Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Quilt Block of Life

Threshing, Thrashing
Thresharee, Thrasharee

Sixteen years ago, several of my family members, along with friends, started buying up old farm machinery. Their purchases included tractors, binders, blowers, and the most prized possessions of all, the threshing machines. They knew the year, the make, the model of each one. Old barns, granaries and farm sheds were scoured for those elusive missing parts that were needed to make the machinery work. The older of the group was about to show the youngsters what real farm work was all about. Thus began the start of the Annual Richmond Thrasharee. 

As I researched the correct spelling, I found that threshing is the modern spelling of thrashing. I had to do the research because I had a shirt printed with ‘Thrasharee’ on the back, and I was informed that the word was spelled incorrectly, which technically isn't true. There is no word  'Thrasharee' or 'Thresharee'. Those are made up words. According to one of the participants creating this event, it was more like thrashing than threshing anyway. 

After the equipment was assembled and the grain fields were planted, we gathered together to watch those old dinosaurs come to life. How exciting to see the man who was standing on top of the lumbering machine hold one finger in the air and twirl it around, signaling another on the tractor to set things in motion. There was something magical in watching the heavy belts twisting between the tractor and the threshing machine. The noise was loud, the air filled with dust. Grain spewed from the chute. The stalks, now considered straw, dropped from the machine, to be picked up and used for bedding. The man standing on top watched to make sure the sheaves were going in straight and it wasn’t plugging up. Others were on the wagons pitching the bundles, or on the ground, making sure nothing was overheating or causing any problems. During those first years, the crew was very ambitious. They bindered the oats and set up shocks. When one of the neighbors saw the shocks dotting the hillside, he called to his wife and asked her what the year was. He wondered if we had somehow slipped back in time, when that was how the grain was dried before the threshing took place. 

The tradition continued on from year to year; some years bringing inclement weather and few visitors, while other years found us sweltering under a hot sun and fighting the swarms of mosquitoes and flies that persisted in irritating us. The visitors wandered around the equipment, asking questions and shaking their heads in wonder. Many had never seen such a sight. 

 We began assembling food, and, as is often the custom, bringing a dish to pass. Our parents joined us, sharing tales of long ago, when threshing grain was a way of life and not something to entertain the neighborhood.
Before the days of combines, the threshing crew would travel from farm to farm, setting up the equipment and pounding the kernels from the stalks that had been drying in upright bundles. The farm wife was responsible for providing the meal for the crew. A full meal would be served at noon, including a tasty, enticing dessert. For my mother, it was her chocolate pie, made from scratch and wearing a golden covering of fluffy meringue. 

The tradition of the Richmond Thrasharee has continued, the crowds growing each year. This past weekend saw the sixteenth year, with new faces and old coming together to share wisdom, knowledge, friendship, and good eats. What better way to learn a bit a history, savor a few memories, create a colorful quilt block of life.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Person of Interest

Friends and Pickles
Today I'm blogging about a
friend of mine who actually takes the
time to plant a garden and then
does something with the harvest.
Hi Midnight. Yes, I came to
see you. Where's your brother, Tiger?
Hiding again, like always?
Meet Wendy, keeper of the garden.
She was busy picking,
prepping, assembling,
and sterilizing.
She says the steam does
wonders for the complexion
when she reaches in to get a jar.
That's right. She sterilizes
her jars in the dishwasher.
And, she washes her cucumbers on
the delicate cycle in her washing machine.
This girl is on top of things,
let me tell you.
Time to pack those pickles.
She's doing it by feel because
she had to take her glasses off
because she was getting
a facial at the dishwasher.
Next she added the brine,
which she had been heating
before I even got there.
She is so organized.
Then it was time for a hot bath.
She had the water heating earlier as well.
In the bath they go,
for five minutes or so, once the
bubbles are rising again.
That gives us time to chit-chat,
which we do a lot of.
Meeting face to face  saves minutes
on the cell phone.
We talk about work and family and
life in general. We laugh, we cry,
we grumble, we share fears
and frustrations.
We've been friends for a long time,
through good times and bad.
Working in the same office forged
our friendship, aided by the fact
that we lived in the same area all
our lives, and her dad and my
husband were friends way back.
We still both work in the same
field, and I don't mean the hay
field either. That makes for
interesting conversations.
What's that Midnight? You like
my purse? Put it on your Christmas
list. I'm sure Wendy will get you one.
Oops, more than five minutes have gone by.
Time to take them out.
We all know that too much time in a
hot bath causes wrinkles.
Last step, let them cool and mark
the date on the lid.
And there you have it. A few hours
spent with a friend, and something
was actually accomplished besides
our throats getting hoarse
from all the yacking.
That was last weekend.
Today, we're going shopping at
the Amish grocery store.
Gotta go now.
Happy Saturday