October 08, 2007

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

Because our harvest is over, we've been enjoying a beautiful, relaxing Thanksgiving weekend.

On Saturday, we went to the big pumpkin festival and weigh-off in the province. The kids got to see one of the biggest pumpkins (this isn't the grand prize winner, which weighed over 1,100 pounds)

and while my back was turned (buying a couple of slices of pumpkin for starving children), Tom decided to bid on one of the giant squashes. He ended up with the second place squash, all 570 pounds of it, which he and the kids plan to carve for Halloween.

Laura examined some of the other squashes,

while our our new pet got loaded for the trip home,

We got home in time to have a quick supper and then head out to meet the fruit truck from B.C., where we picked up a 40-pound box of Macintosh apples; 25 pounds of onions; some blue grapes; three gorgeous summer sausages, very similar to Italian dry salami, made by Mennonites; and two wheels of cheddar cheese from a small Alberta dairy.

Yesterday we had our big Thanksgiving meal with Tom's family, and today we've all been puttering around, Tom and the kids doing various farm chores (Tom helping a neighbor load up some of the hay bales we're selling, the boys using the grease gun for the first time, Laura riding the horse and rounding up cattle), and me canning pears,

The vegetables and fruits have been cleared out of the garden. I have a few more tomatoes to turn into sauce and freeze, and in a few weeks we'll cover the strawberries with a protective layer of straw. I still have to clean out the flower garden, though.

* * *

By eleven o'clock on Thanksgiving Day the aunts, uncles, and cousins had all arrived. The uncles and Big Kids usually stayed out on the front porch discussing cars, animals, crops, politics, and the price of hogs, soybeans, and corn. Then they would gravitate to the back of the house or, if the gathering was on a farm, to the horse barn, ostensibly to see a new foal or check out a new stall (and leaving the women and the Little Kids to do all the work). It was years before I discovered the real reason: Someone had stashed a bottle of Old Grandad in Old Jude's grain box.

The aunts and Little Kids gathered in the kitchen. Each aunt would have brought her specialty. Green lima beans, mashed potatoes, apple salad, cabbage salad, bread-and-butter pickles, vinegary beet pickles, baked acorn squash, ground-cherry, apple, and raisin pies, devil's food and angel food cakes, charlotte russe, and jams of all kind were unpacked and put on the table.

All of a sudden the kitchen was buzzing with laughter and chattering, questions and answers, orders and suggestions. Everybody pitched in. There were Wealthy apples to be peeled, cored, and sliced, boiled milk dressing to be assembled for that apple salad, gravy to be made, potatoes to be mashed, cakes and pies to be sliced, cream to be whipped, a goose to be carved. Even the littlest ones were pressed into service to bring in more wood for the kitchen fire or fresh water from the pump. They knew that they would get an oatmeal cookie for their efforts.

from Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. And what's Thanksgiving without Grandma's Apple Cream Pie?

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