Lett's Set A Spell
As winter blanketed the earth during the Age of Grandpa and Grandma (Puzie and Verta Lett), folks on farms turned inward for activities related to survival. Constant chores and urgent concerns associated with feeding the family and animals prevailed all year long. However, there were specific actions best suited for cold weather, such as tools to sharpen, clothes to sew and mend, and quilts to make.
If one was efficient and lucky, there was a little time to read and relax by the fire. In the Lett household, there were only two publications: The Holy Bible and The Farmers’ Almanac. Both were read with fervor, and both were considered the gospel. After all, the Bible focused on the Father in Heaven, the Golden Rule, and principles for experiencing the Good Life.
The Almanac enlightened folks about Mother Nature on Earth, influences related to sowing and growing, and ideas for living in tune with the moon and in harmony with one’s environment. Farmers, wives and young’uns noticed the sun’s daily journey across the sky and watched carefully the moon’s monthly rotation in the heavens.
Country folks spoke the language of the moon as easily as they discussed the weather. They talked knowingly about new and full moons, first quarter and last quarter moons, waxing and waning moons, and crescent and gibbous moons. Their lives played out on earth in line with the movement of the moon as it traveled through all the 12 astrological signs and various phases every 30 days.
FOR CENTURIES country folks have believed that the phases of the moon and seasons of the earth affect trees as well as gardens and crops. On the Lett farm, Grandpa and menfolk cut wood in line with the season of the year, but also noted specific phases of the moon. The sap in trees goes down during cold temperatures and rises in the warm weather. In late fall and early winter when the sap dipped low, wood was cut for feeding stoves used for cooking and heating and stored for later fueling tobacco barns for curing. In spring and summer, when the sap was higher and brought strength to the wood, it was sturdier for building projects.
“Just like the sap is lower in trees during the winter it is true with people, and that is why folks are sicker and die more often during cold weather,” Grandpa told me.
Trees that shed their leaves should be cut in winter under the third quarter of the moon, preferably in December as the wood would be more durable, according to Grandpa. Moon folklore indicated that the best time to cut evergreens is in the fall and winter during the second quarter of the moon, he said.
AS A CHILD growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I visited often with Grandpa at his country store across the road where I listened intently to moon musings, life stories and tall tales. He and I were usually surrounded by local folks who “set a spell” daily to share the sameness of their lives — farming and making a living — and the uniqueness of their mates, young’uns, animals and crops.
At Grandpa’s country store I learned a lot about seasons of the fields and matters of the heart — about rich harvests that led to a man running into the house, grabbing the Mrs. into his arms and swinging her around and saying, “go buy yourself a store-bought frock.” I also heard about devastating crop damage that made grown men walk the floors at night and low market prices that led breadwinners to cry quietly in their trucks and walk limply into their houses, seeking the comforting embrace of their faithful wives.
Listening and observing, I discovered that surviving and thriving call for understanding that the winters of our sorrow are just as important as the summers of our joy. Like the moon changing phases and the earth rotating seasons, the heart knows the meaning of sowing and reaping. The heart eventually understands that in the end, all is balanced in nature and in life.
AlexSandra Lett is a professional speaker and the author of “Natural Living, From Stress to Rest;” “A Timeless Place, Lett’s Set a Spell at the Country Store;” “Timeless Moons, Seasons of the Fields and Matters of the Heart;” “Timeless Recipes and Remedies, Country Cooking, Customs, and Cures;” and “Coming Home to my Country Heart, Timeless Reflections about Work, Family, Health, and Spirit.” Lett can be reached at (919) 258-9299 or LettsSetaSpell@aol.com.