02 October 2006

Molasses = Autumn

I have no knitting to show today. This doesn't mean I haven't been knitting -- I did almost a whole pattern repeat on the New England Socks and have done several rows on the Swallow Tail shawl, but neither make for very exciting posting or picture showing. I did, however, go to a Molasses-making down in North Carolina yesterday, and took some fancy photos I thought I'd share.

Molasses, for those of you who don't know, comes from cane,

which is crushed through rollers in a crusher,

and emptied into barrels.

When the barrels are full, gravity carries the juice through a hose from the crushing area (uphill) down to a large boiler (the size of a bathtub),

which is set up over a fire, where it boils for hours until it turns thick and brown.

During the boil, the chlorophil rises to the top and needs to be skimmed off, so people take turns constantly skimming the green sludge off the top of the boiling cane juice.

While it boils, everyone took turns working, chatting, whittling paddles (to use to scrape the molasses out of the bottom of the boiler at the end -- good eats!), and playing music.

I love how much music is a part of daily life here. It's not about performance as much as it is about community, time with friends and neighbors, and work. We all waited, skimmed, crushed more cane, ate lunch (soup beans and cornbread - yum!), skimmed, waited some more. When it was ready, the men lifted the huge boiler (it's the size of a bathtub) off the fire and onto sawhorses,

where it was scooped through a cheesecloth bag (to filter out an impurities) and into a bucket with a spigot, which filled the jars.

It's a pretty amazing process and I was really excited to be a part of it. In the end, I got myself a big jar of molasses for baking and eating over biscuits this winter. (If, for some crazy reason, these photos aren't enough, there are more posted on flickr).

My non-knitting work is coming slowly. I think there is nothing more frustrating and depressing than beginning to write a dissertation. I'm so excited about my material, but completely overwhelmed by even approaching writing it down. Where do I start? I don't know enough! How will I do this? I want to quit. Etc. etc. There are good days, when it is so exhilirating and there are bad days where I spend the whole day starting at the screen and have nothing to show for it. Today was a bad day. I have yet to produce my one-daily-page-(crap-or-not) goal that I've set for myself. Which would make this, I guess, procrastination.

That said, I think I'm going to follow Theresa's example of posting every other day. That way, I don't go weeks without posting, but I won't always have these monster posts. Manageable for all of us.


Meg said...

Thanks for the lesson on molasses. I knew it came from cane but never imagined it in its gooey greeny infancy. I have a recipe for some fabbo molasses cookies that I will email you.
My MA thesis was similarly daunting. The only thing that helped me was strictly working 9 to 5 with tea breaks at specified hours and a 1 hour lunch break at 1. And I found that opera was the only music that helped me concentrate. (But that might not work for you, given your topic and your knowledge of opera! For me it was something that could remain strictly in the background.)

Laura said...

cool pics! molasses on biscuits...yummy.

remember there will be days when you write more than one page...it will average out in the end. :)

Chris said...

Your molasses photoessay was very cool! Thanks for sharing.

I wonder if freewriting for 30 minutes a day, picking a sub topic from your dissertation, would help? Then you won't be writing, you'll be editing. :)

melissa said...

i had no idea molasses started out green! now i'm going to have to get a molasses cookie at starbucks today.

good luck on your dissertation...i've been there before and it's not fun. you will get it done though, and then you'll feel so good!

Theresa said...

Works for me ;)

And now I'm totally wanting gingerbread!

Mintyfresh said...

I can't believe you made your own molasses! that's awesome. My favorite molasses trivia is the Molasses Flood in Boston. Makes me giggle.

Veronique said...

I had no idea! Looks like a lot of fun.
Looking forward to more posts!