Monday, October 26, 2009

Making Molasses (Them shore is good)

I haven't seen Declan have more fun than he did on Saturday when he "helped" make molasses. His sister, Lily Grace, sat on the wagon and helped by sucking the sweetness from a short piece of cane. It was one of those rare brisk and sunny fall days that have become even rarer this autumn. Our three-year-old grandson was having the time of his life feeding cane into the mule-powered press.

The molasses making has become an annual October ritual at the farm of one of our neighbors. They both are getting well on in years, but with the help of their offspring, each year they plant a patch of cane in the spring. Then, on one weekend in the fall the hard work begins. They cut the cane with a knife, strip the leaves from the canes, and load it onto a wagon to be taken to the press and kiln.

Neighbors arrive mid-morning on Saturday with covered dishes for the noon meal. The mule is hitched to a long pole that powers the press as the mule circles. A hot fire is built under the long cooking pan that will reduce the thin cane juice to a thick golden molasses. There is dinner on the grounds, lots of visiting between neighbors, and the aromatic steam from the cooker scenting the fall air. The older kids sometimes get to ride the mule.

Sadly, last Saturday may have been the last time we will make molasses in our neighborhood. The hosts are getting older and even with lots of help, the responsiblity of the event tires them considerably. It will be a loss for all of us. Likely, this old-fashioned process will only seen only as an attraction at country fairs and festivals.

From the Hills, The Hired Man, Missus, and young folk

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In An Autumn Rain

This happens every fall, the rains come amid the time of ripest color in the hills and pummels the leaves from the trees. Most years the autumn rain signals the end of the riot of pigment that spreads across the ridges. A breeze comes and pushes the sodden leaves from their branches. This fall I have hopes that the rains have come just a smidgen too early.

I am sitting here on our sun porch above the valley as evening light weakens in a drizzling rain that has lasted all day. Oh, the rain has taken its share of the golden leaves. This morning they swirled and eddied around the house as we, inside, begrudged each one making its way earfthward. But, this evening we still have color in the timber, leaves hanging on waiting for some more October sunshine and painted blue sky. Yes, the woods are less dense now; you can see further into the trees. But, without a strong wind tonight we will have more golden autumn days ahead.

Already we have marked off a few of our alloted golden fall days. Together with our daughter and grandchildren we have loaded a couple of ATVs with a picnic and headed into the countryside. We careened up dry creek beds, meandered down country roads known to only a few, and visited old house places back in the timber that are no longer connected to roads. It was truly wonderful, and left us wanting more.

But even rainy fall days have their compensations. With guests enscounsed in their cabins, I suspect they are on the porches listening to the patter of the rain on tin roofs. And, often this time of year sleep comes early, peaceful and long.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggidy jig

We are home a week now and have almost caught up with our work getting ready for guests. (the place is full this weekend). After being gone for such a long time in a different environment it takes a little while get get back into the old system.

Kathy's favorite holiday (except it is not a holiday) is Halloween. She can't control herself. Right now there are skeletons hanging from the trees near the house. Bats also. She even wears a little hat that says, "Happy Holloween." I point out to her that folks are not supposed to be happy on Holloween. They are supposed to be scared s--tless.

The pumkins are set out, except these that we grew out in the pasture (see photo). I looks like the deer got into these excellent specimens and ruined them. K is heartbroken.

I sense a wonderful fall coming. Right now, twinges of color are seen on the hillsides. Cattle are in the pastures across the river. The walnuts have already lost their leaves, leaving the green balls hung among the limbs like ornaments. This is the time of year for hikes and long walks in the woods.

We think that we will concentrate on enjoying every single moment of lovely fall weather. Each year this magical part of the year seems too soon gone. We look back and shake our heads, wondering how we missed so much of it.
That's why I must get away from this computer. It's a beatiful, crisp day.

From the hills, Tom & Kathy
To paraphrase past wisdom, "You can measure how rich a person is by how little he needs" — i.e. the richest person isn't the person who has everything; it's the person who needs nothing.