Remembering Favorite Fall Farm Activities

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campfire

Courtesy of Flickr user James Saunders

During the wiener roasts of my childhood, Dad piled logs bigger than fence posts in the barnyard. With empty feed sacks, a lighter, and about three hours to burn down, he created a fire large enough for a 4-H crowd to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. We cooked with hand-whittled willow sticks about 8 to 10 feet long. Anything shorter in distance to the burning log pile felt like an encounter with the sun.

This month, I watched my cousin rotisserie-roast his marshmallows with a manufactured roasting rod over the portable fire pit outside our family’s farm shop. Camping chairs replace straw bale seating from the barn loft. Short, re-usable metal roasting sticks spare the hour-plus of cutting and whittling willows. We can adjust the fire on wheels if the wind shifts. And we literally can put a lid on it when the fun is done. The modern conveniences mean we can experience wiener roasts more often, sometimes impromptu. For those moments, I always keep s’more supplies in my pantry’s inventory.

Over the years, wiener roasts have threaded through our farm lives: A wiener roast meal for birthday parties at our farm or an uncle’s farm. Fourth of July parties sometimes gathered around a fire at my grandparents’ farmstead. The Sunday School director occasionally hosts wiener roasts at her farm. And nearly 20 years ago, my husband and I held our first-ever conversation fireside at a local conservation club campground.

The time outdoors, the memories, casual atmosphere and food lure me to wiener roasts. I can park the lawn mower, throw on an old sweatshirt and attend a roast with grass clippings in my hair because I will leave smelling like smoke anyway. I love the ambiance, relaxation, and the opportunity to enjoy my aunt’s homemade zucchini relish on a hot dog. Then, I indulge in s’mores, one of my favorite desserts.

Our son made a “s’more tray” this year for his first 4-H woodworking project. The hand-made oak tray holds my canisters of marshmallows, pre-snapped graham crackers and quarters of Hershey bars. We’ll certainly use the blue-ribbon project for our 4-H club’s upcoming kickoff meeting and wiener roast, hosted at our farm. Our 4-H leader will start the event with a safety speech, a tradition for more than 45 years. He explains that the club’s fireside rules originated during a time when kids carried sharpened willows double their height. The modern-day metal sticks still deserve some common sense reminders, and the parents nod in remembrance of something their kids will know as well as a rotary phone.

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