Hulling Black Walnuts

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, October 7, 1911: Hulled some walnuts this afternoon. Tried to be careful of my hands, but they got stained somewhat.

Black Walnuts

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Black walnuts grow semi-wild in Pennsylvania–and across much of the US.

The hull is the outer  husk. It must be removed to prevent spoilage. The nuts are then dried. After they are dried they can be cracked.

Crack hulls with feet. Then use hands to remove.

Last week-end my husband and I gathered some black walnuts at a park. We took them home and hulled them. We put the nuts in an old net onion bag and hung them in the garage to dry. They’ll be ready to crack and eat by December.

Walnut stains on my hands. This is one powerful stain. Three days later my hands are still brown, and everyone at work is teasing me about being an auto mechanic. (Bottom line: Wear gloves when hulling walnuts.)

Oct. 15 Addendum: I mentioned putting the walnuts in a net onion bag to my father. He was horrified and said that they would mold. He said they should be spread out on newspapers in a cool dry place (an attic is ideal).  So I checked my walnuts and noticed that two of them had a spot of mold of them. I discarded those walnuts–and spread the rest out on newspapers to dry.  Stay tuned . . .

Nov. 9 Addendum: I’ve now successfully cracked some black walnuts. Click here for today’s post on How to Crack Black Walnuts.

Threshing and Old-time Pickled Cabbage (Pepper Hash) Recipe

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, September 13 , 1911: Was in such terrible trepidation this morning, lest I would have to miss school and help Ma with the work, but Besse came to my relief. So glad I was. I missed those stacks and stacks of dishes for dinner, but have to confront them tonight.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Besse was Grandma’s married sister who lived nearby. The previous day Grandma wrote that the threshers were at the farm.  All the farmers in the community probably were at the Muffly farm helping with the threshing. And, I bet that all the hard work made them very hungry.

Early 20th century photos of steam-operated threshing machine. Photo was taken in the midwest, so the machine in the photo was probably a little larger than what would have been used in central Pennsylvania. (Photo source: Library of Congress, Fred Hultstrand and F.A. Pazandak Collections)

I’m on a roll remembering traditional Pennsylvania sweet and sour foods that might have been served to the threshers. Yesterday I wrote about spiced crab apples.  Another fall sweet and sour food is pickled cabbage (pepper hash).

Pickled Cabbage (Pepper Hash)

1 medium head cabbage, shredded (approximately 4 cups)

1 green bell pepper (green mango), coarsely chopped

1 red  bell pepper (red mango),  coarsely chopped

1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and let  stand at least 1 hour. This salad may be kept covered and refrigerated for several weeks. Drain before serving.

I got this recipe from my sister-in-law, Linda— and she says that she got it from her mother.  It is a very typical old-fashioned central Pennsylvania dish.

This recipe is very adaptable and can easily be made in larger or smaller quantities. Just use equal proportions of vinegar and sugar to make as much dressing as needed.

Linda says that the original recipe called for green and red mangos rather than green and red bell peppers. Traditionally people in central Pennsylvania and other parts of Appalachia referred to bell peppers as mangos. Of course, the mango fruit doesn’t grow in Pennsylvania, and until recent improvements in transportation the tropical  fruit wasn’t sold there, so there never was any confusion.

Feeding Calves a Hundred Years Ago

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, September 9, 1911: Today was rather a blue Saturday. It was so rainy this morning. Henry the nosey one upset almost a whole bucket full of milk. I felt rather sorrowful, but there was no use of crying over spilt milk.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Who was Henry?—a dog?, . . a cat? . . . a calf? I’m guessing that he was a calf that Grandma was trying to feed. He probably was really hungry, and in his enthusiasm managed to tip over the bucket of skim milk.

A hundred years ago cream separators were commonly used. The cream was sold or used to make butter—and calves (and pigs) were fed the skim milk.

Ad in July 1, 1911 issue of Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine

According to a book published in 1911 called The Farm Dairy by H.B. Gurler:

The calf should be allowed to take the first milk from its dam as nature requires this and if her rules are violated there will surely be trouble. After the calf has once nursed, it should be removed from its mother but fed its mother’s milk for a few days, depending on the vigor of the calf. Commence to add skim-milk after a week or ten days, adding a small amount at first and increasing it daily until the calf is on an entire skim milk diet.

There are a few simple rules to follow in growing calves on skim-milk. The milk must be sweet; it must be as warm as the mother’s milk and care must be exercised not to feed too much of it. There are many more calves injured by being fed too much skim milk than there are by not having enough of it. Four quarts at a feed twice a day is sufficient for the average-sized calf for the first month.

Add a spoonful of ground flax seed to each feed and teach the calf to eat a little corn-meal as soon as possible. Corn is the most economical food to balance a ration containing so much skim milk. Feed shelled corn as soon as the young calf will digest it well.

Every Dairyman Should Take a Vacation–And be Sure to Take the Wife!

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Thursday, September 7, 1911: Really nothing so very much for today. Am getting used to going to school now. 

The caption says, "Every Dairyman Should Take a Vacation."

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t have much to say a hundred years ago today, I’m going to go off on a tangent.

Summer’s over—and based on the diary I don’t think that the Muffly’s took a vacation during the summer of 1911. I just assumed that farmers didn’t take vacations back then because the animals needed to be fed regularly and the cows needed to be milked twice each day.

I was surprised to discover that my assumption was wrong and that some dairy farmers did take vacations a hundred years ago. The cover story in  the July 15, 1911 issue of Kimball’s Dairy Farmer magazine recommended that dairy farmers take vacations.

However, apparently many farmers took vacations without their families–and they left their wives at home to do the farm work. The article reprimanded  men who did this:

The farmer’s vacation should include other members of the family besides himself. The wife who has been struggling through the entire year with her difficulties and her tasks that oftentimes seem hopelessly burdensome should share in the recreation pleasures.

Kimball’s Dairy Farmer (July 15, 1911)

Early Farm Management Cartoon

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, August 30, 1911: Really there isn’t very much for today, so I won’t write about any of the occurrences.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since not much happened a hundred years ago today, I’m going to share a cartoon I found in the July 15, 1911 issue of Kimball’s Dairy Farmer magazine.

Caption: What system and good management do for the dairy farmer.

Driving Horses to Roll Field

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, August 2, 1911: Took lessons in driving, but even though I would like to learn to drive, I did not like that kind of lesson for the horses were old and slow, and I had to drive them in the field behind choking clouds of dust.

Horse-drawn roller. Photo source: Wikemedia Commons, German Federal Archives. (Rollers in the U.S. may have looked different, but this is the only photo I could find.)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I read this entry to my father and asked him what Grandma was doing. He says that she probably was using a roller on a plowed field. The roller would level the plowed earth in preparation for planting winter wheat seeds.

The horses would have been hitched to the roller and Grandma would have needed to tighten one rein or the other to make the horses go in a straight line.

I can almost picture the clouds of dust stirred up by the roller swirling around Grandma as she drove the horses.

Bucolic Cows or Poor Water Quality?

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, July 25, 1911:  Cows got in the corn again, and as I am the cowboy I had to get them out. Tweetkins was here awhile this afternoon to converse with her dear Ruthie.

Advertisement in June 30, 1911 Issue of Farm Implement Magazine

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This is the second time during July that the cows got into the corn.

Tweetkins refers to Helen Wesner, who often went by the nickname of Tweet. She was a friend of Grandma and her sister Ruth—though it sounds like she came to visit Ruth (rather than both of the Muffly girls) a hundred years ago today—and that Grandma was unhappy about being excluded from the conversation.

I really like the drawing in the 1911 advertisement that I used to illustrate today’s entry. A stream flows through the farm that Grandma grew up on so the cows probably were pastured in a field that looked similar to the field in the drawing.

Recent photo of the stream that flows through the farm Grandma grew up on (though obviously it is a different time of the year). The old Muffly barn is in the background--and the cows were probably pastured in this field.

I especially like the juxtaposition of the old (bucolic cows) and the new (airplane and sign for a De Laval Cream Separator).

However, when I showed the picture to my daughter she said, “Those cows are in the stream. That’s bad.” She spent a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer with a water quality organization—and spent part of that year encouraging farmers to build fences (or plant natural barriers) to keep cows out of streams.

It’s interesting how an illustration can evoke different feelings in different people. (Personally I still think it shows a peaceful scene with bucolic cows.)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 818 other followers