List Of Contents | Contents of Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie
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some of the roots, and when we left work, collecting a sufficient
quantity for the experiment, I carefully washed the roots quite
clean, without depriving them of the fine brown skin which covers
them, and which contains the aromatic flavour, which so nearly
resembles coffee that it is difficult to distinguish it from it
while roasting.

I cut my roots into small pieces, the size of a kidney-bean, and
roasted them on an iron baking-pan in the stove-oven, until they
were as brown and crisp as coffee. I then ground and transferred
a small cupful of the powder to the coffee-pot, pouring upon it
scalding water, and boiling it for a few minutes briskly over the
fire. The result was beyond my expectations. The coffee proved
excellent--far superior to the common coffee we procured at the

To persons residing in the bush, and to whom tea and coffee are
very expensive articles of luxury, the knowledge of this valuable
property of a plant scattered so abundantly through their fields,
would prove highly beneficial. For years we used no other article;
and my Indian friends who frequented the house gladly adopted the
root, and made me show them the whole process of manufacturing it
into coffee.

Experience taught me that the root of the dandelion is not so good
when applied to this purpose in the spring as it is in the fall.
I tried it in the spring, but the juice of the plant, having
contributed to the production of leaves and flowers, was weak, and
destitute of the fine bitter flavour so peculiar to coffee. The
time of gathering the potato crop is the best suited for collecting
and drying the roots of the dandelion; and as they always abound in
the same hills, both may be accomplished at the same time. Those
who want to keep a quantity for winter use may wash and cut up the
roots, and dry them on boards in the sun. They will keep for years,
and can be roasted when required.

Few of our colonists are acquainted with the many uses to which this
neglected but most valuable plant may be applied. I will point out a
few which have come under my own observation, convinced as I am that
the time will come when this hardy weed, with its golden flowers and
curious seed-vessels, which form a constant plaything to the little
children rolling about and luxuriating among the grass, in the sunny
month of May, will be transplanted into our gardens, and tended with
due care.

The dandelion planted in trenches, and blanched to a beautiful
cream-colour with straw, makes an excellent salad, quite equal
to endive, and is more hardy and requires less care.

In many parts of the United States, particularly in new districts
where vegetables are scarce, it is used early in the spring, and
boiled with pork as a substitute for cabbage. During our residence
in the bush we found it, in the early part of May, a great addition
to the dinner-table. In the township of Dummer, the settlers boil
the tops, and add hops to the liquor, which they ferment, and from
which they obtain excellent beer. I have never tasted this simple
beverage, but I have been told by those who use it that it is equal
to the table-beer used at home.

Necessity has truly been termed the mother of invention, for I
contrived to manufacture a variety of dishes almost out of nothing,
while living in her school. When entirely destitute of animal food,
the different variety of squirrels supplied us with pies, stews, and
roasts. Our barn stood at the top of the hill near the bush, and in
a trap set for such "small deer," we often caught from ten to twelve
a day.

The flesh of the black squirrel is equal to that of the rabbit, and
the red, and even the little chipmunk, is palatable when nicely
cooked. But from the lake, during the summer, we derived the larger
portion of our food. The children called this piece of water
"Mamma's pantry"; and many a good meal has the munificent Father
given to his poor dependent children from its well-stored depths.
Moodie and I used to rise at daybreak, and fish for an hour after
sunrise, when we returned, he to the field, and I to dress the
little ones, clean up the house, assist with the milk, and prepare
the breakfast.

Oh, how I enjoyed these excursions on the lake; the very idea of our
dinner depending upon our success added double zest to our sport!

One morning we started as usual before sunrise; a thick mist still
hung like a fine veil upon the water when we pushed off, and
anchored at our accustomed place. Just as the sun rose, and the haze
parted and drew up like a golden sheet of transparent gauze, through
which the dark woods loomed out like giants, a noble buck dashed
into the water, followed by four Indian hounds.

We then discovered a canoe, full of Indians, just below the rapids,
and another not many yards from us, that had been concealed by the
fog. It was a noble sight, that gallant deer exerting all his
energy, and stemming the water with such matchless grace, his
branching horns held proudly aloft, his broad nostrils distended,
and his fine eye fixed intently upon the opposite shore. Several
rifle-balls whizzed past him, the dogs followed hard upon his track,
but my very heart leaped for joy when, in spite of all his foes, his
glossy hoofs spurned the opposite bank and he plunged headlong into
the forest.

My beloved partner was most skilful in trolling for bass and
maskinonge. His line he generally fastened to the paddle, and the
motion of the oar gave a life-like vibration to the queer-looking
mice and dragon-flies I used to manufacture from squirrel fur, or
scarlet and white cloth, to tempt the finny wanderers of the wave.

When too busy himself to fish for our meals, little Katie and I
ventured out alone in the canoe, which we anchored in any promising
fishing spot, by fastening a harrow tooth to a piece of rope, and
letting it drop from the side of little vessel. By the time she was
five years old, my little mermaid could both steer and paddle the
light vessel, and catch small fish, which were useful for soup.

During the winter of '36, we experienced many privations. The
ruffian squatter P---, from Clear Lake, drove from the barn a fine
young bull we were rearing, and for several weeks all trace of the
animal was lost. We had almost forgotten the existence of poor
Whiskey, when a neighbor called and told Moodie that his yearling
was at P---'s, and that he would advise him to get it back as soon
as possible.

Moodie had to take some wheat to Y---'s mill, and as the squatter
lived only a mile further, he called at his house; and there, sure
enough, he found the lost animal. With the greatest difficulty he
succeeded in regaining his property, but not without many threats of
vengeance from the parties who had stolen it. To these he paid no
regard; but a few days after, six fat hogs, on which we depended for
all our winter store of animal food, were driven into the lake, and

The death of these animals deprived us of three barrels of pork, and
half-starved us through the winter. That winter of '36, how heavily
it wore away! The grown flour, frosted potatoes, and scant quantity
of animal food rendered us all weak, and the children suffered much
from the ague.

One day, just before the snow fell, Moodie had gone to Peterborough
for letters; our servant was sick in bed with the ague, and I was
nursing my little boy, Dunbar, who was shaking with the cold fit of
his miserable fever, when Jacob put his honest, round, rosy face in
at the door.

"Give me the master's gun, ma'am; there's a big buck feeding on the
rice-bed near the island."

I took down the gun, saying, "Jacob, you have no chance; there is
but one charge of buck-shot in the house."

"One chance is better nor none," said Jacob, as he commenced loading
the gun. "Who knows what may happen to oie? Mayhap oie may chance to
kill 'un; and you and the measter and the wee bairns may have zummut
zavory for zupper yet."

Away walked Jacob with Moodie's "Manton" over his shoulder. A few
minutes after, I heard the report of the gun, but never expected to
see anything of the game; when Jacob suddenly bounced into the room,
half-wild with delight.

"Thae beast iz dead az a door-nail. Zure, how the measter will
laugh when he zees the fine buck that oie a'zhot."

"And have you really shot him?"

"Come and zee! 'Tis worth your while to walk down to the landing
to look at 'un."

Jacob got a rope, and I followed him to the landing, where, sure
enough, lay a fine buck, fastened in tow of the canoe. Jacob soon
secured him by the hind legs to the rope he had brought; and, with
our united efforts, we at last succeeded in dragging our prize home.
All the time he was engaged in taking off the skin, Jacob was
anticipating the feast that we were to have; and the good fellow
chuckled with delight when he hung the carcass quite close to the
kitchen door, that his "measter" might run against it when he came
home at night. This event actually took place. When Moodie opened
the door, he struck his head against the dead deer.

"What have you got here?"

"A fine buck, zur," said Jacob, bringing forward the light, and
holding it up in such a manner that all the merits of the prize
could be seen at a glance.

"A fine one, indeed! How did we come by it?"

"It was zhot by oie," said Jacob, rubbing his hands in a sort
of ecstacy. "Thae beast iz the first oie ever zhot in my life.
He! he! he!"

"You shot that fine deer, Jacob?--and there was only one charge
in the gun! Well done; you must have taken good aim."

"Why, zur, oie took no aim at all. Oie just pointed the gun at
the deer, and zhut my oeys an let fly at 'un. 'Twas Providence
kill'd 'un, not oie."

"I believe you," said Moodie; "Providence has hitherto watched over
us and kept us from actual starvation."

The flesh of the deer, and the good broth that I was able to obtain
from it, greatly assisted in restoring our sick to health; but long
before that severe winter terminated we were again out of food. Mrs.
--- had given to Katie, in the fall, a very pretty little pig, which
she had named Spot. The animal was a great favorite with Jacob and
the children, and he always received his food from their hands at
the door, and followed them all over the place like a dog. We had a
noble hound called Hector, between whom and the pet pig there
existed the most tender friendship. Spot always shared with Hector
the hollow log which served him for a kennel, and we often laughed
to see Hector lead Spot round the clearing by his ear. After bearing
the want of animal food until our souls sickened at the bad potatoes
and grown flour bread, we began--that is the elders of the
family--to cast very hungry eyes upon Spot; but no one liked to
propose having him killed. At last Jacob spoke his mind upon the

"Oi've heard, zur, that the Jews never eat pork; but we Christians
dooz, and are right glad ov the chance. Now, zur, oi've been
thinking that 'tis no manner ov use our keeping that beast Spot.
If he wor a zow, now, there might be zome zenze in the thing; and
we all feel weak for a morzel of meat. S'poze I kill him? He won't
make a bad piece of pork."

Moodie seconded the move; and, in spite of the tears and prayers of
Katie, her uncouth pet was sacrificed to the general wants of the
family; but there were two members of the house who disdained to
eat a morsel of the victim; poor Katie and the dog Hector. At the
self-denial of the first I did not at all wonder, for she was a
child full of sensibility and warm affections, but the attachment of
the brute creature to his old playmate filled us all with surprise.
Jacob first drew our attention to the strange fact.

"That dog," he said, as we were passing through the kitchen while
he was at dinner, "do teach uz Christians a lesson how to treat our
friends. Why, zur, he'll not eat a morzel of Spot. Oie have tried
and tempted him in all manner ov ways, and he only do zneer and turn
up his nose when oie hould him a bit to taste." He offered the
animal a rib of the fresh pork as he finished speaking, and the dog
turned away with an expression of aversion, and on a repetition of
the act, walked from the table.

Human affection could scarcely have surpassed the love felt by this
poor animal for his playfellow. His attachment to Spot, that could
overcome the pangs of hunger--for, like the rest of us, he was
half-starved--must have been strong indeed.

Jacob's attachment to us, in its simplicity and fidelity, greatly
resembled that of the dog; and sometimes, like the dog, he would
push himself in where he was not wanted, and gratuitously give his
advice, and make remarks which were not required.

Mr. K---, from Cork, was asking Moodie many questions about the
partidges of the country; and, among other things, he wanted to know
by what token you were able to discover their favourite haunts.
Before Moodie could answer this last query a voice responded,
through a large crack in the boarded wall which separated us from
the kitchen, "They always bides where they's drum." This
announcement was received with a burst of laughter that greatly
disconcerted the natural philosopher in the kitchen.

On the 21st of May of this year, my second son, Donald, was born.
The poor fellow came in hard times. The cows had not calved, and our
bill of fare, now minus the deer and Spot, only consisted of bad
potatoes and still worse bread. I was rendered so weak by want of
proper nourishment that my dear husband, for my sake, overcame his
aversion to borrowing, and procured a quarter of mutton from a
friend. This, with kindly presents from neighbours--often as badly
off as ourselves--a loin of a young bear, and a basket, containing a
loaf of bread, some tea, some fresh butter, and oatmeal, went far to
save my life.

Shortly after my recovery, Jacob--the faithful, good Jacob--was
obliged to leave us, for we could no longer afford to pay wages.
What was owing to him had to be settled by sacrificing our best cow,
and a great many valuable articles of clothing from my husband's
wardrobe. Nothing is more distressing than being obliged to part
with articles of dress which you know that you cannot replace.
Almost all my clothes had been appropriated to the payment of wages,
or to obtain garments for the children, excepting my wedding dress,
and the beautiful baby-linen which had been made by the hands of
dear and affectionate friends for my first-born. These were now
exchanged for coarse, warm flannels, to shield her from the cold.

Moodie and Jacob had chopped eight acres during the winter, but
these had to be burnt off and logged-up before we could put in a
crop of wheat for the ensuing fall. Had we been able to retain
this industrious, kindly English lad, this would have been soon
accomplished; but his wages, at the rate of thirty pounds per annum,
were now utterly beyond our means.

Jacob had formed an attachment to my pretty maid, Mary Pine, and
before going to the Southern States, to join an uncle who resided
in Louisville, an opulent tradesman, who had promised to teach him
his business, Jacob thought it as well to declare himself. The

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