Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tales of a 'Barefoot' farm boy

In Chapter 3 of my book, I introduced the Barefoot family farm to which Buddy Wayne was placed once he arrived in Idealia. The farm is set on a large meadow in the Hill Country carved into the clouds of the magical place. The hills resemble the part of the Southeastern United States which is the traditional home of the rural redneck culture.

I wrote that Buddy helps in the harvest by planting crops, taking care of animals, and even guarding the water supply from contamination.

This post details the activities at the Barefoot farm throughout the year.

During the traditional planting season, familiar crops are planted on the land: corn, wheat, barley, peaches, apples and plums. As the fruits ripen, they are picked to be part of the family's food supply. In time, the grain crops will be both human and animal food. The cows are milked twice a day and the result is both milk and other dairy products.

Alonzo Barefoot, Buddy Wayne's great-uncle and father figure is the head of the household and chief executive of Barefoot Farms. In his role, he oversees the land, pays the employees, and accounts for everything on the property. He has learned all the traditional rural methods that have been passed on from generation to generation, ever since the first Barefoot family members arrived on a plot of land in North Carolina in the 1780s.

And one of those methods is the use of mules instead of tractors. Although he lack of mechanical parts makes for longer days on smaller plots of lands than are used in modern agriculture, there is more satisfaction in the work. The farmers also learn patience, dedication, and the right way to do things.

As the crops grow, the family takes a break. Alonzo stays at the farm year-round, but many of the others move to Timberlake Village (Chapters 3 and 10), Idealia's traditional summer retreat. There, people come to the most abundant fishery in the world and take special lessons from Wilburn Baldridge, the land's legendary angler. Summer is when the children climb on top of trees, pitch tents on makeshift campgrounds, sing, dance, shoot bows and arrows, and play the new game of boogers (to be detailed later in the week). The adults have barbeques and come to an amphitheater to hear traditional performances of country, bluegrass, and gospel music.

It is now time to plant the grain crops. There is always a bumper crop of everything, and a large storehouse is kept next to the barn to help keep all the plants stored. None of the grain products are used to make alcohol, as the family has a strict no-alcohol policy. Instead, the corn extract is used for a syrup sweetener similar to that from the maple trees, and the barley is used as an ingredient for bread.

A round robin harvest festival takes place on the land every October. During this time, the Barefoots host other families for a few hours, and in turn the family visits other nearby farms to celebrate the harvest and exchange food and other items. The closest neighbors are the McLamb, Brookshire, Barnhill, and Spears families.

This is also the time that the local wildflowers are in bloom, creating a picture just like the one seen in pastoral art and the opening of Little House on the Prairie, among other places. Also, the loblolly pines shed their leaves and create a bright and colorful scene.

Hunting takes place both here and on other farms during the year. Most is done with bow and arrow, as in medieval times; guns are seldom used. The most targeted animals are deer, ducks, and turkeys.

This is the "off season" on the Barefoot land. Freezing rain is common and even some snow on nearby slopes is not unheard of. The farm school is open for the younger residents, like Belinda Barefoot (chapter 3). Alonzo and the other farmers collect hay to give to the animals to avoid starvation.

This is also the busiest time for the local slaughterhouse, which supplements the hunting that is done earlier. Cattle, chicken, and hogs are killed using the most humane methods possible, although the residents wear blindfolds as a precaution. Much of the meat ends up in the icebox, but some is eaten immediately.

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