Farmington, July 13 1883

I have a copy of a letter from one “William Millar”, my great grand uncle, to his Dear mother (Ann Bell) and Dear uncle. He was born in Ballymena Ireland and I believe the letter keeps the rhythm of that language, even though the words are English and written more than a century ago. The transcription is below. Substitute “they” for “the” throughout, mostly.

Farmington July 13 1883

Dear mother I know take the pleasure once more to let you know that we are all well at present hoping that this will find you all enjoying the Same blessing of good health. Dear mother I may let you know that my uncle John would do nothing for us. Bill sent letters to him and told him in the letter John Bell and John Moore had ten pounds for us and She said that if She would sell her place that she would have plenty to pay her debts and plenty left She said not like some of her friends and she said that the all could keep my grandma when she was able to do nothing She said the could Send her too them I said that she did stand her kind of treatment long Bell rote in the letter that made L10 pound since for butter and she says the with get along well know when the have not ten pounds year and she say the have flax 4 feet long I said it would be like the girl and new shift it would not be their neighbors that would need it and she give me plenty in it to I think she knows more about me nor know myself.

Well Dear mother we will be able our self to send the tickets for you and four little ones in about week from this date so you may be getting ready and be rest that you leave behind you fixed in places for stopping over the winter I would like to know how John is doing in my Uncle matthew my father is working and has 6 shillings a day and has not heard to work I am always with the one man our health is all as good as it was Ireland and Jane is in one place and has 2 dolers weeks. You may yet your house made we well Send you some money to make ready for road Jaems Miller ready to do

Dear uncle Aunt I received your kind and welcome letter which I got all right and I was glad to hear that you are all well doing well you may let my friends know that I have joined Farmington true blues No Surrender and good free country Bell band that James Harper got my grandma feather bed I don’t believe that the took it we send our true love to James harper and family Dear uncle I have got little more to say present that remains

Yours truly unto death

William Millar rite Soon


The menu for Thanksgiving Dinner 2010 stands as follows:

Martha Stewart’s Gruyere Thyme refrigerator crackers, made with Seal Cove mixed milk aged cheese “Olga” instead of Gruyere. Thank you for the delicious sample, Betsy! The crackers are incredibly simple to make but do need to chill overnight, so I’m making them in between blog posts. They will be our appetizer, with. . .

Fruit: Forelle pears (here on Peanut Butter Etoufee – welcome, pull up a fork!), Red Globe grapes and Courtland apple slices.

We will have turkey. R received a beautiful-but-deadly Wusthof 4″ boning knife for his birthday, so we’ll have a rolled, boneless turkey a la Julia Child – pan roasted in butter, and then finished in the oven in a remarkably short period of time. It will share oven space with sweet potatoes in maple syrup and turnips, par-boiled and then roasted with sea salt. Oh, and stuffing! This year the Morning Glory Bakery in the village provided 15 cup bags of their assorted breads cubed and baked – both savory and efficient. I added butter (duh), chopped onions, shallots and celery, vegetable stock, Black Mission figs and Northern Spy apples. R. will roll some up with the turkey and we’ll serve the rest on the side for the vegetarians in the audience.

We’ll have Savoy cabbage, carrot and apple slaw in the big wooden bowl with Susan’s favorite dressing for which I promise I will find and record the recipe (sorry, Susan!). There may be rolls.There will be cranberry sauce with local berries, sweetened with pomegranate molasses, which makes the sauce explosively tart and gives it a wonderful dark color.

Then there will be pie! Just two this year: Fannie Farmer pumpkin made with the New England pie pumpkins we grew over the incredibly balmy summer of 2010, and Martha Stewart’s (again) Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie, because it is just so good.

Recipes for what makes the grade to follow over the weekend. Keep warm, everybody.

Prospect, ME

Tonight I drove across the Verona Island Bridge, past Fort Knox and out to the Prospect Community Hall for the Tri-County Beekeepers Association Annual Meeting and Pot Luck.  First order of business was to honor Genevieve for her 20 years work as our treasurer with a carrot cake from Frank’s. You’re a Honey!

Speaker for the evening was Tony Jadczak, the Maine State Apiarist. Tony’s talk was centered around 2010 weather: the warm, early spring followed by a terrific summer honey crop, then a drought setting in for July and August and a dearth of honey this fall. A long dry summer means no goldenrod, and that means the bees eat their winter stores early. In 2009 we had one of the coldest, rainiest summers on record but the rain stopped in early September and the vegetation was lush. Hives put on a lot of honey and the bounty carried many weaker hives, and even some wild colonies, through a very mild winter. Tony took us through the consequences of “reinfestation pressure” and predictions for 2011, touched on new virus research and the ever increasing threat of mites, and talked about the people all over Maine who make their living (and their kids tuition) by the bees.

While I was there I noticed that renovations to the Prospect Community Hall continue. Sometimes I think every building in Maine is a product of retrofitting: the Hall has three layers of ceiling, two front doors (leading directly to the shoulder of Rt 1A) and a new bathroom.

I miss the old bathroom with its irregular toilet and the sheet of polished steel as a mirror, but the flowers are a nice touch.

Like the beekeepers, the Hall is ever-changing in an effort to keep up with the times; to be useful and purposeful and bug free as much as possible.

Hattie’s Day

My mother, Harriet (one “t” no “e”) was born on October 9, 1928. Tonight in celebration we had buttermilk vanilla cake with fudge frosting from Alisa Huntsman’s book “Sky High“, Martha Stewart’s mac-and-cheese as re-imagined by Smitten Kitchen, and cabbage slaw with Westfield Seek-no-further apples and Seckel pears from the trees in the dooryard. Good friends K. and S. were there, and there are no better friends than the kind who come over for your mom’s birthday. Thanks, guys!

I’ve promised blog entries for the slaw dressing (buttermilk, honey, cider vinegar and so forth) and the cake, but after that meal and some follow-up vodka I’m just going to scan a picture of my mom and call it good.

This is Harriet on your left, the eldest, and moving to the right: Harrison, “Pinky Blue the Doll”, Cynthia and Dorothy. Grampa Barnard’s house still stands at the “vee” of Jerome and Bloomfield Ave. I estimate the date of the photo at about 1940 – a long way from Bar Harbor in 2010.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

The Clamdigger

The “Fisherman’s Voice” has an article by Lee Wilbur about our friend and neighbor, Richard A. (Rat) Taylor;

Richard is perhaps the historical epitome of what we like to feel Maine people are made of—people who have made their living with hard work, no nonsense, and a healthy dose of ingenuity.

Here’s a link to part 1 in August, and part 2 in the September issue. It’s a good read about what it’s like to make your living with your hands in this century or any other – clamdigging hasn’t changed all that much. I did a post about Rat’s presence on our road, including his sign,  last year. This year the sign is bigger and better and I’m hoping it’s a trend.

Certificate of Promotion

On June 24, 1934, my mother was promoted to the “Primary Department” at the Bloomfield Federated Church. It’s a lovely certificate, with copperplate handwriting and the picture of the young Savior.  She was 6 years old. And she kept this for the next 75 years in a paper bag with her first mortgage and a picture of her mother.

Jerusalem Airlift continued – Easter, 1974

I’ve remembered enough of the big old kitchen on the corner of Tunxis and Jerome to start a fairly substantial drawing. The 12′ ceilings made the perspective difficult to work out correctly, but the proportions are nicely balanced in a room with four large windows, four doors and enough floor space to accommodate three tables. These are only the children who would have been present for Easter dinner – there were probably a like number of adults that year. Below are the text selections for the illustration:

Dad has planted all the early things: peas, carrots, lettuce, beets, onions, turnips, cabbages and parsnip. The rest of the garden is still to be spaded up. The little daffodils are up under the lilacs out front, and by the back door, but only the ones near the back door have bloomed.

We went to mother’s. Aunt C. was there too. Uncle Bert was bowling in the a.m. We had delicious leg of lamb, mint jelly, tossed salad, peas, mashed potato, gravy, mashed turnips, rolls and ginger bread with whipped cream. Also had toffee-crunch and heavenly hash ice cream.

Jerusalem Airlift

Jerusalem is an adjective in my family; it denotes a similarity in a New World object to something from the Old. Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) isn’t even remotely related to an artichoke, but the taste is similar. Jerusalem Cherry, (olanum pseudocapsicum), is a member of the nightshade family with poisonous fruit – small, round, bright red fruit that look something like cherries. The Old World names were good enough, but the distinction had to be made lest you make a fatal pie out of New World cherries.

My family wrote hundreds of letters when I went away to college. Going away to college was new, but they’d had experience with going away to war and that’s how they approached it. Hundreds of letters about food. About their lives back home, actually – but I’d never realized that food was so much the overarching motif of those lives. I’m working the letters up into a collection. The Old World sent food, but the New sent a facsimile – a Jerusalem Airlift.

Mary came back to the Firehouse after, and we arranged platters of meats, breads and salads for 100. They gave us much more and also sent a beautiful whole ham for Mother and Ben. Dad cut it in chunks last night with the big knife so it could be divided easily. Mother froze the bone for soup later on. PS Thought I’d send nuts – maybe you can use a hammer and something for a pick.

It is supposed to snow this afternoon 2 – 8″ stopping around midnight. I am working overtime tomorrow, then on Sunday we are having your father’s birthday party. He wants that coconut pineapple cake of Doris Watkins’. It always falls apart, but he always asks for it.

I have plenty of excerpts to work with, and hope to begin setting up material to draw as illustrations. (I’m going to skip the ham.) A perfect frontspiece for the book, I think, will be a picture of me standing ghostly in the back yard, holding a layer cake.

Our Hardy Ancestors, documented

lyman sheldonWinter is truly here and there is no gardening at 21 degrees F and 30 knots unless you count going through the seed catalogs.  (Here’s where I man up and admit that I’ve already placed my seed orders for summer 2010, so that exercise would be redundant.) At 19:30 EST in July I’d still be working outdoors in broad daylight, but it is late November at 44  Lat and the sun went down hours ago. Winter is the time for research, and I have plenty of indoor projects that need work.

As part of my genealogy project I’ve been going through boxes and scrapbooks to find illustrations of the characters I’m researching. Or at least that’s how the process is supposed to go; I’ve reached Dorothy Filley Bidwell’s part in the family tree and it’s time to find a picture. But sometimes my hand stutters over a snapshot that’s just too good to put back in the box, never mind that I haven’t quite got to that branch of the tree.

This is, right to left, Minnie Cornelia Smith and her husband Walter Alexander Sheldon, and Emma Estelle Smith and her husband George Elisha Lyman. The Smith sisters had a double wedding on October 1, 1895 and this picture was taken on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary. Bet that was a heckava party.

Our Hardy Ancestors, continued

Generally these OHA posts are all about food and the way people cooked the dickens out of it around the turn of the last century, or possibly the one before that. But in the olden days they did more than overcook seafood. When the sun went down and chores were done, my maternal grandfather researched genealogy at his rolltop desk. My mother remembers him calling long lost relatives in New York state, noting marriage lines and cross referencing maiden names. His four children could recite the Barnard line back seven generations: Raymond, Louis, Judah Harrison, Judah Pinney, Ebenezer, Francis and Joseph.

All his work on the family line is gone now, lost with the rolltop desk. A few years ago I inherited a family bible (or three) and tried to begin again. After a few weeks the piece of vellum I had taped to the wall had grown to 5′ x 6′, with extra pieces flapping all over with the names of children I’d forgotten and second marriages. I had to take it down when winter really set in and we started up the wood stove so as not to end the family line in a house fire.

Two years later I tried my first software genealogy program. It sucked – I think that’s actually the technical term. Family Tree Maker 1.0 was deeply flawed, structurally unsound and compulsively tidy. No one ever remarried, had step children or came into the line undocumented. In my family it’s not unusual to have one set of siblings marry another set, and then the remaining two marry after their spouses have passed on. This kind of behaviour is hard on probate courts and software, and don’t even get me started on gender issues. FTM 1.0 hated my family so much it eventually stopped working altogether.

Two weeks ago I bought a copy of Family Tree Maker 2010, because winter is setting in and I knew what would happen if I started taping big sheets of vellum to the wall behind the wood stove. I never thought I’d be plugging software on this blog, but this product is more fun than a video game. Well, any video game that’s not GTA IV.

My favorite of the Barnards has always been Francis. Referred to as “Deacon” Francis in the lore, he married Lucretia Pinney in 1740 when she was 19 and he was 21. Starting  in 1743 they had 13 children: Lucretia, Lydia, Irana, Aaron, Moses, David, Sara, Elizabeth, Elijah, Ebenezer, Samuel, Elihu, Caroline and Francis, Jr. They lived in the same town I grew up in, and my mother often told me of the sign on the side of the house that proclaimed:

house sign FB

The house stood on Duncaster Rd. until 1989. I have a vivid memory of the sign, but now I can’t remember if I saw it myself or simply heard the story often enough to make it real. In ’89 they took the house down and the Wintonbury Historical Society put up a plaque in honor of the sons. Tonight I’m going to fire up the program and record the  daughters, too.

francis barnard 1719 1789 house