Posts Tagged ‘history’

File this under my “Reality Check.”
     “To me, this flag DOES NOT represent racism! It represents the South! It represents MY heritage & history,” insisted a Facebook friend as she posted yet another image of the Confederate flag, accompanied by the meme’s words, “Stand up people. Share and KEEP this flag going. Let’s see how many shares we can get[.]”
“Here we go again,” I sighed, the historian in me cringing. Then it occurred to me that her family was from an area of Arkansas where many people supported the Union, meaning the US government.   Hmmm. I could have responded with the long list of reasons why the flag doesn’t make such a great symbol, but I restrained myself. Since I didn’t say them there, I’ll say them here. Then I’ll let you in a little secret about my friend’s great grandfather, because her roots may be Southern, but they aren’t Confederate.

The Short Version of the Flag’s History:
What I Didn’t Say (this time) on Facebook

     I knew I could respond to my friend by begging her to read Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephen’s Corner Stone speech. He states two things unequivocally in it: (1) that slavery was the “immediate cause” of the war and (2) that the Confederate Constitution was designed to preserve racial inequality. Being an old guy, he also harped on the decades-old conflicts over tariffs and internal improvements, but he did not say that those things or states’ rights started the war.

     I could respond by pointing out that the South attacked a US fort. Today we’d call those people home-grown terrorists.  (I’m all about home grown, but not when it comes to terrorists.) Would you wave an ISIS flag proudly today? Furthermore, the South attacked because Lincoln had been elected, not because he’d actually taken any action against slavery. He had repeatedly said he only wanted to stop the spread of slavery; he also stated he had no legal basis for ending it where it existed already. In other words, more than half a million Americans died because some wealthy politicians were afraid of something that hadn’t even happened.

I could point out that the flag is actually an oddly shaped version of the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, a battle flag of people who raised arms against the US, not the true flag of the Confederate States of America.

I could point out that Robert E. Lee, leader of the Army of Northern Virginia, rejected the battle flag after his surrender and demanded that he not be buried with it. He knew it was a flag of losers.

I could remind her that all Confederate flags, battle or otherwise, disappeared from public buildings in the South until the 1950s and 1960s, when white politicians resurrected the Northern Virginia battle flag as a symbol of resistance to integration and civil rights for Black Americans. It was most definitely a symbol of hate then.

Who’s Your Great Granddaddy?

     I mentioned none of these things in my reply to my friend. Instead, I spent a little while in the US Census and some other records, tracing her family via her maiden name. I was looking for a male ancestor in the right age range. There he was: her ancestor served in Company A, Third Arkansas Regiment. And therefore an Arkansas Confederate soldier, right? Case closed?  No, because both the Confederacy and the Union (US government) had a Third Arkansas Regiment. I saw her ancestor’s date of enlistment: fall 1863. The Confederate Third Arkansas was long gone from the state by then. Could the ancestor have enlisted and then followed the regiment east? It seemed unlikely, so I checked the Union records. There he was:
Private Robert Rackley: http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=B4A4A7C5-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A .
And he fought against the Confederacy, in the Union Army. In other words, if she wants to wave a flag celebrating her heritage, it had better be the US’s stars and stripes.

Armed with her ancestral information, I asked her to help me understand how the flag represents her heritage, and I gave her the link to her great grandfather’s records. And I’m telling you about it because her case is not unusual. Huge swaths of the South were pro-United States in the Civil War. About seventy-five percent of Southern households owned no slaves, and it’s not surprising that many white Southerners opposed dying so that a small percentage of wealthy Southerners could have slaves. In many cases, like in Marshall, Arkansas, the majority of men resisted being drafted into the Confederate military. Among Confederate soldiers, however, thirty-six percent of their households did own slaves, and it was the largest slaveholders who dominated Southern politics. Those men used racial inequality deftly to hang on to power. Under their racial rhetoric, even the poorest white Southern dirt farmer was better than every Black person. Politicians used many white Southerners then, just as they have tried to do in recent years. Apparently that racial rhetoric did not work on my friend’s ancestor, however, because when he turned eighteen, he enlisted in the Union Army.  And my friend’s heritage may be Southern, but it does not appear to be Confederate in any line I was able to trace in a quick search.

My Southern Heritage

     Truth be told, if you shake my family tree, a fair number of slave-holding Confederates will fall out.  That doesn’t mean that today I want to raise that flag over my homestead.  I’m proud of other parts of my Southern heritage, and I propose that we embrace a different symbol.  I like to think that my heritage is all about Southern hospitality. It’s about a big front porch, storytelling and honeysuckle, an open door, and a table laden with homemade, homegrown food. It’s about a shared past of white and Black and Indian and Asian and other people.  The Confederate soldiers in my past are not the models for my life today. Instead, sharing a gracious life as my grandmother taught me is my heritage.

I’ll try to be back soon with recipes and news of our ever-growing flock of chickens.

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As regular readers know, a few months ago I was the fortunate recipient of some sourdough starter that’s older than most college students. Historically, sourdough starters were a precious family legacy, a means of making yeast-risen bread without relying on little store-bought packages. You can make starter yourself, but getting it from a friend makes it much easier! My friend sent my starter with three pages of instructions (including feeding it every single day), which I read thoroughly and then filed for safe keeping. (No, really, I know exactly where they are.) Then I started messing around with it, seeing how long I could go without feeding the starter (when the storms hit and work got too busy, I went close to 4 weeks without feeding it) and how many recipes I could modify to use it. (more…)

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Whisk Broom

Today in the Ozarks the skies are dark, pouring an icy rain that makes me wish we had a fireplace.  If I had a fireplace, I’d have an even harder time carrying through with my holiday giveaway.  Earlier this fall, I wrote about my summer visit to the Ozark Folk Center, near my home in Arkansas.  I purchased two beautiful handmade brooms.  One is a standing broom for my own home.  The broom works so well and glides so easily that I genuinely do more of my share of sweeping than I did before I got this household treasure.  I also bought a gift for one of you, my dear readers, a whisk broom made in the same historic style as my standing broom.

As with the standing broom, every detail on this whisk or hearth broom is natural.  The broom measures a foot long and 8 inches wide at the base.  It retails for $25.  This broom also works as well as the standing broom, whether you decide to use it to sweep your hearth or whether it becomes your whisk broom to tidy up the end of a sweeping session.  Of course, it can also just be a decorative feature that might fit your country holiday or year-round decor, hanging next to your fireplace or in your kitchen.

If you are interested in winning this hearth broom, please post here with a special holiday memory or tradition, even if it’s just a sentence. It doesn’t have to be long or eloquent; just share a little.  If you’d like two entries, please post about this giveaway on your own blog or tweet it, and then indicate here in a separate comment that you’ve shared it.  Entries close Sunday, December 5, at noon Central Standard Time.  I’ll announce the winner, selected randomly, by Dec. 6 at noon, so that I can get your address and get your gift in the mail to you in time for holiday decorating.  Regardless of which winter holidays you celebrate, I wish you a happy, healthy season!

Legal stuff:  I am not a spammer and will keep your information private.  Readers from outside the US are welcome to post and enter, but you are responsible for any customs charges.

Entries are officially closed.  I’ll post the winner by noon on Monday.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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A few weeks ago I had a chance to meet part of my Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  I don’t want to offend the vegetarians, but this picture very well may include that bird.  I snapped a shot of these birds at Falling Sky Farm, now of Chime, Arkansas.  Mr. Homesteader was so impressed with the operations that for a week afterwards, no one could say chicken without him launching into an explanation of Falling Sky Farm’s operations and attributes.  The things that make Falling Sky Farm stand out include the freshness of the graze, the complete lack of odor, and the cleanliness.  Falling Sky Farm, naturally producing healthier food, stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that resulted in the recall of billions of eggs.

All of the animals at Falling Sky Farm graze on pasture.  What is most remarkable is that they get moved to fresh pasture either once or twice a day, depending on the animal.  Look at how rich this light grazing technique leaves the pasture, even after Arkansas’s extraordinarily hot summer and drought.

Frequent moving of the animals lets the manure composts easily on its own, in place, never leaving a strong smell like you find on factory farms.  The lack of concentrated manure also means that flies aren’t attracted in large numbers. With this system, animals never rest in their own waste, reducing disease.  Here you can see the chicken “tractors” in the distance and the rectangles indicating where they were in the past few days.

overlooking the chicken "tractors"

Pasture raising also eliminates bad bacteria from animals’ guts; the bacteria just don’t grow on pasture feed.  Finally, pasture raising increases the good Omega-3 fatty acids, helping you balance out the cholesterol that can come with eating animal products.  This hen promises she’ll produce better eggs!

Happy Laying Hen

As Congress debates a new food safety law, the Senate concluded that small farms with less than $500k in annual business that direct market within 275 miles of the farm should be exempt from tighter regulation unless they’re found guilty of distributing tainted food.  I think the amendment exempting small farms makes sense both for supporting local, diverse food sources and for saving tax payers’ money.  Well-run small farms are naturally healthier.

Have recent food recalls changed the food that you buy and how you shop and eat?

(edited Nov. 19, after the Senate included the exemption.)

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When the United States was founded, the only people who were assured the right to vote were men of at least 21 years of age who owned sufficient property that they depended on no one else for their income.  A tiny number of New Jersey women had the vote under the same terms until 1807, and some free African-Americans who fit the property and age restrictions got to vote.  Even white male laborers couldn’t vote when this country was founded.  How everyone else got the right to vote is a long story that I’ll cut short here; suffice it to say that people fought and died to be able to vote, with the last big changes not coming about until the 1960s and early 1970s.

Why then do only 40% of voters show up for midterm elections?  I don’t have a good answer, but I do know that not voting is dangerous to the future of our country.  If you aren’t registered to vote, honor the election tomorrow by getting registered.  If you are registered, show up at the polls.  Take a neighbor or friend who might otherwise not vote.  I voted early because I can’t be at the polls tomorrow.  This year of all years I personally felt what so many pundits are calling an “enthusiasm gap,” but I did my civic duty.  I hope you do too.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

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Lately I’ve been disappointed with my broomstick.  It just doesn’t glide like it used to, and I’m not even tempted to pick it up, much less accelerate it.  Therefore, when I had a chance to visit a superior broom maker at the Ozark Folk Center near Mountain View, Arkansas, this summer, I leapt at the chance.

Our day at the Ozark Folk Center began with a master carver who conjures the tiniest sculpture portraits you’ve ever seen, on toothpicks!

At the Ozark Folk Center you’ll find a chandler who makes wonderful beeswax candles, perfect for setting a magical mood without contaminating the atmosphere with petroleum products.

You’ll also find potters and weavers, complete with goats and sheep to help them weave.

The scents from the herb shop were enchanting.

Near the herb shop we found what we were seeking:  the broom maker. 

Everywhere we looked were brooms:  standard floor brooms, kids’ brooms, whisk brooms, and turkey wing brooms (do you see the red one hanging on the wall?).  All of the brooms are made of natural, sustainable materials.

Mr. Homesteader, despite knowing that he is the one most likely to pick up a broom around our house, asked if I could take a few for a test drive.

I only needed to try one.  I knew it was the right one.

It glided, it swept, it made me feel like flying.  I brought it home.

Check out the broom straw on this beauty.  I understand that the standard straw-colored broom straw is best, but the red broom straw adds such perfect color.

And I actually like to use it, so I do!

This broom also come with a remarkable 19-year warranty.  Why 19 years?  Because, as the broom maker told us, he has to retire some day.  That’s a phenomenal deal on a broom, making my new broom not just an effective and lovely choice but also a frugal one.

Oops–I just looked at the clock!  Time flies, and so must I!

Do you like my new broom?  I got the hearth (whisk broom) version for one of you!  I’ll be doing my second blog giveaway in late November or so, so be sure to check back then for your chance to enter.  The hearth broom will be ideal for holiday decorations or to keep your fireplace hearth nice and clean.  I planned this giveaway this summer, but now I have even more reason for doing it.  Wendy at A Wee Bit of Cooking just had a giveaway that my dear female cat, pictured above, helped me win.  See here for my silly cat’s antics that won me a new cookbook!

What’s your favorite household cleaning tool?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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My 83-year-old mother-in-law is visiting this week, and it’s been a real lesson in how folks used to do things versus how they do today.  She has talked a lot about what it was like growing up in rural Arkansas as tenant farmers in the 20s, 30s, and early 1940s.  Some of her brothers and sisters weren’t able to finish high school or even 8th grade because her father needed them in the fields.  They ate a lot of beans and cornbread.  And she didn’t know you could buy a loaf of bread already made until she was in her late teens.

Several times since she got here, she’s commented, “If you keep feeding me like this, I may never leave.”  You see, after being raised on home-cooked meals, which we have most nights, she got out of that habit after my husband’s father died several years ago.  And even more recently, splitting time between my two sisters-in-law’s homes, she has become accustomed to “supper from a bag.”  When I asked her what she meant, she replied, “Oh, you know, McDonald’s or something.  I’m going to have to re-learn how to eat out of a bag when I go back there.”

I reminded her that we live a dozen miles or more from the nearest fast food, and that by the time I go pick something up, it’s not fast anymore.  Our local groceries don’t carry those pre-roasted little chickens nor the pick-up-and-bake pizzas.  We can’t get anything delivered here–except Lou Malnati’s (and, no, they aren’t paying me; we just splurge on their pizza packages  about once a year when they go on sale.) Our really good meals are also a lot cheaper than take-out.  Tonight, for example, we had wild salmon simply grilled with a butter-dill sauce, corn on the cob, and an old-fashioned squash casserole (for my mother-in-law), all for much less than a bag of burgers would have cost.  It also took me about the time to make everything from scratch that it would have to get the infamous, unhealthy bag.  And I got to stay here and chat with my mother-in-law and husband and drink a little wine while I cooked.

Planning ahead for cooking at home takes a little time when you first start doing it, but the longer you do it, the easier it gets. I try to think of creative meals while I’m walking, showering, whatever.  I bought a little blackboard at a craft store and put magnetic strips on the back, so I can keep it on my fridge.  I take it down and write out menus based on what we have in the garden and the freezer and fridge.  It makes it easy for my husband at a glance to see what I’ve got planned for my cooking nights, and I don’t lose track of good ideas or food that we need to eat.

If you eat out of the bag more often than not, why?  Have you considered making more home-cooked meals?  (I’ll bet if you’re reading this blog, you have!)

If you cook most of your meals at home, what inspires you?  How do you manage it?  Do you have a simple planning system?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Several years ago a friend whose mother had been in the antique business told me he had a rustic chicken coop that I could re-purpose.  I was skeptical but went to see it.  It wasn’t a chicken coop.  It was a six-bay nesting box that had been thoroughly cleaned and varnished.  I was immediately taken with the piece and decided to purchase it for the princely sum of $15.  I cleaned the piece up a bit more and then tried it out in various locations and for numerous uses.  My favorite was displaying antique quilts in them.  Unfortunately, right now it is not in an ideal location for you to see the rustic beauty and convenient service of the piece, but I’ve included one close-up shot.

I’m thinking a lot of nesting boxes today because we have discussed getting chickens as soon as we get back from our summer vacation.  Imagine my surprise when fellow blogger Polly’s Path told readers that Georgia Farm Woman is having another nesting box giveaway!  Oooh, if I win I can start my chickens for sure late this summer!  Of course, now that I’ve told you, Georgia Farm Woman could have lots more entries for the giveaway.  Go ahead; check out these great modern nesting boxes.  I hope one of us wins!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Earlier this week I had a chance to visit the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, a reproduction of one of the many Chinookan plankhouses that Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery visited on their way to the Pacific Ocean.  The Cathlapotle Plankhouse captures the spirit of the fascinating cedar, multi-family dwellings in which Chinookan people lived more than two hundred years ago.  What I want to talk about today is a centuries-old hot pot style that’s inspiring me to rethink some of our home cooking.The Chinook people would fill this striking hand-carved vessel with water and then add rocks that they’d heated in the fire.  Then they’d use the hot liquid to poach fish and vegetables.  I can imagine the smokey, cedar flavor that the vessel and hot rocks must have brought to the dish.  Although I do not have an appropriate wooden bowl for cooking this way, I think that a Dutch oven might be able to serve the same purpose, as long as the iron did not lose its heat too quickly.

Have you ever cooked in a hot pot like this?

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Often these days when I get wedding invitations for friends (and their children), I see on their registry all sorts of fancy gadgets and tools.  I haven’t seen a request for an eggbeater in years.  Eggbeaters (like the 1930s one shown here) can beat eggs but can also whip up a cake batter, all without having to plug in and then lift weights afterwards because you don’t get enough exercise anymore.  Please, someone put eggbeaters on your wedding registry this year.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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