Hurricane Matthew’s harsh winds have relented, and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains are relieved, though we were never in the kind of mortal danger that our coastal friends fled to seek refuge with us for a day or two. Even here, where the smoky silhouette of mountain ranges stand proudly just up the road and the ocean is a four hour drive away, the fall-crisped leaves shook like a thousand maracas just outside my windows. Out my window, the many old hardwoods stand still once again, letting sunlight filter through the burgeoning oranges and reds. A beagle sounds a half-bark, half-howl from the neighbor’s yard, and then silence is restored. Harvest-time and thankfulness await us in the weeks ahead, and there’s no better place to live it than a local farm day.
As our world becomes more complicated by the very advances that allow us to accomplish more and faster, people are intuitively seeking ways to hold onto the simple, good things in life. The old ways certainly aren’t easier, but that is part of the charm. Ironically, we have lost something along the way as we have figured out how to avoid work. The meticulous process of plowing and sowing a field, waiting and protecting it, cultivating the plants, and finally harvesting fulfilled a need in us to invest in something bigger than ourselves, and to provide essentials for life to our families. Visiting a working, old -fashioned farm salvages what has been nearly lost in this age of drive thru fries and online orders at the big-box store.
Here in the all-too-quickly developing rural south, we still have a couple of farms nearby who open their property to the community at harvest time. Around late October or early November every year, my family piles into the van and heads to a beautiful farm where they still use horses for most of the work. A large number of local craftsmen and women participate, demonstrating hand-quilting, churning butter and making soap while crowds look on in appreciation.
A fabulous hands-on experience awaits with antique tools such as a wash-board and ringer, cast iron clothes iron on a wooden board, and a beautiful pottery butter churn at stations while a willing teacher shares memories and instructions.
Docile farm animals invite eager hands to pet them.
This particular farm is well-known for its sorghum molasses, crafted entirely in the old way from the planting and harvesting of cane to a horse-drawn molasses mill. The process is fascinating to watch, and the free samples are all the convincing you need to purchase a quart Mason jar of the thick brown confection.
A timber-framed and pegged Amish-built barn draws admirers in to gaze up at the finely crafted rafters. The earthy scent of hay and horses hangs heavy in the air, and children dash from one bale to the next, exclaiming in delight. Soft neighing and nickering drifts from nearby stalls, reminding visitors that this is a home, and not just a tourist attraction.
A day spent wandering the grounds of this place brings healing to my soul. The effects of a constant barrage of email alerts and discouraging news headlines fades and is replaced by the serenity of purple mountains majesty standing strong and proud, wind gently caressing my hair, and the sounds of people interacting face to face and laughing together as they recount memories of how things used to be. Maybe if we try, we can hold on to just a little piece of it, even as we move forward.