THE ORCHARD: A Memoir by Adele Crockett Robertson


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An incomplete yet intriguing account of one woman's daily victories and defeats as she works to keep a New England farm going during the Great Depression. This posthumous memoir by Robertson (1901-79) was discovered by her daughter. When Adele ""Kitty"" Crockett Robertson's father, a physician, died early in the 1930s, he left his Ipswich, Mass., farm encumbered with debt. Despite discouraging words from her family, the Radcliffe-educated Robertson, alone except for her Great Dane, worked the apple and peach orchards to keep the farm from foreclosure. In this unfinished memoir, Robertson occasionally looks to the past, as when she describes the time her father literally got a bee in his beekeeper's bonnet and was locked out of the house by her mother, who feared he'd bring the angry swarm in with him, or when a Civil War veteran recalled some tantalizing fragments of the farm's history. However, the account focuses mainly on Robertson's own struggles during the years 1932-34. She copes with a range of pests--from an arrogant banker to unscrupulous men who try to steal her apple trees' ""drops"" to destructive aphids and apple maggots--facing each down with spirit. Despite her own precarious finances and her desire to drive a favorable bargain when selling her produce--a process she fears and dislikes--Robertson refuses to exploit the desperation of the unemployed, paying well the few men she can hire, trusting them, and getting reliable workers in return. Persevering despite chemical burns and insect bites, working with equipment that has to be patched to run, she brings in a splendid 1932 harvest; but this was the Depression, and ""everyone had apples."" The harsh winter freeze of the following year marks the real beginning of the end for the farm. Despite its fragmentary nature, and the only minimal supporting commentary supplied by the author's daughter, this enjoyable memoir opens another small but valuable window into our past.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0553378597
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Henry Holt