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The Great Depression: Life on the Farm


"This time, I'll tell you how I earned money when I was just a little girl. My bicycle came in handy again. Some time ago, I told you about riding it to the movies. I also used it to make the rounds of my many customers. I had four different things for them to buy. This may sound strange to you, but I was selling rhubarb, honey, butter, and cottage cheese!"

"Oh, come on Grandma. That doesn't sound right!"

"I'm telling you the truth, but I can understand why you need some explanation. So, here goes, one item at a time.

We planted a very big garden just filled with vegetables. There were radishes, carrots, potatoes, beets, and sweet potatoes. Those all grew underground. Then we had green beans growing on poles and green peas. I remember my mother really liked peas, but they had to be freshly picked. So, she would have the rest of the supper almost finished. Then she would run out to the garden, pick the peas, quickly shell them, cook them in a little water, and then call us to supper. Now that's what I call fresh!"

"That's a funny story, Grandma. But what's that got to do with rhubarb? You did get the rhubarb from your garden, didn't you?"

"Whoops, sorry. I did wander off the subject. At least we are in the right part of the yard. Right down the center of the garden was a row of rhubarb plants. Most people in town planted gardens, but no one seemed to have rhubarb. I would pull out lots of stalks, cut the big leaf off the tops, and tie them in bundles. No matter how many I started out with, it seemed that I would run out of rhubarb before I ran out of customers! Some would add strawberries to the rhubarb when they made their pie. We usually saved our berries for shortcake.

We didn't have a very big strawberry patch, but we sure had plenty of rhubarb! Sometimes people would just stop by and want some rhubarb. They could see the big plants from the road. Maybe like my Mom and her fresh peas, they wanted their rhubarb really fresh.

It would only take me a few minutes to get them a big bunch, but I always cut off the big leaf before I collected their money. Rhubarb was very good for you, but the leaf was poisonous. You had to know those things when you worked on a farm.

If you think this was a long story to tell you about rhubarb, I should warn you that my story about "Honey" would be even longer. So let's wait until another day when we aren't so tired. You say you're not tired? Well, Grandma is!"

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