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 WELCOME TO MY BLOG! REFLECTIONS OF A SINGLE WOMAN'S LIFE ON AN OLD FARM.
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Sunday, September 30, 2012

A FRIEND IN NEED...

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            Walter decided that solitary confinement in the hay room was boring, so he ventured down to the house and was quickly inspected by the feline and canine regulars, but not surprisingly it was Ted who took on the role of guardian.  Walter seemed to enjoy Ted's grooming and gentle nudging.

            It may not be obvious in these photos, but his condition has improved dramatically in just one week.  He hasn't gained any noticeable weight, but he's alert and while he is painfully frail he teeters along with intention.  Tomorrow I shall get a kitty sweater for him as the temperatures are falling and he has little to keep him warm.

         As he plods across the brick porch for his afternoon siesta on the loveseat he stops and looks longingly into the house suggesting that one time he had a home and someone who cared for him.  While he once again has a home and souls who do care for him, he can not be a housecat for he does not understand the purpose of a litterbox.  I suspect he will have to camp in the basement this winter if he survives that long.  Dear little Walter is very old.

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6:04 pm edt          Comments

Friday, September 28, 2012

FAREWELL FEATHERED FRIEND.

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            They never learn, these adolescent roosters.  Had the young bird just kept his mouth shut and maintained a low profile he might have escaped his fate, but when I opened the coop this morning the unnamed cockerel tossed back his handsome head and let out a pathetic crow.  I had no choice but to call Mark.

            Mark will take him to the livestock sale and since most people who keep chickens wisely only keep one rooster I'm afraid this big fellow will end up on someone's dinner table. 

            Decisions like this bother me, but three roosters are two roosters too many.  Unless Lothario and LB get into a fray they both will keep their happy home here.  However, adding one more with raging hormones guarantees a bloody battle and that would be crueler than sending the outcast to the sale.

            This photo was taken just as he thought he was settled in for the night.  Not so.  I grabbed his legs and up-ended him, much to his dismay and he now sits confined in an erroneously-named 'sky kennel.' He should be so lucky to fly away.  Mark will collect him in the morning. 

            Walter watched the capture with mild amusement.  He is allowed free rein of the barn while I do chores, but seems content to return to the security of the hay room for the night.  Today Sue thoughtfully left a care package of assorted special foods for the convalescent.  He will have some for breakfast and sends Sue a sincere thank you.

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7:44 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, September 27, 2012

PLEASE CALL ME WALTER.

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         Walter, formerly known as Ginger went to the vet this morning and as suspected ‘she' is a neutered (whew) ‘he,' hence the name change.  Walter is a mess, but received several treatments to hasten as much of a recovery as possible.  A large part of this senior citizen's health issue is his mouth.  There are few teeth remaining and those are in very bad condition and will likely have to be removed in a couple of weeks after he has gained more strength.  This portends special meals cooked by yours truly for the rest of his life.

            As I watched the tiny wreck of bones and ratty fur prowling around the exam room and purring as the doctor examined him and administered drugs I honestly didn't see months or years of personal sacrifice (cooking those deluxe meals), but instead a sweet-natured creature that had been right at deaths door now enjoying a better quality life. 

            Someone must have cared enough at some time to have had him neutered, but he didn't reach this degree of deterioration overnight.  Sadly, Walter's story is not unique.  He was probably dumped.  I'm glad I found him.

3:42 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WHAT NEXT?

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            People who live alone have a sharpened awareness of any discrepancy in their surroundings.  Even a change in the way blades of grass lay tell a story, so when I returned home yesterday I knew that someone had been here.  A truck had turned around on the lawn, but the tire marks indicated it was a truck bigger than old Kenny's.  Even so I half expected to find another jug of milk, more spelt bread or who knows what sitting on the patio bench, but the bench was empty.  How strange I thought as I entered the house.

            Minutes later a crash emanating from the brick porch revealed what appeared to be an elongated saw horse-a very crudely-constructed one at that which the wind had blown over. What the ...? 

            No sooner had I made the discovery when the dogs announced visitors and I saw the big white truck at the end of the drive.  The gate opened and Wilson and JA, aged 81 and 89 respectively trotted briskly toward the house.  Wilson said he needed to buy some eggs.  I invited them inside and they quickly ensconced themselves at the kitchen table.

            "Hey, we were here earlier, but you weren't home.  That's why I put the bench on your porch so it wouldn't get wet.  You found it, didn't you?" asked JA.  At 89 years he has the spunk and vitality of someone about half his age.  Since his last visit he's grown a pencil thin mustache. It's black as coal  so he now looks like an old time movie star. 

            Oh my, more junk to dispose of was what I was thinking, but instead I politely acknowledged the latest ‘gift' from my growing bevy of elderly beaus.

            "Yep, that bench was from our dining room table when I was a kid growing up in West Virginia.  I was one of seven and I had to sit at the end of it," he explained. 

            I can't imagine what the table must have looked like because the bench is rough, to say the least.  It's hard to believe that he has clung to this bit of furniture (?) all these years, but harder still to think that the wobbly seat supported him and his siblings.

 "I thought it'd be nice up at your barn," he continued.  "You were in Canada when I brought you the lucky horse shoe and the little cradle," he reminded me.  It seemed wise not to mention that I'd given those items to neighbor Sandy.

            JA spends a lot of his time shuttling around folks who are even older than himself.  It was he who brought George here for a visit a few months ago; George being the fellow who used to own this farm.  JA said he planned to bring him by again after his "dental surgery."  At 98 years of age George is having his teeth pulled and being fitted with dentures!  I questioned the logic in this procedure, but JA said George had been accidentally swallowing some of his originals, so he figured maybe it was time to consider new teeth.

            After a while Wilson said they'd better get going because Kenny was "...over at my place reading the paper..." and that later they were going over to Farmer Chuck's to see if the sauna was hooked up.  Lucky Chuck....

1:22 pm edt          Comments

Monday, September 24, 2012

CLUTTER.

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            I'm a tidy person.  It's just Virgo nature; a place for everything and everything in its place..., so how the attic morphed into its current condition is a mystery to me.         Now that fall is officially here it's time to begin winterizing.  Nothing major just yet, but it did seem prudent to close the two attic windows and that's when I was forced to confront the repository of stuff.  I detest clutter.  In my opinion, stumbling around is a house full of clutter literally clutters up one's life.  Yet the attic is so cluttered that it was impossible to know where to begin, so I closed the windows, came down the stairs and shut the door. Out of sight, out of mind.

            I don't want to deal with the set of unwanted plank bottom chairs that I grew up with on Fifth street.  They had been my grandparents (who died long before I was born). Nor do I want to sort through the collection of nice picture frames that might one day fit a painting that I might come across.  Then there are the lampshades that don't fit any current lamps, but you never know when just the right one will pop up at a rummage sale sans shade and then I'll just have to trudge up to the attic shade shop. 

            When I was very young my uncle made a doll bed for me.  I never liked dolls and eventually it made its way to my mother's attic, but when I had my daughter she slept in that bed.  I suppose I should give it to the thrift store, but....

            There are paintings and drawings that aren't quite wall-worthy, file cabinets filled with art history articles and compositions from college.  I tried to throw them away, but they were so interesting I just couldn't and I must say that my essay on Lovis Corrinth was very well-written. A file cabinet doesn't take up that much space.

            There's a big wooden trunk that used to sit in my mother's very tidy attic before taking up space in my less-than-tidy third floor.  I don't even know what's inside because the top of it is covered in boxes filled with canvases, books and photo albums full of pictures of my parents' life before my arrival. There's one of my father smiling-but I think only one....

            And there's also a big manila envelope with the scrawled message written in Magic Marker, "Letters of pain.  Do not read unless feeling masochistic."  I wrote that message and I know what's inside, yet I can't bring myself to toss the cruel parcel into the woodstove and be rid of it.  Why not?

            Maybe attics are where we store memories, both good and bad. It's insane really.  Today was trash day; a missed window of opportunity.  I could have hauled a lot of stuff out to the end of the driveway, but I didn't. 

3:32 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, September 23, 2012

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On the porch is a small broom. Probably the manufacturer's intention was for decoration, but it's handy for impromptu cleanups.  Lately it has proven to be more helpful when used as a javelin thrust in the direction of Sissy the serial killer.  A juvenile chipmunk was almost saved this morning, but the murderous sport killer's efforts were only temporarily thwarted.  As the terrified chippie ran for cover the trophy hunter struck again and I am sad to report that once again she prevailed.

Sissy lives a luxurious life (by cat standards anyway...), eating fancy canned foods, sleeping whenever and wherever she pleases, enjoys a variety of toys intended to satisfy her inherent predator tendencies and is fussed and cooed over by visitors on whose laps she leaps vying for attention.  Apparently all that is not enough.  She prides herself for dispatching more rodents than any other cat in the township.

Meanwhile, in the hay room, AKA the intensive care unit, Ginger is gaining strength and feeling much better.  She/it greets me eagerly when I open the door and present the vitamin-laced rice and canned cat food.  She is far less wobbly than she was yesterday, but a visit to the vet may be postponed for a few days since she is far too frail to get any sort of vaccine.  I don't think she is a young kitty.  A faint cloud shadows her eyes and her teeth also suggest more than a few years.

Looking at the feline family here I'm reminded that most of them were in pretty rough condition upon arrival, but only Tiny came close to Ginger's deteriorated state.  Granted, Tiny was a kitten when discovered at deaths door, but her current fitness suggests that Ginger too will survive and hopefully thrive.

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10:12 am edt          Comments

Saturday, September 22, 2012

FIRST THE BAD NEWS, THEN THE GOOD

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Maybe the crash that awakened me in the middle of the night was an omen that not much good would happen today.  My first thoughts about the loud noise emanating from the kitchen were 1) someone had broken into the house, 2) it was a cat-related crash.  If it were option #1 the burglar would quickly discover that there is nothing of value worth stealing here and that I am not worth the bother.  Figuring that it was most likely option #2  I returned to slumber. Upon arising I found no burglar prowling around the downstairs, but the lovely decorated window box that holds geraniums in the south kitchen window all winter long was on the floor.  Fortunately it was undamaged.

When I turned on the computer I was not greeted by the "You've got mail" fellow, but with a big ugly notice that said "unable to connect."  After following all the irritating instructions I was still unable to connect, but I figured the call to Time Warner could wait a while.

I should note here that upon arising, although my allergies prevented me from breathing the rest of the household was fine.  I stumbled down the stairs, opened the door to let the dogs outside, then fed the cats and fixed the coffee.  Dogs returned and all were still fine and eager for their breakfast. 

When it was time heed the bad asses' plea for their morning meal I donned my barn shoes and headed out the door.  That's when Julie raced ahead of me-- on three legs.  The right rear leg was held at a most awkward angle and appeared to be broken!  This is no way for man or dog to start any day.

A cursory exam revealed no sign of a break, but the poor girl peed all over herself indicating that she was in pain.  She couldn't put any weight on the leg.  My vet is closed on Saturday, but thank goodness for For Paws Animal Hospital.  After listening to my confession that they were not my regular vet, but..., they said to bring her in.  I loaded the poor cripple into the truck and off we went.

After a thorough exam the good doctor decided that rest and pain meds would be the best way to handle her condition through the weekend, so I returned home with pain pills and a still-handicapped dog.  Although she isn't using the leg she seems comfortable and has discovered that she can run almost as fast on three legs as she can on four.

When at last I set off for errands I turned the corner only to find the most emaciated cat I've ever seen that was still alive. It was teetering along the pavement.  Of course I slammed on the brakes to rescue it.  Picking it up it felt like lifting a ghost.  I doubt that the sweet creature weighs a pound although it is not a kitten. 

Errands would have to wait.  After getting it settled in the hay room with food, water, litter box and a soft bed I was better able to assess its pitiful condition. It is either a neutered male or a female.  I can't tell.  Soaked from the rain its thin skin clings to the skeleton like a damp tissue, but in spite of its ravaged state it purrs and wants to be loved.  With the temperatures dropping at night I doubt it would have lasted more than a day or two at the most.  It certainly could not hunt for food.  We will be back at the vet on Monday morning.

Once again I set off on the necessary Saturday errands and was happy to see Time Warner working on the cable lines to restore internet connections.  This leads to the good news du jour.  Yesterdays emails to Louisville government regarding their feral cat issue generated responses from all but two recipients and I'm delighted to report that the city plans to work with a Trap, Neuter, Return advocate rather than engage a trap and kill person.

Now, if I can just find a home for tentatively-named ‘Ginger' who is comfortably quarantined in the barn.  I think there was once a movie called ‘Eight Is Enough' and that is certainly the case here.  The current eight resident cats are quite enough.  ‘Ginger' will be available for adoption following all necessary veterinary work.  Don't hesitate to contact me if there's room in your heart/home for this sweet kitty.

3:20 pm edt          Comments

Friday, September 21, 2012

CHOICES.

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Every action made in our daily lives requires a decision; I can do this, or I can do that.  There is always a choice and based upon what we profess to believe in such as intelligence, kindness, etc. I believe every person has a responsibility to consider options.

It was with extreme disappointment that I learned the city of Louisville, Ohio is considering a plan to catch and kill stray and feral cats.  Although I live outside the municipality my mailing address identifies me as a Louisville resident, a distinction that I find somewhat embarrassing.  The city has a reputation of racism for which it offers no apologies.  I personally know of one incident of outright racism that should have provoked public outrage, but it didn't; business as usual.  The party victimized moved away. If the considered cat policy is implemented the city can add another ugly distinction to its reputation.

Regarding the feral cat issue, I have written to the City Council, Mayor and Police Chief voicing my opposition to their backwoods thinking, inhumane and ineffective proposal.  Will it do any good?  That the proposal has even been presented suggests that it probably won't, but it is important to stand up for what one believes.

I dream of how wonderful it would be to live in an enlightened world, surrounded and governed by intelligent, compassionate, progressive legislators who would use their position to make life better and more humane for every creature human and otherwise, but sadly this is just a dream. 

While I do have the power to limit my personal interactions to kind, creative and thoughtful people it is impossible not to see the rising acceptance of violence, killing and destruction as ‘normal.'  It sickens me.

I take my position as a writer seriously and am aware of the power of words.  There are subjects and individuals about which I could write and market to some big-buck publications that promote things or activities I find despicable, so I don't.  There are many, but not nearly enough subjects that promote sustainability, compassion, environmental stewardship, etc. and those are my chosen subjects.  It's gratifying to herald the good and to expose readers to options about which they may be unaware. 

It's also ironic that I have an article about feral cats coming out later this month.  Maybe someone in Louisville government will read it and learn something. I can only hope.  

10:30 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I LOVE MY LIFE...

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I've often noted the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Sue and Bud, so I shouldn't have been surprised when the phone rang and Sue ordered, "Open the gate! Bud's got the pergola loaded and we're on our way over there."  Her uncontrollable laughter should have been a clue....

Coming up the road what looked like Sanford & Son hauling a high school parade float, was actually the infamous antifreeze-green pergola perched atop a dump truck.  Bud finessed that big load through some pretty tight spaces,  the gaily-dressed cargo dancing across the lawn like a ballerina. Under Sue's supervision he backed it neatly into the place I'd cleared and unloaded it without a hitch.  None of us could believe that it even looks as if it's level!

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Right now as I peer from my kitchen window at the fake flower-adorned structure it's hard to picture it painted and laden with grapes or maybe wisteria.  ‘Even harder to picture myself languishing on a swing sipping a glass of wine.  ‘Easier to picture myself covered in paint from my malfunctioning Wagner Power Painter.

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During a conversation this morning with a distant friend she said, "I love my life!" and I agreed with her that most days I do too.  Then we realized how lucky we both are to be able to say this.  So many people are cursed with unhappy relationships, uncomfortable housing, illness and worst of all, work they despise.  I have none of those problems.  I can't fix the many ills of the world that are not my doing, but for the simple purposeful life I lead I'm very grateful. Days like today are just bonuses.

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5:37 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TO BE OR NOT TO BE?

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With the exception of raspberries, it's been a bad year for fruit crops here.  Three peach trees netted no peaches.  I have two pear trees, one of which did not get a single pear on it and the other one, which is a late pear only has about 1/3 the usual volume of fruit.  The apple trees were equally disappointing.  While they did produce, the apples are gnarly and wormy and small.  Yes, I am disappointed, but Ted is not.  He has been gorging on the gnarly, wormy, small apples from the oldest tree. 

It's sort of a Macintosh type, but very thick-skinned and fragrant.  The fruits usually grow to a respectable size and are suitable for pies.  They are too tart for eating out of hand, but not for out of ‘paw.'  Ted has eaten several and after whittling one down to the core he trudges stiff-legged (bum arthritic back leg) into the hostas to find himself another.  It's nice knowing the apples aren't going to waste.

Over the years I have made a few attempts (some successful, some not so) to fashion an arbor to support the concord grapes that currently clamber wildly into a nearby tree.  The last arbor looked very nice and rustic.  I thought it was made out of locust, but alas when I ‘bumped' it with the tractor it fell like pick-up sticks and was reduced to firewood in a matter of seconds.

Now I have the opportunity to purchase a sturdy pergola for a reasonable price.  Friend John can haul it to my place on a flatbed trailer, but getting the thing upright again might be tricky.  Yes, the color is hideous, but try to imagine it painted (more work...) a nice rusty red and covered in concord grape vines and with an inviting porch swing suspended from the cross beams.  I can almost picture myself with a nice glass of wine watching the autumn leaves fall.  This is the latest project under consideration.

 

7:34 pm edt          Comments

Monday, September 17, 2012

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After consulting various recipes, each claiming to be the worlds "best rice pudding" I chose one from a source that has consistently lived up to its claims and made what I hoped would not resemble my mother's concoction.  It seemed to take forever with all that mixing, blending, stirring, cooking, etc., but at last the mess in the pan was finished.  I tasted it and I still don't like rice pudding, but I'd made it for Kenny.

I drove down the long bumpy lane that leads away from the chaos of the world back to the tranquility of Kenny's farm.  He was just coming around the corner of the old barn, perched on a blue tractor that I'd never seen before hauling an empty manure spreader.  His face beamed as he flashed an almost-toothless smile, but I thought he looked suddenly very frail.  He said that his hip hurt, so he was going inside to rest for a bit on the full sized magnetic pad he'd gotten at the auction for $15.00.  "I'll bet it cost about a hundred dollars new," he figured.

I thanked him for the rice and reached up to hand him the plastic container just as he launched into a tale about his dead sister.

"Ethel used to make something with rice and milk.  I think she called it rice pudding," he said, then added, "I never liked the stuff." 

He told me he had bought the big bag of rice "to feed to my cows...," but then he saw that it was from the Himalayas and decided that it was too good for them.  "It'll make you live forever," he said with genuine conviction.  I told him I'd have to live forever to use up twenty pounds of it. 

This morning Farmer Chuck dropped by to tell me that Kenny had stopped by his place to ask for help.  It seems that in addition to the magnetic pad he'd also bought a big one-man sauna at the local Friday night auction, but it wouldn't fit in his house which is literally stuffed with stuff, so he wanted Chuck to install it at the bunkhouse (on Chuck's property) where he and Wilson go to watch telly since neither of the old guys owns a set.  As a thank you he gave Chuck a twenty pound bag of rice. 

11:14 am edt          Comments

Saturday, September 15, 2012

WHAT'S FOR DINNER?

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My mother used to make rice pudding and I hated everything about it. Even now when I see it offered on a menu I revisit that old revulsion.  It's too bad, because (thanks to Kenny) if I did like rice pudding I could make enough of the stuff to supply the entire township.

I had just stepped out the back door when the infamous red truck pulled up at the end of the drive and the overall-clad fellow with the engineers' cap on his head and oversized Wellingtons on his feet slipped from the driver's seat.  He was armed with several empty egg boxes which he apparently figured I must need.  (I had recently dropped off some eggs for him.)  I hurried back inside to grab a small bag of yesterdays sorry press cookies and intercepted him just as he was about to leave.  The cookies were presented with a warning that he may have to dunk them and he smiled as he thanked me and took the bag. Kenny only has three teeth.

I was fixing lunch when I saw the red truck again. It was just leaving, but there was a jug of milk sitting next to the gate.  He was already at the stop sign at the end of the road by the time I got out to collect it.  Walking back to the house, jug in hand I was reminded of the charming little bottles of milk left on doorsteps in England.  Wasn't this sort of the same thing?  ‘A bit of Britain on Byers road?  Well, not quite since the British milk is certainly produced under more sanitary conditions, but I could pretend.

Later still, when I went out to get the mail I found that Kenny had either made a third visit or perhaps I'd missed what was atop the other fencepost; twenty pounds of basmati rice in a zippered burlap bag.  Unlike most other ‘gifts' (specifically spelt products) which had expiration dates from weeks and sometimes months earlier, the sell-by date on the enormous bag of rice isn't until July, 2013.

Yes, of course I like rice and use it occasionally, but it is most unlikely I could or would use twenty pounds of it before that sell-by date.  I called neighbor Sandy to advise her not to purchase any rice at the grocery and learned that she had been the recipient of six bags of spelt bread.

Kenny's generosity often makes us scratch our heads in wonder or giggle, but today as I hauled in the bag of rice and saw the jug of fresh milk in the fridge it occurred to me that Kenny is motivated by nothing more than kindness.  He expects nothing in return, although I know he likes the foods that Sandy and I and others give to him.  He also presses milk and spelt bread on farmer Chuck, the Adams family and who knows how many others.  It's just what he does.

In a world of so many selfish thoughtless people, good souls like Kenny are an endangered species.  And so, tomorrow, using my hens' fresh eggs, Cow's fresh milk and a small portion of the imported-from-India rice, I will choke back my loathing of the stuff and make Kenny a nice big bowl of rice pudding with golden raisins and hope that he and his pal Wilson will enjoy the dessert.

 

4:42 pm edt          Comments

Friday, September 14, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY?

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Today is my daughter's birthday and in lieu of a cake she requested "grandma's press cookies."  Uh oh.... The delicate cookies that my mother only made at the holidays were delicious, all perfectly formed, never burned and with a rich buttery flavor, so what was I to do?  I climbed onto a chair and retrieved my mother's army green recipe box from the top of the cupboard and prepared to make the 'press cookies' as identified in her careful script on the manila-colored card.  

Suddenly I was back on Fifth street.  I could see that box sitting on the windowsill above the sink as my apron-clad mother mixed up the dough in a big white bowl on the gray Formica counter. I could almost smell the cookies as they baked in the enormous Roper gas oven that dominated the Fifth street kitchen. I could see my mother, potholder in hand removing the cookies from the oven to a cooling rack under which she'd placed a dish towel to catch any crumbs.

Later, when they had cooled, my Uncle Bill and I would sit at the oak kitchen table with our cups of milked Lipton tea and a plate of the fancy little treats.  We'd talk what we would plant in our gardens come springtime or about animals.  And although we both had rocky relationships with my mother (his sister), there was never any bickering as we ate cookies and tea and my mother cleaned up the kitchen. It was a nice reminiscence.

I thought of all this as I carefully followed the old recipe, mixing the dough in a big white bowl to  what I hoped was just the right consistency, forcing it into my mother's cookie press that's now almost an antique, leaning on the plunger to push decorative little shapes onto her baking sheets and sliding them into my own oven.  It hadn't occurred to me until this afternoon that about the only things from Fifth street that I've saved have been these few kitchen items. 

At last ‘grandma's press cookies' were ready.  They didn't look quite like my mother's, but they didn't look bad. I slid them onto a cooling rack and could hardly wait to taste them.  Sadly I must report that they are not good.  Were my mom's cookies really as delicious as I remember or was it all just a selective recall coupled with tea and nice memories of  my uncle?  

Needless to say, I'm disappointed and I suspect my daughter will be too, but I've packaged them up and as per her request she will have lots of ‘grandma's press cookies' for her birthday treat (?).  I'm betting that next year she'll request a cake.

 

 

 

5:06 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, September 13, 2012

THE COLOR OF THE DAY WAS GREEN.

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I knew the minute I returned home that Kenny had paid a visit.  The telltale tire marks in the grass are always a dead giveaway.  Backing out of the drive is difficult for him, so he turns his truck around on the lawn.  Sure enough, on the patio bench were a loaf of white spelt bread still in the wrapper (as opposed to the usual brown stuff sans packaging) and a "European style" spelt pizza shell.

At 88 years of age Kenny embodies the health benefits of eating spelt, but sadly the various edible spelt-based products he has delivered to me tasted like sawdust.  Yuck!  To anyone unfamiliar with this grain usually grown in colder climates, here's a spelt primer:

Spelt (also known as dinkel wheat) is a species of wheat, a grain with a deep nutlike flavor that is very similar to hard red wheat. It is planted in the fall and  harvested in the summer. Spelt is a good source of protein, iron, potassium and B vitamins. While today spelt is a specialty crop, its popularity as a peasants' staple food of the past has been attested in literature.

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 And so without much thought I brought the items inside and laid them on the counter planning to offer the treat to Gladys and the hens later.  Only when I picked them up to move them in order to confront the bushel of basil heaped in the sink did I notice the curious dots on the pizza shell.  No, the "European style" shell was not accented with herbs or spices, but with mold.  Dark green spots, light green clouds, every variant of penicillin-in-the-rough spotted the Petri dish pizza.  There was no option but to toss it into the rubbish bin.  The bread appears mold free, so the hens will have that.  While I adore old Kenny, I just can't develop a taste for spelt.

And about that basil.... Yes, I should have cut it before it bolted, but things got ahead of me and so a mountain of fragrant basil heaped in the sink screamed to be made into pesto.  I'd harvested enough to make pesto for the entire township and the freezer was already full of previously-made pesto.  What was I thinking when I cut so much of it?  The kitchen smelled divine as I jammed leaves into the food processor, but it was getting late and after only two batches I wanted to quit.

Having been raised hearing the mantra "waste not, want not" tossing the beautiful herb on the compost pile was out of the question!  Calls to every person I hoped might want some were all futile until neighbor Sandy agreed to try her hand at making pesto.  (What would I do without this friend!!!)  I jotted down the basic recipe and Sandy left with a shopping bag full of basil.  Whew

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Earlier in the day Super Sue dropped by to look at the newly weed-whipped depression euphemistically referred to as the pond.  It is currently just a big green hole in the ground, filled with cut weeds.  Not surprisingly, Sue had some ideas. It should be noted that to Sue and Bud there is NO SUCH THING as an insurmountable project.  She excitedly outlined her plan to "fix" the pond; a new clay-based levee that would cut the size of the existing hole in half, a stone-lined spillway over which a small bridge could be constructed, a liner under which layers of used carpet padding would prevent stone poke-through....  I grew weary just listening to the proposal. 

I'm sure her plan would work.  The pond she and Bud built at their home is fabulous, but they have heavy machinery like big tractors, backhoes, etc., not to mention boundless energy.   I have wheelbarrows and shovels and lots of other obligations.  For now I have assigned the chickens the job of fluffing the vegetation  to hasten drying so that it can be burned.  My feathered workers are enthusiastically addressing the task.  This buys a bit of time before any real pond restoration actually begins.

When at last I fell into bed and closed my eyes I saw green; green mold, green basil and a big green pit.  Green is not my favorite color!

10:03 am edt          Comments

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

LITTLE IVY.

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The cat book that Kenny gave me a few weeks ago, simply called The World of Cats was published in London in 1967.  Like most cat books it's filled with charming photos of every imaginable kind of feline, including some that look remarkedly like current residents here.

Little Ivy is in the autumn of her years.  She's deaf as a stone and sleeps much of the time, but still loudly demands ‘kitty cookies' every time a certain kitchen cupboard door is opened.  This poem from the cat book reflects Little Ivy's life.

It is called On a Cat, Ageing written by Alexander Gray.

He blinks upon the hearth rug,

And yawns in deep content,

Accepting all the comforts

That providence has sent.

Louder he purrs, and louder,

In one glad hymn of praise

For all the night's adventures,

For quiet restful days.

Life will go on forever,

With all that cat can wish;

Warmth and the grand procession

Of fish and milk and fish.

Only-the thought disturbs him-

He's noticed once or twice,

The times are somehow breeding

A nimbler race of mice.

10:39 am edt          Comments

Monday, September 10, 2012

HELP!

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"YEEEEE-OOOOOO, AHHHH," (or something to that effect) came the blood-curdling cry  from the former pond turned weed-choked hole.  I dropped my rake and ran toward the distress call, fearing and half expecting to find Lee slashed to ribbons by a berserk weed whip. What a relief to find him merely covered in black muck up to his knees.

Each year I promise myself not to invest one more penny in the money pit cum pond, but each year hope springs eternal (even if water doesn't) and I find myself involved in yet another scheme to turn the pit into something containing water.  Weeds had reached waist height, and since I remain confident that the spring will one day bubble forth again it seemed only practical to clear away the vegetation while things are dry.  Enter Lee with the mother of all weed whips.

As seen in the photo, things were going well in the beginning.  Lee works for my landscaper friends, so he is quite strong and swinging that heavy bit of equipment was no problem at all for him.  I was pruning the rose bushes by the porch when he reached the center section of what we both believed to be a totally-dry stable depression, but suddenly he began to sink like a stone!  "It felt like I was in quicksand," he recalls.

Sure enough, there was no standing water, but the spongy footing, camouflaged by the severed weeds didn't support Lee's weight and without warning the muck pulled him under.  We both had a good laugh, albeit nervous and great caution was exercised in getting the rest of the area cleared, but he accomplished the feat and now, much to all the dogs' surprise their former swimming hole is revealed.  Sadly, there will be no swimming unless I can come up with Plan B-or would that be Plan C, D, E....

10:30 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SURPRISES.

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"You'll be sorry," said my friend when I took those first ivy starts.  I should have listened to her, but instead I insisted, "Oh no, I love ivy...."

All these years later I understand what she meant.  She solved her own ivy-out-of-control problem by moving to a new house!  That's not an option here.  Each summer I chop and cut bushels of the stuff from the rock retaining wall that leads to the outside cellar entrance.  It's a monthly task that only seems to make it grow faster.  It's even consumed a nearby crab apple tree, so today I decided to drastically prune and that's when I discovered that the vigorous vine is the least of my problems.  The rock wall is caving in and fixing it is most certainly not a do-it-myself job.  This will require heavy equipment and strong men and, I fear a big expense.

T., who was replacing some molding on the cellar entrance wisely remarked, "You should have left the ivy alone.  It was probably holding the wall together."  I hope to postpone this project until next year.

People who choose to live in very old houses and to share their lives with many animals expect surprises.  In the laundry room I discovered a petrified toad as hard and gray as a stone. (One of Sissy's trophies perhaps?)  I prefer to believe that it was in this condition when brought into the house, rather than that it reached that rock-like state post-entry.

In the cellar workshop I found a wooly bear caterpillar that was the size of a mouse.  It was so remarkable I rushed to get the camera, but by the time I returned it had vanished (Sissy again?).  I shudder to think of its metamorphous. ‘A winged creature the size of a helicopter!

It's a perfect day to work outside, but I'm hoping for no more surprises.  A collapsing wall, a petrified toad and a wooly bear on steroids have been quite enough for now.

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1:58 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, September 6, 2012

EASY PEASY PUMPKIN PIE.

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My kitchen is not modern by any stretch.  There's no granite countertop nor pretty tile back splash  The stove came from the thrift store and the self-cleaning oven refuses to clean itself.  The fridge is only a step above the dinosaur in the kitchen at fish camp, but it keeps things cold.  The dishwasher is a joke as it only ‘washes' the dishes if I scrub them first.  I often fantasize about new appliances, but in spite of all of my kitchen shortcomings I love to cook.

Yesterday neighbor Sandy brought me a box full of pumpkins from her garden, but she kept the one that took first prize at the county fair.  Even so, I made one of my almost-famous pumpkin pies for her since she had supplied the most important ingredient.

Half of the pumpkins were the lumina variety, like this one.  Although white on the outside and quite pretty, the inner flesh is orange and just as tasty as conventional orange pumpkins. I can't imagine anyone buying the stuff in the can when using fresh (and freezing some for later) is so easy and tastes so much better.  Here's what to do:

Wash the pumpkin and break off the stem by knocking it on the edge of the counter. Cut the pumpkin in half and turn it upside down in a large baking dish or a baking sheet with a high lip.  Bake at 350 for about an hour or until a fork pierces the skin without much resistance.  Remove from the oven and turn it over to cool. There is no point in burning your fingers.  Sit down and read a book until it's comfortable to handle and then  scoop out the seeds and peel away the outer skin.  This is very simple to do.  Put chunks of the flesh into the blender and puree.  If it's too thick, add a bit of the liquid from the baking dish.  One medium-sized pumpkin will yield about 2 cups of puree, enough for a pie.

To make the pie filling for what I consider one of the best pumpkin pies ever, combine the following:

6 TBSP brown sugar

2 TBSP. white sugar

½ tsp. salt of 1 tsp. of kosher salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ginger

¼ tsp. cloves

½ c. dark corn syrup

3 large slightly-beaten eggs

2 c. of the pumpkin puree

1 ½ c. of evaporated milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla

Mix together and pour into an unbaked pie crust.  Bake at 375 for about an hour.

 

5:09 pm edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

FENCES.

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I was bent over, pulling weeds from the sprawling tomato patch when the familiar red truck stopped next to the mail box and a familiar form spilled from the driver's side.  It was Kenny.  Blue cap, blue shirt, blue overalls and big rubber boots obscured all but part of his face and the hands clutching another glass jug of milk.  

He slowly made his way across the road obviously unaware of me at my garden task, but when I stood up and started across the yard and was spotted by the ‘milk man' the 88 year old took off like an Olympian.  The jug was hastily deposited at the gate and faster than any of the joggers that bob up and down this road with their pained sanctimonious expressions Kenny was back at his truck. 

He hopped inside as agile as a rabbit on steroids and after the briefest nervous wave in my direction he gassed the truck and shot down the road.  I walked to the gate and retrieved the bottle of tepid milk and recalled another Robert Frost poem.  Although my fence is not stone, nor does anyone live on the other side, it is nevertheless a fence.  I'm like Frost's neighbor and agree that good fences do indeed make good neighbors.

Mending Fences

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

8:41 am edt          Comments

Monday, September 3, 2012

PANDORA'S BOX.

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In 1985 a skinny young couple took a trip out west.  They stand awkwardly posed in their high-waisted jeans and madras shirts so popular at the time.  There they are immortalized at White Sands, NM and at the Alamo and at Hoover Dam.  Photos of historical plaques and Texas Longhorn cattle, stuffed and preserved for posterity at the Lone Star Museum (as noted on the verso) fill page after page.  They visited all the famous tourist attractions and probably begged other tourists to take their pictures to prove to friends back home that they were really there.  Loving snaps of a pampered kitty, undoubtedly dead by now are followed by images of a grandfather clock under construction. Is this couple still together, I wonder or is their happy union like the cat now dead?

About a hundred photos of these strangers' lives fill the big faux-leather album that was left on the patio bench along with two boxes of an obscure, but lovely brand of soap and two hand-crafted (hideous) throw pillows.  Another jug of cider-flavored milk that no cat will touch is in the refrigerator.  I'll  dump it down the drain and sterilize the bottle before returning it to the donor of this latest batch of gifts.

I enjoy doing things for others.  Random acts of kindness are good, right?  Maybe I should have been a social worker instead of a writer?  Probably not, considering my admitted lack of diplomacy and intolerance for countless social behaviors, but sharing cookies or soup with bachelor Kenny and his spinster sister Ethel seemed harmless when it all began so many years ago. It felt good to do something nice for the old couple and after Ethel died the little acts of charity seemed even more meaningful. But now Pandora's Box has been flung wide and slamming it closed is out of the question. 

To do so would be cruel, but the almost-daily deluge of curious ‘gifts' from Kenny's treasure trove is overwhelming. What to do....   I guess I'll just deposit the pillows and the photo album at a Goodwill collection center in another part of the state and put the soap in the little dish on the bathroom counter.  I'll return the washed jug along with a note of thanks tucked inside a ziplock baggie full of cookies for my elderly admirer and wait to see what else turns up this week.

12:05 pm edt          Comments


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