In 1949, Iowa farm wife Evelyn Birkby began to write a weekly column entitled “Up a Country Lane” for the Shenandoah Evening Sentinel, now called the Valley News. Sixty-three years, one Royal typewriter, and five computers later, she is still creating a weekly record of the lives and interests of her family, friends, and neighbors. Her perceptive, closely observed columns provide a multigenerational biography of rural and small-town life in the Midwest over decades of change. Now she has sifted through thousands of columns to give us her favorites, guaranteed to delight her many longtime and newfound fans.
Evelyn begins with her very first column, whose focus on the Christmas box prepared by a companionable group of farm wives, the constant hard work of farming, and an encounter with an elderly stranger over a yard of red gingham sets the tone for future columns. Optimistic even in the wake of sorrow, generous-spirited but not smug, humorous but not folksy, wise but not preachy, Evelyn welcomes the adventures and connections that each new day brings, and she masterfully shares them with her readers.
Tales of separating cream on the back porch at Cottonwood Farm, raising a teddy bear of a puppy in addition to a menagerie of other animals, surviving an endless procession of Cub and Boy Scouts, appreciating a little boy’s need to take his toy tractor to church, blowing out eggs to make an Easter egg tree, shopping for bargains on the day before Christmas, camping in a converted Model T “house car,” and adjusting to the fact of one’s tenth decade of existence all merge to form a world composed of kindness and wisdom with just enough humor to keep it grounded. Recipes for such fare as Evelyn’s signature Hay Hand Rolls prove that the young woman who was daunted by her editor’s advice to “put in a recipe every week” became a talented cook. Each of the more than eighty columns in this warmhearted collection celebrates not a bygone era tinged with sentimentality but a continuing tradition of neighborliness, Midwest-nice and Midwest-sensible.
"I loved this book—Evelyn Birkby is a National Treasure."—Fannie Flagg
“I began to smile as soon as I started to read this collection of columns by Evelyn Birkby, gleaned from sixty-three years of publication in the same southwestern Iowa newspaper. The author invites us to share the everyday lives of folks in a rural community where they all had so much in common, from looking after those who were less fortunate to exchanging recipes—sometimes not successfully—and yes, there is a great recipe for fried green tomatoes. Reading these chatty columns is like having a friend you have known all your life come to visit you. Indeed, this collection serves as a conduit for bridging the gap that separates us one from another. Read it and enjoy!”—Mildred Armstrong Kalish, author, Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm during the Great Depression
“Evelyn Birkby, famous as a radio homemaker, is also the dean of Iowa newspaper columnists, having written lifestyle columns for sixty-three years without ever missing a week. This book is like Evelyn’s Greatest Hits. It’s also a highly entertaining folk-history of the Midwest from 1949 to the present.”—Iowa writer Chuck Offenburger