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Archive for March, 2012

Northland

This is an excerpt from my Aunt Rosie’s book, Pioneer Potpourri. (Available on Amazon) She’s gone now but her writing still reaches out to today’s world. Please enjoy the varied skill of Rosalind Batterbee Bundy Westcott.

One March morning the flowers that lay beneath the leaves and the little seeds that had fallen the year before woke suddenly and decided they had slept long enough. “It is time to awake,” they said. “We must get out into the sunshine.”
“But,” said one timid violet, “what if we woke too early? Let’s send some hardy one ahead to see if winter is really gone.”
“I’ll second that,” spoke up Beth Lily. “We will wait.” So they sent Spring Beauty, which pleased Beauty very much. He liked being the first flower of spring, for he knew he received special attention because of it.
So Spring Beauty stretched his arms above his head and pushed his toes deeper into the earth. Up on his toes he stood, stretching and stretching until at last his tiny hands went right through the surface; at once he felt the warm sun. Throwing wide his arms he pushed up and up until he reached his full height. Then, turning quickly to face the sun and opening his eyes, he looked around.
Yes, there was Miss May Flower, hiding beneath her own leaves as usual, just waiting to be called. May liked to be up early too, but she just couldn’t wake until someone called her.
May is a hardy girl though, a true northerner who doesn’t go below the ground to spend the winter but pulls her own leaves over her head and goes to sleep while winter winds blow. Then at first call she stretches her limbs and wakes in a moment. So May Flower is always second to arrive in the spring.
A warm breeze fanned the cheek of Spring Beauty, turning the leaves and melting the last bits of snow they hid. “Wake up, everyone,” Spring Beauty called. “Wake up. Spring is come!!!”
At once May Flowers stretched their heads above their leafy covers to smile at the world, and the green tips of Adders Tongue and Beth Lilies began to appear. Buds swelled upon the trees and tiny new leaves peeped out. The impatient Wild Plum did not wait for leaves to form but burst immediately into a beautiful cloud of bloom.
As the last banks of snow on the slopes melted and ran down into the valleys, soaking the roots of plants and trees in the pastures and woodlands, the West Wind whispered softly over the earth and the old autumn leaves that lay in repose rustled in their beds.

The brook that chattered and gurgled so pleasantly in summer, took on a new and deeper tone as it rushed along, carrying away the debris of winter and taking great bites of soil from the edges of its banks. Rumbling and roaring along, it gained more speed and power as it neared the valley. To any one listening it seemed to be warning the world to keep out of its way.
As the flowers grew, each one bringing forth its own beautiful blossoms, the woods and fields took on a new life and beauty.

But the flowers were not alone, for many of nature’s children came scampering from their dens, and high overhead their feathered friends and enemies fluttered and flew.
Yes, spring had returned to the Northland, each segment in its own way. And all things welcomed the SPRING!

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Moqua, an Indian squaw sat by her wigwam with her embroidery work while her husband’s moose meat lay in a pot of maple sap, cooking over the fire for supper. She became so engrossed in the project that she forgot to keep an eye on the food.

Finally Moqua’s husband, the Chief, returned home expecting a normal pot of roast moose for his repast, and found a new and wonderful gourmet food. His meat was surrounded by thick brown syrup. He was so delighted by this new creation that he informed his tribe that Kose-Kusbek had shown Moqua directly from heaven how to make syrup by boiling sap.

Soon Many Indians profited from her mistake. Using tomahawks and stone axes they inserted a piece of bark or a reed to convey sap into a container made of birch or elm bark. Later the filled buckets were emptied into a trough made of a hollow log and the sap was heated by fiery hot stones until the syrup was ready.

Pioneers quickly learned to make the syrup too. It was a great boon to their scanty larder. They used wooden spouts rather than reeds, caught the sap in buckets and boiled it in iron kettles.  They called it Indian sugar or Indian molasses.

One more story brought to you by my Aunt Rosie.  I would add to this lore a little tidbit that Aunt Rosie told to me about our own family. She said that when my grand-folks moved onto  a cut over lumber camp, (Camp 18) her mother (my grandmother) made maple syrup by boiling maple bark. I never tried it but it’s an intriguing thought. http://www.dawncreations.net

 

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 Maple syrup is a miracle, you just go into the woods during the spring season, stab all those beautiful maple trees in the groin and the syrup spurts out of their trunks and into your bucket—— for free.  Of course you have to boil it down to make it fit your needs, but that is a small thing when the original product is so readily available without cost. Or is it?

My Aunt Rosie tells of her experience in her book, Pioneer Potpourri. This is the story in her own words.

It didn’t take much urging to get my son, Bob, to hitch up a horse and dray and transport the big black kettle, chains, spiles and pails over the hill and into a small valley. From this central position he could reach a number of sizable maple trees on the hillsides all around him.

After building a tripod large enough to swing the kettle and to have a good fire beneath, he set up the fire shields and started tapping the trees. The trees were obliging and the sap was soon running and dripping merrily into the pails.

From that time on Bob was running too. It took all his daylight hours to carry the sap and cut wood to keep the fire going. We soon found that “sap was a-wastin’” if the fire was not kept constant day and night.

Sleep was a thing one did between piling on wood and pouring and stirring and skimming.

Seeing how tired he looked, I took one of the girls one night and we took a turn at it. I waded along the narrow passageways through the snow and fumbled in the dark for the full sap pails. When, finally, I finished carrying sap, I piled some of the wood he had left for me to use on the fire. Then I sat down near it.

The fire felt fine in front, but I soon found it a simple matter to broil one side and freeze the other at the same time. It was either that or keep moving, not only turning first my face and then my back to the heat, but also moving from side to side to escape the gushes of smoke which shifted with the wind every few minutes. By morning my pioneer instincts were as smoked and dried as pemmican, and I had a much greater respect for those who produce maple syrup in quantities. I no longer wonder why it is so expensive.

Aunt Rosie has passed now, and so has my cousin, Bob. But I shall always respect and love them for the heritage they shared with me. Take a look at her book on Amazon.com.

 

 

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