NEWS FROM THE HILLS

Bright sunshine sparkles on the dewy grass this morning, a welcome change from the rainy weather we’ve been having. My sister Mary Ellen informed me that Dog Days set in wet, and according to folklore, it will rain for 40 days. I thought it already had.

Too much rainfall has affected our garden, yet we are beginning to enjoy the fruits of Criss’ labor. We had our first mess of half runner beans Sunday, and a couple of ripe tomatoes out of Patty’s and Bob’s garden to go with them. Tender yellow squash and cucumbers are developing, but the sugar corn will be later.

The wild blackberry crop looks promising, with the berries turning red. Hopefully, it will be a “blackberry summer” with an abundance of the ripe, juicy berries for cobblers, jams, jellies and preserves. It is our intention to “put up” as much food as we can this summer, as the future looks uncertain.

Right now, it is the lull before the storm, or more leisurely days before the garden comes in full force. Criss’ banties are multiplying day by day. One of the hens “stole her nest out” and was out of sight for days. She brought her babies in last week, and was hovering over her little ones when Criss found her.

She was sitting quietly on her chicks and he reached down to pick her up off the doodies. Without warning, she flew into a fury of ruffled feathers, claws and beak. She flogged him unmercifully until he retreated, and then she chased him halfway through the chicken lot. I don’t think we’ll have to worry about any varmint harming her babies.

Life in the country may be quiet, but it is seldom boring. With three great-grandchildren across the driveway, and two grandchildren in the edge of the garden, we are never lonely. Although they all have chores to do, they find plenty of time to play. There are lightning bugs to catch at dusk, snails and lizards to capture, and plenty of earthworms to collect.

Katie, one of the great-grands from Looneyville, especially likes to collect animal life. She has petted a box turtle, a snail and numerous worms this summer. We heard her the other day crooning a lullaby, and found her on the porch swing putting an earthworm to sleep.

Kids are funny, and certainly add spice to our lives. Crystal’s youngest daughter, Mylie, was helping her do laundry recently. She brought Crystal a load of dirty clothes with her daddy’s briefs included. “Mommy,” she said in horror, “I’ve touched my daddy’s underwear—now I’ll have to live with it the rest of my life!”

We have been building a fire under a big maple tree in our yard on cool nights (using a fire ring) and the children have enjoyed it immensely. We surround the fire with our chairs and benches, and roast marshmallows and talk. It is the best part of our day, and makes memories the youngsters will never forget.

Midsummer flowers are blooming now, in colors more brilliant than the springtime ones. Vivid orange butterfly weed vies with the orange day lilies, while the blue of the chicory weed blends in harmoniously. The day lilies are not only striking, but are also edible.

The buds can be steamed with butter, salt and pepper, and are very good, tasting a lot like green beans. So good in fact, that I once devoured about a pint of them. Too late I read that they have a laxative effect, especially if eaten in excess. I haven’t eaten many lately.

Along with the midsummer flowers, family reunions abound. This is one of the most satisfying events that a person can attend. Our roots grow deep in these hills, and families who are out of state long to come home. There is a definite pull to gather with the ones who still live in these hills, and the sense of kinship grows stronger as we meet together.

Cousins have a special bond, especially those who have grown up together. The family ties are almost as strong as those between siblings, and there is love and warmth when we gather again. We just enjoyed our annual Samples reunion a few days ago, and it was a pleasurable event. There is a sense of belonging in a close family, and we draw the ties of love a little tighter.

This is the time of year when housewives begin preserving and canning, and I have a seasonal recipe from Opal Atkins of St. Albans that sounds interesting. She found it in her mother’s recipe box, and has tried it herself.

 

PICKLED CRAB APPLES
4 quarts crab apples
2 cups vinegar
5 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tablespoon allspice

Cut blossom end off apples. Boil other ingredients 20 minutes. Add apples, a few at a time. Simmer until tender. Cover with syrup and seal. Makes about 6 pints.

Apples seem to be plentiful this year, except for those areas that suffered the large hail. We like to freeze the early varieties with the peeling left on, to fry for breakfast during the winter.

Here is another song that was requested recently by Roy Cool. The words were sent in by “Marbears” and Janet Tucker, who notes that this is a song from the early 1900s.

 

Everybody Works but Father
Every morning at six o’clock
I go to my work,
Overcoat buttoned up around my neck

 

No job would I shirk,
Winter wind blows ’round my head
Cutting up my face,
I tell you that I’d like to have
My dear old father’s place.

 

Chorus:
Everybody works but father
And he sits around all day,
Feet in front of the fire—
Smoking his pipe of clay,
Mother takes in the washing
So does sister Ann.
Everybody works at our house
But my old man.

 

A man named Work moved into town,
And father heard the news,
With Work so near, my father started
Shaking in his shoes.
When Mr. Work walked by the house
He saw with great surprise,
My father sitting in his chair
With blinders on his eyes.

 

Beating carpets father said
He simply was immense,
We took the parlor carpet out
And hung it on the fence,
My mother said, “Now beat it dear,
With all your might and main.”
And father beat it right back
To the fireside again.

The Waynedale News Staff

Alyce Faye Bragg

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