Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quilting Bee

Here's my Grandma quilting. Goodness knows how many quilts she made over the course of her life. This one was a "wedding ring" quilt with large ring-shaped circles that intersect. I have one like it on my bed now but it's machine-made, bought in a department store.

I do own one of Grandma's handmade quilts, though, called "around the world." It starts with a square in the center and all the other squares spiral out from it like ripples in a pond. It's gotten old and thin and I no longer use it, but cherish it instead. I think of her anytime I see a quilt--needle grasped in arthritic fingers, leaning toward the light from the window.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Farm Cats

Photo is of my cat Millie, taken in West Virginia on my dad's farm near Fairmont. She was his cat but is now mine because he passed away at the age of 93 (those West Virginians can live a long time!). I promised to take her when he was gone, so now she lives with me in the suburbs of Chicago. She has adapted just fine, thank you and expended a lot of effort training me to wait on her. She used to hunt moles, birds, rabbits and mice but now is content to lie on my patio and watch the traffic jam outside my condo. And she's learned to live with my dog (more another day).

Farm cats are great and served a real function in the past, when they kept "varmits" out of the houses and barns and granaries. If you had mice, you got yourself a cat. I loved the farm cat of my childhood Whichone, who wasn't allowed in the house (cats and dogs weren't). She patrolled my grandma's farm and had a litter of kittens every spring and every fall. She got her charming name because my grandma pointed her out in a basket of kittens and the owners said in unison, "Which one?"

Monday, September 27, 2010

Horses and Ponies

When I was a girl I almost always had a horse or pony around. The one in the picture is Snowball, a Shetland I had on my grandma's farm. His owners had "put him out to pasture" because he'd gone lame in one of his back feet. Lucky me! I pretended he was mine and rode all over the rolling hills. He limped a bit but I didn't mind and he liked the gentle exercise.
He was gorgeous (as you can see) with half of his face black with a blue eye and the other half white with a brown eye. Or was it the other way around? Like a Husky.

Friday, September 24, 2010

WV Rain

Here's a photo I dug up of my mom making apple butter (see yesterday's post). True it's an old picture but some of the gray is because it chose to rain that day and they moved to a semi-enclosed spot, so there's a lot of smoke from the fire.

It chooses to rain a lot in West Virginia. I would often wake to the sound of raindrops hitting a million leaves. I slept upstairs in the old farmhouse and the rain would pour down the tarpaper roof outside my window, rush through the gutters and thunder into the rainbarrel. It was a lovely sound and I would sigh and go back to sleep to its music.

Mom making apple butter on a rainy day

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Apple Butter Time

This time of year was all about the apples on my Grandma's WV farm. They ripened in September and October, depending on the kind of apple. We had apple pie every Sunday after church in the fall and it was to die for!

But making apple butter was the big event. I wish I had the recipe because I've never tasted any apple butter quite like it. Maybe there wasn't one, though, just apples (peeled, cored and sliced) along with sugar, water and cinnamon. All of this was put in a huge cast-iron pot over an open fire in the side yard of our old farmhouse.

Grownups took turn stirring all day to keep it from sticking and burning. At the end of the day, the apple butter was put in glass canning jars and stored in the cellar. Then all winter we had a delicious spread to put on biscuits and cornbread. Yum!

Do you have a favorite recipe for apple butter? I'd love to have it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Field of Flowers

The background here reminds me of the WV fields of my childhood in Nicholas County. We didn't really need toys in the country; we had the fields. I remember the smell, kind of weedy-sweet, of all those plants.

Milkweed was fun. In the summer, my sister and I would break off a leaf and this white milky substance would come dripping out. We were both charmed and repulsed (ewwwww). We would break open the seed pods in the fall and blow the downy seeds in all directions.

We would collect a bouquet of goldenrod, Queen Anne's Lace and chicory (we called it corn flower) and take it to Mama or Grandma. We would make daisy chains and put them on our heads or do "he loves me, he loves me not" with the petals.

We would lie on our stomachs and watch all the activity down below - ants marching around carrying stuff (sometimes another wounded ant). All kinds of colorful bugs, pretty and scary. Who needed DVDs?