I shall begin this Little Entry with a discussion of Knitting. Then I shall move on to the Making of Molasses, intertwined with Reclaiming Family Traditions. Yes, it all fits together. Right here. Hang on to your seat.
Across the course of my Life, I have been a Knitter. I knit by fits and starts. I may knit for a year or a few years. I almost always finish my projects. Then, for whatever reason, I go on break. Some years later I come back to this Craft which I find a Meditation that slows me down to the Beauty and Love of Each Little Stitch.
As a Knitter, I know to be on the lookout for Dropped Stitches. Should I drop a Stitch, it will "Run", unravelling back to the beginning. Not only does this leave a hole which looks terrible, but it will substantially weaken the project I intend to create.
To reduce the possibility of Dropped Stitches, I try to be present for every Stitch. Upon completing each Row, I look carefully to make sure the Stitches on my Needle are attached to the Row before. Sometimes I count my Stitches. I always do if the Design is complicated. I learned the hard way on that one.
OK. I have been known to drop a Stitch. So what do I do? If I see that I have dropped a Stitch, if the pattern is simple, and if I am within a few rows, I will get out a Crochet Hook and carefully bring the Loops back up to the current row. Then I breathe a sigh of relief. I have saved my Project. Somehow, I saved my Day.
We live at an extraordinary time in our Culture and World. Right before our eyes we are dropping Stitches. We do these things sometimes by accident and other times intentially.
People are moving to Town or to places of Glitter beyond their Humble Roots. Traditions that carried across Generations are being left behind as if that is the Natural Order of Things. We are losing Foods, Crafts, Stories that have created the Fabric of our Being. They help us to know where we are from. We really cannot know who we are and where we are until we know our Roots. That means who and what came before.
The Crawford Family almost dropped a Big Stitch. The last time the Crawford Family of Millard had made Molasses was in 1977. At that time, the 4 Boys had Families of their own, so they were scattered and busy with their own full lives. Their Parents, John and Ethel Crawford, had always led the process. Over the years, the Boys became the Work Force, doing simply what they were told or what they knew to do. That last year of Molasses Making with the Boys' Parents, John Barton Crawford was not well and passed the following February.
For a lot of following years, Molasses was not made. The Original Equipment fell into disrepair, with Weeds and Trees on the Family Farm claiming the Tools of what had been an Active and Vital Craft.
As a Generation passes, the People at the Rudder change. It takes a while to work out some of the kinks in a new day for the Family.
At our Gatherings over the years, Molasses Making would occasionally come up in conversation. Not much was said about it. And reclaiming it was not much considered beyond the "I wish I had a taste of that now..."
By early in the new Millennium, 2 Families were living on the old Home Place and had been for a few years. Each of the Boys' Families were sharing Molasses Making Images from their stashes of photos. Every photo was a surprise and just sheer magic. I even dug out writings from the Fox Fire Series on making Molasses in Appalachia. "Yes, we did it like that." "No, we didn't..." The Pot was beginning to simmer. And the Stirring was picking up speed.
Conversation began to focus on "It would be nice to make it again..." "Can we make it again some day?" "How would we do that?"
By 2003, the decision was made to make Molasses. Hollis led the way, with a lot of physical help and skill from Sons, Nephews, Brothers, Grandson, and who knows who else. He wanted to do the process in the Vintage Way using all the Old Equipment. The Women helped in their own way. We each stirred the Pot toward the reclaiming of a Tradition which binds us all.
We made our 1st batch in 2004. Hollis says that was the 1st year we made it without supervision. We have made Molasses every year since. It is not easy. It requires Someone on Point (Hollis). It is a year long process. It requires a community. No one person can do it alone. People need to step up to the Plate at Critical Times. And they have, with more besides.
Some amusing things happened along the way. We started talking more about Family History. More Pictures came out. Stories popped up everywhere.
Jesse Sherman Crawford, the Boys' Grandfather, was a Blacksmith in Yarrow. The Boys' Father (Jesse's Son) John Crawford was a boy at that time. Those years had left quite a mark on him. In the early part of the 1900s, we are told that 35 Molasses Mills were in operation in the Yarrow area. Some were even mobile Mills that could be taken to a Farmer or Neighbor's Field when the Cane was ready.
In 2006, we celebrated the Centennial Anniversary of the Birth Date of the Boys' Dad. A cousin, Terry Pea and his wife Yvonne, joined us from their home in California. Even the extended family was being woven back together in special ways. At that gathering, we put together posters of John Crawford's life (1906-1978) with the able help of innovative scrapbooker Yvonne. We all poured over this. Even the younger ones who had not known him did. We were telling more stories and learning. Always learning. I think the Old Ones would smile.
I am closing this entry with 2 Pictures from Harvesting for "Molasses Batch 2-2008", September 10. The 1st Photo is actually the Inspiration of This Little Entry. It is not a composite Photo. All that motion was captured in a single Photo which I snapped quick, not knowing exactly what I would take. I have pondered this Photo and am just amazed by it.
You will see 6 people (Left to Right): Richard, Hollis Dale, Gerald, Mike, David, and Hollis. Melanie was behind me and is in the closing Photo. The Cane Field was a Beehive of Activity that Wednesday.
This is a simple record of the fact that we have picked up a Dropped Stitch in our Family. These are very Busy People who are Showing Up for Something Important to each of us and all of us. And you'll have to see the Photos from the Day of Molasses Making. There are more.
Some Important Things are being dropped in our time. That will not happen on our watch. How cool is that!