1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What an adorable vintage card! Will need to think upon what my Halloween Wish might be. Happy Halloween MaryJane!! Halloween is probably my most favorite holiday. I love dressing up and handing out goodies to little goblins and big goblins. My pumpkin is carved, now I need to fix up my porch with all matter of hanging bats and a few vintage paper decorations from my stash of things I used in my room in the 1960s. Plus, I cooled up some of the meat from my jack-o-lantern and made pumpkin scones for breakfast. Muahahahaha!

    Trick or Treat!

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a tiny town with a big harvest

What do you think the village of Morton, Illinois, might be famous for?

Yes, this town of some 16,000 residents, a bedroom community of Peoria, was ranked one of the “10 best towns for families” in 2013 by Family Circle magazine.

And yes, it gained some infamy that same year when one of its neighborhoods blocked a Habitat for Humanity home from being built for a hearing-disabled veteran because they didn’t think the vinyl-sided home would fit into their brick-house community (after donations poured in as a result of the story, a brick house was built in its stead).

Is Morton, Illinois, the home of Morton Salt?


Morton University? No, those are both natives of Chicago, about 150 miles to the northeast.

Think fall … think round … think orange!

Morton is known as the Pumpkin Capital of the World.


Photo by Frenchtowner via Wikimedia Commons

Not only are several thousand acres around Morton growing pumpkins, but the Libby pumpkin cannery calls Morton home, canning up to 85 percent of the canned pumpkin in the U.S. So much pumpkin that the cannery runs day and night for about 13 weeks each year leading up to Thanksgiving. About 200 local farmers grow millions of pumpkins … not the kind you’d especially use for carving, but Dickinsons—tan-colored, oblong, thin-skinned pumpkins known for their rich flavor.


Dickenson pumpkins, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

And each September at the beginning of pumpkin-harvest season, Morton holds their annual Pumpkin Festival, a 4-day event that attracts 100,000 visitors to the tiny town for events like Pumpkin Bingo, a pumpkin-decorating contest, a parade with over 100 entries where participants and spectators alike are encouraged to wear orange, and as many pumpkin-laden treats that residents can dream up … and visitors can eat up. And, of course, a pumpkin-pie eating contest!


Photo by Mike DelGaudio via Wikimedia Commons

Next year, try growing flavorful Dickinson pumpkins (can you believe it’s an heirloom variety?) for your own pies—find heirloom seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is my kinda town! Wow, would I ever love to go to their Pumpkin Festival. In addition to Apples, Pumpkins reign high on my list of Fall loves. I have never heard of Dickinson variety either. Since the only pumpkins that will grow down here are Seminole Pumpkins, which have a nice flavor but more closely resemble Butternut Squash, I guess I will have to go to Morton, Illinois next year to check them out. Oh darn!

  2. Yep, Winnie, I agree- it’s my kind of town too ! I knew the Libby’s pumpkins were different than the standard orange, but never knew it was an heirloom, how cool is that?
    Today I’m off to my local little village’s AppleUmpkin Fest today- Winnie you’d be in heaven, eh? All things apple or pumpkin, a hay ride both night and day, local crafts for sale, games of all kinds that are fall oriented.The will serve local homemade apple dumplings served hot, plain or with milk or ice cream. The local specialty, chicken corn soup is always homemade also,great on a cool breezy fall day like this one And a favorite of the Lion’s club, the Grilled cheese sandwiches with a hamburger inside, decadent (and made with their own beef- not a commercial patty ).. Later on will be the bonfire with hotdogs, and marshmallows to roast. A costume parade ( you can’t say halloween costume parade in this religious area ) and much more. Its from 10Am to 10PM. I can hardly wait.

    • MaryJane says:

      Have a great pumpkin-filled day, Lisa!!! Guess I’ll stay home and eat some Mary Jane’s (if you know what I mean).

      • Thanks, just arrived home at 5Pm and it was swell but they ran out of food, since I arrived there late, rast,so nothing to eat. the weinie/marshmallow roast was for much later so I coundn’t stay that late.I also attended a juried PA German traditional craft show first which was amazingly good, museum quality stuff. Great! Maybe you can get them in Idaho, but I got the impression you couldn’t so enjoy! I like to pop a half of one on my mouth and let it slowly get gooey and melt.

  3. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Whoa, Lisa!! I would so LOVE to tag along with you today at the AppleUmpkin Festival!! How cool is that name? Homemade apple dumplings??? Ahhh, that would be awesome! Never mind dinner, I would be totally stuffed with dessert.

    I hope you have a wonderful time, Lisa and do weigh in tomorrow and let us know what fun you had.

    MaryJane, I would eat Mary Jane’s too except mine that came in the mail vanished. Hmmm, I wonder how that happened??!! Instead, Warren and I have been scrubbing the deck and outdoor furniture all afternoon. I’ve been promised dinner out and an Apple Cider as reward. Perfect!!

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The Wild, Wild … East?

Today, let’s armchair travel to what just might be the wildest frontier town on the planet. But if you think we’re traveling to the Wild, Wild West, you might be surprised to learn we’re traveling eastward … to the Eastern Cape province of South Africa!

If, like me, you hadn’t heard of the Eastern Cape, it sits on the southeastern coast of South Africa, and is the birthplace of Nelson Mandela and many other prominent South African politicians. And its crowning jewel is an eccentric little frontier town called Bathurst.

Bathurst was settled in 1820 by lower-class British settlers looking to escape poverty in England, and sent to the area to act as a buffer between the Cape Colony and the African Xhosa people. One of those first settlers, Thomas Hartley, built a forge and became the town blacksmith. In 1832, he built an inn and pub next to his house. After his death, the pub became known as The Widow Hartley’s Inn. Later, it was renamed the Pig and Whistle, and it’s now one of the many National Monuments in Bathurst and the oldest continuously licensed pub in the country. A sign on the front door says, “Bathurst is a drinking village with a farming problem.”



Travelers also come for the art the town is famous for. Known as a community of artists and musicians, you’ll find eccentric shops and galleries, yard art like a vintage toilet sporting a pair of black stilettos, and an African thatched hut called the Dancing Donkey that sports African arts and crafts as well as natural organic products. Many of the original settler houses and other buildings in town have been preserved, giving the feel of an English village of the early 19th Century.

On down the road, you’ll find the kitschy Bathurst Agricultural Museum, where you can see an ostrich incubator, ox wagon, old farming equipment, and even a steam engine.


Photo, Bathurst Agricultural Museum

But the kitschy-est venue in town may be the world’s largest pineapple! The three-story-tall fiberglass pineapple (the main agricultural crop of the region) houses a pineapple museum and is surrounded by pineapple fields. While there, you can take a tractor tour of the farm and taste the local pineapples.


Photo by NJR ZA via Wikimedia Commons

In the village, you’ll also find the 1832 Wesleyan Church and the oldest (1834) unaltered Anglican church in South Africa, St John’s, as well as the Bathurst Nursery and Tea Garden. On a nearby hill sits The Toposcope monument, built in 1859 with rocks from the original dwellings, marking the hilltop survey point for the early settlers with a vast view of the surrounding countryside.


Just a short drive away, you’ll find the Waters Meeting Nature Reserve, offering hiking and canoeing, and the beautiful Sunshine Coast, with its variety of swimming and surfing beaches.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What a fun virtual travel trip for a Sunday morning. This is so interesting and fun to learn about. The world is such an amazing place and there are countless wonderful places to visit . I am currently in Williamstown, MA , where Williams College is located. We came here to visit The Clark Museum which is a small facility packed with rooms of Impressionist paintings. There was a room full of Renoirs that were incredible . The town is very small and rural , but there is this treasure of art . Just like Bathurst , there are these amazing jewels of beauty in some very remote places.

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Harvest in the Hebrides

To celebrate the season of harvest, let’s get away to the magnificent moorlands of the Scottish Hebrides …


Photo by Tony Kinghorn via Wikimedia Commons

where the bracken is turning bronze


Photo by Christine Howson via Wikimedia Commons

and ripe, red rowan berries decorate the hedgerows.


Photo by Walter Baxter via Wikimedia Commons

It’s nearly time to collect the crops!

Once ashore, we’ll take a turn back in time to the harvests of old …


The Harvest Cradle by John Linnell, 1859, via Wikimedia Commons

Nineteenth century Scottish folklorist Alexander Carmichael painted a vivid picture of the traditional Hebridean harvest ceremony, which commenced yearly on Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael, on September 29:

“The day the people began to reap the corn was a day of commotion and ceremonial in the townland. The whole family repaired to the field dressed in their best attire to hail the God of the harvest. Laying his bonnet on the ground, the father of the family took up his sickle, and facing the sun, he cut a handful of corn. Putting the handful of corn three times sunwise round his head, the man raised the Iolach Buana, the reaping salutation. The whole family took up the strain and praised the God of the harvest, who gave them corn and bread, food and flocks, wool and clothing, health and strength, and peace and plenty.”

I can just imagine being a part of that celebratory scene, gussied up in linen and lace, and working well into the night by the light of a harvest moon …


The Harvest Moon by Samuel Palmer, c. 1833, via Wikimedia Commons

A farmgirl fantasy!


Gleaning by Arthur Hughes, 1832-1915, via Wikimedia Commons

The “gleaning” at the end of the corn harvest, depicted in the painting above, was as much cause for celebration as the first cutting, and it had its own special ritual. When all the fields were harvested, a young woman would cut the last sheaf, which was considered the last refuge for the harvest spirit. The sheaf was then braided and shaped into a Corn Maiden (also called a Kirn Baby or Corn Dolly). The doll would grace the table at the harvest feast, where she was toasted merrily, and would then be hung with honor in a farmhouse kitchen or local church.


Photo of a Kirn Baby or Corn Dolly by Miss Steel via

One of the special culinary centerpieces of this feast was struan bread, or Michael’s Bannock, made by combining all types of grain from the farm with butter, eggs, and sheep’s milk. The loaf was marked with a cross and baked on a stone over a fire of oak, rowan, and bramble wood. You can recreate traditional Scottish struan using the lovely recipe at


Photo by Heather “Moria” via Wikimedia Commons

With our bellies full of bannock, we could settle here a while, don’t you think? Autumn is, after all, “a good time for staying.” Linger a bit upon this 11th century poem written by an unknown Celtic author, and you’ll see what I mean …

A good season for staying is autumn;
there is work then for everyone before the very short days.
Dappled fawns from among the hinds, the red clumps of the bracken shelter them;
stags run from the knolls at the belling of the deer-herd.
Sweet acorns in the wide woods, corn-stalks around cornfields over the expanse of brown earth.
There are thorn-bushes and prickly brambles by the midst of the ruined court;
the hard ground is covered with heavy fruit.
Hazel-nuts of good crop fall from the huge old trees on dykes.


Photo by Ian Capper via Wikimedia Commons

Ah, well, the time has come—I must get back out outside, amongst my own fair fields. I’d love to hear how the harvest is coming along in your neck of the woods. Any thoughts of a hosting a harvest celebration?

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    In the October issue of Early American Life, I was reading that the early colonists did not come with harvest traditions. It was the local Indians who had such traditions in place . Colonists in Jamestown came here to create cash crops and figured they would get garden foods from making friends with the Indians. Up in Plimouth, the Puritans were against any sort of celebrations , especially mimicking those of the Indians who had various “gods ” to thank for certain harvest. Even after a hundred years of colonial prosperity, harvest celebrations took time to take root here. Apparently, according to historian Leo Marx, harvest celebrations were a reaction in America to industrialization and urbanization in the mid 1800s . It was here that people began to yearn for the idyllic rural past , and harvest celebrations began to take root. Isn’t that so weird? I mean we all thought the first Thanksgiving deal was a real harvest celebration by Americans. While is was , it was not until 1941 that President FDR set aside the 4th Thursday into law as Thanksgiving Day. The Celts had this one all figured out centuries before us!! I wonder what that loaf of bread really tastes like??

  2. What a poetic start to our days, MaryJane! We all romanticize the rural lifestyle but this post was delightful. headed outside to continue my own harvest but will post 2 wonderful British fall poems when I come in later.

  3. Loooooong harvesting day -it’s nearly 7Pm here in Lancaster County PA-just came in for dinner-comfort food- tuna noodle casserole. First of all I wanted to say it was great to finally out what Bannock really is. Read about it in various books for years but always assumed it was some sort of shortbread, which the Scots excel at.
    Ok, here are the poems, no titles, figure that they are called Autumn?

    Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun,
    Conspiring with him to lead and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run,
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core,
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel, to to set budding more
    And still more, later flowers for the bees,
    Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells
    -John Keats –

    The autumn’s wind on suthering wings
    Plays round the oak-tree strong
    And through the hawthorn hedges sings
    The year’s departing song
    There’s every leaf upon the whirl
    Ten thousand times an hour,
    The grassy meadows crisp and curl
    With here and there a flower
    There’s nothing in this world I find
    But wakens to the autumn wind.
    – John Clare-

    These 2 poems of autumn are so evocative, don’t you think?

    • MaryJane says:

      I think I like John Clare’s “autumn” poem best. But both are BEAUTIFUL. I can’t get a handle on the word suthering. Any idea?

      Tuna Noodle Casserole? TOTAL comfort food!

      • MaryJane, according to my 1952 edition of Webster’s unabridged, ( so heavy I have it on a bottom shelf and just pull it onto the floor to look up stuff) “suth” is is another word for south, so I am guessing he used it meaning warming. These two poems came from the dearest little book called ” An English Cottage Year” it is a compendium of poems, essays,quotes and recipes throughout the seasons and lavishly illustrated with the most detailed and charming pictures. Written by Sally Holmes and illustrated by Tracey Williamson. ISBN 0-688-11965-4. Not sure if it’s still in print.
        I have a fondness for books that show the passage of time or mark the year in some way. I have at least 5 ” Book of Days” which have essays or pertinent writings for each day of the year My new favorite is ” China Bayles Book of Days” by Susan Wittig Albert ( writer of the herb mysteries) which is full of herbal lore. I have also many of essays, etc by season like this little book . When you don’t have time to read an entire book it’s so great to pick one of these up and read a page or two to give you guidance for your day ( since most of mine are plant oriented it helps to jumpstart my gardening work days)

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