Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June with Gladys and Rachel

For more information on this yearlong reading adventure, please go to the first post.

As I began my reading, the honeysuckle off the porch was in full bloom and the locust flowers were just coming out. My porch swing offered a little nook in the midst of all this beauty. And as the month ended, the pink mallow is everywhere and the daylilies are just beginning to open. June is a month when so much happens outdoors. I've read only two books this month and I'm way behind in reading blogs that I love. Quite often I catch myself just staring at the beauty around me. Every day there is something new, something a little different in the flower and vegetable gardens.

Gladys' June chapter contains 25 pages and Rachel's, 30. Amazingly, they each begin with observations on the month's sounds . Gladys Taber tells us that 'this is the singing month.' And she goes on to say how it sings in color - the 'green countryside,' the pink, white, and red of the 'rambler roses,' and the 'deep tranquil blue' of the sky. Though the metaphor may be mixed, it makes perfect sense to me. Rachel Peden writes of the frogs.
At night now their chant is slow, steady, expressing contentment. It goes in the balanced rhythm you hear when a cow is being milked by experienced hands - one-two, one-two, straight into the bucket...'
These two women were much of an age - Gladys was born in 1899, and Rachel in 1901. Stillmeadow Daybook was published in 1955 and Rural Free six years later. Though Gladys Taber and her friend Jill live on forty acres in what was then quite rural Connecticut, they do not make their livelihoods from farming, while Rachel Peden's husband, Richard is a farmer raising cattle and hogs. In this June installment, Gladys' topics run the gamut from raising dogs to old houses, and books to world affairs. She has entertained the head of The Netherlands House of Representatives, and communicates with Ted Key, the creator of the Hazel cartoons.

Rachel Peden's June essays are all about the farm and nature, with musings on life along the way. There is a gentle humor which reminded me of E.B. White. She writes of milkweed, wild iris, finding a lost calf, and trying to pick the cherries before the birds get them.
When I went back the next day, the tree had been cleaned utterly. Not one cherry remained, either green, ripe, wormy, or bitten. It was a fine example of co-operative bird effort. But henceforth when somebody speaks of "eating like a bird," I want it explained what the bird is eating. A bird eating cherries eats like a glutton.
They each make mention of food. When Gladys muses about why a cowbird lays her eggs in other bird's nests,
I always end my thinking in confusion and decide to make a cheese soufflé for supper, as I understand that very well.
She notes 'we eat most of our meals outdoors now.' Rachel makes sour cream cookies, and writes of 'a picnic supper up in the north pasture.'

I'm kind of an anachronism, living my life in some ways as it was lived fifty or more years ago. As I read their June entries, I was filled with a kind of love for these two women. I don't have real-life models of countrywomen, and Gladys Taber and Rachel Peden offer this gift to me through their writings.


  1. This tickled me from my head to the end of my toes. Thanks for this. I will pull down some of my Gladys Taber books, but I will go in search of Rachel. Thank you for introducing me to her. There are some great used bookstores in Maine that I frequent and Rachel is at the top of my list now.

    When I first saw the name Rachel I immediately thought of Rachel Carson, who has such a huge impact on my life. A couple of years ago Jeff, my best friend and I went to a lecture at the Southport (her Maine home town) Meeting Hall and listened to relatives read her works and letters...magical.

    Thanks for this dear...we forgive you for sitting and staring, absorbing the beauty, scents, and songs of summer.


  2. I have looked for these books but not found them. I know I would enjoy them. I did find that our library has some of Miss Read's books. I have a couple and have read one already. The spiderwort is so pretty on your header. It is that time of year. It is good to get outside before the heat and humidity sets in. We have had the perfect week here. Heard the first katydid buzzing a few notes. Sitting on the patio without the black flies biting is heavenly. Enjoy your time outside.

  3. Wouldn't Gladys have had a hum doozy of a blog? She certainly would have gotten a lot of hits, I am sure. I love her writing. Who would have thought this many years after she finished her last book, that people would be hunting down her books to read. She certainly gives us lovely insight to that time period. Susan

  4. You know how much I love Gladys Taber, and I like the Rachel Peden's June quotes about frogs. I know I am going to appreciate your yearlong adventure with these two treasures.

  5. Now that I think about it, it may very well be that June is my favourite month of the year... or maybe it is May... but I also love September... hmmm... yes, every season has their own special beauty. And June does indeed offer a lot in terms of sound, and you mentioning the two chapters beginning with a comment about sound has given me an idea for a blog post of my own. Thank you!

  6. I'm going to try to find a copy of Taber's daybook. It sounds like something I might enjoy. Thanks for the reminder to get back to my year-long reading of Julie Zickefoose's Letters from Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods. I think I'm a season behind!

  7. When I lived in a small town in Conn. (which is now a big town full of commuters), Gladys Taber's column was still appearing in the local paper. I loved her outlook on life; she was a serene woman who enjoyed every day to the fullest. The quote about frogs sounded like nightfall at our place in PA. The frogs croak me to sleep every night.

  8. I like the thought of June being the "singing month". There's so much going on right now in the garden and surrounding woods, that, like you I am drawn to it over and over again. It's a lovely time of the year. The books sound wonderful.

  9. I love Gladys writing as well. I have Rachel's book on order with interlibrary loan. I also like The Shape of A Year by Jean Hersey and
    Hal Borland's Twelve Moons of the Year. Such lovely nature writing!

  10. For everyone who is interested there are two Rachel Peden books available to buy now, and one on pre-order.

    Thank you, Sharon!

    Lisa, there should be Miss Read and Gladys Taber books on the internet. New and old versions. And I noted Rachel Peden books above. The bugs here have been bad. We've got 'em all just now - black flies, noseeums, deer flies. Yuck.

    Susan, yes, Gladys and Rachel would have had wonderful blogs!!

    Penny, thanks. I'm loving these books.

    Librarian, looking forward to your post! July is my favorite of the summer months.

    Les, I so love all of Gladys' books.

    Barbara, think of that!

    April, they are. I knew about Gladys, but Rachel is new to me, and she is a really wonderful writer.

    Kathie, thank you for the recommendations!

  11. I do remember Gladys Taber books -- and I believe she wrote in one of the women's magazines maybe?? Her connection with Ted Key makes me think I'm right on this. Do not know Rachel Peden. I love this challenge as I love reading about a different lifestyle from my own. (I think you're a trendsetter, not an anachronism, BTW!).

    Also I love what you said about these two women serving as your role models -- I believe in books that way too!

  12. Sallie, her writing was in the Ladies' Home Journal, and Family Circle. I think many of her books are collections of her columns, as is Rachel Peden's.
    Thanks for the praise!

  13. My copy of Stillmeadow Daybook was waiting for me when I got home from my trip. I'm going to follow along with you this year, starting in July. I have enjoyed Gladys Taber's writing in decades past. I feel as if I will be visiting with an old friend.

  14. Oh, Margot that makes me so happy!! I also think you'd really like Rachel Peden.


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