Wednesday, January 4, 2012

They had me at The Seasons!

I mentioned yesterday that I was reading a book I couldn't put down.  Well, that page turner is The Seasons at Henry's Farm by Terra Brockman,  A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm.  This book takes you through a farmer's year, a week at a time.  Starting in November, with the planting of garlic and ending with preparations the following year to do the same.  The never ending cycle of life on a farm.  Those of us with a romantic view of farming and farm life, this book sets things straight.  Henry and his family work, work and work to be good stewards of land that has been in his family for five generations.  The farm is here in Illinois, in the Mackinaw River Valley, in Congerville.  Henry grows more than 650 varieties of vegetables on 10 acres. and sells his produce in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, at their weekly farmers market.  Henry also feeds his own and extended family.  The book is full of recipes, family stories and facts about how farming was done in the past, the present day methods and the way back to growing good food.  Food that is good for us and for the soil and water. "That we can eat well and live well and still leave this earth a better place than we found it."

The Christmas decorations are being packed away, though the candles in the windows, the lights on the arbor and the evergreens out in front of the house will stay for a few more weeks.  My Mom never thought of taking down the tree until the Three Kings came on January 6th.  I remember a small box with a sliding top, filled with fragrant incense and a piece of chalk... I couldn't remember the significance so I looked it up...

The Epiphany or Feast of the Three Kings - Trzech Kroli

On Twelfth Night, Jan. 6, Poles take small boxes containing chalk, a gold ring, incense and a piece of amber, in memory of the gifts of the Magi, to church to be blessed. Once at home, they inscribe the date and "K+M+B" with the blessed chalk above every door in the house to provide protection against illness and misfortune for those within. The letters, with a cross after each one, stand for names of the Three Kings -- Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They remain above the doors all year until they are inadvertently dusted off or replaced by new markings the next year.

Do any of you remember this custom?  It's those kinds of memories that make me so glad that I was raised with traditon, and a proud Polish heritage.

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

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