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The next time our local hospital volunteers have their annual book sale, would someone please distract me so I stay far, far away?  It is bad enough that I have to be there on the first day, digging through the stacks for old books, first editions, and best sellers for a mere dollar each. On the last day of the sale, they have the “fill a bag for a buck” special to move the inventory out. One dollar for A WHOLE BAG of books. Last year, I spent three dollars on the last day, and believe me, there wasn’t an inch of space left in the bags, either. I won’t even tell you how much I spent the first day, but it was for a good cause, after all. This year, they decided to make it a semiannual event, so the date came around sooner than I had expected.  I was nowhere near finishing the  books from the year before.  I tried not to go, but found myself hovering around the sale area, especially during the “bag for a buck” day.  I only spent a dollar…the first time through. I managed to fill another bag during my lunch hour and one more after work. I also brake for garage sales, and always find myself heading over to the book box or table…almost everyone has one.  I simply can’t resist all those hours of reading pleasure for the simple price of one quarter. If they ask more than that, the book has to be a special one, because I am pretty cheap. I have a small problem, however. I mean, besides obvious problem of being a cheap hoarder.  I simply don’t read as many books as I used to. As technology advances, even an old Farm Woman can keep up, at least a little bit. I can no longer say “there is nothing good on TV” because I record all of my favorite programs and movies, and the list is long, and a fact that was a surprise to me, I can watch it on my smart phone.  There’s also Pinterest and social media, both of which are literally at my fingertips on my phone. I think that perhaps that is part of the problem in our world these days. Everyone is constantly staring at their phones in restaurants, while walking, while travelling, and sadly, even at their jobs. Nobody looks up and smiles anymore, not to mention carrying on a conversation with an acquaintenance, stranger, or even a friend. The constant sensory overload of computer games,  breaking news alerts, and texting is changing the way we think and act toward each other. Perhaps the Zombie Apocalypse that we all worried about is finally here and we are it. There is a new word do describe these people already: Smombie. A Smombie is a person who walks slowly while focused on their smart phone. I read it on the internet, so it must be true.  I think as a Zombie (or Smombie) preventative measure, tonight I will choose from one of the many books on the shelf and get lost for a little while. 

One of my daughter’s favorite movies as a young teen was the campy movie classic “Mommy Dearest”. I have seen it so many times that I could probably recite the dialogue without a script. I even dressed up one Halloween as Mommy Dearest (Joan Crawford) as  played by Faye Dunaway, complete with bathrobe, red lipstick, a headband in my hair and wielding a wire hanger. I was delightfully scary, even though my face was red and stinging because I had no cold cream to rub on my face and used HIS shaving cream instead, which melted in a stingy, itchy stream down my neck, which made me look even scarier.  When we moved to our present home about ten years ago, I had decided that I would no longer have wire hangers in the closets, so got rid of them all. It had nothing to do with Mommy Dearest and everything to do with the fact that I had read in a magazine that one’s closet would look neater if all the hangers matched. This was probably the same magazine that told me in a bold headline that I could lose ten pounds in ten days by eating only hard boiled eggs and pineapple on one page and giving a recipe for The World’s Best Chocolate Cake on the next. Determined to have a  neat and well-organized look to our closets,  I decided that our clothes would be hung on white plastic hangers only. (Side note to those who don’t know me personally:  I am neither neat nor well-organized, nor have I ever lost ten pounds in ten days no matter how much pineapple I ate.)  Over the years, I have weeded out a few navy blue, brown, or black plastic hangers. My collection of vintage wooden advertising hangers are put to good use in the front closet, since plastic doesn’t always hold up to a heavy winter coat. The other day, I decided to clean out the bedroom closet from top to bottom. I noticed that HIS one and only suit looked sad and saggy, and as I straightened the shoulders and brushed it off,  I noticed it was on a WIRE HANGER.  What? Then I noticed more. Seven to be exact. I have no idea how they got there, since we rarely bring home any dry cleaning.  I confess that it has kind of been driving me crazy, trying to figure it out. That reminded me of another old campy movie classic called “Gaslight”. The husband is doing things to make the wife think she is going crazy. Uh, oh. It could be HIM, or it could be me. If I start wearing red lipstick and shaving cream on my face while I throw the wire hangers out the front door, watch out!

When I was in my 20’s, I remembered nearly everything. In my 30’s and early 40’s, raising a family meant keeping a large wipe-off board on front the fridge, along with a small calendar that I  tucked into my purse, with almost every square filled in. Things are not nearly as busy now, but the older I get, the more I tend to forget. One simply can’t live with sticky notes stuck all over the place. A couple of years ago, I decided to get with the program and use the calendar on my smart phone. Assuming (correctly) that I would somehow screw it up, I kept a duplicate of the calendar on my desk at work. I really liked the reminder that smart phone gave me each morning of any upcoming appointments, although I often forgot them by afternoon. Last year, I decided to let my fingers do the walking and went strictly with the electronic calendar. It was easy, and I had to use only the occasional sticky note glued to the steering wheel of my car or my desktop at work. All right, I’ll admit it:  OCCASIONALLY the bathroom mirror.  The dates for doctor and dentist appointments, vacations, birthdays, weddings, and lunches with friends were at my fingertips at any given moment. You might be surprised at how many things can be going on in the life of a simple Farm Woman. Still, life was good…until the phone died. It was not a “Gee, my phone is acting up and I should think about getting  a new one soon but perhaps I’ll wait until I can afford it” type of death. It was D-E-A-D. Deader than a doornail. Deader than disco. Deader than that dead skunk in the middle of the road. The phone experts were able to revive it enough to save my contacts’ numbers,  but the calendar was gone. I must admit, though, that ignorance is pretty blissful. With no stress of an upcoming schedule, life is simple again. I’m thinking that I should keep it that way. If I am a no-show at your birthday party or baby shower, please forgive me. I’m busy watching the grass grow and the chickens scratch. 

  • Long long ago, when the thought of being a real Farm Woman was just a twinkle in my eye, we would visit my aunt and uncle’s farm in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Uncle Al always had plenty of advice and rules, the most important of which was not to eat the apples from the sour apple tree which grew next to the farm house. “You will get a bellyache for sure!” he warned us every visit. My cousin and I were not always known to be listeners or even rule followers, so we always climbed high up into the branches and ate as many of those apples as we dared.  They were not even that good, but the thought of going against the rules seemed to sweeten them up a bit. Sure enough, by early evening, we would be holding our bellies and head to bed early, only to be giggling later with flashlights under the covers well into the night. We loved the times with our family at the big farmhouse table, passing around good food and listening to three different conversations going on at the same time. Fast forward a few years…well, more than a few years. Funny, or maybe not so funny, we are now the older generation. The earlier generations are sadly missed, and yet there are new faces around the table that we couldn’t imagine being without. The branches of the family continue to grow, just as the branches of that apple tree of long ago. The farm has been sold, so we now gather around a different family table, passing plates of delicious food. There are still three different conversations going on at once, so things don’t change much. Dear Uncle Al is 96 and in a nursing home, the last of the generation. He is not able to join us any more, and for that, we are sad, so  we visited him with all the latest news.  He sits quietly with his eyes closed, biding his time, and not saying much except to wonder why I didn’t bring my dad with me, forgetting that he has been gone for many years. He listened as Caroline, his great-granddaughter and I  played  the piano and to the sweet old woman who sang along to the songs even though she couldn’t remember the words. She didn’t care, and neither did we. I did get a small glimmer of the old days when I spoke to him of farm days, apple trees, and bellyaches. Remembering, he opened his eyes, laughed, and said “The years sure go by, don’t they?” Yes, Uncle. Yes, they do.

I don’t know why I am so anxious for spring to get here. It hasn’t been a particularly bad winter, nor do I want to wish my life away, but I am more than ready. The first pair of swans flew over the creek yesterday, and the mere sight of them gave me spring fever. The days have been warm enough to keep the door to the chicken coop open most of the time. By that, I mean the door to the fenced-in run, because the wild animals and birds are especially hungry this time of year and would like nothing better than a nice plump chicken for dinner. The snow in the south-facing run is starting to melt, especially where the sun hits, and the girls are glad to have a little dirt and mud to scratch in. If you read “The Farm Woman’s Guide to Raising Chickens Even When Your Husband Doesn’t Want Them”,  it explains that “fresh clean water is essential to the good health of your flock.” I read it. I live it. I haul fresh water daily, even adding a few drops of organic apple cider vinegar to ward off disease. Today, with the melting snow in the run, they were drinking out of a mud puddle mixed with old straw and probably  doo-doo.  They hadn’t touched their water. The path to the coop is getting wet, too, and probably in a week or two, I will have to start wearing rubber boots. As spring continues springing, the snow will melt before the frost is out of the ground, causing standing water and mud everywhere. Along my route home, I often see people park at the end of their driveways and walk in, wearing their own rubber boots and carrying their shoes. The last thing they want is to be stuck in the mud in the middle of the driveway. Although it is not a pretty time of the year, I love it because it means the long winter is finally over. When I was a kid, back in the olden days, they would give us a few days off from school and call it “Mud Vacation”. Country roads were not as well maintained way back when, and nobody wanted the school busses to get stuck. My friends and I, who lived in town with paved roads and sidewalks,  wore green rubber boots all spring, and would spend our mud vacations playing marbles in the slush and the puddles, our fingers freezing in the cold water. We eagerly awaited and reported the first green shoots of spring and watched for pussy willows to burst into fuzzy little catkins.  I don’t think there was a mom in the entire town who didn’t have a bouquet of pussy willows on her table each spring. Even at my age, I still watch for them, checking out the bush that grows right next to the coop every single day with the same excitement as when I was ten.  I also look for the cowslips, also known as marsh marigolds, which grow in the wetlands, their cheery yellow flowers telling us that spring is finally here, even though they are sometimes surrounded by snow. And speaking of snow, we can always expect a snowstorm or two well into March or even April, but this time, we know it won’t last. What I’m looking forward to the most this year is Daylight Savings Time. For some reason, I have awakened each morning at four bells, ever since the last time change. HE says it is because I fall asleep at eight. I say it is because you can’t teach an old Farm Woman new tricks. 

My husband, not usually known to be a social butterfly, has always said that he is happy when we are getting company because he knows the house will be clean. Very funny. Now, before you get your knickers in a knot about equality and such, HE and I have a deal: He does the outside chores (not including the chicken coop) and I do the inside. This works out quite well and I am usually pleased with the system except for two exceptions:  1) If it is not a freezing cold/icy/snowy winter, I draw the short straw, at least according to my logic,  and  2) I hate to clean. Oh, I like a clean house, and I do clean it, but there are usually about a dozen things that I would rather be doing. On my day off this week, I stayed in my pajamas, which consist of faded yoga pants and an even more faded oversized T-shirt. Too much information, I know, but it is all part of the story. It was 10:30 in he morning, and so far I had managed to unload the clothes from the dryer, catch up on email and Facebook and watch an old Doris Day movie that I had recorded. I was halfheartedly sweeping the kitchen floor when the dog started barking and I saw an unfamiliar pickup truck in the driveway. Eek. I quickly ran to the mirror and ran a comb through my hair. I knew I wouldn’t have time to change, but luckily I had already brushed my teeth. I swept the week’s mail and papers into a pile and got everything out of sight. Whew! The unfolded laundry was scooped off the couch and tossed on my unmade bed behind a tightly closed door. Looking outside, I could see that the visitor was a neighbor who owns the property behind ours, and he was walking his dog out by the woodpile. I ran to the bathroom, wiped everything down, and hung fresh towels, just in case. Rushing over to look out the window, I noticed that the truck was no longer there. He probably thought that nobody was home. Well, the house was clean, anyhow. In a backhanded, kinda sorta  way.  Today, HE decided that the hardwood floors looked a little dull. I don’t get my bustle in a bristle over this one, either. He’ll do it, and I’ll be thankful for it. After all, I am busy cooking, writing and watching an old Hitchcock movie. I will have to say, though, if you want to come over for a visit, now would be a good time, because the house is nice and clean. 

“Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelets.” ~ George Bernard Shaw  

You have often heard me whine about the lack of cooperation from my chickens when it comes to their egg production. This little farm is certainly not a big egg producing corporation, and even calling it a farm is a stretch of the imagination. I’ve suffered lean days and lean weeks in the egg department around here.  Don’t let the word get out, but I have even been known to buy eggs at the grocery store, always hiding them beneath the jumbo-sized package of toilet paper or the bread. My reputation as a Farm Woman is at stake, after all. The number of eggs a chicken lays depends on circumstances such as the age and breed of the hen, food and water, and time of year. Around here, it gets dark very early in the wintertime, and with the lack of light, there are fewer eggs. Some folks have lights in their coops to keep the egg production up, but I give the girls a break and turn on the lights only to prevent me from tripping over a chicken and falling. I have to do that because HE, who insists that he is not getting hard of hearing, keeps the volume on the TV so loud that he would never hear me screaming that I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. I will say that after an hour or two and if it were during a commercial break, he might start to wonder where I was. When the thermometer starts dipping toward 10 degrees above zero, I set the timer for the heat lamps to come on. These days, that is most of the time, so they are off and on throughout the day and night. This creates the perfect storm: My mostly young flock, well-fed and content in their coop with lots of water (I use a heated dog dish so it will not freeze), and plenty of light,  are giving me as many as a dozen eggs a day. Unfortunately, my homeowner’s insurance frowns upon me selling the eggs. The IRS thinks that bartering or trading the eggs is the same as selling and wants it documented.  Since I have always been a rule-follower,  I won’t admit to either of those, but I am happy to report that my friends and family are pleased with the gifts they receive. We eat a lot of eggs, too. Scrambled, omelets, fried, boiled, shirred, and devilled. If a recipe calls for two eggs, I add four. I might even attempt an angel food cake since I have never used my pan and was going to move it to the “donate” box. Yes, I know this windfall will stop before long. In the meantime, I need to make some egg salad while the sun…or the heat lamp…shines.