“Summer is gone,” say the Blue Asters by the roadside.
“Summer is gone,” say the Long Shadows at evening tide.
The crickets and the Katydids sang the whole night long.
They were singing together a farewell summer song.
The Sunflower knew what they said; was sad and hung her head.
“Without the flowers I shall surely die,”
The tiny Hummingbird was heard to sigh.
The Robin was sad because summer was gone,
He no longer sang his happy song.
“I shall go in search of Summer,” said he.
“And I will ask the other birds to go with me.”
In the Autumn’s balmy weather, the Robin called all the birds together.
He chose to use the old oak tree, where the meeting was to be.
Birds came from far and near, because they all wished to hear
What the robin had to say on that bright autumn day.
They took their places one by one; soon the meeting had begun.
Each bird spoke, what a chatter, when birds discuss a matter.
The Blackbird was first to the tree, for none loved a meeting more than he.
Preening his feathers, he waited, while the other birds congregated.
The Robin sat at the top of the tree, while words of wisdom spoke he.
The other birds nodding their head, all in agreement with what he said.
“You are right; you are right,” whistled the pretty Bobwhite.
“You can find Summer if you travel far, but I will stay where the farmers are.”
“I do not wish to go,” said the Crow, “but I think I can tell you which way to do.”
“There is a land of sunshine I’ve heard about; Summer will be there, no doubt.”
“I,” said the Blue Jay, “shall not go, I police the forest as you know.”
“I am needed the year around; I can find nuts and seeds on the ground.”
“I shall not go,” said the Chickadee, “I can feed on insects under the bark of a tree.”
“I,” said the Sparrow, “do not wish to roam; I have a warm nest and prefer to stay home.”
“I,” said the Wren, “wish to go, because I abhor ice and snow.”
“I wish to go,” said the Bobolink. “We can find Summer, I think.”
“I will fly far over the sea, to a place where Summer might be.”
“I,” said the Whippoorwill, “can show you the way, If you will travel by night instead of by day.”
The Starling spoke not a word; if he did, no one heard.
At last fly-away day had come;
The birds started on their journey when the day had begun.
Over the hills and meadow, higher and higher they flew,
Many little birds against the blue.
Farther they flew and farther still,
Until lost from sight where the sky meets the distant hill.
This poem was written by the late Artie Nettles McCoy, and was sent in by her daughter, Dalta Dixie Pauley. Mrs. McCoy was not only a poet, but also an artist and an author. It is appropriate for this time of year, when sunshine mellows the golden hills and the incredibly blue sky stretches to eternity.
I heard a weathercaster calling this our Indian summer. It may be, but it feels more like a few days of typical fall weather. Indian summer comes after a hard frost and freeze, and although we have had frost, it has not been a killing one. A killing frost turns all the flowers and vegetation black, and many of my flowers are still bravely blooming. Also, there is a smoky haze on the horizon in Indian summer. It would be wonderful to look forward to a spell of Indian summer yet to come.
It is pleasant to forage in the woods now, with the mild weather bringing out the fall mushrooms. Daughter Patty and husband Bob spotted a fresh Bearded Tooth mushroom in an oak tree a few days ago and brought it home. This is a delicious variety when sautéed in butter and garlic. The tooth mushrooms are particularly safe for the novice to gather, as no poisonous mushrooms look like them. Taylor brought me a handful of fresh meadow mushrooms, which I promptly cooked and devoured.
Matthew found a large Hen of the Woods mushroom last week, but unfortunately it was too far gone to be good. He also brought in a bag full of the sulfur shelf, or chicken mushroom that was past its prime. Both of these are choice mushrooms when picked fresh. Our autumn woods are full of good things to eat.
June Cox of Winifrede brought a basket crammed full of wild food delicacies to the Book Festival last week. I had no idea that autumn olive berries can be used in so many ways. In fact, I used to think these highly decorative berries were poisonous. Not only are they delicious, but they have up to 18 times as much lycopene as tomatoes contain.
The coon hunters brought these shrubs into our area in order to feed the wild animals, and they have spread like wildfire. This bush is native to China, Japan and Korea, and were introduced here to control erosion and as a wild life habitat. They are listed as an alien invasive species, and are hated by farmers.
However, these little berries are tart with a cranberry-like flavor, and can be used in so many ways. Mrs. Cox had included a jar of autumn olive jam, which was so good that I have eaten all of it. These berries can be eaten raw, made into fruit leather, jam and preserves. The juice can be distilled and made into wine (No, she didn’t bring me any wine.) I am grateful to her for introducing me to this versatile fruit.
J. D. Beam of Reno, Nevada, (formerly from WV) reflects on the fall season of his youth. “Fall was when we made apple butter, squirrel hunted and played football. (He had mentioned in an earlier e-mail of how they used black walnut hulls to blacken their cheeks to keep off the glare so they wouldn’t drop the ball.) My dad made a concoction of snake root and ginseng to ward off what evils winter would bring. It must have worked because he was healthy until he died.”
Speaking of apple butter, my cousin Tony gave me a recipe for the slow cooker type that was requested in an earlier column. If you have a crop of apples this year, then you are blessed. Apples didn’t “hit” here, possibly due to a late freeze that also killed the mast.
Here is Tony’s recipe:
Fill cooker with about 16 quarts of applesauce; turn heat to 225. Stir about every 15 minutes, and when it has boiled down to about two-thirds, add 10 pounds of sugar. Stir in two 11 oz. packages of cinnamon hot drops (candy)—this will make it thicken quicker. Stir frequently for seven or eight hours, and then turn the heat to 250. It will take approximately 12 hours to complete. The last hour, add two small bottles of cinnamon oil. Can in sterile jars.
Mom made apple butter in the oven in a heavy aluminum roaster, covered with foil. She put the sugar in the applesauce in the beginning, and added more applesauce as it boiled down. It had to be stirred every twenty minutes or so. The real old-timey stuff is still made in a copper kettle over an open fire. It is a day long family or community affair, and well laced with memories.
About all that is left of the garden is cabbage, so here is another pickled cabbage recipe.
Quarter cabbage and let it stand in salt water for 24 hours. Cook in clear water until you can pierce it with a straw. Mix one pound of brown sugar with two gallons of vinegar, one tablespoon mace or nutmeg, one tablespoon dry mustard, one tablespoon ginger, one tablespoon horseradish and one teaspoon turmeric. Let stand for 24 hours. Place cabbage in stone or glass jar, pour mixture over cabbage.
Ms. Profitt didn’t say, but I guess it is left in the stone jar and placed in the cellar.
(My new book, “Laughter from the Hills” can be ordered from West Virginia Book Company. Phone (304) 342-1848 for autographed copies. The price is $18.23 per copy, which includes postage and tax. I have all three books (“This Holler is my Home” and “Homesick for the Hills”) and can mail them out from my home, autographed as you wish. Write 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV, 25164 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)