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November 21st, 2012

Harvest Home

In Pennsylvania Dutch country, where I’m from (and where Organic Gardening is produced), many churches celebrate a festival called Harvest Home in late summer and early fall. It is a throwback to much earlier harvest traditions brought over from Europe and adapted for American use. A hundred years ago, the festival would have been marked by members of a church congregation bringing a selection of their best home-preserved foodstuffs to share with the less fortunate. As you can see from these century-old photos, Pennsylvania Dutch women canned every type of produce in abundance, and so they had plenty to share. Nowadays, church members typically bring store-bought canned goods to church on Harvest Home Sunday, because, sadly, many people have been taught to fear home-canned foods. But displays full of corporate logos and bar codes can’t match the beauty of these natural and healthy offerings from years ago!

Canned fruits and vegetables, relishes and preserves are presented along with fall flowers and sheaves of grasses at this Harvest Home display in a Bucks County church in 1907.

Canned fruits and vegetables, relishes and preserves are presented along with fall flowers and sheaves of grasses at this Harvest Home display in a Bucks County church in 1907.

Potted plants join the mounds of onions and other produce on the altar of this Allentown church in 1906.

Potted plants join the mounds of onions and other produce on the altar of this Allentown church in 1906.

The pastor of this Reformed church in Lehigh County was happy to have his portrait associated with this beautiful Harvest Home display circa 1906.

The pastor of this Reformed church in Lehigh County was happy to have his portrait associated with this beautiful Harvest Home display circa 1906.

I hope everyone’s harvest was successful this year and that you had enough for your families and enough to share. Happy Thanksgiving!

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November 21st, 2011

Thankful for the Harvest

nancy-80x80Of the many things I have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, never having to worry about being hungry is a big one. Oh, I don’t mean hungry as in, “it’s been 5 hours since breakfast and my stomach is growling”; I mean hungry as in “it’s been 5 days since I’ve had anything but a handful of rice to last the day.”

Working at Organic Gardening has some unique perks, and one is the plentiful supply of fresh produce from our test garden during the growing season. On those days when I volunteer to help our test garden manager, Doug Hall, with the weeding and harvesting, the vegetables always taste even sweeter. Hard work always sharpens the appetite. Now that the garden is heading into its dormant season, I miss checking out the “harvest table” every Wednesday to see what Doug has grown that week.

I have a lot of 100-year-old Thanksgiving greeting postcards in my collection, and many of them feature scenes of the harvest. People were just as grateful for their daily bread a century ago. Or even 4 centuries ago—the first Thanksgiving, celebrated jointly by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people (without whose agricultural advice they would have starved), was a celebration of the harvest. Often my old postcards feature somewhat fantasized turn-of-the-century interpretations of what Pilgrims and Indians would have looked like.

Here’s a harvest of Thanksgiving postcards for you to enjoy. Hope everyone has a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

This Pilgrim-y lass has a harvest of corn. She was drawn by artist May L. Farini in 1910.

This Pilgrim-y lass has a harvest of corn. She was drawn by artist May L. Farini in 1910.

A lovely sunbonnet lady with a sheaf of wheat, painted by the artist Samuel L. Schmucker in 1911.

A lovely sunbonnet lady with a sheaf of wheat, painted by the artist Samuel Loren Schmucker about 1911.

A pilgrim-y woman in prayerful pose in the pumpkin patch, after the corn harvest. Also by Schmucker.

A pilgrim-y woman in prayerful pose in the pumpkin patch, after the corn harvest. Also by Schmucker, 1911.

A Pilgrim-y couple saying thanks for their crop of corn, fruits, and vegetables.

A Pilgrim-y couple saying thanks for their crop of corn, fruits, and vegetables.

A country couple harvest apples on this card printed in Germany about 1908.

A German farm couple harvests apples on this card from about 1908.

An American boy produces his own apple crop, circa 1910.

An American boy produces his own apple crop, circa 1910.

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