One of our long-time members of the Walkable Eastwood email group is Karen, who first started writing in from Florida and who now lives in Georgia. Her heart, nevertheless, is still in Eastwood. In a previous post, she shared with us many of the little details that made a childhood in Eastwood so special. Her recent email in response to the post about urban chickens was so touching and informative, I offer it to you here. Would that we could make that much food in Eastwood again!
– – – – – – – – – – From Karen – – – – – – – – – – –
My Great Aunt Bertha VanHuser Macdowell and Great-Great Gramps WJB McMillian had chickens roosters, bunnies, ducks and gardens up until they died.
Their last bamtam (chicken) was put down in July 1985! Her name was Jeannie and she loved Aunty’s raspberry bushes, but if you scolded her she would get out of them and go after the tomatoes. Her eggs were smaller but very good indeed. She got so she didn’t like us taking them and would hide them in little niches in the garden rocks or peony bushes. But for my friends and me, it was a game to try to find them.
We had a fab garden all my life, including wintering all the bulbs and succulents on the front porch. Wonderfully fresh ‘maters, tart rhubarb, fuzzy peaches, pears, squash, every berry you can think of, cukes, asparagus, and on. We canned everything we picked and supplemented what we didn’t grow on site by trading with others she new in the neighborhood. Or by a ride out to Kirkville or East Syracuse/Minoa to a lovely roadside stand where you paid on your honor in a little coffee can. She also had many older farmer friends at the regional market where we went every Tuesday or Thursday night and at the crack of dawn Saturday mornings.
All of my friends also learned to can and they actually enjoyed sleeping over to get up early and head to the market with Aunt Bertha.
I can not imagine how children and young adults today would ever survive if something happened to our food supply. They don’t garden, they can’t find the time to drive out to the country for good produce, and they haven’t a clue about safely preserving food.
My daughter is 10 now and she loves to cook. We have my mother’s canner and Aunty’s pressure cooker and now that we are in our new home we have a garden all mapped out for next spring. I also plan to bring my Girl Scout troop out and get them involved, then next fall I will pass on that forgotten but very important tradition that was handed to me.
To answer your questions, yes I did live around the corner from my Aunty. She lived at 312 Forest Hill Drive and Mom and I lived at 319 Stafford. We had peach, pear and plums trees at our house with a small 12×12 garden. But Birdie (Aunt Bertha) had the whole yard, front and back and eves, overhangs and porches, covered in edibles. We used to collect chestnuts from the house on the corner of Shotwell and James on the Grant side of the road. She used to make chestnut pudding! We ate rabbit when I was a child but they fibbed to me, told me it was dark meat chicken and that Peter had escaped. All my bunnies were named Peter. As I approached middle school I became friends with people who moved to Lillian Ave from the North Side and they grew “exotics” – exotic to us, anyway. Fennel, figs, grapes for wine, green plums, oregano, basil, bay, etc. That was lots of fun…Then I helped to make homemade sausage and sauce and ate it on homemade SQUARE pizza.
As for the fruit at public places, you should be able to gather it up. Here the Georgia peaches and pecans grow in parks and in certain counties you can come and take as much as you want as long as you don’t sell them.
I live in a very agricultural area; the County Extension 4-H and FFA are big here. But I deal with inner city kids and enjoy giving them a taste of what they think is “country living.” I would have chickens but live inside the city limits now and can’t. But I can’t wait to do a garden, might even try a greenhouse with old windows. Would love to do hydroponics.
Peace and good wishes to All