In a Jam

Some days, I amaze myself, how slow I am.

We have four berry bushes – one gooseberry, one red currant, one high-bush cranberry and one chokecherry. None produces enough berries to make single-source jam so I have taken to throwing all the berries into the pot and making what I call “Many Berry Jam.”

Which is what I did Sunday morning.

Chokecherries are about 90% stone, 10% pulp, so I cooked them separately, squished them through a sieve to remove the seeds, and added the resulting juice and pulp to the other berries. My husband watched as I threw all the berries into the pot. “Aren’t you going to cook the cranberries separately? They have seeds, too.”

Being the all-knowing (at least, in my mind) maker of jams, I said, “No, they’re small seeds. You’ll never notice them.”

Guess what? Hubby was right (oh, I hate to admit that). Flat, oval and definitely inedible seeds began appearing in the mash. I started spooning them out. More appeared. Then more. Then still more. The pile of discarded seeds grew. Egad, is there no end?

I realized, to my horror and dismay, that there would be no end as long as there were still cranberries splitting open and spilling out their seeds. Now what to do? I’d been spooning out seeds for an hour; how many more hours would I have to do this?

The light bulb of inspiration flashed on. Why don’t I get out the food mill and run the mash through it. That will take out the seeds. Duh! Why didn’t I think of this at the beginning? (Of course, some of you may be asking, “Why didn’t you listen to your husband before?” Well, chalk that up to my contrary Hanna personality, or my equally contrary Libran personality – if there’s anything a Libran hates more than having to decide what to do, it’s having someone tell her what to do. But I digress.)

As I said, some days, I amaze myself, how slow I am.

Four half-pint jars of Many Berry Jam, sans seeds, now sit proudly on the shelf in our cold room.

And next year, I’ll cook the cranberries separately.

#JamMaking #FallPreserves #CookingFauxPas #LearningTheHardWay #HighBushCranberries #Chokecherries #MargaretGHanna

Ha! Ha! Fooled Ya’!

Archaeologists must be masochists (I should know, I was an archaeologist in pre-retirement life). Who else would willingly work in out-of-the-way places with no amenities, in blazing heat or freezing cold, bend your body into unnatural positions so you won’t step on/sit on/kick some precious (you hope) artifact or feature, or get run off your site (or worse, out of camp) by wild animals.

Archaeological sites are notoriously unpredictable. Just when you think you know what’s happening, you find something weird or unexpected – which is just as likely the absence of something you expected – and you have to change your entire excavation (or survey) strategy on the spot. Archaeologists have to be constantly on their toes, even though they are usually on their knees, or bellies, digging (maybe even praying).

I’ve been the victim of the unexpected many times. Here are a couple:

Gotcha #1
La Loche, northwestern Saskatchewan. My colleague and I were surveying a new highway right-of-way just south of the village. It was easy work. The soil was sandy and there were almost no trees (in spite of being in the boreal forest), so all we had to do was walk the right-of-way and map and collect any artifacts we encountered. At first, we found nothing exciting, just flakes of the expected quartz, quartzite and silicified sandstone. But then, just when we were about to give up on the place, I found a couple of flakes of a white homogeneous, extremely fine-grained stone that I had never seen before. A couple more lay barely a metre beyond. And then more. I followed the trail, finding more and more flakes. I was puzzled. What could this stone material be?

And then, there it was, the mother lode. I laughed. I tossed away those mystifying flakes.

What lay before me was a broken white porcelain toilet. I had been collecting porcelain “flakes.” I called my colleague over and we both had a good laugh. I swear I heard the site laughing, too.

Gotcha #2
Chambery Coulee, southeast of Eastend, in southwestern Saskatchewan. The Royal Saskatchewan Museum (where I was a curator) was excavating “Scotty,” a Tyrannosaurus rex, in the bottom of the coulee. I joined them for a few days where I discovered that chiseling through rock is much harder than digging through dirt (and more painful because I constantly smacked my thumb with the hammer). So when they told me there were lots of tipi rings (stone circles) on the prairie level above the coulee, I dropped my hammer and chisel (avoiding my foot) and headed for the hills that rimmed the coulee.

I won’t bore you with the details of my mapping strategy, except the one that is essential to this story. I used a piece of orange flagging tape on a 6″ spike to mark each of the thousands of artifacts (mostly flakes, rarely tools) that lay inside and around the tipi rings. Once they were marked, I mapped them, removing each flag-tipped spike as I recorded what it marked.

It was one of those scorching hot prairie days. The sun beat down from a cloudless sky. I was hot and tired. I desperately wanted to get back to camp, to wash, to have a beer, and to hear what the gang from the T. rex site had found. I packed the last of the spikes into my backpack and slung it onto my shoulder.

But wait! Way off there, a hundred of so meters away, was a speck of orange. Rats (or words to that effect)! I dropped my pack, dug out my notebook and pencil, and paced the distance to it.

I shook my head. I laughed. Fooled again! What sat at my feet was not a flag-tipped spike. No. It was a Scarlet Mallow, a wild flower native to the prairies. The flower was exactly the same colour as the flagging tape.

I walked back, picked up my pack and went back to camp. The crew had a good laugh. I’m sure the Scarlet Mallow had a good giggle, too.

#Archaeology #ExcavationTales #PorcelainToilet #ScarletMallow #SaskatchewanArchaeology #SurveyTales #MargaretGHanna

Fickle Prairie Weather

After a less-than-snowy winter, after a long warmer-than-usual spring, after a long scorching hot and dry summer, we are now in autumn. The harvest season.

Too bad there’s not much to harvest.

The drought across the prairies – from Manitoba to Alberta – has brought back memories of the Dirty Thirties. A time of no snow, no rain, no crop, no income. A time of dust storms that obliterated visibility and buried shelterbelts and fence lines. A time when farmers abandoned their farms and moved elsewhere. Anywhere.

This year’s crops are stunted due to lack of rain and bleached or burned due to the intense heat. The heads are only partly filled, the kernels in them shrunken. It’s not a pretty sight.

Harvest started two to three weeks earlier than usual. Those crops that are worth combining are so short that the combine table barely clears the ground. Other crops aren’t even worth the cost; farmers have turned their cattle in to graze what little grew. They will be depending on crop insurance to see them through to spring. No farmer likes that, if only because it means next year’s premiums will rise.

Ranchers are in no better situation. Cattle have eaten pastures down to the dirt. Hay crops are abysmal. A cousin got just over 300 round bales off his hay field this year. Last year, he got over 1000. They’re selling off their cattle because there’s little hay to bale or to buy, and what is available is horrifically expensive. Ranchers, like farmers, are depending on government relief payments. They don’t like that any better than farmers like crop insurance.

I joked with my brother a few weeks ago that the rains would come as soon as the combines rolled into the fields. And they did. Last week, the rains came. Good steady showers and rains. The kind that should have come in May. Or June. Or July. They’re too late to help this year’s crops and pastures. They might help restore ground moisture for next year.

If more rain comes. And winter snow.

In 1986, my father had a bumper crop. He combined one field, 40 acres of Canada No. 1 Hard wheat in the bin. And then it started to rain.

It rained all September. Not just showers, but downpours. Constant. Steady. Occasionally, it stopped raining for a couple of days, just long enough for Dad to think, “If this keeps up a bit longer, I can get the rest of the crop off.”

He’d wake up the next morning to pouring rain.

The crops deteriorated. They were so wet, kernels sprouted in the heads.

At the end of September, the clouds rolled away, the sun came out, the breezes blew, and the crops dried out. Too late. The damage was done. The crop was ruined. What had been a bumper crop of Canada No. 1 Hard was now barely feed quality.

All this makes you wonder why farmers keep on farming. Why they persist in spite of fickle prairie weather.

I think it’s because there’s nothing else they’d rather do.

#PrairieWeather #Drought #PalliserTriangle #HarvestTime #ClimateChange #FarmingChallenges #TooMuchRain #HannaHistory #MargaretGHanna

Fire and Smoke

Along the line of smoky hills
The crimson forest stands . . .

When William Wilfred Campbell wrote his poem “Indian Summer,” he probably never imagined that the first two lines would encapsulate this summer of fire and smoke. That the hills would be hazy with real smoke, that the forest would be crimson with wild fire.

This summer has been very smoky here in Alberta, but we should be thankful we have only smoke to complain about. Other people are facing the terrifying “crimson forest” of wild fire. All across British Columbia and eastward across the northern prairies to northwestern Ontario, forests are on fire, communities are evacuated, and property is lost.

Airdrie, as viewed from the west: Now you see it (above), now you don’t (below)

On June 29, the town of Lytton, BC, had the dubious distinction of breaking the record for the hottest temperature in Canada (held by Yellowgrass, Saskatchewan, since 1937) when the temperature reached 49.6C (121.3 F). The next day, a wild fire destroyed the town. The fire spread so fast, most people escaped only with the clothes they were wearing. Two people lost their lives.

The White Rock Lake fire in the Okanagan valley in central BC now encompasses 55,000 hectares (135,000 acres). It has destroyed towns, farms and ranches. More than 2000 people have been evacuated. The cities of Vernon and Kamloops are on evacuation alert. There appears to be no end in sight – the weather continues hot and dry, the winds strong.

Canada is not alone. At 189,00 hectares (466,000+ acres), the Dixie fire in California dwarfs the White Rock Lake fire. It has destroyed more than 100 homes and leveled an historic gold rush era town. No one knows how many people it has killed or left homeless. It is only one of many fires burning in the American west.

Greece is on fire. So is Turkey. And Siberia. The list goes on.

People have died, they’ve lost homes and businesses, they are destitute and frightened, and they feel helpless in the face of a monstrous catastrophe with no apparent end in sight. And all this, in the midst of a pandemic that also seems to have no apparent end in sight. It brings to mind the post-apocalyptic world of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Or worse, the potential for Thomas Hobbes’ “war of all against all.”

Many people say that this year’s fires are the result of human-caused global warming. We’ve had a winter and spring with little or no snow or rain, and a summer of scorching hot heat. Places such as California have endured these drought conditions for years.

But other practices and events have exacerbated the wild fire situation. A century of forest management has priorized preservation of timber for commercial purposes, with the consequence a thick cover of ground trash and a dense monoculture of pine or spruce. Combine that with a decade-long invasion of mountain pine beetle that killed vast tracts of boreal and alpine forest. Under those circumstances, all it takes is one careless person throwing away a cigarette butt, or a lightning strike from a dry thunderstorm, or even just a discarded pop bottle reflecting sun and heat onto a patch of dry grass. Suddenly, the world is ablaze.

Don’t get me wrong – I do not deny climate change. Far from it. As an archaeologist, I’ve learned the trajectory of climate change throughout human history.

The Little Ice Age lasted from about 1300 to 1800 AD. Crops perished and people starved (the Black Death didn’t help). The Thames River froze and people skated on it. Before that was the Medieval Warm period that facilitated the Vikings’ establishing settlements on Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland, as well as the eastward migration of the Thule people through ice-free waters of the Canadian Arctic.

Even longer ago, from about 8000 to 4000 years ago, the Altithermal or Climatic Optimum was a period of warmer, drier conditions that challenged people living on the North American plains. In fact, archaeologists long thought that the Great Plains were uninhabitable in ancient times; that changed with the discovery of the 10,000 year-old Folsom site in 1926.

Earth and its climate are dynamic, always changing, sometimes slowly, sometimes in an instant. This time, human agency is magnifying these changes. We are facing the cumulative result of 100 years of profligate energy use. The recent UN’s report from the IPCC is damning, and terrifying.

Humans have survived millennia of alternating warm/dry and cold/wet periods. We are on the cusp of another one now. Raging “crimson forests” and “smoky hills” may be our fate for years to come. Will we survive it?

#ClimateChange #WildFires #RecordHeat #Drought #LyttonBC #DixieFire #WhiteRockLakeFire #DynamicEarth #LittleIceAge #MedievalWarmPeriod #ClimaticOptimum #MargaretGHanna

Free? Or merely out on parole?

Many years ago, at the end of a two-day blizzard, my brother and I exploded out of the house. We had been trapped inside all that time, driving each other (and our parents) crazy. I can’t recall if we left of our own volition or if our parents kicked us out, glad for the reprieve from our bickering. The temperature was way below zero. The air was brittle-cold; our eyelashes froze up; our lungs balked at breathing the frigid air. We didn’t care. We ran around the yard. We had a snowball fight. We made snow angels. We stomped on every drift in the trees to see which were hard enough to dig tunnels and caves. Two hours later, we staggered into the house, our energy all run off, much to our parents’ relief.

I felt like that again last month after my husband and I got our second COVID vaccine. We didn’t exactly explode out – we’re too old for that, – but perhaps now we could go grocery shopping at a reasonable hour rather than at “seniors’ hours” of 7:00 am. Perhaps we could expand our bubble to visit some of our relatives and friends – outside, of course. Perhaps life could start its slow return to life-after-COVID.

Or perhaps not.

Our premier declared Alberta “Open for Summer” as of July 1 and removed all restrictions. And I do mean ALL. No masks (except on public transit, including taxis). No limits on indoor or outdoor gatherings. No limits on numbers in mall or gyms or restaurants or bars or casinos. Social distancing – out the window. And people exploded out, glad to be out of months-long lockdown, glad to expand their bubble to whomever they wanted to include, glad to go where they wanted when they wanted.

Alberta is not the only place removing restrictions. Other Canadian provinces are relaxing theirs. Most American states have completely removed their restrictions, as have other countries. Their reasoning? Infection rates are declining. The numbers of people in hospitals and ICUs are declining.

Wait! Didn’t this happen last year this time? Case numbers fall? The number of people in hospitals and ICUs decline? Yes, there were still restrictions, and some cities had imposed mandatory mask bylaws when indoors or on public transit. Major events – the Calgary Stampede, music festivals, theatrical productions, even the 2020 Summer Olympics – were cancelled but otherwise, people gathered outdoors, they partied, they met at bars, they celebrated their freedom. Some went so far as to protest (and some still do) these restrictions as impingements on their rights and freedoms, apparently oblivious to the fact that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that these rights are not absolute, that the Government can limit them if the limit is reasonable, legal and justifiable. Can you think of anything more reasonable or justifiable than a pandemic?

Then came autumn. Numbers went up, and up, and up, and, well, you know the rest.

And so, I wonder: are we headed for the same fate come this autumn? Yes, we now have vaccines, and large percentages have been vaccinated – in Canada, 79% of those 12 years and older have one shot; 56% are double-vaccinated. As with most averages, those numbers are misleading – vaccination rates vary among provinces, and some areas are dangerously under-vaccinated. Moreover, the rate of vaccination has slowed, slowing our progress to “herd immunity” which may require as much as 90% of the population to be vaccinated, as recommended in an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

More frightening, the Delta variant has raised its ugly head and is becoming a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC. That is already happening in the USA, in England and elsewhere. These places are experiencing Delta-fueled infection rates equal to this past winter, and not just among the unvaccinated. So-called “breakthrough” cases among fully vaccinated people are increasing, too. Here in Alberta, case numbers are showing a slight “uptick,” and we have yet to see what will happen two weeks after the end of Stampede. Another surge, perhaps?

On top of that, large portions of the world have received no or very little vaccine, creating a primordial stew in which more (and more lethal? more contagious?) variants can develop – we’re already up to Lambda.

Fortunately, not everyone is throwing caution to the wind. Festival organizers are limiting attendance, requiring (or encouraging) mask-wearing, imposing assigned seating and social distancing, or even requiring proof of vaccination for entry. Staff in many businesses still wear masks. Many people (including us) continue to wear masks in indoor locations. Some of us still practice social distancing and limit our bubbles and excursions. Will that be enough?

So I ask: Are we really free of COVID, or merely out on parole? Our behaviour over these next few months will tell.

#COVID #Pandemic #NotesFromIsolationWard #Vaccines #OpenForSummer #DeltaVariant #CanadianCharterRightsFreedoms #MargaretGHanna

Saying Good-Bye

I wandered through the silent house, my footsteps echoing in the empty rooms. I heard a creak in the living room floor I had never heard before. Otherwise, nothing.

I checked every cupboard and closet. Had I forgotten anything? Yes, there was a bowl that Mom had bought from a local potter. How had I missed that when packing up the kitchen? Oops, still some garbage under the sink. Better get rid of that.

I gathered everything together then stopped and looked around.

The house was empty, empty not just of furniture and “stuff” but of life itself. These rooms once vibrated with energy. Family gatherings filled with food, laughter, stories and, quite often, hi-jinks, everyone sitting elbow-to-elbow around the huge table. Friends for supper and a movie in the “Lower Level Repertoire Theatre,” as we called the TV room downstairs. Raucous visits from grand-nieces and nephews. Sitting on the deck, enjoying coffee or a glass of wine, a decadent dessert and the view of the garden resplendent with Mom’s flowers. My brother and I working under Mom’s directions – “Today I think WE should do . . .” – trimming the hedge or pruning rose bushes (“Ouch!”) or moving some perennials (“Oh, my aching back!”). The whir of the sewing machine as Mom sewed yet another dress or skirt. The smell of cinnamon buns or chocolate cake or peanut butter cookies or roast beef. Laughter as we tried to interpret Grandma Higham’s enigmatic dark fruit cake recipe. My brother setting up his HO scale “Davy Crockett” train under the Christmas tree, and the cat chasing it. The living room in chaos as Mom sorted through her fabric stash searching for the perfect combination of colours for a quilt top as requested by a niece or nephew. Just sitting quietly in the evening, watching the flames in the gas fireplace, remembering, enjoying each other’s company, no need to talk.

And now, it was all over. What had once been a home was now just another house, an empty shell.

I patted a door jamb. “Good-bye, house.” I picked up those few things and left.

Someone else lives in that house now. Someone else is transforming it from a house into a home. Someone else will bring life into it. Someone else will create memories there.

The good thing about memories is that they are easily transported. No matter now many you have, you don’t have to worry if you have enough boxes or wrapping paper. You don’t have to worry if they will get lost or broken in transit. All it takes is the phrase, “Do you remember when . . .?” and instantly we are transported back to that place, to that house that once was home to my mother and brother.

#Memories #Moving #EmptyHouse #SayingGoodBye #LeavingHome #MargaretGHanna

Yet another rhubarb tale

One of our neighbours says she can’t grow rhubarb – it always dies on her. That must take a special talent. We can’t kill it. Not that we want to.

My Dad, age 6, and the giant rhubarb.

At every prairie homestead, occupied or abandoned, you can find caragana, honeysuckle and, yes, rhubarb. We had one long row of rhubarb in our farm’s garden. It was one of the first fresh foods, along with asparagus, that we harvested each spring. It was “heritage” rhubarb – the extremely sour green-stalked variety that my grandparents planted ca. 1917. My brother and I dipped stalks in sugar to eat it raw (doing so gave you bragging rights about how tough you were). Mom stewed it and made pies and puddings with it. She froze bags of it for winter use. There was never enough rhubarb to satisfy our longing for that delicious tart-sweet taste.

This spring we decided to move our rhubarb, in part because it was desperately in need of being divided and in part because it was in the shade of a large laurel willow tree. Also, we had plans for that corner of the garden which meant we would be unable to get to our precious rhubarb.

Rhubarb roots are not delicate, fragile, fibrous things. Oh, no. They are tough and thick as your forearm. They twist and twine around each other. They go half-way down to the molten core of the earth. No wonder it’s impossible to kill rhubarb (unless you are our neighbour). The roots were a mangled mess by the time we finished digging. Would the plants survive? Would they grow? Would we ever have fresh rhubarb again?

Foolish questions. Of course they survived. More to the point, they flourished. Last week, I picked our first crop and made rhubarb pie. Oh, that wonderful tart-sweet taste. There’s nothing like it.

Here’s my favourite recipe for rhubarb pie from Carol Acoose, a friend from my Regina days:

Rhubarb Custard Pie
4-1/2 cups of rhubarb, cut in 1″ pieces (more or less)
3 tbsp flour
3 eggs, beaten
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp soft butter
nutmeg to taste
pastry for single-crust pie

Mix all ingredients well. Pour mixture into pastry-lined pie plate. Bake at 400F for 15 – 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for 20 – 25 minutes or until rhubarb is tender, custard is set and top is golden. Let cool. Salivate! Smack your lips! Enjoy!

#RhubarbPie #Gardening #Cooking #HannaHistory #MargaretGHanna

The Promise

Twenty-five years ago, I made a promise to my father (he was dying of cancer). As Robert Service wrote in The Cremation of Sam McGee, “a promise made is a debt unpaid.” I made a substantial payment on that promise/debt these last two months (the reason why I have been absent).

My promise was to look after my brother. This entails more than the older sibling (me) keeping an eye out for the younger one. My brother has some brain damage acquired at birth (he was a breech baby). The obvious effect is a serious speech impediment. What is not obvious (until you get to know him) is that he seems oblivious to so much. It’s not a matter of being lazy – give him a task and he will attack it with gusto and humour. It seems he just can’t see what needs to be done or, if he does see it, he doesn’t know what to do about it so does nothing. Otherwise, he is a friendly, outgoing, chatty guy with several friends in town.

The “promise made” became urgent this past year. My brother was unable, financially and physically, to maintain the large house and yard that he and Mom had bought 23 years ago in a town just outside of Regina (Mom died 6-1/2 years ago). As a seasonally employed farm labourer, his income is variable and his meager savings are slowly dwindling. It was time to sell the house and find him an apartment and, given the lack (so I thought) of apartments in town, it seemed he would have to move to Regina.

My brother resisted, and understandably so. He did not want to abandon 23 years of memories accumulated in the house. He did not want to leave a place he knew for a place he did not. He did not want to leave his friends and work.

With the help of his employer, we found an apartment in town so he did not have to move to Regina. His friends all encouraged him: “Smartest thing you could do.” “You should have moved years ago.” And my brother, grudgingly, admitted that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t a spring chicken any more, perhaps it was time to move into an apartment where he wouldn’t have to worry about shingling the roof or mowing the huge lawn or cultivating the garden.

He had no idea how to prepare for a move. It fell to me to make all the arrangements – power, natural gas, telephone, TV, town office, insurance agents, the movers, the lawyers, the investment counselor. It fell to me to pack and sort – what to move, what to go into the garage sale, what to throw out. It fell to me to sell the house. It fell to me to assure my brother that all would work out, although there were times when I wondered if it would.

Like Robert Service’s narrator, there were times when I “cursed the load.” The move did not always go smoothly. My brother and I had words several times – he wanted to take everything; I said there wasn’t enough room. Neither did selling the house, although in the end it did sell at a loss due to its condition.

He’s mostly settled in and starting to feel at home. I drove back to Airdrie, exhausted.

The debt is only partially paid. How I will make future payments remains uncertain. Eventually, I will not be able to make the 8-1/2 hour drive to see him. Eventually, he will have to move to an assisted living situation. And what if he outlives me? Who will help him then? Who will take on the promise?

What the future will bring, I do not know. I know only the promise remains, a promise I will try to fulfill as long as I am able, not only out of duty (to my father as much as to my brother) but also out of love.

#Promises #SiblingLove #MovingResidence #BreechBaby #MargaretGHanna

Tea

Does anyone have teas anymore?

I’m not talking about a tea bag plunked in a mug of hot water. I’m referring to TEAS – ladies dressed in their finest, tea poured from a china tea pot, flowery china cups and saucers, loose tea, cut crystal cream and sugar, little spoons, and plates of fancy sandwiches and “dainties” (the prairie term for squares and other tooth-achingly sweet confections).

I found several of Mom’s china cups and saucers when packing up everything in my brother’s house prior to moving him into an apartment (more of that in a future post). They brought back so many memories:

  • a cup and saucer given as a wedding shower gift
  • my brother and I scraping together our collective pennies, nickels and dimes to buy Mom another cup and saucer for Mother’s Day
  • enduring the Ladies Aid meetings that Mom had dragged me to (no baby-sitters then) so that I could have my version of “tea” – a glass of milk, a fancy sandwich and a dainty (I always peeled the icing off the cake and ate it last).

But most of all, they brought back memories of church teas, a fund-raiser of epic proportions for a small prairie village. A multitude of decisions had to be made. Who would be the hostess? Who would provide the sandwiches, and who the dainties? Who would bring the cream and sugar, and who the sweet pickles? Who would provide coffee (someone always wanted coffee instead of tea)? How much would be charged for the privilege of taking tea (25 cents was the standard, as I recall).

A day or two before the tea, all the ladies swung into high gear preparing the food. I remember helping Mom make fancy sandwiches – checkerboard, pinwheel or striped – by alternating slices of white and whole wheat bread filled with egg salad, salmon salad or deviled ham. Other times I helped make matrimonial cake, chocolate brownies, peanut butter squares with tiny marshmallows, Nanaimo bars, divinity fudge or spice cake topped with mocha icing.

Come the morning of the big day, all the food, extra tea cups and chairs from the church basement were delivered to the hostess’s house. About two o’clock, the ladies began to arrive, all dressed to the nines in their best dresses, hats, gloves and purses. Only the rare man ventured in, looking decidedly uncomfortable not because he was the only man in a room of women but because he had to change from his usual work-a-day farm clothes into his Sunday suit and white shirt and tie.

We young girls were pressed into service. The older ones asked each lady, “Tea or coffee?” and when the chosen beverage was delivered then asked, “Milk and sugar?” The younger ones passed plates of sandwiches and dainties. Each lady smiled and said, “Thank you” to each of us. It was all very proper. The room was soon filled with the buzz of chatter, talk of children and grandchildren, the price of butter, how the gardens were doing, who was getting married or expecting a baby, So-and-so’s trip into Moose Jaw or Swift Current. Never mind that they had already exchanged all the local gossip earlier that day at the post office or grocery store.

By five o’clock, it was over except for the washing up and putting away and returning borrowed items. Leftover food was saved for coffee following next Sunday’s service. The hostess counted up the quarters and handed them over to the minister who, come Sunday, praised everyone for their hard work and the handsome sum they had raised.

* * *

I packed Mom’s cups and saucers, not to move them to my brother’s new apartment but to put into the garage sale. Only two out of the dozen or so were bought, and not to be used, either. No, the person who bought them had some sort of frame in which he glued the cups to be admired. No one would ever drink tea out of them again. Those that remained after the sale were repacked and sent to the thrift store.

I wonder who will buy them. I wonder why they will buy them.

At least I still have my memories.

#Tea #ChildhoodMemories #ChurchTeas #PrairieTraditions #TeaFundRaisers #MargaretGHanna

Taking a Break

Hello dear Readers

I am taking a brief sabbatical. Several things have piled up on my plate in the last few weeks, and I need to deal with them. No, nothing life-threatening or anything of that sort. Only things that keep you awake at night worrying about what to do about them. That require all your energy and focus.

Never fear, I will return, although my ETA is yet to be determined.

#Sabbatial #MargaretGHanna