of trees; many houses were also flattened.

The structure existing today is a replica erected on the original foundation which was archaeologically excavated in the 1920’s, and it sits on the southern shore of the Cape Cod Canal. The museum also features a replica saltworks, similar to ones that were used in the area to manufacture sea salt in the 1800s. The saltworks consist of square wooden vats where seawater was left to evaporate. Each vat is equipped with a sliding hipped roof that can be used to protect it from dew and rain.

Here are some pictures from my tour. I was introduced to wampum during the tour and I wil tell you about wampum in another post! In this first picture, there is a circular structure made out of bricks on the left of the hearth. It is an oven with a large metal kettle on top and was used for making beer.

These are Beaver pelt on the left and a I believe a marten pelt on the left.

This is the way the Dutch shipped sugar to the Separatist, in a cone wrapped in blue paper. The goodwives uses the blue paper for bluing in their wash. If children were told to scrape some sugar off the cone, they were told to sing or whistle while they did it, so their mother would know they weren’t eating it!

 

*The Pilgrims did not acquire their name until the mid 19th century. Until then they were referred to as Saints or Separatists. In 1840, someone resurrected William Bradford’s (Plymouth Colony’s first governor) original phrase describing the Saints who had left Leiden to sail on the Mayflower to the New World. They left Leiden, he said, “that goodly & pleasante citie which had been their resting place for near 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, & looked not much on those things, but lift up their eyes to ye heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits.”

On the Trail of History in Plymouth

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I just came back from selling books in Maine and spent a week in Plymouth, MA, my home town. Amazingly, I never visited many of the historic sites when I was growing up, although I did work as a tour guide at Plimoth Plantation.

I had a long list of places to see, people to contact and questions, questions, questions – a product of my attempt to write a historical novel about Mary Allerton Cushman.

I decided to do the most strenuous visit on the first day: Plimoth Plantation. My feet aren’t what they used to be so I knew I would be torturing my tootsies.  After purchasing a ticket, I walked up the long hill to the Crafts Center, where I met a potter who was more than happy to tell me about New England potters and their wares. The Pilgrims did not pot. They purchased what they needed from England or through trading with the Dutch. The first potter to come to New England was Phillip Drinker who settled in Charleston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635. His son Edward Drinker carried on his work, but HIS apprentice John Goldsmith left to become a chocolate grinder.

This is early , typical blue and white Delftware from the 17th century that the Pilgrims could have.

I asked about pipes because I’d never seen any reference to the Pilgrim men smoking pipes. It turns out they did have pipes made of clay with a very small bowl. Being fragile, the stems would frequently break, so they used shorter and shorter stems. The pipes had a tiny bowl because tobacco was in small supply. Some Pilgrims planted tobacco for their own use, but it didn’t grow well because of the thin, rocky soil.  The bowl size of their pipes increased as tobacco became more common and available. You can date dig sites by the size of the pipe bowls.

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Then I walked further up the hill to the village and meandered up and down what would be First Street or as is now called, Leiden Street. Along the way I talked to the interpreters and made other discoveries.

  • Spinning wheels were not common until after 1640s. The first sheep to come to Pimoth were fat but had poor wool – they were bought for meat. The sheep good for wool – merino sheep – were scrawny and not good eating.  Merino sheep would not have been common after the middle of the century.

  • Small spinning wheels were used for spinning flax fibers into linen.

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  • The wool spun at home would be homespun and likely thick, spun on a huge walking wheel, but not until the late 1630s because there were no merino sheep. Sometimes a woman would wear a path in the wood floor planks walking back and forth as she spun. Most of what was spun at home would have been used to weave blankets.

  • The Pilgrims got their clothing ready made from London for a long time and would alter the clothes to fit.

  • The Pilgrims had candles but they were imported and expensive. They would have burned oiled paper for light until wax for candles was available.  There were no honey bees in North American until the European honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera, was first introduced to the American colonies around the year 1638, and was not firmly established in New England until 1654.  Thus the Pilgrims did not use honey to sweeten their food in the beginning and had no source of wax.

  • The Pilgrims made lye soap for washing clothes but relied on soap from England for washing themselves.

  • There were no horses in Plimoth because there were no roads. Travel was done by boat. When larger land grants were made in1627, the parcels all had five acres that were either ocean front or river front. That way, when the owners built houses there, they could travel back to the main Plymouth settlement by boat for Sunday services. When the rivers froze over, the Pilgrim families would move back into their houses in the settlement for the winter.

Home Again

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After a week of visiting various historic sites, talking to many people to find answers to the questions I had accumulated about the Pilgrims, and visiting with some high school classmates, I am home.  Looking forward to sharing some of my research with y’all, but we have been without power since last Thursday, courtsy of Hurricane Michael. My ability

to get online is intermittent. So stay tuned…