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MIDSUMMER BLACKBERRIES - News From The Hills

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Midsummer simmers along, with hot, humid days and sticky nights. The common oxeye daisies have given way to brightly colored black-eyed Susan's that stare boldly from large patches along the wayside. Spotted Joe-pye weed is beginning to appear in fields and meadows, showing its pale purple, fuzzy flower heads. All signs point to coming autumn.

This is a good blackberry summer. The berries hang heavy and ripe on their briers, waiting for eager hands to gather them. I can hear Daddy singing now, "Oh, huckleberry pie and blackberry pudding, and I'd give it all away for to hug Sally Gooden!" The blackberry pudding probably referred to "quick jam," as some called it and consisted of thickened and sweetened blackberries, eaten with hot biscuits and butter.

Grandpa O'Dell used to strap two zinc water buckets on his belt (he also wore galluses) and head for Pilot Knob to pick blackberries all day long. He would come home late in the evening, hot and tired, with his buckets heaped with berries. Mom canned the berries in half gallon jars, and would make the quick jam (or flapdoodle, as we called it) on winter mornings with a pan of hot biscuits and plenty of cow butter. It was delicious!

We have enjoyed blackberry cobbler with ice cream, although I ate mine with rich cow cream, thanks to my brother Larry. There is nothing any better than fresh cow milk for real cream, homemade cottage cheese, or country butter. Country living has its advantages, and a milk cow is one of them. It's a lot of hard work, but it has its rewards. Early in the morning, as the world is just beginning to awaken, it is such a pleasure to sit in the porch swing and watch it come alive.

The mist is just beginning to rise from the hilltops, and the songbirds are joining together in a symphony to the morning. The air is cool, and it is peaceful and serene. It is a good place to meditate and pray, and get prepared for the pressures of the day. In Psalms 5-3 it says, "My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up." I have found that if I pray early in the morning, before my day begins, the whole day goes much smoother.

The laying hens are beginning to stir in the chicken house, and we suddenly hear a loud, "Cut-cut-ca-dacket" –a signal that one of the hens has proudly laid an egg. Fresh brown chicken eggs are another plus to country living. The gardens have produced extremely well this summer, with plenty of rain and sunshine. A lot of folks are canning crisp green beans, and tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Corn on the cob will soon be on the menu for country suppers (we still eat "supper" as our evening meal.)
With fresh vegetables abundant now, I found a recipe that was sent to me by my late friend, Mildred "Midge" Clark of Cleveland, Tennessee.

TOMATO SOUP
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6-8 ripe tomatoes; plum tomatoes if available (or one quart)
3 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic, stirring until onions have softened, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until tomatoes, onions and garlic are soft, 10 to 20 minutes. Working in small batches, transfer soup to jar of blender and puree (begin on low speed) until smooth. Return to saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until soup is heated through. If soup seems too thick, stir in extra stock to thin. Serve immediately.

I've used the following canned tomato soup recipe for years—it is delicious with a grilled cheese sandwich when the snow flies.

CANNED TOMATO SOUP
(This makes six to eight quarts—I like to can it in pints; mixed with milk it makes one quart)
2 gallon ripe tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)
6 onions, chopped
1 bunch celery, chopped
1 cup sugar
¼ cup salt
1 cup butter (I use real butter)
1 cup flour
Combine tomatoes, onions and celery in large kettle, cook until tender. Put through a food mill (I use Foley's.) Return to kettle; add sugar and salt. Cream butter and flour together; mix with 2 cups cold juice until dissolved. Stir into kettle and heat until almost boiling. Ladle into jars and add lids. Put in hot water bath and process for 20 to 30 minutes. To serve, mix half with milk, and add ½ teaspoon of soda as it heats.

It is with great sadness that we lost a dear friend last week; a beautiful and precious lady who died unexpectedly and too young. This essay that she had written sometime last year was found in her things, and as her daughter Jaelyn stated, it needs to be shared.

TIME . . .WHERE DID YOU GO?
by Shirley Hanshaw Jett
I never quite understood the question when Grandma said it, but it is clear to me now, being MaMa. Where indeed did time go?

The days of my youth and the memories they held seem like a dream sometimes. It's hard to picture me as a teenager. It is though my life has always been that as Mom, and now MaMa. And I love both titles. God has blessed me with two wonderful daughters, two fantastic grandchildren and a man I am proud to call my husband. I am most truly blessed!

Time has passed so quickly since I was that nineteen year old bride! We didn't have a clue about marriage and what was involved . . .but after 42 years I can honestly say I love this man with all my heart.

And the joy the two girls have brought to my life is immeasurable. As I look back on time, I think sometimes, "Did I do anything right?" My, the mistakes I made! But in two areas of being a mom I am satisfied I did not fail. I have always given them my love, and I have always given them my time. Both of these are so, so important. Love provides security, and time the training and guidance. How many times has my daughter heard me tell her as a Mom not to fail to give her children her time? For once gone, you can never go back and make them children again.

I often think this must be the greatest concern of parents who don't or can't spend as much time with their children as they do. That they have missed out on a part of their child's life that cannot be re-lived. Time is a precious gift, but wasted, it becomes a fleeting reminder of what could have been.

Lord, help me to spend my time wisely—to share it with those I love, and use it to bring joy to all I meet. To God Goes the Glory!

Time has run out for Shirley. But her words live on, and we need to take heed to them.

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Alyce Faye Bragg
About This Author
She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published.
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