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October brings new color to the woods

"Fog on the hill brings water to the mill" -- a favorite saying of my mother's that has proved true many times. A misty white shroud enfolds Pilot Knob, with tendrils of fog spiraling skyward. A slow, drizzly rain is falling still on our hills, and the plump laying hens are out in the yard, scratching industriously. When chickens stay out in the rain you can be sure it is an all-day affair.

Granddaughter Alyssa, attending college in North Carolina, remarks that it is a dreary day. I told her that it is a day to light candles and bake a cake. I am grateful for every day that God gives us. Jerry Stover reminded me to read Psalms 103, which I have read many times and it always inspires me to praise the Lord for all His blessings. Today, something else caught my attention: "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's" (verse 5).

I don't expect the Lord to renew my body, but He can (and does) renew that youthful enthusiasm and zest for life. I have met many older people (well, older than I am, anyway) who have such a youthful outlook on life that it invigorates those they meet. I hope I never turn into one of those old women who have such a disagreeable and pessimistic view of life that it drags a person down just to be around them.

Each day is a new adventure! It seems that I have always (well, most of the time!) got up each morning wondering what good thing will happen today. Yes, I know -- everything that transpires through the day is not always good, but keep looking for the good anyway. Bad things have a way of working out, and many times God uses these things for our good. Sometimes I have to remember Mom's motto, "This, too, shall pass."

October is embellishing the woods with fine gold, while the underbrush is turning crimson with sourwood and dogwood. Scarlet dogwood berries decorate the bushes, and sumac trees turn reddish-brown. Their berries are edible, and Euell Gibbons recommends using this red fruit to make a substitute lemonade. I know the berries are tart, as we chewed them when we were kids sampling everything in the woods. Poison sumac has a white berry, so you can't confuse the two.

Fall mushrooms are appearing now, with the meadow mushroom tender and tasty. They are the little white ones (the button stage resembles store-bought mushrooms) with pink gills. They are so good sautéed in butter, and can be used in different recipes. My sister Mary Ellen made a casserole using these. There are plenty of puffball mushrooms, and some of them are quite large.

These have to be used while they are young, as they turn yellow and disagreeable with age. When sliced open, they resemble yeast bread. I've always dipped them in egg-milk mixture, and then in flour. Fried brown in hot oil, they are good. Son-in-law Randy (I hate ex!) says he has found a volume of them in New York. He has been peeling them, cutting them in strips, and sautéing them in oil or butter. With sumac berry lemonade, and fried mushrooms, we could almost live off the land!

October is such a rewarding time here in the hills. We received a letter from Virgil Wayne concerning goldenrod, and it is quite interesting. He is an 85-year old beekeeper who informs us about the part that goldenrod plays in the production of honey. He says that goldenrod makes it possible for our honeybees to survive the winter here.

He continues, "In some areas the honeybees have a hard time as our mountains have been cut so close that we have few basswood (linden) trees left. Goldenrod makes the difference. The honeybee is the most awesome creature that God ever made. I was out watching my bees a day or so ago, and the little worker bees were coming in with their legs so loaded they could hardly make the landing board. Their legs were golden with goldenrod pollen."

The wild asters are now blooming, and I've always thought that the white ones smelled like honey. I wonder if honeybees work on them? We keep a couple of hives of honeybees mostly for pollinating the garden, but the honey is an added bonus.

Marilene Bibb wants to know a good way to harvest chinquapins. I hadn't heard of these nuts for years. Daddy used to have relatives at Blue Jay (Fayette County?) that we visited occasionally. There were chinquapins growing there, and I remember the gougy burrs and tail on the hull. I thought they were like our hazel nuts, but I discovered that they are a shrubby chestnut of the beech family.

Marilene said she tried to peel one with a knife, but knows there must be a better way. They don't grow around here, but I do remember that they were a sweet, delicious nut. It will soon be time to harvest our own black walnuts and hickory nuts. Sometimes a person is lucky enough to find a thin-hulled hickory nut that resembles a pecan. They are unsurpassed for candy and cookie making. Andy has a butternut (or white walnut) growing in his yard.

These nuts are quite oily, and have to be harvested quickly after maturing, as they soon become rancid. They are good for baking also. American Indians made them into oil for many uses, including ceremonial anointing of the head. I think I'd rather use ours for baking.

We have some requests for recipes this week. Ray McCune of Fort Wayne, Ind., is looking for a salt risin' bread recipe that doesn't use potatoes. He says that it contains cornmeal, salt, and an egg. Anyone have it? By the way, I have a couple of salt rising bread recipes that are lengthy, but if anyone wants one, I will mail it. This last one is from Betty Banks of Charleston.

Rene Fletch wants a good recipe for stuffed sweet peppers, and Betty Mace of St. Albans is looking for a recipe for Whoopie Pies. And... a big "thank you" to Arianna Merchant of Frontier who made my day!

May God bless my readers.

Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at alycefaye@citlink.net or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.


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