Rural Reflections
by Mary Emma Allen

Mary Emma Allen has been a columnist since 1964 and has written many columns for newspapers and magazines. These include cooking, history, book reviews, restaurant reviews, gardening, quiltmaking, consumer topics, children's stories and activities, homespun philosophy, travel, and marriage. Currently she writes "Country Kitchen" for newspapers in New Hampshire and Utah, "Refunder's Hotline" for a New Hampshire newspaper, and a marriage column for The Oasis, an online Christian publication. Mary Emma Allen also is a book author and newsletter editor/publisher.
(PLYMOUTH, NH) - Mary Emma Allen's book, WRITING IN MAINE, NEW HAMPSHIRE & VERMONT, was named on Carolyn Howard-Johnson's list of Top 10 Books for Writers. Howard-Johnson also placed a review of this resource book for writers, publishers, librarians, and educators at
This book, published by Writer's World Press, gives resources for writers, publishers, librarians and those interested in writing and publishing, whether they live in the Tri-States area or in other parts of the country.
"This little volume makes an excellent addendum to any book an author might presently be using as a resource," said Ms. Howard-Johnson, the award-winning author of "This Is the Place" and a familiar name among book reviewers.
Check out Mary Emma Allen's Web Site for more cooking information and recipes.
She also writes "Teacher to Teacher," a column for teachers, homeschooling parents, and parents who are encouraging young writers. This appears on the Rising Writers site:
Photo by Caron Gonthier



Apple cider as a beverage and cooking ingredient has been popular in New England since colonial days. Next to water, cider was the most abundant and cheapest beverage, especially at apple harvest time.

Homemakers served cider at meals and offered it to guests. Apple cider was used for barter, as noted in an early 1800 diary, "one-half barrel of cider for Mary’s schooling."

According to newspaperman Horace Greeley, cider was very abundant and cheap in New Hampshire when he lived there. It often sold for one dollar a barrel.

The Cider Age

Colonial days sometimes were called the "cider age" in American history. It’s said that during this era more applejack (hard cider) than corn whiskey was available for the frontiersman.

When the temperance movement flourished in America in the 1830s, teetotalers were determined to stamp out the evils of hard cider. It’s said they took up their axes and whacked away at whole orchards, with little thought of the delicious apple pies, baked apples, and applesauce they also were eliminating.

Various Groups Used Cider

The Pennsylvania Dutch favored apple cider for their own consumption, to sell, and for making vinegar and apple butter.

The Shakers, that communal religious sect of the 1800s, also made delicious cider which they used in their communities and sold to outsiders. These perfectionists made cider only from the best apples, not from the culls, drops or bruised ones. This perhaps made their cider so outstanding.

Their cider was made from the crushed apples, then passed through a straw sieve and allowed to run off into barrels. The barrels then were placed in a cool cellar. After the Shakers advocated total abstinence from alcoholic beverages, they pasteurized their sweet cider to prevent fermentation.

Cider doesn't need to be used solely as a beverage. Many recipes developed during the cider era called for this liquid as one of the ingredients. Variation of these recipes have been adapted for modern cooks.



Some of the seeds in your garden are edible, others used for next spring’s planting. In days ago, when the pioneers gathered the last vegetables, they were concerned about harvesting seeds to use the following season.

Nowadays, the majority of gardeners simply purchase their seeds. However, some may want to save seeds and experience gardening the way of their ancestors.

Among those that are easy to save for next year’s planting are radish, mustard, spinach, lettuce, endive, Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkin, peas, beans, peppers, French marigolds, and many herbs.

Harvesting Steps

When harvesting seeds, your aim is to get the best ones possible. So you should save the seeds from the best plant, not necessarily from the best fruit. It’s said that with leafy plants, such as lettuce, you should collect the seeds from the plants that take the longest to go to seed. With root plants, choose those which bolt first (flower or produce seeds prematurely).

With radishes and leafy plants, let the seed stalk form. Then cut the entire stalk when it and the seed pods are brown and dry. Place the stalks in a plastic or large paper bag and beat them lightly with a stick to break the pods. Pour the seeds from the bag and pick out any remaining chaff.

Some Left on the Vine

Vegetables such as cucumbers, melons, squash, and tomatoes should be left on the vine until they are overripe, for best results. Then separate the seeds from the pulp; wash them thoroughly until clean. Dry in the sun.

Some gardeners consider best results with Italian tomatoes come from placing the overripe tomatoes under hay mulch in the spots in your garden where you want them to grow the following year. Then when spring arrives, protect the seedlings until the danger of the last frost has passed.

Let seed peppers ripen thoroughly before being picked. Sweet and hot peppers will cross, so these plants should be separated by at least 1/2 feet if you're growing them from seed.

Seeds from Herbs

Many herbs seed readily. It generally saves you money if you grow your own, for herb seeds are fairly expensive for the few you need to grow a small number of plants. With dill, fennel, parsley, chives, and those with noticeably large seed heads, you keep checking the heads and cut them just as the seeds are getting ready to scatter.

Then place them in paper bags and let them dry thoroughly before you store them.

Flower Seeds

French marigolds have seeds that are easy to harvest. Pick the flower heads when they are beginning to fade. Then dry the flowers and pull them apart when completely dried. One flower should produce enough seeds for your whole bed of marigolds.

Others with individual flowers, like nasturtiums, should be harvested when the flowers fade and seeds form. Dry them a few days before storing.

Packaging & Storing

Make sure you label all the seeds you harvest so you know what you have come planting time. Store them in sealed cans or jars or sealed packets when thoroughly dried.

Keep them in a dry, cool place. Check seeds such as pumpkin, melon, and squash to make sure they aren't being mildewed.

Harvest your seeds and enjoy next spring’s planting.

Copyright © 2009, Mary Emma Allen


Mary Emma Allen's books, available by contacting the author/illustrator at or visiting her web site where you'll find further description and an order form: http//

1. Tales of Adventure & Discovery, a collection of children's stories previously appearing in magazines, written/illustrated by Mary Emma Allen; published by MEA Productions; $9.95 plus postage.

2. Tales of Adventure & Discovery Coloring Book, containing illustrations and excerpts from the anthology, by Mary Emma Allen, published by MEA Productions; $1.95 plus postage, or $1.00 when purchased with the anthology.

3. When We Become the Parent to Our Parents, the chronicle of her mother's journey through Alzheimer's, written/illustrated by Mary Emma Allen, MEA Productions; $9.95 plus postage.

4. Writing in Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont, a resource book for writers, publishers, librarians, and teachers, written by Mary Emma Allen, published by Writer's World Press. Regularly $16.95 plus postage, now $9.95 plus postage. (The publisher is celebrating their 10th anniversary and offering specials on their books.)

5. The Magic of Patchwork, the story of quiltmaking with directions for beginners' projects, written/illustrated by Mary Emma Allen, published by MEA Productions; $8.00 plus postage.

6. Manuals for Writers, written by Mary Emma Allen, $5.95 each plus postage:
Writing for Children
Travel Writing
Writing for Regional Markets
Writing for Publication
Nuts & Bolts for Beginners
Marketing Your Manuscript
Writing for the Weekly Newspaper
Writing Newspaper & Magazine Columns

7. Posters - autographed enlargements of the illustrations from Tales of Adventure & Discovery or the coloring book.
$1.00 for 8 1/2 x 11; $3.00 for 11 1/2 x 14, plus shipping.

Books in Progress:
Sarah Jane's Daring Deed, a picture/coloring book by Mary Emma Allen
Tips for Teaching Writing to Young Writers by Mary Emma Allen
Tales of Adventure & Discovery Writing Activity Book
Papa Goes to War, a middle reader Civil War novel based on Mary Emma Allen's ancestors' experiences.
Uncle Buffalo Bill (Mathewson, not Cody), the story of Mary Emma Allen's ancestor who operated trading posts on the Santa Fe Trail.

Workshops: Mary Emma teaches workshops for adult and young writers. She also presents children's programs in schools and libraries


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