Lett's Set A Spell

Sowing and reaping on the farm and in life
Jan. 26, 2013 @ 01:00 AM

When philosopher Albert Camus said, “In the midst of winter I found in me an invincible summer,” he was talking about the importance of a sunny attitude during dark days. Through the centuries, folks living on farms had to start preparing for the next harvest as soon as the Christmas holidays were over ... when the sun set early and cast the most shadows.  

By the beginning of winter in late December — the shortest day of the year — everything had gone to seed from last year’s crop and the earth lay dull and barren. As each day grew a tiny bit longer, it was a reminder that spring would return again and plenty was on its way.

On the Lett family farm in the Buckhorn community in rural North Carolina, each season brought its challenges and rewards. When it could be “as cold as a well-digger’s behind,” according to Grandpa, there was little relaxation for farm families, even on the weariest, dreariest, most bitter of days.    

IN LATE JANUARY when the mood struck and the moon was just right, Grandpa (Puzie Lett), Grandma (Verta) and their nine young’uns would make a beeline to the plant bed where tobacco seeds were placed tenderly under cold hard soil. This tradition was a sure sign that a new growing season had begun.

One neighbor discovered that if he set out his beet seeds about the same time, they grew a little faster than the tobacco. The beets would eventually lift the protective sheet over the plant bed higher, creating growing space for budding tobacco sprouts. Some say growing tobacco was like starting a second religion — it was discussed as much or more so than worshiping God.   

For many farmers the tobacco crop’s earnings became their salvation because earnings provided the steady income to modernize the house, acquire citified equipment, and above all, buy foods and supplies not available on the farm.

When neighbors gathered by the old potbellied stove in the back room of Grandpa’s country store, they would commence the first of many conversations about this year’s main money crop. Tobacco was king when it came to reliable and profitable crops.  

TODAY, TOBACCO FARMERS — fewer each year — will bury their seeds in the plant beds with their minds focused on the summer’s harvest. Few of them will be able to “set a spell” at a country store where they can share their challenges and victories side by side with neighbors.

These farmers will have not the luxury of listening to Grandpa spout his words of wisdom. Each launch of a new growing season reminds me of Grandpa’s philosophy of life: “Everybody reaps what they sow, sometimes in the short run, sometimes in the long haul, sometimes in heaven, sometimes in hell, but everybody gets what’s coming to them.”   

Seems to me we’d better be sowing thoughts about a refreshing spring, an abundant summer and a rich fall harvest.

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.