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.” 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Ripping off that last page

Farewell to the twenty-teens. The time has gone quickly. Hard to believe that we are looking at 2020. The world did not come to an end when the third millennium began. Now we move into our twentieth year of that millennium. Time, slow down.

Many are saying good-bye to a year that brought sadness and heartache. And, babies were born, birthdays were had and memories were made. There is a nostalgic feeling that comes over me when Christmas is over, and the new year stares me in the face. I do not need Auld Lang Syne to remind me of the past. It never fails to track me down when January first rolls around.

Since many of us no longer use a paper calendar, we miss that ripping off that last page and turning over a new one. Rather like that turning over the new leaf with the resolutions that are made and, too, disappear over time. Perhaps I am just a little tired as I write this. The tree stands creating that warm glow that I love so much this time of year. It will come down and life will resume as usual.

There is so much symbolism in our holiday lives. Life and death in the tree that has blessed our weeks of celebration. Gifts that we shared that still bring smiles as we go forward with a newness from what we have gained in that giving and receiving. Photographs in our minds recall events we live over and over of children laughing and meals that are the cause of many a resolution. The embracing memories of what Christmas means to us.

May your new year be blessed with good health and happiness that you gain from giving and receiving. May love surround you and freely spread from you to others. May the losses in your lives remain in the dear memories you cherish. Let us all go into the new year with hope for peace and goodwill to every child, woman, man and every earthly creature and plant that lives on this lovely globe. Happy 2020, dear friends.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

On a bed of straw love was born

The baby lay in the manger. He was just a baby. He came here to be just a baby, just a man, human. There was a baby in the manger.

Each year I unwrap the nativities and place them on shelves. The first nativity is a tiny one I bought when I first moved to Dayton to live on my own. It was made in Germany. A small, blonde baby rests on straw. He and his parents are made of light pieces of wood that fit into a box that is about two inches square. The second nativity is one my parents gave me. Plastic Mary and Joseph look over the baby in the manger. At least they won't break or dent, and are made of a substance that will be here long after the world ends.

The third nativity is Loren's. It is one from Mexico with a very festive Mary and Joseph. Their dark skin is closer to that of the original baby in the manger. Next is my favorite. It is one I gave to my parents and is from India. It, too, is carved from wood and painted beautifully. Their skin the color of almonds.

The last all-inclusive nativity is made by Precious Moments. A group of white children make up the scene with the last more recent figures being that of a black-skinned harpist and his goat. His color is perhaps the most like the real baby. Quite an assortment, wouldn't you agree?

A baby. A baby who needed a diaper changed. One who nursed and one who cried. One who was a brother to the following children who ran and played the same as all do. So often we forget that Christ was a man. He was a man of color. He was a man who spoke in a strange tongue. He was Jewish. He came from a foreign country.

The man gave his life. We do not own Christ. That baby did not come to make a name for himself. He came for us to find a new life. He came to experience life. I have Jewish friends, friends from other countries. I have friends who are non-believers and those who are devout. I am not the judge. That baby in the manger is the proof that we are all accepted in God's sight without judgment from our fellow peoples.

I have several nativities. I put them out every years but I know that the baby in the manger is not what that the manger is about. It is about acceptance of people who spoke another language, about shepherds who lived with their flock in a poor way of life, about humble beginnings in a barn. Yet, kings came to pay homage. All are signs that the baby in that manger was probably a dark haired child who was blessed by them all regardless of who they were.

It is about love. Someone said that you should always say, "I love you", when you hang up the phone. I agree. I go a step further and signs cards and letters always with love. I hug people I don't know and tell them I love them, because I was told to love by that baby in the manger. I am not to love only one color of people or only Americans or only Christians. I was told to love all. If you know nothing more about me in my writings, know that I give love freely and with all my heart for it was asked of me in a stable. Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad, my friends. Happy Hanukkah, my Jewish friends. Happy Kwanzaa, my African American friends. I love you. Pass it on.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Lovely red-nosed reindeer

The upper floor of the department store held wonder and delight for the young children of the city and, especially, for those rural kids whose dreams soared when the family made their yearly trip to the Rike's to view the wonders of the Christmas season.

In 1939 Robert L. May wrote a poem about an unusual reindeer, one born with a brightly lit nose. So who is this Robert May? Well, he was a copywriter for Montgomery Ward's catalog division. He was working on creating a story about a character that would be alluring to the masses. Before May had completed his work, his wife died of cancer. Mr. May was left with a daughter the sweet age of four. His boss wanted to relieve him from the burden of the project, but May would not turn it over. He needed that reindeer, much as we all do.

Robert's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote the song we all love which was based on the May poem. Marks is also credited for the songs from the the movie as well as many of our other holiday songs. Many artists were approached with the song but turned it down. At the urging of his wife, Gene Autry recorded it in 1949. I was two-years-old.

We rode up the escalator heading to the 'Christmas floor'. I remember holding a doll that had just come in the mail. She was the daughter of Dick Tracy. Well, you know what I mean. An adored doll and a little girl who was standing with her sister headed up moving stairs to Christmas dreams.

Loren and I began our Christmas TV watching with my all time fav White Christmas. Then as we scrolled through the Christmas menu, Rudolph popped up. How could we resist!? I had been watching this show since I was a child! It was an old friend come to visit. Perhaps it is age. Perhaps it is fear for the future of my grandchildren. Perhaps, just perhaps, I was really seeing it for the first time. It was not just a show for children. It was not just a show about a man in a red suit and a reindeer with a red nose. This little movie made for entertainment and children's delight became so much more. It was about a man raising a daughter alone. It was about losing a wife. It was about rising above the circumstances of living and finding hope and acceptance.

In this day we see prejudice still raising its ugly head. Bullying comes in all forms and seems to be handed down from generation to generation. Instead of reaching out to those who believe differently, who look different, who worship differently, who are of different cultures, who are ill or look different, who have different sexual preferences, who are not what we expect, people seem to lean into criticism, pointing fingers, judging. All these people have 'red noses' yet are judged by many. One of those who was different brought light into the world. It came in a manager from a baby who was Jewish, who was dark of skin and hair, who came from humble beginnings, who dared to be different. We never know when a red-nosed reindeer will come into our midst.

As we stepped off the escalator, we were greeted by a big reindeer, nodding and bearing a lovely red, glowing nose. I was just a tot but already loved that reindeer. I am now an old tot and love him still. Even now, the movie is the No. 1 most watched Christmas movie. It still brings home the message of what love truly means. Remember, there is so much more if we look for it. May your holidays be filled with love, laughter and new beginnings. I send you my love.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Dreams between the pages

Indeed it was a dream book. The pages held my dreams, then those of my children and even again for my older granddaughters. Christmas catalogs from Sears and Penneys were leafed through time and time again. Of course, there is the old outhouse use of catalogs that we always laughed about. And, I know my parents often bought family staples from those pages throughout the year. But there was indeed nothing like Christmas catalogs.

There was always a bit of sadness when I went from buying baby toys to moving up the chain of toys for each advancing age of the children. Still I loved to browse the pages, dreaming of yesterdays and tomorrows. Toys for my babies. Toys for my grandchildren. Gift ideas for all the family. 

I remember the anticipation of receiving the catalog. It was delivered to the house for years. Then in later years, we ended up going to the store to pick one up. It was as if a door had slammed in my face when I went to the check out and asked for a new Christmas catalog. "We no longer carry them." WHAT?!?!? How could this be? No catalog for me??? I felt I should shrug or hide under the rug, but there were no toys to see. (Oops, I went Dr. Seuss on you). Thus you can see how losing the catalog affects me. I have spent hours over my lifetime perusing the pages of catalogs. I circled toys. I made my Christmas list from the book. My anticipation was dashed away, dashed away, dashed away all. 

This is a real disappointment for us all. For in losing the catalog, we have lost a tradition that, by all the stars above, should never have been discontinued. One year, I tore all of the toy pictures from the catalog and pasted them onto my Santa letter. On some I just glued a corner and put an arrow on the front, because I wanted the toy on the back of the picture as well. Christmas catalogs were my Christmas vacation entertainment!

Ah, my venting will do no good. We now sit around the fire and talk of the olden days of thick Christmas books that didn't tell a story, but instead captured our childhood desires and carried us away with anticipation. Tis the season of dreams for all ages. Many of mine still reside among those pages where once a little girl planted her wishes.