My dears, as far as I know, the Japanese have dropped no incendiaries on Oregon since the 9th of last September. I feel better about your safety. I know you are not in the US but the US Canadian border is close to Oregon and you aren’t far from it. I will continue to worry, though. I still worry about more raids here in Wick, but the worst of them, the Bank Row bombing and the Hill Avenue bombing (during which houses were also damaged in Rosemary Terrace, Henrietta Street, and George Street as well as the afore named streets) have not been repeated. We had hoped that war would not come to the American continent.
Today, sadness prevails here in the homeland because we learned a couple of weeks ago that conscription age here in the UK has been dropped to 18. Many a mother’s heart is broken and fathers, many overseas, probably cringe at the thought of their sons having to live the same day to day horror that our more mature men already face but buck up so their fear for their sons doesn’t show. That’s how men are, you know? There is some relief out here in Janetstown because young men who farm are exempt at this time because they are necessary to try to increase food production but there are many in factories in other towns and in many other jobs, even in Wick, who will soon be called up. Mrs. X’s husband has gone because he was called up before he inherited the farm and Mrs. X has had to make it go ever since. Were it not for the men in our community helping out, the Ag would have taken it long since. The government keeps saying they will send Mr. X home so he can be a proper farmer but so far he has not shown up. Poor Mrs. X doesn’t even know where he is! The male exodus will mean that women will have to take the abandoned jobs, and although we will do them with aplomb, we would rather not.
On a more cheerful note, we were able to go to the Pavillion Picture house in Wick and see The First of the Few with Leslie Howard and David Niven. What handsome devils they are!
We have had a busy time the last few weeks since I last wrote in my journal. I have, frankly, been too tired at night and too busy during the day, even the wetter days.
First, we pressed most of the apples designated for cider at this time. We had some sweet cider but most of it has gone to barrels to go hard. Many of us would like a sweet cider from time to time, we will press more sweet cider until the apples run out or until they aren’t juicy anymore. I have used the steam juicer I have had for some years to make apple juice to bottle u but we can’t make enough to last all winter. There are too many uses for just about the only fruit we have (except for the crab apples and a few pears earlier in the season) for us to “waste” it on sweet juice. I don’t argue that sweet cider is better but a cup of sweet apple juice is good occasionally when the cider is gone! We had an exceptionally good year this year with a heavy crop; I suppose it was a relief to the trees that spring finally came and that we had a real summer. This winter looks like it will be much better by far so perhaps next year, we will get an even better crop. When we are so deprived of many of the foods that we are used to, and it looks like we will have an abundance of fruit, both Alex and Donald say that it is difficult to make themselves thin the young fruits so the remaining fruits will thrive, get larger and sweeter. Sugar content is everything when we are making cider and when we are cooking.
Maggie and I have a few bushels of imperfect apples that are to be made into apple butter…a creation from America that you, children, are no doubt familiar with but we had not been until your mothers informed us. It is much less work than jam or jelly and pectin content isn’t important. We can do a lot of preserves with crabapples but they are also designated for making pectin to be used to make jam and jelly of low-pectin fruits. We also use cores and skins from the apples that we use for applesauce, apple jelly, apple jam (apple butter this year), apple pie, apple-everything. Nothing goes to waste. As I wrote on another occasion, any unused skin and cores are used to make vinegar. As you might expect, we share with the neighbors since apple trees are not plentiful. We have saved the best crabapples to make spiced crabapples for the table.
Spiced crabapples are a traditional treat and after we make them, we drool over them but don’t allow ourselves to eat any of them until Christmastide.
I guess you know that we have learned to drink our coffee and tea unsweetened so we can save the sugar for our many preserves…the bramble berry preserves, the pear preserves and apple products. Our grocer got in some cans of cranberry sauce, both jelled and whole-berry. No one seems to know what to do with it…came from America, you know…so Maggie and I grabbed up as much over the summer months as we could since no one else much wanted it. What we will do with it remains a question, but I think it is sweet and anything sweet is good at this point in our lives.
Close to the stoves, we also have strings of peeled and cored apple slices drying. The apples from the trees store well. The ones that we are able to keep for winter don’t stay just-picked fresh into the winter, though. The longer we keep them, the more shriveled they become and even so, we try to keep them for eating out of hand or baking. The dried apples, will be used for cooking as well but they will last further into the winter in good condition. Dried fruit, being rationed now, is much more difficult to get…we are already buying what we can when it is available. We have some dates, prunes, currants and raisins but that’s not much variety and won’t make a very special fruit cake for Christmas. It’s bad enough that we have no rum for it.
Besides all the business with the apples and crabapples, we have been busy harvesting herbs that still abound in the garden. If we have a light winter, some of them may survive but most will be knocked down by the first frost which is coming. We’re creeping toward it. We harvest the herbs and then string them on twine and hang them somewhat near the stoves so they dry quickly. We used to hang them in cloth bags and use them as we needed them but we have found that they don’t hold their flavour as well as if we crush them and bottle them up with an airtight lid, adding more until the bottles are full. We continue to do it weekly until the first frost when the annual herbs are pulled and put in the compost pile and the perennial herbs are cut back and mulched with piles of straw and oak leaves so the roots aren’t damaged.
The boys are hoping the silage for the cows is good. We had a small patch of grain in our personal garden that the Ag man eyed when he came here but we assured him that the harvesting equipment would not be able to get into the garden area. We also told him we put the oats “to our own use.” It doesn’t amount to much but we will use them to supplement the chicken’s feed. We have grass hay that the boys harvested from the roadsides and in the turn areas for the tractor. They kept cutting and drying it all summer; it grew particularly well after we threw in some seed. It’s not enough to keep the cows and rabbits all winter but will taste good to them on an every other day basis until it is gone and will help keep them healthy, especially if we don’t have another long winter. After the oat harvest, we have plenty of straw for bedding but it’s no good for feed. They’ve siled the neep tops and whatever else they could cut like nettles and whatever weeds are green in the late summer. We are hoping to keep carrots in the ground as long as possible and to store them in the Anderson shelter – our “root cellar – as we harvest them, the tops to go the rabbits and later on, there will be enough carrots that we can share them with the cows as well. When it comes to making sure the animals are kept as healthy as we try to keep ourselves, we feel it’s the humane thing to do as well as a necessary step in keeping us fed and at the same time, making sure we meet the Ag requirements. Keeping the farm is absolutely not negotiable so to make things work to the best of our ability, we often feel we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. So far, we have been successful.
The war news has been mixed. We have learned that a Canadian successfully bombed part of Munich turning it into rubble. That’s not good for Germans who are just people like we are, but it’s very good for us in this war. We hear rumors of something going on in North Africa but we aren’t sure what yet or who has the advantage. We mothers and fathers are still reeling at the call-up age of our boys being reduced to 18 but while we have been nursing our fears as parents, Eleanor Roosevelt has come across the Atlantic Ocean, in as much danger as anyone else, to visit London and spend three weeks as the guest of the King. She arrived on the 23rd of October and much attention has been focused on her to take our minds off the war momentarily.
And so the war goes on…we do our parts in the different organizations we belong to and at home on the farm. We all do what we can for our neighbors. Those of us who have, share. There is much we can’t discuss with each other and there are many things we may never be able to share with you, but rest assured that our farm, our garden, our kitchen have never been so busy.