Sunday, April 29, 2012

April with Gladys and Rachel

To learn more about this yearlong adventure with Gladys Taber and Rachel Peden, you may scroll down to 'Letter Topics' and click 'A Year with Gladys and Rachel.'

As we finish the second to the last month of this year with Gladys Taber and Rachel Peden, I thought it would be nice to offer some photos of, and links to, the women themselves.

I'll begin with a short video in which we see Rachel's landscape and the concerns about preserving it. Toward the end her son, Joe speaks.

Though this is very small, I loved seeing her with books on the shelf and her typewriter in front of her. 1972, only three years before she died.

These are the words which accompanied the following wonderful picture:
Rachel Peden lived from 1901 to 1975. She graduated from Indiana University in 1923. She and her husband Richard lived on the family farm on Maple Grove Road, where they held open houses for children to see daily farm life. For 30 years she wrote a column, "The Hoosier Farm Wife Says..." for the Indianapolis Star under the byline Mrs. R.F.D. She wrote three books, Rural Free, a farmwife's almanac of country living; Speak to the Earth: Pages from a Farmwife's Journal; and The Land, The People, about the family farm.

The child in this picture is her young granddaughter, also named Rachel, who is Past President of the Monroe County Historical Society, and Monroe County Historian.

I so wish I could have gone to this at which the granddaughter pictured above, Rachel Peden McCarty spoke just this month. I was delighted when she left a comment here on the blog once. There is a little bit about her here.

There is a nice piece here. And this was just great to read!

Here is a PDF, but it is the best of all the sites I've come upon. You can increase the size to see it better.

Over the years I've posted a few photos of Gladys which you may find if you click on 'Gladys Taber' under 'Letter Topics.' These two were new to me.

Not sure of the year, but isn't she young and oh, so beautiful!

1955. Gladys and her daughter, Connie, and the Cocker Spaniel, Especially Me aka Teddy. I love that dress. When did women stop wearing such dresses? I miss women who look like this.

I found a cool little slideshow of Stillmeadow, her Connecticut home.

There is a website for The Friends of Gladys Taber, of which I am a member. There is a lot of biographical information, and a list of all her books here. And if you do a search for her name, you will find many results in the blogging world.

And now on to their Aprils.

Gladys begins the month with
Surely never was spring so wonderful, such a miracle!
Isn't this what we all think every time it rolls around?! And this year I thought to myself that every spring I have to relearn the language of the birds, those I haven't heard for months and months. I'd hear a song, and have a moment's hesitation before I recognized it. Oh yes, that's the Song Sparrow. And could that be the Wood Thrush?

Gladys writes of the first flowers:
The early flowers have a special beauty - I always shake with excitement when I find the first clump of snowdrops, fragile, pearl-pure, bending their heads lightly toward the icy dark ground. Crocus makes rainbow patches all over the yard; scilla like bits of the sky snipped out and scattered down.
'Shake with excitement!' Don't you love that? I hope each of you also experienced such joy in your springs.

She writes about her friend George plowing the fields.
I think a man who plows rides the world. You can feel the great old Mother Earth being released from winter rigidity, and giving again her richness to mankind. You feel the mystery of growth which so far man has not destroyed. Plant well, says the soil, and I will nourish you once again.
And as I have felt so many times in the past few months, Gladys could be writing today. She is concerned because
My favorite view near New Milford is destined to go when that gracious and green valley is flooded by the power company. ... It gives one to think. For nothing is secure. Bred in the tradition that a man's home is his castle, we now know that is not so at all. At any door, a tall man may knock, with a paper to sign. Or a great gas main can be laid right through a special cherished garden. We see the denuded forest every time we go to the village, and only a big orangey pump affair protrudes above the ragged earth.
Eventually somebody has got to decide how to protect the rural agricultural areas. For the big cities need tons of milk and it takes pastures and cows for milk. You can never pump it out of a faucet. Thanksgiving tables need fat crispy turkeys and that means turkey farms. As the city developments move out, the farm land diminishes.
Here in New England, it will be a problem, maybe in my time, certainly not long after. The balance must be maintained, particularly in this part of the country where distances are small and so easily swallowed up.
And then, here she is, ever forward thinking, on the local food movement.
The great Midwest can feed us all, I expect, but then the problem of transportation enters in. How many freight cars, how many refrigerated trucks needed to carry vegetables and fruits enough - and meat - and eggs - ... I think it is more feasible in the long run for the egg woman to deliver two dozen fresh eggs a week from the next road over, than to ship eggs from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Economics is too complex for me. But I have instincts about supply and demand which I believe in. And I shall always feel a carrot next door is better than a carrot from Ames, Iowa, all things being equal.

Rachel starts off her April installment with she and her husband, Richard mixing up the grass seed for fields. Richard has
kept accurate records of grass mixtures used on each field and therefore knows what proportion does best in each. He said: "It's my ambition to have the water clear enough to drink when it runs off this farm. A two-inch rain will run off muddy, and muddy water will carry away three tons of topsoil to the acre. That's as much as a small farmer can build up in a year's good management."
Here Rachel, too is forward thinking and ahead of her time.
There is a particular blessing to be had from walking in a woods or a field from which no other harvest is exacted except that blessing. As the population of the world steadily increases and land is nibbled away for public uses, the human hunger for mere space becomes continually more insistent.
Rachel's own exclamation of spring's delight:
Oh, April, how gay, how welcome you are!
Each month I am delighted with the animal stories offered in Rural Free. April's was about how a mother cow thinks she has hidden her calf from the farmer, but
You go out to the field, and if you're not watching right then, you'll miss the cue. When she sees you coming, she'll look right straight to where the calf's hid, because the thought of the calf pops into her head before the thought of deception.
Such are the things we notice when we live with animals whether they be cows or sheep or dogs. And our lives are richer for the knowledge we attain.

There is poetry in Rachel's description of clothes on the line.
Sheets on the clothesline this morning flap in mighty applause. The sound comes in distinctly through the house walls; and, when they flap, reflected sunlight rolls and leaps from the sheets like crumbs being shaken from a Sunday dinner's tablecloth.
Joe, who was in the above video, expresses what most of us wrestle with all through life.
"Sometimes," remarked the seventeen-year-old son, "I wish I had a broken leg or something, so I could just walk slowly up to the woods - just take my time and see everything, the leaves, the bugs, everything. And enjoy myself."
"Well, goodness," exclaimed I, "you can do that anyway, without having a broken leg!"
"No," he insisted sadly, "if you're all right, you have to be working. You're always in a hurry to get some place else. You don't have time to go slow and enjoy yourself."

Well, as I noted, next month is the end of our visits with these two wonderful women. I find myself feeling sad, and already thinking about ways to continue in some way.


  1. Rachel is still sitting on my bookcase unread - I shall take down 'Rural Free' right now and make a start on it later today!

    1. She writes about the things you are interested in, and I think you'll like her writing.

  2. Oh, do find a way to continue! I really enjoy reading the excerpts, and they certainly make you reflect on life, and the things that matter, and what has been lost to modernisation/progress etc over the years. It was nice to see the pictures and learn something about them.

    1. Thank you for your encouragement! I think I definitely will, though in a different way. I'll let you know next month.

  3. I'm so glad you will continue, I love these posts and, living in the UK, would never have heard of these women without them. Perrenial wisom and so modestly written, just like your blog Nan.

    1. What a very nice thing to say! 'Modesty written' - I'm quite sure that's my English soul, don't you think? :<)
      I have just this morning come up with my new scheme, and I think you'll like it. Hint: this next time there will be an English writer involved. I'll let you know next month!

  4. Always get confused about the r's and n's in perennial....spelling was never my strong point

    1. I know just what you mean. There are several words I constantly have trouble with.

  5. Two interesting women, I do hope you continue. On the same (very loose) theme of recording nature, etc, are you familiar with Gilbert White, Nan? 18th century naturalist who kept detailed diaries. His house is about 25 miles north of us and well worth a visit if anyone's coming over here!

  6. I've just this morning come up with a scheme which involves an English writer and Gladys Taber. More next month about this. :<) I think you'll like it.
    And yes, I do 'know' Mr White! There was a nice mention of him in the Edwin Way Teale book I read called Springtime in Britain. I think for a while I was reading a blog put together of his readings. Let me go look...

    I'd love to visit his house, and explore that part of the country.

    And coincidentally, I've just planned something for my summer reading with EWT.

  7. Oh how I loved this post. I just requested Stillmeadow from my library. They don't have any of Rachel's books though so I'm going to buy one from Amazon. These have just touched me in a way I have yet to explain!

    Please continue on with these two amazing women some how!!

    1. Thank you! I do have a scheme in mind but it will just be Gladys and someone else. More next month. :<) I'll read Rachel's other two books separately and all at once because they aren't arranged the way this one was.

  8. Nan, thank you for letting me join you as my day ends. I always feel as though I have visited a special friend or neighbor when I read these books. These books are among the many that are by my old leather chair. Guess they are waiting for a rainy day. Staying busy from sunup to sundown at this time of year.

  9. From the comments above, I see that you have something more in mind for Gladys and I will certainly look forward to whatever that may be, Nan. This has been such a wonderful series that I look forward to each month. As to the quote :Surely never was spring so wonderful, such a miracle!" - yes, indeed, I do feel that way as well come spring.

    1. Thank you so very much for your nice thoughts.

  10. Are you familiar with the author Patricia Penton Leimbach? Her writing is somewhat like Rachel's. She writes about the joys and realities of farm life. Her family farm, End o'Way, is near Vermilion, Ohio. To quote the book jacket of one of her works, Harvest of Bittersweet: "Patricia Leimbach writes with homespun humor, introspection, and unmistakable enthusiasm about everyday life in a small community." In addition to owning Harvest of Bittersweet, I also own All My Meadows. She also wrote A Thread of Blue Denim. I believe these books were written in the 1970's and perhaps 1980's. If my math is correct, she would be 85 if she is still living. I haven't read these books for years but pulled them off the shelf this afternoon after reading your post. Think I will reacquaint myself with them this evening when all is quiet and my time is my own.

  11. Thank you so much for coming by to tell me about her. I had not heard of her, just as I hadn't heard of Rachel Peden not too long ago. I've done a search to find out more and will definitely look into finding her books. I found a nice review of A Thread of Blue Denim here if you'd like to read it.

    A while back someone recommended Hill Song by Lee Pennock Huntington. I haven't gotten a copy yet, but it too sounds like it might be the same kind of wonderful book.

    Thanks again.

  12. I'm currently re-reading Stillmeadow Daybook
    I especially like that 'journals' can be read in bits whenever I have a few moments.
    Whenever I read Gladys Tabor I recall how much my Mother looked forward to her Butternut Wisdom column each month in Family Circle.
    I'm chuckling this time around that the references to Gladys' father in Daybook are a more restrained description of his eccentricities than in Especially Father--which is devoted to him.
    I'm pleased that you are acquiring Hill Song; I think it will become a favorite for you. At the time it was being compiled the Huntingtons lived on the other side of Brandon Gap in the chillier part of the Green Mountains, while I lived for many years in the Champlain Valley.
    Reading Hill Song I thought of Lee Pennock Huntington as a contemporary and was later surprised to learn she was born in the same year [1916] as my Dad.

    1. Don't you just love that name 'Butternut Wisdom?' How I'd love to have read the pieces as they came out.
      Amazing you should say that since I feel that way about Gladys Taber and Rachel Peden.


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