This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Summer travel has its advocates and friends, but to our mind few experiences are more enjoyable than a long ride on a genuine winter's day. It was a great pleasure to meet with friends at the recent meeting of the State Horticultural Society, and very profitable to listen to what these friends had to say; but the hundred mile ride from Philadelphia with the outside world draped in snow was equally delectable, and furnished a picture one cannot soon forget. In company with the genial Secretary Harrison, our course was along the Schuylkill river and through Reading and Lebanon, a far more beautiful route than that over which the Pennsylvania road passes to the same spot, but less popular, apparently, probably from the superior appointments of its rival line. The ice gorges in the Schuylkill, some of them many feet high, gave a unique picturesqueness to the scenery, while the numerous buildings along the lofty and rugged river banks, with the many tinted colors of the buildings and public works of various kinds, all resting in their snowy nests, offered a specimen of beauty few summer scenes could rival.
But possibly the happiest views of all were the numerous towns along the portion from Reading to Harrisburg, which, huge oases in the great desert of snow, brought out prominently characters not so apparent when green fields and flowers everywhere surrounded them. . These towns of from 2,000 to perhaps 10,000 inhabitants were settled chiefly by Germans, and they have kept to many of their peculiarities even to this day. Most of the houses are of brick or stone, and have a heavy solid look as if they were destined to last for a thousand years. The tindery frame structures so common in towns of distinctively modern American origin, and which seem waiting impatiently for the tornado to blow them to atoms, are rarely seen among them, and the curious attempts at art in building which so many modern houses present, and which tell us rather of the desire of the owners to do something, than of their good taste in the effort, are almost wholly wanting. Good, comfortable, roomy houses they were in the past, and so are those which are still going up in their company, and this is all; and then the grand and well constructed barns, running right in among the prosperous towns, and uniting the town and country; better specimens of the rus in urbe than those of which any Roman poet ever wrote.
Those wonderful German Pennsylvania barns! But then the wise man is merciful to his beast, and in other respects these old fellows show us in how many ways they were wise. The fruit trees, for instance, are simply wonderful. It is impossible to note a single farm-house that has not its ten acres or so of apple trees, with trunks like timber trees, wholly surrounding the barn as a general thing, and often taking in even the dwelling houses, so that one may in many cases gather from the bed-room windows the dewy fruit fresh from the tree and take a frugal breakfast on his bed-room floor, if so minded he were. And the small city gardens and yards all were crowded with apples, pears, cherries, grapes or smaller fruits, till there seemed no room for anything else. No doubt there were flower pots and flower tubs and boxes in cellars stowed away, for your true German wife or damsel could not live without her old-fashioned garden flowers. But at this season the whole town seemed like a huge orchard with the dwelling houses merely as accessories thrown in.
One of the most remarkable features of this old-fashioned ride, was the absence of all evidences of the tree pedlar; and we wondered whether it could be possible that there was a spot on God's earth where these persevering missionaries of the true and the beautiful had so far forgotten to favor with their unselfish presence. Or was it that these simple children of nature, who yet held fast to the land and the habits of their forefathers, had yet a reserve force of dogs and gunpowder sufficient to scare these truly good and loving men away? But there was the fact. The thousands of trees set out and growing, and still being set to grow, were evidently mostly home grown, and there was no evidence of any new introductions to any extent among them all. Not a " Silver maple," nor a " Carolina poplar," nor a "Norway spruce," or " Balsam fir " or "Arborvitse, " which usually form the chief stock in trade of the great Pilgrim fathers of the horticultural creed, could be seen along the route. We should not doubt there are some, but they are lost in the immense sea of old-fashioned fruit trees which everywhere prevailed. The absence of evergreens was particularly noticed in what little gardening these antiquated people essayed to do.
Even "gentlemen" and "ladies" have hardly ventured yet among them, if we may! judge by some of the railroad stations, which told us that here was the "womens'" waiting rooms, and there the waiting rooms of the "men." And yet it was a luxury to see so much of this old-time, sound, substantial rural simplicity. Though famous for their love of wine and beer, it was remarkable how small a portion of these large town buildings were devoted to the "saloon;" and if there were few of the modern fashionable residences among them all, so neither did there seem to be huddled quarters for the very poor. Time and time again as the writer passed every few miles to fresh and populous towns did the thought occur, how pleasant it would be to spend a whole summer season in going through the whole country from town to town leisurely, and take these honest, simple-hearted, but old-fashioned people, by the hand. Their beautiful country showed | they were not a grasping set. The forests had not all been cut down in order to get the last bushel of corn or the last dollar for every stick of cord-wood that could be scraped together.
Forests of white oak which would certainly realize large sums if put in the market, were yet standing on parts of well cultivated farms in frequent instances, and along the hillsides chestnuts - and on limestone too - were in great abundance. We should not hesitate to say that in this very old settled part of our country, and in the midst of one of the richest agricultural districts of Pennsylvania, one-fourth of the area is still bearing forest trees, and there is no scarcity of fencing material. The old-time worm fence, with its wealth of wood, still prevails. The barbed wire man had made a few sales, but the live hedge man was apparently unknown. But it is nearing midnight; I have already given an hour's address in the Senate Chamber this evening, and only the comforts of the steam-heater in my elegant quarters in the "Loch-iel " have tempted me to spend an extra hour in looking back on some of the pleasant experiences of the day, and to take the readers of the Gardeners' Monthly into my confidence in regard to them.