Cemetery Tuesdays…

I don’t know, how about it? I like having a ritual. I say ritual because routine sounds too depressing. As a family historian, general history fan, gardener, and seeker of general quiet, cemeteries fascinate me. I have checked out a few local cemeteries and have a couple I like to visit on occasion, but I am really interested in exploring more rural cemeteries. I’m going to try to research, visit, and document a new cemetery at least one Tuesday a month (or maybe weekly) and when I get home…I’m going to celebrate with tacos, because it is Tuesday after all!

I also partake in volunteer headstone searches for Findagrave.com. That will give me another excuse to get out around the area. If you’ve never used it for researching your genealogy or local history, I highly recommend it.

Cemeteries can be the homes to beautiful old plantings, headstones, local history, and are often set in lovely, little asides out in the country. They can also be holdouts for ecosystems rapidly vanishing. I would love to volunteer as a caretaker for some of these cemeteries

Today, since it’s cold, windy, and nothing is really growing yet. I want to share a few very different ways cemeteries can relate to history, genealogy and gardening.

  • Prairie Cemeteries: Did you know some of the best preserved native prairies are within the boundaries of pioneer cemeteries? Not only do you get to see and learn about those who settled the frontier, but see what grew there hundreds of years ago.  Read up about Pellsville Pioneer Cemetery in Rankin, Illinois, one of many pioneer cemeteries  guarding native prairie:

In pioneer cemeteries, a disappearing part of Illinois’ landscape lives on

Cemetery Prairies Preserve the State’s Horticultural History

photo by Michael D. Tedesco from Cemetery Prairies Preserve the State’s Horticultural History

 photos via gravegardeners.org

 

  • Local Cemeteries: Just a few short blocks from my house is one our town’s older cemeteries. It’s filled with beautiful monuments, headstones, and planters. It’s also the final resting place of many of Point’s founding citizens. Walk through one of your town’s older cemeteries, read the names. I bet there’s a few you’ll recognize as streets and neighborhoods. It can be a wonderful place for a reflecting walk, learning about local history, and for seeing beautiful, seasonal plantings. In some cases, you may even see historic plantings. Make sure to pay attention to more than just flowers. Cemeteries can be the home of many old shrubs and trees too!
  • Family Cemeteries: I have a lot of family buried in large cemeteries, a few buried in smaller country cemeteries, and very few buried in family cemeteries. These often tiny, forgotten family plots are dotted all across the United States. Some are hiding in woods, on large farms, on the corners of country roads, and sometimes tucked into neighborhoods. Even if it’s not your family, they are interesting glimpses into the past and sometimes long lasting perennials, trees, or shrubs still grow. Some cemeteries are even marked with historical markers. I would love to the Young Cemetery in Plano, Texas. It’s the final resting place of two members of my Finley line, my 5th great uncle Thomas Finley, and his sister, Prudence (Finley) Jackson along with their families. It’s a well loved pioneer cemetery with the burials of a few of Collin County’s first settlers from the 1840s! Iris and daffodils bloom throughout the cemetery in Spring, something I hope to see for myself, someday!

  • Cemetery Rose Gardens: I’m not likely to find 200 year old roses growing here in central Wisconsin, but in warmer climates, there are some cemeteries that are home to some very, very old roses. Maybe there are some around here? Who knows? Roses pop up in old cemeteries quite often. Mid summer is a great time to look for them blooming. You can also find some really amazing collections across the country.

Lynchburg, Virginia is home to Old City Cemetery, which holds the commonwealth’s largest antique rose collection. While the collection was started in the 1980’s, many of the cultivars are hundreds of years old.

In Sacramento’s Historic City Cemetery volunteers have worked for over 20 years to collect and grow California’s historic roses. Roses are collected from cemeteries, homesteads, and the wild and replanted at the once derelict cemetery.

 

Now…on to Taco Tuesday.

Tomatoes for Your Victory Garden!

Victory gardens are starting to make a comeback. In times of uncertainty, we often turn back to growing food at home. Whether you’ve been gardening for years or are just starting out, thinking about gardeners before us can be comforting. We can even grow some of the same varieties that fed our grandparents through the Great Depression, WWII, and many other hard times.

I decided to do a little searching around for some of the best old tomato varieties that very well could have been grown in WWII victory gardens. Surprisingly (or maybe not), I found it hard to pin down a lot of solid information in just my internet searches. There is no shortage of tomato varieties, but I did find it difficult to research their histories. So, I’ve stuck to some famous, old reliables. I also wanted to make sure the varieties I’m sharing are still available in seed form or are likely to be found as plants at most garden centers.

I of course, always grow a few varieties of tomatoes that my Grandma Pete swore by.  The last summer I got see Grandma, she sent me off with a little bit of cash and orders to use it for veggies for my garden. She insisted I get Jet Star or Celebrity tomatoes. I got Jet Star that year. And I still have the little plant stake that came with it. It’s a strange memento, but it’s a lasting reminder of Grandma’s influence on my love of gardening.  I grow Jet Star every year in her honor, but I also grow Celebrity here and there too. This year I will have both. She was right they are reliable, versatile, and delicious. They are among the few hybrids I grow.

 

Five Heirloom Varieties that will fit perfectly into a modern Victory Garden:

  1. Mortgage Lifter : This tomato usually tops the chart as far as famous old varieties with a great story. In the 1930’s, radiator salesman, M.C. Byles crossed a handful of the best tomatoes he could find. After a selection process, he introduced his tomato. It is said that he sold this tomato for a $1 each and was able to sell enough over a period of time to pay off his mortgage (no easy feat given the times).  This tomato now goes by “Mortgage Lifter” and has been a staple in many gardens since.

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    photo via Eden Brothers

  2. Rutgers: Introduced in 1934, this tomato is famous for its connections with Campbell’s Soup! Developed in New Jersey as a cross between JTD an Marglobe, it was so good, it became America’s leading tomato and the key tomato in many of our famous soups and condiments.  I’ve never grown Rutgers, but if I find plants this year, I think I’ll have to give it a shot! You can read more about its history here and Rutgers’ updated variety celebrating 250 years of the university. 

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    Breeder of the ‘Rutgers’ tomato Lyman Schermerhorn (left) in a field of tomatoes, circa 1930s. (Photo and caption from What’s in Season from the Garden State: The Historic Rutgers Tomato Gets Re-invented in University’s 250th Anniversary Year, 2016.)

  3. Nebraska Wedding Tomato: This one might not be as famous, but I have to include it, being Nebraska born and raised. This tomato was registered in 1983, but the story goes it was brought to Nebraska in the 1800’s by pioneers. The seeds were often given as wedding gifts to new brides. I grew it last year for the first time and was happy with both yield and taste, despite such a disappointing summer. I’m growing it again.  I also love that it’s orange.

    0261-nebraska-wedding-tomato-organic

    photo via Seed Savers Exchange

  4. Amish Paste: I tried to pin down a great paste type tomato. There are a lot of classics, but Amish Paste stands out for my because it’s believed to have originated in Wisconsin (my home state now). It’s likely been around since the 1870’s, but it wasn’t registered until 1987. I’ve tried several varieties of paste tomatoes and have yet to latch on to one go-to type. These are going in this year’s garden for another try! Some think Amish Paste fits more into the “Plum” varieties of tomato based on a juicier, seedier flesh. Some, find it to be meaty and almost seedless. I think this must come down to growing conditions?
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    photo via Burpee 

     

  5. San Marzano: These Italian heirlooms have a long, long history in Italy’s fertile, volcanic soil. So much so, that there are a lot controversies surrounding what can really be called a San Marzano tomato! I found this article extremely informative. Despite all the hype about it, this tomato has been grown in the US for many years, and with a lot of fan fare. I’ve grown the standard, plus San Marzano Lungo II (an improved version) several times. I’m growing the latter again this year. Perfect for canning or pizza!
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photo via Burpee

san-marzano-lungo-tomato-web

photo via Baker Creek

Now, That’s where I’m going to end my list, for now. You may ask where some other famous “toms” are, like Abraham Lincoln and Brandywine. I just didn’t include them this time around. Brandywines are also a long day tomato, and I just can’t get them to produce and ripen where I live (Zone 4). It’s heartbreaking, for now. Maybe I’ll find a way some day down the road.

I’ve also not included any cherry tomatoes. Even though cherry and even smaller, currant tomatoes, can be found hundreds of years ago, I couldn’t lock in on a particular variety I wanted to share. If you have a great, old heirloom cherry tomato you swear by, please share! There are a ton out there! I want to find a classic red, cherry type with a history.

I also want to share this lovely article about heirlooms with a history.  It has some very interesting varieties included in it. That’s all for now! Just a little ramble about tomatoes!

And a bonus! Grandma Pete in her family’s garden during the mid-1940s, Victory Garden?

Updates and Upgrades!

UPDATE: Despite having more time than I know what to do with lately, I still don’t fee like I’ve caught up on chores. Ugh. That being said, I am getting ready to pot up my little seedlings, dig up some new beds, and I have a ton of posts in my draft section. There should be a good mix of history, genealogy, and plants in topics coming soon!

UPGRADE: I have acquired 24 landscape timbers to start laying out two new garden beds in the vegetable area. After doing some research on landscape timbers, I decided I am OK with using them in the veggie garden. I have been watching so many British garden shows lately that I am starting to want to call it a “veg patch.” Oh. Boy. The newer process of treating lumber means they are now safer to use in gardens. I did some research and double checked the description on the lumber I bought. So, I feel confident in using these. But, be sure to double check any lumber you choose to add in your garden!

UPGRADE: I have a fancy new camera. I bought it in January, but I am just now starting to get it figured out. It’s aNikon D3500 which I got as bundle from Target while I still worked there. I was able to stack several discounts and get a good deal on it. It will definitely be an upgrade from my S7 phone and my Nikon Coolpix L310. I also bought a few accessories: this Altura wide angle lens and this Altura viewfinder eye piece.  The camera and both accessories are great starting points for people like me. I like to take beautiful photos, but really only have high school photography class knowledge. Todd and I both agreed we need to document more adventures and visits to ancestral places!

Enjoy photos of life so far! Can you guess which are from my phone and which are from the new camera!?

Well, here’s to catching up, praying for a lift on the stay-at-home order, warmer weather, and more posts! I can’t wait to get more projects and posts rolling.

 

~p.s. I am trying out ‘affiliate’ linking. There are affiliate links in this post, but they are only for products I appreciate or use personally!~

 

2020 Seed Starting and Garden Plans!

I started this post a few weeks ago. When I reopened the draft, I realized just how much has changed.  Last year was a bit of disappointing growing season. Between work, bad weather, and a number of other things, a lot didn’t happen.  This year, my original plans were to focus on the infrastructure our garden and scale back on growing. Well, beyond just my inability to actually cut back on seed starting, current events have made me realize the importance of my garden. Even though garden centers are still open, who knows what the next few months will bring.

Just before the COVID-19 crisis began, I put my two weeks notice in at Target, where I had been working just over a year. My last day was March 21. It was a bit surreal to be in the thick of the panic buying. I am thankful that we have to opportunity for me to stay home this summer. Todd is a railroader and he is deemed essential, and there is  a lot of stress there during the best of times! So, this summer it really is going to be about our house, garden, and spending quality time together (and hopefully some family history sleuthing too).

We plan on expanding beds, building the raised beds, and just working on a lot of the projects that need finishing up. While we do plan on going to the hardware stores and garden centers, Todd and I have been diligently making lists and checking inventory, to make as few as possible trips. Only Todd is going to the hardware store and I do the grocery shopping.

So….here is how my ‘cutting back’ on seeds went and how I’m growing them this year:

This past fall, I used some pre-made supports and 1″x 6 “boards, stained with deck stain, to create two different plant stands. Since, I can’t quite reach my little green houses, and don’t want to completely take over the kitchen again, I’ve added an extra shelves to the larger of the plant stands. I also, for the first time ever, bought grow lights. These ones on Amazon.com.  They have several different options and the best part is how affordable they are! It took me only about a half hour to have mine set up and going. So far, I love them.  Here is my set up this year…

I started a few of my flower seeds earlier, then the majority of peppers, tomatoes, and herbs on the first day of Spring.  I decided I should start more. So, I added one more flat of herbs, peppers, and tomatoes. It’s a little late for a few of them, but I’ll give it a go. I also have all my summer bulbs potted up. While it’s a bit early for them, I typically just let them relax in there dirt and gradually pick up on watering as I get closer to plant times. So far, my set up has worked pretty well. My biggest complaint is not having quite as much control over the humidity and temp as I do with my little green houses.

Here is what I started this year  with links to where I’ve purchased them!

Here are my seeds I have picked out to direct sew (if it actually happens):

I also have big dreams to put in lettuce/greens, grapes, strawberries, garlic, potatoes, onions, and start an asparagus bed also. We will see. I currently have five urban and columnar apples planted. Two of the apple trees were cast-offs and may or may not survive. The other three are planted into my flower beds. I’m hoping for a first small crop on the Scarlet and Golden Sentinel apples.

Living A Memory: Growing a Greener World Episode with Paul James

A while back, I discovered the glory of watching YouTube shows on our smart TV (it’s new to us). Instead of watching the news, I enjoy my morning cup of coffee with a variety of garden shows. Some, like Garden Answer and Monty Don, I’ve followed for years. Others, I’ve started to seek out and haven’t been disappointed in finding. Craig LeHoullier is my tomato guru and finding his channel was very exciting. I’ve already picked up some new tips for this year’s garden. Recently, I discovered a PBS favorite on YouTube, Growing a Greener World.

A couple of days ago, I was watching Growing a Greener World and Joe Lamp’l introduced his guest for the episode, a gardener so many grew up watching and one of his own inspirations, Paul James. I called my mom to tell her before the episode ended. She watched his show on HGTV for years and I watched it with her a lot of the time. I knew she would be excited. He was the first garden show on HGTV, but the show ended when the network glammed-up and went for more home improvement and decorating shows.

It is such a great episode that I have to share it here. Towards the end Joe and Paul discuss what gardening means to many people. Paul James says,

“That got me thinking about why a lot of people garden. They garden to live a memory.”

We garden for food, sustainability, tasty things, and beauty, but the nostalgia and memories make it a deeper, worthwhile experience. Gardening returns you to your parents, grandparents, and childhood homes. We get to cultivate food, joy, and keep our precious memories alive…to live a memory.

Paul James really hit it for me. My love of growing flowers and veggies stems from a long line of memories of my mother’s and grandmothers’ gardens. I’m just taking it a bit further as a way to connect to family histories and homes long gone.

Watch the episode. Enjoy the excitement of Joe Lamp’l spending time with one of his inspirations. Enjoy seeing Paul James on the screen again. Think about the gardeners who inspire you and the memories attached to it. It is worth it.