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ALYCE FAYE BRAGG“Bare branches of each tree
on this chilly January morn
look so cold and forlorn.
Gray skies dip ever so low
left from yesterday’s dusting of snow,
Yet in the heart of each tree
waiting for each who wait to see,
new life as warm sun and breeze will blow,
like magic, unlock spring’s sap to flow,
buds, new leaves, then blooms will grow.”
By Nelda Hartman

The days that stretch between the beginning of the new year and springtime seem cold and long. When we were youngsters and grew weary of long winter days, Daddy would encourage us. I can hear his voice even now intoning the magic formula he repeated each winter, “Pretty soon the earth will get warm again, the sun will shine, the grass will grow, you can go barefoot, the tomatoes will get ripe . . .”

We hung onto every word, seeing in our minds the earth come to life again and hours of playing in the sun. We could see flowers blooming again in the yard, and green, velvety grass tickling our bare toes. The creek, instead of being frozen over in ice, would be warm and sparkling in the sun, enticing us to catch the darting minnows that swam in it.

As grown-ups, we are prone to encouraging ourselves in practically the same way. We anticipate mushroom (morel) season which occurs early in the spring, camping season, trout season, and of course, ramps. Winter has to come and go before we can enjoy these things. There is always something good to anticipate.
In looking back at the past year, we have all had experiences that we don’t want to repeat. We received a letter from Jack Clark of Cleveland, TN that could be filed under, “Things That I’ll Never Do Again.” There’s nothing like experience to teach you a lesson.

Jack writes, “I became aware a few years ago that the three ‘japonica’ bushes in our back yard were actually fruit-bearing shrubs. Late in the fall, they would produce a number of small, green, hard, very sour apple-like fruits. I researched them and discovered they were ‘quince.’

‘”I found that were used in making jelly, and not one to let anything go to waste, I ‘googled’ a recipe for making quince jelly. There was also that satisfying urge of going back and doing things like they did in Grandma’s day.

“One fall morning last year, I gathered my canning equipment, enlisted the help of my good wife, Midge, and began the process of making quince jelly. As well as I remember, the entire crop consisted of 18 quinces. We spent an hour or so washing, peeling, slicing; then we measured the proper amount of water and began the boiling process. Sugar was added, and the finished product was put in the prepared jars.

“The entire operation had consumed the better part of six hours. On top of that, I had dirtied enough of Midge’s utensils that the cleanup took nearly another hour. Putting the kitchen back in shape took a little longer.

“Bottom line—after more than seven hours work for the two of us, our quince crop yielded one and one-half pints of genuine quince jelly. All things considered (the man/woman hours, sugar, jars, lids and electric power) I figured the production cost and came up with 24 ounces of jelly at $7.25 per ounce. That would make the price of a pint at $116. Cracker Barrel wasn’t interested. Midge is not talking.”
We had some good responses to last week’s column about “the best time of our lives.” Casey Stribling (Bicycle Bill Currey’s sister) wrote about a favorite time in her life. She began, “When Bill got out of the Navy, he bought a lot on Coal River so he could go swimming without having to ask anyone. I fell in love with his lot, and decided then that I would have to marry him and get out of the housing development in Charleston.

“A dream come true! The only problem was that he was a car mechanic and made very little money. I was working at the telephone company, but we soon had a baby and Bill did not want me to go back to work. We built a garage house (12X26) and lived in it for four years.

“‘The land was just being developed, and we had no gas or water, but we were young and loved clearing the land. I washed baby diapers in the river, and carried drinking water in jugs from anyone who would give us water. Bill’s mother told us, ‘You children will never be happier than you are right here and now.’ She was right!

“Oh, how good the Lord has been to us! We have used the river front for picnics for 61 years. Other churches and clubs, as well as friends and families have used it too. God just keeps giving and giving to me!”

The recurring theme in stories such as these is this: it doesn’t take money or fine material possessions to make a person happy. Happy memories are made when God blesses the love between husband and wife.

This winter weather calls for hearty soups and stews, and we received a recipe from Betty Patton. It was sent to “Taste of Home” by Sheena Wellard and I am anxious it try it. The recipe is called “anything goes” because you can add or take out a variety of ingredients and the soup turns out absolutely delicious.

1 lb. bulk pork sausage
4 cups water
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (undiluted)
1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup (undiluted)
5 medium red potatoes (chopped)
4 cups chopped cabbage
3 large carrots, thinly sliced
4 celery ribs (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
1 medium zucchini (chopped)
5 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
1 can evaporated milk

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Transfer to a six-quart slow cooker. Stir in water and soups until blended. Add the vegetables, bouillon cubes, parsley, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours, or until vegetables are tender. Stir in milk and cook 30 minutes longer. Yield: about four quarts.

The recipe is called “anything goes” because you can add or omit a variety of ingredients, and the soup still turns out absolutely delicious.

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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