Archive for January, 2012

Never Say Never

People often ask me how I come up with ideas for my column and internet blog week after week.  It’s very easy when something hilarious or thought-provoking happens and then the words just seem to come out  faster than my fingers can type them on the keyboard. Most days, though, my life is neither hilarious or thought-provoking. For the most part, it is everyday boring stuff like work, fixing dinner, feeding chickens and watching reruns of Law and Order: SVU while trying not to doze off before 10 p.m.  On these days it is harder to come up with a subject that will both pique your interest and make you smile.  This is one of those days, so I thought I might write about the top ten things you will NEVER see in this column or my blog.

1)  The Cell Phone:  Why I love hearing you talk to your sister about your mother’s hemorrhoidectomy and the fight with your boyfriend while we are in line at the grocery store.

2)  Housekeeping Tips:  How dusting and vacuuming made me a happier person and how I get my floors to shine.

3) Women and Shoes:  Why three pairs are enough for anyone.

4) Chocolate: You CAN live without it!

5) The Art of Conversation: How to have long and meaningful discussions with your husband after 34 years of wedded bliss.

6) Gardening Tips:  Weeds? What weeds?

7)  Gardening Tips II: Why there is no such thing as too much zucchini.

8)  Controlling the Remote:  Tips for getting your man to give it up.

9) April Showers Minnesota Style:  Why I love snowstorms in the spring, especially if I have already planted lettuce and radishes.

10) Lutefisk:  Great new recipes using everyone’s favorite fish.

That’s it for this week. Now, on to the long and meaningful conversation with my husband……NOT! Remember, this is my life. The chickens are fed, dinner’s in the oven, and  there’s a Law and Order: SVU marathon on TV this afternoon, and it is calling my name. I have my own remote.

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This is the time of the year that I throw another log on the fire, turn the heat lamp on in the chicken coop and sit by the fire looking at my seed catalogs.   The colorful pictures and mouth-watering descriptions on a cold and dreary winter’s day seem to brighten things up a lot and make it seem almost like summer. Who can resist the newest “crisp disease-resistant stringless” green bean  or “sweet, crunchy and nearly seedless” cucumber?  I can’t. I can’t resist any of them.  I collect seeds. I collect a lot of seeds.  I am almost a seed hoarder. It starts each January when those tempting catalogs arrive, and I order “just a few” packages of seeds. “Just a few” can add up to quite a lot when one is ordering from five different catalogs. Soon after seed catalog time, the local stores put up their tempting displays each spring, and I’m looking for more.  I can spend hours reading the backs of the packages on when to plant, where to plant and number of days to germination. You would think that reading up on all this information would give me an encyclopedic knowledge of gardening,  but I soon forget everything that I read. I also forget just how many seeds I already have, so I pick up a few more. This would probably be a good time to mention the fall sales on vegetable seeds. Since I can’t resist a bargain of any type, I often come home with more than a few packages of seeds at 50% off. Late last fall, I ran into a sale at a local garden center where they were selling seeds for one cent a package. ONE CENT! Never mind that all they had left was chervil and catnip, I bought 25 packages at that bargain-basement price, and I don’t even own a cat.  Perhaps I am a little bit beyond the “almost a seed hoarder” stage.  So here I am on a snowy winter afternoon, reading the seed catalogs and trying to make up my mind about just what kind of zucchini I should order. Yes, I know I have nine packages of zucchini seeds of all varieties, and yes, I know that the “buttery taste like you’ve never had” cannot possibly really taste like butter because it is zucchini, but I think I should buy a couple of packages, just in case, and maybe some of those heirloom pumpkins while I’m at it.  When I’m done with my order, I’m going to check out my cookbooks (another thing I just can’t resist) to find out just what the heck I can make with chervil. I hear it goes well with eggs. I have a lot of eggs because I am probably pretty close to being a chicken hoarder, too.  It’s a strange, seedy kind of life, but I’m happy to live it, chervil, chickens and all.

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The country store is fast becoming a thing of the past. Gone are the days of old men playing checkers on the front porch, sipping 10-cent bottles of pop.  Gone are the days of farm children riding their bikes down dusty roads, change tucked safely in the pockets of their overalls for penny candy or a pickle from the barrel. Urban areas are spreading, supercenter stores sell cheaper, foreign-made goods and people stop in town for what they need on their way home from work. There are fewer farms and families are a lot smaller these days.  I grew up as a Town Girl and spent my young adulthood as a City Woman with a convenience store/gas station on every corner, so I never had the experience of living close to a real country store until I moved 16 miles from the nearest grocery store.  I’m not sure how my publisher will feel about me naming names, lest it be considered shameless advertising, so let’s just say that MY country store is located somewhere in the vicinity of Bowstring, Minnesota. The local men meet there every morning for coffee and gossip conversation. Since I know for certain that there are a couple of them who are younger than I am, I dare not compare them to the old men sitting around a checkerboard.  You would think a small country store would only carry a few convenience items and lottery tickets,  but I am always surprised at what they do have.  Old fashioned flypaper so I don’t have to spray insecticide in my chicken coop? Yep. Hooks and eyes for a barn door that won’t stay closed? That too, along with bait, tackle, hardware, wild bird food, groceries and sweatshirts for those vacationers that don’t realize that it can get mighty chilly here in middle of July. When I wanted to know what spices to use when canning venison, that’s where I went for advice.  They know where the fish are biting, what kind of bait to use, who shot the biggest buck and which neighbor has been sick.  The back of the door has hand written and computer-printed notices and items for sale. There is probably little profit in the gasoline that is sold there, but I know they have been awakened at midnight more than once to fill an empty tank. They don’t have everything, though. When my friend stopped in to buy nutmeg to finish a recipe, they didn’t have it. Not to worry, though, the owner just opened the connecting door to her house and gave her the bottle out of her own spice rack.  “Just drop it off next time you stop in,” she said.  That, my friends, is something that no supercenter store will ever give you:  Friendship, neighborliness, a sense of community and that warm comforting feeling of being home.

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Listen my children, I’ll tell what I know; they say it is winter, but we have no snow!

We’ve barely a smidgen, a bit or an inch; you could say all in all this winter’s been a cinch.

But Minnesotans, as you know, are a crazy bunch; our winters have always packed quite a punch.

We like snowmobiling and skiing and skating on ice; we scoff at the cold, we think snow is nice!

Without all the snow, some would think its a breeze; but when it gets cold, our septic tanks freeze!

I never dreamed that when I when I moved “up north”, that I would  hang the wash out on January fourth!

But in old Mother Nature, I just don’t have the trust; the snow is coming, I know that it must.

She will send snow, you know we will pay; for those temps above freezing, day after day.

Watch over your shoulders, check out the skies; the snow will be coming, I tell you no lies.

Mother Nature has a strange sense of humor, they say; so watch out for snow on Memorial Day.

Or perhaps it will come around Father’s Day; our gardens will be growing, I told you we’d pay.

So here’s my prediction, just a guess, I can’t lie; that we’ll have a blizzard on the Fourth of July!

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Mistaken Identity

If you have ever wondered if you are losing your mind, just try moving back to your home town 30 years after you graduated from high school.  Some people look the same, others look nothing like they once did and others have somehow morphed into their parents. Some call it the circle of life but sometimes I call it the circle of confusion.  More than once I have had to play the game “I’ll bet you can’t guess who I am!” in the local grocery store by someone who knew me back in the day. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong. Mistaken identity can be pretty embarrassing. They say I look exactly the same and are too kind to mention the grey hair, laugh lines and (let’s just say “a few”) extra pounds. No mistaken identity here.  While I was away living my life my old friends were both here and away  living theirs. I love catching up and hearing their stories.  A dear friend told me of one the other day:  She was a busy young working mother and farm wife with two toddlers and a dog who was known to escape his kennel and liked to explore.  One rainy stormy day she got a call from someone a few miles down the road who told her they had found the dog….again. She had better come get him, and NOW would be a good time. Muttering to herself and buckling the squirming kids into their car seats, she drove  through the pouring rain, grabbed the dog by the collar, and giving him a good swat on the backside tossed the wet creature into the back seat with the kids and drove home. When she got there, she brushed the dripping hair out of her eyes, grabbed the  dog (muddy paws and all) and dragged him toward the kennel, where she belatedly noted that HER dog was right there where he was supposed to be. Oops. Mistaken identity. She did manage to get his twin to the right home, and luckily he was no worse for wear, although probably a little more than confused.  I always try to learn life’s lessons from my own experiences as well as the experiences of others, and this is no exception. 1) Always introduce yourself to old friends and acquaintances you haven’t seen in a while so someone doesn’t think you are your mother.  2) Just because someone tells you so doesn’t make it true.  3) There’s no embarrassment in telling stories to old friends unless one of them happens to be a writer.   4) Don’t ever swat someone on the backside unless you are really, really  sure you know who they are.

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