Monday, January 31, 2011

Inspired By The Warmer Weather

 Saturday and Sunday brought balmy tempertures of near 60 degrees F.
J. decided to do some pruning.  The "burning bush" has had a severe, but needed cutting back.
I took several photos before noticing the camera was still on the "sunset" mode from the the evening before, thus the orange-y tint.

No, its not one of the Wright brothers about to launch in a flying machine.
J. also took down an ancient TV antenna.

Willis the kitten is a faithful attendant.  J.'s elderly Raisin Cat has been allowed outside for a walk-about.

The ever helpful Willis.

I enjoyed the afternoon sunshine while clipping back the woody stems of perennials.
I leave many of the stalks through the winter to encourage self-sown seedlings.
Willis discovered that the catnip is evergreen in Kentucky.
He was quite inspired for some time after having a good dose of it.

Saturday evening I landed on this blog: .

Barbara Brackman is a historian with particular interests in the American Civil War and in vintage quilts.
She is also a fabric designer and noted quilting instructor.
I have one of her books.
She is posting instructions for vintage quilt blocks with background stories and links of interest.
I decided it was time to start a new quilting venture--the stacks of newly unpacked fabric are calling me.
We've had a drizzle of rain today with darkness coming early.
A perfect time to enjoy the warmth of the new "family room" and play with my fabric.
The asymmetrical arrangement of the patches for this block did bad things to my head before I got it right!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Encouragement of a Sunny January Day

It hasn't been especially cold this week--certainly not as compared to a proper winter in New England or in Wyoming.  It has been cloudy, with drizzles of rain, a night of soggy snowfall, patches of squelchy mud on the track that leads to the barns.
When I finished clearing away after lunch [chicken salad on home made wheat bread, home-canned stewed tomatoes] I made a mug of green tea and headed outdoors.
With Willis the Kitten supervising I dragged a rocking chair around to the west-facing end of the car port.
J. wandered out, fetched a shovel from the shop and sauntered up to the garden.
Willis decided that J.'s errand might be more interesting than lolling under the rocker, so he hastened to help.

Here is what J. disinterred from the good Kentucky soil.
Several large carrots. A hill of potatoes. He scrubbed them under the outside faucet
 and presented them, photo ready.
Sally the Kitten sniffs to see if she might fancy carrots or potatoes.
[She didn't.]
Pebbles, so J. informed me, understood immediately what he was about in the garden.
She came to the fence, begged for, and was given a large carrot.

Tea finished, I investigated the small planted area beneath the sweet gum tree.
Several clumps of daffodils have thrust through dry leaves.

A fan of emerging iris leaves with a sweet gum ball alongside.

It was too pleasant to go indoors, so I tucked the camera in the pocket of my down vest and embarked on a walk-about.
J.'s hay rake sits in the field to the north of the house.
The photo was taken on the "landscape" setting with neighbor D. H.'s place
and the road up Payne Janes hill in the background.

A walk past the side gardens and onto a rise by the south boundary fence gave me a different perspective on the Big Creek Valley.  My camera has a large view finder which throws an irritating amount of reflection when I attempt to focus.
This shot, using both the landscape and zoom features was a lucky one.
The dark triangle in the center of the photo is an abandoned house covered in Virginia creeper.

Cloudy days have been ideal for local tobacco growers to work with the leaves which were harvested in the autumn. The piled stalks are trundled past our house on a small trailer.  Later the stripped canes are brought back and heaped in the pasture near the neighbor's tobacco barn.

This small old barn at the corner of D.H.'s property was nearly invisible during the summer months.
It is snugged up against a ledge.
After years of living where most power lines have been installed underground it is odd to have them strung across every view.

When I returned my rocking chair to the front porch I met a "wooly bear."
One rode into the house this week on a chunk of the elm firewood.
It soon began to stretch and move in the warmth and was discovered by Chester the not-too-bright cat.
He prodded at it, drawing the attention of several other felines.
J. escorted the wooly back outside.
Sunset framed by a dark sketch of branches.

Looking east down the drive to the road and into the warm reflection of the setting sun.
We will undoubtedly have cold nights and some blustery days before the daffodils bloom, but a day such as this one at the end of January lifts the spirits.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Flu Epidemic of 1918

View from a vantage point above Rte 30 looking north west across the Green Mountains
toward the Adirondacks of New York state.
photo by C. deLancey

Autumn came to the Green Mountains of Vermont in 1918 as it had always come; war, worry, heartbreak, rationing, are no deterrent to the cycle of seasons.
In September the swamp maples along the stretch of Rte 30 running from Whiting to Middlebury  flamed into banners of orange and scarlet.  As the month wore on the rock maples, the beech, ash and oak made brave patches of brilliant color on Vermont hillsides, while the slopes of the Adirondacks towering above Lake Champlain on the "New York side" flaunted fall foliage among the ranks of hemlock and pine.

Middlebury is the shire town of Addison County, a bustling place of businesses, the courthouse, banks, and home of the illustrious Middlebury College.
Perhaps in that autumn of 1918 fewer footsteps rang through the "hallowed halls of ivy" for even the sons of the wealthy were required to register for the draft.
On the streets, in offices, in the gatherings of women, and in the quiet of family homes after supper the talk would have been of the war:  of sons, sweethearts, young husbands lost; of fear and of hope.

web photo view of the older part of Middlebury College as it appears from Rte 30
at the south end of town.

By the first week of October Addison County gardens may have felt the nip of frost. The warm golden afternoons offered time to dig  potatoes, load Hubbard squash into a wheelbarrow; time to carefully cull the last of the ripening tomatoes to line the windowsills of the back kitchen in the large white clap-boarded farmhouse standing across from the college campus.

Gilbert and Elizabeth Desjadon shared the back part of the Chapman's comfortable two-family house courtesy of their sons, Napoleon and Arthur, who were employed by Thaddeus Chapman, a retired merchant with a well-kept farm on the edge of town.
Napoleon had registered for the draft in June, 1917 and was now in France, leaving Ada, his wife of six years, in his parents' household. Napoleon and Ada had no children.
Napoleon's younger brother Arthur with his wife Mary and two sons, ages 2 and 5, were also part of the multi-generational family group.
Arthur filled out his draft registration card in June, 1917,
giving his employment as farm laborer for
T.M. Chapman.
Rounding out the household was Gilbert and Elizabeth's youngest child, Curtis John, age 20.
Curtis, unmarried, was Baggage Master for the Middlebury Depot of the Rutland Railroad.

There was nothing about this early October day to hint at what lay ahead for the Desjadon family.
Their anxious thoughts often turned to Napoleon in the trenches of France, but likely only his wife Ada would have written to him.
Gilbert and Elizabeth born in Quebec, Canada, were French speakers, possibly barely literate even in that language of their childhood. Surely their offspring had some schooling and were bi-lingual, but Napoleon's signature on his draft card appears stiff and clumsy--not that of a young man accustomed to much writing.

As the afternoon sun slanted golden through the yellow-leaved elms and crimson maples lining the streets of Middlebury, perhaps Gilbert, age 72, gave Arthur a hand with the farm chores, brought in wood for the kitchen stove or puttered at tidying up the garden.
In the house Ada and Mary were busy preparing supper. Elizabeth  may have rocked small Walter or 
pared apples for a cobbler.
The meal would be ready when Curtis arrived home from the station.

Curtis's greeting when he entered the kitchen from the back door was hoarse-voiced. Still wearing his jacket he pulled a chair to the side of the stove and huddled, shivering visibly. In anwer to his mother's anxious queries he croaked that he had felt ill since lunchtime, his throat sore and his head aching.  Quite unaccountably he had suffered a nosebleed. 
He wanted no supper, just a hot drink, but was sure that a night's sleep would see him able to work in the morning.
Family lore doesn't give the details.  At what point did the family realize that they were not contending with a heavy cold or with some form of grippe?  When was a doctor called?
I imagine the women of the family struggling to launder soiled bedding, tending the sick round the clock, offering tea or morsels of food.
It is said that Mrs. Chapman came from next door to help with the nursing.
It is not clear how many members of the combined households fell ill.
Curtis John Desjadon died on October 3, 1918, age 20 years, 5 months, 21 days.
His death certificate gives cause of death as broncho-pneumonia with influenza as contributing disease.
Curtis had registered for the draft less than 3 weeks earlier. 
 On October 9, 1918, Arthur Desjadon died, age 29 years, 3 months, 10 days.
His death certificate bears the same information for "cause of death."
The next day, October 10, 1918, Napoleon's wife, Ada, succumbed to the same illness.
Ada was 30 years, 2 months, 7 days of age.
All three death certificates were made out and signed by the same doctor, P. L. Dorey.
Peter L. Dorey was an osteopathic physician, Vermont born, of Canadian parentage.  It is likely he was bi-lingual and able to converse comfortably with his patients who had little English.

Many questions will never be answered. 
Were Ada's family called to her bedside?  They lived a few miles away in Cornwall.
Where were the little boys, Arthur and Walter during the time of their father's fatal illness?
Did their mother, Mary also have influenza and recover, or was she spared?
[Mary was an orphan who had been raised by Arthur's older sister and brother-in-law.]
It seems certain that at some point the house was placed under quarantine.
My late Aunt Helen, my father's older sister, believed that her grandfather Gilbert had the flu but recovered.

One cannot help but wonder how funerals were managed in a time of such widespread crisis. I have read that as the flu epidemic raged, public gatherings of all kinds were curtailed or prohibited.
Theaters were closed, meetings cancelled, even church services were sketchy.
Funerals may have been limited to the members of an immediate household.

 In Orwell, less than 15 miles from Middlebury, my father Larry was a month short of his 2nd birthday when his mother's brothers and sister-in-law were taken ill. My grandparents' last child, Elizabeth, was less than 3 months old.  Would my grandparents, even in a time of family extremity and grief have taken the risk of visiting the stricken household in Middlebury?
All of Gilbert and Elizabeth's surviving children, all with spouses and young ones of their own, lived in Addison County within a few miles of Middlebury.
I have no information on which of them, if any, may have become ill, but all lived for many years after the epidemic.
As for Napoleon Desjadon, he was not given word of his wife's death nor that of his two brothers until he disembarked from a troop ship some time after the Armistice in November, 1918.

One other death in the family of Gilbert and Elizabeth could have been attributed to the effects of influenza.
Their youngest daughter Helena [Lena] Desjadon Cameron, also a resident of Middlebury, had been pregnant with her third child prior to her death on January 10, 1919.
Her death certificate gives cause of death as pelvic peritonitis with contributing illness
"bronchitis followed by spontaneous abortion."
Lena was 24 years, 6 months and 20 days of age.
Helena's death certificate was signed by Stanton S. Eddy,
not Dr. Dorey who had attended the other flu victims.

The 1920 census for Middlebury, Vermont lists the depleted family of Gilbert and Elizabeth Desjadon
 still residing in part of the T.M. Chapman house.
Their son Napoleon, age 31, widower, is listed in the Chapman household.
With Gilbert, 74, and Elizabeth, 68, are their grandsons, Arthur J. age 7 and Walter J. age 4 1/2. Their mother, Mary, age 29, widow, is with them.
Also listed with Gilbert and Elizabeth is son-in-law Gilbert R. Cameron, age 31, widower, and Elizabeth M. Cameron, age 5, the daughter of Helena and Gilbert Cameron.
The census form on which this family was listed was enumerated on the 14th and 15th of January, 1920.
My great grandfather, Gilbert Desjadon, died on May 25, 1920.
His death certificate is signed by P.L. Dorey, the osteopathic physician who attended the deaths of Curtis, Arthur and Ada.
The cause of Gilbert's death was bronchial pneumonia with an underlying factor of arterio sclerosis.
Great grandmother Elizabeth died August 5, 1929 in Shoreham, Vermont where many of the family, including her oldest son resided.
Cause of death; myocarditis, chronic nephritis.

I found the following in a web article attributed to Scott Wheeler, although the same paragraphs appear in several seemingly unsourced presentations.
"The flu epidemic swept into Vermont with a vengence during the waning days of September."
From a source 1918,
The largest outbreaks of flu occured at Middlebury, ST, Johnsbury, ST. Albans, Montpelier, Barre, Randolph, Northfield.
"During the final week of September there were over 6,000 cases in the state. The disease probably peaked in Vermont during the week of October 12 [1918]. Inflluenza remained prevalent throughout the state during the winter and spring of 1919.
The Public Health Service did not require states to report influenza before September 27 [1918.]
Vermont first reported the presence of influenza on October 19, but the disease was undoubtedly present in the state much earlier."
The official death toll attributed to the flu epidemic in Vermont is given as 1772.  It is certain that this does not represent the full count.
A survey taken in 1919 indicated that 440 children had lost both parents as a result of the epidemic.

 My father, Larry, holding portraits of his grandparents,
Gilbert and Elizabeth [LaValley] Desjadon.
Cropped from a photo by cousin Pat McG. taken at a family reunion in 1998.

I missed the family gathering organzied in Shoreham, Vermont by Pat Cameron McGrath and the chance to meet Cousin Pat in person, having moved to Wyoming from Vermont in the spring of 1998.
Pat and I have since connected via e-mail and I am indebted to her for her generous sharing of family information.
Over the years of my interest in family research I was not successful in prising much information from my father.
Whether he was not interested in his family history or simply hadn't paid much attention is questionable.
He stated that as a boy he was bored when "the old people" gathered on Sundays and "spoke French."
Living now many miles from Vermont I think of the hundreds, possibly thousands of times that I rode into Middlebury and unwittingly passed the house where such family tragedy took place.
Vermont has recently made photostats of vital statistic certificates available online to those who have a paid subscription.
Records from the early 1900's to the present are fairly complete and have helped to piece together the details of my father's large extended family.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Another Snow Day

Rain started last evening and became snow sometime in the wee hours of the morning.
The bird feeders are very popular today.
Here a goldfinch in winter garb reaches for the niger seed.

An abandoned nest tucked behind a tangle of hop vine and an electrical cable.
It is located in the eaves of the carport, unnoticed through the summer months.

Pebbles is curious about my plodding progress through the snowy field.
J. questioned as to her motives, suggests that she is companionable [and nosey] by nature, but may be hopeful that I have a carrot or apple in my pocket.

The empty white farmhouse beyond our south boundary fence
 is lost this morning in the grey shroud of falling snow.

We ate a late breakfast sitting beside the dining-room glass door, watching the
birds as they crowded the feeders.
The cardinals like to pick up seeds from the ground.
In this case the male cardinal is standing on his head, poking through the snow for a stale doughnut.

J. has topped up the feeders on his way out to work in his shop.
I'm settled to work on a genealogy project which has simmered for many months on a back burner of my mind.  The weekend was chilly and I found that my fingers quickly got cold and stiff when I spent much time at the computer.
I contented myself with hours in the warm family room, unpacking and lovingly sorting my "stash" of quilt fabric. It now rests in tidy stacks on the shelves of the rustic cupboard--which is a deeper shade of green after a trip to town for a different pot of paint.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"The Plumber Is The Man Who Saves Us All"

Our son-in-law, M.G. fine-tuning the installation of an in-floor heating system.
I was listening to Garrison Keillor Sunday as I worked at putting away fabric in the family room.
After a half hour of abominable jokes, Garrison sang one of his original little ditties:
"The Plumber is the Man Who Saves Us All"--appropos of freezing weather in the mythical community of Lake Woebeggon.
Thus was appropriated the title for M.'s birthday tribute.

M. has a great appreciation for wildlife and often has a camera with him in the work van.

His sense of humor extends to such things as bringing me a huge tomato worm looped around the handle of a barbeque fork.
[And though he has a way with a steak and a grill, the worm was quite alive!]

As mentioned, M. is a good cook;  better than good.
During our Wyoming years the Thanksgiving turkey may have come out of my oven, but you can be sure that before it went in M. had supervised the seasoning and preparation, was there to pronounce it "done" and do the carving.

M. was quite responsible for the kittens Chester and Jemima coming to live with us.
He saw Pet Connection's poster in the local grocery store and immediately called to suggest that I rescue the kittens from the shelter.
I managed not to go there for about a week--then another call and the stern reminder that those kittens needed a good home.
Obviously I gave in and drove to Pet Connection, carrier in the back seat of my car.
I guess I can't hold M. liable for the fact that a month later the kittens' parents, Charlie and Maizie also became part of our feline family.

Happy Birthday Matt!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Collage of Birds

The juncos have been particularly pleased with the birdfeeder today, jostling the smaller goldfinches.
One fine fellow perched in the burning bush just outside the sliding door and fluffed and preened his feathers.

Snow, Sunshine and shadows

Snowfall ended early last evening and the day awoke clear, cold and sunny.
Above is the daytime view of last night's snowy Big Creek Valley.

The back field with the old tobacco barn and Payne Janes hill beyond to the north.

There were lines of deer tracks in the fresh snow.
Willis, my inevitable outdoor companion, sniffed the tracks with interest and then followed his shadow along the trail to investigate.

The back yard is criss-crossed with the tracks of humans doing our chores this morning; under the blue tracery of tree shadows rabbits, kittens and birds have left the record of their wanderings.

Three of the four eggsacks deposited by the summer spider are still clinging to the porch post.
The sedum where the spider hung her web wears caps of snow.

Snow held in the leaves of the magnolia tree.

Beyond the magnolia tree, Pebbles takes a drink from her water tank.  The water heater has been turned off during milder weather so there was a crust of ice this morning.  J. broke the ice but Pebs didn't like how it was done and applied a handy hoof to the job before sipping.
Willis the kitten stands under the tree.

Willis is everlastingly underfoot--or overhead, as the case my be.  Here he clings to a snowy branch of the old apple tree.

Sally joins Willis in the apple tree.  She is rarely still long enough for a photo and not as interested in my every step.

The tracks of a rabbit have caught Sally's attention.
She circled the tree trunk taking suspicious sniffs of rabbit scent.

J. refilled the feeder in the maple tree.  It swings in the wind and dumps seeds on the ground where usually jays, cardinals and juncos are happy to pick for their meals.

Old reliable Snort'n Nort'n ready to head down the road with a load of hay for Dory the Cow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Softly, Snow

Schools closed at 2 p.m. today in Adair County.
Already it has been announced that there will be no school tomorrow.
The local on-line "magazine" has listed cancellations of events and meetings.
Doing errands this noon we were reminded by complete strangers that we needed to get home before it snowed and the roads got "ahcey." [ICY!]
Sleet slid coldly down the backs of our necks as we loaded a few purchases in the back of the car and headed for home.  Within moments the downfall tapered off.
Looking out at dusk I saw snowflakes falling in a thick white haze.

I stepped out onto the carport, walked around the front porch.
The stillness was profound.
No wind seemed to stir.
The evergreen leaves of the nandina shrubs hold the snow.

J. was still working in the shop and the lights cast an orange glow in the deepening dusk.
The distant view of Big Creek Valley is lost in snowfall.

The girl kittens were [sensibly] snug in the barn, but Willis danced through the snow, scattering it with his paws.

I made individual tossed salads for supper and served them while soup simmered.
Potato/cheddar, thick and hearty.
J. requested popovers.
I resisted at first thinking it would take too long, but what deadlines do we have to meet?
Above are popovers with J.'s homemade butter melting in the centers.

Potato soup and popovers.
Wood fires putting out cozy heat.
A fine evening to be at home.