A Story and a Recipe

By Dorothy Johnson

 

The strawberries are done and farm life goes forward.  The hot days of July and August are often haymaking days so the focus of the farm workers turns to the haying process. This process also depends on all of the stars and the moon lining up in just the right way so the long chore may move to completion.

In my farm days (and probably in all farming days) haying was a multi-step procedure.  First someone had to cut the hay.  Second, someone had to use the kicker to turn the hay so it would dry on all surfaces. Then someone had to rake the hay.  These jobs required a cooperative team of horses and some crude farm equipment.  The arm of the haying machine had to be lifted by hand as did the rake when it had made a full furrow. These were easy chores for the young men on the farm, but as time went by and the young men surrendered to the passage of time, the jobs were not easy.

The fields did look good when they were transformed from swaying grasses to leveled grasses.  Then as nature ran its course, the grass turned to hay.  The kicking machine would stir up the leveled grass to dry on the other side and once all of the grasses were yellow, the person on the raking machine would move the hay to rows to be loaded onto the hay rack.

These many rows were loaded on the hay rack by pitch fork, one pitch forkful at a time.  The farm also had to provide someone on top of the hay rack to pack the hay down so each trip held the maximum load.  I believe my aunts had some investment in this part of the job.  When I was around, though, all of my aunts had married and left the farm so that left the rest of us with the job.

My father’s job was to pack the rack and by extension of that job control the horses pulling the hay rack.  My uncle loaded the hay on the rack by pitchfork. 

Once the hayrack was loaded, it had to be unloaded in the barn, or more specifically, the hay mow. Up in the barn on those hot days was torture.  We had one window in the peak of the barn.  That was on the south side of the barn and provided little air.  Moving the hay around in the mow was hot work and required lots of lifting and tramping in the hay that was already stored.  It was not a lot of fun.  The job did, though, give everyone a lot of satisfaction once it was completed.

One trick for storing hay was to know when it was ready.  Farmers could not leave it in the field too long because it would rot.  On the other hand, putting it away before it was “made” might make it overheat and cause a fire in the barn.  Rotten hay would make the cows sick and green hay would make the barn burn.  It seemed that haying, like the other chores of farming, was just one balancing act after another.

The trick of actually getting the hay from the hayrack to the higher mow was a series of pulleys, ropes and tackles and it took at least three people (one in the mow, one in the hayrack) and a third to drive the horses.  To keep a farm running smoothly month in and month out required walking a tightrope.  Everything had to be completed in a timely manner so that all chores would be completed.  Putting off a chore to another day could result in putting all chores behind and that would not work.  Perhaps this demanding schedule coupled with hard work was what made the life expectancy of farmers shorter than life expectancies now.

Let’s get on to the recipe.  This recipe is for a frozen salad that can be made ahead and frozen so it will be ready when those hard workers come in from the fields.

Frozen Cocktail Salad

Ingredients:

Two cups dairy sour cream

Three-fourths cup sugar

One tablespoon plus one teaspoon

lemon juice

One can (30 ounces) fruit 

cocktail, drained

Two medium bananas, cut into 

1/4 inch slices

One-half cup coarsely chopped walnuts

One jar (10 ounces) maraschino cherries, halved

Method:
Mix sour cream, sugar and lemon juice.
Stir in fruit cocktail, bananas, walnuts 
and cherries.
Pour mixture into two refrigerator trays.
Cover, label and freeze.
Freeze until firm, at least 24 hours. (Upright or chest freezers will freeze salad in two hours.)
NOTE: Store no longer than 4 weeks.  Recipe makes enough for sixteen pieces 2 X 2 and one-fourth inches.  Stemmed red cherries make a bright garnish.