Molasses was important to America’s original homesteaders. Like honey, it was often called Liquid Gold. Why? It saved lives. Even in our modern times, few things perk up a compromised animal, like a healthy shot of molasses. In fact, it’s one of the best, non-meat sources of iron. It’s also loaded with other minerals and vitamins.
So, when I ran across a recipe for molasses bread last week, I had to try it. But, instead of mild molasses, I used blackstrap. And I wasn’t disappointed. The bread was bold in flavor and as just tasty as I had anticipated.
Truth be told, I’ve always loved molasses; even as a child. I still remember it poured from a tin can. But, I don’t recall turning my nose up at the smell. I also don’t recall spitting out the syrup. And unlike today, I never heard anyone say that molasses was gross. Yet, I concede that molasses’ sulphur smell may be unpleasant to some. And it’s boldness may actually be an acquired taste. Guess, I’m lucky. My mom used molasses for her delicious pecan pies. And my dad taught me to enjoy it on biscuits and pancakes, early in life.
Keith also grew up with an appreciation of molasses. (By the way, his mother makes the best molasses cookies I’ve ever tasted.) And as homesteaders, molasses continues to be an integral part of our life. Aside from critters, it’s used for making dark breads and nut pies. Keith and I also dollop it in hot cereals or coffee. And thanks to a man named Mark, we love it drizzled over scoops of vanilla ice-cream. The molasses “candies” as it freezes and the stark contrast in flavors is delightful.
And don’t forget about Switchel. Thanks to modern homesteaders and hipsters, it’s in vogue again. A.k.a “Haymaker’s punch”, Switchel is a mixture of molasses, cider vinegar, and ginger. It was the original Gatorade-like, hydration drink. Trust me, nothing is more refreshing. Especially, when haying all day under a July sun. So, if you dare, raise a glass and let’s make a toast: Here’s to hard work, good health, and molasses!
I stared at a photo of a cross. A simple, handmade cross of sticks… naturally bent… tied securely with string… and sunk deep into sand… within the heart of Homesteading Ways’ homestead. It’s a homestead Paul and Sandra were building, yoked side-by-side; together.
Sandra wrote, “My husband (Paul) died in an accident on the homestead on Saturday. I am broken into a million pieces”.
Alas, homesteading hearts across the country are also breaking… for Sandra.
A long, purple tongue and one, small hoof was hanging out the backend of a heifer. Numbered seventeen, this soon to be cow was struggling with her delivery. So, Keith donned elbow-length, sterile gloves. Fortunately, he discovered Seventeen’s calf was still alive. But, it needed to be pulled. The exam simply confirmed what Keith’s parents had already known. And whether, it’s from years of experience, instinct, or both, they were right; once again.
A small chain was easily secured around the protruding, front hoof. However, securing it around the other front hoof was an inside job. Once the chain was in place, triangle-shaped handles for pulling were added. Each time the heifer pushed with a contraction, the calf was pulled out; inch by inch.
Now, I believe Seventeen would say that writing about such things is physically easy, compared to doing them. And I agree; wholeheartedly. Why? Somehow, I ended up behind Seventeen, squatting. Soon afterwards, I was holding those cold, stainless steel, triangular handles. But, as I also recall, Keith told me he’d be back in just a minute. Well, kiss my grits and call me naïve.
You can also call me determined. As Keith and his parents stood by me, Seventeen pushed hard and I pulled hard. It was exhausting work for both of us. But, after a while, I no longer felt the strain in my arms, legs, and lower back. In fact, something magical was happening. This fight for life was turning into a beautiful dance.
As soon as Seventeen and I found our rhythm, we got lost in time and moved as one. Push-pull. Push-Pull. Push-Pull. Push-Pull. Over and over, without missing a step. First, I was greeted by front legs and a thick, mucous coated nose. Then appeared a forehead with big, round eyes. Next, two slicked back ears and the rest of the head, cannon-balled their way out. Then two, slender shoulders twisted toward freedom. Afterwards, there was a dramatic pause. During which, Seventeen and I both took a deep breath.
Eventually, there was one more, albeit anti-climactic, push-pull. Then two, back legs with a stubby tail simply slid out. In fact, the lack of resistance caught me off guard. And had a corral post not been nearby, my own legs would have slid out from under me, too. However, I managed to catch my balance and stood up.
It was time to celebrate. Seventeen and I had delivered a healthy, bull calf. He, too would be numbered seventeen. And with a quick swipe to clear his airway and remove the chain, our job was done. Well, not actually. It was just another beginning…
Seasons of Winter, Summer, Spring, and Fall.
Seasons of flood and seasons of drought.
Seasons of sowing and seasons of harvesting.
Seasons of plenty and seasons of want.
Seasons of health and seasons of illness.
Seasons of life and seasons of death.
Seasons of joy and seasons of pain.
Seasons of triumph and seasons of failure.
Seasons of chaos and seasons of order.
Seasons of destruction and seasons of construction.
Seasons of endless of work and seasons of rest, silence, and reflection.
Alas, we’ve discovered that blogs have seasons, too. Especially, if they’re organic. So, when our blog has been silent, take heart. It’s just a different season of real-life on the homestead.
Even when they sparkle, thistles and thorns remain thistles and thorns. While some prefer to be deceived, we’ll remain thankful for the cold facts.
Dallas, our juvenile bull, staged a walk out. Ironically, it was this week. And in all fairness, it was easy and looked like a good idea.
Of course, the grass often looks greener on the other side. And Dallas enjoyed every minute of his protest. However, he also lived to regret it.
Only a short-time later, Dallas became desperate. He longed for the basics of real security. The same security he’d taken for granted. And the same security that had been paid for, by the sacrifices of others.
Now that it was gone, Dallas would pay a price. He had to fight to get back what he’d walked away from. Alas, it was much harder, and far more painful, than a walk out.