Mail Call: Letters to the Editor in our September/October 2018 Issue

Readers’ letters to the editors with stories of selling GRIT, farming memories, feeding sparrows, making sourdough, desert gardening, and Halloween tricks.

| September/October 2018

  • Robert Lee Franklin delivering GRIT newspaper in 1941.
    Photo by Bobby Franklin
  • Empty Wooden Crate. Different variations of Fruit Tray made of Wood.
    Photo by Getty/GalapagosFrame
  • Filling silo is one of Kathleen Rinta's favrotie memories from growing up.
    Photo by Getty/Eric Laudonien
  • Sparrows are very picky birds and prefer oats to safflower seeds.
    Photo by Getty/Jason Erickson
  • It doesn’t hurt anything to remove some of the starter and use it to make biscuits, pancakes, bread, or something else.
    Photo by Getty/selkus

Business by Horseback

I began subscribing to Grit this past year because of my father, Robert Lee Franklin. He passed away this past November at the age of 89. One of the ways he earned money when he was a young boy was by selling Grit newspapers in Rankin County, Mississippi. I inherited three ceramic bowls that he earned during his time selling the paper. He was very proud of those bowls and the achievements they represented, so I’ve held onto them.

Here’s a picture of my dad around the age of 13 or 14, which would have been about 1941. He’s delivering Grit by horseback. He has his newspaper bag hanging around his neck, and is ready to make his deliveries for the day.

Bobby Franklin
Louisiana

Making Do

I just received my May/June 2018 copy of Grit, and I’m reading the letter from Donna Shelby about her little dressing table made out of wooden boxes. Those boxes were orange crates, and we used them in my family as well.

Money was tight when my parents were first married in 1936. They sold Capper’s Weekly around southern Missouri, so they moved often. My parents used orange crates to box up their belongings when they had to move to a new apartment. After they settled into each new place, they used the boxes as household furniture.

I remember those treasured boxes still being in use when I was very young. My mother made me a nightstand using two of the orange crates with a board on top, leaving a space between the boxes so that I could pull up a chair. She even made a gathered skirt for it out of feed sacks. We also used feed sacks for kitchen curtains, tea towels, quilts, and even most of my clothes. Now, at 77 years old, I still remember some of those dresses that my mother made for me.



To this day, my son has some of the orange crates from my mother’s belongings. They’re being used for shelving in the basement.

Luetta Barton
Lancaster, Missouri

Reminiscing on the Harvest

Reading the letter about filling silo in the May/June 2018 issue brought back so many memories. In the 1960s, filling silo was one of my favorite times of the year growing up on our Grade A Jersey dairy farm. I loved the sounds of the big John Deere 620 as Dad chopped the corn and the chopper blew it into the wagon, and the smell of the freshly chopped corn as it was carefully raked on the blower belt. We had to be sure not to overfill the belt, and keep it going at a steady rate. We always borrowed the neighbor’s John Deere A to run the blower, so I got to hear the sounds of another “Johnny Popper”!

I still live on the family farm. It’s just beef cattle now, but the old concrete block silo is still there with the blower pipe attached to the side. Sometimes I see my nephew’s oldest boy climbing up the ladder and daring his friends to do it, but I don’t think many take him up on the dare! Of course the kids love to holler inside the empty silo, though, because it echoes so well. What a fantastic place to grow up.

Kathleen Rinta
Yacolt, Washington

Selective Sparrows

I just wanted to share a little bird-feeding trivia. After being snowed in for a while, I went to our local supply store for seed and found they were sold out of almost everything. Instead, I had to pick up a bag of safflower seed and test that out in my yard.

The sparrows at the feeder wouldn’t touch it. Feeling bad for them, I looked around the pantry for something else they might eat. I grabbed some old-fashioned oats and mixed some in with the seed. The sparrows loved the oats; they disappeared quickly.

Virginia Mackay
Parksley, Virginia 

Sourdough Starters

The article about sourdough in your January/February 2018 issue caught my attention, and I’ve since begun to make my own sourdough at home. My only concern is why there’s no mention of discarding any starter. Isn’t that a necessary part of the process?

June Rich
Ludlow, Pennsylvania



Here’s the author’s response:

That’s a great question, June. Yes, many starter methods say to discard some of the starter at various points in the process. The reason for this is that, theoretically, replacing some of the starter with fresh flour reduces the acid load in the starter. Over time, the fermentation process causes lactic acid buildup in the starter. Eventually, if the starter isn’t refreshed often enough, this acidity breaks down the gluten, and the yeast will die.

These recipes usually involve fairly large quantities of flour and water, and if you don’t discard some of it, you can end up with quite a lot of starter. My feeling is, why waste that starter you’ve worked so hard to make? It doesn’t hurt anything to remove some of the starter and use it to make biscuits, pancakes, bread, or something else. It will taste mild, but it will add flavor and complexity to your recipes, even when it’s young.

From experience, I can tell you that you don’t need a lot of flour and water to get a starter going. Sure, for the first few days, as you’re cultivating a starter from scratch, you’ll be adding water and flour to it once a day, but you only need to add a little bit to feed the hungry wild yeast cells that will be rapidly multiplying in your starter by about the third day.

Discarding some of the starter isn’t essential to the process of cultivating the starter. Unlike a lot of recipes, my method only requires refreshing the starter once a week, using a small amount of flour and water, and I only keep about half a pint of starter going at a time. So, you shouldn’t have a lot of extra starter anyway. And if your starter container is filling up, just take some out and use it to make something!

Victoria Redhed Miller
Sequim, Washington

A Frightful Introduction

Reading “Growing up Gritty” (July/August 2018) brought me back to my own family’s experience moving to the country. I’m originally from the city, and I remember the first time my mother brought me to my aunt’s farm in Kansas.

We were moving from North Dakota down to Dallas. On our way, we drove through Kansas, and my mother used this opportunity to visit her sister’s farm for a day or two. I was 4 years old at the time and quite small for my age. I must have looked like something small and tasty to Aunt Milly’s Leghorn hens, because I was instantly surrounded and pecked until my frightened screams scared them off. In my memory, those hens were twice as large as I was, and I cried through the entire ordeal. From that experience alone, I thought I was destined to remain a city girl forever.

Now much later in my life, and after maturing several decades and reading Grit, I know that country living is for me. And my favorite part? Raising chickens! My husband and I put our meager life savings into 85 beautiful acres and we couldn’t be healthier, or happier. I just wish I hadn’t let Aunt Milly’s hens scare me off; I would have gone Gritty a long time ago!

Kelly
Grand Saline, Texas

Halloween Hacks

I just wanted to share a little Halloween pumpkin-carving tip I’ve used over the years with the readers of Grit. I’ve found that the easiest way to remove the pulp from the inside of a pumpkin is to scrape it with an old canning jar lid. My family and I have discovered that a regular-size canning jar lid is easy to hold and fits inside nearly any pumpkin. I hope my hack can help make pumpkin carving a little easier for other Grit readers!

Jennifer Hooper
Newport, Tennessee

Desert Gardening Dreams

While I have enormously enjoyed all of your articles, I always find myself jealous of other Grit readers who truly benefit from these articles. I live in the high desert of Southern California, where my most successful crops are the desert rocks sitting in my yard. Our soil here is extremely clay-filled, compacted, and dry; it almost makes me consider abandoning my passion of gardening for red pottery!

I’ve seen previous articles of yours done on terracing and permaculture in other parts of the state, but I would love to see an in-depth article on gardening in this part of the state, where potential gardeners would really benefit from the extra tips. One of my biggest dreams is to someday own a cow, but I haven’t seen a pasture-rotation model that works out here.

If you have any wisdom to pass on, I think many would-be gardeners in Southern California would gladly hear it. I personally feel that learning some tricks for desert gardening would liven up my home.

Claire Dee
California

Many readers have written to us looking for further contact information on
The Ivan Tomato Rescue Project
(July/August 2018). To get in touch with
the people behind this project, you can
call (573) 529-9578.

— Editors


Share Your Thoughts

We welcome letters from our readers. If you’d like to comment on an article, share your opinions, or submit a “Looking For,” send us an email (with photos, if available) to Letters@Grit.com, or send a letter via the USPS to:

Grit Mail Call
1503 S.W. 42nd St.
Topeka, KS 66609

Electronic submissions are more likely to generate a timely response.






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