A Corny Post

The Corn Palace

Bird beaks peck away at grains of corn on the walls of The Corn Palace. Still, the murals created with several colors of dried corn and grain arrest the eye. On our trip West we visited this grand monument to farmers and the grain industry they represent in Mitchell, South Dakota.

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A Quote about Corn:

“A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine,” said Anne Bronte, poet and novelist of West Yorkshire, England, 1800s

Corn Sex, according to Elizabeth Kolbert in “The Big Heat,” The New Yorker, July 23, 2012 issue

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Mennonites and Corn

Mennonites in Lancaster County, including the Longenecker family, participated in the whole process of corn production: planting, hoeing, harvesting, husking, canning, freezing – and best of all – eating the succulent grains of corn on the cob, the buttery juice running down our chins and forearms.

In her book Mennonite Women of Lancaster County, Joanne Hess Siegrist features photos of Mennonite women hard at work husking and cutting corn off the cob (pages 124, 124)

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My Mother Ruth loved making her baked corn recipe from the Mennonite Community Cookbook. She served it in a chocolate-brown Pyrex casserole dish nested in a basket of tight weave. We loved every bite, especially tasty during corn season.

Baked Corn Recipe

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Want More Corn?

Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet, diplomat and politician, apparently loved vegetables too. He wrote about tomatoes, corn and more. Here is the link to his poem “Ode to Maize.”

Share something corny here. We are all ears!

Coming up next: Going Male, Amish Romance Novels

An Orphan Speaks on Mother’s Day

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This is my first Mother’s Day without my mother, Ruth Metzler Longenecker. To say I miss her is an understatement of the highest order. Technically, I could be considered an orphan with both my mother and father gone. However, with my own extended family and considering my age, I doubt that such a designation applies.

Is there a word for my status without a living mother or father at my age? I wonder.

Mother lived a full life with many happy moments and good health until a few days before her death on July 28, 2014. Over her lifetime, she had seen phenomenal changes in American culture, including technological ones as shown here:

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Anna Catherine (Herr) Houser was speaking/listening on this candlestick phone in 1919 at the time Mother was a year old.  Credit: Mennonite Women of Lancaster County, Joanne Hess Siegrist, 1996, page 89.

The last photo I snapped of Mother with her finger hovering over my iPhone captures the moment she looked up momentarily from “paging” through photos of her grand-children and great grand-children.

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David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea

The death of someone closest to us is always a form of salutation, a simultaneous Goodbye to their physical presence and a deep Hello to a more intimate imaginal relationship now beginning to form in their absence.  (46)

A “deep Hello to a more intimate imaginal relationship”? We’ll see . . .

“Her children rise up and call her blessed.” Prov. 31:28
 Christ Church Frederica, St. Simon’s Island – Tiffany glass

Have you experienced the death of your mother or grandmother? If a mother, is there a word for one’s status now, bereft of a mother and father? Your suggestions always appreciated here.

Coming next: The Longenecker Sisters’ Road Trip, Part 1

Moments of Discovery # 5: Mother’s Quilts

 

Page from On Market Street, Anita & Arnold Lobel
illustration from On Market Street by Anita & Arnold Lobel

Bossler Mennonite Church was the hub of the Longenecker family’s spiritual life and the school beside it, Washington School, the place where the Women’s Sewing Circle fabricated comforters, baby clothing, blankets and quilts to help clothe the needy of the world. Some of these gorgeous quilts are displayed on a previous blog post. You can see and read about them here.

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Quilt exhibited at the bicentennial of Bossler Mennonite Church
Quilts exhibited at the bicentennial of Bossler Mennonite Church

Even more than quilting I think Mother loved knotting comforters. For her, it was easier to see progress knotting a comforter. She liked the warm fluffy texture, and she could work on it by herself at home.

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Last fall, on one of our trips to the attic cleaning out the house after her sudden death, we opened the yellowish, grain-painted blanket chest with turned feet where we knew we would find some of Mother’s prized quilts.

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 Can you identify the design above? I need help with the name of this pattern please!

Crazy Quilt design, 1999
Crazy Quilt design, 1999.  Each of Mother’s grand-children received a quilt. This one now belongs to our son, Joel Beaman.

 

Joanne Hess Siegrist, one of my former students at Lancaster Mennonite School, has published a story in photographs from 1855-1935 entitled Mennonite Women of Lancaster County. In this pictorial overview of Mennonite life from this era, Joanne, who can trace her family back eleven generations, depicts the many facets of Mennonite women’s lives in chapters like these: The Tone of Their Lives, Motherhood and Children, Farm Life and Work, Faith and Family Outings.

Here is an excerpt from her chapter entitled “Quilting and the Arts”

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Mennonite women of Lancaster County spent many hours doing elaborate, colorful needlework. Young women worked especially on their dowries.

 

With a frugality that was part of their spirituality, these women often created handwork out of remnants and half-used materials. They crocheted exquisite lace tablecloths from the cord strings used to tie feed bags. They made hooked rugs using the unworn sections of old winter coats. They designed quilts with fabric from colorful feed bags found in the barn. . . .

 

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In a photo dated 1948, Joanne showcases Anna Huber Good as she adds tiny stitches to a Grape Vine appliqué quilt. Author Siegrist adds, “Anna quilted all her life; in fact, after rearing eight children, she became even more intent on quilting. Anna got up at 4:00 a.m. and quilted until 6 a.m. Then she made a large breakfast for her husband Daniel and sent him off to his market work. After doing a few cleanup chores, Anna returned to quilting. She quilted all day long until about 9:00 p.m., stopping only for meals.”

Anna’s retirement years were even more productive, making “forty-two quilts for her children.” Amazingly, she charged only 15 cents per yard of quilting thread if she quilted for people outside her family.

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Here are four friends quilting in the dining room of Enos and Annie Lefever’s home (1915). Their intent expressions (uh-oh, I see one smiling!) and nimble fingers are caught on camera by Annie’s son Harry, whose photography did not interfere with his membership at Mellinger’s Mennonite Church (Mennonite Women of Lancaster County,194). Just a mere ten years earlier, Mennonite farmer, John Kreider Miller, lost his church membership for running a photography studio (The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal, Friday, May 10, 1996). Photographs, apparently, at the turn of the twentieth century, spoke of pride, a cardinal sin in the Mennonite system of values. (Mennonite Women of Lancaster County, Siegrist)


Amish and Mennonite hand-made quilts are now marketed as a luxury item and often used as decorative wall hangings. There are numerous websites advertising such handiwork for thousands of dollars.

Until recently, the Quilt Museum at the People’s Place in Intercourse, PA exhibited cleverly crafted quilts from all over the United States.

The Mennonite Central Committee, providing aid to the world’s forgotten and neglected, often sponsors quilt sales and auctions beyond Lancaster County borders. Here is a link to one in Ohio.

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Buy Joanne’s book here!

 

Is there quilting in your family history? Has a quilt been bequeathed to you of quilt-essential quality? Are you a quilter?