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Archive for July, 2016

The Riddles

How many writers does it take to screw in a light bulb? What’s black and white and bruised all over? I’ll answer the second riddle first:  Me. For a couple of years, I have raised a few of the Goliaths of the chicken world, the Jersey Giant.  Jersey Giants are the largest of all chickens and were originally cross-bred in the late 1800’s as a replacement for the turkey, and often are used for meat birds. I started  raising them  because they are cold hardy and are known to be good winter layers, both a plus for northern Minnesota chicken farmers.  Everything I read said they were a gentle and docile breed, also. What the chicken literature didn’t add was that they are gentle and docile UNTIL they get broody.  Broody hens want to sit on eggs all the time, often to the exclusion of everything else. They are obsessed with hatching, and for one of my Jersey Giants, it is an obsession to the point of being crazed.  Speaking of crazy, I tried explaining the Biology of the whole baby chick thing using my most soothing voice as I attempted to reach underneath for her precious egg.  If there is no rooster in the equation, there will be eggs but no babies, I told her.  She didn’t care.  She fluffed her feathers out and pecked me hard. I tried to lift this hissing turkey-sized creature from her nest and she pecked me some more. It hurt like the dickens, and I have the bruises to prove it, but I finally had the egg in hand. The next day, she puffed herself up as soon as I walked into the coop. This time, the bruises to my arms and my ego still fresh, I used a metal feeding pan as a shield and managed to get pecked only twice before I got the egg. The third day I was ready. Who’s the boss around here, anyway? I wore HIS heavy winter jacket and a pair of work gloves to the coop. It was 85 degrees in the shade, too, but that didn’t stop me. I picked up my shield and entered the coop, ready for battle. My prizes?  One large brown egg and another Farm Woman adventure story to write. How many writers DOES it take to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to write most of the story and another to add an exciting twist to the end. As I let all the chickens out today and they rushed outside, I tiptoed to the window and peeked in. The big black chicken slowly turned her head and looked me straight in the eye. I was on the outside looking in, but I swear she cackled. She’s ready for me. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Whatever the answer to the age-old riddle is, the egg is mine.

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No Expiration Date

A few years ago, someone in the U.S. Department of Baloney came up with an idea that food products should be stamped with an expiration date.  These “best when purchased by” or “best when used by” dates are not a law, but merely a suggestion with only a few exceptions to the rule.  My daughter believes these dates to be the Eleventh Commandment:  “Thou shalt toss the cheese to the dogs when  even one hour past the date shown on the package.”  Me? I have been known to cut the moldy part off the cheese and smell the milk no matter what the date.  I don’t believe much from our U.S. government these days, anyway.  Those guys and gals in Congress seem to have no expiration date to their tenure and are enjoying a seven week paid summer vacation as you read this. I really shouldn’t be so catty though. It has been such a long time since their week-long Memorial Day and July Fourth “weekends” as well as  their four week paid Christmas vacation.  You and I both know they must be weary with all the time spent passing the buck, shooting the bull, and tipping the scales in their favor.  I  stopped looking at expiration dates a few years ago when I found a “use by this date” suggestion on a bag of croutons. CROUTONS?  Did someone think they would dry out or get stale or was it something much more menacing?  There is not much that we have around our house that we have to worry about any more.  Gone are the days when I  shopped at the warehouse store to save money on things like huge containers  of lunch-box sized chocolate pudding for my lunch-carrying loved ones. (It was never a cost savings  anyway, as once they knew there was chocolate pudding in the house, they would eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)  We are not preppers, either, so there is no storage room with shelves in the basement holding a year’s supply of food. I  once watched an internet program on prepping, and the homeowner was proud to show off many cans of ravioli  and her 75 two-liter bottles of  diet cola. If  the Zombie Apocalypse came I wondered how she would fend off the Zombies who would be sure to come after her stash, and has anybody else ever wondered if expired diet cola could  be the probable cause of a Zombie Apocalypse in the first place?  In all seriousness, with many thanks to the preppers and diet cola drinkers for allowing me to have a little fun at your expense,  I’m all for growing, preparing, and either canning or freezing one’s own garden goods, foraged foods, and meat. Kudos to those of you who do. With my job(s),  church work, cleaning the house, and the gardening chores that come every summer, there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done.  Maybe  I could  look for ways to squeeze in more time…or maybe I should just run for  Congress. Some people say I’m really good at shooting the bull.

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I love a parade

“If you’re not in the parade, you watch the parade. That’s life.” ~ Mike Ditka

There’s a lot of excitement in the air when it comes to watching a small town parade on a Sunday afternoon. Around here, people start setting up their chairs in the best shady spots two hours early.  Kids carry grocery bags around in anticipation of all the candy that will be thrown.  The Shriners on their shiny motorcycles start things off as the excitement builds.  As the honor guard marches, men remove their hats, some folks clap and cheer for our flag, and some stand quietly, hands over their hearts.  Along comes the hour-long procession of fire trucks and rescue vehicles, ATV’s, antique cars and tractors.  There are colorful floats with people waving and throwing candy. There are always politicians who smile and shake a lot of hands. There is usually a band or two, sometimes marching and sometimes not. Usually the horses and riders are last, and you can probably guess why.  I remember my high school years of many moons ago, marching with my trombone in a scratchy wool uniform while wearing a cap that kept falling down over my eyes.  It was always either ninety degrees or pouring down rain outside, but we played some lively music no matter what the weather.  As it does every year,  today’s parade reminded me of a special parade that happened 14 years ago.  We were spending the weekend at our cabin, and Dad had just had a mishap with the boat, so was soaking wet from his head to his toes. Needless to say, he was a little disgruntled as well as  dripping wet, so he decided to go home, changing into the only dry clothing available, a pair of red thermal hunting pants, held up with red suspenders. His chest was bare. His teenaged granddaughter, having had enough of an afternoon of family fun, decided to go back to town with him.  It was 90 degrees in the shade, and the air conditioning in the truck wasn’t working well, so they drove with the windows down, he in his red suspenders, she in her bikini.  They got into town just as the annual Wild Rice Festival parade was ending. The honor guard had passed. The fire trucks, rescue vehicles, ATV’s, antique cars and tractors were done. The colorful floats, politicians, and marching bands were heading for home.  I wasn’t there to see it, but people told me later that on that special Sunday, with most of our town and half of the next still lining the streets, there was an addition to the scheduled parade lineup.  Right behind the horses and their riders was a dusty brown pickup truck, driven by  old man wearing red suspenders with a beautiful young woman in a bikini in the passenger seat.  Dad was well known and respected in the community, a retired teacher, expert on wild foods, and an elder member of his church. I’m sure people were staring, so he did what anybody with a wicked sense of humor would do. He waved. If he would have had any candy to throw, he would have. Sadly, he died a month later, so we never got to laugh over the “remember whens” as families often do. I suppose that’s why I never leave a parade until that last horse passes by, followed closely by the kid with the pooper scooper. I always have that little bit of hope that I will see the dusty brown pickup truck and that the man in the red suspenders will give me a smile and a wave before I head for home.

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