The month of July slides smoothly into August with hot days still prevailing. There is a sleepy midsummer hum in the air -- the buzzing of the honeybees as they visit the clover blossoms, the monotonous whirr of the cicadas and the low chirping of the crickets. At night the insistent call of the katydids reminds us that summer is slipping way and fall will soon be here.Gardens are at their peak now, with green beans hanging thick on the vines and sweet corn almost ready to pick. The cucumber patch has flourished, spreading across the garden and producing buckets of sweet, crisp cucumbers. This humid, tropical-like weather has been perfect for this well-liked vegetable.Canning and freezing the garden crops are also at its peak, as country housewives work frantically to harvest and preserve the vegetables they have raised. This is something that has to be done quickly, while they are at their peak flavor. We are following in our grandmother's footsteps so to speak, as we gather and string and shuck and peel. This is the life of a country housewife.Of course we have our deep freezers now, and pressure canners have taken the place of the black washtub and outdoor canning. Yet, some things are the same. We make our sauerkraut in a churn, and also pickle corn the same way. I am making dill pickles in a stone jar this year, which is the way Grandma probably made hers. I know she made salt pickles by this method.
There is something satisfying in putting up food for the winter -- just to look at the filled jars in the cellar and know that your family is provided for in case an emergency should arrive. With the economy like it is right now, it makes good sense to look ahead have something stored for the future. It is the same secure feeling when you have your supply of wood cut and stacked for the winter. I am sure it is the same feeling that our early ancestors had when their garden crops were dried or salted down, venison was hanging in the shed and the firewood was stacked high against the log cabin wall. Let the winter winds blow; they were safe and warm in their little cabin. My sister-in-law Ruth is still raising a garden and canning at 82 years of age. She told me recently that this will probably be the last year she does this. My mother was 86 when she stopped raising a garden. She planted potatoes, dug them and carried them to the cellar. She didn't have to, but like Ruth, she wanted to do it. I know it is hard to quit doing something that you have done your whole life. It is getting harder for me to do the things I once did. In fact, if it weren't for my hard-working husband, I'd never be able to put up food for the winter. That brings me to this question -- who in the world coined the phrase "the golden years?" I suppose I am in mine, but where is the gold? I have a poem written by a friend, and she describes these years: These Golden Years
They say these are the golden yearsBut mine are tarnishing fast!My shoulders ache, my back it hurts,And my tummy feels all gassed!My memory is failing; my teeth are not mine,
My skin is all wrinkled and dry.
These glasses I wear are not just for looks,But they do hide the twinkle in my eye!The grey in my hair was put there by God,And I should be thankful, I guess.They say these are the golden years;
Don't let them tarnish like brass! By Alice Hensley Church
Sometimes I look in the mirror (not too often!) and wonder if I have someone else's body. My wrinkled arms feel strange, and what has happened to my face? My eyebrows seem to have fallen and are now growing on my upper lip. The force of gravity has pulled everything southward, and even my feet have aged.The worst thing is my memory -- I've lost it somewhere in "these golden years." For example, as we journeyed home from church Sunday, we stopped at a little restaurant in Clendenin that caters to the church crowd. (Their food is very good!) I told Criss that I was going to put my purse in the back seat, as it was hard to carry along with my cane. He locked the car and we enjoyed our meal. When we came back out, my purse was gone. Criss went back in the restaurant to see if I had left it in there, but no purse. I was certain I had placed it in the back seat but he had cracked the window slightly as it was so hot. The manager of the restaurant and Criss poked in every trash container for a city block, to see if someone might have discarded it there. Then a young city policeman, R. Morgan, came by to record all the details. He was so polite and understanding -- I was quite impressed. He left his telephone number to I could check with him. On the way home, Criss asked if I could have left my purse in the church. "No," I replied emphatically. I am sure I put it in the back seat." "I heard you say that," he commented. When we got home, I called a lady who lived by the church -- she was also a member. I knew she had a key. She called me back shortly and -- you guessed it -- my purse was under the pew. Criss made me call the city policeman and report that I had found my purse. (I felt like a dog -- he had stood in the hot sun for a long time writing up the report.) He did say that he would visit me when I had to be put away. When a person is young, they never think of the golden years ahead. We better enjoy them while we can! I have a couple of corrections to make: My sister Mary Ellen tells me that we didn't get fifty cents a gallon for blackberries -- it was 35 cents. And also, we did have screen doors, except they were ragged and patched, and the young'ens ran in and out so much that they let the flies in. (Thank you, Charlotte Neilan of Summersville for the song words.)Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at email@example.com or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.