My friend Judie in Pennsylvania is so good about keeping in touch with me. And she asked if I'd send a photo of Uncle Pip (not my uncle, but the elder person on this farm) who lives over in the old farmhouse (not sure how old it is but parts of the house are hundreds of years old) sitting in the kitchen by the Aga.
Now some of you may not know what an Aga is. I sure didn't when I arrived on the scene. It's a big cookstove, basically, cast iron with an enamel coating. There's a big place on the left side where you put in big chunks of wood and/or big chunks of coal and there's a warming oven on the right side and either 2 or 4 burners on the top. Those burners are hot, hot, hot and it doesn't take any time to boil a huge kettle of water. Most of my friends "keep the kettle on" most of the time just in case someone stops by.
Anyway this Aga has seen much better days (like so many of those in the the old farmhouses around here) but it still pumps out the heat. Because Pip can't get around very well anymore -- he uses a walker (or a "frame" as they say here) the old Aga was converted to burn oil instead of wood and coal. But if I had an Aga it would be wood/coal...they provide the sweetest heat on a cold old day like today.
I was telling Judie about Pip spending a lot of his time in the low-ceilinged kitchen cuddled up close to the old Aga and she asked for a photo, so this morning, a day with a hard hard frost, I walked over and snapped this photo of Pip by his Aga. Enjoy!
Lots of people around here have a Rayburn instead of an Aga; that's just a different brand with slightly different features. Me? I'd have an Aga any day.
Now this makes me think of Christmas at grandma's farm in upstate New York, not too far from Oswego. We couldn't visit her farm very often in the winter but we always tried to get there for Christmas. She lived on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau and was subject to the Lake Effect Snowstorms back in those days. You'll think I'm incorrect to capitalize Lake Effect Snowstorm, I know, but if you've ever experienced one then you, like me, would capitalize that term. Yikes! In fact just last winter folks up that way got something like 10 feet of snow in just a couple of days. It doesn't seem possible (and it ISN'T possible most places) but all the right (or wrong) things come together there now and then...
Grandma used to have a big old cast iron cookstove. It wasn't painted with pretty enamel and though it probably had a "name" on it somewhere I wasn't really at the age to notice. But what I did notice was the great heat that came out of that thing (that and the woodstove in the dining room) and the incredible food that she served up, all cooked in that tempermental cookstove. Now I wouldn't have much of a clue how to, say, bake a cake in an Aga. You can't turn the heat to 350 and wait ten minutes. Oh no. You have to be a COOK when you use one of those. That and know what a pinch an
d a dab mean when it comes to measurements. I'm quite sure grandma never followed a recipe, even with her baked goods -- she went by feel, kind of like the great musicians I know who serve up some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard, but can't read a note. That old cast iron stove is long long gone and sadly so is grandma, though she lived to be not far off 100. I should be so lucky.
This morning was quite frosty and this is a damp sort of place so we often have lovely frosts in the morning....here's a couple more photos I snapped on the way back from taking Pip to the "day center" (Senior Citizen center) for their annual Christmas party. I was going to get out and take quite a lot of photos, but ran into a local farmer who wouldn't HEAR of me going on down the road until I'd come into his farmhouse and had a cup of tea with he, his lovely young wife and their two adorable toddlers. You can bet this is a friendly place where I've landed, and it's the kind of place where you do take time to share a cup of tea and sit around someone's warm hearth for a few minutes just whenever you can.
Tomorrow I've been invited to photograph a local pheasant shoot...if it's a pretty day I'll just have to go and see all those spaniels and retrievers in action.