poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘1960s

growing and gathering – learning

with 10 comments

When I embarked on my project to write poetry about ‘growing and gathering’, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the subject.  It is not surprising, then, to find I have written quite a few poems on the theme of ‘learning’.

Some of these poems are in the spirit of ‘how to’.  I have poems about collecting maple syrup, making jelly, harvesting and preparing wild sarsaparilla, stringing peas in the garden, gathering eggs and picking fiddleheads, among others.  As poems can be a little obtuse, sometimes these directions are not very helpful in a practical way.  However, I try to capture the essence of the growing and gathering of local foods.

I have also written poems about learning itself.  I have a poem about my childhood experience of running free on the prairie, picking thorny cactus berries and bottles of scorpions (yes, scorpions… they were interesting and pretty, and I didn’t know they were dangerous!).  I also have a poem to remind busy young mothers to learn from the rhythms of nature – the calm conspiring of bees and clovers to make honey, or the way a bird collects the makings of a nest, a little at a time.  Another poem is about learning how to negotiate the traditions of the farmers market (if you buy fresh carrots, keep the green tops for your compost bin!!!).

I also have two poems about imitating nature.  In the 1960s, my Mom used to make a few substitutions in her cooking to make up for a lack of ingredients.  You have probably seen these recipes before: Apple Pie, No Apples and Mock Cherry Pie.

One of the reasons Mom made these recipes was to have some fun and make us laugh. But fake food is no laughing matter.  My goal, in part, has been to show that we are now a little distanced from our food and its sources.  By considering what wild foods might still be available, I have tried to get others to think about the source of our food and the greater simplicity of eating local.



Apple Pie, No Apples

Prepare pastry for a double pie

Break 15 salted soda crackers into wedge-shaped pieces and place in the unbaked pie shell

Bring to a boil:

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups white sugar
4 tbsp. margarine
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp lemon flavoring

Pour mixture over crackers

Cover with pastry

Bake as for apple pie


Mock Cherry Pie

Prepare pastry for a double pie

Fill pie shell with:

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Cover with a lattice of pastry.

Bake as for cherry pie



Mock Cherry Pie


I am not easy to fool –

embellished covers, empty pages

‘baby’ carrots, shapened like pencils

knock-off purses, no money inside

diet soda and servings of fries


who else would look

under the lattice crust

to discover cranberries and raisins?


cherries in the orchard

never picked



©  Jane Tims  2012



1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.


Written by jane tims

August 6, 2012 at 7:13 am

from the pages of an old diary – words and phrases

with 12 comments

My great-aunt’s diaries are very easy to read.  Her handwriting is neat and her words, though brief, clearly convey her meaning.  Occasionally, she uses unfamiliar words.  What do you think these words mean?  My answers, assisted by the Internet, are given below…



‘silence cloth’




‘snow pudding’



April 18, 1957                She washed the curtains and ‘tidies’ from the upstairs rooms.

The Free Online Dictionary defines a ‘tidy’ as ‘a decorative protective covering for the arms or headrest of a chair.’  ‘Tidies’ could also have been her name for the hold-backs on curtains, or the small linen cloths used to cover dressers and other surfaces.

March 12, 1957             She bought a ‘silence cloth’ for the table ($2.00)

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a ‘silence cloth’ as ‘a pad (as of flannel or felt) used under a tablecloth.’  This cloth would have protected the table from scratches and marks from dishes.

July 31, 1956                She and her husband sat out on the ‘pizza’

This was a frequent entry.  I think it was her word for ‘piazza’ and referred to the front porch or a small sitting area in their side-yard.

Feb. 1, 1957                   Her Red Cross group made a ‘layette’ for a local woman and her baby.

Wikipedia says this is a collection of clothing for a newborn and can include many items, including sleepwear, cloth diapers, wash cloths and receiving blankets.

June 29, 1967               She received ‘snaps’ of their anniversary party.

I know this one, but some in the digital generation may not.  It is short for ‘snapshot’ and refers to processed photographs.

December 18, 1967    She made a ‘snow pudding’ and took it to a neighbour who had a sore tongue.

I am not a cook, so many recipe names are not familiar to me.  I looked at the Internet for a modern recipe and found the following:

Snow Pudding

2 T. unflavored gelatin
1/4 C. cold water
1 C. boiling water
1/2 C. lemon juice
1 C. sugar
3 egg whites

soften the gelatin in cold water;

dissolve the gelatin in boiling water;

add lemon juice and sugar and stir until the mixture thickens;

add stiffly beaten egg whites;

beat until the mixture ‘stacks’ (holds firm peaks).

The finished dessert looks like snow, hence the name.  I don’t know if using raw egg whites is OK today, but the equivalent from a carton of egg whites would be safe to use.


©  Jane Tims  2012


two of the six diaries my great-aunt wrote from 1944 to 1972 ... the quilt is one she made during the last years of her life

Written by jane tims

March 16, 2012 at 6:54 am

from the pages of an old diary – cost of living

with 6 comments

Some of the most interesting entries in my great-aunt’s diaries concern the cost of living.  She often recorded the prices of food, goods or services they obtained.  I read through her entries for 1954, 1955, 1957 and 1967 and noted some of these.  By comparing the amounts for the same items in the 1950s and 1967, you can see that prices were on the rise!

 Date  Item  Cost
 Nov. 22, 1954  chicken  $3.00 per chicken
 Nov. 10, 1967  chicken  haircut (barter system)
 June 30, 1955  eggs  $0.40 per dozen
 Dec. 14, 1957  eggs  $0.50 per dozen
 July 12 and July 14, 1967  strawberries  $0.35 per box
 July 19, 1967  strawberries  $1.40 for 4 boxes
 Oct. 22, 1967  oysters  $2.00 per pint
 Nov. 17, 1967  box of chocolates  $1.29 per box
 June 5, 1957  lobster supper at church  $1.00
 June 7, 1967  lobster supper (community function)  $1.50
 November 1, 1957  turkey dinner (community function)  $1.00
 October 25, 1967  turkey dinner (community function)  $1.25
 Feb. 13, 1954  Valentine Tea at church hall  $0.60
 June 22, 1957  tea in church hall  $0.50
 July 9, 1957  show (movie theatre)  $0.50
 May 7, 1957  T.V. from Simpsons  $269.95
 March 12, 1957  ‘silence’ cloth for table  $2.00
 Sept. 10, 1954  new shoes  $6.95
 April 23, 1957  black Oxfords (White Cross)  $9.95
 June 14, 1954  shingles for barn  $50.18
 May 17, 1967  house shingled  $163.00
 May 17, 1954  wood for stove  $40.00 (probably total for year)
 July 8, 1954  hair permanent  $4.00
 Dec. 16, 1957  hair permanent  $3.25
 Sept. 20, 1967  hair permanent  $6.00
 March 13, 1957  tailoring – a ‘Black Watch’    skirt  $4.94 for material and sewing
 Sept. 6-10, 1967  vacation accommodation (room in house)  $8.00 per night
 Sept. 6-10, 1967  vacation accommodation (motel)  $14.00 per couple



©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

March 12, 2012 at 7:17 am

from the pages of an old diary – words about women’s work

with 11 comments

I have been thinking a lot about ‘women’s domestic work’ these days.  This not only because I do some housework myself from time to time (!), but because I am taking a History course – “Canadian Women’s History”. 

One of the assignments for the course is to read a woman’s diary or journal and learn about what life was like for her through her words.  I am lucky to have a set of six five-year diaries from my great-aunt who lived in Nova Scotia and I have decided to look at her diaries for my project.  The diaries cover the years from 1944 to 1972 .  Since I was born in 1954, I have chosen 1954 and 1957 as years to study.

Her diary for a particular year is a simple record of her daily activities.  Simple, but what a lot of information is found in a few lines of text!

I have reviewed all of her entries for the year 1957 and find she covers the following topics in her entries:

  1. the weather
  2. people who visited
  3. people she visited
  4. housework done (she includes her husband’s work around the house)
  5. community work done
  6. community events (such as funerals or weddings)
  7. letters written or received
  8. special trips
  9. unexpected events (such as the car breaking down)
  10. family health

One thing I notice about her diaries, is her faithfulness in making an entry every day for 29 years!  So many diaries I have begun fizzle after the first month or so of writing! 

Another aspect is the value of her words.  Over 50 years later, I can still find helpful advice in the way she did her work and the emphasis she put on participating in her community.  I can find specific information of the birth dates of relatives or the date our family arrived for our summer vacation in a particular year.  In addition, for anyone interested in the daily life of women in the 20th century, a set of diaries like hers is an invaluable resource and window into history.

Over the next few posts, I am going to look at various aspects of the daily life of my great-aunt and consider how similar or different life is for me today.

two of the six diaries my great-aunt wrote from 1944 to 1972 ... the quilt is one she made during the last years of her life

Copyright  Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

February 4, 2012 at 7:38 am

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