Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1984 February 15 [audio]
- Using fertilizer in the family garden; Vegetables gorwn in the family garden. She talks about storing and preserving food; Keeping chickens from the gardensKeywords: Canning; Chickens; Fences; Fertilizer; Gardens; Ice; Ice boxes; Lettuce; Lime; Manure; Pests; Storage; Tomatoes; TurnipsTranscript: Perkins: Today is February 15, 1984 and my name is Karen Perkins, I'm a Longwood Fellow and I'm doing my thesis at the Hagley Museum. Today I'm planning on talking to a Miss Catherine Cheney who lives at 20 E. 3rd Street in New Castle, Delaware. This is the second oral interview that I have conducted with her and I am interested in getting some more questions answered about workers' gardens in the Hagley Yards during the early 1900's.Some of the things that I wanted to ask you about where I've been looking through some of the old newspapers, Wilmington newspapers and some of the advertisements for fertilizers and mentioned this stuff called Pugerette (sp?), have you ever heard of that I don't even know if that’ s how you pronounce it, Pugerette?
Cheney: Well, you see, we had the animals, both the chicken and a horse and we never had any need as I remember as a child, I don't remember using any type of fertilizer on the soil.
Perkins: Did you use the chicken manure also on the garden?
Cheney: Oh yes.
Perkins: 'Cause they mentioned both Pugerette and Land's Plaster, I just wondered if you had ever heard of those before?
Cheney: No, I can't remember ever buying any -- I mean being with my father when we got any kind of a fertilizer. As I say, we had lime, because we used lime to put on the chicken shed, we dissolved the lime and used that and we used that in the garden on some of the things.
Perkins: The same -- you mean lime for whitewash, is that what you're talking about -- on the chicken shed?
Cheney: Yes, but it came in -- it was more like a powder, it came in a small sack and you put it where you dig it in the ground, you know, you'd dig up the place, you'd scatter it over the soil and then dig the soil before you planted -- like lettuce bed and that type of thing.
Perkins: Did you put that over the whole garden?
Cheney: No, that's when you were ready to plant a certain -'cause you see the rain would take so much of that away if you did it too much ahead of time so we usually did it -- we would usually have three or four sections of lettuce from the time spring started until the fall, so to get the ground rich again, that was in between those plantings we always used it, I remember.
Perkins: So every time you planted you'd put some lime down?
Cheney: Well, it depended on the crop. The lettuce bed always needed it because we did so many, but something like onions, you didn’ t bother with it - turnips or that type of thing because they took the whole season to grow, once you got them started, no problem, but when you planted the second or third crop - we were usually able to have two crops -- two times the tomatoes came on. There'd be the early form, sometimes the yellow tomato or those pear-shaped tomatoes.
Perkins: They would come on early?
Cheney: They would come early and then we would have the regular kind in the same bed later, but mother always canned a lot of those. She did a lot of canning.
Perkins: Did you ever save any green tomatoes, store them?
Cheney: No, nobody in the family cared for that. We had so many that would get ripe that there really wasn't any need for it. Now since we moved away from the country, I've been -- today when you just have a small patch, to save the tomatoes, but we never did, we never took them in. 'Course there were five of us and it made a lot of work for Mother anyhow. I don't think she would have bothered (laughs).
Perkins: Too much work for her?
Cheney: Yes. Or you had to stew them or do something with them because you didn't have refrigeration like you do now you know, so it would make extra canning. And she did can a lot in the summertime.
Perkins: Where did you put things that you needed to keep cool?
Cheney: Well, to tell you the truth, the houses were heated with the fireplaces, our regular stove that you burned coal, and it was only when you were near, you turned the fire up when you were gonna be in a certain room, but the rest of the house was icy -- most of the time it was around sixty anyhow during the winter months.
Perkins: So it was pretty cool anyway.
Cheney: Yes, we wore heavier clothes, and had those swinging drawers, you know. We had to walk two miles to school so we really had to be wrapped up.
Perkins: What about in summer though, did you ever need any refrigeration ins summer? What would you do to keep things?
Cheney: Oh, we had an ice man came - an ice wagon at first I remember.
Perkins: And then you would get ice from him and put it in an ice box?
Cheney: Yes, we usually had the ice box on the back porch and he would carry it up with the ice tongs and put it in the part that held the ice. But we just used it to keep things cold, we never broke up the ice and used it like you - didn't have refrigeration the way we do now.
Perkins: Like in drinks or something. One thing that I want to ask you about is -- when you lived at Hagley next to the John Gibbons House, the road goes right by the houses and then across the street from there you said you had your outhouse, down below -- did you have to go through a fence to get to the outhouse?
Cheney: There was a gate.
Perkins: There was a gate there -- and that was from the wooden paling fence that enclosed that field across the street?
Cheney: That's right.
Perkins: Okay. You also mentioned that the people, you don't remember what their name was, but the people that lived in what is now the John, what we call the John Gibbons House, they had a garden across the road from their house...
Cheney: That's right.
Perkins: So was that enclosed within the fence also?
Cheney: Oh yes, the gardens had to be protected by a fence because when the chicken - you see everybody had their own chickens, and we even had ducks when we were down there, and that's - so, you had to keep -- that was a big problem to keep the chickens out of the garden and in the enclosure where they belonged. The chickens loved to fly over the fence (laughs).
Perkins: But did that garden that was there, did that have a little fence of its own behind the fence that went along the road - you didn't close that field in?
Cheney: Oh no, we didn't plant anything in that field, we went across to go to the toilet.
Perkins: But your neighbors...But the neighbor's garden...So did their garden have a fence just around the garden and then the whole garden...
Cheney: I think they just put up the stakes as I remember and they would use as a fencing a heavy cord, because you had to have it so close together if you wanted to keep the young chicks, the young chickens out, see he had chickens, well one man that lived there that I remember, had chickens, and that's what he did to keep the chickens out, he had a heavy - it was almost a rope type fence, and he put the ropes close enough together so the chickens couldn't get through. Because with a paling fence, like you saw so much of out at Hagley, the chickens, a lot of them could scratch and crawl underneath.
Perkins: So he would just put stakes close together and then tie rope in between, is that...
Cheney: Well, they would just make a rope fence, we never did it, because as I said, my Father only had one arm and he couldn't manage tying anything like that. And he hated to ask Mother to do any more in the garden things, and that would have taken a lot of time. 'Course we didn't get old enough when we lived down there at Hagley to be of much help. 'Course my oldest sister was big enough I guess. She died when she was 21.
Perkins: What sort of rope did they use, do you remember what kind of rope it was?
Cheney: I think they bought a hemp - that name rings a bell. But I know -- just like you would buy a rope to tie something up, like some of the tree had to be supported for a while, and they used heavy -- I would say quarter of an inch rope.
Perkins: So was it a brown color?
Cheney: No, it was much like clothesline you'd see today, twisted.
Perkins: Oh, okay, alright.
Cheney: As I remember. 'Course then there was some things that you needed more of a twine, something stronger than the regular rope, like maybe you'd use for a clothesline. 'course that's another thing you had to have the space for because we put the clothes out all the time.
Perkins: Where did you hang your clothes?
Cheney: We did the wash in tubs. In that yard between the two houses.
Perkins: Did you tie the rope from one house to the other?
Cheney: Oh no, we never touched any property, we used - we'd throw stakes down and just put the rope from one stake to another. I don't know where they came from really in the yard, but I think my Father got the metal poles more or less, they would be much more stationary because you know the wood and things rotted, so that's why they had to replace the fences so often.
- Corralling the horse; Fixing homes after explosions; Pets; Decorating the outhouse and family home; Learning how to knit and sew; Storing onions and turnipsKeywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Dogs; DuPont; Explosions; Hagley Yard; Horses; Ireland; Knitting; Onions; Pears; Pets; Repair; Sewing; Storage; Turnips; WalnutsTranscript: Perkins: If you neighbors had their garden across the street and it was behind the fence that enclosed the field, the picket fence and then it had a fence of its own around --a twine fence -- would that keep -- you said sometimes you let your horses loose out there -- would it keep the horses out?
Cheney: Well, the place that we went in with our horses, neighbor and all, we didn't get near their garden. See, their garden was on the road and all that section - have you been down behind the church properties, Christ Church?
Cheney: Well, you can get a better idea of -- you see, if you went on from Christ Church straight down the hill instead of using all those steps that you are familiar with, fence hadn't been there and you could go right on down the hill. One time I was so impressed with that because I had no idea that the mills were so close. But we were sent home from school because we'd had a powder mill explosion and one of the horses that was killed was thrown up there in the pathway, so when we came along, we found the horse's, well the hoof and about -- it was up to the first knuckle -- section of the horse's leg was lying there on the path. 'Course we didn't think too much about that because you wouldn't know what you found when you got home. I can remember the house was torn from an explosion -- plaster down -- how or why they'd every go back to the same house I don't know.
Perkins: Who was responsible for fixing the houses after...
Cheney: Oh, the DuPont Company would come in and repair it for you -- new paper and all. They were very good. Even away back then -- because one of the things that we found after we moved up next to the church, Mother had kept -- she thought that the patterns were so pretty that she kept a sample of some of the rolls that they'd had on. It had to be done so many times she said because of powder mill explosions and just from the dampness, of course having the cellar underneath and you had a ground floor, and then those big thick stone walls, it made it damp under that...
Perkins: You're talking about she kept a sample of the wallpaper, is that what you're talking about?
Cheney: Yes, the paper that we put -- we always did our own paper hanging. We had those horses, you know you call them, and you put the boards across the horses.
Perkins: Saw horses?
Cheney: Yes, then you bring that in the house and spread the paper and make a flour paste and put the paste on -- we didn't do that very often because the Company, as I told you before, were very good about repairing the houses. But if it was out, or like sometimes the cat clawed, or just a small space, and Mother would just spread out, like she get the ironing board, put another board on it and cut the size that she needed, and she put the paper and repaired, because I think they thought more of you if you kept the place in order - it's your fault. And we had a cat and dog -- well we didn't get a dog until my brother was three years old, or only two, because we moved away from there before he was third grade when we moved up next to the church.
Perkins: What kind of dog was it? (clock chimes)
Cheney: A collie.
Perkins: Remember his name?
Cheney: Yes, Spot.
Cheney: He had black and brown -- he wasn't thoroughbred and he had black and brown splashes, brown collie and then some black. But that Judge Bradford said I talked about -- they had the dog, the mother dog.
Perkins: And that was one of the puppies -- Spot was one of their puppies?
Cheney: Yes. My brother carried the toy dog under his arm all the time, so one time when the girl that worked in Bradford's was down, she said to Mother, "The dog's gonna have puppies and I'll see that you get one for George." So that was our first dog, Spot.
Perkins: Where did you keep him?
Cheney: In that outside kitchen that I talked about. 'Course he got out in the daytime, but he stayed in there at night because we wanted to use that space.
Perkins: Back to the outhouse -- I was going to ask you if you ever -- did you ever know or did you ever use any kind of vines or trees or something to block, or sort of screen the outhouse or make it look prettier?
Cheney: Well, you see it was kinda of a wooded area, because the people that lived in the big house right across from the place now that's a school again, the one that's school with the house across, they've taken down a lot of that, it's much smaller place now than it was when I knew it then, but it was considered one of the nicest homes -- are you warm enough, do you want
Perkins: Yeah, I'm fine.
Cheney: 'Cause I feel kinda cold in here.
Perkins: If you want to get a sweater...
Cheney: No, I'm alright, but I just know -- maybe you find it chilly.
Cheney: But the (long pause - like she lost her train of thought).
Perkins: I was just asking you if you ever used any sorts of plants and - planted on your outhouse to screen it or make it look better or...
Cheney: Well, as I said, they kept them painted - and had the quarter moon, you know, maybe did in the side of them, many of them. Yes, it was always clean - Mother took care of that, as far as the room where we washed, the wash room we had upstairs. It was called a trunk room. We had trunks -- she had come over from Ireland, my Mother, of course, and her old trunk. And my Grandfather had to get rid of a lot of his because as the children left, he took boarders and he needed bedrooms and more space, so we had some of their trunks. But we had this small room next to my sister's room that we really didn't need. Elsie and Elizabeth were in one room and then the next room to that was just a storage place -- we had a big basket of walnuts every year in there, we'd get from the trees, and just used it as a...
Perkins: Did you put anything else in there, any other kinds of foods up there?
Cheney: Well, my Grandfather had a pear tree -- did I tell you that?
Cheney: And he lived right near Rockford Park, there at the entrance, and had this beautiful pear tree, but it took a long time for them to get ripe, so the only place Mother could think to spread them was to put them under this room. We had a small cot in there and that's Where they would get ripe. She'd put the newspaper down and spread the pears.
Perkins: Just put one layer of pears?
Cheney: So we had a little boy - I guess they lived at one time in North Carolina-- anyhow, they moved in next door, so he came in -- this is when we were up next to the church -- and he came in and I don't know why he and George went upstairs, but they went upstairs for some reason, get something George wanted, my Brother, and I guess George was at the age then that he liked to climb up and down the stairs, he was just beginning to walk, you know, so this little fellow was older and he went with him. So he came to the top of the stairs and he said, "Mrs. Cheney does the company eat the pears?" (Laughs) He was real funny, he couldn't understand why they had the treat for the company under the bed. Stories like that that you really knew how they happened and knew the place, they stay in your mind. Things that are a lot more important, like some of the questions used to ask like that paper, I just have to make it up because I can't remember, I don't know any idea.
Perkins: Well, if you don't remember, just don't answer it then, but I just thought that maybe that would help you to remember maybe some things, but if it doesn't, that's fine. Which way did the door on your outhouse face, did it face towards your house or away or to the side?
Cheney: Down in the field.
Perkins: Down toward the field, so it faced away from your house?
Cheney: Yes, that's right. And you really just saw the side with the quarter moon when you walked down the road. I mean, I don't think a lot of people realized what it really was, you'd just take it for a shed, you look at it, but of course they weren't big. But I guess it was easily two foot because I know we had a great, big toilet bowl and then a small child hole beside it, so you know it was a good-sized bench or top over the hole. And it wasn't like the privies that they had in Ireland, when I visited there the first time - they just had...
Perkins: When was that that you visited Ireland?
Cheney: Well, a cousin came from there and stayed with us, oh several summers, and she got a job when she came to the country where she could get a month off, well, she started with two weeks, but even then, Mother didn't have time to talk and to teach us embroidery or knit or that type of thing, but Cousin Sarah would sit on the porch with something to do all the time. And she'd just do a row and then hand it to one of us and say, "now you do the next row." And if you'd been sitting there really watching her, you could at least know where to put the needle, but she taught me a lot of things about embroidery and knitting, but Mother really didn't have time, and my oldest sister became quite efficient at sewing. In fact, she took courses later and became a seamstress (some further comment that is muffled).
Perkins: Do you ever do any of that now?
Cheney: No, I hadn't sewed, and I've taken classes and of course we had sewing class when we went to Alexis I. and I made things then, but my oldest sister could sew so beautifully, and so there really wasn't any need because with Mother and Elizabeth we really didn't, they could keep things going pretty well. Of course she didn't die until 1921, she had the flu in 1918,but she never got over it, one of those cases where it affected her. She didn't have tuberculosis, but the lungs were affected so that she never got rid of it.
Perkins: Was that your sister that couldn't go to school because.
Cheney: That's right.
Perkins: You said she was sickly.
Cheney: She was never very strong anyhow, that's right.
Perkins: I was going to ask you some more questions about storing foods if you remember what foods did you store over the winter -- did you keep onions?
Cheney: Yes, we had an onion -- we had two ways of keeping the onions -- Dad had a pit like in the yard, but if we had a severe winter, he would have to go out and dig them up because they would freeze finally, but I guess they were down six to eight inches in the soil and they kept fairly well.
Perkins: Was that the same way you would keep the turnips, have a pit?
Cheney: Yes -- no, that's not right, no I remember the onions, they just put more soil over the top the way they were growing and...
Perkins: Oh, they just left them in the row then.
Cheney: Yes, in rows. 'Cause their roots more or less spread out, it's not like some other -- like the lettuce plant or the things that you could have two or three times in the summer period with the good weather.
Perkins: You said there were two ways you kept onions? You kept some in a pit and some in the ground?
Cheney: Some in the ground, just let them stay and then pull them up as you needed them. 'Cause they would see us through Thanksgiving, and sometimes even to Christmas we were still using the onions from the garden. It just depended on how much cold weather.
Perkins: How would you know where they were at to dig them up?
Cheney: Well Dad always put sticks or stakes as he called it, at the end of the rows, and you knew where the different beds were. And you know when the top of the onion, the big green stalk is, well it's lying there, you can still tell that something came up that wasn't a weed and it's in a row, so there was no question -- I don't think we ever put onions out there on a sign like they do in so many gardens nowadays, but I don't remember anything with the names on it.
Perkins: Okay, that's good.
- Difficulties of growing vegetables near Christ Church; Going to school with Italian children; Celebrating holidays; Storing vegetables for the winter; Swimming in the Brandywine CreekKeywords: Brandywine Creek; Canning; Carrots; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Dams; Drying; English language; Growing vegetables; Hagley Yard; Halloween; Italian language; Lima beans; Potatoes; Soil; Storage; Swimming; ThanksgivingTranscript: Cheney: 'Course by now they have so many special type of seeds that they want to keep track of as to how they produce and how they grow.
Perkins: You know I think they had more different types of seeds in the olden days than they do now -- as far as...
Cheney: Oh, I say too because they didn't make such a fuss over them, you just hoped they would come up and produce -- like the peas, we were very successful with when we were down along Hagley. But you know, when we moved up next to the church, we couldn't get the pea vines to live at all. It's strange how different soil could be just from up the hill, but I guess that got washed out a lot, the property next to the church, because there's kind of a wall between Christ Church and where we lived on the - we had a lily of the valley bed there and when we first saw them bloom, you know, we thought well it won't be like this another year because we thought it had washed down because we had been digging places there. But that continued all the time and when we had heavy rains, it would wash the soil from the church yard over the wall.
Perkins: Was it steeper there than when you lived at Hagley, was it steeper up near Christ Church?
Cheney: The soil was -- I can't say it was steeper, but the soil was richer, I mean it had been -- well, that place, the people who'd lived there and different one had fertilized it in different ways and they used all the property. With Dad's handicap, we didn't use all of the space that we really had. We could have had much larger gardens than we really had as I remember. I was only nine when George was born and I can't say just how much we planted, I don't remember.
Perkins: Yes, that's alright. Do you remember anything about a community garden up at Squirrel Run? I've run across references to that -- that they had a large garden that they could grow things that take up a lot of room.
Cheney: Well, I tell you what they had -- do you know the Italian folks came over from Italy and many of them would work in the powder yard and, but they got off early, they had shifts because it was dangerous and so they had hours that they could -- with daylight, depending on what shift they were on, so they had beautiful vegetable gardens and such luck. I never did find out because there were some of them I couldn't understand the parents at all. Now, the ones that went to school soon learned English, but even then -- now the families that, well had come from better homes, like we had the Anthony family and John Anthony was in my class and he was a good student and his parents could talk, well I guess it was just as hard to understand the Irish of our folks as it would be for us to understand the parents. But the children talked English. Now some of the Italians never did speak so that you could understand them. They went to parochial school near there, and they could keep on learning the language and they kept on -- because I couldn't understand, oh I would say half, of the children, until they got to be nine or ten years old and then, of course, they had learned English from the other children so they could speak as well as we could.
Perkins: Do you remember holiday time -- did you grow pumpkins for Halloween or gourds for Thanksgiving – anything like that?
Cheney: Never too much about -- well the Thanksgiving was always something that the church, they always decorated the church very beautifully and brought in the grass. Mr. Laird always gave that fluffy type of grass and decorated the church and he saw that that was taken care of. But of course going to Christ Church, that was where the du Pont's attended, and they gave much more normally than they -- like St. Joseph's on the Brandywine and the other churches around there - weren't in comparison for a long while. Greenhill was the Presbyterian Church -- it's over there on the Kennett Pike, they're still using that, 'cause my Aunt and Uncle belong there and my cousin's came to our place nearly every Sunday. Aunt and Uncle Frankie had two boys and they liked the country much better than the city so they would come to our place every Sunday. I can't remember when we didn't have thirteen or fourteen people around the table on Sunday, even down at the old house. Table's all the time with the leaf in it, just could put a board or make it big enough to take care of those that came, we didn't keep...
Perkins: But did you ever grow pumpkins in your garden -- do you know anybody...
Cheney: In later years, but nobody made Jack-O-Lanterns when I was real young, I don't remember dressing up for Halloween or making a special thing of - when we moved up next to the church, the preacher there was great for all holidays, Mr. Ashton. And one time our whole family, Dad and Mother and all of us, walked from the church up to their place on the Buck Road, all dressed up (laughs) had a good time at Halloween. And we would go into the neighbor's house, but not like they did in later years.
Perkins: Back to storing foods over the winter, you said you had potatoes in a bin down in the basement, and then carrots - do you remember if you stored them?
Cheney: You know the baskets that, well they were shaped like a market basket, but they were made of wide reeds, have you seen that type of a basket?
Perkins: Sort of a shallow trough type of a basket?
Cheney: Yes, well you know what a bushel basket would look like?
Cheney: Well, that's the type of thing we kept the things in over the winter that we could bring them to the basement or into the cellar, because you see, air could circulate in that type of basket and they would keep. And for some silly reason, that dark cellar the things would keep, better even it was cold than in the place that had some heat with a stovepipe in it – because the middle rooms would be by the chimney as well as the -- the big chimney started in the basement, so that gave some of the heat to the house. We kept that kind of a stove going all the time. I don't remember our cookstove hardly ever dying. I mean, you burned coal and wood and we kept it going all the time. And that's another thing, we were supplied with it -- now I can remember when Dad began to pay for wood, we got it from Betty's. But for many years, they would give you the wood. They had to cut the trees down for more buildings and they would just give the wood to whoever they could get to haul it away. Of course we always had a horse and some kind of a wagon, so it took care of that, haul the wood up.
Perkins: Did you have to split it, did you have to split the big chunks down, or did they do that for you also?
Cheney: Well no, they would get it into the -- that you could use in the...
Cheney: Good sized stove -- you know, they'd cut them in pieces about like that. Of course they had to have the equipment there to cut the tree anyhow, and especially when they had to cut trees in the powder yard because they had to be careful that they didn't fall near any of the mills, or stop the roadways or paths for the men to get in every day because, of course, they had to walk to the mills all the time. Oh, that's not the truth either, because they had one train track, but that was to get the powder from one mill to the other in the process of milling it. Have you been down in Hagley? Old walls are still there, but that's about all I think. But you've walked down that road past Gibbons and down.
Perkins: Yeah, I've been there, a number of times walking around. I think from what everyone says, the area has really changed a lot.
Cheney: Oh my, yes. I just read - I found in the things that I was putting away up there when I was getting out the stuff for the tax business - an account of Mrs. Crowninshield's death. And she was born in that house right up there on the hill you know, Eleutherian Mill -- I'd forgotten that until I read that, just now.
Perkins: Did you ever preserve string beans or green beans other than canning them -- did you ever string them, hang them up and dry them?
Cheney: No, we did lima beans, we dried the lima beans, took them out of the pods and then just spread them out on a tray until they dried.
Perkins: Where did you leave them to dry, outside or. . .
Cheney: Well, it depended on the weather, if the sunshine was for two or three hours and it wasn't too cold, but usually we just spread them in this place where Mother had the wash tubs on a table in there and we always seemed to have plenty of windows and light, much more than they have in many of the homes now. Of course we never lived so close as the places are in New Castle here, there was always a lot of land surrounding where I lived.
Perkins: And then how would you store your limas then after they were dried -- remember?
Cheney: Well, I guess they were put in these half bushel baskets, something that would get the air to them, you know. And there were other flat baskets, something like a market basket that they used to carry to the store - we had several of those, too, I can remember we put the grains in that. But we didn't have -when you had -- well, there were only four of us in the family then, but so much company. We would cook – I don't think we often had food that we kept from the garden after Thanksgiving. I mean by that time, you see, it would be pretty well used up because my Mother's sister lived in Wilmington and she had five children just like Mother did, and then she had a brother had two, or three children, two boys and a girl, and then Aunt Maggie had two boys and a girl, so we had fifteen, as many as fifteen people out on Sunday. They all wanted to come to the country. So they wouldn't all come at the same time, but the different relations would come. And then my Grandfather's folks came over, Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Margaret came over a lot – they lived at Rockford Park there and they could just walk over. But for a long time when we were little, we always had company on Sunday, mainly because they wanted to get out from the city to the country. 'Course Uncle Frank's wife was failing all the time, so she had to have some place where she could get help easy, so they lived in Wilmington. Good many of them just were people that went to work in the Powder Yard – on Rising Sun Lane and then on up right past Rockford Park and then out . . .
Perkins: So when you would run out of your canned goods and stored food, did you have to get it from the store, you'd have to buy it in then?
Cheney: My Mother would always can - we never ran -- she had to have sixty quarts of tomatoes at least, as I remember. Now that was may be when I was eight or ten years old, because I used to help with the canning, it would keep us busy all summer we'd get what fruit we could, we'd pick those sickle pears and then we could buy pears. And Mr. Laird, one of the men who was very active in the church, and one of his relations from Christ Church -- preachers -- and they supplied us with fruit, they had a large place and someone would bring you fruit and. not charge at all. So Mother canned peaches, I can doing eight and ten baskets of peaches.
Perkins: From the Laird's - Mr. Laird?
Cheney: They maybe didn't give them all, but they gave a good many of them and then we could buy them when they were -- best time to buy, of course, was when they were ripe in August, so we always would - that's when the kids went by to Alexis A. after summer vacation. But they'd say -- what did you do all summer, what do you do? You can go swimming in the Brandywine. But we never did because -- we went wading in the Brandywine, but Mother was afraid to let us swim because the current – there was so many dams, you know, that if you got near -- in fact my sister went over the dam one time, but she didn't get hurt. But she could swim very well. Now the Dawn's had a sister, always afraid that she would get sunburned, but she was never out like Sarah and I, but the sister was four years younger but once the weather got warm, we were in the Brandywine two and three times a week, sometimes more than than, swimming. Up at Crowninshield's was the best place to go, right at the dam across the...
Perkins: Why, is that where it was deepest?
Cheney: It was deeper there, but it wasn't too deep. We could - if you felt like walking the dam breast you could. And it didn't get slippery or slimy. Now it was much more dangerous down where the entrance of the yard was and we were never swimming down there, no. I thought we would go there more often, that's why so many people say when your Father was working right there in the office - he worked just as you went into the yard then, so that he was right there all the time every day. But we never went swimming down there. But Mrs. Crowninshield was very nice to everybody at Christ Church, she was a Sunday School teacher herself, and she would up there and she told me anytime, so whenever we had company, we always took them over there to entertain them because she had this open patio off the table, much the same as it is now, but she didn't get that all fixed up like that 'til – they started about 1923 and it wasn't completed until 1926.But I lived out there for 42.
- Changing uses of Eleutherian Mills; Doing chores; Stabling horses near Christ Church; Garden tools; Growing potatoesKeywords: Chickens; Chores; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Cucumbers; Eleutherian Mills (Greenville, Del. : Estate); Garden tools; Horses; Potatoes; Rakes; Shovels; TurnipsTranscript: Perkins: It used to - that house used to be a club, some sort of a club, didn't it?
Cheney: Yes, even the men stayed in there during the war, the servicemen. That was the barracks for them. Poor shape after that session was over, but it didn't take long 'til H. F. du Pont got down and, you know, fixed up again - it's his sister, Mrs. Crowninshield, that lived there.
Perkins: Let's see, one other question that I wanted to ask you is, you know when you were talking about storing your turnips in the ground over the winter, I was wondering, did you put anything on top of that, like straw or something, to keep the ground from freezing, or was it just bare earth?
Cheney: I don't think we did -- in the first place there wouldn't have been any place to get it. You see, it was all private property around there and you couldn't – and then you'd had to have a sickle or something that Dad couldn't manage very well, and he didn’ t like us to use anything that had a sharp blade. Now we had a small hand sickle that we could cut the path down there, when we went down to the pear tree in the fall, why we cut a path through the weeds because you know what that burdock is like-
Cheney: (laughs) Rather had to get through if you don't cut it down, so we cut things like that with the sickle. No, when you had a big family, you kept a job for everybody - 'course we had the chickens to feed and we had the eggs to gather, and the horse to feed and curry and take care of the pens, we had three different horses when we lived down near the powder yard. But the horse wasn't happy when we went up next to the church.
Perkins: Why was that?
Cheney: Well, the brown horse, the one that we had then, was rather high-spirited anyhow, and you see, there were a lot of trucks coming into the church for repairs and all, and they weren't used to that noise so close to them or staying there all the time. At first we just kept the horse in the shed, but then Mr. du Pont said that he would get an enclosure made because it wasn't comfortable for the animal, so he closed up one of the sheds, so the filly had a stable. But it wasn't practical to keep them there with people coming to church and they'd make a noise on Sunday and then the horse didn't understand why he didn't get out Saturday and Sunday, but the people would take the young children through there on Saturday and the grown-ups on Sunday and you couldn't let the animal out - nobody's going to gather up the manure for the church (laughs). But where we had the horse down at the other place, we always -- just took a shovel-down to cover it over, so that there was never anything to walk through it. They were particular about the place, we cut the weeds and we took care of the manure like that, you could always take it up, and then, you know, the manure pile and that would store for the garden.
Perkins: What sorts of tools do you remember your Dad having when you were a kid?
Cheney: Fork and a shovel, shovel with a big -- it was a flat blade that they used for digging like, if we were going to make an edging. That just went down and made an edging and then the scooped out shovel. He bought the equipment -- I wasn't any size when I had my first set of tools.
Cheney: So he started us out right away with working with the little tools and then we'd work on up until you could handle the big ones.
Perkins: What tools were included in that set, do you remember what...
Cheney: A shovel, hoe and a fork. That's always necessary. And sometimes a thing that you call a spade, you know, that's like a shovel, but it's flat instead of curved.
Perkins: Did your Dad have a rake, did he ever have a rake?
Cheney: Oh yes, we had rakes, oh you couldn't live with the leaves, the trees were all over the place, and you had to rake the leaves, that was the big fall job.
Perkins: What was the rake made out of, do you remember?
Cheney: A wooden rake is what we used more than anything else. The first ones were wood. But then we had a metal rake when you planted something to get the ground smooth again after you planted seeds – the metal rake.
Perkins: How did your Dad mark out his rows in the garden, do you remember?
Cheney: With heavy string, cord.
Perkins: Just with some stakes and a string?
Perkins: And then would he just hoe a row along the string, use his hoe and dig a trough?
Cheney: No, you do all the planting first, and then you put the string up last, and then when you were ready to pick the tomatoes or gather whatever --spinach – you were gonna have, the strings weren't necessary then because the plant was there, you know, to show the line and all. So the strings served when they were real young, but the chickens could ruin the whole bed, for many of the vegetables, if they get in the garden. They were the worst menace for the garden. And you couldn't get the chicken houses or sheds far enough away from the garden, so that was always a job.
Perkins: Did you ever have any problems with other birds like blackbirds or crows that would eat your seeds in the garden?
Cheney: Well, I don't remember them coming too near the homes. See, the houses were closer together and then...
Perkins: So, you never had anything like a scarecrow or anything in your garden?
Cheney: No, I can't remember if we did, because that came much later, it seems to me, that you'd see it in other people's -- especially on farms where they had a lot of birds. But that near the house, we never had the birds.
Perkins: Probably a lot of commotion -- a lot of commotion going on -- scare them away. I've come across references to watermelon rind pickles -- did you ever make them?
Perkins: Did you have watermelon in the garden - did you grow them?
Cheney: No, we had -- in the summertime it was always a great treat to get a big watermelon - now sometimes we had hucksters -- is that what you call them?
Cheney: Hucksters, yes, that went around with a wagon, and they would often have watermelon and cantaloupe, but we never grew cantaloupe or, we never -- now Maude Webster lived up in Holly Oak part -- in that direction, and her father was a farmer. They had land -- he had a farm, and he had a lot of things that we never tried. Now for instance, potatoes, we would, Mother would cut the potato in the right section with the eye in it and plant maybe two or three rows, but never a lot, enough to do us any length of time, because of the storage, they wouldn't keep too well, and they wouldn't store like onions and the turnips would keep much better than the white potatoes. And we never tried sweet potatoes, I don't know why. 'Course they weren't used so much, I don't think, as we grew up, I don't remember them.
Perkins: What sorts - do you remember what sorts of white potatoes you'd grow, were they the kinds that would grow in Ireland, the same kinds of potatoes?
Cheney: Yes, Irish potatoes, and they wouldn't get too big, I would say about like that, you know. Some people have those big, long ones -- they're so proud of raising them. Maude Webster's parents wanted the best of everything, I mean of course he had lots of help because her uncle was a farmer too and her father had a farm, so of course that made a difference and they really had a lot of land. But they never lived at Hagley and I didn't know her until I went to school.
Perkins: Did you ever eat new potatoes, did you ever dig them up when they were real small?
Cheney: Oh, we couldn't wait (laughs).
Perkins: So you did!
Cheney: Oh, it was a big event when the potatoes were ready to dig. Dad used to check them, you know – another week, take another week. I can hear him say it.
Perkins: So did you dig some of them to eat as new potatoes and then you left some to eat later on until they got bigger?
Cheney: Oh yes, we more or less tasted them, but we never dug them up a whole lot because we wanted them to last as long as they could. We usually had them when we lived down at Hagley, enough potatoes to do a good way through the winter. Of course, now, we weren't grown up, we didn’ t eat as big as like ordinary people. 'Course nobody does now because they think they're so fattening, but when I grew up we always had a potato for dinner.
Perkins: Well, it's all the butter that makes them fattening, that's what makes them fattening. Did you all grow cucumbers in your garden?
Cheney: Oh yes.
Perkins: Did you use...
Cheney: But not so much down at Hagley. Anything that had a short season, you see there was so much wood – wooded areas, that anything that had to grow quickly, never did so well. Now like cucumbers, they would get more like a pickle size, you know, you never knew -- it was very seldom that we had them grow as you buy cucumbers today, they never got large. 'Course maybe Mother took them out of the garden because we wanted to eat them, I don't know, really.
- Growing squash; Italian food; Saving seeds; Comparing her father's garden to her uncle's garden; Father's pride in his vegetablesKeywords: Hubbard squah; Italian food; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Patty pan squash; Seeds; Squash; Stakes; Sweet potatoesTranscript: Perkins: Did you ever pickle any and can them?
Cheney: No, we never had enough of those unusual things, we just had maybe a row of the cucumbers and a row of the squash.
Perkins: What kinds of squash did you have?
Cheney: It was acorn squash, do you know that white squash with the ripples around the outside?
Perkins: Oh, that's what they call patty pan, isn't it? It's like a disk, a flat disk with little ruffles around the edge?
Cheney: Yeah, that's the kind that we had the best luck with.
Perkins: Did you ever grow yellow crookneck?
Perkins: Or zucchini or anything?
Cheney: No, I never saw yellow squash 'til somebody gave – well the man that worked at Crowninshield, an Italian fellow that worked over at Crowninshield, would bring Dad a couple of , so the first sweet potatoes we had he brought over from Crowinshields and planted them up next to the church. But they didn't get any size potatoes, I mean Mother said they weren't worth bothering with because - maybe we didn't put them in soon enough.
Perkins: Yeah, they take a long time.
Cheney: Yes, they take a long time to develop. But we always had onions and carrots and turnips and some cucumbers, but not many.
Perkins: Did the Italians grow a lot of sweet potatoes, or did it just happen?
Cheney: Oh, I really don't know, but I don't think so.
Perkins: Oh, okay, but it was an Italian...
Cheney: They would think that would be kind of extravagant, I don't think they'd - they just called for the basic foods in the Italian homes when I got to know them -- the girls. I'd say we had pie or cake -- they said well if somebody has a birthday or something very special, we have a cake, but my mother would never spend her time baking cake. Oh, my Mother baked every Wednesday and every Saturday and she never missed a cake along with the bread. And she'd make eight loaves of bread at a time -- we ate sixteen loaves of bread in a week (laughs).
Perkins: Growing kids. Did your Dad ever save seeds from year to year from the plants?
Perkins: Do you remember what vegetables he would save seed from?
Cheney: Oh the beans, I guess, the lima beans -- pole beans they called them, you put them on a pole. And they would make good seed -- and the peas -- we planted our own peas again because it was hard to find the seeds, or I don’ t know whether it was the price of them or whether they were hard to find, but we usually tried to keep our seeds for the next year so we would have two rows of peas. But you know, they have to go in in March, I think it was, and then they’ re gone early, they never stayed through the summer, I don't know what happened to them.
Perkins: They don't like the hot weather, they like to grow in the cool -- yeah, that's why. So when you planted peas, you probably put something in its place after they were done -- pulled the vines up and plant something else there.
Cheney: That's right -- batch of lettuce or squash was a good thing to plant - white squash.
Perkins: Did you ever grow any winter squash -- the ones that you can keep for a long time -- or butternut or hubbard - blue hubbard.
Cheney: Hubbard, now, we had, we had the hubbard squash, yeah, but I don't think we ever tried to keep it, as I say, storage was difficult. In the first place, my Father was handicapped and then Mother with all the kids, this was too much to carry it where - distance to carry it to store it. See, we had to go up on a hill to get the -- in the one vegetable garden, and the only one near the house, wasn't large enough to grow much but flowers in there.
Perkins: Sometimes in gardens they'll use branches from the trees, like pea stakes, you know they'd get branches with twigs all over them and stick them in the ground so that the peas and things could grow on them -- did you ever do that or did you just use -you mentioned that you used stakes, like poles and strings for your beans to grow on.
Cheney: Yes, I think that's -- but then you got these sticks and I don't know really whether he got them from the place where they put up the fences, or just where, but they would be used year after year. And you see, it was a chore for us to get the stakes cut, I mean if you had to cut your own stakes. My uncle, Uncle Robert McCorkus, worked at Bancroft and he had a lot more time, free time to work in his garden, and he had the -- the place was surrounded by trees, so he would take several of the trees and give them special care so that they would be good for the stakes for his garden the next year. And he would cut down that tree, it was his property and so that he could do it. See, where we lived, we were always on somebody else's property -- it was the church property or the Hagley property, so we never could cut down a tree.
Perkins: So you never would use the twiggy growth to let the vines grow on -- you would just get the straight poles and take the branches off the sides?
Cheney: That's right.
Perkins: Did your uncle ever use the twiggy sticks?
Cheney: I don't think I ever got to their gardens.
Cheney: See, they had to go - now like my Aunt Kate, Mother's sister lived on 13th Street in Wilmington - well he went out to Bancroft's, his garden was located somewhere near Bancroft's on the hill, probably after you come through that woods -- did you ever ride the trolley car?
Cheney: From Wilmington -- well, you go through a woods there, and she showed us once where he had his garden before you got to the edge of Rockford Park, they'd cleared a place there so they let the men come to Bancroft and plant their vegetables, whatever they wanted, out there. But they just had a little - I don't think Aunt Kate's backyard was any bigger than our two rooms here, really. They had very small yards and when she first lived in Wilmington, they had an outside toilet which surprised us so because we were sure that the toilet would be in the house when we got in the house in Wilmington, but it wasn't (some further comment I can't make out).
Perkins: Was that garden at Bancroft Mills, was that just like a field where everyone had their gardens in the same field?
Cheney: No, I think you just farmed a plot that a friend of yours or somebody would let you use the land, because, no, it never seemed to me as I remember when Uncle Robert had the different farms and Uncle Frank, that a lot of people would be working the garden the same place - they'd all have a plot, but they wouldn't be near each other.
Perkins: There'd be space in between the gardens.
Cheney: Well, a lot of space, they wouldn't even be in the same section. Like one would be right near Rising Sun Lane, in that wooded part where the railroad track is -- I remember when they had a nice patch in there, somebody had dug up the soil in back there and they would get that lane. But then, I don’ t know the Bancroft property well enough because although Uncle Robert worked there all his life, he worked at night, he was a night watchman, he went home at twelve o'clock at night, so he had the daytime, you see, when he couldn't work in the garden. He'd get up in the afternoon -- but anyhow, he always had a garden, but he would even have it different places each year.
Perkins: Why is that?
Cheney: Yes, the soil would be better and it wouldn't be – oh I know one time he got a place it was so rocky it really wasn't satisfactory at all - he was really disappointed that year with his garden. Because he had to just gather stones all the time, to get them out.
Perkins: Sometimes I think the stones grow in the soil – throw so many out and they just keep coming back. Do you think that the people then used to locate their garden where the best soil was, or did they pay any attention to whether their neighbors were going to see it – like would they put it in their front yard if that was the best soil, or would they try to hide it?
Cheney: Well, I don't think -- they lived on 13th Street, or Ruth Street, that you would be allowed. I mean, the place were just a place -- if you had any children at all, they had to have some place to play with a ball or to bounce a ball. I know Aunt Maggie had the alley and we used to play in the alley and then the cement right outside the back door, but the rest of it was the only plot of grass that she had and they were glad to have that much just for a little lawn -- put chairs out there in the hot weather, but none of my relations ever really had a big garden right near their home in the city, but they, as I say, the one that worked at Bancroft's had his out there, so I know more about that, but I don't really know where Uncle Tom and Uncle Frank had their gardens. We always had our own, you know, and we never paid any attention to where they went. They had their own kids had to work in their garden, so we never shared that chore.
Perkins: Was your Dad pretty proud of his garden, would he take -- you know, if you ever had company, would he take them out and show them how big his tomatoes were or...
Cheney: Oh, everybody talked about what they were raising and it was always a table conversation seems to me, and then they had to go to see, but they never -- when Mr. Webster, Maude Webster's father - he had a fruit tree and a nut tree, you know, that hardly anybody else had, and he took such pleasure. But being a farmer himself, I think -- that Mr. Webster, Maude's father is really the only farmer that I knew real well because most of my people worked in the mill, did something in the mill, or worked in the woolen mill or the cotton mill or that type of work. Of course -- and a lot of them got business education and went to business school and got into that type of work. All Aunt Kate's children, that was Mother's sister of just a year younger than she, and there were five of them and five of us, and Vance was working part time in a store when she was only fourteen and we thought it was terrible that she was still in high school and going to school as soon as school was out -- or going to work as soon as school was out. But Aunt Kate thought that was the thing for them to do. And then, of course, the boys were all working on golf courses -- they could be -- what did they call them when you would go out there at du Pont, person playing golf?
Cheney: Caddy, that's it.
Perkins: It's probably because they were living in the city and they didn't have as many chores to do around the house, so they went for work outside. Do you ever remember your Dad talking with his company about he had the biggest tomatoes, or his tomatoes came on earlier than anyone else’ s, or bragging about his vegetables?
Cheney: No, I don't think there was any -- because there was really no comparison. I don't think Dad had ever even seen Uncle Robert's patch because he had to walk so far to get to it -- it was kind of on his way to work, or walking home from work, because a lot of times he got home at midnight. It was just a different life pattern altogether. And there was a lot more work to do in the home when you think about it. I mean the cleaning wasn't as rapid as it would be now, or as easy, to the time. A lot of the -- that's what the girls did, I think, more than anything else, I know we did.
- Gardening superstitions; Helping her disabled father; Painting rocks to form a garden edge; Cracking walnuts; Sharing vegetables; Buying seedsKeywords: Cherries; Chores; Disability; Flower gardens; Gardens; Hickory nuts; Horses; Ireland; Italian food; King Street Market; Paint; Phases of the moon; Seeds; Sharing; Superstition; Walnuts; Whitewash; Wilmington, Del; Work clothesTranscript: Perkins: I've heard of some, I don't know, superstitions about planting a garden -- have you ever heard people that plant by the moon or...
Cheney: I don't know about planting a garden, but my Mother had a lot of - 'course that's not this country at all, that was the Irish, I think, but she told us never to go around a different side of a tree. And when we went down toward those steps, you know, there were a lot of trees on that path, and lots of times without even thinking, Sarah would go around one side and I would go around the other, so she was with us one Sunday and she said, "What do you do that for? "We said, "We don't know.” She said, "Well, just stay on the same side, don't go around -- climb over those tree trunks like that, just both of you come around this side where there's not as many stumps." But I never did ask her why, but there were a lot of queer superstitions and ideas that they had, but there was something about the trunks on the right of the tree or the left of the tree that were supposed to be – it wasn't good luck to go over them or it wasn't good luck to step on them.
Perkins: Do you remember anything about the garden – planting by the moon or anything like that?
Cheney: Oh yes, they paid attention to the moon.
Perkins: Oh, they did? Did you Dad do that?
Cheney: Well, I guess he did at first, but I think that they know with weather conditions --we had weeks then like we do now that they're not just the way they’ re supposed to be, so that you couldn't depend on it. Yeah, we decided on the sunny side of the garden for certain things that would mature in a hurry or that we could use and maybe get the second crop in the same soil. So that was considered, and the light, how long the day would be with the sunshine - I mean you could work out until 7:30 and 8:00 some nights, you know, in the summertime. A lot of things depended on that.
Perkins: I've heard that you plant seeds of the root crops during a certain phase of the moon and then you plant the crops that grow on the top -- the top of the plant that grows above the ground in another phase of the moon. Have you heard...
Cheney: Well I guess a lot of those traditions like that, but I don't know, in our personal family, I think with Dad's handicap, Mother had to help him so much when we were younger, and then we just took over as soon as we could. I know people would say to me, "What in the world do you do in the summertime?" Well, I was just as busy in the summertime, had as many things to do as when I was going to school. I mean we took care of the chickens -- feeding them and gathered the eggs and we took care of the straw and feeding the horse and cleaning out the trough and there were just so many jobs that people never heard of now, don't even think about it. And then exercising the horse, some of us were on Mabel, I think, every day, as soon as we got big enough to sit on bareback. You'd just go to the fence and Mabel would come, you'd throw your leg over and ride her up in the field. You didn't have to wear any slacks or anything, 'cause there was nobody there to look at you (laughs). 'Course we had kind of, I guess you'd call them work pants, I don't know, pulled up like slacks, they didn't have long legs, but we wore them when we worked in the gardens.
Perkins: Were they shorts, like shorts, or were they longer than...
Cheney: No, they were longer than shorts.
Perkins: Did they come below your knee, like pedal pushers?
Cheney: Yes, made about the same material as overalls.
Perkins: And you used those especially for working in the garden?
Cheney: Well, it depended on the time -- when we got home from school, if you had a certain thing to get done, you didn't bother changing your clothes, especially if you had worn the dress two days or if it was ready for the tub, you didn't bother even changing it. But unless it was something that would get torn easily or ruined, but I know some children -- now the city children changed their clothes as soon as they got in the house, but the ones -- my cousins lived in the city, but we didn't. 'Course my Mother washed twice and sometimes three times a week. It was easier for her to do a small laundry than a...
Perkins: Yeah, than a big one. Did you Dad ever plant anything over the top of his garden in the winter time, like a cover crop -- alfalfa or anything?
Perkins: He just left the bare ground?
Cheney: Well, it was all we could manage to get the things out of the ground before the first frost (laughs).
Perkins: Did you ever put anything down as a surface for the paths, or was it just the ground - like a beaten down path on the ground -- you never put like gravel or anything?
Cheney: Oh, you mean like bricks or gravel?
Cheney: We had a brick walk along the side of the house, but I think that the DuPont Company put that in because -to my knowledge it never had a loose brick, I don't ever remember any of the bricks getting loose in that walk that we had along the back of the house.
Perkins: What about in your vegetable garden, you didn't make any sort of permanent paths there, did you?
Cheney: Well now, when we had our own little garden, the girls, we would bring nice smooth rocks and make it circular around the outside of it just to make it, we thought, look prettier. And sometimes Mother even, if she had leftover white paint, when they did the hen house or something in a white or light green, she would let us fool with the brushes and cover the tops of the rocks, they were real pretty -- picturesque, you know, right around her flower garden -- the place where we had our flowers.
Perkins: Would you edge the edge of the bed with the rocks -put the rocks along the edge of the bed.
Cheney: Yes, just one rock along the edge of the...
Perkins: Like a line a rocks.
Cheney: Instead of bricks, you know, line them around. We had plenty of stones, good sized stones. And the outside of them rather smooth. And it was surprising, I don't think places that I've been lately, you find stones that are flattened, but I guess people using paths and walking over the boulders, they finally wore down so you could find flat stones. But right in our front yard I know that big gray flat stone, where we cracked the nuts all the time, it was wonderful when you gathered your own walnuts and shelled them - that was a job took up some time too, you'd get that stain from the shells all over.
Perkins: What did you crack the walnuts with?
Cheney: We had a clever idea with that, I don't know who showed it to Dad or where we got the idea, but we took a box and made a hole in the board the size of the inside of the walnut, and then you just sit the walnut in this hole and hit it with the hammer and the walnut would go down underneath and the shell, you could just knock away. But we could save an awful lot of time, it was a job to get the thing ready, and you didn’ t get your hands stained like you would -- see you were ashamed to go to school the next day because you had been shelling the walnuts the way we did it at first before somebody told us about this box and just knocking the...
Perkins: So you're talking about that green husk, take that off of the actual walnut.
Cheney: Husk, yes.
Perkins: And then what would you do, get the little walnut and crack it on that gray, flat rock?
Cheney: Oh no, we wouldn't crack the walnut, it had to dry. It took -- it had to be spread out somewhere, but those sheds that we had, we had plenty of places to spread the walnuts.
Perkins: What sheds are you talking about, where were they located?
Cheney: Well, I told you the chicken shed was up on the hill, one chicken shed, and then in back of that we had a place built on with a slanting roof, and I guess it was about two and a half feet across to store the grain and food, because it was hard to carry – cracked corn and whatever we feed the animals with at that time -- up the steps. So in these bins, it could be just dumped as the man delivered it, so in that way we had the grain - I guess we weren't very old when we had the man who sold us the things like that, that you could have them at your home and crack your own cracked corn and do things like that on your own. So, I remember he was the one that told us about how to fix - to shell the walnuts.
Perkins: So after you dried the walnuts, you would crack them then, or would you crack them as you used them?
Cheney: Oh, we'd break them as we used them. At Christmas time we always used a lot, because we always made a lot of candy with walnuts in them.
Perkins: Where would you crack them?
Cheney: Well, we usually used one of those big, flat stones or a good-sized brick -- opened them up.
Perkins: Did you do that outside or indoors?
Cheney: Yes, depending on the weather, if you got too cold, but we usually had them shelled and broken into pieces before the weather got too cold. And Mother would put them in jars and they kept fine without being in anything, just so you dried them out a little first. We ate an awful lot of them too.
Perkins: Where did you get them from?
Cheney: Oh, there were walnut trees all over the place, the black walnut.
Perkins: Did you have to collect them as kids -- take...
Cheney: Yes, they had that ugly green covering, you know, that would stain your hands so.
Perkins: What did you use to collect them in?
Cheney: I'm trying to remember what we used to carry – oh I know of three walnut trees right within that, I would say twenty feet of where that house is that we lived in, I mean you didn't have to go far at all with a walnut tree. Right up by Bradford's Lane there were three right in a row, just like we had cherry trees up there too -- picked the cherries from Bradford's yard. But walnuts and hickory nuts, but we never bothered much with the hickory nuts.
Perkins: Is that because they're too small.
Cheney: They were too small.
Perkins: Did you Dad or your Mom ever share vegetables with other people -- did you ever give vegetables away?
Cheney: Oh yes, that's how we tasted some of the Italian dishes, because when the Italian family lived below us, she just loved to share. We couldn't understand when she brought the things (laughs). And I guess with the Irish brogue, she had as much trouble as Mother, poor soul -- broken English, but we managed, they were good neighbors. I can't remember ever having a fight with the neighbors, with the children.' Course it's a different age than it is now, everybody lived together -- used the same pump -- it would have been awful if we'd been fighting -- who got to the pump first.
Perkins: Did you ever buy seeds or vegetables from the local stores around Hagley Yards?
Cheney: No, Dad had a place in Wilmington -- I don't know how he found out about them, but a lot of people that we knew, as you said, sent the seed catalogs or someplace for seed, but we never did, because I think, Mother or Dad, I don't know which one of them, knew the farmers that would take their things into King Street market on Saturday, and they would always go in there, we never went to town on Saturday that we didn't go down King Street to buy fresh vegetables from the farmers. And then they would tell you about things that were easy to grow. I know Mother found out about a lot of things - well, spinach and kale and that type of thing, she didn't know anything about when she lived in Ireland, she'd never tasted them. She had never tasted a tomato, and when she came here she thought it was terrible, the first one she tasted (laughs).
Perkins: So did she grow kale - did you grow kale in your garden?
Cheney: Yes, that was a winter thing that would do very well when you did not like spinach.
Perkins: What about mustard -- did you ever grow mustard greens?
Cheney: Well, mustard grew wild, but I never saw it in the garden. We always bought mustard.
- Growing rhubrab; Growing celery; Making chicken feed; Medicinal uses of pennyroyal; Gardening tricks; Mother's sauerkrautKeywords: Animal feed; Basements; Cabbage; Celery; Chickens; Menstruation; Mentha pulegium; Parsley; Pennyroyal; Peppermint; Potato peels; Recipes; RhubarbTranscript: Perkins: What about rhubarb, did you have that in your garden?
Cheney: Now some people had the rhubarb, and we had rhubarb after we moved up next to the church, but that's because somebody gave Dad the plants. I guess it was the preacher, Mr. Edison brought that plant of rhubarb down to us and we put it there in the yard. It spread, we had enough rhubarb to answer our purpose for a long while.
Perkins: But you didn't grow that in your garden, did you grow that in your garden with the vegetables?
Cheney: Well, that was part of the garden up there next to the church, we planted it in the garden.
Perkins: In your flower garden or in your vegetable garden?
Cheney: Vegetable, well kind of along the border.
Perkins: Along the edges.
Cheney: 'Cause it has great, big leaves, you know, and it would shadow, shade too much, bother small crops like your lettuce and that type of thing.
Perkins: What would you do with the rhubarb as you picked it?
Cheney: Scrub it up and cook it, the long stems just like you buy, you know, take off the big leaf.
Perkins: Did you make pies out of it?
Cheney: I don't think so.
Perkins: Just stewed?
Cheney: Just stewed with sugar -- Mother would thicken the rhubarb sometimes with cornstarch and it made like a pudding -- it was so pretty, we liked it because of the pink color of the rhubarb.
Perkins: Yeah, do you have any of your old Mom's recipes, that you saved?
Cheney: No, when they made that Hagley cookbook, I thought I'd find some, but if Aunt Maggie had still been living, I could have gotten several from her because she said to me one time, "I'd like to cook some of the things that Mother cooked.” So I looked around, cook books, because Elsie and I, or Elizabeth, never wanted to borrow the cooking things like that, it took so much time in the daytime, so I gave them all to Aunt Maggie. So I know she would have had a good many of them, but I never thought about getting them, or that anybody would ever ask for them. So I had given her all of Mother's cook books, with all the old addresses -- or recipes we had for different kinds of vegetables, things like that. But Mother had to get acquainted with a lot of our foods, so I guess we would have had more things in the garden, if she had been better acquainted. Now, of course, Dad was born over there, but he came as an infant, well no, I'm not telling you the truth, he was nine years old and Uncle Simon was eleven when they came to the country, so he was old enough to...
Perkins: Yeah, he had more experience with it. I think I heard you tell me you grew celery in the garden. Do you remember how you grew that, did you have to prepare the soil special for the celery or...
Cheney: No, I don't think the celery was hard to raise. Here again, you have to depend on the season and get it in early because it took a long while to mature.
Perkins: Did you ever have to blanch the stems, hill the soil up on the side to blanch the stems?
Perkins: Probably just like potato vines, I guess, as it grows you maybe put the soil up.
Cheney: We never bothered with potato vines, but we did with the -- there was something else you had to dig the ground up - we never had red cabbage, we thought it was so wonderful when somebody red cabbage. But we'd have beautiful cabbage (low comments here) and that’ d make good chicken -- we made a mash for the chicken with the leaves of the cabbage.
Cheney: Potato skins, and Mother had a special pot just for the chicken -- one of those cast iron black pots -- carry it out in the yard, among the flowers in the summertime. And we used that all the time.
Perkins: Would she just use that to collect the potato peelings and cabbage leaves, or would she cook, actually cook the mash?
Cheney: Well, they would cook it -- the potatoes would cook faster in that - what was that lined with – that white casing?
Cheney: Enamel, yes -- enamel pots seemed to work better, she always liked...
Perkins: Do you ever remember, sometimes it seems like they planted certain plants together because they would either keep the bugs off each other, or help the other one grow? Some examples I had were to keep bugs away and they said the pennyroyal was good for keeping ants away, nasturtiums are good for keeping squash bugs away.
Perkins: (Laughs) Well, don't put it in any of your books, but I think it was pennyroyal that we cooked to help if you had cramps. My sister, Elsie, had an awful time every time she menstruated, and that's what I remember about pennyroyal.
Perkins: It was good for cramps?
Cheney: Looking for the plants, because you would just boil it, and then, I guess you took tablespoons of it ,I know she'd just give her a spoonful of it. And I don't know anything else about what was put in it, but I know that we had it for pennyroyal for as a medicine. And then, of course, peppermint -- we had peppermint growing in the yard all the time. That used to - when we didn't have flowers, we always put peppermint in the center of the table, 'cause it would stay green a long time.
Perkins: Smells nice too.
Cheney: But sometimes we'd bring it in in a flowerpot, you know, when you brought the plants in.
Perkins: So would you grow that in a pot, or would you grow...
Cheney: Out in the yard in the summertime, but then we'd put it in a pot if you wanted to keep it over, 'cause I don't think it ever lived over -- maybe it came up again, though, I'm not sure, -- cause the bed was always in the same place.
Perkins: It's a perennial, it should come up year after year.
Cheney: Yes, but depends on how much cold weather you have and where you have it planted, how much sunshine it gets - soil out there is very rocky, so many pebbles and stones and I think it wasn't too fertile. But you didn't bother with fertilizer, didn't work like people do now, getting the soil ready.
Perkins: I'm going to ask you one last question, and then I'll go. Can you remember any other little tricks, like your black walnut husking trick that your Dad used when he would garden -- any short cuts or easier ways of doing things?
Cheney: I can't think of any.
Perkins: Did he ever put any sorts of coverings over his plants to keep them grown longer in the fall so that the frost wouldn't get them -- I know sometimes I put blankets over my tomato plants or my squash plants so that the frost won't get them. And sometimes I do that early in the spring, put milk cartons...
Cheney: Well, we had one bed, I believe it was the parsley bed, we could keep over if we covered it with leaves. Because it was down near the house usually. I think parsley was one thing that we could keep over, unless we had a very severe winter, but we just put boards along the side of the bed and filled up with regular leaves, I remember. Not the oak leaf, because it was too big, but we had trees down there all the time and plenty of leaves to rake (laughs).
Perkins: What else did you do with the leaves, what would you do with them when you'd rake them up?
Cheney: Well, they had to be bagged -- when we lived out to the church I always put them in the gardens -- the leaves we didn't know what to do with them - it was too close to the church to burn them. We weren't allowed to burn then -- for years you had your own place that you burned your trash and the leaves, but they put a ban on that, we weren't allowed at Christ Church. But as we grew up, we had to get rid of extra papers and things and we'd make a bonfire, take care of all...
Perkins: Where did you have that when you lived at Hagley, do you remember?
Cheney: Well, I guess we had the fire up on the hill, there part of the garden, away from the fence. But almost any place because you had a lot -- the vines from the tomato and a lot of vines and sticks that you had to rake up in the yard to get it ready for winter, after you took all the vegetables in. That was when we would spread the leaves over the parsley bed. I can remember when we put three boards, you know, about maybe ten inches high, and that would keep the leaves inside. Now some of them would blow, but there'd be something close enough to the parsley, I think, you could keep over until Thanksgiving anyway.
Perkins: So it wouldn't keep it the whole winter, but it would just keep so that...
Cheney: It was very seldom as I remember when I grew up that we could keep the bed, anything in the garden from one year to the next.
Perkins: Except rhubarb, you can keep that. You should be able to keep that.
Cheney: Oh yes, it would -- but that was more like (voice dropped low and can't understand).
Perkins: That's a perennial. Okay, Mrs. Cheney, well, this has been another good interview for me. You may not think that you're helping me out, but you are a lot.
Cheney: Well, I don't think it's of much help, and when I looked over that paper, I thought, gee whiz, I'll never get all this done (laughs).
Perkins: No, I don't mean to overwhelm you with that list of questions, but I just thought that maybe you know, that would be a good memory...
Cheney: Well, what we talked about today might help me to get more on some of them, but I thought, well I have already said anything I know about most of the things that are on that paper.
Perkins: Yeah, I think -- did you read the questionnaire over?
Cheney: Oh yes.
Perkins: Well, see, I think some of that helped today because you mentioned lots of vegetables that you couldn't think of in the last interview, like kale and squashes and things like that.
Cheney: And cabbage -- reams worth of cabbage. And that's another thing you could make a small, you could -- what can you do with cabbage besides - what was that called?
Cheney: Sauerkraut (laughs).
Perkins: Did your Mom make that?
Cheney: Yes, yes. And you had a crock for that.
Perkins: Where would she have her crock?
Cheney: In that basement section that was cooler. When I was younger, and then even when we moved up next to the church, I had talked about a place that we kept the vegetables, so one of the little rooms in the basement in the new home that they built next to the church, they left the earthen floor, so in that place things would keep very well because they had the thick stonewall, and then inside of that the earthen floor.
Perkins: You know I read just the other day that a lot of people that are having new houses built are asking the builders to leave the floor an earth floor in their basement so they can store things downstairs instead of putting, you know, the concrete down because it's better for the vegetables.
Cheney: Instead of putting concrete down, when Carrie had come here, she had some coal -- stove coal -- it was down there in the corner, and she told them, just spread it out there if you can before you put the cement over it, so we've got some coal cemented in the cellar down there (laughs).
Perkins: Now when some archaeologist looks at that a hundred years from now, they'll think it's some practice that they used to mix the cement with coal to make stronger floor or something.
Cheney: Yes, you can see how tales get started, but we always laugh, I said were you going to pay to take that coal out, she said, "No, we'll just leave it."
Perkins: Okay, well, I think it's getting close to dinnertime, so I'll let you go.