If You Like to Eat, Thank a Farmer…

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Recently, I reposted a meme from several years ago.  It said, “Without farming, you’d be hungry, naked, and sober.”  So true.

I’m in Wisconsin, again.  I’m grateful to be able to visit here two or three times a year.  It is a blessing.  My dad turns 95 years-old next week.  He and my step-mother have been married 65 years on Christmas Day.  I have two brothers  (sadly, one of whom is deceased) and two sisters who live here, two fantastic sisters-in-law, four grown nieces, a nephew, and a growing number of great-nephews and nieces, all who live near-by.  Arriving soon are another brother, his fantastic wife, and another grown niece and nephew.  You’d have to be crazy not to appreciate this bunch, actually a small city, of fun and loving family members!

My youngest brother is a farmer.  Among other endeavors, he and one of my sisters raise Scottish Highland steers for meat.  I’ve written about this before, and you can read back about the rogue steer and the butchering episode. 

This week, I was sent to pick up the remains, I mean meat, of some of the most current residents, now no longer with us.  I have to say, that after the pick up, I was once again a vegetarian.  This is what greeted me when I pulled up to the processing place:

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My sister-in-law gave me a lesson on the difference between deer and cow toes.  (Deer toes, close together/Cow toes spread apart)  Who knew?  Who cares?

Then we entered the store, where the smell near knocked me over.  “Doesn’t it smell wonderful?” she asked.  NO!  It did not!  But, ready for the experience, I took a few photos, and collected two terrifically heavy bags of frozen hamburger, steaks, and roasts, and breathed through my nose until I could get out in the fresh air.

Though it’s not my cup of tea (today), I am grateful to those who do the work (breeders, growers, butchers, processors, and y’all who are the eaters), because this is economy, People.  And these are the ones who feed us, clothe us, and give us wine, beer, and booze.  And though I’m a vegetarian, at least for today, I have an affinity for clothes, and I like my wine.  And, I especially love my family!

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So, on behalf of my brother, I say, “Thank a farmer.”  God knows, they deserve at least that much.

Squirrels Don’t like Kale, either…

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I’ve been mulling over this post for a while, now.  What’s been holding me up is a picture.  The picture I should have taken was of the withered kale that lay atop the concrete pillar in my backyard, compliments of Baby Sister, as are many of my unique “treasures.”  I often put old bread, watermelon rinds, the remains of the Spring Greens bag, and stale crackers there for the squirrels, because, hey, squirrels gotta eat, too, ya know!

Once, I thought I’d write a book entitled “Do Ducks Eat Pork and Beans?”  The book never got written, because all I really had was a title, and uh, I’m not a book writer.  But the answer to the question is, “No.  They don’t.”  And squirrels don’t eat kale.

As it happens, neither do I.  I tried.  I really, really tried.  But, no, I don’t.  And I and squirrels don’t eat kale, because kale is vile.  It is consistently awful, and this is coming from a person that will eat almost anything, well, except kale (now) and okra.

So, to tie this all together…I’ve been experimenting with vegan-ism and vegetarianism, says the lady who admitted above that she will eat almost anything.  Turns out I am not a vegan.  I can do without the meat, I can do without fish, although I found that for-going shrimp has been a struggle.  BUT, I cannot do without eggs and cheese. 

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As I have written before, cooking for one is difficult.  I am here to tell you cooking without meat, cheese, dairy, butter, mayonnaise, eggs, and fish, including tuna and shrimp, has left me with nearly nothing to eat.  How do I even make a sandwich?  Especially now that tomato season is nearly done.  Is plain bread with…what?…between the slices really a sandwich?

That brings me back to the kale.  I tried it in soups.  Course.  I tried it as chips.  Crumbly.  I tried it in salads.  Bitter.  What’s the point?  I took my remaining kale out to the pillar, and two weeks later, there was a pile of sun-dried kale bits.  Nothing has lasted two weeks on that pillar.  Proof that even the squirrels don’t like kale…either.

And as for vegan-ism, I’m all for saving the planet, but eating fake meat (or plant-based meat, as it is called) just seems silly.  If one is going to eat fake meat, why not eat the real meat?  Plant-based meat doesn’t taste like meat, anyway.  It is rubbery.  If I wanted rubbery, I’d eat calamari. 

No, I’m not vegan, and I’m not a confirmed vegetarian, either.  But no matter what style of eating du jour I practice, kale is definitely off the menu for me and my backyard squirrels.  I wonder, though, if they like plant-based meat.  I’ve got some of that left in the freezer.

Fossils finding fossils…

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My Lake Sister and I are now 70 years young and over (me).  We are not fossils, but we feel like it sometimes.  Geege lives at Lake Waccamaw.  When I tell people I am going to Lake Waccamaw, they ask, “Is that in North Carolina or Wisconsin?”  Seriously.

Lake Waccamaw is the best kept secret in our state.  It is a 9,000 acre fresh water lake about 45 miles west of the Atlantic Ocean, and about 40 miles north of the South Carolina border.  It is one of many Bay Lakes in the eastern Carolinas, all elliptical, and ancient.  Lake Waccamaw has a perfect Ph, and that’s why there are five endemic species of fish peculiar to this Lake.

At one time, 65.5 million years ago to be accurate, this area was part of the ocean, and during the Cretaceous Period, the climate was relatively warm, the land was dominated by dinosaurs, and the oceans and seas were populated with now also-extinct marine life.  That’s your geology lesson.

This morning, and I’d like to say it was early morning, but I’d be lying, Geege took me fossil hunting in the Lake.  There’s an outfit involved, and if I’m about anything, I’m about the clothes.  I was properly rugged up in running shorts, tank top and t-shirt, water shoes, gloves, sun hat, and sunglasses.  I looked a picture in my fossil hunting glory, for sure.  Our specialized equipment included sieves (like we used in Arizona to gold pan) and a garden claw.

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The Lake was cold at first, wading out, but clear as glass.  It’s shallow.  Rain has been scarce this summer.  After I got the courage to kneel in the sand first, and then sit, it felt like bathwater.  For a couple of hours, we sat, dug, scooped, shook, and sieved the silt off the lake bottom.  I found some good stuff: baby sharks’ teeth, some fossilzed shells, pieces of coral.  All dropped before humankind appeared on the planet.  We also found some glass, railroad spikes, a good piece of cypress knee, and handmade nails.

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I’ve been coming to Lake Waccamaw since the mid 1990’s, and today was the first time I’ve actually gotten into the lake, I’m a little embarrassed to say.  But today, it was all different.  It’s mind-boggling to think about those ancient remains, scraping them off the bottom of the lake, and us two fossils (ha, ha) having our sacred time together with the sacred creations of pre-mankind days.  And so, Amen.

 

 

Trespassers Wil…

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If you’ve never read Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, don’t ever admit it.  Also, you will not “get” the title of this blog.  If you have, and you should have, you will.  Or “wil,” as the sign in the book reads.

All that has not much to do with the adventure my Lake Sister and I had today.  Well, except the fact that we were trespassing.  It started with our discussion of Nichols and Stone chairs, which are a name of fine chairs, easily identified, if you know what you are looking for, and of which G gave me two that she got for $5 each at a sale.  Score!  Big. Time.

I have painted my two chairs, and use them at my kitchen table.  G wanted me to see from where the found chairs came.  I have strict instructions, when I get home, to ink on the bottom, “Georgia-Pacific/International Paper Company,” to document my chairs’ origins.  She’s an historian.  ‘Nuff said.

So we drove down Bella Coola Road, and stopped in front of the International Paper Company Training Center, which, truth be told, was probably a secret “he-man-woman-haters club” for the paper company.  Anyway, G decided we should walk back (i.e. Trespass) to explore.  I’m going to state clearly at this time, that no signs were posted, and we did not even have to climb over or crawl under a fence.  We just walked onto the property, though I was NOT feelin’ it, because, rattlesnakes.

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It is very beautiful back there, even if it is overgrown, with a view of the Lake, and would be an excellent “secret clubhouse” site.  That’s why we took the liberty of opening the door of the brick building, and we had a walk about.  It has been vandalized, naturally, and Mother Nature has begun her “take back,” but we found it interesting, and our curiosity was satisfied.

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It’s been a long, long time since I took such a chance, was so brave, and “farethed forth” into the unknown.  After the fact, and with no rattle-or-any-other-kind-of-snake encounter, I am glad we went exploring.  Christopher Robin and Pooh would’ve been proud of us.

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This is one of the chairs post-paint, pre-house installation.

On Squirrel Patrol…

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Here in the North Carolina Piedmont, squirrels are active year ’round.  This, however, is their season of glory.  The babies are fresh from the treetop nests, playing enthusiastically.  The parents are practicing their gymnastics from my bird/squirrel feeders, and my little dog, Hattie, is on “Squirrel Patrol.”  It is her job.

She actually has the official designation of “Squirrel Patrol” given to her by my baby sister, who gifted Hattie with a collar tag that says just that.

It is my understanding that most dogs have “work” to do.  Some track, some cart, some search and rescue, some are therapy dogs.  Hattie’s job is keeping our “queendom” free from squirrels.  While earnest, she’s not at all successful.

Every morning, after breakfast, she hovers by the door, looking up at me expectantly.  Then, I let her out, where she positions herself at one of the two “stations” she has carved out for herself.  She will sit or crouch, patiently.  I have watched her.

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Once, Hattie came dangerously close to catching a poor unfortunate squirrel, and it scared her so badly that she forgot about chasing for the rest of that day!

It doesn’t really matter that the squirrels continue to taunt her with their leaping from roof to tree, from feeder to ground, Hattie, is an optimist, as am I.  She continues to patrol, and I continue to delight in her perseverance.

Entertainment is cheap around here.  You just have to take the time to stop.  And watch.  And take in the lesson.

 

The Wendy House…

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“Let’s be quiet as a mouse, and build a lovely little house,  for Wendy…” goes the song from the musical, Peter Pan.  I watched the show when I was a little girl, starring Mary Martin, on black and white TV in the 50’s.  I memorized most of the songs.

The Australians call my tiny, tiny house out back, The Wendy House.  I call it lots of other names, but when I am talking to them, I always refer to it as The Wendy House.  I knew right away where they got this nickname.  When I call it The Wendy House to other people, they don’t get it.

So, I call it the tiny, tiny; the shop; the studio, though to me that sounds pretentious.  I also call it “downstairs,” or “out back.”  I tried She Shed, but..no.   I tried to call it The Hive, and I even have a sign that says The Hive, but that name hasn’t stuck, either.  Among my first blogs, I asked my readers to help me name The Wendy House, and I got some good suggestions, but still, seven years later, I’m fumbling.

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Last spring, for my 70th birthday, I finally had the Wendy House finished off inside.  I had the floor painted the rust color of my Carolina soil, a window moved, a door removed, and French doors added.  I had the electricity upgraded, canned lighting put in, the walls painted white, and a motel-type heating/cooling unit installed.  Then I furnished it with salvaged wicker, scavenged from Bulky Pick-up week, some given-to-me shelves, a 1950’s (my era, I guess) red formica-topped kitchen table, by way of my-friend-Ginger-from-Lake-Waccamaw, and my sewing machine.

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It’s a perfect workspace.  It’s a good relaxing place.  I throw open the French doors, and sit looking out at my “land,” and I read, or think.  Sometimes I listen to Audible books as I sew or paint furniture, or craft.  I can see the magnolia tree, the bird feeders, the kids next door playing ball.  In some ways, with the doors open, it’s like sitting on a porch, especially when it’s raining.  My entire home is a retreat, but The Wendy House is my retreat-within-a-retreat.

Finishing off the Wendy House was last year’s birthday present to myself.  And I’m thinking this year’s birthday present to myself is it’s name…The Wendy House.

It’s Magnolia Season!

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I was a baby when my mother painted the three magnolias that hung in my grandmother’s living room until she sold her home and moved to assisted living.  Grandmother passed away in 1997, and I inherited that painting.  The pink frame doesn’t really go with my decor’, but because of that painting, I have always loved magnolias.

Magnolias don’t grow in Indiana, and I never asked Mom why she painted them, or what she used as a model.  Magnolias DO grow in my piedmont North Carolina backyard.  Well, not really my backyard, but my backyard neighbor’s backyard.  His tree drapes over our mutual fence, and I get the joy of his tree.  It’s HUGE!

To me, magnolias smell like lemons.  Not real lemons, but Pledge’s chemical smell version of the lemons.  Others have told me I’m nuts, and yes, I can be.  Not because my sense of the magnolia fragrance, though.

This flower has been made popular, at least by name, by my favorite HGTV couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines.  Their business is named Magnolia, and though they live in Texas, they now have an entire section in every Target, with home goods products by this name.  I, for one, am grateful.

My whole neighborhood has a plethora of magnolia trees, and this time of year, I get to see and smell the flowers as I walk my little dog, Hattie, or just survey my tiny “queendom” out back.  It’s one more Southern Thing that makes this place home.

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