Maggie awoke to the smell of coffee. She couldn’t believe she had overslept again! She hurried to dress and after a quick stop to the water closet she hurried down the hall. George was leaning against the kitchen counter with a mug in hand watching the sunrise. He was quite striking! He had short dark hair with just a bit of wave to it. He was lean and the t-shirt he was wearing today allowed Maggie to see what the hard work of farming had done for his muscles. He was wearing overalls which accentuated his height. Maggie guessed that he was close to six foot, but she with her short statue of five foot she was never a good judge of height. Most everyone just seemed tall!
“Good morning, George. I am sorry to have overslept again. Once again you’ve had to make your own coffee.” Maggie sighed.
“Good mornin’ to you Maggie. I don’t recall us having a conversation about a set wake up time. I tend to be an early riser and I have no issue with starting the coffee when I wake up. I actually don’t mind if you sleep in a little. The quite gives me time to clear my head and think about my plans for the day.”
Maggie could feel the tension leaving. The last thing she wanted was for George to be upset and to tell her she was a disappointment. Being a constant disappointment to someone was draining.
George filled another mug and sat it on the table along with his. He pulled the sugar bowl forward. “I noticed yesterday that you take sugar in your coffee. I missed how much, one teaspoon or two?”
Maggie took a seat as she said one. “I also like a splash of cream.”
“Really, I didn’t notice you use any yesterday.”
“I see no reason for you to go without. We’ll need to take a walk to the barn soon so I can introduce you to Betsy and Daisy Mae. They will provide you with all the cream you need. I usually keep enough milk for my needs and sell the cream and extra milk. Once you get settled I will show you how to separate the milk and then you can keep all you need for the household. I need to be off for chores. I should be back in about thirty minutes.”
“George, should I gather the eggs?”
“I will take care of it. Once you get settled I will take you to the coop also. I have one mean rooster. I would like to show you how to handle Ralph.”
“I’ll have breakfast when you return.”
George headed out the door and Maggie got busy. She set the oven, put some lard on to melt and then diced a couple potatoes. While the potatoes were cooking she mixed up some biscuit dough. She allowed it to sit for a few while she stirred the potatoes and crumbled some sausage from yesterday to make gravy. Another quick stir of the potatoes and she quickly rolled and cut the biscuits. Once they were into the oven she stirred the potatoes and added flour to finish the gravy.
The biscuits and potatoes were in the warming drawer. The gravy was on low keeping warm and the table was set. Maggie had made dishwater and was finishing some dishes when George entered.
He sat the eggs on the counter and smiled at the scene in his kitchen. This scene was an answer to his prayers. “I’ll wash and be back in a few minutes.”
That gave Maggie time to dish everything up and have it on the table when George came back. He took her hand and said grace.
He was savoring this meal. It sure beat the bachelor meals he was use to preparing. The only exceptions to those were the meals he shared with the Petersons and the church potlucks.
“Maggie this is superb. The biscuits are the best I have ever had. Light, fluffy and they remind me of Betty’s, only better. Please don’t tell her I said so!”
“Thank you. I spent many hours in the kitchen learning from the family cook. I image that most biscuit recipes are similar. I appreciate the compliment.” It was rare for someone to appreciate anything she did. Maggie sent up praise that she had been sent to George.
“Did Betty tell you that biscuits and gravy is my favorite?” George said between mouthfuls.
“No one shared that with me. I guess I got lucky.” Maggie made a mental note to make this often.
“I won’t be in for dinner today. I hate to leave on your first full day alone but I told Jake last week I would be over to look over the harvest equipment. I’m sure he would understand if I didn’t make it over today.”
“There is no need for that. I got a good look at the garden yesterday and I thought I could spend some time out there before it gets too hot.”
“Oh, the garden” George said with reservation. “I’m not even sure why I planted one. I certainly don’t have time to maintain it proper like. It seems to always be a weed patch. Not to worry, Betty always shares her bounty with me. Considering you weren’t here to maintain a garden of your own what Betty doesn’t provide I will be sure to purchase for you.” George was embarrassed that the weed patch of a garden would be her first task. He was also delighted to see that she wasn’t afraid of work.
“No need to worry. I will clean it up the best I can and see what I am able to salvage. I’m sure next year the garden will be more productive.”
“I need to run. Jake is a man that likes to keep a schedule.” George reached for his hat as he headed for the door. “Again I apologize that you have to deal with the mess of the garden. I will try to return this afternoon, if not, I will see you for supper. Thanks for the meal.”“Your welcome, George. Have a nice day and please don’t concern yourself about the garden.”
She set the jar on the counter and slipped out the back door. She noticed that George had sat some bushel baskets on the porch before he left. She silently thanked him for his thoughtfulness. Once to the garden she sighed deeply wondering where to even begin.
She decided to start at the end with the tomato plants. They were scrawny things that looked half dead. Thankfully they were loaded with ripe tomatoes. She decided to pick them all, ready or not, as the vines wouldn’t last much longer. To her surprise she ended up with three bushels of red tomatoes and almost a half bushel of green. She had just pulled and piled up the last of the tomato vines when she thought she heard something.
“My, my, aren’t you being productive this morning” Betty said with a smile in her voice.
“Hello Betty. I didn’t hear you coming.”
“I could tell. Busy at work, busy in thought.”
“Yes, I was thinking of what I will do with the tomatoes. I am thinking some for stew and maybe a batch of sauce. I don’t think I will get much else from the garden.”
“Not likely. I told George to stop planting after his parents moved, but sometimes men are hardheaded! I always put up enough for both of our homes. So don’t fret about this year as I will have plenty to share.”
“I appreciate that, Betty. Would you mind helping me move the tomatoes to the shade of the porch?” Maggie said as she used her apron to wipe her brow.
“No, I don’t mind at all. It looks like you could use a cold drink.”
“I think you might be right. I’ll bring out some tea once this is done and we can visit for a few minutes.”
“Perfect.” Betty said as she reached for one side of the basket.
“George told me you had planned to work in that so called garden so I thought I would drop by and give you a hand. I seem to be caught up with the garden and housework. It’s nice to have things in order before the harvest begins. I guess we should get back at it. What do you plan to do next?”
Maggie was thankful for the help and especially for the company. It looks like there are only beans and carrots left in the garden. I thought I would tackle the beans next. I took a peek at them and it looks like they are over grown so I will pick them to dry the seeds.”
“How about I head to cellar and bring up the jars? I could wash them while you start on the beans.”
“Thank you, Betty that would be helpful. I had wondered where I'd find the jars.“ Maggie replied.
Both ladies got busy and before long Betty joined Maggie in the garden. “Lands sake girl you need to pace yourself before you get heat stroke! I didn’t expect to come out and find most of the beans picked and pulled. “ Betty chided.
Maggie smiled and kept working. Once the beans were picked the ladies moved back to the porch for another glass of tea and to shell the beans. Maggie found a large metal bowl and smiled each time the beans made a ding when they hit the bowl. Betty chatted away and it made the time pass in a pleasant manner. Betty reminded her of Miss Sissy is many ways.
“If I'm not putting my nose where it doesn’t belong, may I ask if you and Jake have children.” Maggie softly asked.
Betty got a far off look in her eyes and Maggie regretted asking this question. Betty smiled slightly and said “Yes, Jake and I were blessed with a beautiful daughter. Her name is JoElla and she the light of our lives.”
“I look forward to meeting her.”
“I don’t reckon that will happen. You see JoElla didn’t want to live in a small community and marry a farmer. My girl had dreams. She left for the east when she was eighteen. She was headed for
New York and eventually ended up in . She has a job
and lives in a big house. We get a letter once a year. Usually close to
Christmas.” Betty sighed deeply. “I feel like a part of me left when she did,
but she is happy, and life is what it is.” Virginia
For all of her jolliness I could see that deep down she was filled with some sadness. I knew what losing someone you loved could do to you. I reached over and squeezed Betty’s hand.
She gave her head a good shake and returned right back into the Betty that I was growing to love. She chatted and I laughed until she rose. “It’s been a nice visit but I must go. The boys will be ready for a meal. As skinny as he is that Jake likes to eat. He likes his schedule and turns into a grouchy old bear when he’s hungry.”
We said our farewell and I watched Betty disappear over the hill. I finished the beans and then dug the carrots. Not as many as I had hoped for but I was thankful for what I did find. I surveyed the garden and all that was left was a big heap of twisted, dying vines. I wasn’t sure where to put them and really needed to get out of the sun so I left them.
I returned to the porch and got a bowl full of tomatoes. I then dug around in the pantry until I found the spices I needed. Once the sauce was simmering I set about to roll out some noodles. I had seen a drying rack in the little room and I went to retrieve it. I wiped it down and then laid the noodles over it to dry.
Now that supper was under control I stared water to boil and began working on the tomatoes. I would skin and seed the first two bushel and put then into the ice box to be canned the next morning. The last bushel I would make into sauce and process.
The afternoon was quick to pass by. The tomatoes were in the ice box waiting for tomorrow along with some chocolate pudding for after dinner. The drying rack was put away and the noodles were swimming in a large pot of water. I had just stepped back into the kitchen from freshening up when I saw George walking over the hill.
I watched as he stopped at the top of the hill and took in the garden. He shook his head, smiled and I could tell that he was smiling. I knew I had about forty-five minutes until he would be ready for supper. I popped open the jar of ground beef and dumped it into the sauce. Once at a restaurant I had seen spaghetti bolognese served. I hoped it wasn’t overly fancy for a farmer!
I started the dish water; George brought over the dishes and then picked up a towel to dry. Tonight I didn’t say anything as I wondered if this would be a standard practice. George spoke first.
“That was one fine meal. I have never had anything like it and I enjoyed it. Where did you learn to make that?”
“I am happy you enjoyed it. My friend, Sarah is Italian and I learned to make the sauce from her grandmother. They usually use the sauce for a dish called lasagna. It is wonderful with the sauce, flat pasta and melted cheese. What I made tonight I once saw served in a restaurant I was dining in.” Maggie was relieved it wasn’t overly fancy to George. It was an easy meal that she would be happy to make again.
“I left all the debris on the garden. I wasn’t sure where to put it.”
“I noticed it on my way home. If you like we could take a walk and I will show you where it goes.” George stated hopefully.
“I would like that. Let me tidy the kitchen and I will be ready.”
As Maggie stepped out onto the porch as George was coming from beside the barn with a wheel barrow. He stopped by the garden and began piling the debris onto it. Maggie joined him to help out. Once finished she walked beside George as they headed behind the barn. There was a huge pile that George called the burn pile. He explained that this is where to put yard debris and that late each fall he would burn down the pile.
George walked back to the barn and leaned the wheel barrow against it. He then walked and showed Maggie different things around the farm. He referred to things as ours and theirs which made Maggie smile. After a bit of walking George turned toward the house.
“I don’t know about you, but I am tired this evening. Mind if we sit on the porch a spell? We can pray and enjoy the evening cool before we head in.” George asked with a bit of hesitation. He wanted to spend time with Maggie but didn’t want to seem like he was pushing it.
“That is a splendid idea!” Maggie smiled at George as she spoke.
After they prayed together they sat in comfortable silence until Maggie brought out the chocolate pudding.
“This is a pleasant surprise. A nice, cool treat to end the day.” George said as he dug into his pudding.
Maggie was happy to please George. They sat in silence as the night sound began until Maggie saw George nodding off. She smiled as she woke him and suggested they head for bed.