Monday, September 20, 2010

Molasses Making 2010-Batch 1-Part 1

Until recent times, making Molasses (or Sorghum) seemed a dying craft. Simultaneously and certainly not separately, small Family Farms and unique Rural Culture embedded in place were being blotted out by the glaring lights of Modern Industrial Fare. Yes indeed, until recent times, Molasses Making seemed on a path of extinction. That is not the experience of the John and Ethel (Kirkpatrick) Crawford family or many others who have sought to reclaim this vibrant Traditional Craft.

Making Molasses is a big deal. The commitment by individuals and families to reclaim this traditional craft is phenomenal. The complexity is astounding. The sophistication and skill needed are nothing short of amazing. The need for and interworkings of family and community are a work of art. The embeddedness in Nature is subject for study demanding attention and inherent in success. Every batch and every year is different. This one was no exception.

When Consumers grab a jar of Molasses off the Grocery Store shelf, most have no idea what went into that Jar. 1st and foremost, I am not talking about Black Strap Molasses which is a byproduct in Sugar Cane Production. Black Strap Molasses is not the fine mellow golden syrup produced from Sorghum Cane by many self sustaining Rural Families in this country for the last century and a half.

If the Consumer does manage to get his/her hand on a jar of that Golden Brown Syrup, s/he likely does so by intention. Most have grown up with this tradition or have family memory of it. They know precisely the Syrup and Memories for which they reach. However, as Consumers, Growers and Producers, we may not have a complete idea of the complexity that is in that Jar.

So what is in our "Jar" of Molasses for this Batch? I am speaking here of "story". The story in that jar is that we are learning and growing. Every experience marks its own teachings. We just wait, watch, wonder, and learn. With each batch, we have even more to learn.

I think each one of us could write our own stories of the making of Batch 1-2010. For starts, we had to walk past the adorable 10 week old Labrador Puppies every time we headed down to the Molasses Making Site. Those Puppies could write their own version too. I can imagine they were wondering about the Human doin's, but were grateful for all the attention of the day. The writings on this Batch are my version and not those written by any other.

At the end of the day, Hollis said: "Don't take notes on this one unless you have gathered 28 of your friends."

The choice of day may not have been our 1st. Since this is an outdoor event over the course of a very long 12 hour day, weather is a huge factor and almost always the deciding factor for choice. For this day, weather forecasts predicted a 50% chance of Rain. In these parts, Rain of late has usually been accompanied by Storms.

But this day was special because it would work into the Human Schedule. Among others, Hollis and Deleta's Grandson Jeremy and his growing young family could be there. His weekends have been really busy lately and he just simply loves Molasses making. (This reminds me the times the Family would schedule Molasses Making so we 3 C's could be there. Those weekend trips from North Dakota were memorable indeed.) Plus, most importantly, the Cane was ready and, when it is, we're all eager for Molasses Making to start. We'd just work it out in terms of whatever would come.

The day started out even enough. We all took our places. John made the 3 hour trip over from Maryville. It was wonderful to see the 4 Brothers doing something they grew up doing and just being together again. Deleta's sister-in-law and her family made it, through, of all things a FaceBook connection. New to the process, Jonathan, Deborah and baby Alexis were intently watching every step and willing to take their place. Overall, the regulars took their places in a process that seems more routine.

I continue to be amazed at how the Little Ones naturally step up. They were the subjects of many of my images for the beginning of this day. Of course, we are very careful and protective because this is an industrial process and safety is paramont. Yet, balance is needed, because it is at the feet of such processes and big people that we learn and grow, that we embed such Rich Rural Traditions into our Family Story and Lore. Those little Ones will carry the process forward into the Future.

For these images, Morgan and Madison were making their intentions known. Melanie tells me that Adam and Ericka strained juice for the last hour. Who knows what other images of Precious Little Ones that I missed?The day was beautiful. Once the Syrup was on to boil, we sat back and relaxed a bit, and we marked our intentions that we were once again ready to learn from another Batch. Maybe the Weather Forecasters didn't quite have it right on this one.

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