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Archive for April, 2011

Suckered

Our property adjoins a beautiful little creek, and once the snow melts, I am asked at least a couple of times a day, “Are the suckers running yet?”  For those of you who don’t know, a sucker is a type of fish. Spring is the time for the suckers to spawn, and on a good year, the creeks here in the northland are teeming with them. People stand on the banks or wade in and spear them.  Smoked sucker is divine and canned smoked sucker is even better.  I had my little plan in place for as much self-sufficiency as possible. David would clean and smoke the fish, and I would can them.  I pictured the pantry lined up with beautiful jars, neatly labeled like something out of a magazine. The first spring that we were here I got the word out to the neighborhood kids that I would like some suckers.  What I didn’t tell them was just HOW MANY I wanted, or WHEN I wanted them.  I always learn my lessons the hard way.  The suckers were running full force on a beautiful warm spring weekend.  David had decided to head for Kentucky for a week or two to visit his dad.  I had no sooner waved goodbye and started relaxing with a cup of coffee and a gardening magazine when my friend called to tell me her son and his friend had just dropped off some suckers on my front porch. They must have been really strong kids, because what they “dropped off” was a VAT of suckers. You know those large black containers that ten- foot trees come in? Yup. One of those. Full. Am I a lucky girl or what? Now, I don’t let many people in on this little secret, but I do know how to clean fish. Please note that I didn’t say I LIKED to clean fish, nor am I any good at it, I just know HOW to clean them. This just might take me all night, so I  grimly started the task at hand.  It was a slow and pretty icky job. I did run into some luck, though. Another neighborhood kid was driving by and noticed me surrounded by blood and guts and stopped in. He was probably wondering just who or what I had killed. He LOVED to clean fish, he told me, and he also LOVED Skittles candy. I handed him the knife and made a quick getaway to the Bowstring Store. They never once questioned why a middle-aged woman who smelled like fish guts quickly rushed in, bought two jumbo-sized bags of Skittles, then rushed out again. I guess they must be used to seeing things stranger than that, but I noticed they locked the door behind me.  From now on, I get the word out that I want A FEW suckers. No more than ten. I also make sure my husband isn’t planning any trips at sucker spearing time.  Each time I opened a jar of delicious smoked fish that winter, I thought of springtime and sunshine and wonderful neighborhood kids who shared their skills and their catch and made me feel very welcome in my new Minnesota neighborhood.

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There is an old adage that says “One cannot have a home without a rooster and a dog”.  I have both. In fact, I have seven roosters, 16 hens, and one Chihuahua. You would think that I would have a coop filled with baby chicks since spring is here,  but I don’t. All winter,  I was “henpecked” when I attempted to gather eggs each evening. They didn’t want me to take their potential babies, and I have the bruises to prove it.  This spring, I set up a private maternity ward area in the corner of the coop. I am not a “spring chicken” as most of you know, and this took a little work.  I was running around “like a chicken with my head cut off”  cleaning the coop and preparing for nesting time.  I nailed up an old tablecloth for a drape. I lovingly filled a box with fresh straw and wood shavings. In my mind, I pictured fluffy little yellow chicks, peeking out from under their mother’s wings. These “dumb clucks” who wanted to have babies all winter now want nothing to do with sitting on a clutch of eggs. There are now 14 eggs in the nest of all shapes, sizes and colors, and not one hen wants to sit.  They lay more there every day. I am getting “as mad as a wet hen” over this. Perhaps they are tired after “being all cooped up” over the long winter, because they are more interested in what is going on outside the coop, and every day, it sounds like they having some sort of “hen party”  with all the clucking going on, until I show up. Then they are quiet. I can tell when someone is talking behind my back. They have probably planned this all winter, knowing full well that I am “as dumb as a wooden rooster” when it comes to being a real Farm Woman. They are probably still “cackling”  over the time that I went in to feed them wearing my good sandals. I know that this is probably payback for stealing their babies all winter, because my grandmother used to tell me that “chickens always come home to roost”. Usually, I have many eggs to spare, but it seems that I have been “putting all of my eggs on one basket”,  as I don’t dare take any of the old eggs out of the nest, since I can’t tell which one is old and which one isn’t. What I should do is threaten them with the soup pot, but since I am too “chicken hearted”  to anything like that, I will be patient and perhaps have a “cocktail” while I am waiting.  Or two.  In case you were thinking this is some sort of “cock and bull story”, it is not. All of my stories are based on true life, but with some of them, I have to hurry and press the “publish” button before I “chicken out”.

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On My Soapbox

I will be the first to admit that I watch too much TV. I love to watch shows on cooking, gardening and health with a little “Desperate Housewives” thrown in for good measure. I have noticed that more and more, though,  everything has become a reality show.  My favorite simple gardening shows have made way for more expensive makeovers with a budget for a single back yard more than I make in a year.   My cooking shows have become challenges for those who can make the most edible dish using antelope liver, orange jello and pickled beets.  America has made Snooki a millionaire, so shows about “real” housewives are popping up on every channel.  In the meantime, one thing in the TV world has been constant:  the soap opera.  There is murder, mayhem, sex and the mafia.  There are marriages, divorces and teenagers who make our own look like angels.  There is death, but it may not be forever.  People may make fun of a fairly intelligent, college educated woman who watches the soaps, but I watch two of them every evening on DVR while whizzing through the commercials.  Go ahead, make fun of me. We soap fans know that there is not a bit of reality in our stories, and best of all, there are no reruns.  Unfortunately, several of the soap operas have recently been canceled.  They are losing fans to talk shows, QVC  and reruns of “Criminal Minds”.  I am sad to see them go. I listen to the news every morning and it is usually not so good.  Every day it is war, natural and man-made disasters, the economy, and people behaving badly. For a little while every evening, my soaps take me away to fictional towns and familiar characters and I know who the bad guys are.  The things that entertain us are changing in these troubled times.  The highest paid actor on TV would probably be in jail if he lived in my neighborhood, yet we are still fascinated by him.  We watch shows with more *bleeps* than words and call it humor.  Having sextuplets is no longer a miracle but a contract for a reality show and a free tummy-tuck for the mom.  I wonder how a show featuring a family with 19 children can make it through three seasons. Is it that good?   Most of all, what I really want to know is:  Will  Erica get married for the 11th time?  Did Zach REALLY die in the plane crash?  Will Tess/Jess fall in love with her husband, or will it stay a marriage of convenience? I’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out.

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Unplugged

I recently purchased a laptop computer.  My desktop is getting old, and I wanted the convenience of surfing the web or blogging while sitting out on my deck enjoying the sunshine, if spring ever gets here.  In order to go wireless, one must purchase a thing  called a router. This is plugged into an outlet and into the modem, which is the technical term for the little thingy with green lights that the internet company provides.  The carton said it took “only three easy steps” to go wireless. Easy I can do.  I should have known, though, that anything that is described as “easy” will quickly deteriorate into “#$@&*!”   Not to be argumentative, but I think there were four steps. The first one was opening the box. It took two hands, a sharp kitchen knife and two band-aids just to remove the shrink wrap.  Then, of course,  I didn’t have an extra outlet in my office/exercise room/guest bedroom.  This house was built in the days when the only computers that existed filled big rooms at NASA headquarters.  I had to dig around in the basement to find an extra power strip, then crawl under the desk amid dust bunnies, stray popcorn kernels and I’m sure,  large hairy spiders just waiting to bite. Forty minutes later, I’m finally ready for the three easy steps.  Wait! Where are the directions? The box contained only the router, a bright yellow cord, a disc and a drawing showing me how easy it is to plug things in. I am a college graduate and a woman.  I would much rather read the directions, but surely I can follow pictures.  The picture showing the back of the modem had three plugs. Mine has six. I tried all of them, each time waiting for a big “zzzzzzt” and my hair to stand on end.   I put in the disc. It kept prompting me to unplug the router, which meant crawling under the desk again. The box said “Helpline 24/7”.  This is just a question from a simple country woman, but if it is so easy, then why do they need a helpline?  I looked for the toll-free number. It was not on the box, in the box, on the disc or under the desk with the bunnies and big hairy spiders.  I did an internet search from my old computer and finally found the help desk number and dialed. After 20 minutes of waiting, I got a helpline guy in a foreign country. He was friendly, but he didn’t speak English very well, except for saying  “I don’t know yellow cord” and “Not to worry!”  He had me unplugging wires from the back of my desktop, not my laptop.  Me:  “This doesn’t make sense”  Him: “Not to worry!”  Finally, after an hour of trying, I was wireless. (I’m not counting the tangled pile of wires next to my old computer.)  He then had me enter a series of numbers and letters,  getting me to the administrative area of the company’s web site  in which I am sure they were downloading all of my personal information so their government  can clean out my bank account and steal my identity.  Won’t they be surprised to find out that my own government has already cleaned out my bank account since I just paid my taxes, and if anyone wants my identity, it it time to clean out the chicken coop and it isn’t a pretty job.    I thanked him and hung up, only to realize that with his “help”, I have now disconnected my old desktop, which I wanted to keep.  Sigh. This time I called my local internet provider.  We were done in five minutes. The helpline guy had a Minnesota accent.  I know there are those of you out there who think that speaking Minnesotan is not exactly speaking English, but I felt such a sense of comfort  when I said “Thanks” and he answered, “You betcha.”

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