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Archive for October, 2015

My Haunted House

Now about those ghosts. I’m sure they’re here and I’m not half so alarmed at meeting up with any of them as I am at having to meet the live nuts I have to see every day. ~Bess Truman

There must be ghosts around this house. I’m not talking about Barney the Chihuahua’s midnight barking at noises only he can hear or hiding his bones under my pillow so they will be safe from bone stealers. I’m talking about the things that get moved around and perhaps even disappear off the face of the earth. Whenever I put socks in the washer and dryer, I almost always end up with an odd sock, only to have it turn up the next laundry day. Explain that, would you please? Two weeks ago, I bought a small jar of pumpkin pie spice at the grocery store. That stuff isn’t cheap, either. I remember unpacking it, but it was nowhere to be found an hour later. I looked high and low for several days and finally gave up and bought another jar. Guess what? Now there are TWO jars of pumpkin pie spice in my cupboard. I could start baking, but there’s not enough sugar even though I SWEAR I had a bag. At least I think I did. These ghosts are making me doubt my sanity. The pumpkin pie spice is probably with the missing mayonnaise. Both of us looked through the pantry more than once because we were certain that there was a jar of mayonnaise in there somewhere. I always keep an extra jar of mayonnaise, but for some reason, it was nowhere to be found. There is now a new key holder near the back door because my car keys were mysteriously being moved. They were never where I left them. Never. Ever. HE wasn’t much help. When I asked him if he had seen my keys he always said, “They’re probably right where you left them.” Thanks, Honey. Thanks a bunch. The ghosts are moving my phone, too. Sometimes I have to dial my own phone number just to be able to find it. That, too, is never where I remember leaving it last. If there were any doubts at all that there are spirits around here I have the absolute proof, and it is something that is happening more and more frequently the older I get. With apologies to the person who said it first and I wish I would have thought of it: Sometimes, when I open my mouth, my mother comes out. At sixteen, I would have been horrified. At thirty, I would have cringed. The spookiest, strangest part of all is that now I don’t mind it one bit. In fact, every time it happens it makes me smile. I’m turning into my mother, and I don’t even need a costume.

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The Witches

One of the Halloween highlights when I was growing up in the 1970’s was a visit to The Witch’s house. Helen Olson lived in a very spooky house on the south end of town. We lived on the north side of town, but since the town parents rarely drove their kids around our community in those days, we walked the mile or two, hitting up every house along the way for treats. We weren’t too much for tricks, at least none that I will admit to. My friends and I carried pillowcases to hold our goodies, and were often stopped by friends along the way to compare the amount of candy we had and to steer each other in the direction of the houses giving the best or the most treats. Although we mostly got candy, I do remember getting an occasional apple or homemade popcorn ball. In northern Minnesota, we might have decent weather the last day of October, but more likely there would be cold or snow. Young girls in more southern states could perhaps be an angel or a fairy princess, but I was more likely to be dressed up in my dad’s old World War II army jacket, one time even carrying a BB gun along as a prop. Rain, sleet, or snow, Helen was dressed to the hilt, looking and talking just like a witch, complete with a giant cauldron. She was delightfully ghastly. Even as teenagers, we half believed that she was a real witch. My daughter grew up in the 1990’s, and unlike me, could be a fairy princess if she wanted because we lived in Florida. We parents drove or walked with our kids everywhere for safety reasons, and always made a trip to the local witch’s house, a gingerbread Victorian in an older neighborhood. Kitty’s house came complete with a real skeleton in the dining room when it WASN’T Halloween. She would spend all week decorating her yard and all afternoon on her clothes and makeup. She looked frightening even to me, and I knew her. She would have various friends and family helping her scare the hundreds of children who came to visit, each one getting a treat and a stern warning never to use drugs. The only mishap was when her adult daughter painted herself with red paint to simulate blood and didn’t realize until much later that she used an oil-based lacquer that didn’t wash off with water. Oops. Both of these ladies spent hours of their time and certainly much of their own money scaring and at the same time delighting generations of children. Helen passed away several years ago, and I’m not sure if Kitty is still up to her tricks and treats, but I know that if you were to call either one of them a witch at any time of the year, they would take it as a compliment and thank you for remembering. We do, Witches, we certainly do. We remember, and we thank you.

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Ladybug, ladybug

But they’re not. Ladybugs, I mean. They’re some type of Asian beetle that is the evil twin of the sweet garden-friendly ladybug, and these doppelgänger dive bomb anything that moves and sometimes even bite. Yesterday morning, I saw just a few. Last evening, there were many more. Today there are hundreds of the little buggers flying around and covering the house, with some of them managing to find their way inside. How, I don’t know. I feel creepy and crawly just thinking about them. I could wish for a hard freeze to kill them off, except that our October weather is much too beautiful to wish for anything other that exactly what the good Lord blessed us with. It is so warm that I got overheated this afternoon while working out in the garden. It was either that or I just got over excited by finding a cucumber, some basil and a handful of cherry tomatoes that were cocooned by the weeds and untouched by our frosty nights. The pumpkin vines were touched by the frost, however, and died an unfortunate death before most of them ripened. If memory serves me right, Ma Ingalls made some sort of delicious faux apple pie out of the green pumpkins left over in her homestead garden. Although HE would probably like a pie, this Farm Woman doesn’t let things go to waste around here, either. I have my front porch decorated with corn stalks and lots of green pumpkins. Right now, they are covered with crawling orange and black Asian beetles. If you stand back and squint your eyes, you might think I grew some of those warty bumpy specialty pumpkins they sell in the Farmer’s Markets in bigger cities. After Halloween, if they’re not frozen solid, I’ll chop them up and feed them to the chickens. Pumpkins are said to ward off chicken diseases, and besides that, my chickens will eat anything. Almost anything, that is. Although they love all types of bugs and worms, they don’t like Asian beetles.

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The Hairy Carrots

This was the summer if painting and remodeling, so the weeds started taking over the garden sometime in July. In September, it took me a little while to find my cabbages, and when I did, they were surprisingly small, and most didn’t grow heads. I usually have trouble growing enough dill. This year, anticipating the usual small harvest, I planted dill in the garden and in the old-washing-machine-turned-herb-garden that sits on the south side of my house. Every plant grew beautifully, and I had plenty to give away to those who had enough cucumbers to can pickles. I usually have scads of cucumbers and little bit of dill, this year, it was just the opposite. I did manage to pick enough to make a gallon of refrigerator pickles, though, so I’m not complaining. I will complain about the green bean harvest, though. The two days in late August that had temperatures dipping into the 30’s did away with my bean plants. I don’t know why I was so surprised. This is Minnesota, after all, where frost can come at any time. The tomato harvest was fantastic, and I was elated when all the corn came up, but the thrill was gone when I discovered that it only developed a few ears. My house painting project this fall delayed my annual garden clean-out , so today I finally got out there to tidy up a bit and put the beds to bed, so to speak. After eating green onions all summer, I was pleased to have plenty of mature yellow-skinned onions, fairly small but delicious. It is a good thing the weeds hid them so well, or they would have all been eaten up! I pulled a bucket of carrots, which is the last of them for the year. After rinsing them, I cleaned out the veggie drawer in the fridge and discovered a few of last year’s carrots. They were tucked in the back of the drawer in a plastic grocery bag, which I was almost afraid to open. The leftovers from last year’s harvest were small and crooked little things that I was too lazy to peel last October. They had tried their best to sprout in their safe little cocoon of plastic. Along with the new pale green stem, each carrot was covered with many little white roots, which resembled hairs. They were surprisingly firm, so I ate one. The texture was a little woody, but didn’t taste bad. The good thing about having chickens is that nothing goes to waste, so into the coop they went. I will leave the parsley and kale in the garden until they both freeze hard, because the light freezes we have been having will only sweeten them both. The few sunflowers that sprouted were late to bloom and although a little frostbitten, add a cheery fall look to my weedy bedraggled little garden. The lone pumpkin, grown from a Big Max seed, has been harvested and taken to the house of little Max for a jack-o-lantern. Headless cabbage, earless corn, and hairy carrots? It must be close to Halloween!

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