Industry

I was tickled last week to see this story from Fargo, about a guy who has problems with an industrious red squirrel.

https://www.inforum.com/community/7213005-42-gallons-of-nuts-Red-squirrel-stuffs-Fargo-mans-truck-with-nuts

For one thing, I am amazed that a walnut tree could be so prolific. I am also pretty impressed by the tenacity and single mindedness of the squirrel. I truly can understand this from the squirrel’s point of view. I don’t know what it is about having fresh produce, but every time we swear that this is the last tomato or eggplant or green bean we will pick, Husband and I automatically start to think of new ways to use them or preserve the ones that still are coming. We give what we can to the food pantry, but they are only open two days a week.

Husband picked a bunch of Spanish Giant sweet red peppers yesterday, and swore that he was going to pull up the plants. He didn’t, though, as he decided that would be wasteful. So, here I am, watering the garden again as it is going to be in the 80’s this week, because the peppers and tomatoes are loaded with fruits yet to ripen. The lack of a killing frost has made the garden last far longer than usual. I made two spanakopita on Saturday using up three pounds of our garden spinach leaves. There is a feverishness to harvest. Sometimes I think we are nuts with our garden. I lay the blame on our parents and grandparents.

How did growing up with Great Depression-era parents impact you? When have you been industrious? Got any good squirrel stories?

45 thoughts on “Industry”

  1. My mother’s mother, the grandmother we called Nownie, was a tough and resourceful character. She triumphed over the Great Depression, mostly by employing a series of hustles, each of which brought in small bits of cash. Just last week I mentioned one of her projects, which was collecting and shelling walnuts. I’m pretty sure nobody reading this blog has done that. Walnuts are about as tough as my grandmother, and they don’t yield their nuts without putting up a good fight.

    Nownie involved my mother in another project: tinting photos. My grandfather made an extremely modest living with a photo studio, mostly taking wedding photos. He was never very skillful and never outgrew the primitive equipment he bought in the 1940s when he created the studio. Grampa Clarence was a photographer who never took a color photo. He never learned how, and his equipment—old Graflex cameras—were strictly built to yield black and white images. When color photography became popular in the 1970s, my grandparents went out of business.

    At each wedding, Nownie would take copious notes on the colors of the bridal gowns and all the floral arrangements. After Grampa Clarence printed a big stack of black and white photos, the photos and the notes would be mailed to my mother. She worked like an artist with a palette of oil paints, applying color to photos by using toothpicks around which she spun cotton (Q-Tips were not yet being sold). Tinting photos was the only job my mother had for many decades, and she was paid like any other employee might be. The result, tinted photos, were delicate and beautiful, if not exactly accurate, for all the colors were applied by my mother, a person who had never seen what she was tinting.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I can’t imagine how your mother was able to do this, even using the copious notes from your grandma. Do you know how and where she learned to do this? There had to be tons of pitfalls.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve done some hand tinting myself and the effect, as Steve says, is delicate and beautiful and also fairly forgiving. I would presume that would make slight inaccuracies forgivable.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I think she was saved by low expectations. As for how she learned, she learned this skill by doing it. I imagine at first people were just delighted to get colored photos, even if the saturation was low and the hues might be off. When color photography became cheaper and more true, people began raising their expectations. That didn’t happen until the 1970s. A competing photo studio opened in my grandparents’ home town, and that was it. They folded up the old Graflex cameras for the last time and closed shop.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. A thirty-year run of a small photographic studio in a small town had to be a pretty good run. Was this in Iowa?

          In Stubbekøbing (population 2,300) there was only one photography studio owned by the Lorentzen family. All of my early childhood photos were taken there, a few of them were hand colorized, but I have no idea by whom. I think my sister still has the originals.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. Once again, modest expectations saved my grandfolks. This was in Manchester, Iowa, a pretty little river town parked along the Maquoketa River. I loved visiting there.

          My grandparents had a lovely Queen Anne Revival home on a corner lot. Right at the corner of the lot they had a big wood and glass case set right near the sidewalks. It was the kind of case used by churches to advertise their activities. In it my grandparents displayed photos of weddings they had shot. To my knowledge, this was the only promotion they used, although in a small town everyone knows what everyone else does to make a living. They could never charge much for their photography, but my grandmother was extremely careful with money, and they got by.

          I’ve emailed two tinted photos to you.

          Liked by 3 people

    2. I have seen some tinted photographs that were just delightful, but I have always wondered about their accuracy, though those details were insignificant. Isn’t it ironical that today, when photographs are capable of capturing exquisite detail of color and everything else, we question their accuracy for different reasons?

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Snort! That cracked me up, Clyde. But when I think about it, that’s really incredible. Even with a small graduating class, say twenty students, was each photo colorized individually? If so, that means no two of them were the same, but had subtle differences.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Well, my one tinted photo was never near a classmates. But my brother and my sisters and mine together were quite a contrast. My brother’s was rather ethereal. My Tom boy sister’s was much too feminine for her. Our pasty German skin never looked like any of the three.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. I attribute my own sense of urgency this time of year, more to a primal instinct than my parents’ Great Depression-era background. I’m like a squirrel hoarding nuts. Even when I know in my bones that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that we’ll be able to store and keep it all, let alone consume it before it goes bad, I still have the urge to buy another squash, another eggplant, some more kale.

    My mother, bless her soul, learned how to can and preserve after she came to Denmark. We had a special room in the basement, lined with shelves, where glass after glass of canned goods, all from our garden, was stored. The trouble was that she had this sense of how precious those jars were, and she would rarely incorporate them into our family meals. Like our good china and silverware, they were reserved for company and special occasions. As we rarely had company, and special occasions were few and far between, she often ended up throwing away the contents of glasses of canned goods because they were no longer palatable, and she needed the glasses for the current year’s bounty. And this cycle was repeated, year after year, until she finally quit canning because of the futility of it all. Logically it makes no sense at all, but emotionally, I understand how this works.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. We ate a lot of canned goods in may and June to empty them for this year. My mother kept no vegetable or fruit canned goods for more than 10 or 11 months. Neat for only 8-9. I loved her canned chicken.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. I often reference Adeline-influenced penny pinching or as she said pence pinching. Why did my mother do money in British terms? She is in my head in many good ways, but lots of less appealing ways. I am 95% Wetter. 5% Birkholz. And she, having been married in 1936, was shaped in many ways by Depression. Distrust of business, pessimistic, security-craving, and skilled in self -reliance. All cloth in our house lived two lives. And distrust. She would have detested 45, but she would understand some motivations that drive 45ists. I have lived a life with troublesome tonsils because of that distrust.
    I have yet another MRI tomorrow to check for pancreatic cancer. Adeline Ann (or Ann Adeline or either way with Anne) is whispering in my ear “Why bother? If you have it, and he told you the chances are small, they would simply tell you to go home and die.”
    So why I am I going to spend tax money on it? Anne Adeline was as tight with government money as with her own, or would have been if she controlled it.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. No squirrel stories. They don’t bother me, and I don’t bother them.
    I used to say to anyone that commented on my work, “It’s my dad, he’s up there telling me to work faster.” I’ve more or less shaken that off now.
    But you can love or hate your dad. You can’t ignore him.
    I’d say that all five of us are no strangers to leisure. But we’re not good at it. We need to be doing something. Hard to say if it’s nature or nurture, I’d also say that that’s how Mum was, an uneasy mixture of lazy and hard working. Dad always set the standard to live up to, ie, just work all the time, and you won’t go wrong. Well….. he developed angina at 64,and lived another 15 years. He didn’t go crazy, just did rather more than you might think sensible. So maybe his way wasn’t too far out.
    Don’t know about Angelina, now 72. The rest of us are between 64 and 70,and still busy, still driven.
    Even someone who lives in the past, like me, has to keep looking forward. Keep having an aim, even if it’s only getting all the paper clips out and getting them in order. Though mending motorbikes sounds more fun to me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Our red squirrels and yours are two very different breeds. Imported American grays are causing huge reduction in your reds, with their tufts. Ours are a scourge sometimes. Relentless, destructive, get into everything. We have a few reds in our patch of woods. Sorry to say sometimes but fun to watch.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. My mother and father were less affected by the depression than many, I suppose. Never thought about it, any more than I’ve thought about whether or not I’m a Baby Boomer. We’re just an atypical family, period.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    42 gallons of walnuts is ALOT. And if you shell and crack those the black walnut meats are worth a fortune, if only you can live through doing that. My late, not-so-great piously christian mother-in-law used to do this to earn extra money. The shells make an indelible ink and dye as well.

    The Great Depression affected my parents so much because they lived through it. My favorite depression era keepsake is my paternal grandmother’s cook book. I also have parts of the cookbooks of two of her sisters. They clipped out recipes from magazines and glued them into the book, or copied them out. Measurements came in pinches and handfuls of ingredients. 1 cup of something meant 1 coffee cup, not a measuring cup. The best recipe reflecting this is for corn meal mush. It starts with, “Go to the corn crib and choose 8 good ears of corn. Take them to the neighbor to shell and grind…”. They wasted nothing.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Kelly has been picking up the black walnuts we have around the house and deck. I know the DNR takes them. $5 / bushel. That’s a lot of walnuts and not much money… she may just go dump them away from the house somewhere and let the squirrels have at them.
      Black Walnut meat isn’t the stuff to eat; you need English Walnuts for that, right?

      Many years ago when I was measuring grain bins, I climbed one and opened the door. The corn was 6′ down and there wasn’t a ladder inside, so I didn’t need to climb inside. Good thing as there was a squirrel running around inside with no way to get out. There was no one home at the farm so as I wrote up the report I made a note to let the farmer know there was a squrrel, squuirrel, sqirreal, “rodent” in the bin.

      But my favorite is ‘Squirrel Cop’ from This American Life.

      I think from the depression, my dad learned, from his dad, how to fix and repair anything. They didn’t buy new, because there wasn’t new. I’m pretty good at fixing stuff, but no where near how good my dad was.
      And my in-laws, they simply saved EVERYTHING. So cleaning out their house after he died and she moved, was…. trying. We just ordered the 30 yard dumpster and took it one day at a time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Good squirrel story!
        Ben, there’s something I can’t understand. I must have got it wrong, I think. Are you saying, you took all that stuff, and threw it away? Threw it AWAY? That’s what you have sheds for, you put stuff in them. When they’re full, you build another one, right? For the next lot of stuff you get?

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      2. You can eat black walnuts—they are beloved for the unique, early flavor. I helped the late not-so-great MIL crack these several times. Hard as rocks, they are, but delicious in chocolate.

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        1. I remember my parents spreading walnuts out on the driveway for the milk truck to run over and break the husks or crack the shells; something like that.
          And my brother tried to make a fan like thing to knock the husks off. I don’t recall it ever working very well.
          A few years ago we dried some walnuts on the deck, and cracked them open and they tasted terrible, That’s why I thought it was the wrong kind to eat.

          Liked by 2 people

    2. Robin and a couple of friends set out to make some natural dye from black walnuts. They had an ample supply of nuts and the preparation and boiling down of the black walnuts took most of the day. Into the prepared dye they put some skeins of white wool yarn. The result was medium brown yarn, exactly like you would get naturally from the wool of a brown sheep.

      Liked by 5 people

  7. I’ve thought of one time when I can say I was industrious (I mean, there are plenty to others……).
    Dad worked on an estate, cottage provided, the last decade before he retired. The estate needed the cottage we were in, for a cowman who was to run the new dairy unit the other side of our fence (Dad had had a big hand in building it). So they had to find him another place, as the tradition was that they’d house workers till they died. We knew of a cute, abandoned place in the woods, which was going to be allowed to stay abandoned, they didn’t want to spend money on it. Dad said, let me rebuild it in my own time. You supply the materials. Then let me live there till I die. So he and my sisterJane started work, well before the construction of the dairy yard, probably. I forget now. Weekends only, of course. It wasn’t an economic proposition, they took the roof off, all the floors out. Just what Dad would always like to have done, and it took a couple of years I suppose.
    As an aside. You’ve met Jane briefly. The relationship between her and Dad was complex and difficult. But they worked together well, and you’d think they were friends. I’d tried before to go along and help, and felt out of place, and given up almost immediately.
    But meanwhile, we had a garden that was three quarters of an acre, which Dad had no time for now. So I took it on, from summer 1975, until we moved, probably late 1976. You couldn’t let Estate houses, especially alongside the road, become untidy. And we loved that garden.
    I was living in town, but I think I used to come home on Friday evening and work until dark. Next morning the alarm went off at six, and I’d be up and out of the door as soon as I was dressed, and would work until I was hungry (not long). And that’s what I did over a three day weekend, I don’t actually remember if I came on Friday morning and left Monday night, or vice versa. I got up at six and had to tear myself away when it was dark, I only stopped to eat, and I loved every minute.
    Makes me wonder if I did much paid work. Thinking about it more, I realise that I worked on the garden on Monday. Barnstaple was a market town, and market day was Friday. Market Day is another way of saying, The Pubs Are Open All Day. So that was four days a week that I wasn’t earning money.
    The years went by and I got busier in the area I now worked in, and I wouldn’t have had time to be so industrious in the garden.
    By the way, this was before it became legal for pubs to seemingly never close. To have them open all day, once a week, was an event.
    Can’t remember what the attraction was.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My only squirrel story is the tale of Nutsy. One day when I was a teenager we found an infant squirrel in the grass of our front yard. It was so young its eyes had not opened yet. We named it Nutsy and fed it oatmeal. That worked well enough, and Nutsy thrived. He drove my mother crazy hiding nuts in the sofa and in chiming clocks. When Nutsy reached adolescence, he acquired attitudes, and that culminated in him biting my dad on the thumb.

    That was the end of having a pet squirrel. My parents drove a few miles away to an oak orchard, stuck Nutsy on one of the trees and fled. We went back the next day with my mother in tears as we walked around the orchard, trying to call Nutsy down. My mother kept sobbing, “Poor Nutsy thinks nuts come in cellophane packs.” We never saw him again.

    Much later I heard that a gas station mechanic whose shop was near that orchard was shocked when a squirrel walked into his garage and behaved as if it expected food. He kept it for years. I’m sure that was Nutsy.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. Back in 1981, our airedale terrier killed a squirrel in our back yard. Unfortunately, we discovered, it had a tiny baby that couldn’t fend for itself. I brought it into the house, and husband was dispatched to the local pet store to buy a tiny bottle and some formula to feed it every few hours throughout the day. During the week I brought it with me to my office at the accounting firm in a shoe box, and had plenty of volunteers to feed the tiny critter.

    The week following his rescue, husband and I were going camping in Montana and Wyoming. We couldn’t find anyone who would take care of our squirrel, so we decided to take it along on our trip. He’d sleep in the front pocket of my sweatshirt, come out to be fed, and would perch quite contentedly on my shoulder. At roadside rest stops, he’d join us at the picnic table, eat whatever treats we fed him, and just generally be a joy to be around. At night he slept in his shoe box in the tent, and in the morning he’d crawl out and snuggle with me in my sleeping bag. We never restrained him in any way, he could come and go as he wanted, and he always returned to us. He rode along on my shoulder when we hiked in the mountains, and lots of hikers along the way joked that we were attempting to steal the wildlife, and took pictures of him.

    Only once on the trip, someplace in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming, in a rocky and barren landscape where we stopped for lunch, did he freak out. There were no trees around anywhere, and apparently he knew instinctively that he didn’t belong there. We had to coax him out from under the car when we were ready to leave.

    It was interesting to me, that this little fellow was such an easy and pleasant travel companion for the duration of our camping trip. He never ran away, and seemed perfectly content to be with us. Yet as soon as we arrived back home, he ran up one of the boulevard trees, and we never touched him again. He may or may not have hung around – we can’t tell one squirrel from another – but as far as we know, he lived happily ever after without interacting with us.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. Both of my parents were born in 1932 so most of their depression shaping came from their parents. The one thing I remember is that my grandmother always used her sterling silver for every day. She had done it my dad‘s whole life. (He never said this but I always wondered if it was the only silverware she had when she divorced my grandfather. But I don’t know this for sure.). Anyway my father carried this with him so all of my life growing up, our every day silver was actually silver. Nonny still uses it every day.

    It’s a funny coincidence that this topic should come up on the trail today because just yesterday when YA and I were driving around I thought about my silver which sits in a big box and hardly gets used. I actually thought maybe I should carry on the family tradition and use my silver every day like my dad did and my grandma before him.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Good point, Renee, Sherrilee will be retiring soon, and will have NO time for washing up cutlery from then on. Free time will be a thing of the past.

        Liked by 2 people

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