Welcome back to Arizona! Today we continue our wonderful story from the 1934 edition of Amerikán Národní Kalendář!
We are continuing in our exclusive translation to follow the lives of some early Czech immigrants in the Arizona Territory and their early farming there. Currently the Czechs are trying to raise sugar cane for molasses.
Enjoy today’s installment of this amazing story!
Amerikán Národní Kalendář
Volume: LVII, Year: 1934, Pages: 187-213
FROM THE MEMORIES OF OLD CZECH SETTLERS IN AMERICA
Translated by Layne Pierce and Dr. Mila Saskova-Pierce
©Onward To Our Past®
“A Quarter of a Century of Farming in Arizona”
For Kalendář Amerikán by Frank Halas
“My brother, by the time he paid off the land and he had all his ten acres prepared for all kinds of opportunities, tried to grow sugar cane and boil molasses out of it immediately. The field had to be measured, and disc harrowed, so that one horse could plow after each irrigation. That has to be done in July and in August.
The sugar cane is best planted by a manual machine. In September and October it has to be irrigated three times altogether so that the water only trickles in between the rows, and it cannot be standing. As the sugar cane is growing, the lower leaves are cut off as needed, so that only the main stalk would grow and mainly strengthen, otherwise in the plowed soil it would grow only like a twig broom, which would not be profitable. During the winter then it is necessary for the frost to burn it a little bit, because the quality of the molasses and also the harvest depend on it. If the freeze is not cold enough for the mercury to fall to 32 degrees Fahrenheit for at least for one hour a day (in this region that is a hard freeze and the water is covered by ice at least one-quarter of an inch), then one waits and harvests only in the spring.
Rain and fog come mainly around Christmas, as it happens, and the cooking of the molasses in the open farmyards cannot be done then because the fuel does not burn well and the molasses would not boil throughout and then it would turn sour and there is nothing to do but give it to the pigs. Sugar cane always grew so much here for us that we had to cut it with small hatchets. It is quite tall– about three yards. The rolling of the rollers to squash the sugar cane plants is done with the help of a horse, because these have to be crushed into liquid mush which then flows immediately into a kettle and is boiled. At a full boil it goes through sieves and metallic pipes to another kettle where it is sorted and boiled once again. From one acre you acquire 40 to 50 gallons of clean table molasses that is bought by bakeries for fifty to sixty cents a gallon according to the sugar content of the sugar cane.
The remainder is then used for feed. While storing the molasses in a cask, my brother always puts several broken twigs from palm (thorny) cactus into each one, for at least 10 days. This way the molasses acquires a special pleasant taste which is transferred into the baked good during the baking as well as into cakes and mainly it was a priceless taste for ginger bread. That was also our patent. The war time, however, rejected those good and old things, and nowadays, everybody uses only syrup.—The boiling of molasses and the growing of sugar cane was not that difficult, however, it was lengthy work which asked for patience and attentiveness. Our patient people who came from Europe were up to this.
From such a distance and for such a great cost seedlings for fruit trees could not be purchased and therefore local trees were planted, like apricots, peaches, figs and plums that were replanted and otherwise improved. They bore fruit already in the third year and in the fourth year it was good enough to dry or preserve. Both of those preparations call for work and it was mainly the work of women and children, work such as picking, sorting, washing and drying and packing, etc. If you want to make a living from 10 acres of irrigated countryside at least a little bit acceptable, you have to use each square foot of land to your advantage.
According to this the readers can form their own point of view as to what such farming in the Far Southwest demands. A farmer cannot rely on the Good Lord, only on work and thinking about how to improve his accomplishment day after day. If he does not do it himself, it is done by his neighbor, of course to his benefit.”
Tomorrow we continue this wonderful story found only in the pages of the Czech-American annual journal Amerikán Národní Kalendář! What will our Czechs in Arizona be up to next? Continue to read our exclusive translation only from Onward To Our Past®.