Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Battered, Dirty Quarter...and more...

Here, a few favorite excerpts from Barbara Webster's 1965 book, 'Creatures and Contentments: Ruminations on Living in the Country' 

On Birds:
Still unexplained is the coin we found one morning in the bird feeder. Was it meant to be a tip? Has anyone else every been tipped by the birds? A battered, dirty quarter, it looked as though it had been passed around from beak to beak.
What are we coming to when birds feel it is not enough to sing for their supper?

On Winter
The leafless branches of the trees make a delicate network against the sunset sky. On bare hill the pink crest of bunch grass waves in the wind.
The landscape has its winter look. It will not alter during the long months ahead, excpet for those almost imperceptible signs only the confirmed country dweller knows-the reddening of the bramble vines in January, the change in the light, come February, the bright-blue skies of March, the faint swelling of the buds. Those buds which have been on the trees since early fall are the promise, through all the winter cold, that spring will come again.

On Her Childhood Kitchen:
The kitchen of my childhood I look back on with tenderness and nostalgia. The worn paint scrubbed clean, giving it a shining cheerful air, such as used things have; the polished black stove, the ceiling-high cupboards, the kitchen table covered with oilcloth, the spacious pantry...

On Old-Fashioned Cooking:
"Do you remember the purely heavenly scent of fresh bread, just come from the oven?" she asked. "And those big old thirty-pound country hams, put back after they were baked, to 'beautify,' with just enough firm pink fat left on in which to place a fanciful arabesque of cloves?"
She mentioned, too, the odor of almost done wild-plum jam, and gingerbread, made with sorghum molasses and thick sour cream, sewn with currants and raisins and black-walnut meats. Even before she got to country-cured bacon, broiled over a sassafras-wood fire, I had begun to drool, and she really didn't need to say anything about the fragrance of freshly ground coffee, Mocha and Java, of course, early in the morning. But she forgot pumpkin cornbread, with its indescribable surprise flavor, I thought, my mind now starting in that direction. And Grandmother Sherwood's grape pickle, made with whole bunches of Concord grapes, which looked so handsome in a milk-white dish, served along with meats.

On the Ancient Beech Tree Overlooking the Barn:
High on the steep hill behind our house there stands a huge, ancient beech tree, gray and wrikled as an old elephant. Under its spreading branches I never fail to find a harvest of down wood. I makeup my bundle, and then sit for a moment on a seat made by the massive roots of the tree, which flow about its base in curious shapes, and form on the other side a hollow always full of rain water, where the sheep come to drink. And I look down at our barn nestled into the hill far below, and beyond, at the meadow brook, worming its silvery way through the narrow green valley, cupped by the opposite round hills.

How I adore her writing!!!
I've shared bits of another book of hers; read that post by clicking here .

If you know of other authors who write like this about their lives in the countryside, please let me know.

xoxo country girl

TODAY, ONE YEAR AGO: Hot Milk Sponge Cake 


  1. Beautiful words! I particularly like the ones on Winter and Her Childhood Kitchen. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Absolutely lovely and joyful to read, I want more! xoxo

  3. Hi Dawn..john and i are off to lunch in paso robles...as soon as we're back i am reading this and checking out the award...thanks, dear one.....

    more soon


  4. Of course you love Barbara's writing. She was great and it makes me so happy that she is gone, but certainly never forgotten (but more people need to know her).

    Love, love,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  5. Oh, I haven't heard of her before. what a treasure. Thanks so much for sharing!! I can't wait to track her books down. I do so love discovering a new author.



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