Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Logs to Burn

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
Even the very flames are cold.

"But Ash green or Ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown.

"Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke.

"Apple wood will scent your room
With an incense like perfume.

Continued at... What Logs to Burn.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

First, you start with a pumpkin seed, but not just any pumpkin. Seek out seeds of a Halloween or Jack-o'-Lantern or Spookie variety. You want a pumpkin that matures to the size and shape of your own head.
Sow your seed just before the last frost in mounds of soil and manure. And as you plant, reflect on how deeply the roots of pumpkins sink into history. Native to the Americas, pumpkins fed Indian tribes before Columbus landed and gave white settlers in frontier cabins sustenance through cold, dark winters.

Grow pumpkin vines in full sun with plenty of water. When they sprout small pumpkins, pinch off the tips of the vines. When the pumpkins are six inches across, pick all but one pumpkin per vine.

Turn your pumpkins gently in their final weeks of growth so they don't grow flat on one side. If one becomes your favorite, reflecting in its ribbed surface something inside your soul, scratch your name or initials in its skin.

Continued at... How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern.

Rural Delivery

Artwork: Jack-o-lantern

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Stories We Tell

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.

Was it a conscious decision I made to move back to the country, or was it the agrarian genetics in my blood that drew me here? The desire to grow things, to live among animals, to own land and be out in the open is not entirely learned. I am the Frenchman tending his vineyards and a Norse fisherman returning from the sea. I am the Volga German growing tulips and the Irishman cultivating potatoes. When I turn the earth, I turn my soul. I carry memories of many soils inside my skull. Carved into my brain are inclinations I only faintly understand.

Continued at... The Stories We Tell.

Rural Delivery
Second Nature
Out of the Past
Out There
Artwork: Rational Chaos by Philippe Sainte-Laudy

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Silent Sentinel of Crop Protection

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

He stands alone near the fenceline staring out at the horizon. The breeze that rustles through the dried corn stalks stirs his tattered shirttails. He sways slightly, but keeps a firm grip on his rusty pitchfork with a broken tine.

Since spring planting he's been out there, a silent sentinel of agricultural defense. As the fields were plowed and fertilized, he was watching. He witnessed the first emergence of seedlings and saw the workers moving handlines during the early summer drought.

But now the crop is in and harvest done, and he's still standing there, waiting. I find him unnerving.

Continued at... Silent Sentinel of Crop Protection

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Artwork: Scarecrow by Susan Savad

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Real Cowboy Hats

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

Real cowboy hats don't have feather bands, nor do they come in mink fur or shades of mauve. The real thing, like the Stetsons and Resistols of old, is 100 percent fur felt. It's sturdy enough to weather gully-washers and to withstand horse's hooves, and it comes only in basic colors: good-guy white, bad-guy black and wrangler tan.
It used to be, a hundred or so years ago, you could tell where a cowpoke hailed from by the style of his hat. High Plains horsemen wore hats with wide brims to shade them from the glaring sun. Backcountry packers and riders in wooded areas favored hats that were narrower, to avoid tree limbs, and more bowed, to keep rain off their necks.
Nowadays mass production of cowboy hats has messed things up, but there are still some distinctions among real-life working cowboys. Your Texas cattleman, for instance, still wears a conservative rancher-style hat with a crease down the center of a six-inch crown and a dent along each side.

Continued at... Real Cowboy Hats.

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Artwork: A White Cowboy Hat

Friday, October 5, 2012

Signs of the Weather

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

Bad weather is on its way -- ferocious storms of rain and maybe snow. I see it clearly in the night sky: that ring around the moon -- a sure sign.

The brighter the stars, of course, the better the weather, but when a cat begins to wash its face a storm is coming fast. And when smoke drops in a chimney, rain soon follows.

Before there was a Weather Channel or weather reports on the radio or even a National Weather Service, folks in the country relied on the sights and sounds around them for weather forecasting. They noticed the color of the sky, the direction of the wind, the shapes and movements of clouds and their combined influence on the next day's weather. They also noted how often animal behavior corresponds to the meteorology around them.

Continued at... Signs of the Weather

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Artwork: Rooster Crowing