October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came –
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed;
The lovely Misses Maple
In scarlet looked their best;
All balanced to their partners,
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.
Then, in rustic hollow,
At hide-and-seek they played,
The party closed at sundown,
And everybody stayed.
Professor Wind played louder;
They flew along the ground;
And then the party ended
In jolly “hands around.”
~ George Cooper
I love my hometown of Pickens. Whenever I checkout at Walgreens, Doris always greets me with, “Well hey Dale! How are you doing?” I tell her I’m doing fine and then I inquire how she is faring. She tells me what’s going on in her life and then she asks, “How’s Willie doing?” (Willie is my dad)
I leave there and run by Bee Well Natural Market to get some coffee or deliver some eggs. Adrian always me asks about Mister Boone, my oldest son’s miniature schnauzer. I ask her about her recent family hikes she’s posted on Instagram. We chit chat for a while and more often than not I leave with a free coffee which, by the way, is brewed from beans that are woodfire roasted in small batches by Trey, a super nice guy who works for the forestry service down the road in Pumpkin Town. His coffee business is called Silva Coffee. Look them up. Their coffee is hands down the best I’ve ever had.
Anyhow, you get the gist. Small hometown, everyone knows everyone. Well, almost. The town is growing by leaps and bounds and becoming more “artsy” every year. We have a craft brewery on Main Street called Appalachian Ale House and another one at the end of town called South Cack. South Cack offers a charcuterie board although I’d bet most of my hometown folks have no idea what a charcuterie board is. And that segues me to my story.
This evening, Melody and I went to eat at a new café on Main Street called Revyve. It’s more than just a café, it is a juice bar, a coffee shop, and a boutique as well. Very quaint, and they offer a charcuterie board too! That’s two places in Pickens where you can get a charcuterie board. Who woulda thunk it?
Anyhow, this was our second time eating there and we both ordered the same thing we had the first time. Melody got the chicken-salad croissant with chips, and I got the chicken-salad salad. While we were eating, Dr. Pam comes in to pick up supper for her and her husband, Steve. She places her order and then comes to sit with us and talk. She also picked up a piece of pumpkin cake from the counter and ordered a cup of coffee which she brought back to the table to eat while waiting for her order. We had a great time catching up on some gossip and laughing. Dan, who works down the road at Farm Bureau, walked by and saw us through the window. He popped in to say hello and talked for a little bit. After Dan left, they brought Pam the food she ordered for supper and sat it on the table. Pam proceeded to finish her cake and coffee, and continued fellowshipping with us. We were all having a great time, but then suddenly Pam jumps up and says, “I gotta go, I got someone waiting in car for me and I forgot all about them.” She grabbed up her food and rushed out, leaving her pocketbook hanging on the back of the chair. The funny thing is, she was parked in front of the café, so the lady waiting in the car could see her inside eating cake, drinking coffee, laughing, and having a great time. We called her and told her she left her pocketbook and we met her at her office to give it back to her. We had a good laugh about it.
The other day, I watched a video on YouTube that was made on Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Watch it if you get a chance. It will make you appreciate your small hometown and you’ll quickly realize it’s good-living in a small town and it’s good living in a small town.
And who knows? We might get adventurous one day and try one of them charcuterie boards. I’ll probably call it a chartootery board when we order it, just to embarrass Melody.
“In small towns as well as large, good people outnumber bad people by a hundred to one. In big towns the hundred are nervous. But in small towns, it’s the one.” ~ Paul Harvey
Or did you count off the months on your knuckles to see which ones had 31 days and which ones had 30 days?
Ever heard of the expression, the “ber” months? September, October, November, and December? Every year, especially after a brutal August, I am ready for the “ber” months. This year is no exception. We have had so much rain and so much heat this year, that it feels like we have been living in a tropical rain forest, but hurricane Ida blew the heat and humidity away, giving us a brief respite and a small taste of autumn. It was glorious.
I had a doctor’s appoint last Friday and now I am having emergency surgery Wednesday. That’s another story, but the doctor sent me home and told me not to do anything. No lifting, no physical activity, I was not even allowed to ride the lawn mower to cut grass! However, the following morning was so cool and refreshing I could not resist a slow and leisurely stroll down our driveway. The early signs of autumn are everywhere, I just have not been looking for them. The black walnut trees have dropped their nuts, wrapped in fat green hulls all over the ground and their leaves are showing hints of yellow. Dogwood trees are also changing, morphing from green to a dark russet red. I can smell muscadines somewhere in the woods too. They have a very distinct aroma that makes my mouth water. Along my walk I discover some Black Eyed Susans blooming profusely among the Goldenrod and Joe-Pye Weed. Further down the road, a persimmon tree is loaded with sun-kissed fruit and the branches of a honey locust tree bend beneath the weight of hundreds of long, curly seed pods. You know, old-timers used to make beer from those!
There’s another sign too, but one I cannot put words too. It’s a “feeling”. If you love the outdoors and if you love autumn, then I don’t have to explain it to you. You already know what I’m talking about.
“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, with summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.”~ Helen Hunt Jackson
As August draws to a close, I dust off my Christmas music books and start practicing carols on my banjo. Everyone dreams of Christmases of yesteryear, and no one sings those carols like the crooners of bygone days when the world was a kinder place. I’m talking about people like Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and Mel Torme, just to name a few! And if you’re lucky enough to have the vinyl albums and a stereo system with a turn table to play them on, then you have some nostalgia there that can create REAL Christmas magic!
But the music that really speaks to me and gets the Christmas spirit coursing through my veins is played on banjos, fiddles, guitars, and mandolins. These songs can be heard at family gatherings, by a warm fire and the soft glow of candles and Christmas tree lights. Is there any Christmas music sweeter than a fiddle, softly bowing “Silent Night”? Is there any Christmas music more jubilant than a mandolin strumming “Joy to the World”? Is there any Christmas music more exuberant than a banjo plucking “Jingle Bells”? Put all of these instruments together for a rousing rendition of “Christmas Time’s a Comin’” and you have the perfect music for an old-time, down-home, Appalachian blue-grass Christmas.
Every year, we drag boxes upon boxes of Christmas decorations down from our attic and spend days “decking the halls” of our home. Our home has been the gathering place for many family Christmas get-togethers and the reason we go to all this trouble is NOT to impress anyone, but rather to create a special, magical memory for all the children that come here with their family to celebrate with us. We have a big tree in the living room where all the gifts are placed. There is a wreath over the fireplace with candles, greenery, and stockings hanging from the mantle. There is another tree in the den, one in my office, one in the dining room, and one at the end of the hallway upstairs. Whether a tree or a simple figurine of Santa Claus, everywhere you go in our home you will find some token of Christmas. However, all this decorating does not fit within the framework of my old-time, down-home, Appalachian blue-grass Christmas.
We are at a point in time in our lives that I call an in-between time. All our nieces and nephews are grown and have families of their own to celebrate Christmas with. Our family Christmas get-togethers get smaller every year as these new families branch out and start their own traditions. Our children are grown and married as well, but we have no grandchildren yet, so we are neither parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles to small children at this stage of our lives. We are “in-between”. What better time to change things up and try something new?
I’ve been telling Melody for a few years now that I would like to scale back on the Christmas decorations. Let’s get a smaller tree for the living room. One tree is all we need. Let’s hang a wreath over the fireplace, put some greenery and candles on the mantle along with our nativity set and stop there. Maybe, when we have grandkids who are old enough to enjoy and remember all the festivities, we can start back up with all the decorations and go all out again, but for now, let’s have a quiet and peaceful Christmas. One where we can rest, look inward, and reflect upon all of God’s blessings in our lives. One where we can focus on the TRUE meaning of the season. Maybe, just maybe, then, and only then I will be able to have my old-time, down-home, Appalachian blue-grass Christmas.
I want to end this post with the lyrics from “Christmas Time’s a Comin”. This song was written by a Bell Labs engineer by the name of Benjamin “Tex” Logan and first recorded by Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, back in 1951.
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” ~Calvin Coolidge
Gone are the bright green grasses of springtime. Like a slow-moving river, July has quietly slipped by us and now we find ourselves one third of the way into August. The pastures are beginning to brown in the heat of this hottest month of summer. There is a stillness in the air, a quietness that lays across the farm like a heavy blanket. Chickens crouch in the shade beneath the lone white pine growing in their pen. No scratching, no clucking, no dust baths. It’s too hot. Cows congregate on the shady banks of the creek, some standing in the water, some even laying in the water. There will be time for grazing in the evening hours when it’s much cooler. There are no songbirds, no crows, no chattering squirrels. Even the insects are silent on this hot August afternoon. Although the heat and humidity are oppressive, there is a feeling of peace that comes along with the stillness. There is also a feeling of anticipation in the air because autumn is just a few short weeks away.
Our egg operations continue to evolve. We have a permanent coop now, one with a concrete floor and an automatic door. We are making the switch to Gold Comets too. We bought 30 started pullets in the spring and placed blue colored bands on their legs. We will buy 30 more in the fall and put red colored bands on their legs. This winter, we will sell all the hens that are not wearing a leg band and when spring rolls around again we will buy 30 more and place yellow bands on their legs. When summer hits, the hens with the blue bands will be sold and then we will be set up with a rotational system where we purchase hens in the spring and fall and sell hens in the winter and summer. The hens will be around 18 months old when they are sold, so they will have at least 6 more months of prime egg laying before they start tapering off. This will allow us to sell them at $10 per hen which is what we pay for the started pullets. This system will allow us to purchase fresh hens twice a year with no out-of-pocket money. From spring to summer, we will have 90 hens. From summer to fall, we will have 60 hens. From fall to winter, we will have 90 hens. From winter to spring we will have 60 hens. The started pullets are around 20 weeks old when we buy them, and they start laying around 22 weeks. Also, when they first start laying, their eggs are small, so this overlap (when we have 90 hens) will ensure that our production does not fall off while the young pullets are maturing. Other things to wrap up before autumn arrives:
Install lights in the coop to provide a couple extra hours of “daylight” so that egg production will continue throughout winter months.
Install roll-out nesting boxes to keep eggs cleaner and reduce time spent washing eggs. Also prevents hens from pecking eggs and eating them.
Install security camera and siren so that I can monitor the hens from my office and from my iPhone. Whenever I see a predator (hawk, possum, coyote, fox, etc.) I can activate the siren and frighten them off.
Install a new watering system that utilizes a 55-gallon drum connected to a movable set of nipples. Will also need a warming system to prevent freeze-ups in the winter.
Install a range feeder that I can close at night when the chickens are roosting.
Put in a sidewalk from the parking area of our driveway to the coop. I want to be able to collect eggs in my bedroom slippers by not having to leave a paved area while doing so.
My goal is to reduce the amount of time that I spend taking care of these chickens to a bare minimum. Once we get our farm store up and running, I will probably stop wholesaling eggs altogether and just sell them at retail prices here on the farm.
When I finish everything on my list and have things running as I envision it, I may do a YouTube video so that customers can see the farm, see the chickens, and see the operations from start to finish (feeding, watering, collecting eggs, washing eggs, packaging eggs, and delivering eggs).
Anyhow, I did not want to let August pass by without a post and I’ll end this post with a poem by Helen Hunt Jackson…
“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.”~ Morgan Freeman