Thursday, March 26, 2020

Pieces From The Past - The Flower Garden Block

This post brings us the first letter that required translation...  Dated July 14, 1946 Mr. Ernst Ruehr opens with recalling the work in the sugar beet fields.

He had a lot to say!  He covered both sides of the paper and he wrote in the margins as well as making a PS statement upside down on the top of the second page!

Here's what he shared...  My volunteer translator, Amy, had some difficulty reading his hand writing (go figure!), but did a great job in translating.  I offer my deepest appreciation to her.

Wiesbaden, July 14, 1946

Dear Mr. Schleich,

I often think back to the time when we were pulling up beets for you and the other farmers.   I have the nicest memories about Mr. Eckert and especially about you and your wife and your strong sons, about the fields and the house and the farm.  Everything was in good order.  You and Mr. Eckert were the main conversation and the aim of our whole group was the beet harvest.  We were so very sorry when we split up and sent to another workplace.  We would have liked the chance to say goodbye to you and your family (and also Mr. Eckert).   We were deeply disappointed to be parted from our friends and were inconsolable for a long time.  I finally had the good fortune to exchange a few words with your son.  I am sure he passed on my greetings and said how much we enjoyed coming to work with him.  It was good working for the others, but not as good as for you.  Believe me, I think back often and fondly to those times.  In many respects, it went better for us back then in Model than it does here today.   ? a friend from back then writes that to me and many others think of it the same way.

We worked gladly there.  Most of the people were kind and friendly to us.  After the work was done, there was often something good [a treat].    I have all that as a lovely, grateful memory.  I came to love the landscape and the view of the Rockies and the only thing that affected the peace and happiness was the worry about my dear relatives, about whom nothing was known.   One only knew that in Europe everything went upside down, that that horrible war had brought terrible suffering.  And we were able to live so well in your happy land!  [??Nearly?? from us],  there was not homeland any more,  the parting had been difficult.  I would have gladly remained there, for I also have a home no longer.  My old father (74 years old) was ? year in July driven out of our house, out of the [?old] homeland in North Bohemia, and he had to abandon all his belongings.  He couldn’t even bring a bed with him.  He lives very badly and he is often terribly sick.  I have only received news from him twice.  He is in the Russian Zone and I cannot yet visit him.  I finally found my brother in Bavaria where he is working for a farmer.  (He was captured by the Americans on April 20th, but he was released again as sick on May 30, 1945.)  I own only what I had on me as a released POW.  I found work in a nursery and accommodations here with an acquaintance.  It means lots of work, which I am happy to do, but there are never any friends, and that is the saddest thing, with which many, many people suffer.  

How are you and your dear family, and how is the Eckert family, to whom I send my best regards.    It would make me very happy to receive good news from you.  With best wishes for you and our loved ones, and also for the Eckert family.  I sent my best wishes also to your children.  
Yours Ernst Ruehr. [address listed]
[ he adds some additional text at the top of page 2, written upside down – very blurry and smeared!  I can’t read most of it but I captured what I could]

Please give my regards sometimes to all my acquaintances, neighborhood friendly from me!   Mr. Joe Heard, Mr. Baker, Mr. Garcia. and Family Degurse and Family Winger   [I think he is listing the names of people he remembers and wants to send his regards to.]and last not least Mr. Remer!
[he adds additional text down the side of page 1.  It is rather squished in, so a bit difficult.]

May God protect you and watch over you!

On January 16th, we left Trinidad, went to San Francisco and the on the boat ( SS Brasil, 20,400 tons), through the Panama Canal, next toward England, a short stop in Liverpool,  then over to  Le Havre France, toward Germany, Heilbronn, where I was released on March 23rd.  The trip to Le Havre was interesting and pleasant. I wonder if I will ever get to see it again.  The world is actually small.
The photo of the SS Brasil was found on the Naval Historic Center's page.  {{It is simply amazing to know that there is so much information and old photographs available at our fingertips!}}


I grew up hearing about sugar beets, yet they remained completely foreign to me!  With the help of Britannica on-line I learned that sugar beets are a form of beet in the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae), cultivated as a source of sugar. Sugar beet juice contains high levels of sucrose and is second only to sugarcane as the major source of the world’s sugar...  Sugar beets were grown as a garden vegetable and for fodder long before it was valued for its sugar content.  

Having grown up in the lower Arkansas Valley area I knew that there had been lots of sugar beets grown there and that they used to be processed in the area... a town was even named for it... Sugar City.

It would appear that the US prefers sugar cane over sugar beets, but sugar beets remain a popular sweetener choice in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and southern Europe. 

In my research I have discovered... "Today, sugar beets account for HALF of all refined sugar production in the United States, and around 20% of all sugar in the world! Cane sugar and beet sugar are the two processed sweeteners that most of the world’s processed food industries are built upon.

The processing of the beets results in the same end product as sugar cane processing – pure white sugar. Once refined, it has no nutritional value beyond the calories it contains. Calories are not something most people need more of! Incidentally, visually and taste-wise, beet sugar is completely indistinguishable from refined cane sugar.

The trouble is, beet sugar is one of the very WORST sweeteners on the market today. And if you eat anything processed in North America that contains added sugar, you are probably eating it whether you know it or not."

I was curious as to why the crops had changed and asked a fb group from the LaJunta area.  The thoughts and info offered in response to my questions varied.  From the loss of water rights to the lowering of tarriff rates and the increase of sugar cane production from the Caribbean, as well as the possibility of the introduction of artificial sweeteners. 

However, I don't think that Katie was too concerned about the source of sugar for her special treats.  But, remember... sugar was one of the rationed foods.

Here is a Zucchini Brownie recipe that I recall getting from Katie's & Phillip's oldest child, Clara when I was about 10 to 13 years old.

The brownies are light and moist and tasty (even a little healthier since there is zucchini involved??) and became a regular in my Saturday morning baking routine.  It is one that I still use... with a teeny bit of adapting for my dietary restrictions.  The first would be to reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup and use coconut sugar instead of white sugar.  The second change would be use a GF all purpose flour or Einkorn flour.

Aunt Clara was more like a Grandma to me... We would visit her and her husband, Uncle Bill and get special treats as well, but we were never to ask for them.. yet somehow we just could not resist asking and would get either cookies that she had on hand, or as an extra special treat, ice cream sandwiches!  

<===  Clara & Bill's wedding picture from 1939.

Because Clara also had a brother (Edward William) who went by the name of Bill, Clara's husband was referred to as Büschwah (I made up the spelling, but it should be pronounced Būsh-wah)... 

I'm fairly certain it was a word he made up.  He was a real character {{a BSer??}} with an bit of an odd sense of humor and used the word often enough that it became the name the family called him.  

In the letter Mr. Ruehr mentioned that he had the good fortune to exchange a few words with one of the sons... I believe that would have been Bill (not Buschwah), as he was the oldest of the boys... my Dad, the youngest, would have been only 13 years old in the fall of 1945, the next oldest, Leroy would have been aged 17 and Bill would have been 21.

Mr. Ruehr also mentioned that he found employment at a nursery... it is for this reason that I chose The Flower Garden Block - found on page 203 of the Kansas City Star Sampler Book.  This pattern has been made available to you at no cost with special permission from C&T Publishing.

It is a simple English Paper Pieced block that, after being pieced, will be appliqued onto a background square.  I used two strands of black embroider thread to applique and outline each piece.

If you have never done EPP, I encourage you to give it a try.  Here is link to help you get started.  

Rachel at Fiona Sandwich walks you through glue basting your pieces in preparation for hand stitching them at the 3 minute mark, explains thread color selection around the 11 minute mark and how to stitch the pieces together around the 13:30 -15 minute mark.  Rachel uses plain paper for her templates... I prefer to use card stock.  It is your choice...

Once all your pieces are prepared to be joined together you will need to gently bend the piece (without creasing it) as you stitch it together...

A couple of beginner EPP quilters tested the pattern for me.  

One stated "As a beginner to EPP, I found the video link you sent me very helpful plus the hint to fold the petal."  

You always have the option to machine stitch this block using Y-seams.  Be sure to add your 1/4" to the pattern templates and lock your stitches at the beginning and the end of your stitching - indicated by the dots that the arrows are pointing to... DON'T sew all the way to the edge of the piece.

If you would like a completely different alternative to the Flower Garden block, you can choose to use this embroidered flower pattern.

It is a design for a pillow case.  Popular items in years past as wedding shower gifts or even for a young ladies hope chest.  

I received several sets as a child that I recall fondly.

I used the pattern in two different ways...

The first was a single flower that was enlarged to fill the square.  You will find the enlarged pattern on page 2 of the pattern.  

I used three strands of embroidery thread for the stitching and a blended 4-strand piece for the lazy daisy stitched leaves.  

What I mean by blended is that more than one color was used to make up the strands of thread I sewed with.  

I used a blended three strand of two peach and one  rusty-orange color.  The center of the flower has blended threads of one yellow, one peach and one darker rust.

The blended threads add a unique touch and added depth to the piece.  This was a trick I learned in cross-stitch many  make that many, many years ago.

The second layout out used the original pattern size - four times.  I adjusted the placement of the flower's tendrils until I was pleased with the look.

I used a single strand of outline stitch for this one and a double strand for the leaves.  The center of the flower was stitched with a blended peach and yellow two-strand thread.

Roseanne and Sue over at Home Sewn By Us created a lovely layout as well...

I look forward to seeing a completed block from them.

Not a fan of hand embroidery either?  You can do what I did in 2018 with two blocks from the Save The Bees BOM.

I traced the pattern onto my fabric with a wash out pencil and then selected various colors to "paint" and outline the lines using a variation of a zig zag stitch, it looks more like a lightning strike.  

So, you see... you have options!

It is only a 9-1/2 inch block and it really won't take very long...

Gather up the ingredients and whip up a batch of brownies.  While they are baking, pick your favorite show to binge watch and enjoy a few relaxing hours of hand sewing... When the brownies have cooled take a break to rest your hands, enjoy a cuppa and then go back to it...  slow stitching is a real trend now.  

And with the recent self-isolation/ stay-at-home situation, you probably have a few more days to get it done before schools and jobs return to a normal routine.  

It takes time to adjust to the slow stitching pace... trust me!  It wasn't that long ago that I refused to slow stitch this block to the left...  I hope that you will find some pleasure in the slower pace.

So... What are your favorite "binge worthy" shows?  
I need a few more since I have recently completed some of my favorite series.

Leave a comment and let me know what you are watching!

Don't forget!  When your block/blocks are finished come back and link up for the fat quarter prize drawing.  (Sadly, because of prohibitive costs and complicated customs forms, winners need to have a US mailing address.)  But I would still LOVE to see blocks from all over the world!

And to mix it up... if you do the English Paper Piecing pattern you will have an extra entry into the fat quarter give away!  How's that for incentive??? 

Share to my fb page or tag me on instagram... be sure to use the hashtag #PiecesFromThePastSewAlong so that we can see the variety of blocks everyone has created.

Happy Stitching!

Need the previous blocks???  You can still download them...

Block 1 - Signature Block
Block 2 - Lost Goslin'
Block 3 - Mayflower

Linking with:

BOMs Away at What A Hoot Quilts 
UFO Busting at Tish’s Wonderland


  1. Thank you, Melva, for sharing the personal touch of history!

  2. Melva, Your post was really very interesting and I learned so much from it. But the letter was so sad I actually felt tears coming into my eyes. Do you know who the Eckert family is? you might have mentioned it some where, but I don't remember.
    I haven't tried Zucchini brownies, but when I was working, a girl would bring us Zucchini Bread she had made. It was sooo delicious.
    Thanks for the beautiful patterns.

  3. Have you considered using applesauce instead of oil in recipes like that? It works great, less calories, and you still get the moisture.

  4. Hi Melva! A huge thank you to Amy for translating the letter for you. And what a letter it is! I love everything about this post and the connection to the past. I am going to be skipping the EPP version - I haven't done that for years. However, your example looks fabulous! I just adore the black thread appliqué around the pieces - that really highlights all of them nicely. ~smile~ Roseanne

  5. Another wonderful letter! I love reading these and imagining the times. He was already home before I was born, but I still have always felt drawn to that time, the music, and especially farms. Utah and Idaho were great beet farming states for many years, and so I know about beet sugar. I don't understand how it can be the worst sweetener if it is the same composition as cane sugar, though. =) I like both the EPP block and the embroidery block - all versions. Just lovely things. Thank you so much.

  6. I'm not having any luck with the linky, but i did post my block on insta!

  7. I love zucchini bread, so I'm sure I would love these brownies as well! Thank you for sharing these letters, I love reading them. I tried the EPP version of this block. Not sure if I'd ever do another one, but I'm glad I at least tried it!