Hanging in a place of honor above the fireplace in our cabin is an artist’s portrait of my father. I looked at it yesterday as I dusted the mantle, although I don’t know why I bothered to dust, as we were putting away summer. I call it “putting away summer” because that is exactly what we do. The dock has been taken out, fishing poles and tackle boxes locked up, wood stacked, and mantle dusted. We hauled the boat home and loaded up the four-wheeler. Although I love the beauty of the fall, putting away summer always makes me a little sad. We’ll probably spend another day or two, and the hunters in the family will be there more often. Each summer seems to go by faster than the speed of light, and the winters come too soon. It seems like just yesterday that my sister and I were little girls throwing rocks in the lake or sticks to one of our various dogs, who would fetch as many times as we would throw them. My dad loved that cabin and would have lived there just as it was, fishing for our supper, chopping wood for heat, reading by kerosene lamps, and taking sauna on Saturday nights. My mom loved the cabin, too, and although she enjoyed the time we spent there, she was the main reason we didn’t live in the middle of the wilderness all the time. You know what they say: “Happy wife, happy life.” My sister and I have taken good care of our legacy, mostly because of the hard work of our husbands, who keep up with the never-ending maintenance. These days, with a small boy around, there is quite a bit of noise at our quiet corner of the lake. I learned that although time marches on, kids still love to throw rocks in the lake and dogs will still fetch a stick as many times as you will throw it. I did get a chance to have a few moments alone with my grandson inside the cabin yesterday, while HE hauled the boat and the boy’s parents took a ride in the woods on the four-wheeler. Although Max was more interested in looking at the mounted deer head and rack of antlers that grace the walls, he did take a moment to glance at that portrait on the mantle as I told him about his great-grandfather. There will be more stories as he grows, because this is his legacy, too. I really don’t need to see the portrait to remember my father, though, because that cabin is the place where I feel closest to him. Sometimes, when Max turns his head a certain way or gets a twinkle in his eye, I see a bit of my dad, too. That is the legacy of which he would be most proud. It is a happy life, indeed.
My dear friend Sharon has moved more times than I can count. Luckily for me, she lived in the same town as I did for several years in a row. We took morning walks together, chatted on the phone, exchanged work stories, and shared recipes. Since we both love to cook, we have done that many times over the years. She once showed me her favorite cookbook, filled to the brim with handwritten recipes from the friends she shared meals with wherever she lived. It is her memory book, of sorts. Some of the best recipes I’ve tried have been those found in long-forgotten cookbooks or novels picked up at garage sales or even from the back of my own bookshelf. Some are written neatly on cute little recipe cards, some are torn or cut out from newspapers or magazines, and some are written on the back of receipts or envelopes. I never throw these scraps away when I find an old cookbook at an estate sale because somebody, somewhere took the time to save it because they thought it sounded good. One of the things on my bucket list is to someday have enough time to make all these orphan recipes, even the ones that sound a little strange. Times are changing. Recipes can be looked up in seconds on the hundreds of cooking sites on the internet. Pictures of mouth-watering dinners and desserts can be shared on social media and be seen instantly by all your friends. Despite all this technology, folks don’t cook as much as they used to. People eat out, pick up, or have their meals delivered by the pizza person more often than not. A small tablet computer takes up a lot less room than a shelf full of cookbooks or a drawer full of magazine clippings. I couldn’t help but notice, though, that when Sharon pulled that cookbook out of the cupboard, she handled it with care to the point of reverence and she smiled when she told me about the friends she had met over the years. My friend and I live many miles apart now, but good friendships don’t change that much. She now calls me on occasion while she takes her afternoon walk. We still exchange recipes, although I readily admit the current ones are a little healthier than those we shared 25 years ago. I hope at least one of my recipes has made it into her special cookbook, and if not, I’d better sort through that pile and make something good enough to become a memory.
I read somewhere that you see only a small percentage of the spiders that are actually around. This week, I’ve been painting the exterior of the house, and in doing so, needed to clean the siding first. I quickly learned that using a pressure washer only helps a little, and I don’t particularly care for equipment that has water on one end and electricity one the other, with me in the middle to complete the circuit. The dead insects and spider webs must have some sort of super glue capabilities, because even a direct spray didn’t get rid of all of them. Plan B: I let it dry, then used my handy-dandy duster with a handle. This allowed me to dust under the edges of the siding so the gook didn’t stick to my paintbrush. With no extra pockets, and being up on a tall ladder, I just stuck it in the back of my pants, making me look like some sort of giant paint-spattered rabbit with a fluffy tail. I cannot even begin to tell you the number of spiders who are now homeless. From dozens of Daddy Long Legs to tiny little red spiders and every color in between, the colors of the spider rainbow probably even included Black Widows, Brown Recluses and others that are not so friendly. Conspicuously missing because they were inconspicuously hidden in dens far from my eyesight were the big hairy Wolf Spiders. Just thinking about them makes my skin feel all creepy and crawly. If I only saw a small percentage of the spiders who live here, then I must have 12,428 spiders in and around my house. Eek. With that thought in mind, I got busy with my handy-dandy duster with a handle and got rid of all the spider webs inside the house, too. All was right with the world, at least I thought so. But where do spiders go after their homes get destroyed? Think about it. They have to go somewhere, and although I certainly don’t claim to think like a spider, I believe they planned a little payback. After cleaning, I found spiders and their webs on my clothesline and in and around my wooden clothespins. Every time I reached for one, I felt the slight stickiness of the webs on my fingers. I don’t know how they managed to build the webs so quickly, but they did. The next web I found accidentally, and it was a large one, built across the back door to the chicken coop. I took a break from dusting and painting to let the chickens out for some free-ranging. As I opened the door I walked face first into it and found myself covered with web, along with few dead flies and moths. Eek. With that duster stuck in the back of my pants and a spider web stuck to my front, I began jumping around trying to GET IT OFF. Thinking back on the horror of it all, I probably looked like I was doing the Farm Woman version of the old dance called The Bunny Hop. Last night, before I climbed under the covers, I pulled them back quickly to make sure there were no hidden revengeful spiders lurking between the sheets. Call me crazy, but I know they are around here somewhere. All 12,427 of them. If you noticed that the number is down by one, it is because I accidentally stomped one during the Bunny Hop. Now it will rain on my wet paint for sure.
I’ll bet nobody else in the whole wide world takes a wool lap blanket along on their summer vacation. In HIS former life, my husband was a Master Electrician. My daughter and I love this man dearly and with all the love in our hearts call him The Electric Police behind his back. There was always (and still is) a familiar refrain at our house. The usual: “Who left the lights on?” or “Are you going to leave this oven on all day?” In the summer: “Why is the air conditioner cranked down so low?” In the winter: “Turn that thermostat down and put on more clothes if you are cold!” If you are congratulating HIM for saving natural resources and using less electricity, you can hold the applause. All bets are off once we go on vacation. If you were travelling on the highway last week heading south toward Kansas City, you could recognize our car by the Minnesota license plates and the frost on the interior of the windows. It may have been 90 degrees outside, but the interior of the car had to be only slightly above the freezing point. I was in the passenger seat with my book, travel pillow, and wool blanket. I would have worn long underwear but fellow travellers would have probably looked at me strangely at rest stops and restaurants along the way. It was August, after all. The first thing HE always does when we check into a hotel room is turn the thermostat down until icicles form outside the windows. The first thing I always do is check out the bathroom and make sure it is clean, then make sure there are extra blankets in the closet. This year, we stayed in a hotel that had a digital thermostat on the wall. Every time I passed it, SOMEONE had turned it down to 67 degrees. I turned it up to 72. The next time I looked, it was 67. I sneaked it back up to 70 and crawled under the covers, shivering. I swear HE must have checked every time he passed it because somehow, it ended back at 67. Knowing that I wouldn’t win, I gave up. We got home a few days ago to the typical hot and humid end-of-summer Minnesota weather. The days are steamy and sticky, the nights filled with thunder, lightening, and a barking Chihuahua who hates storms. After working outside for a couple of hours, I was hot and sweaty and thankful for central air conditioning. I turned the thermostat to 67 degrees to cool things down a bit. That didn’t last long, though. Before I knew it, HE had turned it back up to 72. *Sigh* Here we go again.
It is both a blessing and a curse to be a writer. The blessings come with being able to express yourself and in making people laugh…or cry. I choose the laughing end of the spectrum most of the time, at least I hope I do. We have spent the last few weeks doing some remodeling at our house. HE did the manly stuff such as tearing down, hauling supplies, and building up. With the amount of money and time that it took, you would think we were building a castle fit for the Queen of England instead of remodeling our laundry room. The painting was up to me. Not that he can’t paint, but HE CAN’T PAINT. At least not to my specifications, so I do all the painting around here, mostly because I’m too cheap to hire someone. Did I tell you how much I hate to paint? I would rather do just about anything else except clean out the chicken coop. One would think that using two gallons of boring white primer on both the walls and the ceilings would be kind of like having a blank slate in which a writer could come up with new and exciting ideas. I had plenty of ideas, but none that ended up more than a few sentences. When I switched to the two lovely shades of green, one would think that a writer could come up with colorful and cheerful stories that would make people laugh. Nope. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. It’s not that I couldn’t write, but I COULDN’T WRITE. I was almost desperate enough to ask HIM to take over the painting. This writing stuff kind of happens like magic for me. I may start writing about one subject, and another might pop into my head and my fingers start flying across the keyboard. I hate to describe it like voices in my head, but it is kind of like that. Each story usually only takes about 30 minutes to write but two hours to edit…and edit…and edit again. I finally give up on editing and nervously hit the “publish” button, certain that it is all wrong. Then, I always find a mistake. Always. It is kind of like finding those drips and splotches in my newly painted room. The place and time for writing have to be just right, also. A Sunday afternoon, computer in my lap, Chihuahua vying for lap space, and the TV on, but only for background noise. Happy thoughts, and certainly nothing hateful like painting on my mind. So there you have it. An explanation for all the “reruns” you have endured this summer. I thought I would squeeze this story in before I start my next project: Painting the house. The entire house. On a ladder. Did I tell you how much I hate to paint? It’s during times like these that I wish the painting would happen like magic. Either that, or for a few days, I wish I were the Queen of England.
Our little house has five doors leading to the outside. That’s five doors for my OCD self to check every night to make sure they are locked. When HE is out of town, I check and double-check each door. We just replaced three of those doors, and by WE I mean HIM, with a little help from his friends. Living in a construction zone is hard, and I won’t even bore you with more complaints about not having a washing machine. There is the noise. There is the dust. There is Barney the Chihuahua who barks at everything, tries constantly to slip out the door(s) to see what’s going on and in my opinion, sure to meet certain death from an eagle snatching him up or crushed by falling sheet rock. He also still has to be taken outside to do his business, on a leash, of course, and through a maze of construction materials and demolition trash. In the winter, our county road is fairly quiet, but in the summer, the traffic increases due to fishing, resorts, and campers. This morning was no exception, even at six a.m., as Barney and I stepped outside for a brief morning stroll. We usually do this unobtrusively, out the back door, but right now, there are no back steps. If you drove past my house and happened to notice a woman dressed in yoga pants with uncombed hair and a neon green tee-shirt two sizes too big which read “Minnesota: Gone Loony”, it was not a burglar, an escapee from a psychiatric facility, or a lost tourist. It was just me, a Farm Woman who realized a millisecond too late that she accidentally hit the lock button on the new front door. Even more frightening, and I am perhaps giving a little too much information here, but that outfit, or a similar one, is what I sleep in every night. Now, if you knew how hard HE has been working on this project, you would understand just why I didn’t want to wake him up at that hour by pounding on the door. The door to the dining room was locked securely, of course. I could have walked around to the side of the house to the French doors that lead into our bedroom, but there are no steps built yet and only the skeleton of a new deck, so I couldn’t even get close. Besides, that door would be locked up tighter than Fort Knox because I checked it before going to bed last night. Thankful that I was wearing slippers and even more thankful that it wasn’t January, I walked around to the back door as a last resort, almost forgetting that those steps are gone and the door is three feet off the ground. I was amazed to find that door unlocked, thankful and yet wondering if I had forgotten to check it in my nightly security rounds. I managed to crawl inside and into the construction zone with no injury except to my pride and none the worse for wear except a little dust on my backside. There is one thing I happened to notice, though. Each door now has two locks, so now I have TEN locks to check every night. I think I have finally succeeded in driving myself loony. It’s a good thing I already have the tee-shirt.
In the past few days, I have found a couple of teeny tiny eggs in the chickens’ nesting boxes. Being a former City Girl and not the world’s expert on chickens that some of you might think I am, I tend to Google a lot, and in this case, found a wealth of information on this tiny egg phenomenon. It happens when there is a little glitch in the hen’s reproductive system that day. Sometimes the small eggs are yolkless and sometimes they’re not. They are also known as faerie or fairy eggs. I knew it! I knew there had to be a fairy around here somewhere. Folklore tells the tales of tiny mischievous creatures who are always up to something Tinkerbellish. Around here, things have been disappearing for years. Where are the scissors? I KNOW I put them back where they belong. Who moved my keys? Why is there often a missing sock on laundry day? It’s not just me. Just today, HE lost his money clip and we searched high and low for it. To think I was beginning to worry that we were getting old and a little bit forgetful, when it’s been the fairies all along. Now we can blame the naughty little rascals on other things that happen around here such as: Who ate all the ice cream? Who used the last of the toilet paper and didn’t put out a new roll? Unfortunately, if I start asking all these questions out loud and talking about fairies, people will begin to wonder about me, as if they don’t have enough to wonder about already. Before you know it, my daughter will start getting phone calls, and as much as I hate to say it, she probably has the nursing home on speed dial already. We did find the money clip, by the way, and it wasn’t a fairy who hid it, but another naughty little rascal named Barney the Chihuahua. He figured out how to jump up on the windowsill so he can better guard us from the squirrels, and apparently knocked it off and it ended up underneath his toy basket. Wait a minute….UNDERNEATH his toy basket? He is too small to lift the toy basket, and besides, he has paws and not hands! I wonder….oh, never mind. My lips are sealed.