"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

September 7, 2013

Country Auctions & Other Musings

My son Eli at the Highway 127 Yard Sale in 2009. We love to "troll" together.
Today I went to a country auction in King's Mountain, Kentucky and didn't spend a dime. But it was worth going just to see everything, to observe the (rather small) crowd, and to head off ridge by myself to do errands, have lunch and borrow some free WiFi. The highlight for me was hearing our Old Order Mennonite friend Paul doing the auction and holding up a pseudo-bronze wall plaque. "It's of some people having supper!" There were a few chuckles from the crowd as it was a bad copy of Leonardo DaVinci's "Last Supper"––you have to really appreciate the lack of worldliness in their culture, especially in the crazy, instant world we live in today. It made me smile.

There were other things, too, but nothing I absolutely needed. One intriguing lot was a grouping of old photographs of people in the mid-late 19th century. I asked the former owner's daughter if she knew who they were. "No, they were relatives of my step-grandmother." The photos were marked with a Louisville, Kentucky studio and the groupings were typical of the period. It always makes me sad when I see old photographs of people in antique shops or at auction. They are the last vestiges of a life and when someone casts them away it usually means they are no longer remembered or known by any living person.

On Labor Day we were invited to a picnic on the ridge—a time of year that people often have family reunions down here. There is a saying in the South that I have found quite true: "God, Guns & Ground." To that I would add "Clan" as family is as important as church here and usually families stay together or at least nearby in Kentucky (and it's a given that almost everyone is related to someone in a small region or on a ridge so you always have to be mindful of that!). Two daughters and their families, and their younger brother—just married—and his new wife, all live on adjacent parcels of the original “homeplace” where their parents still farm. So there they are, altogether: family and neighbors through thick and thin, and they even garden together. It made me sad because that is what we always wanted for our (former) family farm in New England. It was great to be included in their gathering but there was this persistent longing for what will never be in my own family of origin—two (nuclear) parents and their children, and spouses and grandchildren, all gathered around. I hope, at least, to create that kind of matriarchy for my own family while honoring my ancestors with them. It is the least I can do—but also the most I can do—for my own clan. I never want to preside over a fractured matriarchy and neither will I ever allow my children to be separate from each other: I will get them home to sort things out if there is any discord between them. Period. And if I should ever be widowed, there is no way in hell that I will ever let another man come between me and my time with my children and grandchildren. PERIOD!

I do miss blogging but it is so difficult and slow on my ancient (c. 2004-imagine!) MacPowerBook G4. DSL still eludes us on the ridge and the boxes, installed in October 2012, are covered in weeds. I'm ready to get a "HotBox" through Verizon or some such and looking into options. I haven't had my trusty camera with me for some time as I have a bad lens that needs repair or replacement (and I've also enjoyed taking a break from taking photographs of everything of interest). In the meantime I'm hashing out a contract with a publisher for another book deal. I'll keep you posted and it relates, in some way, to pantries and kitchens and all things retro.

Fall is coming. I love the change of light, the cooler nights and mornings, the beautiful pageant of yellow, purple and mauve along the roadside––and here in rural Kentucky the smell of leaves burning around the ridge! After April and May, I do believe that September and October are my favorite months on the farm. The boys and my husband are gathering in the large round bales from our third cutting of hay as I write this.

I'm also canning up a storm (Stanley plums a few weeks ago, Kentucky white peaches for the freezer, and beets for the freezer are up next) and hoping to get in my fall garden––broccoli and Brussels sprout starts, and beet/lettuce seeds––over the weekend (but it's been so hot during the day that I fear bolting).

I hope to be doing a bit of off-ridge traveling in the next few months before the winter ahead. The almanac is talking about a colder winter for Kentucky. I wouldn't mind: nice, cozy, good for writing and reading, and full freezers and pantries to raid.

You come back when you're ready!