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Clyde, Time Was: The Farmer’s Almanac and other signs of bygone times

Time was, it’s time to plant your greens. Some people already have, but it’s not too late. Go by Rufty’s Garden Shop and let Charlie get you some mixed green seeds. While you’re there, get you an Almanac. An old one from O.O. Rufty’s lists a guide for September garden planting: carrots, spinach, kale, lettuce, beets, onion sets, Swiss chard, tender greens, turnips, rutabaga, salsify, parsnips, parsley, cabbage, collard greens, and smooth sided English peas. Free salads for life.

Be sure to plant on the right day. Old farmers looked at the weather the same as Sam’s Carwash boys, but they will tell you the “signs” of the zodiac are the most crucial. Literally meaning “circle of animals,” it reflects the constellations circling the heavens like a carousel. Who sees stars anymore? Who knows their names and their stories? We are stuck on Facebook, looking down. Those Carolina blue skies are wasted.

How does the man in the moon know to plant crops on earth? “When possible, plant seed when the moon is in the fruitful signs of Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces. The next best signs are Libra and Capricorn.” The Lord willing, deo vilinte, and the creek don’t rise, you’ll have a “mess” of greens to rival fruits at the farmer’s market.

Early German settlers, 100,000 in number, by 1752, brought their heirloom seeds with them, and their old sayings, customs and foodstuffs. Rowan County Lutherans were lucky to find sandy soil perfect for potatoes in the eastern part of the county. Traditions come and go. Real good ones survive like heirloom seeds. Some die hard. Early settlers had hardship, Lord knows, what would come next, all with no early-warning systems for earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes; FEMA did not show up on your doorstep.

No generators, bottled plastic water, flashlights, toilet paper, handi-wipes, plastic straws — the same list they give us to save our lives. All they had was a horse chestnut or a dead rabbit’s foot in their pocket for luck. Fair weather friends meant something. Fruit trees were grafted not knowing when the harvest would come. Too many elementary students today do not believe the world as we know it will still be here when they become adults.

Good housewives “put up” the fruits of their labors, the envy of city slickers with no garden; kraut was simple, peach preserves, damsons, persimmon, the sawdust-lined larder was filled to the brim. Figs with lemon peel, dried apple “snitz,” meaning “cut” in German or “Deutsch” as people labeled the foreigners. Anything you could put in a jar with an herb and call it “pickled.” Even today no reception with cake is complete without a crisp, sweet pickle.

German words and phrases are still found in use today. “Oberden” was the hayloft. The “zink”  had no disposal. “Fastnacht” is celebrated with apple butter and pies in dirt dishes. German potters were in Salisbury six months before Old Salem. Aunt Sally called a large rag rug a “drugget.” “Gesundheit” meant God bless you because you may soon die from the plague. The last sermon preached totally in German was at Mt. Zion in the summer of 1883. Families still have German Bibles with their genealogy written in between the two testaments.

The predictability of time to come is also found in the Bible, Revelation 12:1, and in the stars. “And a great portent appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” By today, as you read this you should have seen this “revelation” as “Jupiter has been in Virgo for nine months and will exit on that day.” Did you witness a new peace in your world or will all the “signs” point to a new destruction? With all the devastation recently, it makes you wonder. Perhaps we will all end up a skeptical, agnostic, zombie, emaciated, North Korean extremist. Transexuals roaming around looking for a politically correct reason not to pray for President Trump’s dog. Heaven help us! Watching the news gives us no hope to “hitch our wagon to a star.” Everbody shake your heads collectively and sigh: “What’s the world coming to?”

How boring it must be to live in California or Florida with no seasons. How do artists paint fall foliage? How do bugs know it’s time to hibernate? The first frost is unpredictable. How timely to see the last rose of summer give up its watery velvet petals to Jack Frost. Today we have plastic dew drops and spray glitter to add to those “silk” arrangements that last forever. Who knows the difference? Fresh flowers are a luxury — especially gifted. What a joy to see things come to fruition.

We are not the first people to sow, plant and reap. We repeat what works best. The stakes are not so high anymore. We assume somebody or some government program will take care of us, plant for us, harvest for us and feed us. Don’t expect to be spoonfed while you sit around complaining. Do your part. At least show appreciation, don’t waste perfectly good, well-prepared food. And don’t forget where it comes from. The Lord provides and the Lord taketh away. The poor are always with us.

We can’t unlearn history. It’s over, recorded, books written, lessons learned. Why are we ashamed to celebrate our past? Why take two steps forward and one backward? Plan ahead for what’s next, even the unknown. If fall comes, can winter be far behind? Store up your rations now? Don’t fiddle around like the fabled grasshopper. “Plow deep while sluggards sleep.” Get ready to pick your creasy greens.

Clyde, who has dropped his last name, is a Salisbury artist.

 

 

 

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