Scramble or Fry? Oh My!

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“In all times and in all ages, among all races and in all lands, as far back as written history and tradition can be traced, the egg has ever been regarded as chief among Nature’s most precious gifts to mankind”.  No truer statement has ever been made.  Eggs as food are dateless, and recorded recipes date from those of Apicius, famous epicure of ancient Rome.  Preparation techniques changed little initially, but in 1665 Robert May told readers about sixty-two ways of cooking eggs.

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Any bird or reptile which lays eggs may nourish a human whether it be lizard, alligator, fish, turtle, terrapin, turtle, water bird, etc. On the farm we eat duck, goose, and turkey eggs right along with the chicken eggs.

I tailor my usage according to what my hens produce and have not bought eggs in almost four years.  When my hens lay extra eggs I can look for recipes which require a larger number of eggs.  Let’s look at ways great grandma might have prepared her eggs.

The most important advice pertains to determining freshness unless gathered faithfully daily.  I use the floating in water method, keeping sinkers, discarding floaters and any that stand on end more than a slight degree.  Boiled freshly gathered eggs do not peel well.

“Eggs are not fit for any purpose unless they are perfectly fresh.  An easy method of ascertaining the freshness of an egg is to hold it toward the sun or toward a good light.  If fresh, it will be perfectly clear; if it is clear on one side and cloudy on the other, it is stale.  Another good test is to place the eggs in a pan filled with water; those that sink to the bottom are perfectly fresh; if they float at the top or stand on end in the water, they are unfit for use”.  Filippini, Alexander.  “One Hundred Ways of Cooking Eggs”.  1892.

EGGS TO CODDLE.  Mrs. Bliss.  “Practical Cook Book”.  1850.  Break the eggs and slip them separately, so as not to break the yolks, into a stew-pan of boiling water, let the whites just set, then take them up in a skimmer, drain off the water, and serve on slices of buttered toast.

EGGS AND TOMATOES.  Bliss.  Peel six tomatoes and cut them in slices into a stew-pan, add two table-spoonfuls of butter, a little salt and pepper; when they begin to stew, break in six eggs, stir well, and serve.  This is a nice dish for breakfast.

EGGS A LA DEUX.  “Better Food”.  1917.  Cut four hard-cooked eggs in slices, add one cup of tender cooked ham cut in cubes, half a cup of fresh mushrooms broken in pieces, and two cups of white sauce.  Mix lightly, turn into a baking dish, cover with buttered crumbs and let bake until the crumbs are browned.

SCALLOPED EGGS WITH CHEESE.  “Twentieth Century Cook Book”.  1921.  4 hard-cooked eggs, 2 cups White Sauce, ½ cup cheese cut fine, ½ cup buttered crumbs.  Cut eggs in eights lengthwise; put half of them into a greased baking dish, cover with half of sauce, and sprinkle with half of cheese; repeat; cover with crumbs, and bake about fifteen minutes or until crumbs are brown.  [These were also called Eggs Au Gratin.  We had this for Father’s Day breakfast].

ASPARAGUS A LA WESTMINSTER.  Frich.  “The Housewife’s Cook Book”.  1917.  Buttered toast, scrambled eggs, grated cheese, white sauce.  Arrange scrambled eggs on buttered toast, asparagus on top of scrambled eggs, and grated cheese on top of asparagus.  Serve with hot white sauce.

EGG CROQUETTES.  “The Home Cook Book”.  1905.  Boil four eggs till they are perfectly hard.  Then rub through a fine sieve [mash], add three tablespoons of cream, a dash of pepper, a saltspoon of salt, and stir well all together.  Add also a teaspoon of butter.  Stir thoroughly and thicken with pulverized cracker stiff enough to form into balls.  Make up in little balls, roll each ball in cracker dust and drop into deep, hot fat.  When the croquettes are brown, take out with a perforated or wire spoon and drain.  Serve with crisp, hot bacon or cold with a lettuce salad.

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PICKLED EGGS.  Home.  1905.  First boil the eggs half an hour.  Drop them in cold water to cool, remove the shells and put the eggs in an earthen or glass jar.  Cover them with hot vinegar.  Or if you wish to give them a spiced flavor, pour over them vinegar in which peppers, allspice, cardamom seeds, and cloves have been boiled. . .Let them stand twenty-four hours before serving.  [Pickled eggs are a tremendous time saver when making salads and add a bit of extra flavor].

BAKED EGGS WITH MASHED POTATOES.  “The Rural Cook Book”.  1907.  The potatoes should be well seasoned, and beaten smooth with hot cream or milk and butter, so they will be very light.  Put in a buttered baking dish, and then . . . make deep little hollows in the potatoes.  Drop an uncooked egg carefully into each of these hollows, dust with salt and pepper, and dot the top with bits of butter; set in the oven until the eggs are cooked and serve at once.

STEWED SPINACH AND EGGS.  Glasse, Hannah.  “The Art of Cookery”.  1788.  Pick and wash your spinach very clean, put it into a saucepan, with a little salt; cover it close, shake the pan often.  When it is just tender, and whilst it is green, throw it into a sieve to drain, lay it into your dish.  In the mean time have a stew-pan of water boiling, break as many eggs into cups as you would poach.  When the water boils put in the eggs, have an egg-slice ready to take them out with, lay them on the spinach, and garnish the dish with orange cut into quarters, with melted butter in a cup.

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THE FARMSTEAD KITCHEN GARDEN

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“The garden should be about four times as long as it is broad, unfenced when possible, near to the house and should be in miniature, a farm with the cereals, grasses, and large fruits left out.  The side farthest from the dwelling should be devoted to the perennial plants, such as grapes, currants, and other bush-fruits.  Everything should be planted in straight rows, with spaces sufficiently wide between the rows to admit of horse-hoe culture.  The grapes and blackberries might occupy one row, the raspberries and currants a second row, rhubarb, asparagus and like plants a third row.  The spaces between these various fruits should be eight feet, as it is poor economy to so crowd vines a nd bushes as to force them to struggle the year through for plant-food and moisture. . . The rows of ordinary vegetables may be thirty inches apart, except in case of such plants as onions, lettuce, and early beets.  These small, slow-growing esculents should be planted in double rows.  Starting from the last row of potatoes a thirty inch space is measured off, a row of lettuce planted, and then one foot from this a row of beets or onions; then have a space thirty inches wide and again plant double rows, if more of the small esculents are wanted.  The larger spaces may be cultivated by horse-hoe and the smaller spaces by hand-hoe.  The entire garden which is to be planted in the spring should be kept fertile and plowed early in the spring, leaving that part of it which is not designed for immediate planting unharrowed.  It may be necessary to replow.  It certainly will be necessary to cultivate several times that part of the garden which is used for late-growing crops, such as cabbage and celery. . . As a rule, the garden should not be fenced, but the chickens should be restrained by fences a part of the time; at other times they may have free access to the garden, where they are often very beneficial in reducing the insect enemies.”  – Roberts, Isaac Phillips.  “The FarmStead”.  1902.

Cardinals: The South’s Colorful Songster

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This past weekend I found a bird nest in one of my climbing rose bushes and carefully watched to see what sort of bird had laid the three eggs in it.  Wild birds are Nature’s adornment for the farmstead and it turned out my visiting nester is a female cardinal.  I wish her great success in hatching the eggs although her choice of nesting site is going to make caring for the roses a little difficult for a few weeks.  I really hope a snake doesn’t make a meal of her babies and we can enjoy their beauty and song as they discover their wings and take flight.  Its song is so pleasing as to have earned it the nickname Virginia Nightingale as early as 1834 and likely much earlier.   Let’s see what our forebears had to say about this lovely songster.

“The Cardinals are noted singers.  Both sexes sing, but the song of the male is more frequent and a louder and clearer whistle. . .To the young in the nest he [the male] is an untiring provider of worms and grubs, and thus most useful in the garden.  Nothing can be more comical than his behavior when he first conducts his young family out into the world while his mate is engaged with her second sitting.  He is as fussy as any young mother, hopping about in great excitement, and appearing to think the whole world thirsting for the life of his pretty little ones”.  – “Birds & Nature Magazine”.  June 1904.

“After the robin the cardinal’s nest is the easiest to find, and perhaps the most common.  Nests are usually placed low in bushes, or at moderate heights in thickets and saplings.  Grape-vine tangles and porch trellises are favorite places and occasionally nests are saddled upon horizontal limbs of trees.

In construction the nest varies from tidy to disreputable, according to skill and season.  A typical one is composed externally of long stiff weeds and leaf stems, and measures roughly seven inches across, with an extreme of thirteen inches.  Next comes a mat of dead leaves, mostly beech [no beech near us].  Inside this in turn is a tough basket work of grape-vine bark and a lining of fine fresh grass cured in the nest.  It measures, inside, three and a quarter inches in width and two and a half in depth.

The eggs are quite variable; even those in the same nest are hard to reconcile, both as to shape and markings.  Because of the similarity in appearance, cowbirds’ eggs are easily imposed upon the cardinal.  Professor Jones and I once found a nest with the bird on whose three eggs were to the best of our judgement the combined products of as many cowbirds.

The young hatch out in about fourteen days, and are ready to leave the nest in ten days more.  The father is especially devoted to his offspring, and often cares for them while the female is busy with another nest. “   Have a delightful summer, gentle reader, and visit often.  “Birds and Nature in Natural Colors”.   1914.

American Beauty Berry

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Either I just never paid attention to it or the native American Beautyberry bush was not common in my niche of southern middle Tennessee and Northwest Alabama because one of the first things I noticed when I moved farther South was a bush with the most remarkably striking purple berries.  The small berries grow in a ball shape around the ends of the limbs so that while the berries are small from a distance the purple is quite striking against a green backdrop.

I quickly purchased a bush which I promptly transplanted when we moved to the farm only to find them growing wild anywhere the guineas or wild birds dropped seed.  I have let most of them grow wherever they decide to volunteer.  It is a large sprawling shrub if left to its own devices or it can be pruned in winter to control its size.  There is a white berried variety, however, in my opinion it can’t compare with the purple.

Beauty bush is native to the southeastern U.S. and is referred to as American beautyberry, sourbush, bunchberry, and falsely as French mulberry by some.  It is not a mulberry nor is it French.

It can be propagated from seed or softwood cuttings.  If preferred, it can be grown in a container.

It looks quite nice in fresh flower arrangements.  Berries are also edible.  While they don’t impress me much in flavor fresh off the bush they can be used to make jelly, tea, and wine.

Many sources indicate they repel mosquitoes and biting insects.  Charles T. Bryson, botanist in Stoneville, Miss. reported that his grandfather cut branches with the leaves still on and crushed the leaves then put them between the horse and the harness to repel deerflies, horseflies, and mosquitoes.  Forty years later he still crushes leaves and rubs them on his skin to repel insects.  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060703091932.htm

The USDA Agricultural Research Service at the University of Mississippi conducted experiments and concluded that infusions of leaves and stems did, in fact, repel ticks, mosquitoes, and possibly fire ants.  The naturally occurring compounds in beautyberry that repel insects are callicarpenal, intermedeol, and spathulenol.  All three chemicals repulsed mosquitoes that carry malaria and yellow fever.  Mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus were not tested in the study.  The USDA-ARS has since filed for a patent using callicarpenal as an anthropod repellent.  Seeing such an insect repellent on the market is not likely to happen any time soon, however, as it can take years to register a product with the EPA and conduct the exhaustive tests required.  In the meantime I recommend planting your own beautyberries and either rubbing the crushed leaves on the skin or trying a recipe for making beautyberry spray or cream.  Don’t forget to whip up a snack while you’re at it – perhaps pound cake with a little beautyberry jelly and whipped cream on top.   https://pubag.nal.usda.gov/download/3640/PDF

BEAUTY BERRY JELLY.

1 ½ quarts of berries, washed and cleaned.  Put in a heavy pot and cover with 2 quarts of water.  Boil 15 to 20 minutes and strain.  Bring 3 cups of the juice to a boil.  Add 1 package of Sure-Jell, 4 ½ cups sugar, and the juice of one lemon.  Bring to a second boil and boil for two minutes.  Remove from the heat, skim off any foam and then pour the jelly into sterilized jars and put on flats and rings.

BEAUTYBERRY INSECT REPELLENT.

Use a combination of chopped stems and bark and leaves.  Put 1 to 2 cups of chopped leaves and stems in a quart jar and fill with boiling water.  Let set at least 4 hours or overnight.  Strain.  Fill an 8 ounce spray bottle half full of the infusion.  Add witch hazel almost to the top – leave a 2 ounce space. Add essential oil of your choice.  Shake before using.

BEAUTYBERRY INSECT REPELLENT CREAM.

Make the infusion as in the previous recipe.  Put 1 ½ cups of infusion in the blender.  Put 1 cup neem oil and 1 ounce of beeswax in a small pot and heat until melted.  Turn on the blender and slowly pour in the oil mixture.  It will thicken and become a cream.

Croquettes: Tasty Pockets of Goodness©

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Photo:  Wikipedia

Salmon comes to mind when one thinks about croquettes, however, croquettes can be made out of any chopped meat – with or without potato and parsley, rice, pasta, grain, vegetable, fruit and even nuts.  They were, and remain, an economical way to turn left-overs into a tasty new dish.

Croquettes were were either made by hand shaping the meat mixture into a cone or flat cake or shaped in a croquette mold.  They were then dipped in egg, rolled in crumbs, and fried brown.  “The ideal croquette should be soft and creamy inside when served, and yet keep its shape, and be crisp and brown outside . . .The derivation of the word croquette hints at something crisp or crackling.”  Molds were first buttered then sprinkled with crumbs for the first croquette then subsequently sprinkled with crumbs before molding the remaining mixture.

“MYSTERY” CROQUETTES.  “Mrs. Owens’ New Cook Book”.  [This is an excellent recipe which can be used to make any sort of croquette.]  Take any bits of cold fish, flesh, or fowl, any or all, chop fine with 2 hard boiled eggs and ½ cup cold potatoes.  To a pint of the mixture add a raw egg, a scant tablespoon flour and a teaspoon of melted butter.  Form into croquettes; dip in egg and sifted crumbs and fry in hot fat.

CHICKEN CROQUETTES.  “Southern Cooking”.  1912.  For Chicken Croquettes.  To make one dozen croquettes.  Select three and one half pounds of chicken and boil well done, take the meat and chop very fine, use one pint of flour, 2 raw eggs, parsley, salt and pepper.  [Shape into patties and fry in butter.]

TURKEY CROQUETTES SEASONED WITH POTATO AND EGGS.  “Palatable Dishes”.  1891.  Cut the meat from one turkey, removing all fat, skin, gristle, and bones.  Mash about eight cold boiled potatoes.  Chop finely six hard-boiled eggs.  Mix these ingredients well together; add a gill of white wine, salt and pepper to taste.  Make into croquettes, and brown them nicely in butter, serving them very hot.

CROQUETTES OF CRABS.  “Palatable Dishes”.  1891.  One pint of solid meat.  After the crabs are boiled and the meat is picked out, measure it.  Put in a double saucepan, half a pint of cream.  Rub to a cream one heaping tablespoonful of butter and three heaping tablespoonfuls of sifted flour, then stir this into the hot cream gradually; stir rapidly until you have a thick, smooth paste.  Now add the beaten yolks of two eggs; take from the fire, then add one tablespoonful of chopped parsley, half a teaspoonful of onion juice, a pinch of cayenne pepper, one even teaspoonful of salt, and two hard-boiled eggs chopped very fine; mix thoroughly.  Now add the crab meat and set aside to cool; then form into little cones or pyramids, dip in egg and fine bread-crumbs.  Fry a rich brown in boiling hot fat, garnish with parsley or water-cress.  Serve hot with cream sauce.  Hard-shell crabs are the best for croquettes; it will take one dozen to make a pint of meat.

SAUSAGE CROQUETTES.  “Palatable Dishes”.  Take one pound of nicely seasoned sausage meat, two raw potatoes grated fine, half a cupful of grated bread-crumbs, one egg beaten light, one tablespoonful of chopped parsley or celery, three tablespoonfuls of milk, salt, and pepper to taste.  Mix all well together.  Make into little patties or rolls; fry in the spider [skillet] in a little half butter and lard.  Serve hot, garnished with parsley.

SALMON CROQUETTES:  “Mrs. Owens’ New Cook Book”.  1897.  One can salmon, an equal quantity of mashed potatoes.  Make into little cakes, roll in white of egg and rolled cracker and fry.

SALMON CROQUETTES:  “Mrs. Owens”.  #2:  One cup picked up salmon, ½ cup mashed potatoes and ½ cup bread crumbs.  Heat a cup of milk to boiling and stir into it 1 tablespoon butter made smooth with 2 tablespoons flour.  Add to this 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, the salmon, potato, and bread crumbs.  Season palatably with pepper and salt and pour into a buttered platter to cool.  Form into shapes, dip in egg and crumbs and fry in hot fat until brown.

GREEN [FRESH] CORN CROQUETTES.  “Mrs. Owens”.  1 quart young, tender, grated green corn, 1 cup sifted flour, 1 cup sweet milk, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 eggs, 1 saltspoon salt [to taste], and same of pepper.  Grate the corn [cut from the cob] as fine as possible, and mix with the flour, pepper and salt.  Warm the milk and melt the butter in it.  Add the corn, stir hard, and let cool.  Then stir the eggs beaten very light, the whites added last.  Work into small oval balls, and fry in hot fat.  Drain and serve hot.

SWEET POTATO CROQUETTES.  “Palatable Dishes”.  When boiled and mashed, take one pint and a half of the potato, mash them smooth, and beat into them three-quarters of a cupful of hot milk, one teaspoonful of salt, and three heaping gablespoonfuls of butter.  Beat two eggs light and add them to the mixture, beating in thoroughly.  Now form into croquettes.  Dip into egg, then bread-crumbs, and fry in hot fat until a rich brown.  Serve immediately.

POTATO CROQUETTES.  Season cold mashed potato with pepper, salt, and nutmeg.  Beat to a cream with a tablespoon of melted butter to every cup of potato.  Bind with 2 beaten eggs, and add 1 teaspoon minced parsley.  Roll into oval balls, dip in beaten egg, then in bread crumbs, and fry.

HOMINY CROQUETTES.  “Housekeeper’s and Mothers’ Manual”.  1895.  Soften a cupful of cold, boiled hominy or hominy grits, with a cupful of sweet milk and a well beaten egg.  Mix thoroughly and season with salt and butter and a dash of pepper.  Form into croquettes, dip in beaten egg and cracker dust and fry in boiling lard.

CHEESE CROQUETTES.  “The Warren Cook Book.”  1920.  2 cups grated cheese, 1 cup fine bread crumbs, salt and cayenne to taste; form into small balls; dip into beaten eggs and fine cracker crumbs; fry in boiling fat; serve with salads.

HAM CROQUETTES.  “How We Cook in Tennessee”.  1906.  Run cold boiled ham through meat chopper, also one hard boiled egg.  To every cup of ground meat put one cup rolled bread crumbs and one hard boiled egg.  Add pepper and nutmeg to taste.  When ready to use, wet up with sweet cream, make out in croquettes and fry.

BRAIN CROQUETTES.  “How We Cook in Tennessee”.  Two sets hog brains, two eggs, cracker crumbs.  Parboil the brains, allow them to cool, chop fine, beating in the eggs and a few crumbs with salt and pepper to taste.  Make into shapes, roll in crumbs and fry in hot lard.

Poultry Waterers

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2-piece redware, 19th century

In some strange manner it intrigues me when I have a problem with poultry keeping and in doing random research find the same problem discussed a hundred years or more ago.  Such was the case with chicken waterers.  We try to use the type in which the container is filled while upside down, the base affixed, then the waterer flipped so that the water trickles out into the base as needed.  It works well usually although I confess to less than 100% comprehension of the principle by which it works even after Dear Husband has explained it multiple times, but it does not work well in a small confined space.

1875 Palatine, WV

The problem with this system is that in a small space a hen with young chicks fills the base with dirt.  In her never-ending scratching the hen plows through the sandy earth flinging the soil behind into the base of the waterer and in short order the whole contraption is completely and hopelessly clogged with no access to water.

1 gal. attributed to Grier Pottery, Chester Co., PA abt 1870

Someone identifying himself as “Cock of the Walk”, did a review of this type waterer in 1873 and described exactly the same issue.  He concluded with, “Now sir, you will excuse this long tirade when I say that my object is to request some of your correspondents to inform me if I have proved myself incapable “to run the machine,” and that he will inform me if there is to be found anything better and more efficiently adapted to the purpose of supplying water for chickens in coops.”  While this gentleman’s waterer was made of crockery and ours is plastic the principle is the same, and no, dear sir, all these years later we are still plagued with this inadequacy.

McCoy, date unknown

Just as today poultry keepers were always searching for a better waterer and as often as not they fashioned one from materials found about the home place just as we do.  “I have about a peck of good fresh sugar-trough gourd seed that I dislike to destroy.  If any one will send a two-cent stamp for mailing a package I will send some seeds free.  The gourds are large, convenient, and useful.  They make cheap and excellent troughs for watering chickens. . .”.  I suspect gourds have served as drinking vessels for countless generations.

redware waterer, 19th c, A. G. C. Dipple, Lewistown, PA mark

Prior to the second half of the Victorian era one of the best sources of information is early Dutch paintings.  Many of the paintings feature a natural water source – a spring, small creek, pond, etc. – which leads me to believe in those days prior to modern plumbing such sources may have been so common poultry simply drank from the stream or pond.  The closest thing I’ve found to a waterer from the 18th century or earlier is a shallow redware dish in a few of the paintings.

Red wing

My usual closing, “Blissful Meals”, isn’t especially appropriate but I’ll say it anyway.  I hope you enjoyed the piece.

Bib:  Poultry World.  Aug. 1881; Gleanings in Bee Culture.  April 1, 1893.

BREED FOR HEALTH AS WELL AS TRAITS©

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In 1935 the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) was introduced to ensure the health and well-being of American flocks and since then has grown to include 49 states who seek to regulate the health of chickens and other poultry including game breeds and show birds.  At least for backyard flocks participation in NPIP is voluntary, probably appealing to those who may want to sell or trade birds more so than to someone with three hens in suburbia kept for eggs and companionship.  For commercial growers NPIP means Americans can expect healthy birds to set on their dinner tables.

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Even with NPIP to encourage biosecurity measures and healthy habits common sense goes a long way in raising poultry.  The best example I can think of is for breeding top quality Americaunas with the trademark muffs and beards, red earlobes, wattles and combs one would naturally choose parents with the best of all of these characteristics as breeding stock rather than purchasing a mixed breed and hoping for that one chick that might possess the desired traits.

Perusing the online Breeders Directory makes a lot more sense than shopping flea markets and taking chances with the lineage of breeding stock.  If one’s only interest is eggs for the table then by all means choose whatever appeals to the senses, but if there is any desire for producing quality chicks for sale or show then step up your game and research breeders and breeds.  Now, let’s see what grandpa might have advised.

It is one of the well-known laws of heredity that “like produces like,”—what is bred in the fowl will out in the chick.  The tendencies to certain habits are readily transmitted from parent to offspring and when handed down for a number of generations, the tendency becomes more firmly fixed.

To have healthy poultry we should breed for health as carefully as for any desired standard point.  Breeding for health should be in the foremost consideration since with the habit of health firmly fixed in the flock we have a solid bed-rock foundation on which to build up a strain well fitted to develop all other desirable qualities.  Breeding for health should begin not alone with the parent stock, but if possible with the grandparents.

In selecting breeding stock be sure to accept only strong, vigorous, healthy specimens, birds which are well developed, fully matured and which have never had any serious illness. . . No matter how good a specimen a bird may be, if it is not mature, does not possess size, vigor and a sound constitution, do not permit it to take a place in the breeding pen. . . Spending several dollars worth time and medicine in an attempt to cure a dollar bird, thereby endangering the health of the balance of the flock, is suicidal policy. . .

Inbreeding is bad practice.  Hereditary tendencies possessed alike by both parents are prone to be exaggerated in the chicks.  For this reason never mate males and females possessing the same fault.

Additions to the poultry yard should be made with the greatest care, both as to the choice of birds to be introduced so far as their breeding and characteristics are concerned, and their state of health.  It is to be pointed out that frequently a strange bird has been the means of introducing disease into a previously healthy yard—disease that has taken months to eradicate.  The system adopted by careful breeders is to keep purchased fowls by themselves for two or three weeks, so that any incipient disease may have time to declare itself and that the condition of the bird may be fully observed.

Bib:  Reliable Poultry Remedies.  1913.  “Poultry-keeping as an Industry for Farmers and Cottagers”.  1906.

National Poultry Improvement  Plan, 1506 Klondike Rd., Suite 101, Conyers, GA  30094, 770-922-3496.

The Celebrated Bremen Geese of Ten Hills Farm©

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Researching who was “the” first to introduce something to North America is a very laborious process, and one for which there is sometimes no definitive answer.  In previous centuries, when someone encountered a new plant or animal, it was to them, the first, but because there was no instantaneous exchange of information it may have simply been the first that they knew of, and not necessarily the first to arrive on our shores.  The Emden goose is just such a case.  Two men have been credited with introducing the geese to the U.S., both of whom were capable breeders, but only one could have been the first.

First, we should note that in the earliest years of the 19th century the Emden was known as the Bremen goose in America because that was the port from which they were shipped.  The town of Bremen had no more to do with raising geese than any other European town of the day.  Nevertheless, to research the earliest North American history of the Emden is to search for the Bremen.

The port at Bremen, Germany is one of the oldest and most successful in Europe.  Market rights were conferred on Bremen in 965 and the increase in mercantile activities brought about an economic boom by 1358.  By the 18th century it was a major point of departure for emigrants and cargo alike.

Two accounts published prior to 1823 say Mr. James Sisson of Warren, Rhode Island imported geese.  The first did not specify what part of Europe the geese came from or what they were called.

“The Plough Boy and Journal of the Board of Agriculture”, [Dec. 23, 1820] contained the following brief notice.  “James Sisson, Esq., of Warren, has lately received from the north of Europe two pairs of geese, of such size that when fatted and dressed they frequently weigh upwards of 30 pounds a piece”.

The second piece from the “American Farmer”, Sept. 13, 1822, said Mr. Sisson had geese “brought from Bremen” (the port) in Nov., 1822; it still did not call them the Bremen geese or say where they were raised.  Since Mr. Sisson, himself, gave a later date for his importation of the Bremen geese (known to the English as the Emden) his first purchase in 1820 could have been a different breed altogether.  In fact, Lewis Wright said, “The naturalists of Embden, and others, do not consider the Embden represents a distinct breed.  The geese on the north coasts of Holland and north-western Germany, and the white Flemish goose bred in Belgium and northern France, may all be considered to be of much the same race.  The ordinary birds of Friesland also resemble in many respects the variety known as Pomeranian, especially when the latter are white”.

Not nearly as much was published about Mr. Sisson as the second gentleman in our study, but he was recognized as a capable agriculturist as evidenced by an article in “The New England Farmer’s Almanac”, published Sat., August 24, 1822.  “He is always seeking improvements in what is most useful to his fellow-citizens, viz. Orchards, the introduction of new kinds of Grain, the best mode of cultivating his farm, &c.”

Almost ten years later an issue of “A New Family Encyclopaedia” contained an account of Mr. Sisson’s Bremen geese.  “They [Bremen geese] were first imported, we believe, by Mr. James Sisson, of Warren, (R. I.) who received a premium, in October, 1826, from the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry, for the exhibition of some geese of this breed.”

Supporting the 1826 date for Mr. Sisson’s importing of the geese is an article from the “Genesee Farmer”, dated June 9, 1832, in which Mr. Sisson is quoted from a letter that he wrote to Mr. James Deering published in the “New England Farmer”, vol. iv page 44.  “In the fall of 1826, I imported from Bremen, (north of Germany,) 3 full blooded perfectly white geese.  I have sold their progeny for three successive seasons; the first year at $15 the pair, and two succeeding years at $12. They, “lay in February and set and hatch with more certainty than the common barnyard goose, will weigh nearly, and in some cases quite twice the weight, have double the quantity of feathers, never fly, and are all of a beautiful snowy whiteness.  I have sold them all over the interior of New-York; two or three pairs in Virginia; as many in Baltimore, North Carolina, and Connecticut, and in several towns in the vicinity of Boston.  I have one flock half-blooded that weigh on an average, when fatted, thirteen to fifteen pounds; the full blooded weigh twenty pounds”.

“Large Geese.—We yesterday saw in a wagon a pair of young geese, raised by James Sisson, Esq. of Warren, of very large size, being now only three months old.  The breed was imported from East Friesland last fall, in the ship North America, Capt. Child, who asserts these geese frequently grow to upwards of twenty pounds dressed.  They are very full of soft fine feathers, which is an article of exportation from that country, and very much sought for in Germany, Holland, and England. These geese are the first of this breed which has ever been imported into the United States.  –Prov. Pat.”  – “The New-York Farmer, and Horticultural Repository”, Vol. 1.  June 1828.

For Sisson’s geese to have been brought over the previous fall they would have come in the fall of 1827, the above article being published in June of 1828.  There are numerous accounts published from the 1830’s through the 1850’s that support the 1826/7 date.

In 1837, Mr. Sisson received a premium from the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry for his geese which he sold for $6. per pair, half what he had formerly asked.  The editor noted that Col. Jaques of the Ten Hills Stock Farm, Charlestown, Mass. offered them at the same price.  – “New England Farmer, and Horticultural Journal”.  May 23, 1837.

Here we add John Giles, of Providence, R. I. to the mix although no account was found suggesting he’d been the first to own them like the other two gentleman.  He had geese imported from Bremen at just about the same time as Mr. Sisson.  Both men advertised the geese for sale in various New England publications.  Giles was a Vice-President of the New England Society for the Improvement of Domestic Fowls as was Col. Samuel Jaques, the next subject in our discussion.  It is obvious the three men knew each other and they may have purchased stock one from another.  – “The New England Farmer”.  March 16, 1850.

John Giles was a successful livestock breeder as was evidenced by the number of times he is found on lists of premiums earned from the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry fairs.  On Sept. 26, 1844, Giles took prizes for his Leicester buck, four Leicester ewes, a Marlin boar, the best milk cow, the best three year old heifer, and the best two year old heifer. – “New England Farmer”.  Oct. 16, 1844.

Samuel Jáques, Jr., Esq. wrote in a letter from Ten Hills Farm, near Boston, dated Dec. 12, 1850, an account of Bremen geese brought to the U.S. by his father, Col. Samuel  Jáques, Sr., in 1821.  “…In the winter of 1820, a gentleman, a stranger, made a brief call at my father’s house; and, in course of conversation, casually mentioned, that, during his travels in the interior of Germany, he had noticed a pure white breed of Geese, of unusual size, whose weight, he supposed, would not fall much short of twenty-five pounds each, providing they were well fed and managed.  At that period, a friend of my father’s—the late Eben Rollins, Esq., of Boston—kept a correspondence with the house of Dallias & Co., in Bremen, and at his request, Mr. Rollins ordered, through that firm, and on my father’s account, two Ganders and four Geese of the breed mentioned by the Stranger gentleman.  The Geese arrived to order in Boston, in the month of October, 1821; and I append a copy of “Directions relative to the Geese from Bremen,” given to the captain of the ship in which they arrived.  I hold the original in my possession…

Ever since my father imported the Bremen Geese, he has kept them pure, and bred them so to a feather—no single instance having occurred in which the slightest deterioration of character could be observed.  Invariably the produce has been of the purest white—the bill, legs, and feet, of a beautiful yellow.  No solitary mark or spot has crept out on the plumage of any one specimen, to shame the true distinction they deserve of being a pure breed:  like, with them, always has produced like.  The original stock has never been out of my father’s possession; nor has he ever crossed it with any other kind, since it was imported in 1821.”

The instructions given to the captain were not of Earth-shattering importance as far as goose rearing goes, consisting mainly of notations on how large a pen it took to get the geese through the voyage without any serious injury and on feeding.  The letter written from Emden on the 17th of August, 1821 documents the date of Jaques’ purchase.  It reads, “…they ought to have constantly fresh water in abundance; a quantity of good sand and muscle scells, [shells,] serving for their digestion, must be put into their feed-box; there ought to be always sand and straw below in their cage for litter; ls above the cage, as the birds perish otherwise by insects.  The geese must be feeded; [sic] they used to pick the straw from above down to the feet.  The Geese must be feeded with good clean oats, and sometimes with cabbage leaves.”

He gave an account of the name Bremen in his account.  “Having had the breed of Geese in question sent him from Bremen, my father named them after that place; but English writers call this variety the ‘Emden Geese’.  It will be seen from what I have stated above, that my father was the original importer of this description, and therefore is entitled to the credit of first introducing it to the United States.  It is certain that he had the Bremen Geese in his possession, at least five years prior to the time when Mr. James Sisson, of Rhode Island, imported his, and since 1821 my father has furnished this breed to many parties residing in almost every State in this Union, as also in Canada and Nova Scotia.”  – Dixon, Edmund Saul.  “A Treatise on the History and Management of Ornamental and Domestic Poultry”.

Samuel Jacques, Jr. placed an advertisement in “The New England Farmer” for 24 large Bremen Geese saying, “The original stock of these geese was imported by Ebenezer Rollins, Esq. of Boston”—the same Eben Rollins whom he said in his letter imported the geese for his father.  “The New England Farmer”, Nov. 10, 1826.

Rollins was a prominent merchant in Boston, a founder and member of the first Board of Trustees of Groveland or E. Bradford Academy, and a bank and insurance director.  No evidence was located to indicate he was involved in agriculture or animal husbandry.  He died in Havana, Cuba on March 2, 1831.

That Col. Jacques was quite knowledgeable on a number of agricultural subjects, is evidenced by a notice found in “The Farmer’s Monthly Visitor” in which the editor praised his experience and requested him to share his knowledge of milk cows with their readers.

For Samuel, Jr. to say a stranger appeared at his father’s home and told them about the geese is not at all unusual for Col Jaques owned the famous Ten Hills Farm first owned by Gov. Winthrop of Massachusetts.  The farm had been a show place for roughly two centuries by the time Col. Jaques purchased it, and because of his reputation as a knowledgeable breeder of livestock and plants, strangers appeared at his door on a regular basis, sometimes to inquire about making a purchase and at other times just to admire the efficiency with which Ten Hills Farm was run.

In his information given to Mr. Dixon for “A Treatise on the History and Management of Ornamental and Domestic Poultry”, Samuel Jacques, Jr. noted the incredible laying ability of the Bremen.  “I find, by reference to my father’s notes, that, in 1826, and in order to mark his property indelibly, he took one of his favourite imported Geese, and, with the instrument used for cutting gun-waddings, made a hole through the web of the left foot.  This was done on the 26th of June:  and now, in 1850, the same Goose, with the perforation in her foot, is running about his poultry-yard, in as fine health and vigour as any of her progeny.  She has never failed to lay from twelve to sixteen Eggs every year, for the last twenty-seven years, and has always been an excellent breeder and nurse, as has all of the stock and offspring connected with her.  I had the curiosity to weigh one of her brood of 1849, when nine months old exactly, and his weight, in feather, sent up 22 lbs. in the opposite scale.  This hugeous Anser has been preferred to breed from, the coming season.”

Because Col. Jacques kept such immaculate records, his son was able to relay that in 1832 a bull-dog killed several of his father’s Geese, and, among them, the two Ganders originally imported after which he used their offspring to mate to the females.  He raved about the culinary standards of the Bremen saying that some of the keenest epicures of the time had declared the flesh of the Emden equal to, if not superior to, the “celebrated Canvas-back Duck”.

He went on to describe in detail how the geese were encouraged to lay, what they ate, care of the young goslings, etc., facts he would have known only by referring to the detailed diaries kept by his father.

Col. Jaques’ obituary published in “The New England Historical and Genealogical Register” in July 1859 is fascinating.  He was the fifth generation descended from Henry Jaques who came from England to settle in Newbury in 1640.  He was born in Middlesex on Sept., 12, 1776 and died at his farm on March 27 at age 83.  The obituary notes that he was particularly noted for experiments in breeding domestic animals and fruit.  He developed cows which he named Cream-pots and won numerous premiums at stock shows for cows, horses, and sheep.  He developed a peach which bore his name and he was chief marshal of a procession at the laying of the corner stone of the Bunker Hill Monument by Gen. La Fayette June 17, 1825.  He was Inspector General of Hops for Massachusetts from 1806 to 1837.  He kept a diary which numbered some forty to fifty volumes in which he claimed to have written something almost every day.

Samuel Jaques, Sr. became Col. Jaques during the War of 1812.  “Colonel Jaques, at first major, acquired his title by long service in the militia, and was engaged for a time during the hostilities of 1812 in the defense of Charlestown bay, and was stationed at Chelsea. He was in manners and habits of the type of the English country gentleman.”  – “Anecdotes”, by Mrs. Alida G. Sellers.  1901.

A brief history of the farm prior to Col Jaques’ ownership reveals the militia went to Ten Hills Farm for target practice in the summer and several times per year the grounds were open to neighbors to help themselves to cherries, pears, and other fruit from the orchards.

It was from Ten Hills that Gage’s night expedition to seize powder in the Province Magazine began in 1774.  When the Continental troops fell back from Breed’s Hill, they made a stand at Ten Hills but retreated.  The British then took control of the home using the east parlor to stable horses and the rest of the house became quarters for men and officers.

The home remained uninhabited for some time following the war until purchased by General Elias Hasket Derby in 1801.  It changed hands a few times until Col. Jaques, a descendant of Sire Rolande de Jacques, a feudal baron in Normandy, France, bought it in 1832.  Having exhibited a patriotic nature on numerous occasions, it is not surprising that he took great pride in the history of the manor house at Ten Islands.

“The holes in the east parlor where the spikes were driven in by the Englishmen to tie their horses were left unfilled, however, and, much to the disgust of the family, the colonel always showed them to his visitors by poking his fingers through the expensive paper into the holes.”  –

Someone in Col Jaques position naturally knew the movers and shakers of the day, men like Daniel Webster with whom he remained in close contact, but his company also drew the likes of the eminent biologist and geologist, Professor Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz.  Agassiz had a keen interest in natural history and is known for his work in that field.

The Bremen goose was only one of the valuable animals raised by Col. Jaques.  He was noted for his breeding of cattle, and in fact, family members felt he held fast on his deathbed until two calves were born, products of one of his last breeding experiments.  “He had been given up by the doctors weeks before, but so great was his interest in the birth of the animals that his strong will kept him alive.  They [calves] were born in the morning; in the afternoon they were washed and brought to his room.  Each in turn was lifted on the bed, and after he had examined them carefully, he laid back on his pillow and in a few hours passed away”.

As to who first imported the Bremen geese, this writer’s money is on Col Jaques because he kept such meticulous records on purchases of livestock and the details of the feeding and breeding of each animal he owned.  Mr. Sisson, on the other hand, is not documented as having produced records other than the quote in the letter to Mr. Deering and, by his own account, was sloppy in his breeding habits allowing the Bremen geese to interbreed with the common farmyard goose.  In that letter he was quoted as buying the geese some years after they were brought over by Col. Jaques.

By the late Victorian era some journals admitted that accounts giving credit to Mr. Sisson published several decades earlier had been in error.  The following quote was penned by Caleb N. Bement.  “We were always under the impression that Mr. James Sisson, of Warren, Rhode Island, was the first importer of these superior geese; but it appears incorrect from the following account published in the “New England Farmer” [the account by Sisson saying he brought over geese in 1826].

A bulletin published in February, 1897, supported Samuel Jaques, Jr.’s claim that his father was the first and quoted the letter explaining to the captain how to care for the geese Col. Jaques imported in 1821.  That editor also quoted from the letter that it was written from Emden on the 17th of August, 1821. The next paragraph states in 1826, James Sisson, of Warren, R. I., imported a trio from Bremen, “and others were imported about the same time by John Giles of Providence, R. I.”

Bibliography:

Mrs. Alida G. Sellers (born Jaques), Boston, Mass. December 19, 1900.  Account given in Somerville. Historical Society. , 1903.

“Bulletin”.  Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Rhode Island.  Feb. 1897.

Numerous magazine and newspaper articles including those above.

New England Farmer.  April 11, 1832.

The Cultivator.  March 1845.  Albany.

Drake, Samuel Adams.  “Historic Mansions and Highways Around Boston”.  1899.

California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences.  Vol. 11, Number 15, 12 May 1859.

Bennett, Caleb.  “The American Poulterer’s Companion”.  1863.

The Boston Directory Containing the Names of the Inhabitants, their Occupations, Place of Business, and Dwelling-houses”.  Boston.  June, 1807.

Rollins, John R.  “Records of Families of the name Rawlins or Rollins in the United States.  1874.  Lawrence, Mass.

  1. S. Congress. “Register of Debates in Congress”. Washington.  1831.

“New England Farmer”, Vol. 3.  Oct. 1824.

– “A New Family Encyclopaedia”.  1831.

http://www.mygermancity.com/bremen

Wright, Lewis.  “The New Book of Poultry”.  1902.  London.

Nutrition Through the Years©

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Fresh plantain harvested from the author’s yard and flavored with ham

Americans have grown fat and lazy in recent generations, many living off processed food that is high in calories while providing little nutrition.  Obesity and diabetes accompanied by hypertension are at epidemic proportions even in our children.  The fault lies with parents who allow children to live in this manner.  A child that is taught to eat well will usually do so for life.

In times past, children ate what adults ate and were healthier for it.  God and Nature provided nutritious food but somewhere along the way most Americans got lazy.  First they found it easier to shop at markets and roadside stands with a limited selection of fruits and vegetables, proprietors’ goals being to profit from what shoppers were more likely to buy, then in the last couple of generations many have been willing to forego nutrition altogether for the convenience of pre-made meals.

Even families who are conscious of nutrients may have fallen into the abyss of white flour and sugar.  Your author had an awakening this year that prompted the removal of such ingredients from our diet.  Bulk wheat berries and a grain mill have replaced the worthless processed flour and honey is going a long way toward replacing sugar.  Our garden has for some time now provided fresh produce and berries.  The reward for me has been weight loss, lower blood sugar, and manageable hypertension.

Let’s look at eating habits of our forebears and how families sought nutritious food even during eras of inflation.

“I think we keep well by using a great many wild greens that are so plentiful in the spring—why, when I drive along the roadside I have a basket and knife with me because I want those wonderful greens.  I go up town and do my marketing early in the morning, and I take my knife along and my basket, and on my way home I have a mess of greens.  Children are very fond of them, small children—at least I find it so at my table”.

“Children were dispatched to gather wild greens – wild mustard, tongue grass, snake’s tongue, young poke shoots, Shawnee, wild lettuce, ‘mouse’s ear’, speckled dock, lady’s slipper, little dock, elder leaves, wild ‘cresses’ and other ‘sallet greens’ were growing everywhere.

A dandelion salad, which all Germans like, is in itself a most wholesome food.  We could never taste it as made by Germans; however, because they use bacon-fat to dress the leaves with.  Olive oil and lemon juice can take the place of their hot bacon fat and vinegar.

The cresses, dandelion, radishes, scullions, lettuce, horseradish, chives, pusley [purslane], asparagus and various field greens, can be used in their native state in salads to great advantage.

Chopped dandelion leaves and asparagus tips, with green onion tops, dressed with French dressing, as little condiment as possible, using lemon juice and not vinegar for the dressing, is a most healthful salad.  Eaten with a slice of unfermented bread with a handful of nuts, it makes a sufficient and wholesome meal for spring.

There are salads for every month in the year.  A delicate salad for August, made of nasturtium flowers and leaves, flaked nuts, tomato and other delicate combinations which might grace the salad course of a sixteen course dinner and do honor”. – 1909.

Let’s take a look at how these wild greens were being prepared and served.  “The wild greens, such as the dandelion, mustard, and the cowslip are much improved by boiling them with a piece of salt pork striped lean and fat.  A slice of the pork cut very thin should be served with each dish of greens.  Beet greens also may be prepared in this way.  One of the most appetizing meals I can think of is made of hot sliced boiled ham or corned beef—a piece of corned brisket is suitable for this—a dish of greens, new potatoes boiled in their jackets with the greens and ham, and rhubarb pie for dessert”.

Except, perhaps, for rhubarb which likes to grow in cooler temperatures, Southerners have served up such meals since colonization began.  Blissful Meals, y’all. © Text and photos copyrighted by the author.

  • The Vegetarian Magazine.
  • The American Child.
  • The Delineator. May 1922.
  • Year Book. Illinois Farmers’ Institute.

ESTRANGED CHILDREN: New Epidemic or Old Problem?©

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The_Favorite_by_Georgios_Iakovidis

There are many reasons children become estranged from parents, many of which are selfish and misguided.  I’m no stranger to this phenomenon, nor are some of my friends and acquaintances.  A child that was abused naturally is unlikely to have a relationship with parents as an adult, but situations where a grown child becomes estranged from parents because a spouse wants to spend all their free time with his or her own parents or a divorced parent who spitefully turns a child against the other parent is selfish in the extreme.

Is this a new problem with this generation?  No.  That is a small consolation to those who are deprived of a relationship with grandchildren, however.

In 1856, Heinrich Thiersch addressed one cause of estrangement – that of parents who make it a life commitment to complain about some negative behavior on the part of the child instead of addressing it and then giving the child the opportunity to learn from the mistake and strive to live a good life.  A footnote stressed that his message was not admonishing parents to overlook bad behavior and allow it to continue, but not to continuously berate the child for past mistakes after the situation has been properly dealt with.

“Continuance of anger, repetition of reproaches, and the renewed reminding of children, without sufficient reason of that which is past, are the most usual causes of that disheartening and estrangement against which the Apostle warns us, as against the greatest evil; “Fathers provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged;” for if once the children be embittered against their father and mother, and have closed their hearts against them, and are without faith in the love and conscientiousness of their parents; what word can still find an entrance with them?  No man can step into the father’s place, for the estranged children will not have an ear for the fatherly word, but only for the mischievous tattle of false worldly friends.”

In past times relatives often lived with family and most of the time that was a positive experience for all, however, an 1888 article addressed the problem when a live-in relative possessed a vile temper and nasty disposition that disrupted the peace and harmony of the home.  “. . . the parents who know that such an unhealthful influence exists in their home, should endeavor to remove it, and prevent future trouble for themselves that may find maturity in estranged children and a ruined home”.

Our perception of the Gilded Age is one of more genteel times, but truthfully, divorce was already a ready escape for unhappy spouses.  My great grandmother claimed to be an orphan with no idea who her parents were; however, I’m a pretty decent researcher and in recent years found the divorce record of her parents which solidified my suspicions regarding her home life.  Her father was found on census records in more than one household with different “wives” and different sets of children whose birth dates overlapped those of my great grandmother and her siblings.  Recently I found my gg grandparents’ divorce records in which he was brought to task for his many infidelities against gg grandma who was his only legitimate wife.  She named names in court – both of the other women and of his illegitimate children with them.  He denied all, but I already knew from the census records that he had been a philanderer and apparently the judge agreed as he was ordered to pay her alimony for life.  She died less than ten years later.  His actions and the reactions of the community so embarrassed my great grandmother, however, that she died never revealing to her husband and children who her parents were or what her actual early home life was like.

Reviewing old books and court cases from the Victorian era shows that their situation and mine is no different from countless other families.  Estrangement occurred, for example, when one parent spitefully turned children against the other, grown children resented the remarriage of a divorced or widowed parent, a faithless spouse was considered too immoral for the court to allow a relationship with the children, children grew into reprehensible adults committing crimes that pious parents could not condone, a father could not resist the evils of drink and became estranged from his impoverished wife and children, etc.  Accounts were found of parents who felt alienated when an adult daughter or son chose to go into monastic life or a convent when their decision was actually made out of love of God, not a lack of love for earthly parents.

In 1894, “Good Housekeeping” published a piece on husbands and wives who refused to get along with their mothers and fathers-in-law resulting in the estrangement of child from parents.  Reasons cited included children recently married who suddenly viewed parents’ concern for their welfare as interference, jealousy of the close relationship the other spouse had with mother or father, resentment toward the mother of a deceased spouse who naturally felt drawn to care for an infant or small child, and a spouse resentful of care and support given to a widowed mother-in-law.

Regardless of time period, perhaps the greatest loss when estrangement occurs between parent and child is the resultant separation of grandchild and grandparent.  A child who is deprived of the grandparent’s love and life experience suffers as acutely as the grandparent who can’t help but love children they don’t even know but for whom they a feel a strong connection that can never be severed.  The latter is much like grieving the loss of the child over the course of a lifetime.

In closing let’s note the return of members to the Church, was frequently compared to an estranged child returning to parents in sermons from the early Victorian era.  “Like estranged children we are returning to union and reconciliation; we, through greater diligence and faithfulness in our high commission, to a deeper sense of our position, our office, and our sacraments. . .”

Since this article is of a material culture nature and not about food I will not leave you with my customary “Blissful Meals”, but will instead wish anyone experiencing these problems peace and reconciliation.