It's been a tough week since the last post - the destruction of my first garden here on the farm 31 years ago, lots of long hours trying to juggle work, deadlines, introducing a new garden helper to the garden and trying to keep the plants alive that were salvaged from the construction. Lots of bulbs were lost, buried, mashed by the backhoe, but some have survived. Another quite meditation garden will arise somewhere, hopefully.
The exciting thing I want to tell you about is the weekend that my friend, Adam, and I spent at the Rendezvous at Fort de Chartres, near Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. Many of you know it's an annual event for me. I'm excited by the reenactments of the 1700s when the French still controlled much of the Mississippi River valley south to New Orleans. The Rendezvous always falls on Josh's birthday weekend, June 5 & 6, so we celebrated his birthday early and he was happy to have Adam accompany me, giving Josh a quiet time at home to work on his baby chicks, worm farm and raspberry beds.
Fort. In previous years there wasn't anyone on hand to explain the garden and I had wondered just how historically accurate the gardens were. Carol was on hand, along with some volunteers weeding and tending the garden, and she told me what her and the other volunteers' research has shown. Through some of the surviving documents, but more importantly, from historical recipes from the area, Carol now has a remarkable list of what was grown in the mid 1700s in that location.
There are leeks, onions, scarlet runner beans, lettuce, carrots, relatively ordinary vegetables by our standards, now. Oh, and grapes, too, certainly, for wine. But I was surprised to see eggplant. Carol explained that the French used eggplant, but the English only grew the plant as a decorative. Also cabbages and the raised beds were also authentic to the time, as well.
There are lots of reenactors of all sorts. Some portray French soldiers, others portray English military. There are the voyageurs, Coureur des bois, who were licensed fur trappers. There are always a good representation of Indian tribes, as well. I visited with a group of Indians who I'd met last year and learned more about who they are and what they do.
For example I learned about the coloring they'd painted on their bodies again this year. Out of pure ignorance on my part, I inquired why, if Indians were dark complected, would they paint themselves darker, as these fellows had done. "There's the misconception that all tribes were dark skinned," one of the men said. "The truth is, many tribes were light complected." Painting the body was a form of decoration, just as wearing feathers and beads, a way of showing their finest, and thus, being more impressive and fierce, when visiting some place like the Fort. The paint consists of red ochre, or a similar pigment, mixed with bear's tallow and beeswax (I had wondered why these guys never sweated off their coloring, now I know - it's the beeswax!)
I learned, also, about tattooing, how it had significance for status, not just a decoration as it is today. And I got to examine how the feathers are attached (threading a small tail of hair through the leather that holds the feathers in place). One of the reenactors, Josh, is a student at University of Missouri, Columbia.
Food, too is always a big part of the festivities, and it has to be relatively authentic. Roasted corn over a fire, buffalo (fish) from the Mississippi River, homemade ice cream, lemonade, etc. I grew up eating the fish named buffalo (named because it's nose resembles the snout of a buffalo) and it's one of my favorites. I'd take buffalo over swordfish or grouper any day. The traditional way of cooking it, is to score, or cut, through the rib bones every 1/2 inch and when the fish fries, the bones disappear. I used to spend my summer evenings, running my trotline in the Osage River, bringing home buffalo, and carp, my other favorite.
We arrived back home on Sunday evening and Adam packed his car and headed to New Mexico on Monday for his next gardening adventure. We enjoyed his company and creativity in the garden and are grateful for the progress and inspiration his visit brought.
Happy gardening to all and to all, a good night.