September is ready to enter our hills with the ragged edge of her petticoat showing. The underbrush is beginning to turn red at the sight, and the leaves on the trees hang limp and dispirited. The heads of the Joe-Pye weed are hanging down low as if mourning summer's departure.
The early morning concert of the songbirds is fading away, with one lone bird raising its voice in melody this morning. A few hummingbirds are still hanging around, but they too will soon heed the call of the southern climes. Another season will soon be folded up and put away, to make room for the coming autumn.
Gardens have a dry, bedraggled look, with the last few scrappy vegetables languishing among the dry weeds. I've always liked to harvest the last of the garden, meandering through the tangled vines and rescuing a few tomatoes here, some sweet peppers there, and the last of the green beans.
One of our late beloved neighbors, Mrs. Hester Everson, used to make a relish that she called "The Tail End of the Garden." She would chop up the late vegetables (cabbage, peppers, cucumbers -- whatever was left) and can it in a sweet pickle vinegar brine. It was lovely with the winter fare of brown beans, etc.
The only thing I have not found in the garden this year is ground cherries. These come up as weeds, and Daddy always left them, as I loved to pick them. They are a yellow, gooseberry-like fruit inside a papery husk. They can be used to make pies, preserves and other things. I like to eat them just as they are.
Turnips and greens are coming up now, so the garden is not completely bare. Apples are ripe and ready for canning or freezing, so the housewives' work is not finished yet. It will soon be time to make apple butter to slather on hot biscuits this winter. The hills always have something good to offer.
Darlena Paxton sent in a request for sauerkraut made without a crock. There are several variations in making sauerkraut in quart jars, although they are similar. They all consist of packing shredded cabbage tightly in the jar, adding two teaspoons of canning salt to a quart, and filling the jar with water. Put the lids on loosely, place on newspapers (the sauerkraut will "work") and leave until the desired degree of fermentation is completed. The jars can be placed in a hot water bath for about 20 minutes.
Some recipes call for a teaspoon of sugar to be added with the salt, and other recipes call for a teaspoon of vinegar. My sister-in-law Ruth fills the jars with hot water, and she makes beautiful white kraut. I've always made it in a stone churn or jar (just like my mother did!). We have to pass the old ways down or else they will be lost.
Jean Allen writes that her mother craved pickled beans while she was carrying Jean, and she was born loving them. Her grandmother put a pickled bean to her lips when she was just an infant, and she sucked it. Mom told me that Daddy had a big patch of watermelons when she was pregnant with me, and how she craved one. Daddy told her that they weren't ripe. After I was born at home (with Grandma O'Dell as midwife) Daddy had cut watermelons and had them draped on the table, piano, side table and elsewhere. I can't get enough watermelon!
It's curious how a mother's cravings are transferred to the baby, and how something that makes you nauseous hangs on forever. When I was carrying Patty, Daddy brought me a zinc water bucket full of huckleberries to clean and stem. I was sitting in the yard, and the longer I worked in them, the sicker I got. Finally I ended up stretched out in the yard. To this day, I don't like huckleberries or blueberries. I don't know if Patty does or not.
There are a lot of compensations in growing older. I am out of the child-bearing business for good, young men open doors for "that little old woman with a cane" and you can get by with saying outrageous things because you are "old!" The good Lord knew what He was doing when He advised (through Timothy) "I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully." (1Timothy 5:14) It's a good thing we don't bear children when we are old -- we'd forget where we put them!
Titus had advice for us older women also, "The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things, That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." Titus 2:3-5. The Bible has a pattern for every age group.
Down our winding country roads, across the high ridges and through narrow hollows, the big yellow school buses made their rounds this past week. It brought back memories of a scrawny-legged girl, with gentian violet tincture covering her fall sores, starting to grade school. It was 72 years ago that I started in the first grade. Our 46th Hagar School reunion will be held today. We are getting fewer and fewer. We are in the late autumn of our life.
Here's a poem that will never grow old --
By Helen Hunt Jackson
The goldenrod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.