Sunday, November 3, 2013

Harvest Time in the American Heartland

"When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock..."

After spending a few hours at the Churchill Memorial in Fulton, Missouri we drove on to Louisiana, Missouri. It was a darling little river town on the Mississippi, but it was early evening and all the cute shops were closed. Because we wanted to get down the road, we crossed the river into Illinois and pushed on.
It was deer hunting season in Illinois and the hunters were active. So were the deer, literally running for their lives. Unfortunately, several did not make it and the shoulders of the road were littered with carcasses. The corn harvest was ratcheting up too. The land was flat and the earth black; DH was impressed and said it must be some of the richest farm ground on earth.

We stopped in Decatur, Illinois-a lovely town- at a Railroad Depot that had been turned in to a an antique/flea market stop. It is always interesting to see the “stuff” accumulated in other areas. It was a nice to get off the road too. DH found a set of Blue Willow salt and pepper shakers that I did not think we needed. But he enjoys the hunt too and they rang up even cheaper than marked. I also found a ricer…something my mother had long ago. I recently saw a recipe calling for one. Can someone tell me how and why they use a ricer?
The harvest was really going in Indiana too. I hate driving through these states when corn is head-high. It is boring and all that corn feels stifling. But the harvest was beautiful, and it felt good to see farmers feeding America. Mammoth machines gobbled the stalks and spit out the kernels. Semis mind you, carried the corn to elevators. Sometimes there was so much corn it had to be piled on the ground as the silos were full. Mile after mile of corn…and not small farmers of the old days either.
 Southern Indiana is marked by neatness. The farms are clean and neat. The towns are mere crossroads, a store or two  in some cases, reminding you of Ike Godsey’s store on Walton’s Mountain. When I saw the sign for Ernie Pyle’s hometown, I nearly choked. I told DH to turn fast into the berg. Oh, the site was closed! But I definitely wrote this down for a future trip! Ernie Pyle was a great writer known for his journalistic coverage of battles in World War II.  My writing lab studied his coverage of Normandy beaches after the invasion….quite a picture of the true cost of war!
                                                      Ernie Pyle home and museum

Indianapolis…just got around it! I hate big cities more and more…make me feel claustrophobic with all that cement and strip malls and car fumes. But right beyond the heavy traffic to the east was a delightful town named Richmond. We had a big breakfast in a place where the locals go. It was good and lots of food. Then we headed for the birthplace of James Whitcomb Riley! We had a wonderful guide through the house and grounds. I learned so much about Riley that I did not know as I only had bare knowledge of this poet. He was creator of the Little Orphan Annie character and also the Raggedy Ann and Andy personalities. His own life was so interesting…due to hard times after the Civil War the family home was lost. He promised his mother he would grow up and buy the house back which is what he did. It was a beautiful home in its day and still is quite a beauty.
                                                     James Whitcomb Riley home

I bought a newly issued collection of his farm poems in the gift shop. These are just right for reading in harvest time Indiana, in the autumn season. Riley’s poems are meant to be read aloud. He wrote for both children and adults. This is when I miss teaching…where one can share beautiful words with new readers!
                                                   Red shoes that appeared in one of Riley's poems
                                                                         Riley dining room from mid 1800's

Are you familiar with James Whitcomb Riley? Have a favorite poem?

Old October’s purt’ nigh gone’

And the frosts is coming on…..

……I love Old October so

I can’t bear to see her go---



Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Claudia,

I enjoyed your photos.

Louisiana is a quaint town. Several years ago I took a visitor from Massachusetts there, and she was impressed.

I've never heard of poet James Whitcomb Riley before. I'll have to check him out.


Sioux said...

Claudia--Your first three photos would make wonderful notecards.

I don't know how your grandmother used a ricer, but these days, I only make mashed potatoes with a ricer. They end up not so "water-logged" as they sometimes do when you boil the potatoes. And, you don't have to peel the potatoes.

Just cook the potatoes in the microwave--with the skin still on--until they are quite soft. Put a potato--with the skin still on--in the ricer. Arrange the parts so the "cramming" attachment fits on top of the potato and squeeze the handles. The meat of the potato will come out--already mashed--and the skin will be left in the bottom of the compartment. Take the skin out, and begin again with another potato. (It works best if you do one potato at a time, even if they're smaller ones.)

Because there is no water involved, when you add the milk/cream and the butter, etc. the potato ends up more flavorful and rich tasting.

Linda O'Connell said...

I loved thsi little visit. You do find the most interesting places to visit. Thanks for sharing.