Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Delta Folk Art of Stephen Hudson

We met Stephen Hudson in 2010 at the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show in Memphis, Tennessee. He says he's a painter and sculptor and a proud parent of "Hope."
I fell in love with his nostalgic Delta paintings that brought back so many memories of the black families who lived on the farms and in our community.

I saw this painting, "Sunday Morning Memphis Blues," when we arrived at the exhibit hall. I was instantly drawn to it, but Stephen was nowhere in sight. I never dreamed I'd be able to buy it. Yet, all morning long, I kept an eye on that booth.

When Stephen appeared early in the afternoon, I made a "bee line" to meet him and was instantly as drawn to him as I was to his paintings. John and I visited with him for a while. Very down-to-earth, soft-spoken Southern gentleman.

There were two paintings I liked. When I found out they were for sale, each within my price range, I had a hard time deciding.  Then Stephen told us the story of the man in the painting above. That convinced me.

It's a story on canvas of Furry Lewis, a Memphis Blues musician who was best known on Beal Street, playing the acoustic blues of the 1920s. In his younger days, he traveled with  medicine shows and minstral shows. An accident in 1917 cost Furry his leg. He was running for a train and got it caught underneath. From then on, he wore a peg-leg. And, he sang the blues every Saturday night on Beal Street--and suffered a hang-over each Sunday morning.

I loved it! 
I bought it!

But, all year long that second painting haunted me.

When we were making our plans to attend the 2011 farm show, John called Stephen and inquired about the painting I didn't buy. Stephen had sold it--"Shoot!"--but, he had another I might like. We planned to meet.

I was shocked when I saw it! Stephen had never visited our farm--hadn't seen our website--had no idea that he'd painted our shotgun houses! Not only that, the rocker on the porch is exactly like the ones we use here on the farm. The red Coke chest is a carbon copy of my Dad's old one. We never had a bull dog, but big snapping turtles are a common sight here in the spring. And, the people on the porch? It was like looking inside my head of memories. Of course, I bought it!

Here are our shotgun houses. 
Cowboy's is on the right, the "spitting image" of Stephen's painting.

I now have two Stephen Hudson paintings. The 2012 Farm & Gin Show is coming up. John's going to see the newest farm equipment. I'm going to see Stephen!

There are other folk art paintings that I like, but Stephen Hudson's and Gladys Watson's pieces are my all time favorites. They capture the very essence of past life in the Delta.

But, more than that, I just like looking at them!

Post Script:
I added this Stephen Hudson folk painting to my collection--from the Farm and Gin Show, March 2. . .

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Farm Dress, Then or Now?

"Plain and simple. 
Neutral colors with a basic design. . .
wooden buttons on the bodice, 
a matching belt, 
tie-circle pockets in front. . ."

Is this a description of a farm dress from the 1930s?
It could have been--

I was very excited one day when I stumbled across a blog called Vixen Vintage. There was a wealth of information about 1930s-40s fashion. Since I love and collect vintage clothing--and often wear it-- I was intrigued from the start.

At Vixen Vintage, I found posts full of information and ideas that we can incorporate here at the historic district. Posts such as:  "1930s Farm Dress"--"How To Do A 1940s Hairstyle"--"How To Tie A 1940s Headscarf"--"Hat Etiquette For Women"--and so many more! 

Solanah is a delightful young woman, who lives vintage everyday. She works at a vintage clothing store, models vintage clothing for Fab Gabs, and has a personal retro style of dressing. She tells a little of her story in her blog: "My family is full of vintage lovers.  I've been around it my whole life, from going to estate sales., to getting my aunt and sister-in-law vintage hand me downs. I started wearing it regularly in high school, mixed with modern, and after that, it was vintage 24/7."

Believe it or not, the latest fashion trend sweeping the country is vintage clothing. All those dresses your Mom wore-and you Grandmother wore-"way back when" has become a hot item from thrift stores to trendy boutiques, as well as online stores such as Etsy and Ebay. Young people in their 20s, 30s--and 40s--are embracing a vintage style that is very tasteful. The look is clean and well done.

I could say that about Solanah--"well done." 
Her vintage style is romantic and timeless. 
The information she shares at Vixen Vintage is invaluable.

So, back to the 1930s farm dress. 
Old or new? 
Well, it's new. Solanah  fashioned it from a vintage pattern, 
but it would have been totally at home on the farm in the1930s-1950s.  

I call these dresses the "everyday cotton wash dress," an item that was a staple in farm women's lives. Church clothes may have been ordered from a Sears catalog or bought at the downtown department store, but for most farm women, the everyday cotton wash dress was home sewn, acquired as a hand-me-down, or bought at a tag sale.

Work was hard and relentless. 
Clothing had to be durable and washable.
Just as we all have photographs of our fathers and grandfathers in overalls, we also have snapshots of our mothers and grandmothers, in their work uniform--the everyday cotton wash dress.

While these cotton dresses may not fully catch on in the new Retro Style movement, they are very much a part of farm history.

Maybe I should call them, 
"Retro--Delta Style."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Beans-n-Ham and Easy Spoon Bread

Beans-n-Ham have long been a favorite here in the Delta.

During the Great Depression, beans were often served for all three meals. Even though it is a cheap source of protein, there's nothing tastier than a meal of beans, greens, and cornbread.

I was surprised recently when I learned that many younger cooks don't know how to cook a big pot of beans!

With grocery prices going up daily (and sometimes hourly), we had decided that at least one day per week we'd have a meatless--or almost meatless--meal. I had a ham bone left over from Christmas (yes, I'd frozen it), so I decided to cook a big pot of beans with it and share the recipe with my readers.


1 lb. dried beans (I used Pinto)
1 ham bone or ham pieces
1/4-1/2 chopped onion
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 hot pepper, whole
or Creole seasoning to taste

Rinse beans in a colander. Look them over and pick out any trash. 
Soak overnight in water and baking soda (1-2 teaspoons)
The next morning, your beans will have doubled in size.
Rinse the beans again.
Place in a heavy large pot the ham or ham bone, beans, and remainder ingredients.
Cover with water.
Cover pot with a lid. 
Bring to a boil. Simmer until done--2-3 hours.
The ham should fall off the bone. When it does, remove the bone but leave the meat. 

Now, wasn't that simple?


Now,  for the Easy Spoon Bread
It's a cross between cornbread and corn pudding.

1-2 tablespoons butter
1 box Jiffy Cornbread Mix
1 can cream corn
2 eggs
A little pepper, to taste

Melt butter. Add cornbread mix, cream corn, eggs, and pepper.
Add enough milk for a thick, pudding-like mixture.
Pour into a greased pan.
Bake at 400 degrees until done in the center and browned around the edges,
approximately 20-30 minutes

Spoon onto plate and add a pat of butter. 


Add some greens or a salad,
 maybe a big slice of onion,
 some "Chow Chow" on the beans, 
and you'll be eating,
as we say,
"high on the hog!"

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"We've Come A Long Way, Baby" Part 2

Here's the second part of the album. . .

Since 2006, we've not only renovated and restored all the buildings seen here, we've also added three shotgun houses and a log house in progress. Lots of work, but with lots of joy.

Hope you enjoyed the album!
Did it answer some of your questions about the farm?

For current photos of the historic district, click on "Widner-Magers Farm Historic District" in the right hand column.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"We've Come A Long Way, Baby" Part 1

This morning, I ran across these photos of an album I made one Christmas for my friend in Oklahoma. It was the year we started serious renovations on the farm house, as well as other buildings in the historic district. I was shocked to see how far we'd come! My goodness we've done a lot in six years!

To be continued. . .in Part 2. . .

For photos of the Country Farm Home interior, click on "The Country Farm Home", December 2011, in the Archives on the right. 

For more current photos of the historic district, click on "Widner-Magers Farm Historic District", also in the right hand column.

Note: The Earl Magers Farm Headquarters Historic District is now the Widner-Magers Farm Historic District.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Garden Shed: A Touch of Spring Fever

Well, it's 23 degrees outside with the chance of snow, sleet, and freezing rain predicted for tonight.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for winter to be over. 

Actually, we haven't had a bad winter this year. We've been very blessed to have an average temperature of 50 degrees or more. But, it is February, soon to be March, so my thoughts naturally begin planning ahead when days are longer and much, much warmer.

One of the first tasks for me each spring is cleaning the little garden shed. Dust, dirt, and critters (the small, gray kind) take it over during the winter. Once the weather gets warmer, the critters leave--but the dust and dirt remain.

I admit it. I have a touch of spring fever today.

In anticipation of this year's spring cleaning at the garden shed, 
I began looking through my photos from 2011.

They're a reminder that spring will come again--just hang in there!

I love all things old and natural.

My work table is a found object from the farm shop years ago.
It's very old and shows lots of signs of hard use--
definitely a work bench in it's past. 
It has traveled with me for over 20 years, but it's back home now.

I try to keep tools handy (lower left), as well as  numerous baskets for transporting any and everything.

The shelf holds jars, tins, birdhouses, and a basket or two.

I use Aunt Mamie's old canning jars for such things as seeds and  fertilizer.

 The galvanized tins are useful in a number of projects, including dried flower arrangements.

Daddy constructed the blue bird house years ago. 
He had several of them scattered around in their yard in Dell. 
I've placed a few around the farm but have kept the best two inside,
out of the weather.

Another one of Daddy's birdhouses. He had fun with this one.

Rosemary hangs from the ceiling to dry.
Did you know that rosemary symbolizes remembrance?

Baskets of every size are close and handy.
This is just a few in my collection.

Just had to throw in a couple of lilies that grow
outside the garden house window in the summer.
I told you I had spring fever!

That's the garden shed tour for now. 
Hopefully, it won't be long until I can spend a day 
cleaning and stocking it for this year.
But, first, we have a winter weather watch to get through. . .
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