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Posts Tagged ‘the minnesota farm woman’

Frozen

I’ll bet nobody else in the whole wide world takes a wool lap blanket along on their summer vacation. In HIS former life, my husband was a Master Electrician. My daughter and I love this man dearly and with all the love in our hearts call him The Electric Police behind his back. There was always (and still is) a familiar refrain at our house. The usual: “Who left the lights on?” or “Are you going to leave this oven on all day?” In the summer: “Why is the air conditioner cranked down so low?” In the winter: “Turn that thermostat down and put on more clothes if you are cold!” If you are congratulating HIM for saving natural resources and using less electricity, you can hold the applause. All bets are off once we go on vacation. If you were travelling on the highway last week heading south toward Kansas City, you could recognize our car by the Minnesota license plates and the frost on the interior of the windows. It may have been 90 degrees outside, but the interior of the car had to be only slightly above the freezing point. I was in the passenger seat with my book, travel pillow, and wool blanket. I would have worn long underwear but fellow travellers would have probably looked at me strangely at rest stops and restaurants along the way. It was August, after all. The first thing HE always does when we check into a hotel room is turn the thermostat down until icicles form outside the windows. The first thing I always do is check out the bathroom and make sure it is clean, then make sure there are extra blankets in the closet. This year, we stayed in a hotel that had a digital thermostat on the wall. Every time I passed it, SOMEONE had turned it down to 67 degrees. I turned it up to 72. The next time I looked, it was 67. I sneaked it back up to 70 and crawled under the covers, shivering. I swear HE must have checked every time he passed it because somehow, it ended back at 67. Knowing that I wouldn’t win, I gave up. We got home a few days ago to the typical hot and humid end-of-summer Minnesota weather. The days are steamy and sticky, the nights filled with thunder, lightening, and a barking Chihuahua who hates storms. After working outside for a couple of hours, I was hot and sweaty and thankful for central air conditioning. I turned the thermostat to 67 degrees to cool things down a bit. That didn’t last long, though. Before I knew it, HE had turned it back up to 72. *Sigh* Here we go again.

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Last week, I was given the gift of three one-week-old Black Australorp baby chicks. They are supposed to be girls, but we all know that around here, things don’t always work out the way they were supposed to.  The babies had been snug in their little cage under a heat lamp for nearly a week, and were surprisingly tame when I reached in to feed them, give them water, and of course, pet them, because baby chicks are just so darn cute!  I have been keeping the babies on my breezeway, because it is the next warmest thing to the living room, and for some reason, HE frowns upon keeping barnyard creatures in the house.  The breezeway is kind of a catch-all/storage/laundry room/kick your boots off type of room, and for all the aforementioned reasons, is always a mess. There are shoes and boots and coats and hats and potatoes and onions and a vacuum cleaner, and now…..a large cage on a card table and a bag of chick food.  Please don’t laugh, this really is my life. Anyhow, I was in the midst of mopping floors and doing laundry and on my 27th time passing that cage I noticed that it held only one chick. I stopped in my tracks and immediately picked up Barney the Chihuahua, who had started sniffing around, and locked him in the kitchen. Slowly and carefully, I inched around, looking inside boots and boxes, carefully sorting through the laundry pile, finding no baby chicks. Fearing they had hidden behind the washing machine, I carefully picked up a sack of potatoes to move out of the way when I found one, who had managed to hide herself among the spuds. As soon as I picked her up and she started cheeping, the other escapee started making noise from across the room and it was easy to find her. Whew. Another disaster diverted. I couldn’t figure out how they had slipped out, but since the cage was wrapped in towels, I tucked the towels around it more carefully, securing them with clothespins and continued going about my business. When you are a Farm Woman, having a day off from your job does not mean you have a day off from work.  When I passed that cage for the 40th time, I noticed once again that the two babies had escaped.  What the heck?  On my hands  again, I began to search, and found them both under a bench, huddled next to the heat register.  I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting out pieces of cardboard to line the cage, hopefully keeping them from escaping.  That afternoon, I had an escapee from the big coop hiding in the shed, making me crawl around in the still foot-deep snow trying to get her out.  I think that all chickens great and small must have a case of spring fever and are feeling the need to escape somewhere or anywhere.   Who can blame them?  I feel exactly the same way.  Last year at this time was warm and I was considering an early planting of lettuce, beets and radishes, and the chickens were free-ranging in the yard.  This year, there is more than a foot of snow still covering the garden, and the somewhat gloomy forecast is for more snow this week. Minnesota springs cannot be trusted, and neither can chickens.

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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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