Monday, January 28, 2013

Hoppin’ chicken (or another thing I am getting too old for…)

When we first moved here, there was a very active rabbit producers’ cooperative in the county, and they had arranged for a truck to come once a week to the parking lot of a local factory about a half-mile away from our house and pick up rabbits that people were raising, which they hauled off to a processing plant in Arkansas.

We decided we would hop (sorry, I couldn’t resist) on the bandwagon. Having read too many issues of Mother Earth News, and the too-good-to-be true propaganda from the rabbit cooperative, we thought we could make some decent money raising rabbits.

It did not work out way. We not only did not make money, we did not even break even. We ended up eating the rabbits ourselves. And so I became an expert butcher-er of rabbit.

My father has a fondness for fried rabbit, which is not easy to come by in the stores, even in a major metropolitan area. My mother was an excellent fryer of chicken, and it wasn’t too much of a stretch for her to get out the big black cast-iron skillet and fry up a rabbit if it was to be had.

Knowing how much my dad liked rabbit, I figured out that I could take a freshly dressed rabbit, freeze it, and then put it in a plastic shoebox of water, and freeze that, and that it would survive in an ice chest for the couple of days it took us to drive to Los Angeles from here.

And so it did. I took a couple of our own rabbits out to him, and the next year I bought rabbits from someone else who raised them and continued on taking fresh rabbit to my dad once a year or so.

Hoppin’ chicken, my brother called it. Rabbit really does not taste like chicken. It tastes like rabbit.

Fast-forward a number of years (quite a number, actually). An e-mail arrives from the former pastor of the church that we used to attend next door to our house. He retired because of ill health. He had decided to raise rabbits on a much smaller scale than we did, but the project did not go very well for him either, and he decided it was too much trouble. He had 3 rabbits that needed butchering. He was too squeamish to do it, neither of his two daughters who live with them would do it, and his wife, who could do it, has rheumatoid arthritis and a lot of pain from back problems and does not feel well.

Would I please come and butcher the rabbits? They would give me two in exchange for helping them.

Sure I would. But I did not intended to take two rabbits – one would be fine. So after church I motored over to their house and commenced killing rabbits.

A rabbit is normally very easy to skin. It pulls right off like you’d remove a glove. And so it did for two of the rabbits. But the third, for whatever reason, did not want to let go of his skin, and I struggled with it for quite a while. It was almost as hard as skinning a squirrel (which I did once and will never do again). I recruited his 12-year-old granddaughter to help pull, and his wife as well, and between the three of us we got ‘er done. Finally. By the time I finished with him, I was very tired and decided that I definitely would take both of the rabbits. I earned them.

I came home and sat down and as the afternoon progressed into evening I was so sore I could barely move.  I must have used muscles I have not used in years. That night I gave one of the rabbits to some friends at church who have never had rabbit, and the other one…well, Richard moved it down to the big freezer in the basement, and if I don’t remember to cook it fairly soon, it may be a long time before it resurfaces.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Now. Where did I put that....?

About the middle of the afternoon yesterday, Richard comes in to inform me that a pack rat has built a nest in the fruit cellar. That is how bad it had gotten in there -- so much stuff piled on the floor in front of the shelves that a pack rat could construct itself a nice nest on the floor behind it all. It is has not smelled particularly nice in there for a while because we assume something had eaten poison we had put out and had died. And we now have an idea of what that "thing" might have been. So Richard starts to tear out this nest and discovers the rat had picked up
  • a light bulb,
  • two jersey work gloves, 
  • a red bow for decorating a present, and 
  • some bits of fake Christmas greenery.
He has not finished tearing out the nest so we are not sure what other goodies might be in there...

Miss Molly is obsessed with digging out things 

that live in holes in the ground...

so perhaps we should let her have a go...

He comes in a little later with a shoebox-sized tub of "stuff" that he found in  larger tub and holds out a metal rod with a hook sort of thing at the end and says "Do you know what this is." I had no idea and neither did he, so into the trash it went. Now watch, a week from now he will come up with whatever it is that the metal rod belonged too...

And then he holds out a small metal thing and says "Well, how about this." 

Yes, I certainly do!!  That is my dohickey for sharpening scissors! I have been looking for that for a long time!

My dohickey for scissors sharpening? Scissor sharpening? Why is it called “scissors?”

It has indeed been missing in action for a very long time.

At any rate, perhaps I can now do something about various extremely dull and basically useless scissors that are lying around.

Which goes to prove one of our favorite sayings... 
"It ain't lost, just temporarily misplaced..."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

...As If it Were Your Last

A lot of time has passed since Marcus Aurelius gave us one of the early variations of the idea that we should

Live not one's life as though one had a thousand years, but live each day as the last

There have been various interpretations of what it means and how one might apply it to one’s life, as another blogger has so elegantly written
“…Reorganize how you think about what you do in regards to what you do.” Thus, there will be not a change in the things you do (except in regards to other advice you might adopt of his), but a change in the way you think about the things you do….
A change in the way you “think” about the things you do…

I wonder how much time we actually spend occupying our minds thinking about the business of living, which tends to be occupied with routine things filling up the seconds and hours and minutes, and which we tend not to think about when we are doing them… I don’t think we think very much about changing the way we think about those routine things we do even when we think we might want too…

What does one think about, after all, when one mops the floor, or washes dishes, or puts clothes in the washing machine… or completes any of the repetitious tasks that fill the day that one doesn’t actually have to think about?

I like to think that I am doing everything as though for the glory of God, because I do want to honor Him with my life, but I don’t always measure up to that high and lofty goal. My mind is often very far away from the task at hand, as Richard frequently points out: when he has to follow behind me (which is often) to finish something because as I have a tendency to wander off before I am quite done.

So, how would we live if we knew it was the last day of our lives?

When all of us woke up on the morning of January 13, 2011, none of thought it would be the last day of our son’s life – least of all him – and he was the one who was poised on stepping out of his physical body and on into eternity.

We knew he was going to die “soon,” but ‘soon” was still a month or so away. Wasn’t it?

He made it very clear that he did not want to know when he was going to die. He did not want to know when it was coming. He wanted it to just “happen.” We figured he would slip into a coma -- either drug-induced to keep him from suffering or as part of the process of his body shutting down -- and that he really would not know.

We knew that January 13 would not be entirely routine, because ultrasound technicians with a mobile unit were scheduled to assess him to see if the doctor could do a palliative procedure to make him more comfortable. So we spent some extra time with him that morning, sitting in the room with him while they moved the probe over his distended belly, trying to figure out where the fluid build up might be, and when they had finished, we walked down to the coffee machine, while the nurses and aides bustled in and gave him his medicine and water and other things, as the news from the technicians (“we aren’t supposed to tell you this, but…”) sank in that there was no fluid, it was all tumor, and they were not going to be able to do anything to help him.

And then we pasted smiles on our faces and helped him set up the laptop computer so he could monitor the E-bay item he was bidding on, and we kissed the top of his head and said “see you this afternoon….” And Richard teased him “….don’t buy anything…” and we left. Assuming that we would follow the usual routine for the day.... returning later in the day to read from a Terry Pratchett novel we were enjoying together and visit.

And about 30 minutes after we left, he left the computer, went into the bathroom, came back to bed, and then he died... suddenly. Right then. He had no idea it was coming. It turned out it was his last day on earth.

It was not our last day on earth though...

and we miss him, and we will go on missing him until it is our last day on earth. And we are still working out how we are going to live as if it were our last...