By the light of the silvery moon, around a crackling campfire, our Ranch Farmgirl's Farmgirl Chapter enjoyed their monthly "hen party". Come and sit a spell with them. They would love to share the "show & tell" details with you.
Our latest farmgirl get-together reminded me of an old disco song, I Love The Night Life. Why, you might ask? Well, our merry little band of farmgirls (the High Plains Sage Hens) made autumn wreaths and partied under a beautiful harvest moon the other night.
Let me start at the beginning of things, ok? At a recent ranch auction that I went to, there was a leftover pile of books in a large box that a buyer failed to pick up. The auctioneer told those of us within earshot to help ourselves to any of the books as they were just going to end up in a landfill. So I did! One of the books I rescued was a lovely hardcover 1st edition of "God's Calendar" (published in 1909) and it is in mint condition. The book takes you through each month of the year, a chapter at a time. The intent of the writer, William Quayle, was to lovingly describe all that he saw in Nature as each season came and went. But, he went into much more detail than the usual descriptions based on condensing seasons into four blocks of time. Mr. Quayle walks his reader through the more subtle changes that occur as each month eases into the next one. Below are his thoughts about September...
"September is the grape month. What other praise needs to be sung for September? One look at a vineyard suffices to put a body in love with the month that holds such clusters in her hand. What can be more artistic than a grape cluster shadowed by graceful leaves? The color, the hoar frost wherewith God has seen fit to cloud the purple of His grape cluster, the way clusters hang with indolence luxuriously graceful as a Venetian gondolier, the mild fragrance which gives to every vineyard its own atmosphere."
"The sky half Summer and half Fall; the clouds blown and scattered and very high; the crows cawing diligently from the shag of woods on the hill; the sunshine growing a trifle dreamy like a poet; the winds dawdling with the clustering grapes seen through the lattices of leaves. September, what a goddess! Who can choose but to love her if he has a seeking heart." ~ William Quayle
Autumn is my favorite season and I look for the beginnings of Fall just as eagerly as the first signs of Spring. Maybe more. Yes, I think more. Like the vegetables and flowers...I'm weary of summer toil...and watering, watering, watering. I welcome Jack Frost - his time has come.
"September is the month of putting away prairie hay. In September, the sweat of growth is ended. The rush toward fruitage has given way to a quiet smile as at evening after work is done. September days by their straggling clouds, note on the dial, summer is ended." WQ
"To lie by moonlight on prairie hay is better than beds of down." WQ
Summer's end...it is here! Along with the changing angle of the sun, came the necessity of getting in touch with my farmgirl pals so that we could organize the final details of our monthly meeting. A date was set and early the other evening, we all drove out to Jerry & Anita Shepperson's ranch; from town it is seven miles on paved highway and another seven on gravel.
The evening was to include making grapevine wreaths, dinner and dessert by the campfire. Our hostess was was my dear friend, Anita. Backing up a little, she and I picked about 30 pounds of grapes a week ago (courtesy of another friend who didn’t want the grapes). In addition to taking home a harvest of lovely grapes, we thinned the vines and made several wreaths for our upcoming “hen party”. Anita provided most of the dried flowers and her homegrown oats and wheat. She's not new to raising grain since she was raised in Montana on a ranch that specialized in grain crops. She was driving farming equipment before she could drive a car.
Back to our Farmgirl shindig. First, we sat down to a beautifully decorated table and said Grace - offering thanks for the meal, the hostess, the evening and the addition of three more sisters to our flock. The meal menu was true to harvest-time. I made Bruschetta from my tomatoes to go with Anita’s homemade grilled bread (with homemade butter!). The main course was corn chowder that included homemade sausage and garden potatoes. Fresh spinach provided a green bed for the juicy Bruschetta dip and next to that on my salad plate was homemade cheddar cheese (courtesy of Anita's Guernsey milk cow, "Matilda"). We also enjoyed homemade wine. There were “party favors” too - pint jars of peach jam for each of us. After dinner, we headed outside for the craft making phase of the evening.
L to R: Lisa, Judy, Lynette, Michelle, Brenda, Jennie and Anita...and then add me too (below).
We dressed our grapevine wreaths on the patio...by porchlight, moonlight and firelight. The weather: perfect. When darkness fell, the full moon offered his all. Anita built a fire for “mood lighting” and for hot cocoa & marshmallows. She even cut and sharpened Chokecherry branches for roasting marshmallows. A more glorious evening of farmgirl fellowship couldn’t have been scripted any better. Brenda summed it up best when she said that our fun was not focused on “worldly” things – just good friends, good food, enjoying every particle of those two items and squeezing it all into a few hours in the evening.
Below are more photos from our farmgirl evening affair...
Here are my "sisters" with their freshly finished projects. Lisa opted to arrange her dried goodies in a wall-pocket basket instead of making a wreath.
We were in and out of the house helping Anita...and, well, being the nosey farmgirls that we are, we had to insist on taking a peek in Anita's pantry. Their house is a "berm" home tucked into a hillside. Anita's pantry is always just the right temperature, very large and always packed to the brim with incredible edibles and homemade wine. Judy, one of our newly added sisters, has a big garden too and she brought a box of cucumbers, tomatoes and gourds to share.
While my farmgirl sisters were concentrating on making wreaths, there was a lull in the conversation (BELIEVE IT OR NOT). So, I read "September" from William Quayle's book. Mr. Quayle's eloquence added a soft and thoughtful touch to the otherwise jovial autumn mood. But, I must I add here (at the risk of being crude) that we had more fun than a litter of piglets in a mud waller!
Have the words "Kum Buy Ya" come to mind? If so, it is fitting. But, do you know what the words mean? The words literally mean "Come By Here". The song is an African-American spiritual song from the 1930s. It enjoyed newfound popularity during the folk revival of the 1960s and became a standard campfire song in Scouting organizations (girls and boys) and other nature-oriented outings. The song is associated with unity, closeness and compassion. In English, it would sound like this, "Come by here, My Lord, Come By here."
Below: Anita pouring me a cup of cocoa. The first thing I noticed about this photo was her arm and hands. Look at the "guns" on that farmgirl!!!! This is a woman who milks two cows everyday...and managed to successfully harvest a huge garden, an orchard, half an acre of wheat and if that weren't enough, the Sheppersons are sheep and cattle ranchers too. Did I mention she also raises and butchers a bunch of chickens & turkeys, as well a beef, sheep, hog and venison? I'm glad I don't have to keep up with her on a daily basis - she'd drag me to death!!
My sisters made gorgeous wreathes - each and every one was deliciously "autumny". I made a small wreath with just a few dried flowers on it (teddybear sunflower and globe thistle) because I wanted to be able to take several photos. The next day, I added a little homespun heart. If you would like the specifics, the instructions regarding our wreath making and the stuffed heart on my wreath, look for it in next edition of "The Cluck" (the online MaryJanesFarm magazine for sisterhood members). The instructions will be in the Make It Easy section. You can become a member/subscriber by visiting the MaryJanesFarm Sisterhood Connection web pages; simply click on the text at the very top of this page.
One year ago, I hosted our first farmgirl "hen party" and I’m not kidding when I say that my life hasn’t been the same since. MaryJane’s philosophy about “womenfolk” nurturing healthy social ties really struck a chord. I know my farmgirl pals agree that our lives really are changed. Once a month, we’re fluffed up by something as simple as shutting the world out and letting our friends all the way in. The moral of the story: Make time for friends, wrap your heart around them...and don’t forget the marshmallows.