Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Diary of Elijah Larkin

Yesterday we took the kids out to the garden to battle with the weeds. Most things are doing fairly well. The lettuce, spinache and radishes have already run their course. We didn't eat even a tenth of what grew before it went to seed. The tomatoes look like they will certainly drive us out (we have almost 50 tomato plants in three varieties). There were millions of small tomato plants that came up as volunteers from last year's rotted fruits. Also some volunteer potatoes that we didn't find last year. The hot peppers are coming along. Beets and carrots are a little sparse; it seems difficult to get those to come up. Cucumbers are doing well, as are the summer squashes. Peas are in flower. Two plantings of corn spread two weeks apart are looking quite nice. The cherries are turning pink. We only lost one small peach tree from last season, and the survivors are all bearing. All in all, it looks like we'll have plenty to give away, or maybe to sell.

There's an online database of pioneer diaries that came out of the Mormon Pioneer sesquicentennial celebration in 1997 (or was it from a miniseries produced for PBS a few years after?). At any rate, you can find the Trail of Hope diary project here or type this address into your browser>>> One of the diaries, from Elijah Larkin, talks quite a bit about his gardening efforts through the course of a season. Here's a brief sample:

June 5, 1864 ...this Afternoon my Bro & Self. through the kindnes of Bro Ed Samuels gardener visited the Presidts upper & lower Gardens. the Peas Peaches
apples Pears Strawberrys & in all the Gardens looked splendid.
June 6, 1864 ...I watered the Hall Lot with waste water. planted a row of Cabbages
& hoed the Carrots in the Orchard Lot.
June 7 …To day I worked in the Orchard Lot hoeing. Sarah & Jos weeded the rows after me…
June 9 …I hoed up the weeds in the Hall Lot & moulded up the Potatoes Jos S. assisted me.
June 11 …To day I finished Hoeing up the weeds in the Hall Lot.
June 14 …To day I recieved the notices when to use the water under the new regulations for the Orchard Lot 1½ houses once a week in stead of two & a half
Hourse twice a week. five the Hall Lot half an hour once a week insted of an hour & half twice a week. watered the Hall Lot.
June 17 …Hoed the Beans in the Orchard Lot.
June 18 …Moulded up my Beans in the Orchard Lot early this Morning & watered bouth Lots during the day with waste water.

As you can see there's a lot of information in just two weeks' entries about food production. Through the course of a year, it looks like a gold mine. I particularly like his details about the irrigation schedule, and also the description of Brigham Young's gardens. But perhaps the gem for June of 1864 is this entry about his interaction with Sarah, his fractious plural wife. Earlier, she was found guilty of hoarding food and hiding it from the other wife. Plural marriage must have been a terrible circumstance. Read on...

June 20 …I took Sarah a Ten dollar order for Crockeryware &
Tallow for Soap & Candles. as soon as I got into the House
she pretended to be verry ill. & weak. but after Grumbling
& finding fault with me for about Half an Hour she showed
her cloven foot & I went to the Orchard Lot to thin my
Carrott Patch. she folowed & commenced to abuse me in the
garden. I advised her to be quiet. but finding she would not
I left & went to the Hall Lot here she folowed me again
& haveing raked up all she immagined wrong about me from the
time she first knew me. she vented her Hellish Spleen upon
me in words & made evil of things that were meant for good
when at last I ordered her out of the Garden & went home

After all, a garden should be a santuary, not a battleground.


Cowboy Curtis said...

Great post! I think your garden sounds more pleasant than Elijah's.