December 17, 1901
Today is the birthday of the Indiana environmentalist, newspaper columnist, and author Rachel Peden.
Rachel was the wife of an Owen county cattle farmer named Dick. Her father, Benjamin Franklin Mason, was a fruit farmer, growing peaches, apples, and strawberries. Ben developed a reputation as a breeder when he created a peach called Shipper’s Late Red. Rachel referred to her dad as “the orchardist” in her writing.
A self-described Hoosier farmwife, Rachel’s byline was "Mrs. RFD” (for “Rural Free Delivery”), and her longtime columns in The Indianapolis Star and The Muncie Evening News charmed her readers with stories about nature and farm life.
And yes, Rachel loved to garden. Rachel wrote:
“[I love] the therapy of working in [the garden], and the acquaintance of my neighbors from the natural world that I meet there.”
When I was researching Rachel, I stopped to read her memorial on Find a Grave. I’m not sure who wrote it, but I loved their appeal to the folks at Find A Grave. They wrote:
“Find A Grave has determined that Rachel does not meet their criteria for being "famous", but they are wrong.”
The author of three books published by Knopf publishing, Rachel wrote: “Rural Free: A Farmwife’s Almanac of Country Living” in 1961, “The Land, the People” in 1966 (which earned her the Indiana University Authors Award), and “Speak to the Earth” in 1974.
Keep Rachel’s love and awe for the natural world in mind as you listen to this excerpt from “The Land The People”:
"Snow was falling softly
as if from a coarse sifter being turned
from very high above the earth.
It had been going on a long time;
leafless trees were whitened,
weeds and tangled raspberry canes in the garden
had become a great heap of foamy white lace.
A sparrow created a miniature snowstorm
when he alighted on a delicate peach twig.
The twig quivered under his weight,
the sparrow rose,
snowflakes sparkled and fell on the snow-toppled woodpile
under the peach tree."
And Rachel wrote one of my favorite quotes about summer and roses,
"The serene philosophy of the pink rose is steadying.
Its fragrant, delicate petals open fully and are ready to fall,
without regret or disillusion,
after only a day in the sun.
It is so every summer.
One can almost hear their pink, fragrant murmur
as they settle down upon the grass:
'Summer, summer, it will always be summer.”