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Hunter: Two Anniversaries

06/20/11 5:55PM By Edith Hunter
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(HOST)  This year commentator Edith Hunter put in a new strawberry bed.  And that got her thinking about the comfort of favorite books and familiar stories.

(HUNTER)  I've been putting in new strawberry beds every few years since I started gardening in 1948.

You would think I would know how to do it by now.  But no, I had to get out my handy little, "The Practical Garden Book", by Hunn and Bailey, Macmillan 1900. I have the 1901 edition. That is 110 years ago.
 
In the introduction, Mr. Bailey wrote: "Many times I have noted how intently an audience of plant-lovers will listen to the most common place details respecting the cultivation of plants with which they have been always familiar. There was nothing new in what they heard; but they liked to have the old story told over again and every detail called up a memory."

And so it is with me. I am well acquainted with the "the common place details" for planting strawberries, and yet I wanted "to have the old story told over again."

The introduction to "The Practical Garden Book" was written by co-author Liberty Hyde Bailey. Seeing his name prompted me to get out my well-worn copy of a "Handbook of Nature-Study" by Anna Botsford Comstock, 1854-1930, "late professor of nature-study in Cornell University." I discovered that this book was first published in July 1911, exactly one hundred years ago. It was dedicated to Liberty Hyde Bailey of Cornell University.

As a young mother in 1950, someone directed me to this wonderful almost-thousand-page book. The publishers, Cornell University, wrote in their 1939 foreword after the book had been revised: "The nature study approach has been preserved... This study takes the individual organism, rather than an abstract phylum or genus, as the point of departure. Mrs. Comstock believed that the student found in such a study a fresh, spontaneous interest which was lacking in formal textbook science."
 
In college, I had a double major - science and religion -  and yet I knew absolutely nothing about the amazing natural world. Fortunately the marvelous curiosity of my first two children, Elizabeth and Graham, informed by Mrs. Comstock's book, remedied the situation. This led us into the wonderful experiences of raising butterflies and tadpoles, planting vegetable gardens, and yes, even putting in our first strawberry bed.

The fruit of my reeducation was my first book, "The Family Finds Out."

Thank you Liberty Hyde Bailey and thank you Anna Botsford Comstock, and happy anniversaries.
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