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Gardening in a Dust Bowl title image

Nancy Hendrickson Planting corn
Nancy Hendrickson planting corn, Mandan, ND
SHSND# 0024-H-045
Hendrickson was not a complaining sort. She rarely mentioned the absence of rain or excessive heat. Her garden didn’t get a lot of words in her diary. In contrast to this tendency, she expanded on the potato crop of 1934. “Inger and John finished picking potatoes. I put a barrel and a box in the cellar to put them into. We only got about 12 bushels in all. None larger than chicken eggs, mostly the size of pigeon eggs and smaller. I planted 6 bu. It was a full acre.” (18 September 1934) Her anguish emerges in every measurement. This is a tremendous disappointment for a woman who once harvested 500 bushels of potatoes and in ordinary years put 200 bushels in her root cellar. (Interview with Larry Sprunk, no date, General Information File)

Homemakers gathered their memories into three books in the late 1980s. Many of their memories of their childhood and early married years were set in the Great Depression. One woman remembered how important gardens were in the 1930s. Her husband hauled water with a tank from a threshing engine to her garden. She was able to harvest vegetables in all but one summer of the Dust Bowl years. In that unspecified year, she knew by June that there would be no garden produce, so she checked her stored carrots and beets in the root cellar which had been packed in sand as a preservative. They were still firm, so she pickled them in order to keep them through the following winter as well. Her thriftiness replaced the failed crop that year. (Margaret Lien, Burke County, Courtin’, p. 80-81)

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