Boing Boing 

Plymouth Rock Monthly -- old magazine for chicken aficionados

As the proud owner of five Plymouth Barred Rock chicks, I was interested in this post on Homegrown Evolution about a magazine called the Plymouth Rock Monthly, which had a circulation of 40,000 in 1920. Maybe I should re-launch it with the goal of 200 subscribers.

What magazine had 40,000 subscribers in 1920? Answer: the Plymouth Rock Monthly, a periodical devoted to our favorite chicken breed. We have two "production" Barred Plymouth Rocks in our small flock of four hens, and we've found them to be productive, friendly and, with their striped plumage, an attractive sight in our garden. While the internet is an amazing resource for the urban homesteader, there are a few holes in this electronic web of knowledge. In short, would someone out there please get around to scanning and putting online the Plymouth Rock Monthly? All I can find are images of two covers lifted off of ebay.

The February 1925 issue, at right, promises articles on, "Selecting and Packing Eggs for Hatching", a poetically titled essay, "The Things We Leave Undone", "Theory and Practice in Breeding Barred Color", "White Plymouth Rocks", "The Embargo on Poultry", and "Breeding White Rocks Satisfactorily". Incidentally, the Embargo article probably refers to a avian influenza outbreak of 1924-1925 that repeated in 1929 and 1983.

By the 1950s interest in backyard and small farm flocks vastly decreased and the Plymouth Rock Club of America, the publisher of the Plymouth Rock Monthly, collapsed down to 200 members from a peak of 2,000. Thankfully, interest in keeping chickens is now on the rise again and an informative magzine, Backyard Poultry has been revived. Plymouth Rock fans can read an article about the breed in the latest issue of Backyard Poultry.

Plymouth Rock Monthly

How I learned to love my persimmon tree

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(Click photos to enlarge)

When we moved into our house four or five years ago, I tasted one of the persimmons growing on the tree in our yard. It was a nice orange color, so I assumed it was ripe and ready to eat. I peeled off the skin and took a bite. It was awful, like sticking a spoonful of alum in my mouth. I threw the accursed fruit in the trash.

The next year I read that persimmons tasted better if you soaked them in brine first. I tried it. It was like eating a salty styptic pencil.

The year after that, someone told me to wait until the fruits were mushy. I waited. The few that made it to the mushy stage without being violated by squirrels were delicious, and had a custard-like texture.

This year, I read an article in the Oct/Nov 2008 issue of Mother Earth News, written by Winifred Bird, titled "Finding the Good Life in Japan." Bird is living the self-sufficient good life in rural Japan with her husband. In the article she explains how to dry persimmons the Japanese way.

If you want to try it yourself, use astringent persimmons, such as ‘Hachiya’ or ‘Honan Red.’ Pick or buy fruits when they are orange but still hard and inedible. If picking them yourself, use a clipper and cut the stem twig so it forms a small T above the fruit for easy hanging. Peel the fruit with a knife or vegetable peeler. Use sturdy string to tie the fruits from their twigs in a line, so they do not touch when hung vertically. Hang outside in a place that is protected from rain and snow, such as from nails or a horizontal pole under the eaves of the house. (I have also had luck drying persimmons without stems using clips or on flat baskets – just make sure to turn often.) When the fruit begins to soften (one to two weeks), gently squeeze and massage each one. Repeat this after a few more weeks. They are done when dark brown, leathery and shrunken, but not overly hard – about one or two months. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place. Enjoy Japanese style, as a snack with roasted green tea (hojicha) or ginger tea.
I'm trying it out. Photos of my persimmons shown above. I'll let you know how it goes.