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Posts Tagged ‘The Wiregrass’

The days have been busy, but blissfully sunny and cool…practically a miracle in the Wiregrass. The Bean Tipi is coming along nicely. Gardening began in the kitchen on Saturday evening, with the pole beans soaking in warm water.

Bean Bean 2

Come Sunday, Panthy soaked the peat pellets in a pie plate, (Say that three times fast!) before pressing a handy chopstick into service, poking holes so the beans could nestle cozily in a warm dark cocoon.

Poking Holes

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The faceted glass in the door created a flickering mosaic. Twinkling sparks of deep red danced against the golden-green of late Winter.  Miss Hickory allowed the door to ease open, moving slowly and carefully, but as her nut-brown head peered around the jamb, the sparks surged upward and away, settling in the gardens of other, less curious, neighbors.

It was the annual Robin migration! The Wiregrass was a pleasant and necessary stopping point on the journey and one of the highlights of the season for Miss Hickory.

Hundreds of red-breasted robins traveled across the lawns of the neighborhood, cheering the gloomy February day.  The early morning rain had softened the ground, urging delicious insects to the surface and into hungry beaks.  It was a comic dance: black heads bobbing earthward followed by a hippity-hop. As the corps de ballet fluttered across the stage, Miss Hickory felt a chuckle rising from deep in her wooden body.  Her hand covered her painted smile, letting no sound escape that might disturb the robins feeding heavily to power their migration.

The robins were alert and cautious, despite their enthusiasm for dining.  One fellow stood for a moment as Crossing Guard, taking his place at the corner as if waiting for a torrent of school children to demand passage, his shiny black eyes watching vigilantly for oncoming traffic.

Miss Hickory and the Clockwork Robin

Miss H. invited the Clockwork Robin, whom, most days, perched on a high shelf in the sewing room, out in the garden to spend time in the company of his fellows.  He liked Miss Hickory, who was always glad to hear his tinny song, and the two sat in the crape myrtle together, quietly enjoying the antics of the flock, grateful for the annual performance.

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Peas, peas, peas, peas

Eating goober peas

Goodness, how delicious,

Eating goober peas

~Traditional folk song

     On a day as golden as the cane juice bubbling in the syrup shed, Hedydd joined her community at the annual Wiregrass Heritage Festival, Landmark Park, Dothan, Alabama. There was a Quilt Show, an antique tractor parade, butter-churning, basket-weaving and a host of activities celebrating traditional farm life in this corner of the Deep South.

     The peanut harvest  has begun in earnest in The Wiregrass. Many farmers and their families have taken time away from their fields to volunteer at the Festival, teaching young and old alike about “goober peas” – peanuts!

Fresh from the ground, peanut plants are stacked around a pole, ready to dry in the warm Wiregrass sun.
Fresh from the ground, peanut plants are stacked around a pole, ready to dry in the warm Wiregrass sun.
The rust-red thresher was ready to spring into action.

The vintage rust-red thresher was ready to spring into action.

Released from the foliage, peanuts slide down the chute.

Shaken from the foliage, dried peanuts slide down the chute.

The chaff flies away and the foliage is baled for mulch and animal feed.

The chaff is blown away and the foliage is baled for mulch and animal feed.

Goodness, how delicious!

Goodness, how delicious!

Mr. Ed’s “Chinese” Boiled Peanuts

     Hot boiled peanuts are a Southern culinary tradition. Here is our own favorite recipe.

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. raw peanuts
  • 1/3 – 1/2 bottle of McCormick Chinese Five Spice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon coarse salt

Place raw peanuts, Chinese Five Spice and salt into a large pot.  Add water to cover peanuts by a depth of two inches.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. Check your peanuts for your preferred tenderness. We like them firm, not mushy. Allow the peanuts to cool in the pot. Drain and serve immediately. Boiled peanuts may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days in a tightly sealed bag.

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A little story about abundance and sacrifice.

Sisters in the Shell

Autumn arrived late and lingered long in Alabama.  It was one of the loveliest seasons Miss Hickory could recall.  The leaves on the trees remained golden and fiery, even deep into December.

The pecan harvest in the Wiregrass was rich indeed this Autumn.  The weather proved perfect for the ripening of the striated nuts and a boon for the harvesters.  Sleepy downtowns were transformed into instant and thriving nut exchanges as the price of pecans skyrocketed. Local folk could be seen waiting in the mellow Southern sunshine with buckets and buckets heaped high with pecans, anxious to have the nuts weighed, the pounds tallied and the coins in their hands.

All, of course, was not entirely well…there were unscrupulous nut-bandits given to harvesting where they had neither planted or tended – and they had not even a bushy tail as an excuse for their wretched thievery.  Eschewing even stealth, nut-nappers would march boldly onto another person’s property, buckets or bags in hand, to scoop up pecans and claim the riches for themselves.

(Update January 21, 2012: Although unfortunate, Miss Hickory was gratified to know that even beyond The Wiregrass, others were dealing with perfidious pecan pilfering…www.npr.org/2012/01/21/145511786/farmers-arm-themselves-against-pecan-thieves)

However, in Miss Hickory’s little corner of the Wiregrass, there were plenty of nuts to share with friends. The squirrels have their pick, naturally, because their business is to create more pecan trees by foolishly forgetting where they have hidden their Winter’s meals.  The Doggery enjoys everything about Pecan Season.  The Basset of Doom taught her companions how to crack pecans and winkle out the meats.  Not only does she enjoy the tasty treats, but barks uproariously at the side-show that follows when her Mistress and Master climb out of bed in the dark, feet finding the sharp shards of shells.

Pecans have been sent across the country to friends and relations for use during the Holiday.  This year, however, the nuts first went to…THE CRACKER.  Entirely new to her, Miss Hickory did not care for this part of the season.  Seeing large brown sackfuls of potential sisters waiting helplessly to be emptied into the maw of a great machine, skittering down a chute and, one by one, receiving a sharp blow to their nutty-noggins made her twigs quiver.  It seemed to her an entirely impersonal and tortuous ritual, this mechanized skull-bashing.

Being a practical sort, though, Miss Hickory tried to think of it all as being part of the Great Circle.  Death to one nut being life to many…food for squirrels, shelter for birds, amusement for the Doggery, pies for the Holiday.

Miss Hickory paused for a moment today to have her picture made with her Sisters in the Shell and to wish you all the very best of this Most Blessed Season.

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Teddy Bear yates- the quiet life of a companion teddybear

The quiet life of a companion teddybear

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