NEWS FROM THE HILLS

Alyce Faye Bragg Yellow leaves are falling in the slow-moving creek while yellow-eyed wild asters peer over the bank as if watching them float lazily along. Their long blue eyelashes reflect the blue of October’s sky, while the golden rays of the sun fall upon the autumn scene. Although the foliage has not reached its peak of color, it is slowly changing, day by day. West Virginia is beautiful in any season, but October brings out the ultimate in beauty. No wonder it inspires us to wax poetic this time of year. I found a poem in my file that was sent some time ago, and it aptly describes this season.

 THE ARTIST

By Clarke Blankenship

 

It’s early October, and oh, how I yearn,

To be home in the mountains, and watch the leaves turn.

To see the great beauty that God paints in the fall,

And give praise to the Artist—the greatest of all.

 

No artist can capture what I see with my eyes,

All the different colors against blue mountain skies

And the clean little streams, so sparkly and clear,

Yet God paints this masterpiece, year after year.

 

I want to applaud His great work, as I take it all in,

And give thanks to God that I saw it again.

Because all this great beauty will soon rot in the earth,

To enrich the soil where new trees will birth.

 

But if God gives such beauty for the whole world to see,

Just think of how beautiful His heaven must be!

And while the beauty of this season is not here to stay,

The beauty of heaven—will not fade away!

 

These days were meant to be enjoyed. Criss and I went to Roane County to our son Kevin’s farm, with the intention of gathering some black walnuts. It was a tranquil autumn day, mild and sunny. We went back on the hill to the meadow, where a big walnut tree grew right beside the road.

We took Minnie and Criss’ squirrel pup, Scamper, so that they could roam about the woods and sniff after wildlife.  The walnuts had fallen in the road, and we soon had our sack full. Criss wanted to take Scamp on around to the woods to see if they could scout out a squirrel. Of course, Minnie went along too.

I walked along the edge of the meadow where the hill sloped to the line of trees, and there beside the path were growing two of the biggest persimmon trees that I’ve ever seen. The underbrush and weeds were trampled down (by deer or cows, maybe both) in their search for ripe persimmons.

I was always under the impression that persimmons had to be touched by frost to make them sweet enough to eat. There was a handful that the deer had missed, which were soft. They were sweet and delicious. The trees were studded by the pink fruit, and hopefully, we can make another trip up there.

High up on the edge of the meadow, away from any vestige of civilization, it was solitary and peaceful. The only sounds were the raucous call of a crow and the twitter of song birds high up in the trees. Wild white asters gave off their honeyed fragrance, and short bunches of the blue flower we once called blue gentian were growing along the path.

On the opposite hill, red and orange maple trees stood out among the green pines. A wayward breeze ruffled the leaves overhead and I thought “God’s in His heaven; all’s right with the world.” Perhaps it is not all right with mankind in general, but all is right in His world.

No wonder my father used to steal out in the woods to pray. He called his spot down in the woods his “little patch of red brush,” and many times we could hear him praying there. I wonder if prayers ever die, or do they continue to surround the ones you pray for in a never-ending circle? I would like to think that his prayers go on and on. I hope my prayers will follow my children.

We have a couple of requests this week. The first is from Kay Lyons of Glen, who wants instructions to make crockpot apple butter. I found several recipes and suggestions as to the type of apple that is best. Jonathans were named, as well as Winesaps and Granny Smiths. Our neighbor Opal always waited for the Grimes’ Golden to ripen.

Mom made apple butter in the oven, as she had never heard of a crockpot. She would cook the apples (unpeeled) and run them through a colander before she started. She used a heavy roaster, and put sugar in (about a third as much as the apples) and cooked it in a low oven or hours. She covered the roaster with aluminum foil, and stirred it every 20-30 minutes. She would add more apples and sugar as it boiled down, so that when it was finished, she had a roaster full. When it reached the desired brownness, she added oil of cinnamon to taste.

I found several recipes, and most of them called for peeled apples, sliced thin. They were placed right in the crockpot with the other ingredients and cooked for hours. There was one simple recipe that sounded good.

 

Crock Pot Apple Butter

1 cup apple juice

8 cups applesauce

4 1/2 cups sugar

2 t. ground cinnamon

½ t. cloves

1 t. allspice

Combine all. Pour in crockpot; cook 5 hours on low with lid on. Then cook 6-8 hours on high with lid off. Put in containers and freeze.

(I still like oil of cinnamon with its hot, spicy flavor.)

Denise Reed of Hico wants to know how to keep an iron skillet from sticking. We used to put our iron skillets in the campfire when we were camping out, to burn off the black residue. My daughter tried this with an aluminum skillet once, and it promptly melted. I know that you are supposed to season an iron skillet by rubbing solid shortening all over it, and putting it in a low oven for a certain period. Mine still sticks sometimes. Anyone have a suggestion?

One lonely cricket chirps outside my window, as if mourning the demise of summer. The weatherman is forecasting colder weather, and he must know his days are numbered. And so are ours.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer