Friday, March 20, 2009

Oh, Happy Spring on the Ridge! Hurrah!

Here on the ridge, forsythia and Bradford pear trees are blooming, and the daffodils are poking up around my chicken house! This is a view up to our knob on Hickory Nut Ridge from the back of our chicken house in the circle in front of the double-wide where the old barn once stood. It is the largest knob on the ridge, Dick Knob (no, "Dick Knob Farm" just won't do, will it?), but you can't see the top from our double-wide. Soon it will be a pasture to cattle after we hay it one more season.
And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;

And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Sensitive Plant"
In third grade, we had to memorize Riley's "Little Orphant Annie" and "The Raggedy Man," with Miss Schell at Old Trail School outside of Akron, Ohio (a beloved place and time in my memory). Both are classic Riley poems about a hired girl and a hired man. Because of their sing-song cadence, amusing dialect, and images that delight children, it was not hard to memorize them. At the start of my kindergarten year in 1967, my grandfather Penfield in Akron also gave me his original illustrated book of Riley's children's poems, The Raggedy Man [This edition was reprinted several years ago.] I still have this cherished edition, complete with Grandpa's own childhood scribblings and a lovely inscription to me. [I am hard pressed if I can find it in my boxes and general clutter right now--for more on this topic of chaos and clutter, see my recent posting over at Cupcake Chronicles. The Cupcakes are all in a tizzy about spring cleaning, town meetings, Peeps, and our upcoming reunion in Asheville, North Carolina on April Fool's Day! Biltmore Estate will never be the about spring cleaning!]

Little Orphan Annie was a real person who came to stay at the childhood home of beloved Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley, in Indiana. Riley wrote poetry in the native cadence and speech of his day, like Mark Twain and others, and for that reason was often considered offensive or in poor taste by contemporary critics (and even when examined in our more politically correct modern times). But I say, put aside your PC-ness and embrace this beloved rural poet. His poetry is made to be read aloud, preferably by a cozy fire with children and puppies at your feet.

Here is the first verse of this immortal poem:
Little Orphant Annie's come to my house to stay.
To wash the cups and saucers up and brush the crumbs away.

To shoo the chickens from the porch and dust the hearth and sweep,

and make the fire and bake the bread to earn her board and keep.

While all us other children, when the supper things is done,

we sit around the kitchen fire and has the mostest fun,

a listening to the witch tales that Annie tells about

and the goblins will get ya if ya don't watch out!
NOTE: If you want to read the poem in its original dialect and sentence structure, as written by James Whitcomb Riley, click here. To hear Riley reading this poem, and "The Raggedy Man," click here.

Today I was reminded of Little Orphan Annie (or "orphant" as Riley spelled it -- I should note, too, that no one knows if she inspired the comic strip version a few decades later on) when one of the Cupcakes asked about whether or not there was a local rag man in New Hampshire (spring cleaning and all that). Apparently, rag men used to come door to door and would buy old rags, clothes and cloth to sell to paper companies for pulp. I just learned of this term in Perley: The Story of a New Hampshire Hermit that the Cupcakes are reading this month. [In looking for images to illustrate this blog, I discovered a new blog that I know I will love. James Whitcomb Riley was written about over at Life at Willow Manor and I look forward to reading more of this blog on art, literature, good food and so many things I enjoy reading and writing about.]

I could use a Little Orphan Annie around here, or Wendy Darling from Peter Pan, especially when those chickens arrive next week (although I expect the puppies will do their best to shoo them off our porch). And I know those goblins will get me if I don't finish my office and bedroom tidying up. Today, and every Friday of late, I am blessed to have Debbie cleaning up a storm in the double-wide. It is helpful to have someone help me clean house, especially when I have ADD and am generally distracted by other things (like writing, office organization--she still hasn't seen my office and bedroom--and soon our garden). Fortunately, I have a tolerant husband and one who suggested that we hire Debbie in the first place. I had to admit I needed help and for someone with self-diagnosed compulsive-hoarding syndrome, Debbie is God sent.

...Now, I'm just thinking that Debbie might not mind if I call her "Little Debbie," as she has a great sense of humor, but now that has me thinking of the oatmeal pies creme-filled pies by the same name and Whoopie pies, those delectable chocolate pies that deserve an entire blog to themselves and that my Mennonite friends make to perfection--chocolate and pumpkin and that I once made from the King Arthur Flour recipe long ago (divine: click here for the recipe) and that were recently written about in The New York Times "Food" section--oh, dear, are Whoopie pies the new Cupcakes? Please, no! And can't you tell that I haven't had lunch?--and oh, just a literary aside, do you realize you are now witness to my ADD problem just flowing to the bark of the tree like fine New Hampshire maple sap, that is surely boiling on a day like today up there?...Believe it or not, this ADD-addled woman once wrote a book. Who was that woman!!?? Hopefully I shall find her again after I recover from this intoxicating, brisk first day of spring...and a necessary late-March frenzy of spring cleaning, too...


Bee's Wing Farm said...

Farm naming -- what fun! And the chickens arriving next week -- think of the naming possibilities there. I'm sure your Cupcakes will help you out if necessary. You'll know Tammy of Topeka when you see her, that's for sure. She'll be fuzzy. And I'm assuming you got some chickens with funny hats and pantaloons -- they will practically name themselves. We can't wait to hear updates on how it all progresses. Are the puppies and chickens going to meet - what is the strategy for that? Okay, must run. Dinner to cook but not chicken tonight! Happy spring to you and can't wait for Biltmore, etc. What fun we'll have! Love, Edie

willow said...

It's not often I bump into another James Whitcomb Riley fan. I feel we surely must be kindred spirits!

a Cupcake near you! said...

Can't wait for a big dose of Kentucky spring! Not to mention canoodling with chicks and puppies. It's going to be Disneyland for Cupcakes.


P.S. Bertha will be more than happy to suggest names if you run short...

Catherine said...

Edie, wish you could be here for the chicken-naming that will invariably happen when Peaches is here. And maybe she can help me train the pups not to go after the chickens--we're getting guinea hens that will free range and eat grubs and ticks so the pups will get some practice with them. Besides, those critters won't tolerate puppies bothering them so they'll be good preparation.

Can't wait to see you at Biltmore!


Catherine said...

Willow -- it is so nice to know about your blog! I forwarded it to the other Cupcakes (Edie and Peaches)--or should I say the "core Cupcakes" and they are equally smitten. Thanks for stopping by the pantry.

Oh and I drove around Indianapolis last September. Did not have time to go to JWR house but intend to again (it is only about 3.5 hours from our part of KY).