Interview with C. Natalie Rogerro Meriggi, 1984 July 24 [audio]

Hagley ID:
  • Getting mail at Squirrel Run; homes at Squirrel Run; carrying water to the gardens; listing vegetables grown in the garden
    Keywords: Beets; Broccoli; Buckets; Carrots; Cauliflower; Celery; Chard; Food storage; Henry Clay (Del.:Village); Peppers; Potatoes; Savoy Cabbage; Shanties; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Tomatoes; Water; Zucchini:
    Transcript: Perkins: Today is Tuesday, July 24, 1984, and my name is Karen Perkins and I'm going to be talking with C. Natalie Meriggi, and we're going to be talking about vegetables and ornamental plantings around the Hagley Yards. First of all, I guess I'll start out with some questions that I want to know. Where did you live exactly around there?

    Meriggi: Well, it was called Squirrel Run, but I just couldn't tell you. The house didn't have an address that I know of. The streets, the roads didn't have no names that I know of. All I knew when they send mail was their name and then they had Henry Clay, Delaware.

    Perkins: And they knew, they just knew where you lived so they'd bring it to your house?

    Meriggi: Well, no, we had to go pick it up, post office.

    Perkins: Pick it up, oh.

    Meriggi: There was a post office they called it down below the creek. I don't know if you're familiar.

    Perkins: No. One thing about Squirrel Run, I don't think I've talked to anybody that lived in Squirrel Run before. They said that there used to be a community garden, a big garden, where people used to grow crops that would take a lot of room, like potatoes and things? Do you remember anything like that?

    Meriggi: Well, I don't remember, but I know everybody grew greater quantities.

    Perkins: But the people would have the gardens near the house, and this garden was away from their house.

    Meriggi: Oh no, the gardens were all away from the home. Nobody had -- that I remember -- nobody had gardens near their home. The homes weren't built that we could have gardens.

    Perkins: So, were all the gardens in a big block?

    Meriggi: Well, how I could remember, yes there was like a -- it was a big place, but then everybody had their – they had so much space, they allowed them so much ground. I don't know how big it was, but it was quite a...

    Perkins: So all the gardens were side by side?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, all over, yeah.

    Perkins: So that must be what they were talking about, with the big community garden. Just because you didn't have enough room around your homes.

    Meriggi: We didn't have no room at all. See, because the homes were built - like for instance, where we were at you'd say it was the front and then they were one after the another row in the front. Then right in the back, the back, the back the homes were attached also. And see, and it was just a road and nothing else. We had a--

    Perkins: So the houses were attached on the side and attached on the back?

    Meriggi: Yeah, in the back.

    Perkins: And then the road was right in front of the house?

    Meriggi: The road was in the front, then you had another row in the back. You'd go around the block and there was another row of homes.

    Perkins: So what was across the street?

    Meriggi: The road -- and then everybody had a shanty.

    Perkins: What's that?

    Meriggi: Oh, well - see in the summertime, we cooked in there because we didn't have no electric or gas or anything, but we had a coal stove, you know, wood and coal stove, that's what we cooked on, big stove. Then in the summertime when it was too hot, we had the coal oil stove in the shanty.

    Perkins: Was the shanty a shed, is it like a shed?

    Meriggi: It's like a shed.

    Perkins: Does it have sides on it?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, it had a door and everything on it. And that's where we kept all our b-- my Father kept all his tools, your coal, your wood, you know, and everything. And kept it in there, you know, just like -- well you would say that sometime you would call it like a big room and you used it for everything in the summertime.

    Perkins: So it was like a summer kitchen, cause it was so hot?

    Meriggi: Well, we didn't eat there.

    Perkins: Yeah.

    Meriggi: We just cooked, but we didn't eat in there, but just like I said, everything - his tools and everything he had. See we didn't have no basements to the homes.

    Perkins: Oh. Did you store like canned things out there?

    Meriggi: M-huh.

    Perkins: Your potatoes were stored - would you store them out there, would you put potatoes?

    Meriggi: Well, see we had, we stored some things, but just like potatoes would freeze in the wintertime. But the homes had, didn't have no basement either. Well, it had a room in the back that we used as a basement and it was cool in there.

    Perkins: But it wouldn't freeze?

    Meriggi: And, you know, that's where we kept our potatoes.

    Perkins: Was that like a shed attached to the outside of the house?

    Meriggi: Oh no, no, it was right in...

    Perkins: Part of the house?

    Meriggi: Part of the house.

    Perkins: So it was just a separate room that you'd use for storage?

    Meriggi: Well we used to call it the back room or the cellar, but it was no cellar, it was, that probably works out.

    Perkins: So that wasn't sticking out from the house, there was another room over top of that?

    Meriggi: Oh no, no. Well the house in the back, was the backs to their's see.

    Perkins: Oh, I see, yeah. So what was in back of the shanty, when you go across the road, then you come to the shanty?

    Meriggi: We had, it's a trolley track and then was the creek.

    Perkins: Oh, so there wasn't any room for a garden then?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: Did you work in the garden?

    Meriggi: Yeah, I helped Daddy. I used to help him because they didn't have no water. They had to, like their plants, when they planted the - especially the tomatoes or the peppers, they needed water. Well Dad had to get water with the bucket. And then we had like a dipper or something, you know, and he'd make me put the water...

    Perkins: Is that what your job, put the water on the plants?

    Meriggi: Yeah, on the plants.

    Perkins: What kind of bucket did he carry the water in?

    Meriggi: Oh he had a great big bucket.

    Perkins: What was it made out of, do you remember?

    Meriggi: It was something like an aluminum bucket.

    Perkins: Did it have one of those handles that flip up or...

    Meriggi: No, it was more like a, the way I could see, it was more like a little tub, but you know...

    Perkins: Did it have handles on the sides, or did it have a handle that went over the top?

    Meriggi: Right over the top.

    Perkins: A hoop handle, okay. And do you remember what the dipper looked like that you dipped the water out? Did it have a spout on it, or was it just like a cup?

    Meriggi: No, it had a handle. It was funny made, I couldn't really explain it.

    Perkins: Do you remember what it looked like, can you draw it for me, sort of?

    Meriggi: No. Like a dipper that you use, but it was, you know, like the dipper you use for soup, you know the kind, but a ladle, a ladle or whatever, but it was bigger.

    Perkins: But it had a long handle and then a cup on the bottom?

    Meriggi: Yeah, something - yeah, it was made something more like a cup than it was, yeah, something like that.

    Perkins: Okay. You mentioned that you watered them plants when you plant them out, did your dad start everything from seed, or did he buy small plants?

    Meriggi: Well, what he did, what I could remember, like for instance, he had tomatoes. Now he would dry his tomatoes and keep the seeds from one year to another. And he would raise his tomato plants. He would raise pepper plants that way.

    Perkins: Did he grow cabbage?

    Meriggi: He grew anything.

    Perkins: He probably would have raised cabbage plants from seed I guess.

    Meriggi: He had cabbage, carrots, red beets, sweet chard, all kinds of...

    Perkins: I have a list here of vegetables. Do you want to go through and tell me which ones he would have grown?

    Perkins: Did he have asparagus?

    Meriggi: No, no asparagus.

    Perkins: String beans?

    Meriggi: He had beets, sweet chard, broccoli. He had – - no he didn't care much -- but cabbage.

    Perkins: Was it green cabbage?

    Meriggi: It was Savoy cabbage.

    Perkins: Oh, it was, the regal leaved kind?

    Meriggi: Savoy cabbage, yeah you have it here, Savoy cabbage. He had cauliflowers, carrots, celery, chicory.

    Perkins: What did you do with the chicory? Did you use that to make like a coffee, or did you eat the greens or...

    Meriggi: Not chicory, it was...

    Perkins: I know what you, is that that stuff that's like a long thing of lettuce?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: I know what you're talking about, yeah, that kind of chicory.

    Meriggi: Yeah, we used it more for salad.

    Perkins: It's like a Romaine lettuce, it's a tall, like a bud, a big bud it looks like?

    Meriggi: Well, really they called it Italian cheegor.

    Perkins: Oh, I think I know what you're talking about, that kind. It's like a lettuce, sort of.

    Meriggi: It's more of a, on the order of a dandelion, you know, but this has a little wider leaf.

    Perkins: Okay. Did you grow any corn?

    Meriggi: No, he didn't grow corn.

    Perkins: Cucumbers?

    Meriggi: No, he had more -- not a cucumber, but on the – how could I tell you...

    Perkins: Squash?

    Meriggi: Yeah, all kind of squash, yeah. You know the zucchini, Italian carrots, they call them.

    Perkins: What are the carrots?

    Meriggi: They're the big ones.

    Perkins: What color are they?

    Meriggi: Just like the zucchini, same color.

    Perkins: Green? Did you grow those round, white ones or the round yellow squash?

    Meriggi: He raised the, oh what ones, the yellow ones.

    Perkins: Crooknecks?

    Meriggi: No, the ones that you make pumpkin pie out of.

    Perkins: Pumpkins?

    Meriggi: No -- yeah pumpkins, but they were yellow, yeah they were pumpkins.

    Perkins: Were they round, the yellow?

    Meriggi: U-huh.

    Perkins: Did he grow those flat - the ones that are flat?

    Meriggi: Yeah, they were flat, yeah flat ones.

    Perkins: What color were they?

    Meriggi: They were the...

    Perkins: Were they yellow or white or green?

    Meriggi: They were the white ones.

    Perkins: White, I think they call those patty-pan squash.

    Meriggi: Did they? I know there's so many...
  • Growing different kinds of lettuce; staking tall vegetables; planting vegetables based on the phases of the moon
    Keywords: Bell peppers; Big Boy tomatoes; Boston Lettuce; Eggplants; Endives; Lima beans; Onions; Peas; Potatoes; Radishes; Simpson Lettuce; Spinach; Turnips
    Transcript: Perkins: Different kinds, yeah. Did he grow any winter squash that you could store during the winter, like acorn or butternut - I don't know if you know...

    Meriggi: No, m-huh, no. Endive, yeah we -- eggplants. Oh lettuce, he had two or three different kinds of lettuce.

    Perkins: What kinds did he have, can you remember that?

    Meriggi: Oh, the one used to be called...

    Perkins: Simpson.

    Meriggi: Simpson, something like that.

    Perkins: Black-seeded Simpson, that's a kind I know. That's a real common kind.

    Meriggi: Yeah, and then he used to raise the one that had – oh what they call it -- the Boston. Oh, green Boston, there's one called Green Boston.

    Perkins: What did that look like?

    Meriggi: Well that was like a head, but it's soft and the leaves are, it's a real tender...

    Perkins: Did he ever have any red, with red leaves?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: The Simpson lettuce, was that a leaf lettuce or was that a head lettuce?

    Meriggi: It's a head lettuce, but it's not like an Iceberg, you know, it's not tight like the Iceberg. I don't know if you've ever seen it in the store. It's, oh it's good lettuce though.

    Perkins: But it wasn't the same as the green Boston, it was different than that?

    Meriggi: Well I think it's called Boston lettuce, because it's small, but it's in a head like, you know.

    Perkins: Loose, did he ever grow leaf lettuce?

    Meriggi: Oh yes, but I can't remember all the names because he used to -- like for instance, say he had a patch of lettuce like this, and he'd start -- he had a way, I don't know how it was, but he would transplant when it was too thick and let it come to a head and then he would clip it off. Then when it wore out, he reseed it again before summer was over, and we had lettuce all summer long.

    Perkins: Did he plant lettuce in a row, or did he plant it in like a skinny row or like a wide row?

    Meriggi: No, he used to, the one in the row would be the one that make the heads, but when he planted it, it was all in a group.

    Perkins: You mean the head lettuce or the leaf lettuce was all in a group?

    Meriggi: Leaf lettuce.

    Perkins: The leaf, he'd just make like a wide row of it? Okay. What about, did he have onions?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, onions and peas. He had other kinds of different -- I don't know what they would call them -- they weren't like peas, but they were some kind of beans that they used and I can't remember how they were. You shell them just like a lima bean, but it wasn't a lima bean, because he raised lima...

    Perkins: Do you remember what it looked like?

    Meriggi: Yeah, it was a white, but it was on the order of a lima bean, but it was - because he raised the lima beans.

    Perkins: How tall were these plants that you're talking about, the peas and the beans? Were they bushy plants or did they grow real tall?

    Meriggi: Some of them were real tall, we put sticks on them, and some of them came in bush.

    Perkins: Do you remember which ones were which?

    Meriggi: I don't know, I couldn't tell you now.

    Perkins: Where did he get his sticks?Meriggi: Oh he, I don't know where he got them, but he'd have them.

    Perkins: Were they just branches from trees?

    Meriggi: I don't know would they would get, but they were straight sticks.

    Perkins: So they, would be branches?

    Meriggi: I guess may be he used to go around and pick 'em up. Because I knew in Italy they raised the trees and they used to make these sticks and things for their vineyards. His father had a wine – - grape-- and he knew how to make these sticks. Maybe he could have went around, you know, and picked them up, but I don't know just where he got them.

    Perkins: Do you remember about how long they were, how high they would come?

    Meriggi: Tall, yeah some of them...

    Perkins: As tall as you are, a person?

    Meriggi: Oh, taller than that.

    Perkins: Taller - were they taller than your father?

    Meriggi: I guess they would be about his height.

    Perkins: How tall was he about?

    Meriggi: He was about - I think maybe he could have been six feet, or maybe just a little less, but he was tall.

    Perkins: What kind of peppers did you grow?

    Meriggi: He grew, what you call these - the name...

    Perkins: That's alright, you can describe them if you can't, that helps me out just as much.

    Meriggi: Oh no, I buy them every day-- what are they called?

    Perkins: Were they Bell peppers?

    Meriggi: Bell peppers, yeah.

    Perkins: The sweet ones -- what color -- when did he pick them, did he wait until they were red or did he pick them earlier?

    Meriggi: Well, he used to pick them, well he picked them green, but a lot of times, the ones he used to want to preserve, or he wanted for different special things, he'd let them ripen on the trees and they would turn red.

    Perkins: Is that the only kind that he grew, the Bell peppers?

    Meriggi: Yeah, that I know of, yeah.

    Perkins: He never grew any hot peppers?

    Meriggi: Couldn't eat hot peppers.

    Perkins: He couldn't? That's why, just grew stuff he liked. What about radishes, did he ever grow radishes?

    Meriggi: Oh yes, plenty of radishes.

    Perkins: Do you remember what they looked like?

    Meriggi: Yeah, they were red, and he used to grow the big, red ones.

    Perkins: Were they round?

    Meriggi: Round.

    Perkins: Did they have any white on them that you remember, or were they all red?

    Meriggi: All red.

    Perkins: Okay, what about sweet potatoes, ever grow those?

    Meriggi: No, I don't remember sweet potatoes, but white potatoes I remember.

    Perkins: Do you remember what those looked like?

    Meriggi: What, the white potatoes?

    Perkins: The potatoes, yeah, it's hard to describe a potato.

    Meriggi: Oh yeah - a potato grows just like - it makes like a, when it’ s growing it makes like a bush, you know, the leaves come up, and the potato grew in the ground. Then when you go to dig the potatoes, you dig them up and on the branch there would be the potato underneath, there would be a great big one and several little ones, or three or four big ones. Sure and when you wipe the dirt off of them, and just let them dry.

    Perkins: Do you remember if they were round or long or really lumpy?

    Meriggi: Well, I have to, couldn't really tell you, but I remember they were shaped, you know - they were like a potato, you know. I mean I couldn't tell if they were, just like you were asking me, if the – what do you call them now -- a baked potato, what's it called now?

    Perkins: Idaho?

    Meriggi: Idaho, I don't know what kind it was, if it was Idaho or what, but I knew they were white potatoes.

    Perkins: How did he put, did he plant the potatoes in any special way - did he make them in hills, did he plants them, did he hill the soil up or were they just on the level ground?

    Meriggi: No, they were in a row and the way I figure he had the dirt...

    Perkins: Mounded up?

    Meriggi: Mounded up like the little...

    Perkins: Did you ever dig your potatoes up when they were new, when they were small, before they were ripe, to eat new potatoes?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, he dug them up that they were new potatoes. He'd dig some up, you know, early, but they didn't let them get real old in the ground. He knew when it was time to plant the food, you know, what time of the year was to plant the food and when it was time for it to be picked, he knew all that.

    Perkins: Did he teach you that?

    Meriggi: No, he didn't teach me that. He learned that in Italy.

    Perkins: Did he?

    Meriggi: Yeah, they went by the moon.

    Perkins: Oh, so he planted by the moon?

    Meriggi: Certain stuff, you couldn't plant it if it was, now I can't tell you which one it is or what, but certain stuff, you don't plant it if it's a new moon or if it's an old moon, you know, a quarter or what, you have to watch it.

    Perkins: Why, what would happen if you did plant it?

    Meriggi: I don't know, say something, it wasn't a good time, it wouldn't grow, or it wouldn't produce enough. He did a lot of that, that's how they did in Italy, they, you know, went by the moon a lot.

    Perkins: What about your tomatoes, I know you must have grown tomatoes?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, he grew them, what do you call them – the Big Boys - now they call them Big Boys, but in them days they were tomatoes. Just like I tell my children, I'll tell you this one about the bananas. We always called bananas were bananas, and you go buy them and they all got different names on them.

    Perkins: What shapes were the tomatoes, do you remember?

    Meriggi: They were round.

    Perkins: Just the round ones. Did you ever grow like the plum shaped ones?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: For sauce or something?

    Meriggi: No, we used them for sauce and everything.

    Perkins: The round ones, did you ever grow cherry tomatoes?

    Meriggi: They were meaty tomatoes, the ones that we really raised.

    Perkins: What about any that were different colors, like yellow, did you ever buy any yellow tomatoes?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: What about rhubarb?

    Meriggi: No, we didn't raise that.

    Perkins: Or spinach?

    Meriggi: Very little spinach, because I think the ground wasn't, you didn't have enough ground, that's one thing, see certain things you couldn't grow, because just like I said, they only had certain amount of ground, I guess they gave everybody. They used to give it to you, I guess every home had a piece of the ground.

    Perkins: What about strawberries? Ever raise them?

    Meriggi: M-hum.

    Perkins: Turnips?

    Meriggi: Very little.

    Perkins: Do you remember what color the flesh was on the turnips?

    Meriggi: They were white with a little purple on them.

    Perkins: And what were they inside, were they white flesh or yellow?

    Meriggi: White.

  • Buying seeds for the garden; using cow manure as fertilizer; fences around the gardens; arranging vegetables in rows; dealing with insects and other pests
    Keywords: Bugs; Cabbage butterflies; Chicken wire; composting; fertilizer; Insects; Lettuce; manure; Phillips Seed Company; Potatoes; Radishes; Spinach; sulfur; Tomatoes
    Transcript: Perkins: Some of them are yellow. Okay. White with a little purple, that's good. Where did your dad get the seeds, did he ever buy any seeds?

    Meriggi: Yeah, he used to have a place there on Fourth Street, Fourth and, I forget where it is, but it's down in town.

    Perkins: Was it a store?

    Meriggi: Yeah, oh it was a big store. It's called Phillips Seed Company, I think it was called. Yeah, they had everything for the garden there.

    Perkins: He bought his tools there too?

    Meriggi: I guess he did, but I don't remember when he bought them, because.

    Perkins: Yeah, that was a long time ago, I guess.

    Meriggi: When I came along, he had them.

    Perkins: Okay, let's see. Do you remember what he used to use for fertilizer?

    Meriggi: I know he used to use cow manure.

    Perkins: Where did he get that?

    Meriggi: But I couldn't tell you where he got either.

    Perkins: What did he do with the cow manure, do you remember?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, he would put it in the ground and work the ground in.

    Perkins: When would he do that?

    Meriggi: Well he would - before he'd start planting, that was as soon as the weather used to get nice, you know start getting, then he'd put the manure on and then he'd work the ground and then he'd let it stay for a while, and then he would start digging it up, you know. He'd figure out where he'd put what's what you know, and put it in each space, and then he would start working.

    Perkins: So he'd dig the ground by hand, he didn't have a plow or anything?

    Meriggi: Oh now, everything by hand.

    Perkins: Did he ever use lime, do you remember him using lime?

    Meriggi: Yeah, he used lime.

    Perkins: Would he put that down in the beginning?

    Meriggi: Yeah, in with the manure, it sweetens the ground.

    Perkins: Yeah, okay. Did you know if he ever had a compost pile where he would put like old - what would he do with the old tomato plants and other vines and things after the end of the season, get rid of them?

    Meriggi: I just couldn't tell you what he used to do with it. If I'm not mistaken I think, now I'm not really sure, they would used to dig them up and all and then they used to let them rot, you know, and then when the, when they were dried enough, I think they used to stick them in the ground, you know, and work them in with the ground.

    Perkins: So he would have like a pile of them all when they were rotting?

    Meriggi: I guess it was, yeah. Just like the string bean plants, you know, they would dig them all up, all the other old plants.

    Perkins: Would he just spread that all over the garden, or would he just put it in certain places?

    Meriggi: No, I think he used to make the hole, if I'm not mistaken, and stick it in the...

    Perkins: So if he was planting something...

    Meriggi: Like he was drowning it, you know.

    Perkins: Is that where he would put a plant in, make the hole and then put the compost in, or just dig that hole and put it in?

    Meriggi: Well, he just put it in, I mean, and let it stay there. Cause I don't remember it, we didn't have garbage service, you know, for them to get rid of it.

    Perkins: Did he ever burn any of the trash?Meriggi: Not that I know of, none that I know of.

    Perkins: What about - how did they keep animals out of their gardens? Were all these gardens fenced in?

    Meriggi: They were fenced in.

    Perkins: What kind of a fence?

    Meriggi: It was that chicken wire.

    Perkins: Chicken wire - did it have like a wood structure and chicken wire on that?

    Meriggi: Well it had like, yeah, it would be like wooden poles and then they would put it on.

    Perkins: Okay, that would pretty much keep everything out. Keep the animals out, like the rabbits and things?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, yeah.

    Perkins: So that was around, it wasn't around individual gardens, was it around the whole block of gardens?

    Meriggi: Oh no, everybody had it around their own. No, you couldn't go into somebody else's garden. Everybody had, it was like private, you know.

    Perkins: Were their paths in between the fences for the gardens, could you, like walk between?

    Meriggi: No, you couldn't walk between them. Like for instance, they had the fence here and this other person had their garden on this side, then they'd have to put the wire on either side, if they didn't have this, see.

    Perkins: So they would just use the other person's wire as part of their fence?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: Okay. So they could only have two gardens back-to-back, because if they had more than three rows, you couldn't get into the middle row of gardens?

    Meriggi: Well, they had a, what you call, say for instance there was a path that they would have that they could get in. That was another thing that they had, here's the one set of gardens was in a row, there would be a path to go, then the other row, see they were back-to-back, there would be another little path.

    Perkins: Just like the houses.

    Meriggi: Just like the houses.

    Perkins: Yeah, okay.

    Meriggi: I don't know where they had that.Perkins: What about, let me see, what about the rows, did they have the vegetables in rows, did you dad plant in rows?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, like the tomatoes, they used to be in rows, and peppers, cabbage, lot of things. You take carrots, red beets.

    Perkins: The only thing you can think of that wasn't – that was in a wide row was the lettuce?

    Meriggi: The lettuce and radishes.

    Perkins: What about the spinach?

    Meriggi: The spinach would be the same way.

    Perkins: In a wide row?

    Meriggi: Row - in a space like a square.

    Perkins: Yeah, okay.

    Meriggi: Like tomatoes, you'd have to make rows so you could get into them and all.

    Perkins: Did you ever have any insects?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: What do you remember about those?

    Meriggi: I remember the insects that they were on tomatoes, cabbage, and the potatoes.

    Perkins: What, the same insects was on...

    Meriggi: Well, they weren't the same insects.

    Perkins: Can you describe them?

    Meriggi: Yeah, the tomato is like a little long green caterpillar that gets on the leaves.

    Perkins: How long was it about?

    Meriggi: Oh, what would you say, but they would get big, I guess if you'd leave them on there. And the tomatoes would get like a little bug. I don't know how you would say what kind of a bug it would be.

    Perkins: On the tomato plants, the bug would get on?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh, on the leaves.

    Perkins: How big was the bug, like about as big as your little fingernail, or real tiny?

    Meriggi: Let me think, it would be, you know how big a tick is?

    Perkins: Uh-huh.

    Meriggi: Well, it's something like that.

    Perkins: About that big? Do you remember what color it was?

    Meriggi: That was more like on the brown side, I think.

    Perkins: Dark brown or light brown?

    Meriggi: I think it was -- wasn't real dark, dark, but it was -- and the cabbage was also like a worm.

    Perkins: What color was that?

    Meriggi: Green.

    Perkins: Green - cabbage butterfly, that's what that is. What did your dad do when all these insects started attacking his vegetables?

    Meriggi: Well what he'd do, he'd make like a little pouch of sulfur.

    Perkins: What was the pouch made out of?

    Meriggi: Cloth, like a cheesecloth, something like that. And then he go and sprinkle it on them.

    Perkins: Just shake it over the plants and it would come out?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, and it would kill the bugs.

    Perkins: I've heard of something called flours and sulfur, was that what that was, or was it just called sulfur?

    Meriggi: I don't know, sulfur.

    Perkins: Just a yellow powder, was it yellow, white?

    Meriggi: I think it was white.

    Perkins: So did he put that on all those bugs on the tomatoes and the cabbage and the potatoes?

    Meriggi: M-huh.

    Perkins: Did you ever have to pick those bugs off by hand?

    Meriggi: Yeah, he did.

    Perkins: He did?

    Meriggi: He killed them. Stepped on them. He used to throw them down and kill them, that's so like him.

    Perkins: Step on them. Some people have told me that they'd go around with cans of kerosene and they would drop the bugs in the can. But that's how my dad kills them, he just throws them on the ground and steps on them.

    Meriggi: Well, that's all I saw him do. Boy when he put that sulfur on, they were dead.

    Perkins: That would kill them. Would it make the plants real white - did he put a lot on it?

    Meriggi: Oh he wouldn't put an awful lot.
  • Rotating vegetables in the garden; location of the garden relative to the family home; pumping water by hand; most important vegetables grown in the garden: pickling and canning vegetables; making jams and jellies; growing beans; growing herbs
    Keywords: Blackberries; Cabbage; Canning; Carrots; Celery; Cherries; Jams; Jellies; Kidney beans; Lima beans; Peaches; Pears; Peppers; Pickling; Rasberries; Squirrel Run (Del.:Village); Tomatoes; Water pumps
    Transcript: Perkins: Okay, let's see. Did your dad ever, did he plant the vegetables in the same place every year, or did he move things around?

    Meriggi: That I couldn't tell you, because I never paid attention.

    Perkins: Was your garden pretty sunny, was it all, were there any trees around?

    Meriggi: Well I don't know if there was no trees, I can't remember trees being there.

    Perkins: Can you think back and sort of tell me approximately how big that garden was, can you think in feet or if you can, you know, judge it by like how big your yard is or something?

    Meriggi: I can't tell you. That's one thing I can't judge.

    Perkins: Okay.

    Meriggi: And I'd never think of thinking of how big it was or anything. In fact, I just barely remember it, but I don't really remember the place where it was. I know it wasn't near the house, and I remember walking with Dad, and all, you know he used to pick up his tools and all and go out there.

    Perkins: How far away from the house was it, how long would it take you to get there?

    Meriggi: I couldn't tell you either, I don't know. I can't remember the place, isn't that funny. I remember the garden and everything, but I can't remember exactly where the garden was.

    Perkins: Well that's alright, anything that you can remember and tell me about will be helpful because what we're trying to do, we would like to recreate a garden, a vegetable garden at Hagley to show the visitors what the gardens used to look like. And we're trying to make it as authentic as possible. That's why I'm asking all these real specific questions.

    Meriggi: All them gardens that they used to have, really makes quite an amount - all that fresh food -oh Lord.

    Perkins: We would just have one garden just to show them what it would look like. That's why anything you can remember, any little tidbit about what the vegetables looked like or what your bucket looked like that you carried water in, would be helpful because we're trying to make it as real...

    Meriggi: Well see, they all have to go and get the water. We had pumps outside with them old...

    Perkins: You had to pump, pump handle pumps?

    Meriggi: No, these, the ones we had, there was some that you pump, but these had a catch like, you pulled the handle down, and you'd put the, what would you call it now, it was like a catch, you just stick it underneath of the--pull the handle down, put the thing, and then the water would...

    Perkins: It was just like something you stuck in there to hold the catch down so the water would come out?

    Meriggi: Yeah. Of course some homes had like a well, some of the homes had a well, but we just pulled the water out, you know, put the bucket in.

    Perkins: What would you say were the most important vegetables that your dad grew in the garden?

    Meriggi: The most important ones, I would say tomatoes and the carrots and the celery and the cabbage and peppers, they were the most usual things that we used a lot.

    Perkins: So did he grow a lot of tomatoes?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, he grew enough to, you know, kept us all winter, we canned them for eating and all. We would have tomatoes, he would pick them before the frost would come, and then we had tomatoes up until Christmas.

    Perkins: Did he pick them green?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh.

    Perkins: Yeah - where did you keep them, how did you keep them?

    Meriggi: Kept them down in that room in the back of us, we used to call it the cellar.

    Perkins: Just laid out on the floor?

    Meriggi: Laid out, yeah, he used to have something like that table.

    Perkins: Did you cover them up or anything?

    Meriggi: He just wrapped them up in paper.

    Perkins: Newspaper, just each individually he would wrap up in newspaper?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: How could you tell when they were ripe?

    Meriggi: He'd open it and see.

    Perkins: We do that today, we do that at home when we have green tomatoes, before the frost hits them.

    Meriggi: And he used to do that also with peppers. But of course then we used to can them, and we used to pickle them.

    Perkins: Did you ever make jams and jellies?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, we made jellies.

    Perkins: Where did you get the fruit?

    Meriggi: Off the hucksters, they used to come around, Mom used to get - mostly her jelly was from grapes.

    Perkins: Did you have grape vines?

    Meriggi: No, we didn't have no grape Vine up there, but Dad used to buy grapes to make wine, and that's when she used to make her jelly.

    Perkins: What about fruits that would grow wild around there. Did you, as a kid, have to go out and pick blackberries or raspberries or anything?

    Meriggi: Well, we didn't, we did pick blackberries, and we used to eat them, but difference is had much of wild fruits. No, I can't remember many wild fruits, but I remember, we used to can peaches, pears, sickle pears.

    Perkins: Did you get the sickle pears from the hucksters?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: What about cherries, did you ever get any cherries?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, we used to have cherries.

    Perkins: From the hucksters too, or did they have a tree around there?

    Meriggi: No, no tree, I can't remember having any trees of any kind except just like the blackberries.

    Perkins: What was the shape of your garden, was it a square or rectangle?

    Meriggi: It was square.

    Perkins: Can you remember about how far apart your dad made the rows?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: What about paths in your garden, do you remember how it was laid out, how you could walk, or did you have to was there a path down the edge of the garden, or one through the middle that you could walk on to get to the rows?

    Meriggi: I remember, but I just can't tell you. I think he did have a small, I know how we used to get in there, you just could barely fit. We used to use the space...

    Perkins: For the vegetables.

    Meriggi: But I think he used to have a - I think it used to be this way - he used to have a small, narrow path, went through the middle and then on each side, you know, had the - and he would leave a little path, like for instance, here's his lettuce, you know it would be a square, and he'd have a little path that you just could put your foot to reach, you know, to pick it.

    Perkins: Around the edge of that square?

    Meriggi: Around - very narrow.

    Perkins: Was he yelling at you because you would step on his vegetables?

    Meriggi: Oh, we weren't allowed to step on the vegetables.

    Perkins: Oh I know that, but did you do that by mistake sometimes?

    Meriggi: No, where he told me to stay, I'd stay. Oh he was the only one, either him or Mom would go and pick, you know, pick the stuff.

    Perkins: They'd always go with you, though, to make sure that you didn't step on...

    Meriggi: Oh, I never went by myself. They would never let me go by myself, I was too young.

    Perkins: So I guess you had a gate on the front of your fence?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah.

    Perkins: Do you remember how it was fastened?

    Meriggi: Oh, it had a hook.

    Perkins: A hook that would go through like a latch, you'd just pull it up?

    Meriggi: Yeah, I think it was just a hook, pull it up and then you could go in.

    Perkins: What was it attached to, the hook, you remember?

    Meriggi: Gee I just can't remember, I know you used to put their hands behind it and just pull it up and open it.

    Perkins: Okay. So did all the kids in your family work in the garden?

    Meriggi: No, it was just my sister and I, but my sister was still younger than I was, so I was mostly the one that went.

    Perkins: What other things did your dad stake except tomatoes, what did he grow on poles?

    Meriggi: Oh, string beans, he had string beans. And some kind of beans.

    Perkins: The ones you were telling me about?

    Meriggi: The ones I was telling you about, and then he had, well he raised like kidney beans, different kind of beans that we used for different soups.

    Perkins: Would they be dry beans, or would you use them fresh?

    Meriggi: We'd use them fresh. And then if they had any left, we'd dry them for the winter.

    Perkins: Did you grow any herbs in your garden?

    Meriggi: Yeah we had some herbs, but I can't remember really all they were.

    Perkins: But he would grow them in the garden or all around the house?

    Meriggi: No, in the garden. Like I said, there was no ground.
  • Keeping chickens; growing herbs; planting squash; garden tools
    Keywords: "The Hagley Cookbook: Recipes with a Brandywine Tradition" by Hagley Volunteers Cookbook Committee; Basil; Chickens; Garden tools; Parsley
    Transcript: Perkins: Was no room. Did you have chickens?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: Did you, where did you keep them?

    Meriggi: Well, they were alongside of that shed that I told you we had.

    Perkins: The shanty?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh, the shanty.

    Perkins: Okay. Did they ever get in your garden, did the chickens ever get in your garden?

    Meriggi: The chickens and the garden were far apart, they weren't near, the chickens weren't near the garden.

    Perkins: So the chickens wouldn't walk up there?

    Meriggi: No, uh-huh. I can't really remember where the place was at, where the gardens was, but where the gardens were at, there was no homes. There was no -- like you said -- there wasn't no chicken or anything that really could have got in them.

    Perkins: Okay. Where did you have your outhouse? Did you have a bathroom inside of your house, or did you have to go out?

    Meriggi: We had to go out, we didn't have

    Perkins: Where was that?

    Meriggi: There was across the road from the home.

    Perkins: Near the shanty?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh.

    Perkins: Was it attached to it, or was it separate?

    Meriggi: It was separate. It was alongside of the trolley track.

    Perkins: U-huh -- well that must have been fun -- shaking around when the trolley goes by.

    Meriggi: No, I don't know, but they put them far away from the homes.

    Perkins: What did you do on cold nights, then? When it was snowing you'd have to walk out to the outhouse?

    Meriggi: Yeah, walk out to the outhouse.

    Perkins: Did you grow parsley in your garden?

    Meriggi: Parsley, basil.

    Perkins: What kind of parsley, did it have real curly leaf or flat leaf?

    Meriggi: Both.

    Perkins: Did you grow...

    Meriggi: The Italian and the...

    Perkins: Did you grow a lot of that?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah. Yeah, my Mother used to make a relish out of parsley. Used to put green pepper, parsley, anchovies, and you'd chop that all up real fine, fine, and then she used to get bread and you'd dip it in vinegar and you'd chop that all up, after you chopped it all fine, fine, then you'd put vinegar and oil in it and a little salt - it's delicious.

    Perkins: Do you have a recipe for that?

    Meriggi: In my head.

    Perkins: In your head. Do those women from Hagley, did they come and ask you for any recipe, did you know they wrote a cookbook, the Hagley Cookbook?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: Yeah. You should tell them that you have some recipes. What about your squash, I asked you if your dad hilled up his potatoes when he was planting them - did he plant the squash in hills or was that just in flat ground?

    Meriggi: Oh they wasn't - just...running...

    Perkins: Flat ground?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: Okay. And you said he didn't grow any cucumbers?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: Okay. What about hops, did you ever know of anybody growing hops? What they make beer out of? What about nasturtiums, sometimes people would use them and the seed pods and pickle them, remember that, that flower the nasturtium?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh.

    Perkins: Okay. Do you remember what kind of tools your dad used in the garden?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, he had a spade, the rake.Perkins: Was that a metal rake?

    Meriggi: Yeah, they were all metal. A hoe.

    Perkins: Do you remember what the blade on the hoe looked like?

    Meriggi: Shovel. Huh?

    Perkins: Remember what the blade on the hoe looked like – was it this shape, or was it a different shape, you know, with the handle coming off like this?

    Meriggi: The one he had was, it's pointy.

    Perkins: The end of it's pointy like that, and the handle would come off like that? What would it look like, like this? With the handle coming off?

    Meriggi: Yeah, it's more pointy, like that.

    Perkins: Do you want to draw a picture of it - can you draw a picture of what you remember it looking like? Does it look like that one or let me draw a better one.

    Meriggi: No, something like this. Let me see now, hope I can remember.

    Perkins: Where does the handle come?

    Meriggi: And then the handle came up here.

    Perkins: Oh, I see, so the ends were pointy. This is the bottom of the blade, what you hoe with?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: Okay, alright. So you said a spade, a shovel, a hoe, a rake. Did he use a wheelbarrow?

    Meriggi: He might of had - he had a wheelbarrow, but I don't remember - I think he did.

    Perkins: Do you remember what the wheelbarrow looked like, what it was made out of?

    Meriggi: I can't remember very good if he had it, or if he borrowed it. Because I remember people borrowing you know, they would borrow things from one another.

    Perkins: But do you remember what it looked like though?

    Meriggi: I think it was a metal kind of thing.

    Perkins: The entire thing was metal?

    Meriggi: No it had wooden handles.

    Perkins: What about the wheel?

    Meriggi: No, I can't remember what it was, if it was, I know I remember seeing them. Some had wooden wheels and some had metal, and I've seen some had wooden wheelbarrows. I think he must have borrowed a wheelbarrow, if he used one. I don't remember real plain and I couldn't say, you know, it was.

    Perkins: Yeah, that's alright. Did he ever use one of those little hand trowels, you use those small hand trowel?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah.

    Perkins: How did he keep his rows straight, how did he know where to hoe a row, how straight to hoe?

    Meriggi: I don't know, but he used to do it, I don't know how he did it.

    Perkins: Some people use stakes with a piece of string in between, they push it into the ground, and then they'll hoe along that. Do you ever remember seeing him do that?

    Merrigi: Uh-huh. No, he just, I think he just had a way that he could figure, you know, his own vision.

    Perkins: Just eye ball, and make the row straight, okay. You said that he saved seeds from tomatoes ?

    Meriggi: Yeah, he would let, like for instance, he would pick out a tomato that was the nice size, or maybe a couple of them, then he'd let them get real ripe, and then I remember he used to squeeze the seed, and I think he used to put it on some kind of a strong paper, and he used to let it dry out in the sun and then he would get the seeds and he'd make like a little package.

    Perkins: What did he make the package out of?

    Meriggi: Some of it would be cloth, it would be a piece of cloth and then he would write on it you know, each one for the tomato seeds, and pepper seeds, and cabbage seeds.

    Perkins: So do you remember which plants he would save seed from?

    Meriggi: No, it would be - just like I said, it would be a plant that maybe the tomato was nice and always the big ones.

    Perkins: But he would save seeds of some vegetables and other vegetables he would buy the seeds?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, he would buy the seeds.

    Perkins: Have you ever heard of Paris green, it's a kind of insecticide, no? Okay. Do you remember when your dad would plant his potatoes?

    Meriggi: Oh that would be - that would be early when the well when the ground wouldn't freeze.

    Perkins: But he didn't have a date or some kind of a sign that would tell him when to…

    Meriggi: Maybe he did, but I...

    Perkins: But you don't know about it?

    Meriggi: But I don't know about it. 'Cause I remember he used to go by the moon and all. Even making his wine.

    Perkins: Making his wine he'd go by the moon?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah.

    Perkins: Did your dad ever save the wood ashes from the stove and put them on the garden?

    Meriggi: I don't remember if they put them on the garden, but I know that you had ashes.

    Perkins: Do you know what they did with them, remember what he did with them?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh, I don't.

    Perkins: Okay.

    Meriggi: I mean there's a lot of things that I can't remember, you know, I was too young to realize, but the things, just like I said, I remember about the garden because I used to go with him and help him, and that he always had a garden, and it was the same with my Mother with the chickens. She always had chickens, even when she moved in the city.

    Perkins: Really? Where did she keep them in the city?

    Meriggi: She had them in her backyard.

    Perkins: When did she move, when did you move into the city?

    Meriggi: We moved in the city either late 1919 or 1920.

    Perkins: And how old were you then?

    Meriggi: I was about seven years old.

    Perkins: You were still little. What about forks, a fork, like a pitch fork, did your dad use that in the garden, do you remember if he had one?

    Meriggi: I think he did.

    Perkins: What did he use that for?

    Meriggi: I can't really remember. I know he used to have all different tools that he used to rake the ground, you know, make it real smooth and take all the lumps and everything out and all after he dug it. All the tools, he used to know what to use them for, I mean I never --I know I remember him getting the rake and raking it back and forth, back and forth, before he put hislettuce seeds, you know. Oh when he planted stuff, it was amazing to see it. I couldn't understand how he could get the seeds, you know, how he would pinch them off and all and then the stuff would grow so thick together.

  • Drying beans; starting vegetables for the garden; watering the garden; storing vegetables in a hole; changes in the climate from the 1900s to 1984
    Keywords: Cabbages; Carrots; Celery; Climate change; Drying vegetables; Garden tools; Lima beans; Peas; Red Beets; Watering (plants)
    Transcript: Perkins: He had a green thumb. Did your mom can string beans?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh.

    Perkins: But she would dry some?

    Meriggi: No, she never dried the string beans.

    Perkins: Would she dry lima beans?

    Meriggi: Lima beans, yeah, and the peas, not string beans.

    Perkins: Do you remember how your dad would take care of his tools, when he was finished using them?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, he used to clean them up and then he used to put them in that shanty.

    Perkins: How would he clean them, what would he do to clean them?

    Meriggi: Oh he used to get, he used to have a piece of iron or something, and scrape the dirt off of them, and he'd brush them off.

    Perkins: Okay. Did you every - did your dad have a rain barrel did he ever have a barrel in his garden to collect the water so he wouldn't have to lug it?

    Meriggi: No. I don't think they had enough space to have all that.

    Perkins: You said that your dad would start plants early and then put them out in the garden, where did he grow those, where would he start them?

    Meriggi: Well he'd start them in the house.

    Perkins: Where in the house?

    Meriggi: In the, near the windows, in the sun.

    Perkins: What would he plant them in?

    Meriggi: Oh, he had something like a, it would be like a box.

    Perkins: Wooden box, cardboard box?

    Meriggi: No, wooden box, but then he had metal, I think, underneath that.

    Perkins: And he'd just sow them in there and start them in the windows, in the sunny windows?

    Meriggi: M-huh.

    Perkins: Where was that in any particular room?

    Meriggi: And I think sometimes he used to keep them, too, when they used to get on in the shanty.

    Perkins: He put them in the windows there? Okay. You said that you didn't have any room around your house to plant anything, but did you ever have any flowers or any kind of shrubs that you remember around the house?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: Did you ever put any flowers in your garden?

    Meriggi: Not that I remember.

    Perkins: Do you remember anybody having flowers around there?

    Meriggi: No, I don't.

    Perkins: Flowers or shrubs like forsythia or lilacs or something like that bloomed?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: Vines?

    Meriggi: All I could remember is trees, I mean, but none of them were flowers.

    Perkins: Did you have window boxes? Did your mom keep any flowers inside, like geraniums or flowers on the windowsills?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: Did she like working in the garden, your mom?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah.

    Perkins: Did she - your dad liked it?

    Meriggi: Oh, he was raised in it.

    Perkins: Did he used to bring his guests, if somebody came to visit, would he take them up there and show them around?

    Meriggi: I don't remember that. But I know he loved his garden, he always did.

    Perkins: I know, around here a lot of times there is always a race to have the first ripe tomato, and things like that, did your dad ever do that, try and get the earliest crop in?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: You said that you would water the plants, like if you would transplant little tomato plants or something you would water them in, did you ever water other than that?

    Meriggi: Well, when he first planted a tomato plant or any plants or anything, for a while he would go and water it every night. For I don't know how long it would be, and then they wouldn't water it no more.

    Perkins: He would just leave it and let the rain...

    Meriggi: Rain - unless it used to get real dry, you know, if his plants weren't doing What he wanted them to do, then I remember he used to, you know, water them, but otherwise, I remember him watering like, I don'tknow if it was a week, two weeks.

    Perkins: But a short period of time.

    Meriggi: And all they used to do, just like I said, put the water right to their...

    Perkins: At the base of the plant.

    Meriggi: ...base of the plant.

    Perkins: What did you do with your cabbages during the winter?

    Meriggi: In the winter? Well my Father used to -- how would you say – he would dig, oh I guess you would say he would dig a hole, and then he would get all the vegetables that he wanted to save for winter.

    Perkins: Like what, what would he put in there.

    Meriggi: Carrots, cabbage, red beets, celery - can't remember anything else he would, and he would dig it down deep enough and he would put his vegetables all in a row like, and then he would cover it up. Like he would put straw, put - guess you'd call it tar paper or something, so the water didn't go in. And then he's leave an opening, and he knew every place wherehis vegetable was. And then just get the vegetables out.

    Perkins: Would he put the soil back on top after the tar paper or just the tar paper?

    Meriggi: No, just tar paper.

    Perkins: So when he lifted the tar paper up, he just had to push the straw aside and you could get into that?

    Meriggi: No, he left a hole, like a door, and he wouldn't lift the top off.

    Perkins: So the hole was always there?

    Meriggi: It was there after, you know, it was there until the vegetables were

    Perkins: Were gone.

    Meriggi: Were gone, then he'd work it up again.

    Perkins: Did he put anything in the hole, or just leave it so you could look in and see the vegetables?

    Meriggi: Well you couldn't see, he just felt them.

    Perkins: Oh I see, it was a little hole then?

    Meriggi: Well, it was enough to put the vegetables that would hold us all winter.

    Perkins: And where was that hole that he dug, where did he did the hole?

    Meriggi: In the garden.

    Perkins: In the garden. Was it on the edge of the garden, in the center, near the gate or away from the gate?

    Meriggi: Well I think it was closer to the gate.

    Perkins: Do you remember how big that pit was, the hole that he would dig, or how deep he would go?

    Meriggi: Maybe it would be as deep as this table. The table, about two and a half to three feet? Something like that. See the deeper you go the warmer the stuff would stay.

    Perkins: Seems like a lot of people did that then, put a pit in their garden.

    Meriggi: Well, that's what they did in the Old Country.

    Perkins: My Dad does that today, Daddy still does it. He doesn't use straw, but he puts the soil back on. He'll put like a piece of plywood over top of it and puts the soil back over, and have a little door, like a piece of metal, some kind of scrap metal. That's how he keeps his cabbage and carrots.

    Meriggi: Did they keep?

    Perkins: Yeah.

    Meriggi: Did keep, 'cause it seems like the climate is changed so much.

    Perkins: How is it changed?

    Meriggi: Oh, I don't know, I think we used to have – summer was summer, Winter was winter. We had nice fall days, you know, spring and fall. You don't get that no more.

    Perkins: Why, do you think it is all the same?

    Meriggi: Well it gets real cold and then it gets real hot. Where's your spring and fall.

    Perkins: So you mean the temperature was more moderate then, it wasn't as hot and wasn't as cold back then?

    Meriggi: Well it was cold, I remember it used to snow so bad that nobody could even get to work. But I don't know, spring was a beautiful time of the year, but in no time now it's summer, and then it's winter. Supposed to be fall. That's the reason why, I can't figure, and even growing the food seems like it's different today, the climate, than it used to be.

    Perkins: Why do you say that?

    Meriggi: Seems like the food is not as, doesn't grow as nice.

    Perkins: Probably more pollution now, that might be one thing, more pollution nowadays and things don't do as well to grow.

    Meriggi: I don't know, but it doesn't seem to me that this climate is helping us.
  • Father's gardening skills; staking vegetables; Father's job at Hagley; making grape jelly; cooking with vegetables from the garden
    Keywords: Cabbage; Celery; Gardening; Gardens; Grapes; Hagley Yard; Irish cuisine; Italian cuisine; Jelly making; Parsley; Peppermint; Peppers; Sage; Sauerkraut; Savoy Cabbage; Soups; String beans; Sweet basil
    Transcript: Perkins: Where did your dad learn how to garden?

    Meriggi: In Italy.

    Perkins: In Italy - did he learn from his father?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: What did he do with the garden in the wintertime, did he just leave it the way it was?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, they just left it.

    Perkins: Did he clean the old vines and things off, or did he just leave it until spring?

    Meriggi: Oh no, he would pick up his-- take the sticks out and all you know, and bring them in the shanty and save them for the following year. Oh yeah, they would clean that up.

    Perkins: Do you know what he would use to tie his tomatoes and his beans up onto the stakes?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: What?

    Meriggi: What you call, either rope or else he would tear strips of cloth, rags.

    Perkins: What old clothes or... Do you remember how wide those strips were?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, about an inch.

    Perkins: Yeah, an inch wide, just like cotton cloth, pieces?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: How long would they be, do you remember that?

    Meriggi: Oh, let's see, well they would be nice size.

    Perkins: About a foot long?

    Meriggi: 'Cause I remember stripping them for him, you know.

    Perkins: That was your job, you'd just tear them, just tear them off.

    Meriggi: Oh, we had fun.

    Perkins: Did your dad ever make any scarecrows to keep birds out of his garden?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: No. Did he ever have any problem with birds eating the seeds?

    Meriggi: No, I don't remember any.

    Perkins: Okay. What did your dad do at Hagley, what was his job?

    Meriggi: He was a machinist at the shop.

    Perkins: What were your favorite vegetables?

    Meriggi: Oh, I like all kinds.

    Perkins: Do you? Do you remember how your mom used to make her jellies how she would do that?

    Meriggi: Well I remember her boiling her grapes. No, did she boil them, gee I even forgot because I used to do too myself. Oh she used to squeeze the grapes.

    Perkins: Squeeze the juice out of them and then boil that?

    Meriggi: Yeah, and boil it, then you'd put so much grape juice, so many cups of juice.

    Perkins: Did she ever get pieces of skin or anything in there, in the juice, when she was squeezing the juice out?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: How did she squeeze it out?

    Meriggi: She used to have what you call special, a cloth bag.

    Perkins: Is it a special bag just for doing the jelly?

    Meriggi: Yeah.

    Perkins: You would buy that at the store then, or would she...

    Meriggi: No, it was a flour bag.

    Perkins: Oh, that's how special. And she would just squeeze that and the juice would come out?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh.

    Perkins: What did she do with the skins and things, just throw them out?

    Meriggi: Throw them out.

    Perkins: Would the chickens eat that kind of stuff?

    Meriggi: No, just dumped them in the toilet.

    Perkins: Is that how you got rid of some of your trash like that, that the chickens wouldn't eat?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh.

    Perkins: Did they have to come and clean your toilets out?

    Meriggi: Yeah, they used to come - I think once or twice a year.

    Perkins: Do you can't dump too many grape skins out or else it would fill up fast. Did you have a fence around your house?

    Meriggi: Yeah, it had a small fence around the house.

    Perkins: What kind of fence was that?

    Meriggi: It was a picket fence.

    Perkins: Was it painted or was it just raw wood?

    Meriggi: No, it was painted, I can remember.

    Perkins: What color?

    Meriggi: White.

    Perkins: Did your Dad ever mark his rows with anything, put little stakes or anything in to mark the rows, how did he know what was planted where?

    Meriggi: I don't know, but he knew. I remember he used to get, sometimes he used to get a little stick and put a marker on there.

    Perkins: Just a stick off of the tree?

    Meriggi: Or if he, yeah, a little twig, and if it was the seeds from a package, he would put the package on that twig, you know, dig it in the ground.

    Perkins: Would the package ever fall off, or blow off of the twig?

    Meriggi: No, because he would get it down deep enough that the twig would be higher than the package.

    Perkins: Oh, he'd stab the package with the twig, okay. What about - you mentioned that your dad, when the lettuce was over with, that he would plant the new crop of it - did he ever do that with anything else, any other - did he have two crops of cabbage, sometimes people will have that, they'll have a spring crop and a fall crop, or with the spinach?

    Meriggi: No, he didn't do that.

    Perkins: Sometimes they'll do that with the spinach, okay. So you didn't have any flowers around.

    Meriggi: No, I don't remember any flowers around because there was no place for it.

    Perkins: Do you ever remember doing anything with herbs – do you remember collecting herbs, did they grow wild, like Pennyroyal or mint or anything?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh.

    Perkins: What did you do with your Savoy Cabbage, how did your mom fix that?

    Meriggi: Oh she fixed them all different ways. She used to fix them in like a salad, and she used to make sauerkraut, I love it. Then she used to make soups.

    Perkins: Did she just grow the Savoy, or did you grow the smooth kind too?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: Just the Savoy?

    Meriggi: That's the only kind they liked. That's supposed to have a better taste to it. They're not as strong, they're not as gassy as the other cabbage. And that's the cabbage they were raised on, that's all they used.

    Perkins: It seems like, from the people I've talked to, like the Italian people would grow different kinds of vegetables than say the Irish people, did you notice that?

    Meriggi: Yeah they do. Even Italians, there's some vegetables that some Italians use more than others.

    Perkins: Like maybe their hot peppers, like your dad didn't grow hot peppers and some other Italians did.

    Meriggi: Yes, oh some of the Italian people - they eat hot peppers just they eat sweet peppers.

    Perkins: Do you like hot peppers?

    Meriggi: I love them, but I can't eat them.

    Perkins: Too hot for you? What sorts of things did the Irish people grow that the Italians wouldn't grow, or wouldn't grow as much of?

    Meriggi: Oh I don't know too much what they would grow. I know they use a lot of cabbage, they use a lot of potatoes.

    Perkins: But you said that you used a lot of cabbage too.

    Meriggi: Well we used - yes, we used quite a bit of cabbage too. She'd make a salad with - and it's delicious - with peppers and cabbage.

    Perkins: What about your celery, how did your dad grow celery, did he do anything special to it?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: Would he start that in the windows too?

    Meriggi: No. He would put it in the ground, you know, and then he'd transplant.

    Perkins: Did he water that specially or put more fertilizer there?

    Meriggi: Not that I know of.

    Perkins: And it did pretty well?

    Meriggi: It did.

    Perkins: What would your mom do with the celery, how would she fix that?

    Meriggi: The celery, oh we'd eat it raw, and cook it.

    Perkins: Put it in soups?

    Meriggi: Soups - and you make vegetable soups and any kind, she used that a lot.

    Perkins: Would you, did your dad ever grow thyme, did your dad every grow thyme?

    Meriggi: No, didn't grow too much of that stuff.

    Perkins: You said sweet basil and pepper and parsley.

    Meriggi: And parsley, yeah.

    Perkins: I want to see if I can find out if he grew anything else in your herbs - rosemary?

    Meriggi: No, sage.

    Perkins: Sage?

    Meriggi: Sage, yeah.

    Perkins: What about sweet marjoram, fennel, coriander, peppermint?

    Meriggi: Oh peppermint, we used to have a lot of it.

    Perkins: In the garden?

    Meriggi: I still do, always have it.

    Perkins: Do you, what do you do with that?

    Meriggi: We like it in tea, we make string bean salad and...

    Perkins: And put that in there?

    Meriggi: And put peppermint.

    Perkins: And your dad grew that too?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh.

    Perkins: Well that's a perennial, that keeps coming up every year.

    Meriggi: Yeah, after you plant it once, it comes up all the time.

    Perkins: So would he have that in a special part of the garden, and then he would just keep it?

    Meriggi: Oh yeah, just alongside in the garden.

    Perkins: Along the edge?

    Meriggi: And if it got too thick, he pull it and throw it away. I mean that's nothing that you have to fuss about, you know.

    Perkins: Okay, let me see what else - caraway or summer savory, anise? That's about all the questions I have. Oh, one question I wanted to ask you, there are these things called winter radishes and they get – they’ re not the little red kind, they get bigger than that, did you ever grow those? You can store them like you can beets - they get about as big as a beet?

    Meriggi: No.

    Perkins: And you said you never grew any squash that you could store over the winter, hubbard squash or acorn squash?

    Meriggi: Uh-huh.

    Perkins: And you can't remember the name of those beans that your dad would dry?

    Meriggi: No, can't remember the name of it.

    Perkins: Well you've remembered a lot about the garden. I think I’ ve taken up enough of your time already. This has helped me out a lot. I talked to four people, I guess, and listened to a lot of tapes trying to find information about vegetable gardens. And each interview I find out something a little bit different, so it's real helpful to talk to a lot of different people. So - I'm going to stop this recorder.

Digitized material in this online archive may document imagery or language that reflects racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive and harmful beliefs and actions in history. Hagley Library is engaged in ongoing efforts to address and responsibly present evidence of oppression and injustice in our collections. If you are concerned about the archival material presented here, or want to learn more about our ongoing work, please contact us at