Sunday, March 29, 2020

The cook has left the kitchen

Fried chicken. Can you smell it? Um.....I think I can smell it. Yep, I can! Mom is in the kitchen using the old iron skillet to fry up another one of those critters that live across the yard. Fried chicken. Oh, Mom, you knew how to take that skillet and make memories for your girls and anyone who ever sat at your table.

Fried chicken. Mom never allowed her girls do any of the cooking, so we didn't even know how to do the simplest dishes. I don't think I had ever made anything during my life on the farm. But I can wash a dish, a potato-caked-on pot, a pile of plates and a potato masher with the skill of a woman on KP. So, when I became a bride, I found the kitchen a foreign land in which someone should have tested my skills before the ring landed on the finger.

I can laugh now, but in truth, I was terrified. We were having our first dinner guests. Yes, I was doing the cooking. The best gift we got when we were married was the Betty Crocker Cookbook. Being a country girl, I didn't know what to fix for people who lived in town. My experience had been watching Mom cook for farmhands. So, I thought I would do what Mom always did. I would fix fried chicken. Sounds easy, right? Well, you weren't a Loxley girl or you would know better. I turned to Betty Crocker. She, of course, considered that there might be clueless women out there and had a simple recipe for fried chicken. I followed it to the letter.

When the couple arrived, I was standing in our little, townhouse kitchen frying up dinner. Melanie walked over to me and said, "You're using a cookbook to fry chicken?! Everybody knows how to fry chicken!" Okay. I died right there on the spot. I was angry with Mom. I hated my husband for having such rude friends. I was embarrassed right down to my chicken feet. As you can tell, this incident has remained with me to this day. It is rather like the first time I had a baked potato wrapped in foil and had no idea what to do with it. So I sat looking at it. Hm.

Oh, yes, I have had my kitchen bumps and bruises along my many decades. I couldn't even make Jello! However, at this present age of chuckling at the past, I realize that I was meant to eat out and not cook. And, perhaps I had an aversion to wringing the neck of those nasty birds in the hen house. Kitchen utensils were not made for these hands. Paper plates are my best friends. Now I can make peace with Melanie and her rude comment, because she did not understand that I was made for greater things. At least this is how I reason it out now.

Can you smell it? I can. Fried chicken. I love it. And, I am sure there are chickens out there that are thrilled that I have not gone through life killing off their ancestors. I admire Colonel Sanders and his ability to carry on. Yet, it is not Mom's chicken. Hm. Where's the menu?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

I will make do

As kids, we made do with what we had for entertainment. We used tobacco lath for horses, burlap bags for everything from costumes to doll bedding, bales of straw for forts and corncribs for playhouses. With friends, we put on plays, searched the creek bed for turtles and frogs and discovered new things in nature with each season. We could make do.

Cambridge Dictionary: Make Do: to manage to live without things that you would like to have or with things or worse quality than you would like: ex. We didn't have cupboards so we made do with boxes.

Make do. It seems like all my childhood was 'make do'. We did not have much but made do with what we had. A word came up in a conversation with my sister June. Bandana! Any farm kid knows that their dads had a stack of handkerchiefs (or bandanas) that we girls nabbed when we were going to 'make do'. Of course, Mom grabbed them for our runny noses and used them to cover our chests covered with Vicks when we had a cough or wrapped around our necks for the same remedy.

As for us little ones, those blue and red bandanas became diapers for our dolls and sheets for their beds. In church, one of these lively cloths became Cats in a Cradle. Sometimes coins would be tied into the corner for our Sunday School offering. And to keep babies entertained, they became great peek-a-boo cloths.

Then we got a bit older. Mom would take bandanas and create bathing suits for her little girls. A couple tied made the bottom and a string gathering the cloth in the middle then tied behind the neck with the ends tied in the back of the child made the bra. Bandana beauties! Then we got even older. Those bandanas became headbands, neckbands and headscarves.

We saw those handkerchiefs hanging out of our father's work trousers and watched them flap on the clothesline. We carried them into the field to wipe away the sweat. Somehow they became that overlooked staple that did so many things. We never thought about it. We just made do. Everyday things were essentials in times of need. They even went on to be fads.

Yes, we can all make do. We can manage to live without things that we would like to have. In this process of 'make do', our world will rejuvenate itself. Streams and rivers will rest. The air will clear. The earth will make do reliving the peace and clarity it once knew. Perhaps this is a wake-up call for us all. As for now, I will make do.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Myriad of March messages

I love to check out the Farmer's Almanac! Who doesn't?!  I grew up with it. Farmers believed it while the rest of us heard it quoted often. This is the source of the following exposé of March. "Dad, you would be proud of me."

I thought I should see if March 1 is a lion coming in or maybe just a cute, wooly lamb. My first glimpse was fog outside the window followed by sunshine and spring flowers, adding color to the neighborhood. The budding trees just opened with the first flowering. My verdict: A lamb. Definitely a lamb. This saying probably came from some long-ago ancestors who believed that the weather foretold things to come. This truly is not so much a weather predictor as perhaps a hope. If it comes in roaring, at least let it leave softly. Since our weather has been the mildest on record, I would say that we are probably looking at a sheepish ending to the month.

Here is one I had never heard before: A dry March and a wet May? Fill barns and bays with corn and hay. Well, my friends, this one does not make sense. The barns are full for winter feed. Hay is baled and stored. Corn has been shelled and ground for feed or stored in the corn crib to use as needed. 
If I remember rightly, hay is not baled until May or later. Rather hard to bale it and fill the barn if it is not ready. (Oh, I think I have a headache.)

Another keeper: As it rains in March, so it rains in June. You and I both know that there is no predicting this fact. This was probably believed by the same people who hoped that the lioness that arrived at the beginning of March would surely change and make a cuddly lamb exit.

Here is a rather redundant one: March winds and April showers? Bring forth May flowers. Early flowers will absolutely bloom in May primarily because they are perennials. I believe that we started thinking about planting the garden in April/May. I seem to remember planting zinnias in the garden with Dad and Cousin Gene in May. That might have been the year I thought I would surprise Dad and pulled out an entire row of weeds, aka zinnias. Never planted in the garden again.

Ever heard this one: So many mists in March you see, so many frosts in May will be. I know it is in the Almanac, but I'm thinking perhaps this is an Irish Almanac.

Thank goodness this is the final one: Is’t on St. Joseph’s day (19th) clear, So follows a fertile year; Is’t on St. Mary’s (25th) bright and clear, Fertile is said to be the year. No, I did not misspell Is't. I am thinking once more we are across the pond. If you can match these dates with the appropriate weather, then you might want to get a Farmer's Almanac next year.

I have my own saying for this new month. If there is peace and love at the beginning of March, there will be harmony and joy at the end of the month. Yep, I like mine straight from Pam's Almanac.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Wool, wings and wonderment

So we bought this big ball made of twisted sticks and filled with alpaca wool and hung it in the tree. It goes well with the little basket that we bought last year. It seems, indeed, that we have become friends of the birds. And we love it!

I look at the nesting material within this crazy looking ball of wool and wonder why we didn't create something like this long ago. You know that feeling you have when you walk into a store and find something that costs a small fortune and is a really great idea and wonder why someone in your family or you didn't come up with the idea before? Well, that's more or less the way I feel when I look at these two things hanging in the tree. The little basket is a refuge/escape for little birds being pursued by some critter like that nasty Steller's jay that hangs out in our back yard. We have never seen any bird go into it but feel satisfaction knowing that they have an escape room. So now we have this big ball of fuzz that the hummers seem attracted as it is nesting time. We like to think that we are indeed feathering (wooling) nests. Alas, it seems we fall for birdy accessories, but then we don't have a dog.

I know I often talk about birds, but you don't grow up on Neff Road without having a deep appreciation for the sweet things. However, having said that, I do find it weird that long ago we sat listening to birdcall records at Granddad Loxley's house. It might have been a bit odd, but then a bird hidey-hole might be a bit off track as well.

Perhaps it is retirement that makes one more aware of the joy of birds. Perhaps it is entertainment for those wondering 'what would you like to do today' when all days run together. For me, it was born in me along with the smell, the feel, the very soil of Neff Road. Dad could whistle bird songs. He would whistle to a singing bird then tell me to listen. A duet between a songbird and a songster. I wonder if that makes my grandmother Whistler's mother. Ah, but I get sidetracked once more.

I will be heading to Indiana/Ohio this summer to spend time with my sister June. Once more I will sit and marvel at the cardinals that for some reason cannot fly over the Mississippi River to Oregon. Fireflies have that same problem. Of course, their wings are shorter. I will listen to the songs of different songbirds as I watch the orioles, which are more colorful than ours, flit by. And, once more I will be home.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Farmer Fun Facts for February

Wow! That's a mouthful! I thought it was time to have some fun since February is a slow farming month. Now I am a farm girl, yet I realize that I do not know everything, even though you thought I might. I did some research on a few sites and found facts that will awe and astonish you. (Well, that might be a bit over the top.)

Let's start with cows. Did you know that no two cows have exactly the same spot pattern? Not even twins. Perhaps it is due to their short memories that they space out on who is who in the bovine community. Of course, as we all know, and perhaps wonder how anyone can know, cows have a memory that lasts for three years. AND, perhaps they can remember longer but as is also known, cows know their names, but they don't always come when called. Another cow piece of trivia is that a cow will lie down when a storm is coming. To clarify this a bit further, cows will lie down to nap and sleep without a storm approaching.

Then we have goats. Goats are not prejudiced. They like people and their livestock friends. They were actually the first domesticated animals. Goats have rectangular pupils. They can see in the dark. I just think they are cute as the dickens. And, I have a deep love for those wooly sheep. There are forty-seven breeds of sheep here in the U.S. Seven to ten pounds are freshly shorn off them each year. Now this might seem like a lot, but all this wool is merely enough to make a man's suit. Just one pound can make ten miles of yarn. There are one-hundred-fifty yards of wool in one baseball. Baaaaaa.

Here are just a few random facts that I am sure you did not know. The longest recorded flight of a chicken (now I do not know if this a boy or girl chicken) is thirteen seconds. And those silly birds can make over two hundred distinct noises for talking to one another. But let's not forget the pigs. We could actually pit onev against a chicken, because it can run eleven miles per hour.

Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world. There are nine hundred million acres of farmland. Farmers, you live in a wonderful world of nature and mystery. Don't ever forget to be in awe of what the earth gives to your hands and our hearth. Thank you for putting up with a silly lady.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The future built on the past

Where once it stood a field stands fallow. No longer do swings creak with the rhythm of back and forth motion. There is no dust rising around the merry-go-round. The bats (both kinds) are gone.  The corner of Hogpath and Byreley stands empty with only sounds and sights of the past, residing in those who knew the halls of Franklin School.

It was just a walk down the road. A leather belt wrapped around a few books and possibly even a slate was slung over a shoulder or dragged dangerously close to the ground. It was a trek down Yount Road then around the corner store onto Red River/West Grove Road where the one-room school sat, waiting for the kids with scuffed shoes and perhaps even bare feet. Now only a memory of those who still remain and those gone.

The old brick schoolhouses dot the country roads. Some are now residences while others stand empty. They preserve memories of the children, teachers and a community who loved these buildings, who built these buildings. They cry out in a voice from long ago that spoke of the importance of education. They stand as a sign of progress in a time when wagons and horses were the only other travels on the gravel roads.

Progress is necessary. It is built on the very roots of such schools. Now instead of a slate or an old Underwood typewriter, computers are used. Latin is no longer taught. You can choose from a variety of tongues. Kids advance more quickly and so, too, must the schools. Kids no longer play jacks at recess or jump rope. Their lunches are more likely prepackaged from the grocery or even from a vending machine. In some schools, the kids sit on the floor surrounding the teacher. Parents and teachers are in contact via the computer, and kids have study time at school on the computers. A sick child will miss nothing with such great communication. Schools are preparing for the present and the future. They are building on the footprint of those before them.

The future built on the past.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Cheated out of a season

Of course, it is not spring! Of course! Just ask your calendar! Yet here I sit inside our house, thinking that perhaps in a week or so, I will be sitting on our deck. I know many question the existence of global warming, but I'm here to tell you that something is fishy.

For a week we have been granddog sitting. Millie has become so much part of our lives that I'm not sure we will give her back to James. I know, what does this have to do with global warming? Well, the weather in the last week has warmed to the point that our daffodils are on the brink of popping buds and in some yards flowers are still blooming. Our yard looks more like spring then winter.

We waited for snow but it just whispered at us. I bought a warmer coat and new boots. The coat has barely been wrapped around my usually freezing body. We walk outside to see if it is warm enough to sit out there. "You know, I have sat out here when it was this cool in the summer," I told my husband. He heartily agreed.

There comes a point in the fall where I yearn for winter snow. Now that the weather is warming and the flowers and trees are speaking 'spring', I find that I no longer want that snow. We are even having a gas fireplace installed in our living room. We have needed it just to take off the chill in the house. I now wonder if it will become a novelty in our now warm climate.

Remember the smells on the farm when spring approached? Of course there was the overpowering scent that seemed to hug the earth when the barns were cleaned out from the winter's long months of animals hunkering down there. But there was always a freshness in the air. It was as if the air had been washed for a new season. Freshly plowed soil has an essence all its own. Warmed earth and dewy mornings preamble the season to come. Now I sniff the air and have the same feelings of those days on Neff Road.

No, it is not spring. I feel as though we have been cheated of a season for the second time in a row. I silently hope for a deer to come moseying up to me to tell me how magical it is to have spring in the winter. I think both are improbabilities.

Monday, January 20, 2020

We cannot all be famous

Well, we cannot all be famous. I was surprised when my second oldest granddaughter asked me, "Who is Michael Jackson?" Hm. That was a few years ago. Now I have grandkids who are the ripe old age of seven. Every famous person I know now will be history to them. And, many will be forgotten.

I grew up with a mother who loved piano sheet music. In fact, I have most of it now. Mom would play her ragtime versions of old songs and sing along. I grew up with a history through music. The sheet music alone told me of the times. Perhaps that is why I hate to part with any of it. The famous people of her time are lost on me except for a few. Now there is more modern technology, allowing the introduction of more people to larger audiences. As I cannot remember my parents' idols, I have no idea if any of mine will be tucked into the memory of my kids. I am on the fringes of everyone's lives except my very own.

In my query as to famous people in the past, I decided to pull out some of current-day famous people from Ohio, a state that has had a plethora of big names throughout history. We have Neil Armstrong, Hallie Barrie, Steven Spielberg, Toni Morrison, Luke Perry, John Legend, Sarah Jessica Parker. Here are a few from Dayton: Allison Janney (West Wing, Mom), Martin Sheen (West Wing), Chad Lowe (Pretty Little Liars). The list of presidents, sports figures, inventors, etc., is much too long to mention, but you get the point. We all knew that Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, Annie Oakley, Lowell Thomas, etc, came from Ohio, but how many of the new ones do you know? My grandlittles will not remember them. It is the way of life, isn't it?

I try to listen to the music of my grandkids just as I did for my children. Now I find myself singing Baby Shark and Wonky Donkey. I want to know about their favorite books. Dogman is Nolan's, while Emma likes anything about horses. (Now I have Baby Shark in my head!)

Well, we cannot all be famous. We move on and gather all the famous names and events from our youth to now as will our children and grandchildren. Sometimes I marvel at time, how it quickly captures so many names, places and things. Then I marvel at how many of them I forget. We cannot all be famous to everyone forever, but we can certainly be memorable in our own families.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

For the love of the farm and the farmer

Farms. They are everywhere. They are lifelines of all countries. I remember as a child hearing how the Brethren Church sent young people to other countries to show them how to farm. And, a calf or goat could be sent to a settlement to provide milk and meat, a way to start a herd for those too poor to buy meat or with no means to obtain it due to isolation. Feeding a world.

I have lived in three states, Ohio, Wisconsin and Oregon. In every one of those states, the farmers are appreciated. Of course, there is no finer soil than that in Darke County, Ohio. Wisconsin provides wonderful dairy products that are sent throughout the world.

It is a misnomer that farmers are not appreciated. More than ever before, we know that the land is important. We know that new methods and products are needed to protect the farmer as well as the consumer and the wildlife that lives off it, hides in it and rears their young in its trees and soil.

My lovely state of Oregon is the number 1 U.S. producer of hazelnuts, crimson clover (which is absolutely gorgeous), three types of grass and red and white clover seeds, sugar beets for seed, potted florist azaleas, Christmas trees, rhubarb and blueberries. It is number 2 in production of Kentucky bluegrass seeds, pears, peppermint, spearmint, Australian winter peas and Dungeness crab. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is a great site to check out these fact. Oregon is a specialty-crop state with over 220 recognized commodities. There are more than 34,600 farms and ranches covering about 16.4 million acres. An average farm is 474 acres. And, don't forget the wineries. Oregon has 725 statewide with 500 in the Willamette Valley, which is where we live.

With the changes in weather patterns, farming will change. Conservation and cooperation is a priority. New ways of farming and perhaps even considering new crops will be the change. More food will be needed for livestock and people. Water is already causing some areas to be abandoned for farming. Irrigation will not be enough. Hardier plants will be developed. Land will be more precious. The farmer is not forgotten. The farmer is our lifeline.

We see farmland and forests being eaten up by real estate developers. I remember when I was a child that one of the future soothsayers said that one day people would live on top of each other. Indeed there seem to be more apartments than I ever thought possible.

Farmers and farmland are priceless commodities. Their needs and causes are taken up with those of us who use our voices and our votes. I am a farm girl and proud of it. Thank you, farmers.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Open each petal one by one

Paul Simon describe it best in "Sound of Silence": And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening. People writing songs that voices never share. And no one dare....disturb the sound of silence.

A very real thing happens to many people after the first of the year. In case you did not know it, January is considered the month when people are most depressed. In fact, the third Monday is called Blue Monday. I know it is a difficult month for me. A let down after the holidays always finds me. Memories of sad events that took place during the holidays seem to linger after the first of the year. Dark stormy weather does nothing to help with my winter blues.

Depression is very real. I had no idea what it was when I was a kid. In fact, no one ever talked about feelings or expressed them for what they were. Sorrow, hurt, difficulties in life, (and the list goes on) were never shared. My examples were all considered strong people. In retrospect, I find that they failed their daughters by not expressing their feelings. People could be grumpy and angry. Maybe they were silent and off to themselves. I know I spent long periods of time alone with my thoughts. I never would have thought to share them. (I know, hard to believe I had such a problem.) 

I first realized what depression was after the birth of each of my two children. Each time I was at a bad place, trying to swim upstream. I did not ask for help nor did I admit the struggle I felt. Then I began writing. That I could do. The words were just for me, but this tool gave me insight. When I went through a terrible divorce, I found that I needed help beyond myself. And, in that reaching out, I found my strength.

In working with troubled teens, the biggest hurdles I found were in helping kids open up about their feelings. Anger would rage. Drugs might come into the picture. Some kids came to me with bruises on their bodies. They had no one to go to whom they could trust. I got it. I felt that way most of my youth. I learned a great deal from the depths of my feelings and by moving around this country. I learned that I could change from what I learned as a child. I found that I could only have healthy kids if I was open and honest about the feelings with which I dealt.

It is a time of year to understand and help others. January is a tough month. You are not alone if you are feeling down. Seek someone to talk to. There is no shame in admitting that the load is too heavy. In fact, you are doing yourself and your families a favor. If you know someone who is depressed, open a dialogue with that person and help him/her find their own help source. I like the following quote by Goldie Hawn. I leave you with this:

The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud --- the obstacles of life and its suffering. ... The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. ... Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one.”