Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Fair Time

Fall is upon us and that brings the county fair.  Our local fair is put on by the Kiwanis Club and the proceeds benefit local charities.  In our area it's a pretty big deal!  Not only for the folks who enjoy the event, but for the deserving organizations who benefit in a time where many are finding it difficult to continue offering the level of service that our community needs.

My job at the fair is syrup making.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, I'm being toutered by an older gentleman so that this tradition can live on.  We spent this week taking care of the last minute setup so that we're ready to go when the gates open.  I'm looking forward to the week.  I'll be working with two fellows, both northward of 80, who have probably forgotten more that I'll ever know.

This week will be taxing on mamma bear as she'll be home alone with the kids every night.  (Shoutout MB!  Love you!)  I pray that God blesses her with patience and strength to get through the week.  I'll spend some time today getting some quick fix meals ready for them so that she won't have to worry about that.  I hope to be able to take a little break during the week to get my oldest out and walk him around to see the livestock and maybe get on a ride or two.

Dad got his hands on a old Farmall Cub last week.  It had not been cranked in a few years and it looked pretty rough.  The original plan was to part it out and make a few bucks.  After a little tinkering and some cleanup we found that it runs almost better than another Cub that we've been using regularly over the past year.  What makes this one neat is that it has not been outfitted with a modern electrical system like many others have.  It does however, still have the original magneto.  What this means is that we don't have to have a battery or modern generator to crank and run it.  We tested it with a hand crank and it fired up after only three turns.  I'm really really looking forward to playing with this one.

I plan to post some pictures from the fair during the week.  That idea was inspired from another blog that I read from someone who posts interesting photos when battling a writers block.  I've been having huge block as of late.  Mind cluttered, having a tough time coming up with material.  Maybe this is the week i can get out of the funk.  Maybe I'll take a note pad along and jot down some ideas.

Ya'll take it easy.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

I've often thought what it might have been like to have lived the prime of my life 50 or even 100 years ago.  When folks today talk about their skill/trade/job it's much different that I think it would have been then.  Seems to me that for a majority of people during that time their "job" was staying alive.  Any skills possessed were directly related to that.  Here I sit today and what skill do I have?  I'm a PR man, lol.  In the simplest of terms, I write and talk for a living.  Man would I have been screwed back then or what?

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,