Ida’s Example

Dateline: 23 November 2008
Updated: 8 January 2014

Ida Risser
(click here to read her obituary)

I subscribe to an agricultural paper called, Lancaster Farming. For the past 38 years a woman by the name of Ida Risser has written a weekly column called Ida’s Notebook. The October 18th issue of the paper had Ida’s last column and an article about her. I think you ladies out there will find this excerpt from that article to be interesting and inspiring:

For 38 years, Lancaster Farming readers have followed the day to day happenings of Ida Risser as she transitioned from dairy farm wife and mother of six to a grandmother of 15, and a retiree who at 88 years wants to slow down a bit.

In her early columns her peers could relate to her as she juggled the many tasks of dairy farming, gardening, housekeeping, cooking, food preservation, child rearing and more. In recent years, her columns offered a glimpse into the lives of a former generation—a lifestyle that is fast fading away.

Ida’s weekly columns were like a page out of her diary. She wrote about growing and preserving papaws, quince, poke and other fruits and vegetables that few in this generation have heard about. She talked about her husband, Allan, who at 90 years of age needs for medical reasons to resort to using a cane, but hasn’t let that stop him from picking up black walnuts to fill numerous wheelbarrow loads, and who still drives a car and mows the couple’s hilly lawn. He rototills the large garden that his wife maintains. Because her husband can’t bend, Ida takes care of all the hand weeding and harvesting of the vegetables. Her husband gathers most of the many different varieties of fruit from trees planted on their property for his wife to preserve.

This year alone, Ida preserved 285 quarts of 27 different items. Her columns can educate even a food aficionado. For example, in one column, she recommended harvesting poke weed, considered a noxious plant by many. According to Ida, if the stalks are harvested in the spring and cooked, it tastes like asparagus. In fact, she has fooled people by serving poke and having them convinced it was asparagus.

In addition to preserving old-fashioned fruits such as quince and papaws, Ida cans and freezes more traditional fruits such as apricots, multiple varieties of cherries, red and black raspberries, apples for sauce, and much more. She also grows a variety of heirloom peas and beans that she dries and stores in glass jars until ready for cooking.


Brenda said...

Wow, it's amazing that Ida and her husband are still going strong, but then they've been so active all their lives. It seems that this woman is an agrarian, extraordinaire! Thank you for sharing this with us. I love to find information about how people lived in the "old days"! That's why I enjoy reading your Old Farm Almanacs. If you come across any other stories like this, please pass them on.

P.S. I really loved reading your book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. It was so inspirational, and at times I was moved to tears. I just mailed a copy to my son in Victoria, British Columbia. I'll be giving my stepson his copy when he comes from Alberta to visit in December. Thanks, again!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Brenda,
I was particularly impressed that, at 88 years of age, Ida canned 285 quarts of food. Gardening and stocking up is an ingrained habit from a lifetime of preserving food for her family. I will certainly post stories like this as I find them. But I suspect they are few and far between.

I had big plans for my Old Farm Almanacs blog but just haven't had the time to keep it up. One of these days I will either get some more posts there or compile a selection of excerpts from the 1800's farm almanacs into a book.

I'm pleased to know that you liked my Deliberate Agrarian book. It makes a fine gift.

Best wishes.

Carey said...

Is there a way to get a copy of all of Ida's columns?
Carey in Missouri