Thursday, January 26, 2023

Free at Last

Tuesday night the area around our house 4 or 5 inches of heavy, wet snow. Some people apparently got more than that. Even though it does not sound like a big deal compared to some places like, oh Buffalo or Minnesota, the snow did cause some problems: 13,500 people in the county were without of power. After  going off and coming back on several times at around 3 a.m., ours finally stayed on, thankfully.

We woke up yesterday to see that our driveway by the house was blocked by a tree. Richard sent me down the driveway—I was able to scoot around the branches—to see what else might have happened, and yes, indeed, another tree was down farther up the driveway. This tree had fallen into the bank on the other side so it was high enough off the ground that I could duck underneath it, but a car could not pass.

We were trapped.

I got quite a bit of exercise trudging the driveway. I made another trip yesterday after we received a call from a delivery man who saw the driveway was blocked. He left the package next to our sign, and I went up there to get it. It was hard going, the snow was very wet and difficult to walk through in my snow boots.

We were expecting another delivery today so this morning I made a third trip carrying a chair with a sign for the Fed Ex driver to leave the package on the chair. I had to wear the ice cleats this time because the wet footprints of yesterday had frozen overnight and it was rather treacherous.

Early this afternoon I made a fourth trip, with the wheelbarrow, to pick up the packages the Fed Ex driver had left on the chair. I was reminded of the day when our boy was in kindergarten that I had to use the wheelbarrow to get him up to the highway to catch the school bus because our driveway was a river after a heavy rain

While I was gone to get the packages, a man from church called and offered us the use of his electric chain saw. Richard will notaccept help from anyone unless it is dire straits, and he wanted to see if we could do this by ourselves. He said he would call if he needed the chain saw. I thought this is a case where we should get help, there are two people at church I could have called who would come, but I couldn’t force the issue.

Richard used the battery-operated pole saw to clear the limbs by the house. We will still need a professional tree trimmer to come and work on it though. One tree is being held aloft by another tree. Both trees are too low for a delivery truck to get through, but there is enough space for us to get the car through.

We put the pole saw in the trunk and drove to the second tree and were working on that when a pickup pulled up. The man from church didn’t wait around for Richard to call, he just showed up and I am so glad he did. Bless him.

I'll have to leave the chair for deliveries at the head of the driveway, but we are now free and can leave!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

In the Eye of the Beholder

When we were children, my parents took us often to the Los Angeles County Museums in Exposition Park, which at that time were the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Science and Industry. Admission was free, and it was a convenient way for my folks, who were very careful with their money, to offer us an excursion that didn’t cost anything except the gas to drive 10 minutes down the freeway and was educational as well.

Before the Museum of Art was built in the 1960s on Wilshire Blvd, the art collection was mounted on the walls and in galleries at the Museum of Natural History. I loved looking at the paintings.

One time Dad and I were in one the galleries, where a sculpture made of different kinds of metal things welded together, including old car parts, was on display. My dad, who worked as a mechanic for the LA Department of Water and Power, had strong opinions about stuff, and he had an opinion about this sculpture.

“What a piece of junk,” he said. And not very quietly either.

I think from that point on I loved looking at metal art that was created from other “stuff.”



There is some public metal art, a small herd of horses, on the lawn of the bank in town that I really like. 

But because it is "in the eye of the beholder," a dear man who we attended church with before he died, and who bred quarter horses to a high standard, hated them and thought they were... JUNK!!

We have some metal art, a cute pair of skateboarders created from

 spark plugs, bolts, washers, and other bits.


I don’t normally go to craft sales, but the week before Christmas, I noticed a sign that one was being held at a church I drive by on the way home. On a whim, I stopped in and saw Teapot Man (or maybe Teapot Woman). I wanted Teapot Man but given that I am very tight with my money, and have been known to talk myself out of a 25-cent book at the thrift store, I left without him. I went home and told Richard about him and he said, “You work hard for your money. If you like it, go back and get it.”

So I did.



And he gives me pleasure every time I look at him.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas Is Coming, the Goose Is Getting Fat

For this special day I am bringing forward a post I wrote back in 2004 about a Christmas dinner I cooked…

 “Not that I like Martha Stewart, nobody likes Martha Stewart, I don’t think even Martha Stewart likes Martha Stewart. Which actually makes me like her…” so says the main character in the first chapter of Elizabeth Berg’s novel Open House.

Some years ago I cleaned a dental office, which had eclectic assortment of magazines for the long-suffering patients to read. Martha Stewart’s Living magazine was among them. I always took a minute or two to thumb through the newest issue as I cleaned the waiting room, or even actually read the articles as I waited for the dentist to fix my teeth, as I was also his patient.

Not that I am Suzy Homemaker or care about decorating or crafts—I do not have the decorating or craft gene—which brings to mind a hilarious segment by Bill Geist on the Sunday Morning program in which he creates a “Martha Stewart Christmas Wreath" with beer cans and Cheese Whiz.

I do like to cook, however, and the magazine is so beautiful with its gorgeous photography and clean, crisp layouts. It’s a feast for the eyes. Her suggestion that one cook a goose for Christmas caught my interest. She gave very detailed instructions about the stuffing and how important it was to save the goose fat.

So I decided to stuff a goose and cook it for Christmas dinner. The goose was expensive -- very expensive -- and not much bigger than one of the Muscovy ducks we used to raise.

Muscovy drake. Photo credit: Gerard Hogervorst, April 8, 2005.

The stuffing required expensive things like dried apricots and a bundle of fresh sage. By the time I got the thing assembled and in the oven, the kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off. I cleaned up that mess.

At the appointed time, I removed the goose from the oven and siphoned off more than 2 cups of fat. Almost immediately, I spilled it all over the floor.

Little Dog (see the photo to the right), always lurked in the kitchen when I was cooking because good things to eat would magically appear on the floor. So, naturally, he was right there and began lapping up this grease as I frantically tried to get it up without smearing it everywhere.

Finally, we sat down to eat the goose. It was terrible. Tough and stringy. The dressing was nasty. It was the worst dinner I had ever made.

Things got even better. Little Dog got very sick from eating the fat and threw up, and then had an attack of pancreatitis, and I had to take him to the vet the next day. That was not cheap either.

 So it was a disaster all the way around.

Thanks Martha, but I’ll stick to turkey.

Actually, turkey is too expensive right now so this year we are having ham, which was kindly given to us after the church dinner last week.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Heavy Lifting

 A couple of days ago I took the truck to the feed (sorry, farm supply) store in town to pick up 50 pounds of sunflower seeds. The price has doubled since before the pandemic, and I periodically debate whether I am going to continue to spend money on feeding birds with the cost of everything else so high. But watching the birds is one of my great pleasures, and so I decide to keep buying the sunflower seeds.

When I walk in the main building, I see pallets near the counter with various types of 50-pound sacks of feed, including the sunflower seeds. Yay!!! That means I will not have to drive back to the warehouse and try to back up reasonably close to the loading dock, and avoid hitting the fork lift and the wall of straw, and any farmer in his flat bed or farm truck who might also be there picking up feed. I do not do well backing up in any event and I can’t see well in the truck because of the camper shell.

So I pay for the sunflower seed (and the price is still double), and the middle-aged woman behind the counter walks over to the pallet, picks up the 50-pound sack of sunflower seeds, throws it over her shoulder, and carries it out to the truck.

I am full of admiration and amazement at her strength. It has been a very long time since I have been able to pick up a 50-pound feed sack. These days I have been cautioned not to lift anything very heavy because of the osteoporosis that has made my back so fragile.

I have had to be creative in figuring out how to do things that I used to depend on Richard to do since he was hurt a year ago and is limited in what he can do. To get the feed sack out of the back of the truck and into the basement, I put a trash can under the tailgate, slide the sack off the tailgate and into the trash can, and then position the hand truck under the trash can and wheel it into basement. The sunflower seed can stay in the trash can, which has a tight-fitting lid.

Necessity is often the mother of invention.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Adventures With Wildlife

I meant to post this back on December 6, but got sidetracked. It was still fairly warm when this event occurred.

I have had some interesting experiences with critters in the basement—toads, salamanders, 

  and a giant spider—

 The board that the spider is touching is 4 inches.

And in the house—snakes, 

 

chipmunks, opossums, and the giant spider from the basement (I guess it decided it wanted to see how the other half lived).

 For a number years, a bat roosted every day during the summer in the stairwell leading from the garage to Richard’s office, and

 occasionally on the smoke alarm in front of the door. 

Today, however, was a first. I was in the middle of washing dishes, and suddenly, there was a five-lined skink swimming in the soap suds. I didn’t have time to take a picture of it, but this is the type of lizard.

 

I have no idea how it ended up in my dishwater.

I let it go outside near the “crack” between the porch and the house where the other reptiles go for the winter. 

Never a dull moment.  But I guess that is what makes life interesting.

Lizards—you can catch them with your hands, yet they find their way into kings’ palaces” (and humble Ozark houses) (Prov 30:28).

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Reading Between the Lines

 Richard was discharged from the army in early 1967. He enrolled in Chapman College in Orange, CA, for the fall term and spent the summer at home with his folks, which is how I met him. I had just graduated from high school and had my first job working at a branch library near the college where I was enrolled for the fall quarter. His mother worked there, and when he came in the library to see her, she introduced us.

In 1969, Richard and a friend decided to start a weekly newspaper in Orange, so he quit school to do that.

I graduated in 1971, we got married, and I finished the 5th year teaching program in 1972.  There were a glut of new teachers looking for jobs that year, and I knew finding one was going to be difficult, So, I went to work with him at the newspaper and was involved with all aspects of publishing the newspaper, including rewriting press releases, laying out the pages, and writing headlines for the articles, in addition to back shop production and even on occasion catching and tying newspaper bundles when they came off the press.

We sold the newspaper in 1979 and moved to Oregon.

I wrote all that to get to the point that we pay attention to what we see in the newspapers that are available here because we were so actively involved with putting a newspaper together for those years. And sometimes we get an eyeful. I have seen press releases announcing an event that fail to say when the event is taking place or sometimes even where it is taking place. Things like that.

Richard was looking through one of the free weekly newspapers that we get at our post office box, and it is one of the better ones, and he suddenly starts laughing…

They’re going to stash foster children in a storage unit? Really?

Of course not. As the article explains, they’ve contracted for the storage unit to keep safe personal belongings the children have to leave behind when they enter into care.

I have great respect for families that take in foster kids. My niece and her husband began caring for a baby when he was a week old. He came to them straight from the hospital, and he has been with them now for 21 months. The plan for him has always been to reunify with his parents, but there have been twists and turns along the way, and he is still with them.

 

“We truly don’t know what will happen next,” my niece writes. “His next court date is on 11/21… . We truly just cherish each day, because each day is a gift.”

 I just finished reading a novel...

about two girls in foster care who had a few good homes and then a horrific home and have to come to grips as adults with what happened to them.

The little boy might not consciously remember his time with my niece and her husband, but what they have poured into that little boy will have a long-lasting effect on him as he grows.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

The Autumn Leaves

Our house is surrounded by trees of varying sizes that drop their leaves in the fall, ranging from smaller dogwoods... 

to a huge cottonwood in the front yard. That tree doesn’t figure too much in the fall leaf drop, however, because it is very drought sensitive, and by the end of July, about half of its leaves are already on the ground.


 There is a large maple tree behind the house and 2 maple trees in the front yard, 


along with a sweet gum

and a redbud. There are also quite a few oak trees farther away from the house, but they tend to hang on to their leaves through most of the winter.

I basically stopped raking the leaves in the front yard several years ago, except where they form a thick carpet on the path we walk around the house on to get to the basement. Wet leaves can be very slippery and dangerous to walk on for older folk who are already somewhat unsteady on their feet.

Every month, the Missouri Department of Conservation sends us a magazine covering a variety of topics – hunting, wildlife, efforts to restore habitats, etc.

In the most recent issue, I was pleased to read that they conclude that the fallen leaves add valuable nutrients to the soil as they break down and suggest not raking leaves unless they are very thick, which could smother the grass. 

We don’t have a proper “lawn”—one of those lovely velvet green manicured show pieces—ours is a mixture of grass and weeds (plantain, dandelion, etc) and

violets and grape hyacinth, early in the spring. 

I haven’t noticed that the leaves have had any negative effect, so I am quite happy to follow the Department of Conservation advice.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Another Trip Around the Sun

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

The carousel of time came round again and my birthday was last Monday. I suppose it would be appropriate for me to find a picture of myself as an adorable infant on my first birthday (which of course I was), but instead, I offer you a picture of me on my third birthday, which was 70 years ago (if I’ve done my math right).

This is the first birthday I remember, and not just because there was a picture of it. We were at my aunt’s house, and I was given a small fishing pole that fit in a metal canister when it was taken apart.

  Dad loved to fish, and I was happy to be able to go fishing with him with my very own pole.

I may not remember many of the intricate details of the birthdays since then or the presents I received, but those birthdays I was able to spend with my family were precious indeed.

One birthday present that is vivid in my memory was the one our son gave me possibly 12 years or so. He arranged with a local pilot to take us on a 30-minute plane ride over the countryside. The Fall colors here are not quite as spectacular as the pictures I have seen of the New England states, but flying over the patchwork of bronze, gold, rust, and scarlet of the Ozarks was just breathtaking.

I do not have much skill in decorating birthday cakes…

 But this year I didn’t have to make a cake for myself, because a lovely woman who I go to church with...

made me a beautiful layered birthday cake and brought it to the house. 

It was a memorable birthday indeed.