West By Northwest.org
Spencer Creek Valley
Sunnyside of Spencer Butte
by Lois Barton
Sauerkraut and All That
This morning I started a crock of sauerkraut. The cabbages
from our garden, fresh cut, crisp and sweet, were solidly filled out and clear of
pests. It was a joy to slice them on the old-fashioned slaw cutter into mounds of
cool green ribbons, which I lightly sprinkled with salt thoroughly mixed in, then
packed into the crock until their natural juices welled up to cover the slaw. I have
a wooden potato masher that was made for me as a wedding present by a cousin 50 some
years ago. I used this wooden tool to gently pound each layer of salted cabbage into
the crock until its juice covered that layer. Not long ago I asked this cousin whether
he remembered shaping the tool in his shop class at school. He didn't.
I shared my pleasure in this operation with daughter Rachel, explaining that in fourteen
days, stored at room temperature, the kraut would be cured and ready to eat. As a
recent high school graduate, she is just stepping out into the future, and eager
for knowledge that may be useful for new homemakers. The chances that her life will
include such mundane tasks as utilizing produce from a home garden are pretty slim,
but she was interested enough to consider the process and asked me about it.
"Do you add vinegar?" she asked
"No, the cabbage ferments on its own," I replied. Regarding me pensively,
Rachel said, "I'm going to miss you like you miss Sina." I miss my ninety-five
year old Aunt Sina who died a couple of years ago. she was the last of her generation
in my immediate family. At the end of her life she still remembered many things I
wanted to ask about from the days of my youth.
At eighty, I'm forty one years older
than our youngest daughter Rachel. In her view I embody the wisdom and experience
of previous generations. Would that I might still learn from those who are now gone.
Mother and my aunties kept me in touch with times and places of the past. details
of family relationships and community events which were not fully appreciated by
me as a child, could be clarified in recent years by their adult perception still
available to the in memory in their old age.
More important, perhaps, than such details is the transmission of cultural heritage
and practical know-how bequeathed to those who follow in our footsteps. It appears
to me that this process is most adequately and lovingly carried out by mothers and
daughters. And I am humbly grateful for my role as a bridge between the past and
Writer and historian
Lois Barton is an 83 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same
rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children
learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and
garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982
when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter
of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept;
and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of
the Soil. Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood
association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane
County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in
1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director
of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.
Some of Lois Barton's West By Northwest On the Sunnyside of Spencer Butte
articles and/or check the Archives for more:
The Cat That Flew
Charlotte's Overdose -
Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?
The Midwife - The
midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.
The Mystery of Fox Hollow
- Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.
Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.
Books by Lois Barton
History and stories of the peoples of the Northwest.