Mowing…

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I was gone for two weeks, and when I came home, my yard looked like a hay field.  In my absence, a tropical storm had come up from the Gulf of Mexico, and poured copious amounts of rain on my town, as well as the rest of the Carolinas.  Plus, it’s spring, and you know…growing season.

So my first day back, I waited until evening for the grass to dry out and the air to cool down, and I mowed.  It put me in mind of the summer my sister and I mowed her yard/acreage, then raked and tossed the grass over the fence to her baby steers.  Because, grass-fed.

I don’t have steers.  And I didn’t rake, as I was finishing up under large droplets of rain.

And I don’t rake, anyway.  I don’t really have grass, either.  When I moved into my tiny house, I decided that I was NOT going to spend money on a “lawn.”  People here do that.

I’d raked the gravel in my yard in Arizona, to make it look nice.   Grass-ish yards were a half-lifetime of foreign-ness to me.

I do have a hellvua lot of Creeping Charlie and some sort of jointed grass-like weed I mow, and as I mowed the other night, I began to consider hiring someone to come make me a “lawn.”  Later, I reconsidered my priorities, and decided to continue to maintain my stance on spending money on grass.

When it’s all done, my yard looks as good as the next, and I feel as much a sense of accomplishment after mowing my weeds as I would mowing real Blue Grass, so there ya go.  Talked myself out of that one.  Hoo-boy.

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That’s my “other” cemetery across the street, Silver Hill Cemetery, est. 1892.  An update on that in another post.  It looks like a hay field right now, too.

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About Decoration Day…

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Memorial Day weekend just ended, and I have to say, after nearly seventy years on this earth, I got it.  Slow, yes.  And sometimes I just have to be hit over the head with a brick bat, whatever that is.

On May 20, my second oldest brother passed away from a four year battle with prostate cancer.  He lived right up until the end, and was surrounded by his loving family when he took his last breaths.  It wasn’t unexpected, but it was still a kick in the gut to lose this funny, gentle, patient, and clear thinking and speaking man.  He was way too young.

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Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day.   Beginning after the Civil War or the War Between the States as we still call it in the south, people would clean winter debris off the graves of their loved ones, and plant summer flowers in their honor.  The holiday is meant to recognize those who died in the service of their country.  Mostly, though, people use the day to mark the unofficial beginning of summer, to have cook outs, and to open the pools.

My family buried our brother, son, husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather.  It was heart wrenching and beautiful.  Reed’s wife and daughters gave him the most meaningful send off any person could ever want, and offered the best participation and inclusion any family could ever have.

A few days before his Celebration of Life, four current generations planted flowers on the graves of four generations back in the small church cemetery.  We dug out the old dirt, replaced it with fresh, and pushed down the new plants.  We pumped and hauled water.  The littlest one, age 2+, spilled a bucket or two, but he is learning the value of honoring our people who have left this world…our predecessors, our family.

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Over three hundred people filled the church basement, coming to pay their respects to Reed’s family, immediate and extended.  They came from Canada, Vermont, Georgia, and the greater Midwest.  They came to say good-by to a horseman, a mentor, a friend.  They came to offer comfort.  They shared stories, and they watched the pictures of Reed’s life projected on a screen.

It was a hard time, and will be for a long while to come.  Clinging to each other, stepping up for each other, knowing when to step back, we got through.  Sometimes we laughed, and sometimes we turned away, too heartbroken to look.  Ever grateful, we are though, to have had such a good man in our lives, and always in our hearts.

 

A Missed Blogging Opportunity…

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Warning:  Pictures are graphic and an animal lost its life in the process.

I wasn’t there.  When you read this, you will be able to figure out why.  (Also, I wasn’t invited.)  And special acknowledgements to Brother Number One for the photos, and Brothers One and Four as primary resources / eyewitnesses.

It happened like this…Brother One and I came up to the farm in Wisconsin from the south for a weekend gathering.  Brother Four, the farmer, had been trying to get a renegade steer butchered since September.  (See blogs titled Love Me Tender and Chesseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.)

I will fill readers in on some background information in case you might have missed the blogs cited above.  Sister One and Brother Four raise Scottish Highlanders, then sell the grass-fed beef.  Last fall, on Butchering Day, one of the steers, aka Renegade Steer, leaped the fence, escaped and went rogue for six weeks in a two square mile area from my sister’s place.  He clearly had a screw loose with a propensity for endangering people.  During that time,  the folks combed fence lines on foot and neighbors searched on horseback to no avail, although there were a few reported sightings.

Finally RS turned up at a cattle farm, where the owner of which disallowed the butchering to take place on his property.  Eventually, after several months in residence, RS broke through his barn wall twice and charged said owner knocking him over.  He relented.  Also, he was promised a goodly amount of the beef, gratis.

Now comes the day long awaited for by the family,  just because the whole episode drug out for nearly six months…RS’s last living day on earth.  The boys met the sharpshooter and butcher.  The RS was clearly ID’d, as he was the only one of his breed present.  Brother Two, farrier and sharpshooter himself,  urged the gunman to “shoot, shoot.”  He was a little eager, in my opinion.  Nevertheless, the aim was swift and true.  RS was down, throat slit (sorry), and properly declared dead by Brother One, the doctor.

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The steer was drug away a short distance with a skid loader, hoisted with a crane, skinned, gutted, and cut up.  All this in the cold windy gloom of the day, and I missed the whole event.  I am pretty grateful, frankly.  I got a little sickish feeling when I asked for details this morning.  All adventures aren’t equal.

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This is what happens on the farm.  This is where hamburger, steak and pot roast come from, and had I been present, I probably would have become a vegetarian.  In a little while, we will all gather again in the folks’ kitchen and eat ham and scalloped potatoes.  I’m glad tonight’s meat entree isn’t beef

Another Successful Animal Rescue

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My baby sister is an animal advocate.  She volunteers for several Rescues, and is a participant, if not directly responsible, for many animals being placed in loving “furever” homes.  I knew how dedicated she was, but I had no idea to what degree until yesterday, when I, unwittingly, became an accomplice.

It happened this way.   Baby Sister was driving me home from her dad’s when I  mentioned that I saw an elephant on the sidewalk “back there.”

“What?” she said.  I repeated my observation.  She continued driving…right around the block…and there beside a garbage bin, lay a large gray elephant.

“He’s missing an ear,” I, now in the character of Ms Obvious, stated.  The car stopped, Baby Sister got out, scooped up the abandoned creature, and handed her off to me.

“His name is Van Gogh,” I thought, unfortunately, out loud.   Hoo-boy.

Baby Sis:  We’re crazy.

Me:  Speak for yourself.

Baby:  You saw him, you named him.  (Again, hoo-boy.  We are how old?)

So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  Turns out she is now named Vanna Gogh, and she has been repaired, bathed, and sits in my, yes, living room.

It seems, animal advocacy comes in all manner of forms.  And it also seems, I am very much a participant, as well.  Who knew?

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Look at her.  Isn’t she cute?

 

Fixin’ ‘Er Upper

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With a tip of the hat to Chip and Jo-jo, one of my most favorite things is home improvement.  The last two years of my full time teaching was spent with my former spouse remodeling the inside of our home.  It was basically gutted, and I came home from school many an evening to find the clothes washer and the refrigerator parked in the living room.

Each year since I moved into my tiny house here in the piedmont of North Carolina, I have scrimped and saved to improve some part of my home.  I’ve replaced the deck out back, had two corner built-ins added to the living room, installed top-down/bottom-up blinds, my ownself, in all the windows, and more.

Now…full disclosure…I am turning 70 (gasp) this year, and I have intended to turn the tiny, tiny building out back into a Craft Studio since 2011.  This is the year, and it is happening, even as we speak.  But more about that in another blog, later.

This winter, as Lenten penance, it turns out, I decided to paint all the walls inside…again, by my ownself.  I finished just last Sunday, doing a room a week, and wouldn’t you know, just one week after completion, yesterday, I spent the day tearing up the living room all over again, because this morning, I had the long-desired crown moulding put in the living room!  I am including the Before and After shots, a photo of the paint project, and the Tiny, Tiny’s initial demo.

I’m in my happy place, and this all makes turning a (cough) certain age very much worth it.

COLD vs Cold…

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This pre-dawn morning, I was the first to step  through fresh falling snow.  It was a God moment.

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I returned home last week from my three winter weeks in Wisconsin.  While there, we had light snow and a cold snap that surpassed normal, even for that latitude.  There were mornings when the actual temperatures were in the first-decade-and-more below zero Fahrenheit.  The wind chill temps reached negative 22, at times.  For a few days, the highs were still below zero.  It is COLD there.

People who live there full time know how to deal with cold like that.  They wear long underwear, coveralls, fleece-lined boots and gloves, Fargo hats.  They start their cars to warm them up ten to fifteen minutes before departure.  They cover their faces when they go out, and they only go out if it is necessary.  Farmers have no choice.  People who work day or night jobs have no choice.  Thankfully, I did have a choice.

Back home in North Carolina, the low temperatures have been record breaking, as well.  There were two days when I was gone, that NC temps were lower than the ones in WI.  This past weekend, in the south, we had seventeen degrees until after 10 AM.  And this morning, we people of the piedmont woke up to falling snow.

The snow wasn’t a surprise.  It was predicted, and last night before 8 PM, before one flake had fallen, schools announced closures.  Still, it doesn’t really snow here that much or that often, and after nearly thirty years of living in Arizona, it’s a novelty of which I do not tire.

Taking first steps in the quiet snow of the dark early morning to the glow of flashlight is  a feeling, as much as anything else.  So, it doesn’t matter if it is COLD or Cold, we each have our ways of capturing it, enduring it, or savoring it.

There is Cold, and then there is COLD.   Though the numbers can be similar, they are very different from each other.  Hmmmm…wonder how that can be?

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An ice luminaria, which lasted at least five days in Wisconsin.

 

Where’s the beef?

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If you find a beef shortage in your neck of the woods, I know where it is.  The Remleys have whatever is missing.   And also more.

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(Four boxes of beef…hamburger, roasts, etc.)

This morning, on the last day of 2017, we are having Beef Stroganoff for breakfast, for heaven’s sake.  It seems in order to fit all the new beeves into the family freezers, we had to cook the old beef, among other things.  So this weekend has been a big cookfest for me and my sister.

It began by cooking two whole chickens, deboning them, straining the stock, and then bagging the meat and freezing the stock in baggies.  Baggies pack in the freezer more efficiently than whole chickens, which seem to roll off and over each other in confined arctic spaces.

Then we (the royal “we”) thawed frozen mincemeat and made a couple of pies.   That took care of the frozen pie crusts and two boxes of Nonesuch Mincement.  Different sized boxes store awkwardly in the freezer.

And now comes the Beef Stroganoff…an arm roast and a round steak took up a lot of room in the freezer, and conveniently, they shred easily.  Those two hunks of meat cooked all night in the Crock Pot.  So, first thing this morning, I found myself perusing cookbooks for Stroganoff recipes, chopping onions, stirring gravy and making the sauce.

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Soup is a frequent breakfast of mine.  Beef, not so often.  It’s not the actual food that makes a meal, but the ones who make it with love, and the companionship that goes into the prep.  My sister and I developed a pretty smooth routine as we cooked together.  We even thumbs-upped at the end.

Cooking for one sucks.  Cooking for farmers sings.