Thursday, September 26, 2013

Living in a modern cave

Emma is a mover and doer. She takes everything in, processes and acts. She came that way when she was born fourteen months ago. On the other hand, her brother has been content to sit with a toy, looking it over then chewing on it for a bit. Two babies born together yet so different.

Definition from About.com Archaeology, Hunters and Gatherers:  To state it simply, hunter-gatherers hunt game and collect plant foods (called foraging) rather than grow or tend crops. Hunter gatherers is the term used by anthropologists to describe a specific kind of lifestyle, that of all human beings until the invention of agriculture about 8000 years ago.

We were farmers. Dad taught me to be a hunter and a gatherer in a different sense. He taught me to look beyond what the eye captured to find true treasures in the beauty around me. He taught me about the fish we caught, the nature and the sound of a pebble dropped into a crawdad hole. He taught me that there is much more to life than that which we casually observe. As a child, I gathered bits and pieces of nature that caught my eye. I gathered bunnies, puppies, kittens and lambs. Dad was a farmer who grew his own food, yet he saw much more in this place where he toiled.

In a conversation with my sister June, I discovered a bit about myself. I love the hunt. I get a thrill when I walk into an antique store or attend an auction. Shopping for something specific becomes an adventure. Trying to come up with new ideas to help my grandchildren learn takes on the feel of the hunt. "You gather people," my sister said. People? Hm. I guess maybe I do. I love people. So many people and so little time to get to know as many as I can. Wow, I am a hunter and gatherer.

Perhaps the most difficult part of being one such person is that I must realize that not everyone is not like me. Not everyone has that enthusiasm to hunt and gather. We all see things differently, a different prospective. Truly, it is a part of our nature. That thing that makes us tick when we take that first breath. Learning to accept the differences is the challenge of life.

The twins have grown into a new phase. Emma is always on the go climbing and running from one thing to another, while her brother sits with cars and trucks, spinning the wheels and checking over the underside as well as the top of each vehicle. Each of us comes with something in our genes that calls to us throughout our lives whether we recognize it or not. It calls. I don't know what I was like as a toddler but have a feeling that I was much like Nolan analyzing and playing in a world of imagination and adventure.

I am a hunter and gatherer living in a modern cave.

Friday, September 20, 2013

How to eat an artichoke

1978. Restaurant: Eathquake Ethel's.

Earthquake Ethel's was a restaurant where every so often, the floor shook and earthquake scenes with sound flashed across a screen. This was a new experience for a young woman who had recently left her dreary life in Combined Locks, Wisconsin. My friend suggested the artichoke stuffed with shrimp salad. Oh, why not. New place, new food.

The artichoke came sitting with attitude on a plate. Voraciously, I devoured the shrimp salad. "What's wrong?" Mary Lyn asked as I stared at the remaining artichoke. "I don't know how to eat this", I replied. Indeed we did not grow artichokes on Neff Road. I embarked on an adventure that I appreciate to this day.

With my sister's new heart healthy diet, I hiked the aisles of Meijers looking for low salt, low fat foods. My sister who had a taste for artichokes asked me to check them out. A small display of artichokes was nestled next to the peas. "How do you fix those," asked a voice from behind me. The voice belonged to a woman in charge of handing out pieces of watermelon in hopes to lure customers into buying one to take home.

"What?" I asked.

"How do you fix one of those (referring the the artichokes)? I always thought I'd like to try one." Now that lesson that I'd learned twenty-five years ago was proving to be useful. I could relate....and did.

How to eat an artichoke:

Cut stem from the bottom of the artichoke. Cut off the tips of the top leaves removing the prickly end. (I use scissors.) Wash thoroughly under cold water gently pulling the leaves back so water can rinse through the leaves. Place the artichoke, bottom down, in a pan with 2"of salt water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook until leaves are easily pulled from the next to bottom row of the artichoke flower. Can be cooked without a lid; however, keep an eye on the water so it doesn't run dry. Takes approximately 30-45 minutes.

Time to eat! After you pull each leaf off the flower, pull the soft side across your bottom teeth. After all leaves are removed and munched, the fuzzy innards of the artichoke are exposed. Using a shallow cut, remove the fuzzy center. Now only the heart remains to be cut into pieces and devoured. Serve with mayonnaise or melted butter.

The woman with the watermelon samples was quite pleased. I think she was now prepared for the adventure. Should you choose to try an artichoke, remember that the eating experience is just about as much fun as the wonderful taste of this vegetable. Bon appetit! 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Golden Crown

With fingers sticky with sap, we felt like princesses. We grew up with few toys. We grew up with imagination and appreciation for things around us. We grew up wearing dandelion crowns.

This morning I eliminated dandelions from my sister's yard. Their fuzzy heads were ready to spread seed, and I was determined to stop them. I stood holding a stem and memory danced across my mind. Dandelion crowns. Brenda and I would gather the biggest stemmed dandelions we could find then set to the task of crown making. We tossed aside many of the sunny, yellow heads inserting each stem into one that was larger making the circle of the crown, then we twisted golden flowers around the halo. I'm sure we had sticky heads, and, from my point of view, a nice floral scent would have been better instead of the bitter smell of the weed. Farm girls playing with dandelions the same as their grandmothers many times over.

The hollyhocks were out behind the corn crib. So was the outhouse. I remember Dad pinching off the flowers and the buds. With the help of a straight pin, the flower became the skirt and the bud became the head of beautiful, floral dolls. Imagination and delight combined with what we had around us, and we were entertained. To this day, I cannot look at a hollyhock without wishing I had a straight pin.

The bales of hay and straw were our forts. The Lavy boys and I made tunnels and barricades. We played for hours in the barn standing on the bounty collected from the field. The barn became a place of delight for all ages over the years swinging on the rope from end to end landing on those bales; creating our own playground.

Seems Brenda and I also knew how to get into trouble. Popping the buds on the lilies was fun until either Margaret or Mom yelled at us. I enjoyed peeling bark off of Granddad's white birch until he yelled at me. Pop Johnson had a huge weeping willow. My cousin Lee and I would make whips out of young branches. And again, another grandpa yelled at me. I could have used a some positive input praising the ingenuity of their young granddaughter.

We Neff Road kids had fun back then. We didn't have much, but we had each other and a world of intrigue around us. Best of all, I got to wear a golden crown.