Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Library phenomenon

Today I went to the library to check out (no pun intended) their movie selection. After about 10 or 15 minutes of browsing, I was hit with the urge that I will politely call the library phenomenon. This phenomenon is a very curious thing. 10 out of 10 times that I go to the library, just being there has a laxative effect on me- an effect that cannot be ignored and must be attended to. I know I am not the only person who experiences this phenomenon. I have informally interviewed enough of "the public" to be able to informally conclude that about 50% of Americans are effected in this way.
You may ask "why does this happen?"
I do not know.
But I have a theory that it is the psychic effect of being surrounded by so much information. The quantity of information sends a message of overload to our psychic sensors, which in turn accidentally (or not)sends a message of overload to our intestines. This is the moment which the urge to eliminate occurs.
You may think I am kidding.
I'm not.

Monday, October 20, 2008

9th Grade Prom 1962

My mom got this picture out to show me and graciously let me display it here. She is the one on the right with her first boyfriend, Ricky Gunder, in Dayton, Ohio. My mom didn't know why in the world I would want to post this picture on my blog. I just did- it seemed special. Love, Dana

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More on molasses (pictures)

Last Saturday was a big fish fry to celebrate the end of molasses making on Shelton Laurel. (See first story on molasses making). Lots of people from the community showed up. More molasses were made, and people had their camaras out, so naturally I felt comfortable to whip mine out and utilize it as well.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

They're getting close...(Molasses making in Shelton Laurel)

I went to a molasses making out Shelton Laurel on Monday. Two things I learned (other than how to make sorghum molasses) were that 1)according to expert mountain molasses makers out on Shelton Laurel, the word molasses is always plural, and 2)sometimes it is really worth it to stick something out to the end, even if I am tired.
I showed up at 3:00 in the afternoon to a molasses making shed behind the Church of God on Shelton Laurel. I knew it was the right place because I could see the smoke from the fire and the steam rising from the box of boiling sorghum juice. There were a dozen or so people there, some standing or sitting around, and some actively doing something. This would be the case for the next 8 hours, people casually coming and going, helping at times, hanging around shooting the breeze at times, and just sitting around at times. It was my neighbor, "S's" turn to make his molasses, and he had said I could come help if I wanted.
Some background. Apparently, for I don't know how long, people in the Shelton Laurel community have been somewhat communally growing sorghum and making molasses. Families grow their own patches of sorghum and are responsible for the raising of their crops, but a lot of them grow in the same field, and they do things on the same schedule (row hoeing day, etc.) and they save and use the same seed year after year. Come fall, everyone harvests their sorghum, and each family fodders their own crop. This is stripping all the leaves and ending up with bare canes. Then comes the truly communal part. For about 2 weeks, molasses are being cooked pretty much every day, and everyone helps each other with the process. So for example, Monday was "S's" day to cook, but a lot of other people were there helping, even though all the molasses went to "S" because they were cooked from his canes. And in turn "S" was helping with the cooking on days other than his own. I guess, whenever you can show up and help during cooking season, you do.
So I showed up when "S's" canes were being pressed. The canes were being fed through these huge metal wheels with teeth that were turned by a motor (turned by mules in the old days). I started helping with that. At first no one really talked to me much; everyone was doing something, and they all knew each other. After I helped for a while, a couple people talked to me.
70 gallons of neon green juice were pressed from "S's" sorghum cane- enough to make a "box." The "box" is a large metal lined box that the molasses cooks down in. The neon juice (which was already sweet in its own right) was siphoned through 2 filters (burlap sack and cotton sack) into the box, and then the box was carefully lifted by its cleverly constructed handles and set onto the cooking chamber (a concrete pit dug out so the box fits exactly on it.) A fire was built with pine, to burn hot, under the box, and the cooking began.
People settled into folding chairs around the box and started hanging out. Some people held long handled tools- a fanner, a couple of dippers, and a couple skimmers were present. Everytime the neon juice threatened to boil over, people kicked into gear, fanning the stuff and dipping and pouring it over itself to cool off quickly. It always worked. As green scummy stuff boiled to the top, it was constantly skimmed off and dumped into a bucket. This process lasted about 6 hours. People came and went- the core group just hung out, shooting the shit, joking around, and working the molasses. Most of the joking was G rater, but as the evening progressed, there were a couple of seedy joke sessions that really got people howling. Everyone seemed to know each other well, and there were different generations represented.
I came and went- picking up cookies and chicken pot pie for "S," who was in charge of feeding all the helpers. I also had to do some farm chores for the Mechos, who were out of town. I accidentally left my car lights on while I was doing the chores, and I got a dead battery. That was stupid. And it took a while to resolve it. Kind neighbor, G, came up and gave me a jump.
Sitting around while it was getting dark waiting for a jump start, I lost my steam for the molasses making. I didn't want to go back, and to be honest, the only reason I did was because I had told "S" I would "be right back." So I went back, but I wasn't planning to stay. But I got there and someone said "You came back!" and I was a sucker for acknowledgement and feeling like I was a part of something and I stayed. It was smart.
The end was the most interesting. People were tired and humor was less filtered. People even joked with me, the newcomer. I felt it appropriate, since it was clear that all molasses were plural, if a singular one was a "molass." That got some chuckles.
My favorite part was the end of the cooking, when one of the older men took the "judge's seat." Everyone all of a sudden was on alert because it was almost done. No one wanted those molasses to burn. The judge took his job very seriously. He took a wooden spatula and scraped the bottom to see if they were sticking. Then he drizzled (for you RM) some molasses down to observe consistency. Finally he and the other old men stuck their faces real close and watched the quality of the bubbles. "When they look like big craters on the moon they're ready." Finally it was determined the molasses were ready, and the box was removed from the fire.
The rest was interesting too. The women were suddenly all bustling a shit ton of glass quart jars around, organizing them on a wooden plank that was set over the smouldering coals- so the jars would get hot and not crack when the hot molasses got poured in. The men siphoned the molasses into a beer keg, and the judge methodically filled and capped all 50+ quart jars that were handed to him by everyone else. This took a while- 2 lids exploded off and there was a molasses mess. But it was OK. The younguns (and some of us olderuns) took plastic spoons and ate the residual molasses out of the box. We cleaned up and left at 11:05. By the end of the night, people were calling me by name and inviting me to come back. It was fun. And "S" generously shared some of his molasses with me for helping.
I hope you liked my account. I really wanted to take some pictures, but I didn't want to be the new person no one knew who was taking a bunch of pictures. I hate it when people do that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fall garden picture display (inspired by Beth Trigg's- Milkweed Diaries)

dahlia (don't know variety)

Don Juan climbing rose (kicks out flowers spring through late fall!)

dahlia (don't know variety)

Manihot hibiscus

raspberries from the Madison County Agriculture Extension (good deal!)