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Road trip back in time

Today was a perfect day to motor on up to Landis Valley Museum in Manheim, Lancaster County, for an interview with Irwin Richman, professor emeritus of American studies and history at Penn State/Harrisburg. Irwin is the author of Pennsylvania German Farms, Gardens, and Seeds, and when he isn't writing books or having fun in his retirement, he's a parttime volunteer here.

We talked for awhile, then ambled to the four-square garden, which is next to the pig sty, which hasn't got any pigs at the moment. Here we discussed the Pennsylvania German/Dutch traditions of building four raised beds (hence the name "four-square garden"), with narrow paths between the squares, and boards over top, so the woman of the house - for it was always the women who did the planting and harvesting - could step above the plants and not pack the soil down.

This photo is of pot marigold, aka calendula, an annual that was commonly planted in the Pennsylvania German 18th-century gardens to keep pests away. The concept of planting flowers for ornamental value only is a later construct. In the 18th century, flowering plants had utility. Beauty was secondary.

After a visit, you can stop by the local farm stand and pick up some beans, corn, raspberries, cantaloupes and peaches that look like they were just picked. 'Cause they were!