Poultry Waterers



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.




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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.


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©




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.”


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.


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

Nutrition Through the Years©






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?©



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.





Chickens, duck, and turkey about to be dressed for the freezer, author’s photo©

This is a companion piece to yesterday’s article on plucking poultry, this being the drawing [to draw the internal organs from the body] step in the butchering process.  It comes from the 1906 “Handbook of Domestic Cookery”.

Just because a way of doing something seems to be the most logical it isn’t always and we should never forget the wisdom of preceding generations when doing something we may not be completely familiar with.  When I was a child every fall my mom would go to the Mennonite community and purchase hens that weren’t laying as well as they once had to dress for the freezer and every year she’d tell me I was going to get a whipping if I didn’t help her clean the hens.  I would go outdoors with the strongest of resolves but when the first head was severed and the headless hen started flopping around on the ground I’d tell her, “Beat me now cause I was going to the house”.

As an adult I’m of a much stronger constitution and can dispatch a bird, pluck, and draw it as a matter of course.  Let’s look at century-old instructions for this part of processing poultry to see if it might offer any insight that we may have missed.


Dressed turkey, author’s photo©

“Poultry must never be in the slightest degree tainted before dressing, though with the exception of pigeons (which are considered to lose flavor by keeping even a day), all poultry is the better for hanging some time before it is cooked.  A turkey may be kept for a fortnight or longer still in cold weather, a goose the same, a fowl will keep for a week, a duck but three days; if young, they are fit to dress immediately on being killed.  When it is desired to keep poultry, it should be feathered, drawn, hung in a cool dry air, seasoned inside with pepper, and wiped often.  Poultry ought not to be washed, unless any of the intestines should be broken during drawing, in which case alone washing out is necessary.  When a bird is drawn, wipe out the inside and pepper it, if for keeping.  The general mode of drawing poultry is to make a cut across the vent, and through this opening the entrails are carefully withdrawn, after this the finger should be inserted, and the heart, liver, etc., taken out.  This part of the operation requires the greatest care to avoid bursting the gall-bag in the liver, which would spoil the bird; the best way to withdraw this part of the intestines is to grasp the gizzard firmly, and then by gentle steady drawing, the heart and liver, etc., will come with it.  The bird being emptied wipe it out, and take out any fat that may be inside.  Widen the vent, and pass it over the rump, and proceed with the trussing as directed; slit the gizzard open on the side, remove its contents with the lining membrane, and cut out the gall bag from the liver.  The fat taken from the insides of ducks or fowls should be melted for basting the birds with, while that from the goose should be rendered for goose grease.  All poultry having white meat requires the same treatment in roasting.  To keep boiled poultry white, rub it over with lemon juice before dressing.  Poultry of every kind requires to be thoroughly cooked; nothing is more objectionable to the taste and eye than underdone poultry.  A brisk clear fire is necessary for poultry, as it is spoilt by slow roasting.  When poultry is not prepared by the poulterer, it is best to pluck and singe it before drawing and trussing.  When a goose is too old to be roasted, it may be treated as pork and made into a ham, like which it should be dressed.  Green [young] geese do not require stuffing, but should be seasoned inside with pepper and salt.



plucking chickens2

Plucking poultry is a slow job for me compared to the efficiency of farm folk a century or more ago so today I will share a few thoughts on what many will find a repulsive practice.  If the reader is such a one, easily offended by a discussion of preparing one’s own food, please take note and decide whether to read further.  Our property is not a petting zoo, it is a fully functioning small farm operating primarily through knowledge gained in century old farm books and journals with heritage breed poultry that dress out like that of great grandma, not the mass produced, pale, store-bought variety.

For the unfamiliar, let’s note that plucking, or picking, is the process of removing the feathers from freshly killed fowl in preparation for cooking or freezing.  There are two methods:  dry plucking, and plucking after scalding in hot water (between 145 to 160 degrees).

“Dry plucking is possible only when the fowls are killed in such a way that the tissues of the skin are left in a relaxed condition and thus offer but little resistance to the removal of the feathers.  The dry plucking, however, must be done immediately after the fowl has been killed and before the body heat has left the carcass. . . .”

“Plucking after scalding is practiced extensively throughout the rural districts where the greater portion of all poultry is killed by severing the head with a hatchet.  Plucking after scalding is made necessary by the crude methods of killing employed…Their feathers will come off much more easily than in the method of dry plucking; in fact, their feathers will come off by handfuls, and in some instances can be rubbed off by the fingers…Scalded poultry will not keep so well in cold storage [not frozen] as dry-plucked poultry, and hence is not usually selected for cold-storage purposes unless it is particularly well prepared for market”.

I will dispense with the various ways of dispensing the birds and concentrate on the plucking and dressing.  “Do not wait until the fowl becomes cold before you commence plucking, or even to stop fluttering, as they are perfectly numb.  It is impossible to dry pick them after they become cold.  Begin by pulling the light feathers and tail, then the breast and so on until perfectly clean.  Do not leave any pin feathers, as nothing so destroys the appearance.  Do not singe the fine feathers, as is often done, as it gives the skin an oily appearance.  As soon as you are through plucking wash the blood from the head and the dirt from the shank and feet.  When through, lay on dry table to cool.”

“In plucking fowls, the feathers should be drawn out of the skin in the direction opposite to that in which they lie naturally.  Thus, if the fowl is hanging head down, the feathers are pulled down toward the head…”

“Directly after the feathers are plucked, all pinfeathers and long hairs should be removed from the plucked surface, so as to leave the carcass perfectly clean and smooth.  The pinfeathers can be removed either with the thumb and finger or with the blade of a knife held against the thumb.  The hairs are usually removed by singeing.

“The exact length of time to hold a fowl in hot water is a matter of judgment, which can be gained only by actual experience in dipping poultry.  More care should be taken in dipping young fowls than in dipping older birds, as the skin of young fowls will scald or cook much sooner than the skin of more mature fowls. Plunging the body of the fowl into cold water immediately after it is taken from the hot water will materially lessen the danger of cooking the skin to a harmful extent.”

Dressing one’s own poultry may or may not be a precursor to a successful dinner for every reader, however, for those like myself that appreciate the old ways as good ways, perhaps you learned a thing or two from this post.  I leave you, as always, with good wishes and blessings for Blissful Meals.©

Bib:  Report, Vol. 1, by Ontario Dept. of Agriculture.  1897.

International Correspondence Schools.  “Poultry Houses”.




“In green-up time our fathers go afield

To plow the stubborn slopes their fathers plowed

Planting in green-up time gives greater yield

They work in sun beneath the wind and cloud.

In green-up time our mothers walk by streams

To pick the water-cresses from creek bottom…”


So go the lyrics to a poem about Kentucky, lyrics which probably described farms all through the country.

Green-up time is a colloquialism for spring when plants emerge from beneath the earth and bask in the warm sunshine.  One can look through the woods and see a pale green color in the trees as leaves begin to put out.  It also refers to the time when winter grown plants “green up” with warmer weather as with winter wheat.  In the early 20th century Agricultural Bulletins farmers reported on when the grasses and wheat began to green up each spring.  When families raised their own food grass to feed farm animals was as important as plants to feed families.

“Everything looked hopeful.  The garden was greening up beautifully; the hens were laying or sitting; we should be all right if we could keep our heads above water and keep out of debt.”

In times past when families had nothing but canned, salted, dried or smoked food from fall to mid-spring green-up time was eagerly awaited so that the enlightened country cook could gather from Mother Nature’s store house a variety of fresh greens.  Whether cooked separately or several varieties combined to make enough for a “mess”, those greens were mighty welcome especially when prepared with some side meat or bacon grease and served with hot cornbread.

“Soon after sassafras time, it was green-up time, with the first shoots coming up out of the ground.  We watched the sprouts hopefully, for this was the time of year for Granny to go to the fields and woods to pick her wild greens, the “sallets” of the old frontier. Granny Fanny taught us all the plants, and how to tell the good greens from the bad. We gathered new poke sprouts, always being careful not to snip them too close to their poison roots; and we gathered “spotted leaf,” leaves of “lamb’s tongue,” butter-and-eggs, curly dock, new blackberry sprouts, dandelions, and a few violet leaves.

Green-up time was also ramp season, but Mama wouldn’t let a ramp come into the house, for the ramp is a vile-smelling wood’s onion whose odor, like memory, lingers on. Some of our neighbors and cousins hunted ramps every spring and carried them home in gunnysacks to boil and fry.  In the spring down at school, the teacher would sometimes have to throw the windows wide open to air out the smell of ramps, wet woolen stockings, and kid sweat.”  — McNeill.

Greens meant different things to different people depending on where they lived but probably the most common included poke, dock, dandelion, nettles, cowslips, chickweed, lamb’s quarters or pigweed, milkweed, plantain, purslane, watercress, ramps, mallow, mustard, greenbriar, chicory, sorrel, bracken, clover, young blackberry shoots, etc.  Dandelion is an excellent example of a green that escaped its boundaries and began to grow wild.

Sometimes turnips left in the field would throw up new greens when the weather turned nice and these could be added to the mix.  Cabbage and collard stalks that weren’t treated too badly by Old Man Winter likewise produced sprouts for the pot.  While usually not technically a wild food, young hop tops were common greens.

Perhaps the most often eaten wild plant in my family was poke.  The tender young shoots were parboiled, then cooked with meat or drippings, and when a little larger the stalks were peeled, sliced, battered, and fried like okra.  Foragers today think they’re going to die if they eat poke, but if that were true few country families would have survived the Depression era.  In the spring mama even canned and froze it to last through the year.

Poke Sallet and Branch Lettuce.  Cowskull Mountain.   This is the time of year in the hills when the jaded appetite turns to turnip greens and poke sallet, speckled dock and branch lettuce. To mountain folks, weary from a dreary winter-long diet of store bought vittles, it is a very special season. They call it greenup time. And in the hills greenup time, which comes when spring starts bustin’ out all over, sends folks into the old fields and along the branches in search of wild greens.”

Before I wish you my usual Blissful Meals, I will beseech you to get out this weekend and enjoy green up time.  While out and about look for those first tender leaves of spring and consider feasting as your grandparents probably did.

Bib:  Stuart, Jesse.  “Kentucky is My Land”.  1952.

McNeill, Louise.  “The Milkweed Ladies”, page 45 and 46.

Parris, John.  “These Storied Mountains”.  1972.

“Saturday Evening Post”.  April 15, 1911.

Kitchen Style That Reaches Out to Me

This post isn’t going to be long on text and is offered today just because I took a sentimental journey and decided to share images of kitchen styles that make me happy.  I’ve had the pleasure of cooking in some interesting settings and making food my ancestors would have been comfortable with, but at 60, I’m not sure if I’d want to take up cooking for 25 or more people as I once did in primitive settings.  Putting a joint on the spit and making some historical dish for the Mister and myself, however, will bring me immense pleasure when we get around to tweaking our keeping room.  We have pieces a plenty to outfit it once we are ready to transform the interior into the setting we want.  It doesn’t have to be nearly as elaborate as these to please me as I gravitate more toward cottage than castle, but the reader will enjoy this nostalgic trip down memory lane.



French chateau

french-kitchen-6, Becoming Madam blog

Chirk Castle, Wales

home in Ireland

Ireland 1865

unknown location

Linsfort Castle, Inishowen County, Donegal

Blissful Meals now and perhaps you’ll find a few details in these images that speak to you as they have me.  I’ve tried to avoid copyrighted images, however, it was sometimes hard to follow the chain of postings to know who the original poster was and whether there were any restrictions on using the photo.

The “Other” Meat Enjoyed Abroad©


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I will preface this post with a cautionary advisement that those who are squeamish scroll on through, however, the information is presented as it was found for those with an open mind.  Recently an acquaintance from China asked what my husband and I intend to do after retirement to which I repplied we would probably expand the farm and take on more animals.  He suggested donkeys.  At first I thought he meant as pets but he actually meant as a food source saying in China donkey meat is common and that he likes it very much.  He made the same observation regarding horse meat.  Curiosity took me down the rabbit path again and below is a very quick look at various cultures and the  eating of donkey meat.

donkey sausage from The great wildebeest migration blog

“It [horse] has nothing disagreeable to the eye or to the taste.  It makes a consommé rather less clear and bright than that of beef, and the meat loses rather more color in boiling; but after broiling or roasting, in which way horsemeat should always be cooked, it has no appearance by which it can be detected from beef.  There is perhaps, a slightly sweetish taste, which, however is entirely overcome by the salt, pepper, and sauces which are usually eaten with roast meat.  The flesh of the ass and mule has a finer grain than that of the horse, and has a very slight “gamy” taste, which, however is scarcely to be distinguished from a prime rump steak.

The celebrated “Bologna” sausage, when properly made, as it originally was in Italy, is made from donkey’s meat only.  The majority of that in the market to-day is made from the poorest grades of beef, mixed with other cheap meats, pork, etc.”.  [1895]

“Cooks almost invariably do the marketing in Paris, and observers have sometimes amused themselves with watching the number of those who supply themselves at shops that only sell horse, mule, and donkey meat, buying well trimmed joints for less than they would pay at the regular butcher’s but no doubt charging their employers as much as beef would have cost, the difference in the taste never being detected.

Choice pieces of horse meat fetch from about 10 cents a pound wholesale, and may be sold in the retail trade for as much as 18 cents a pound.  Donkey meat and mule meat have their own special patrons, and the votaries of horse flesh firmly believe that if horses were treated like oxen and well fed horse meat would soon be generally preferred to beef.”

When I was growing up my mother refused to purchase canned meat unless country of origin was printed on the can because various animals were known to be shipped to the U.S. and sold as canned beef.  Apparently that had been an issue for some time as we see from this 1897 quote.  “It is darkly whispered, indeed, that we Americans are already consuming no inconsiderable amount—not merely of horse-meat, but the flesh of mules and donkeys imported from Europe, in the shape of the toothsome sausage.  The finest grade of sausage that comes from France to this country is manufactured at Lyons, and consists exclusively of mule or donkey meat”.

“There are nearly two hundred horse-meat shops in Paris, and the consumption of this sort of food last year was:  Horses 21,291; donkeys 275; mules 61.  A local economist has estimated that horse-flesh is the staple food in one out of every three of the households of Paris.”

In Vienna horse and donkey meat were sold in shops required, as other countries were, to display signage as to what type meat it was and the amount per pound because beef, mutton, and pork were priced out of reach of the working class who needed a less expensive source of protein.

“The poorer classes of the Chinese eat every part of an animal and all kinds of animals.  In Northern China horse meat, mule meat and donkey meat are everywhere sold.  There are butcher shops in Peking where you can buy camel steaks”.

“I am sorry to say that the sausage-dealers are accused by Aristophanes of making their wares occasionally of dog and donkey-meat; but that is a charge which never dies” [Ancient Athens].

“Roast donkey makes an excellent dish, a young one tasting like veal, but old ones are very tough.  [Japan].

Early 20th century journals often refer to the consumption of such meat in areas of Africa and stories abound of soldiers cooking donkey and horse.  Pack animals and cavalry horses were still common and could always be used to stave off hunger as needed.

Macmillan’s tells us how roast donkey was perceived by the English who tried it.  [1868] “Every one who has eaten roast donkey has pronounced it excellent.  In flavor it is said to resemble turkey, though the colour is considerably darker.  The accomplished gourmet is aware what animal it is that contributes most largely to the composition of the best sausages in the world—the Lyons sausage”.

Not because horse or donkey is tainted other than in the minds of some Americans, any adventurous soul who wishes to give it a try may find it difficult to impossible to find commercially.  It sometimes finds its way across the Canadian border but the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped inspecting slaughter houses known to process horse meat which ultimately means Americans are prohibited from selling the meat in the U.S.  Whether or not donkey or horse can be legally home butchered for one’s own use is a subject for another post.

Having said that, the Michigan State University’s “Table of State Humane Slaughter Laws” for most states on the list includes horses and mules.

Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, chef and restaurateur March Murphy, and Gordon Ramsay, celebrity chef, are among those who have spoken out in support of easing horse meat restrictions.  Should lifting of the ban become a reality perhaps donkey meat would follow suit.  Blissful meals to all.

“The World To-day.  Vol. I, I 1.  1901.

“Mechanists’ Monthly Journal”.  Washington, D.C. 1910.

“The National Druggist”, Vol. 27.  March 1897.

“West Virginia Farm Review”.  Vol. 12.  1904.

“In Sunny France:  Present-day Life in the French Republic”.  1894.

“Life in Ancient Athens”.  1916.

“The Journal of Comparative Medicine and Veterinary Archives”.  Feb. 1895.

MacMillan’s Magazine.  Vol. 18.  Oct. 1868.  London.

“In Japanese Hospitals During War-Time (Apri. 1904 to July 1905).  1905.  London.