For obvious reasons we can assume that gardens the first year were planted on the Home Ranch site already under cultivation. As soon as the first families moved from the Home Ranch onto their own lots the next spring, plots were plowed, provision made for irrigation and gardens were planted. As more families arrived, each made preparations to plant gardens as soon as possible depending on the time of year and the work to be done. Reports from these early settlers tell us they were well pleased with the size and quality of the vegetables. No doubt the nitrogen-rich soil of the freshly turned alfalfa field was largely responsible for the excellence of the vegetables although local gardeners still boast that vegetables grown in the Valley have a quality and flavor missing from vegetables grown at lower altitudes. But even melons which are not well adapted to the area were grown in those early years and the story of the melons that Will Ivins took to the picnic at Water Canyon to celebrate the drawing for lots in October 1898 has become folk lore.
Vegetable gardens, which were a top priority project the first years, continued to be a vital factor in the survival of the colony for many years to come. Of necessity, in the matter of food, they had to be quite self sufficient. They had brought with them such nonperishable items as they could carry or afford and these were replenished at infrequent intervals when a freight outfit went out to Modena, Pioche or Ely. These items consisted of staples like flour, sugar, salt, molasses, dried beans and such non-food necessities as kerosene and matches. Even after stores came into the area not much more was available, although some luxury items were allowed even then. Arthur Carter tells of going to Modena with his father for a load of freight for Snow's Store. Included in the freight were several large five-gallon wooden buckets of candy. One of the buckets dropped and broke and he and Neil Gardner had all the candy they could eat. But the stores were no super-markets. When these people wanted vegetables in season, they went to the kitchen garden somewhere close to the back door, and out of season to the root cellar also close to the kitchen door.
The summer garden provided much of the food for winter and these resourceful pioneers used various methods of preservation. Foremost among these was the root cellar. This was a room dug below ground with walls of rock or plank, roofed over with more plank and a thick layer of dirt. Steps led down to a thick door that further protected this cavern from outside temperatures keeping it relatively cool in summer and above freezing in winter. This was where the root vegetable were stored, potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, (Parsnips were left in the ground and dug in the spring).
Drying was another method of preservation and drying corn expecially was a routine summer activity. Corn was dried in the summer sun or partly in the sun and partly in the oven. By one method, it was cut from the cob and after a short time in the oven at a low temperature it was spread on a clean cloth on a flat surface in a sunny spot outdoors with a cheesecloth over it to protect it from the flies. It was stirred frequently, taken inthehouse at the first hint of rain, and when it was almost dry, put in cheesecloth bags and hung on the clothesline to finish drying. The finished product kept indefinitely and was delicious simmered for a few hours on the back of the stove and served with a little salt and butter or cream.
Popcorn and corn for cornmeal were processed in a somewhat different manner. The corn was allowed to mature and dry on the cob. Then the kernels were removed from the cob. The popcorn was stored away for popping on the long winter evenings and the sweet corn was ground in a hand mill into a coarse meal to be used for cornbread or mush.
Sometimes unground wheat was boiled for several hours and served as a cereal with sugar and cream. They also ground their own whole wheat or graham flour for mush and various kinds of bread and cake.
Of course they made their own bread. The most common was yeast bread and the usual method of making yeast used the water left from boiling potatoes. A start saved from the old yeast and a little sugar started the fresh potato water to fermenting to make a new supply. Several women made a point of keeping yeast always on hand for their neighbors and a child was sent to get a start as it was needed. A common experience recalled by a number of older people was going to Aunt Ann Reid's or Agnes Gubler's to get yeast and taking little sips of the bubbly fermented beverage on the way home.
Sometimes they made a sourdough bread, although this method was used more often by the men in the cattle camps. This method consisted of keeping a portion of the dough active from one baking to the next to use as a leavening agent. Alice Gardner used to make salt-rising bread. The leaven for this type was made by fermenting milk and corn or other meal.
Another preservative commonly used was brine. Salting cabbage to make sauer kraut is common knowledge. Not so common was the use of brine to preserve string beans which they did. They also put away crocks of cucumbers in brine and they used a variety of vegetables to pickle--cucumbers, onions, cauliflower, cabbage, string beans and beets. These added variety to an otherwise dull winter menu.
Before winter came the women were sure to have shelves in the root cellar or another area well stocked with bottles of fruit, vegetables, jellies and jams. This method was used principally for fruit and that brings us to another problem of the early settlers. In the early years, although they tried repeatedly, they were unable to get fruit trees to grow in the extremely alkaline soil. Repeated washing by irrigation along with the use of fertilizer eventually leached the soil so that hardy fruits such as plums, cherries, apples, and apricots grew and bore fruit in those years when there was no late frost to kill the blossoms.
Before this happened,.however, no garden was complete without a few hills of rhubarb, a patch of gooseberries, and currants, black and yellow as well as the small sour English currant. These fruits might be stewed, made into pies, jelly or jam, or put into bottles for later use. Currants were sometimes eaten like berries fresh with sugar and cream.
There was sure to be a crock of rhubarb preserves, which was much improved in later years when a few strawberries were added. In later years they might get these strawberries as well as peaches, pears, plums, apricots and apples in season from peddlers coming on a more or less regular schedule from St. George and Santa Clara in Utah or from Currant Creek and Duckwater in the next valley to the west. They came to depend on this source to fill their bottles and usually put up enough in a year when fruit was plentiful to carry them over a lean year. Some of this fruit, especially apples, might be dried. When the crop was good at Currant Creek and Duckwater they sometimes made a trip with a deep bed wagon and came back with a wagonload of apples. They put these in the root cellar, where they kept crisp for several months although after a time, they took on a slightly dank taste that was not too unpleasant.
Potawotomi plums seemed to adapt to the peculiar soil conditions and every family had one or two of these trees. This little sweetsour plum with its Indian name that made such beautiful jelly was actually a wild plum introduced to the white man by the Indians many years before and named for an Indian tribe. The settlers also used other foods that had first been used by the Indians. Some of these wild fruits they used to supplement their fruit supply were elderberries and chokecherries gathered in the nearby canyons and made into pies, jams, and jellies.
The pine nut was another staple of the Indian diet adopted wholeheartedly by the white men. They learned how to gather the sticky burs, roast them in the embers of a campfire or in a pit underneath it and then remove the little sweet nut from the bur. They learned that if they waited until after the first frosts in the fall the burs would open and they could gather the nuts from the ground and roast them in the oven. Outings to Water Canyon, Sawmill, Schoolhouse or Nine Mile to gather nuts and berries was a regular part of the fall scene. The children especially enjoyed this departure from routine although they might not contribute much to the harvest. In the years when pinenuts were plentiful, the residents often acquired a supply either by gathering them or by buying or trading food for them to the Indians. Then they would put them away in 50-pound bags.
Other foods that required nothing more than a little effort were water cress which they gathered from the spring in late winter and early spring and asparagus that grew along the ditch banks.
Everyone had gardens, Dolph Whitehead, Will Ivins, George Gardner, Mose Harrison, Robert Reid, David Gardner, George Sinfield, and the wives, Eva Whitehead, Delle Ivins, Belle Gardner, Louisa Harrison, May Reid, Ruth Gardner, and Rebecca Sinfield did much of the planting, weeding, and most of the irrigating while their men were occupied with plowing, planting and irrigating in the fields. Ann Reid, although she was left a widow soon after she arrived in Lund, always had one of the best gardens in town. Sometime later in the chronology, the Hendrix brothers, Edmund Jr., Ervin, Lorain, and Lee deserve top ranking on any green thumb roster. They were especially interested in horticulture and were constantIy experimenting with grafting, new methods of culture, and unusual plants. They were responsible for introducing a number of new fruits and vegetables and took most of the blue ribbons at the county fairs.
The tradition of good gardens has persisted over the years in spite of the easy accessibility of super markets. The earliest vegetables are usually produced by Lorain Hendrix, Isabel Chesnut, Edith Reid, Merlin and Lucille Terry, or Fern and Lillian Sinfield.