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Pioneer Gardens title image

Girls with squash, pumpkins and watermelons
Two girls with pumpkins, squash, and watermelons at
Morton County Fair, Mandan, ND SHSND# 0090-152
By the fall of 1910, the Nehers had managed to build their house and a root cellar. The root cellar, dug by hand, was a separate structure with a peaked roof. This architectural presence “implied prosperity.” (Prairie, p. 79) They pickled small, whole watermelons in a barrel. They made sauerkraut and cucumber pickles. All pickles were stored in the root cellar which remained above freezing all winter. (Homesteading, p. 78)

Christina Neher either learned medicinal gardening, or brought the knowledge with her from South Russia. She made salves from herbs and onions. She used parsley to flavor noodle soup for special occasions. Herbs were also used to treat intestinal parasites the children got from drinking untreated slough or creek water. (Prairie, pp. 34, 40)

Watermelon was a favorite fruit for the Diedes. The watermelon patch, or outer-garden, was carefully located. Everyone wanted the best, the “biggest and sweetest” watermelons. Ludwig Neher took pride in his watermelons. Though the children hoed, pulled weeds, and picked bugs among the potato patch, they were not allowed to work among the watermelons without permission. Neighbors raided each other’s watermelon patches; they were sometimes chased off with guns. Two of the Neher girls tried to determine if a watermelon was ripe by cutting a plug out of it; it wasn’t ripe, so they replaced the plug so it would not appear as though the watermelon had been damaged. But ants got into it and ate all the red fruit. When Ludwig Neher found this watermelon, he punished his daughters. (Prairie, 81 – 82)