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Archive for May, 2012

Summer is nearly here and now that everyone has done their spring cleaning, it is my favorite time of year:  Garage Sale Time!  You either love garage sales or you hate them.  I love them.  I more than love them. You might even say that I am addicted to garage sales, or at least that’s what HE thinks whan I come home with another dusty old thing that I found.  He rolls his eyes when I tell him that it just might be worth something someday.  I have been known to drive 10 miles down a dusty road following the signs, and my heart beats a little faster in anticipation of the treasures I might find. I get excited just thinking of what might be there, which could be anything from a piece of Jadite to add to my collection to a bucket of apples that someone has picked from their tree. When I arrive at the sale, I quickly scan, left to right, looking for the most interesting table, then make a beeline for it.  I am polite and even though I am tall with long arms I don’t reach over anyone’s head to grab the good stuff, but I must admit that I have been shoved out of the way by more that one elderly  lady who looked as frail and innocent as Whistler’s Mother.   Looks can be deceiving, that’s for sure. Sometimes the best things can be found  UNDER the tables, and I can often be found sitting on a dusty stool and digging through a box of old papers and magazines, looking for something and I can’t even tell you what that something is until I see it.  One must sometimes weed through a lot of trash to find a treasure, though.  I often wonder what people are thinking as they set up for their sale.  Underwear? Really?  Used athletic shoes?  For those of you who think that someone wants to buy the water pitcher that you used when you were in the hospital last year even if it is just a quarter need to think again.  What if you had the Bubonic Plague or something?  I see at least three water pitchers a year, too, so more than one person is of the mindset that everything must be worth something.  Please send your used mayonnaise jars to the recycle center.  Nobody wants them, even if you put them in the “free” box.  A couple of years ago I found the most unusual  item that I have ever seen at a garage sale and believe me, I have seen some doozies:   For the unbelievable price of 5o cents the people were selling a bottle of the liquid contrast they make you drink before you have a CAT scan of your abdomen.  I wonder to this day if someone really bought it or if it was carefully packed away in a box and put away for the next year’s sale. Who knows? It might be worth something someday.

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I have always thought that raising teenagers is like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time you are listening to someone scrape their fingernails over a blackboard again and again.   We wanted to be active involved parents. I volunteered in the classroom whenever I could.  We joined the PTO.  I signed up to be the bus chaperone on the 7th grade band trip.  No good deed goes unpunished, isn’t that what they say?  The only other parent who signed up was legally blind.  My own sweet girl slipped away from my watchful gaze and quickly got on the OTHER bus, heaven forbid the embarrassment of having your mom be your chaperone. When the lights went out, the children (and I use that term loosely)  paired up in the back seats.  The other chaperone handed me a flashlight and with a wink said, “I’ve been on this bus before.”  Her eyesight may have been poor, but she had eyes in the back of her head to make up for it.   I was kept so busy shining that flashlight on the smoochers in the back seats that I didn’t have too much time to worry about what was going on in the other bus and sent up a silent prayer that my little angel was sitting in the second row, right behind the chaperones.  After seeing the young Romeos in action, I wondered if there were any convents nearby and if they accepted Lutheran girls.  The next year, we innocently agreed to host a teenage pool party, our first and last.  My husband cleaned the pool and deck. We made piles of food and filled coolers with ice and assorted beverages.  We stayed in the main part of the house, making rounds every 20 minutes to make sure there were no shenanigans.  The kids had a great time laughing and splashing, only coming in to use the bathroom or to get more ice.  We found out the next morning that the nice polite young man who came in to get ice a couple of times was sneaking beer out of our fridge, right in front of our noses, which again proves the fact that parents don’t have to have 20/20 vision, they just need to be smarter than the teenagers. We were fast learners, or at least we hoped we were.  I did the driving and picking up for all of  the neighborhood kids’ activities, so our daughter was rarely late getting home.  When she was, we worried.  (I worried out loud, he just paced around the house acting like he wasn’t worried.) She was a good student, but we nosily kept up with her schoolwork, too.   When she got her driver’s license, we purchased a car the size of a tank that she referred to as “the land yacht” with a roll of her eyes but it gave her freedom and saved her the embarrassment of having Mom drive her everywhere, so she drove it.  My fingernail marks are still on the door handle from the first time I let her drive on the interstate outside of Tampa, Florida, where the speed limit is somewhere around 80 in the slow lane.  In the next couple of weeks, there will be kids graduating from high schools and home schools all over the country.   Parents, don’t think you got off that easy.  They will still need money, advice, your truck, and more money.  And food, lots of food. Did I mention money?  They will walk across the stage, ready and eager begin their lives as young adults.  They will become  employees, college students, soldiers, and parents.  They will travel, go to parties, and have fun. They will learn from their mistakes, just as we did, and just as our parents did.  They will slip away from your watchful gaze and all you can do is hope and pray that they choose the right seat on the bus.  I’m certain they will.

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My friend Terri and I have been friends since I was in the first grade and she was in the second. She will be the first to tell you that picking berries and gathering mushrooms are some of her favorite things to do. My sister and brother-in-law are also gatherers. Me? I am a reader, and I prefer mysteries to mushrooms. The first spring that we were here, I was asked to join in the “fun” to gather mushrooms in my dad’s secret morel spot, deep in the north woods somewhere near our cabin.  Wearing spanking-new white tennis shoes, I tucked my cell phone in my pocket and grabbed a bag, picturing a dinner of  morel mushrooms sautéed in butter served with steaks on the grill. We had barely started down the trail when we came across a creek, filled with water from the spring thaw. Across the creek were some moss-slicked logs that  looked way too slippery to walk across.  Terri, having somehow maintained the exuberance and agility of our youth (in other words, she never quite grew up) leapt across with little effort and waited for the rest of us.  Me, having the agility of a three-legged donkey in a corral full of thoroughbreds grabbed a small sapling and tried to cross. My spanking-new white tennis shoes slipped in the wet clay soil and I fell on my a……well, let’s just say I fell on my biggest asset, if you get my drift. My shoes were filled with muddy water, my cell phone was dripping, and I was shivering. The others offered to wait for me while I changed into the only dry clothes available, an old pair of sweat pants hanging on a hook in the bedroom, but my shoes made a squelching sound with each step, so I declined and found my way back to the cabin, after they pointed me in the right direction. I was listening for bears or rabid wolves behind me with every waterlogged step, too.  Don’t feel too sorry for me, though.  The day was cold and misty but the cabin was toasty warm with a crackling fire.  There was a shelf full of books for the choosing, hot tea, and a bag of cookies. All was right with the world.  The mushroom hunters returned in what seemed like hours later, carrying bags full of morels and  smelling of cold  the great damp outdoors.  “Oh, you missed the best picking that we’ve had in years!” They proudly held up their bags. I tried to look sorrowful.  “Yes, too bad, isn’t it?” I guiltily hid the last cookie in my pocket and put my book away.  I must have looked pretty pitiful in my saggy baggy sweat pants with that sad look on my face because they each gave me half of their morels.   I learned that day that I do like morel mushrooms, but not enough to spend three hours tramping through mud and drizzle no matter how big they grow in that secret spot deep in the north woods. My fellow adventurers learned that if you are going to take a City Girl out into the Minnesota wilderness  to make sure she packs an extra set of clothes and her own bag of cookies. Oh, and one last thing:  Don’t ask me where the secret mushroom spot is.   I didn’t just fall off the rutabega truck, you know.   Those morel hunters are pretty serious about that kind of stuff.  I have a feeling that if I ever did tell, they surely wouldn’t point me in the right direction to find my way out of the woods the next time we go.

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Once again, a mail-order garden company has let me down. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I got my honeyberry plants in good shape…and about six weeks too  early. They are now being coddled and stroked on my kitchen windowsill, and I hope they live long enough to put in the ground June 1.  I also got my bright red tomato trays, which should “increase tomato yields for tons of mouth-watering goodness” and my bean towers came March 1, three months before I needed them. What is missing? The ONE thing I needed early:  The hoop houses.  I had big plans for starting lettuce and spinach early, and the hoop houses would protect them from our Zone-3-in-a good-year Minnesota weather. They could then be moved over to protect our strawberries from hungry birds.  I get email messages every once in a while:  “Expect delivery by March 15   April 12  April 25 May 10  June 1. ” Nope, I don’t expect them until sometime in 2013. Those strawberry plants are looking good, too.  Purchased locally and planted last summer, we should have a bumper crop in June.  My feathered friends circled above me this weekend as I was  weeding the patch, and I think I heard them inviting their cousins for summer fruit salad.    A couple of years ago, I ordered some strange-looking Finnish Fingerling Potatoes. Always loving the unusual, I had a hard time deciding just which potato to grow that year, but being of proud Finnish heritage, I passed on all the others. I sent my order in January, and eagerly awaited their arrival, come spring. “We will ship according to your USDA planting zone.”  My order arrived in early April, WAY too early for the strawberry plants that lived for a few shivering  days  before they froze to death on my chilly breezeway. The potatoes would have been fine, except they didn’t come. The enclosed note said “shipping Strange-Looking Finnish Potatoes in a separate order. ”  The next few communications were: “Expected shipping date will be April 15  May 10 and then, ‘we’re sorry for the inconvenience, but there are no more Strange-Looking Finnish Potatoes available this season.’ ” By that time, there was not a seed potato to be found anywhere. I learned my lesson. I really have. I vowed not to order any more plants or gardening equipment through the mail, but I had a fairly large credit from last year’s fiasco when I ordered a Garden “plants from your USDA zone will be sent” Grab Bag and I got banana plants “able to withstand temperatures to 0 degrees.”  Obviously someone packing these had a good sense of humor or hasn’t been north of the Mason-Dixon line.  I will have to figure out some way to keep those strawberry-loving birds and all their cousins out of my garden, though. A scarecrow? Perhaps, but I heard that noise is better.  A radio? I’ll have to think about it. In the meantime, if you happen to be taking a Sunday drive in the country and see a wild-haired Farm Woman banging on a big pot with a wooden spoon and screaming into the sky about strawberries,  just honk and wave. No need to make any phone calls. Everyone around here is used to me by now.

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