Thursday, September 29, 2022
HomeNotes From KathyThanksgiving Lessons From the Pasture

Thanksgiving Lessons From the Pasture

This is Thanksgiving week here in the United States. For our international readers, Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest, and a time to count our blessings and thank everyone who contributed to all the good things in our lives. Families and friends get together for a big meal on Thursday that usually includes turkey and stuffing, and, since 1876, it’s also included a football game.

A 1605 map of Plymouth Harbor by Samuel de Champlain showing wigwams and cultivated fields. Public domain graphic via Wikipedia.

The history of the Holiday dates back to the 1600s. British pilgrims sited their new colony where a Patuxet village had been. The former residents had all died from a disease, leaving behind cleared fields for the new residents. But the Pilgrims didn’t know how to farm in this new land, and would not have made it without the help of Tisquantum, better known as Squanto. He was the only surviving Patuxet. He escaped the disease because he had been kidnapped and sold into slavery by an earlier British visitor to the new world. He returned home after regaining his freedom.

As the first extension agent in the New World, Squanto taught the Pilgrims the skills they needed to survive. And that’s our first Thanksgiving lesson – listen to the experts and participate in programs that benefit you and the land you care for, just as the pilgrims did, and like Cornelius Joe does though the Conservation Stewardship program.

That first Thanksgiving, celebrated not only the harvest, but the relationship between the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors, another Thanksgiving lesson: we all survive because of relationships where we get something from another, even plants that survive thanks to the work of soil microbes.

Corn was probably on the menu for that first Thanksgiving. It was a new food for the settlers, provided to them by their Wampanoag neighbors. The lesson here: maybe we should occasionally try new foods, though I’m still not sure about eating fly larvae as this Australian scientist suggests.

In this illustration from a 1911 “Teaching of Agriculture in the High School” book, Squanto demonstrates putting a fish in each hole where corn is planted to provide fertilizer. It’s a story taught to U.S. children even today. What we did not typically learn was the more complicated story of the man himself. This Wikipedia entry is a good place to learn more. Illustration is public domain in USA.

We don’t know exactly when the first Thanksgiving took place because no one wrote it down. Our lesson: write things down, even if it’s just a short journal entry: “Thanksgiving, ate turkey, tried corn for the first time. It was good.” You’ll find, as Don Ashford does, that even the briefest of entries bring a flood of good memories.

Finally, the first settlers probably would have done a little better if they’d had a plan and developed some farming skills before they arrived. It’s an important reminder today too as we take a pasture walk with Greg Judy and learn how his drought plan helped him survive.

One last lesson: In 1622, Squanto died from “Indian Fever,” the same disease that decimated his village. Let’s all be careful out there!

Be safe, be well, and thanks for reading. I’m grateful for you and all that you’ve brought to my life!

Kathy

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Vothhttps://onpasture.com
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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