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Archive for December, 2012

As most of you know from my previous stories, I not only raise chickens, I AM a chicken.  I don’t lay eggs or have feathers, but a few animal tracks in the snow can make me run squawking into the house.  Last summer, I saw signs of a bear in my yard, but armed with the knowledge that bears hibernate in the winter, I am not too afraid of Mr. Bear this time of year.   The winter snow leaves impressions of the night’s visitors, and each afternoon, I check to see if there are any new tracks to investigate.  At first I would look up the tracks on the internet, trying to match the each to the corresponding animal, but the descriptions such as “catches prey by pouncing on them” made me more than a little nervous and I no longer wanted to know.  The deer tracks are easy.  There are apparently several deer of all sizes who cut through the back yard to get to the corn field behind the garden and the forest behind the corn field.   There are smaller squirrel tracks and some a little larger that could be a weasel or a mink, neither of which would be welcome in the chicken coop. Rabbits hop, even in the snow, so rabbit tracks are easy to figure out. The tracks get even bigger.  I think there is a fox that crosses back and forth every day as well as a medium-sized coyote.  I think they are fox and coyote tracks, because there are no loose dogs in the area.  With the first snow of the season, there were the unmistakable large tracks of a wolf, and they were too close for comfort, in my book. They travel in packs, too, so there was probably more than one.   Although I haven’t seen signs of the wolf or his buddies in a while, I know that they must be lurking nearby, waiting for dinner, which will hopefully be a young and tender fox or coyote rather than a plump but tough Farm Woman.   There are also some fairly large tracks that are unidentifiable because of the deep snow.  These tracks could be from either a huge mountain lion with long sharp fangs or the neighbor’s cat.  I’m not sure which, but one wouldn’t want to make the wrong assumption on that one.  Both of them catch their prey by pouncing on them. A coworker wants to put his trail camera back there, but I’m not sure I want to do that.  In most cases, the imagination is worse than the reality, but in this case, the reality could be so much more frightening.   I haven’t investigated the rustling sound in the cornfield yet, and I’m not sure I want to.  It could be the brisk winter wind rustling the dry stalks, it could be the deer searching  for a leftover cob, or it could be a creature of the north woods stalking his prey.   By the way, does anyone know what Bigfoot’s tracks look like?

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An Ordinary Life

 I have always been a rather ordinary person. Ordinary is comfortable, and I know a lot of you feel the same way. Ordinary people like you and I don’t normally change the world. In the last few days, however, I am no longer comfortable. I can’t quite wrap my thoughts around how a young man, not much more than a boy himself, could shoot six and seven-year-old children until they are dead, along with the people who tried to keep them safe. This young man was probably born an ordinary person to ordinary parents just like us. I can only surmise that he must have had such anguish in his short life, either real or imagined, to be able to commit this horrendous act against such innocents. Ordinary people like you and I don’t have all the answers. We are usually more comfortable keeping our mouths shut and minding our own business. This keeps our ordinary lives plain and simple, without drama or complications and just the way we like it….or does it? It seems the anger and violence are escalating. Will we ever feel the same about going to work or to school or to the movies? I think it is time for the ordinary people of the world to step out of our comfort zones and become extraordinary. We need to become the voice of change. We need to understand that all people are not the same and learn to embrace cultural, political, and lifestyle differences rather than ridicule them because they are different from our own. Our words need to be chosen carefully and said or written with kindness. This goes for social media sites where people seem to think that not talking face-to-face with someone is an excuse for hateful words. We must teach our children that they  need not be perfect, and while we are at it, remember that it is our job to parent them and not to be their best friend. We must learn accept defeat with graciousness, and by doing that, our children will learn from our example.  We must stop minding our own business. Yes, I did say STOP.  We need to be vigilant and heed the warning signs of someone who needs help and make sure they get it, be it our own loved one or someone else’s. We need to say “please” and “thank you” and smile more often.   We need to help more and criticize less. We need to offer comfort and encouragement to those who need it. I hope that we can find our own comfort in the knowledge that on a  long ago Christmas, a very ordinary young woman gave birth in an ordinary stable to a very special baby who was born to save us.  You see, ordinary people CAN change the world.  Although it was way too soon, I know He were there to greet them and that heaven is resounding with the sounds of children’s laughter. The angels are celebrating the birth of the Christ Child, and I hope we can, too.

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Back in the day, I used to make five different types of Christmas cookies and at least two flavors of fudge. Back in the day, I would spend several evenings or a couple of days with flour spilled on the kitchen floor and wonderful Christmassy aromas emanating from the kitchen. Back in the day, there was a house full of eager-faced neighborhood kids to gobble up the goodies, and we were far from our middle years, never dreaming that we would someday be in a place where snow sticks around for five months of the year and never thinking that in the blink of an eye we would become an age where the extra calories stick around even longer than that. Yes, time passes and change happens.  My daughter and son-in-law don’t eat sugar.  My mom has lost her taste for sweets. Several friends are gluten-free. I don’t bake very much any more.  If the truth be told, I don’t even like rolling out sugar cookie dough because it always sticks to the rolling-pin and besides, it is not as much fun without little kids around to help with the decorating.  In case you think I am turning into a Scrooge or at least a Maxine, you don’t have to worry.   The last few years I have done my Christmas baking for all the eager-faced furry friends in my life.  The dough doesn’t stick to the rolling-pin and I promise you, your furbabies will absolutely love them.  A very merry Christmas to Barney, Sam, Duke, Sadie, Tuffy, Buddy Lee, Lucy, and Gracie, who are going to share some of their goodies with Dudley, who is a rescue dog being cared for by Bobbie Jo Hemphill and her family,  some very special angels on earth who love and care for foster dogs in their home before sending them to their forever homes through adoption.  We don’t have a local shelter and Dudley is their twentieth dog.  Twenty. That’s a lot of dog biscuits.  Thank you to the Hemphills and other foster families for finding room in your homes and your hearts for these special animals.

Homemade Peanut Butter Milk Bone Dog Biscuits

Mix together well:

2 cups water     1 cup powdered milk     6 eggs     1 cup vegetable oil   1/2 cup peanut butter

Add remaining ingredients and mix well:

2 cups corn meal     2 cups quick oatmeal     5 cups whole wheat or white flour (or combination of the two)

Divide dough in half and add extra flour if it is too sticky.  Pat or roll out flat to less than one inch thick.  Cut into 1 inch strips or use bone-shaped cookie cutter.  Lay on cookie sheet (parchment paper will prevent them from sticking to the pan).  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until edges start to brown. Turn oven off and leave in oven until the next day.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Tamarack Trails Farm and Preserve, Deer River, Minnesota www.tamaracktrailsfarm.com

Holli Jo Hemphill and Dudley

Holli Jo Hemphill and Dudley

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Remotely True

A few years ago I parked in front of our house one evening after dark. There wasn’t much light in our old neighborhood, except for the flashing light coming from our front window. Thinking that our then teenaged daughter was having some sort of wild party, I approached quietly and with caution, in my best Mommy Dearest mode. There was no party, and in fact, no teenaged daughter anywhere around. My husband was watching something on TV and was channel surfing so fast that it looked like flashing strobe lights through the window. Remote controls are kind of necessary in these modern times with 257 channels of mostly shopping and music networks with a few old movies and some sports thrown in. I use my remote to zip through the commercials, since I DVR almost everything I watch these days. HE watches two or three (or four) different things at the same time, flipping back and forth while keeping up with whatever it is he was watching in the first place.  It gives me a headache.  I don’t pay much attention to what he watches because he likes sports, sports, and SPORTS. The secret to a (mostly) happy marriage between someone who watches sports, sports, and SPORTS and someone who doesn’t, doesn’t, and DOESN’T is for the one who doesn’t to either bite her tongue and read a good book or have separate TV rooms. I chose the separate room option.  Reading a good book didn’t work that well for me because some sports fanatics get a little excited if the Minnesota Vikings are losing and it can be hard not to keep reading the same page over and over.  Besides, the constant channel surfing drives me crazy. Not long ago, we were watching an interesting documentary on the Civil War. Together. In the same room. Be still, my heart. I almost reached over to hold his hand when a commercial came on and he immediately changed over to a ball game. I waited. After several minutes of waiting for him to turn it back, I rather pointedly nodded toward the TV and said, “Well?” “Well, what?” he asked, feigning innocence. “I just saw this show a couple of weeks ago, and besides, you already know who won the war.” I don’t think he would have let go of the remote long enough to hold my hand, anyway.  I know that there are those of you who think that I make most of this stuff up.  This week, I have photographic proof that this is a true story.  Just in case you don’t have a clear picture of the two remotes, the one on the left has most of the numbers worn off, while the one on the right is pristine. Which is which? Whose is whose? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

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