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The Brown Month
Posted On 11/02/2013 12:28:30 by Derrough
Good morning sibs, cuzzes et al..
Well here in Hillsdale, summer has had its last gasp.
It blew out of town yesterday in a wind storm which threatened to blow the roof off the house.
All structures are still standing; at least they are standing as well as they were before the wind anyway.
We are now in what I call the 'Brown Month'.
As I age, this time of year becomes my least favourite.
It wasn't always this way.
Fall was a time of excitement for me as a child growing up on the 'Farm on the Fifth'.
It was the time of year we buzzed the wood to heat the house in winter, butchered the hog, picked the apples, and had great bonfires to clean up the leaves and branches left after the wood was cut; a time to dig the potatoes, carrots, turnips and parsnips for winter storage, and go picking butternuts.
Fall was also a time for neighbours.
It was a time of community effort.
A time for socializing while working.
The same group of men would rotate from farm to farm helping each other with the fall jobs.
We were lucky in our neighbours, and in the fall, two particularly, bachelor brothers whom in the interest of privacy protection, I will call Grizzled Jack and Lazy Watt would appear at the farm, along with Uncle Murray and his buzz saw to cut the wood.
Although Poge and I weren't very old, we were expected to do our share.
My favourite part was standing at the saw with Watt feeding the tree trunks into the tray.
Uncle Murray had a rule for kids..
There was a line you couldn't cross, as buzz saws were a dangerous tool, and many a farmer lost a digit in the pursuit of firewood for the winter.
I think I probably crossed the line a few times, as I can remember Uncle Murray telling Watt to 'keep an eye on that child'.
It was usually a raw cold day, but as kids we just didn't seem to feel the cold.
We were right in the thick of things, and probably underfoot for the entire day.
Ah youth.
The best part of the day would be when the men would take their break and stop for sandwiches and tea.
Watt particularly preferred talking to working.
In the days before recording devices, he could give you a minute by minute description of the life of any man, woman, or child in Oro Township.
An avid gossip with a wonderful memory.
I often wish I could have taped those conversations, as once he died a lot of oral history died with him.
My favourite fall excitement was butchering the hog.
Jack and Watt would always be on tap for this job also.
I suspect I was rather a blood thirsty child.
The pig once slaughtered, bled, and gutted was immersed in a barrel of scalding water by means of a whippletree inserted through the back ham strings, allowing the men to slide it in and out of the slanted barrel.
Once out, the scraping would begin to remove the bristles.
As the pig cooled, more tubs of hot water were thrown in the barrel, and in, and out and scrape would begin all over again until there were no bristles left on the pig.
Once hair free the cutting and wrapping would occur on a scrubbed pine table.
I found the entire process fascinating, and if I behaved, Dad might let me trace the blood path through the heart and name all the arteries and valves.
I told you I was bloodthirsty.
The best part of butchering the hog was the fresh pork for breakfast the next morning.
The worst part was dry curing the ham and bacon.
Coarse salt, brown sugar with pepper placed in a wash tub..Add the ham well dried and rub well with the salt mixture. Every time moisture beaded on the surface, the rubbing would start all over again.
Once the ham remained dry, it was cured.
A process which took weeks.
Now while the ham was delicious, the process did nothing to give one a pair of delicate lady like hands.
The autumns of my youth were redolent with the smell of frosty apples, earthy carrots and potatoes, The unique smell of butternuts, and the wonderful aroma of pork cooking in the oven of a wood stove.
Today, as I look out the window at water drops hanging off the drab green cedar branches in a world coloured brown and tan and grey..
The 'Brown Month' before the snow makes things bright again....
I will daydream of red flannel shirts, and blue coveralls, rubber boots, the smell of apples, pork and nuts, and hear the whining of the saw.
And wish I could talk to Watt again..
Just once more.

Tags: Fall Farming


Viewing 1 - 5 out of 5 Comments

11/03/2013 21:05:56

Heather ~ You gave me quite a walk down memory lane..I too lived on a farm, had the same experiences, the slaughtering, the canning, watching births and deaths of animals.  My own experiences come into play from time to time but not quite as often as I would like.. Perhaps one day when there is nothing left, I will have my memories to see me through..
Another soul from Canada.. Cheers Nancy

11/03/2013 19:30:41

Loved your very vivid memory or your childhood for this time of year. The ambiance of farming, gardening, butchering sounds absoulutely stunning. Country living at it's best. Thank you for sharing such an awesome story - I felt it!


11/03/2013 07:45:34

You may call it 'brown' but your descriptions make it a vary colorful time of year! Though I didn't live on a farm, I did visit,at varying times, my grandfather's farm and remember a few of your memories, myself. Thank you for painting such a wonderful mental picture, for all of us.

11/02/2013 15:59:28

Thank you for your kind words Ellie...
It's a grey, dreary, dismal, damp day here today...
And suddenly I imagined I smelled sawdust.
The one spot of colour outside the den window, are a few last crimson Macs clinging to the apple tree.

11/02/2013 13:50:53

Oh Heather, I was city born and bred, but your descriptions of all of that made me feel I was right there with you.

The "Brown Month" really wasn't "brown" not with all that you wrote about.  It was a busy month for sure, but much more colorful than you stated.

Apple, carrots, leaves, butternuts, butchering the pig, curing the hams.  What a treasure of memories you hold.  I'm envious of those memories.  I have nothing like that. 

Loved your memories, so glad you wrote about them. 

Hugs,  Ellie


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