In my quest to "Back 'er Down" I've taken on the task of trying to learn skills that are dying out. Gardening, mechanics, carpentry, etc. A part of that is my volunteer work with my local Kiwanis Club for the county fair. I'm learning the ropes of cooking syrup. My teacher is a "retired" 80+ year old farmer. I had the opportunity recently to ride around with him, gather wood and visit a sugar cane patch as we prepare for the upcoming fair. He's farmed, sold equipment, collected debt, served on the county commission, been a father, husband, grandfather and now great grandfather. I believe that this man has forgotten more than I'll ever know.
The stories that he has shared are nothing short of amazing. Just the tidbits as it relates to cooking syrup are fascinating to me. For those that aren't aware of this time honored tradition, here is a Reader's Digest version: You harvest sugar cane stalks, squeeze the juice from it, and boil the juice in huge cast iron pot (ours is 60 gallons) until the majority of the water is cooked out. The remaining part is pure sugar cane syrup. It's done with no electronics, no fancy tools and the heat source is a wood fire inside a brick furnace. (I'm told that this is similar to how northerners do it via maple trees, but I'm not sure. If anyone north of the mason-dixon are reading, holler at me.)
On our trip we visited with the farmer from which we get our sugar cane each year. That cat is 90. Yes, 90! He gets around better than a lot of folks half his age. He showed us around the fields, (he also plants several gardens and farms peanuts) showed us his syrup setup and even walked us through a miniature citrus grove. (Hell, I didn't even know you could grow oranges in Georgia) The shed where his syrup boiler is was of course not ready to be used for that task, so his furnace was covered up with gallon glass jars of wine....which he makes himself....from grapes that he grows. He took a lid off so that I could see the juice "working down." Seriously, this man is an American Treasure.
I rely on my father for many of the same lessons and nuggets of information. It seems like every time I ask a question he not only has an answer.....he has experienced it. The sad part is that men like this are getting old. They're not going to be around forever. They are literally walking, talking encyclopedias that we often discount as "stuck in the past." We treat them as a novelty rather than a tool or a reference.
I often think about what would happen if things got really bad in our country. What if we experienced something like the Great Depression now? I fear that we would be royally screwed. I challenge anyone that reads this (all 4 of you) to learn a skill that is becoming a lost art. It might be something as simple as changing your own oil, cutting hair or canning vegetables. If we don't do it, we're literally 15-20 years away from losing this knowledge forever.
I'll never end on a somber note.........We've been attending a great church lately. Lots of familiar faces and involvement in the community in which we work and live. There are lots of young people there too! What a blessing that is. I'm looking forward to seeing what God has in store for our family.
Ya'll take it easy,