Tuesday, October 25, 2016
My daughter and I took her children for a walk. My grandson was 6 or 7 and my granddaughter was 4 or 5. We walked through their neighborhood looking at flowers and watching for animals and birds.
As we usually did, when we returned to their house we made a tour of the back yard. In the spring we watched as the flowers came up through the soil then grew and bloomed. We smelled all smells and tried to identify where they came from.
On this day it was autumn. The leaves were falling from the trees at a record pace. The flower beds and the grass were covered with fallen leaves. Sometimes we would startle a rabbit back there but we did not see any that day.
Until my grandson went, "Oooooh" in a sympathetic tone. My daughter and I realized at the same time that he was starting to reach for an animal. We both yelled at him to stop. He looked at us, startled.
We quickly went over to him. There lying in a flower bed was a dead rabbit.
We explained to him that whether the animal was sick or dead we did not know what was causing the problem. You cannot just touch any animal you do not know because it could cause injury or illness to you. He seemed to undeerstand.
My daughter did not want to leave it lying there. I told her to go get a shovel and we would dispose of it. She was worried about my grandson being upset. I told her that was why we always held a funeral for animals when she was growing up. It is a way to say goodbye and it showed the finality of the animal being gone.
My grandson loved the idea of a funeral. He went and found an old shoebox. When we asked where we should bury the rabbit he chose a spot under the bushes right in front of the house. He wanted to conduct the ceremony so we let him.
We dug a hole and my grandson placed the box containing the rabbit carefully into the hole. We covered the box with dirt and tamped it gently down. Then my grandson started to speak.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to say goodbye to our friend, the rabbit." I stood in total shock. He had never been to a funeral so I could not understand where these words were coming from. My daighter and I looked at each other in amazed amusement.
He continued with his little tribute about how we did not know the bunny but we felt bad that he was dead. Then he knelt to say a prayer. I started to choke a bit with laughter. He looked like such a little angel with his hands pressed together looking toward the sky imploring that this little bunny rabbit be taken to a better place. Finally there was an "Amen".
My daughter and I started to go inside. I was actually halfway up the steps. Then my grandson stood at attention and put his hand to his forehead in a salute. His other hand formed into a loose fist and was placed at his mouth. Through that hand we heard, "Phtt, phtt, Phhhhhttt...". He was playing Taps!
I was choking trying to keep from opening my mouth and laughing out loud. Tears were running down my face. I did not dare look at my daughter because I knew I would not be able to contain myself. So I stood there not able to breathe with tears all over my face, turning red.
At the end of Taps, my grandson sweetly said a soft goodbye. "Goodbye, little bunny rabbit." It was over.
I jerked myself into the house so I could breathe and laugh without hurting his feelings. When my daughter came in shortly after she was laughing almost as hard as I was while berating me for leaving her out there all alone.
Bugs Bunny was the culprit. My grandson had seen a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which a funeral was held. He had practically memorized the whole thing. Thanks a lot, Bugs!
Friday, October 21, 2016
Halloween is coming. I love this time of year. The fall colors. The changing of the season making the air crisp with the promise of cold coming. I find it exhilarating.
Some of the symbols of Halloween are representative of the harvest. Gourds, squashes, pumpkins, corn stalks, Indian corn, and bales of hay are frequently used to give a festive autumn look to a house or business. Often scarecrows serve as sentries ever watching for evil spirits.
Pumpkin carving is a tradition. You take a pumpkin and carve the top off. After emptying it of the seeds scary faces are carved into the body of the pumpkin. Often a candle of LED light is placed inside to give it that eerie glow.
It can be displayed on the porch or steps outside. On the inside of the house it can be placed on a table and surrounded by candles. Even placed by a mailbox the Jack-o-lanterns are fun to see.
One drawback to carved pumpkins is that they often begin to spoil before Halloween is over. Depending on the weather they might shrivel and fall into themselves.
I discovered another way to decorate. Instead of carving which is messy and can be dangerous because of the sharp knives you can paint the pumpkins.
If you want to be truly artistic you can sketch your pattern onto the pumpkin with a pencil but freestyle is perfectly acceptable. Any type of paint can be used. If children are participating water paints are the best idea.
Simply paint the face on the pumpkin and it is ready to place in a prominent spot. That is all there is to it.
You can paint small squash and gourds too. They can be used with the pumpkins or without depending on how much space you have.
There is little mess. Whole pumpkins are easier to deal with after Halloween than a squishy carved pumpkin.
So whether you carve or paint enjoy your Halloween decorations.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
My best friend is beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. Of course she knows it and uses it to her advantage but she also sees the beauty in other people.
Men always flock around her. As I said she is beautiful. And she gets the special treatment that beautiful people often get. That is a handy asset for her and for the people with her.
At the same time my friend is not a shallow person. She is caring and giving and has a marvelous sense of humor.
My friend has two sisters who are also good friends. We all support each other the best we can.
Her younger sister had two sons. The oldest was in school and the school was having a carnival/fundraiser. We all went to spend as much money as we could.
There was a mildly famous magician who appeared on local television children's shows often. He was appearing at the event.
He noticed my friend in the audience (what a surprise) and called her up to assist him in doing some of his magic. I can attest to the fact that they did not know each other.
He performed a lot of standard magic tricks to amaze and astound. He even managed to take my friend's watch from her arm without her knowing it.
Then came a trick that involved him placing an object into a container that looked a lot like a martini shaker. He told my friend to hold it between her hands with one end above the other and flip it three times. She did.
Then as he was giving his spiel she flipped it once again. He passed his magic wand over it and said the magic words. He then asked my friend to open the container to show that the item had disappeared or changed into something else or something.
She opened it. Nothing happened!
The magician was mildly flustered but he kept his poise and chuckled that they would need to do it over.
He watched carefully as my friend flipped the container three times for him. He reached for his wand and she flipped it again. He passed the wand over it and said his magic words. My friend opened the container. Nothing had changed.
By now the magician was determined to get the trick completed. By now the smirk on my friend's face was impossible for her to hide. They started over.
Once again even under the close scrutiny of the magician the trick failed. He was definitely aggravated.
He said he would try ONE MORE TIME. He watched as my friend flipped the canister three times. She flipped it an extra time. He waved his wand and spoke the magic words. Then he grabbed her hands and flipped the canister once more. SUCCESS!
He promptly booted my friend off the stage and completed his act. She re-joined us and we had a good laugh. I told you she has a good sense of humor.
Then he called to her that she could come back up onto the stage if she wanted to collect her necklace.
Friday, October 14, 2016
I loved my father's mother. Much of the time I did not like her very much. She was a mean-spirited woman who's biggest joy in life seemed to be talking bad about someone, anyone, everyone else.
I do understand that she had a rough time of things. I don't think her marriage was a happy one. My grandfather drank from what I've been told. I did not know him. I have a feeling he probably was physically violent too but I do not know that.
Grandma had 11 children. Two died at birth or as babies. The Depression was a hard time for families in this country when her children were young.
One uncle had epilepsy. Back then it had such a stigma and there was little that could be medically done. He was put in a home and everyone was told that he was in a reform school. It was better to have a bad boy than an epileptic. He died there. I don't know if he knew whether anybody cared about him or not. It was way before my time.
Grandma was either the first baby in her family born in the United States or the last one born in Denmark. I can never remember which. She tried to teach me a little Danish but I only remember the word for hen.
Perhaps because she had so little when she was younger my grandmother was a collector. She had hundreds of sets of salt and pepper shakers on display in her house.
It was a small two-story house. Half of the upstairs was finished into an extra bedroom. The other half was for storage. And boy did she store a lot.
She lived in a little bitty town. The department store there actually was just a mail order hook-up. They displayed all the various mail order catalogs of the time. Grandma ordered sets of dishes, pots and pans, linens, and who knows what all. When the boxes came in she would promptly have them put upstairs. Most were never opened.
She was like that. She had things just to have them. It is such a shame they were never used. My aunt asked me what I would like as a wedding gift and I told her something of my grandmother's. I received a set of beautifully embroidered sheets. Sadly my husband went to plump his pillow and his hand went right through the material.
She did like working with cloth. She embroidered and did needlepoint. She also made the loveliest silky covers for her throw pillows.
Grandma would buy bananas and let them sit and rot rather than eat them. Heaven forbid if one of us was hungry. Whatever it was we asked for she was saving it.
My aunt had a scar on her hand. It seems that grandma was peeling potatoes for supper and my aunt asked for a piece for a snack. As she asked she reached to take a piece, grandma whacked her hand with the knife. It was a nasty cut. Grandma was stingy.
I remember once when we were visiting her she made oatmeal for breakfast. I love oatmeal. When we started to eat it we found all these tiny nails in it. Apparently she bumped the box of nails as she was making the oatmeal and it fell into the pan. Instead of throwing it out she expected us to eat around the nails.
Another time she made oatmeal again. When she served it to us we saw "things" floating in it and wiggling. She had mealy worms and saw no sense in letting the food go to waste.
She was not very nice to my mother either and that is something a child cannot forgive. She always made it clear that Mom was not a part of the family. More on that another time.
I did love her though. When I was in second grade we were working with modelling clay. I made the bust of a woman. When I finished it looked like Grandma. We went to visit her over the Christmas holidays and I took my little grandma to show her. She actually liked it and asked if she could keep it. Being an honest child I said she could as long as everyone understood that I got it back when she died.
All the rest of her life she kept it on the table by her bed. Sadly when she died it disappeared. I never saw it again.
None of my children knew Grandma. She died shortly before I married. When they were small we would look through family pictures and every time one of the kids would ask who that mean looking woman was.
I do miss Grandma. Maybe I could have known more about my father's side of the family if I had been able to ask her about it. Maybe I could have understood her better.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Here in the middle of America is where I grew up. It is farm country. Some farmers raised wheat, corn, and other crops. Some farmers raised livestock such as cows, sheep, or pigs. Most farmers raised a bit of all the above.
Grandpa raised all of the above. Most of the grain and corn was raised to feed the livestock. So was hay.
Grandpa had pigs. They were mostly for butchering to feed the family. They also made good garbage disposals.
He raised cows. That was his main source of income. The milk from the cows was sold to dairies. Some of the males were used to eat but mostly the cows made new cows so the abundant milk supply continued.
Grandpa raised horses. Of course they worked but it was more because he loved them so.
Gardens are a big deal on the farm as are fruit trees. The produce they yield are cooked, canned, pickled, and preserved for use all year long.
Potatoes are a staple in the diets in this part of the country. They are served in one form or another at almost every evening meal. They are full of nutrition and they "stick to the ribs" meaning they are filling.
Grandpa would plant a small field of potatoes. When the time came he would plow them up and we would follow behind and gather them out of the ground. Potatoes are stored and used all year until the next year's harvest.
My husband loved potatoes too. As it was with all farm families potatoes were served for supper every night. He did not consider it supper unless there were potaotes.
When he moved back here from the big city he was fortunate to have a neighbor who became a very good friend. They worked together on most everything they needed to make pleasant lives.
The neighbor is of Mexican descent. He does not eat potatoes and did not understand my husband's love for them.
The two of them decided to plant a garden together. The neighbor was excited about growing his own tomatoes and hot peppers. My husband insisted that they plant potatoes.
To this day the neighbor chuckles about the potatoes. He still does not know why they had to plant nothing but potatoes that year.
Friday, October 7, 2016
When we think of gardens we usually think of farms or little towns where nice big gardens are planted. There will be enough yield for snacking, meals, and canning. That is because there is plenty of room.
However there are often gardens in the city.
Community gardens are becoming more and more popular. Using a vacant lot (with permission from the city of course) people of the neighborhood get together to plant a garden and tend to it. It does not take much land to yield enough for a lot of people. All it takes is a little planning.
Balconies and patios can house a small garden. A tomato plant or two in a pot, green and hot peppers in other pots will produce more than one family can eat. There will also be room for a few plants.
Herb gardens can be grown on a patio or even inside with a comfy place near a sunny window.
My parents always had a graden. Whether we lived on the farm, in town, or even in the big city there was always a garden.
Each and every garden had the usual edibles. there were tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and green beans. If there was a large enough space they also grew peas, carrots, corn, and various squash. Sometimes there were even a few pumpkins.
Also in each garden was space set aside for Mom's flowers. She always grew zinnias. Some other flowers were sweet peas, snap dragons, four o'clocks, cox combs, petunias, or whatever else caught her fancy.
Daddy had his roses. There were also grape vines even in the city. They do not need much room if they are allowed to climb instead of spread.
They usually had strawberries too. In the city they took a small space and built tiers to plant strawberries. They got a lot of berries from a small space.
I know it sounds like a massive garden but it really took so little space. There was still room for kids to play and family barbecues. City gardens are not as rare as you might think.
My husband and I did not always have gardens but we often did. Tomatoes were a must. I like cucumbers too My husband always said you cannot plant tomatoes and cucumbers together because the tomatoes will taste like cucumbers. But I would get my way and the tomatoes always tasted like tomatoes.
I like green beans a lot. So green beans were planted.My husband liked potatoes so we planted them if there was enough room. Peppers both green and hot grew well for us.
One year we planted some pumpkins along the fence. Squirrels ate most of them but we had one that was growing nicely. We planned on using it for Halloween and then in cooking.
My husband went out one day to stand with pride over his garden. He was providing good fresh food for his family.
That was when he noticed that the pumpkin was gone!
It had not been attacked by any animals. The pumpkin had been neatly cut from the vine.
My husband blamed a neighbor. I do not think it was that neighbor but try to convince my husband. He was having none of it.
We lived in the city. I believe some of the older kids used that cute little pumkin for some sort of nefarious deed. But I had no proof either. Maybe the squirrels had a sharp knife?
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
I went to the post office yesterday to get my mail. I saw a couple of kids playing at one end of the building. That is not unusual. There is a nice patch of grass there.
As I got out of my car one little girl began to peek around the building at me. She had a bit of a guilty look.
Then she said, "There's a snake here."
Because this area is known for its high population of prairie rattlesnakes I went to take a look.
The post office has those glass block windows set low in the ground. I assume that there is a basement down there but I am not sure. There are half moon shaped metal barriers to keep the ground from eroding down to cover the blocks. There is a layer of gravel to keep plants from growing.
When I went over there the little girl told me that they picked one up and it acted like it wanted to bite them. When I asked if any of them were bitten they said no.
I gave them a quick talk of rattlesnakes to make sure they understood how dangerous they are. They were surprised that they can bite and are venomous as soon as they are born.
Another little girl joined us. She had been searching for a grown snake they saw slithering away.
I looked into the area by the glass blocks. There were several little snakes rolling around in there. They were no bigger than a small earthworm. From the markings they looked like garter snakes.
We talked a while more. I tried to impress on them that they needed to know for sure what kind of snake they tried to pick up. I also let them know that all snakes will bite to protect themselves.
A man yelled out then and all three children scampered away. As they were leaving I told them to make sure they told a grown-up about the snakes.
As I drove around the corner I saw a couple of the fathers standing outside talking. I rolled down my window and told them about the snakes over at the post office. I told them that I thought they were probably harmless and that I had told the children to tell parents about them.
You never know with little ones. Sometimes they keep information to themselves to keep from getting into trouble.
It was so cold yesterday that I was surprised to see baby snakes (or grown ones for that matter). I have no idea whether the fathers decided to do something about them.
I think I will make sure to visit the post office tomorrow. They should know that the little places by the glass blocks are being used to breed snakes.