by Lila Marie

September 25, 2006

Pope County Tribune's Editor's Note:  Lila Marie Newman died on Saturday, Sept. 23 after she was involved in a head on crash. This is the last column she submitted to the Tribune. Her insight and friendly visits will be dearly missed.

Becoming accustomed to sounds

My hibiscus plant is now six years old and the main stalks are becoming thicker with each season. Again, I should put it in a larger pot before it comes inside for the winter. Now I am learning there are hardy hibiscus which can tolerate our Minnesota weather and thus, are placed in the ground as perennials. Those in California are always out-of-doors but I didn't realize until lately this is now possible in our climate. A friend brought a great big, gorgeous blossom from her bush for a "show-and-tell" time with the little ones in Sunday School.

M-m-m-m-m, what a lovely fragrance greeted me as I returned home one afternoon. Just as soon as I opened the car door, the scent swept into the garage. Ah, my neighbor was doing her laundry and the drier sheets she uses are delightfully aromatic. Clothes which have dried outside on the line, in warm sunshine with a breeze gently removing the moisture, have a sweet smell which cannot be duplicated. However, these modern miracles of perfumed papers are nice substitutes.

A person becomes so accustomed to various sounds, after a while you are almost unaware of them. My old Seth Thomas clock strikes the hour, and also the half hour, yet I seldom hear it unless I'm nearby and momentarily not busy with something. Bt if I'm awake at a wee hour upstairs in bed, the sounding of the current time is like a friend. The trains go by, bay and night, and again, they are unnoticed. Nevertheless, in a similar vein of thought, the whistle proclaims "business as usual," and I smile.

Now our little town was without the benefit of the siren for a while, the blast that set some dogs barking. Noon, six o'clock supper and ten at night was announced with the sharp sound. Then, one evening the handle of the clock came to two hours before midnight, and no reminder rang through the night sky. Had I not been listening carefully and missed it? No, for several days already the reminder was silent and I was unaware. The malfunction has been corrected now. Welcome back!

This information has been circulating recently, the fact that all 50 of our United States are listed in the two rows above the Lincoln Memorial picture on the five dollar bill. You will need a good magnifying glass and have good eyes, to boot!

September 18, 2006
How times have changes

"The fog rolled in on little cat's feet." Did you study Carl Sandberg's poems back in your school days? That line has always intrigued me, and indeed the description was exactly the way our weather began at dawn today. What an interesting world we have!

Soybean fields are golden, waiting for harvest. Several stalks, pulled up by the roots, carefully cleaned off, then placed in a vase make a great memory bouquet. I've shared this with several elderly folks who have appreciated the reminders of earlier farming years. Counting the pods on the stem, then also checking out how many beans are in each individual seedcase is always a good indication on how the crop will yield when it is combined and the harvest is completed.

Goodness, how times have changed. Am I that old? When I was a little girl, every farmer had large fields of oats, a most necessary item. Not only was the grain needed for the livestock, but the straw in the stacks seen in every barnyard was the bedding for all of the animals. There were no wheat field in our area. And there were no soybeans. What were they?

Another sign of how different our 21 century has become is the information parents can have about their babies before birth. Will it be a boy or a girl? On the personal note, my granddaughter and hubby didn't want to know. They wanted a surprise. The precious bundle arrived early Tuesday morning and it was a boy! Either way, the joy would have been just as complete.

The delivery itself has also turned a brand new page, or has it actually turned back to earlier history? Mothers-to-be certainly were not moved from place to place ... the labor room, the delivery room, then the hospital room where they sometimes were kept a week! No more of that. Settled in a bed with private home-like surroundings and all the help and helpers she might need, the mom gives birth. Dad is usually brave enough to be there with her.

How much longer will the hummingbird stay? They are so much happy entertainment as they zip back and forth to my sugar water feeder. The orioles are gone now, and the bright orange color is missed, but certainly will be seen in the vivid hue on maple trees as the leaves don their autumn attire.

September 11, 2006
Experiment with pears

While many homemakers are busy with the abundant crop of apples, I am trying to keep ahead of the hundreds of pears our old tree has again produced. They are small and often damaged so it takes time to cut away the bad spots. However, most of those good pieces are used in a variety of ways. Peeling them becomes tedious and most are simply cooked up and then pressed through my foley mill. That cone shaped container has always been one of my favorite utensils in the kitchen.

Pear jelly had never come to my mind as a way to use some of the fruit. However, an elderly homemaker mentioned this and I've been experimenting. No recipe could be found, so plunging ahead on my own ideas, I poured five cups of liquid into my big jelly-making pan, added a box of Sure-Jell and brought that to a boil. Then five cups of sugar were added, and two tablespoons of lemon juice, from the bottle. My wooden ladle kept busy as the concoction bubbled and boiled for 10 minutes. The end product was so pretty, jars full of golden sweetness. Actually, I made two batches so far and with the first, only one tablespoon of lemon juice was added, and a strong seven minutes boiling time. That experiment will be more like syrup, but that's OK. Can you almost taste it on pancakes?

Oh yes, the liquid is produced by covering the chunks of repaired pears with just enough water to barely tip them. Do not press out any solids. That comes later, for sauce or pear butter.

During the humid summer, my house plants have required much less watering. In fact, a bit of caution is wise, or they can drown in too much of a good thing. That will change, however, as our homes soon require artificial heating and drier air will be the result. It will also be the season to bring in the hibiscus, the Christmas cactus and other indoor favorites which have vacationed outside here. Cuttings from geraniums must be made, as well. The little orange tree started from one of those citrus treats several year ago wouldn't winter over, outside. The aloe plant would freeze. Oh dear, here I go again!

"Laughter is the best medicine. No prescription is needed to fill it and no bill comes after you receive it." Take a big dose! It's good for what ails you!

September 4, 2006
A wonderful gift

Reading to children is such a wonderful gift and yesterday I had the opportunity to share that with a youngster, eight years old. He was mastering the art quickly but still enjoyed hearing a story read to him, and I was delighted, as well. Using my expressive voice, I was having a grand time. Occasionally there would be some explaining about a word or situation, and he was absorbing all of that information, as well.

My parents read to me and my sister, and I spent many happy hours reading to my children. In fact, we went through a number of books at the supper table and I would do a chapter or two while they were finishing their meal. Yes, we had a "clean plate club" at our house. Seeing food left and dumped into the garbage still bothers me.

A small aside, the little girls across the road regularly "just happened" to come over at story time. That is still a merry memory.

Many centennials, 100 plus anniversaries of churches and even some susquicentennials of cities have been marked on my calendar this summer. There was no way I could get to all of them which held a special interest, but friends brought a couple of souvenir magazines from two of my hometown area events. Lo and behold, what an exciting treat I had when I saw my dad's picture in one of them! I knew he played clarinet in the Winnebago Kid Band back in the 20s, along with his twin brother and a younger sibling, too. In fact, a treasured copy of that group is in my piano room but now I was looking at an additional, different print. Names were not listed, but there was no question about his identity, that handsome fellow sitting there in the front row with his instrument carefully held in his hands.

Are you familiar with that word sesquicentennial? It was an addition to my vocabulary, and means 150.

Do you keep gloves in the glove compartment of your car? I don't think I ever have. You can find almost anything else therein! Maybe I'm the exception, but I doubt it. Oh, I have the essential manual that came with the car, sunglasses, notebook, insurance information, but nothing for my cold hands.

August 21, 2006
Lemon, a cooling element

Lemon is one of the cooling elements in the hot summer time. Lemonade has long been the most refreshing beverage. There is something about the penetrating taste that cools. so when I needed to bake some bars during that hot stretch of weather we had the end of July,, I remembered a recipe my cousin gave me years ago when we were at their home and she served the tangy treat. Here are the easy directions:

Buy a box of one-step angel food cake mix and a can of lemon pie filling, the regular 21 ounce size. Empty those two ingredients into a bowl, stir together with a big spoon (no mixer) and that is all. Pour into a large jelly roll pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. When cool, frost with powdered sugar glaze with lemon juice in it.

It was a surprise to find such dandy, full clusters of my Beta grapes to take in the county fair. Now I discovered the wild grapes growing at the edge of town here are more abundant and healthy than they have been for years. Did this dry, hot weather have something to do with that prolific produce? Canning is no longer the big production event it used to by in my home. Yet, the grape juice is one very important item on the shelves and I plan to add a good many quarts to my supply. It is one of our favorite drinks and very, very healthy. There usually is a pitcher full in the refrigerator and it is great to share.

One night I woke about 2 a.m. and thought there was a light in the kitchen. Did I forget to turn it off? Downstairs I went, and discovered the touch light in the beautiful new hutch was shinning. So I touched it off again and didn't think too much about it. However, this automatic light will sometimes come on when I pull the cord on the bedroom ceiling fan. And the little touch lamp by my bed will sometimes illuminate, too. Lots of spooky things go on with these new luxuries.

A niece phoned from Mississippi this afternoon and mentioned her youngsters were back in school already. Goodness, that seems strange, but I know further south means earlier classes resuming. My college roommate taught in southern Iowa and I remember her little country school "took up" several weeks earlier than mine, way "up north" near the Minnesota border.

August 14, 2006
'For the picking'

"I'm sorry, but all the lines are busy right now." Occasionally we might hear that when placing a call, although telephoning is a completely different situation in the 21st century. That same comment could relate to the old-time Monday wash day, when all the lines certainly were busy throughout the neighborhood. Growing up in the country, we didn't have to compete with the early bird town lady who had to uphold her reputation of being the very first with her laundry duties. (You realize I am now talking about very different lines.) However, we did have rules for orderly arrangement of items on those lengths of wire. That was one of the first things we learned just as soon as we were tall enough to help Mom.

A snapshot of little boys "picking" eggs was treasure in one of the albums my friend recently put together. They were collecting quite a pailful in the old hen house back at the farm. Had they learned to carefully reach under the feathered biddy to see if there were any crackleberries? Or were they being cautions and taking eggs only from nests that had no "producer" therein? If I remember correctly, we kids would often take a large empty tin can with us when gathering eggs (we picked fruit, but we gathered eggs) and placed that container over the feathered head, holding it firmly as we put our free hand down into the straw below.

What a blessing it was to have cooler weather for the county fair. Entry day was so nice and the lower thermometer readings caused more enthusiasm to bring a few extra exhibits. It was a surprise when I checked my Beta grape vines and discovered dandy full clusters. The Roma tomatoes were also a pleasant plus, an unexpected garden possibility. During the dry, hot days and weeks, hopes of suitable produce dwindled. However I had prepared jelly, jam and pickles and wouldn't have gone empty handed. Taking time to explore just about every building, nook and cranny the first early evening while things were so fresh and clean and comparatively quite, I also had a bonus of a number of brief visits with friends making the early rounds.

As you hearing the crickets? Count their chirps for 15 seconds, add 40, and that will be pretty close to the temperature outside.



August 7, 2006
'Frosting on the cake'

Melinda's Marvelous Mocha, how's that for a fancy name? While enjoying a wonderful visit with friends on a hot Sunday afternoon, they asked if I would like some iced coffee. There was a choice, plain or Melinda's specialty. Why not try something new? The glass full of ice, coffee, sugar and milk was delightful and so refreshing. A person can vary the amounts according to personal taste. The multitude of coffee concoctions now days is interesting and sometimes, such as could be made at home, with the right dab of this and a smidgeon of that.

The sunflower seeds that fall from the bird feeding station during the winter fight for survival all spring as new growth pops up around the back deck. Usually they are eliminated  by my hoe or hand weeding. However, this summer I allowed a few to continue their growth and now I am rewarded with large blooms on several. The "frosting on the cake" this afternoon was the appearance of a bright colored bird, a goldfinch, perching on one of those beauties. It was hard to see where the yellow feathers began on the yellow petals. If I don't use those flowers in bouquets, eventually they will produce a harvest of seeds. then I will really have a bunch of winged visitors!

Pens with a fine point are my favorites, yet sometimes it has been hard to find them. When I happen to run across my preferred brand, the purchase was made and an address label was placed on it. I've shared this hint before, but it is never too often to remind folks of the helpful habit. The supply of those handy labels arrives regularly in the mail and is quickly put to work in this house. I can't say it often enough. Put them on all of the items you take to potlucks, picnics, camping, traveling, etc., etc. etc.

Deer can pop up out of a ditch quickly and the brake lights on the car ahead are blessed warnings! The list of safety devices now on our vehicles is long, and we can be grateful. Yet, with so much more traffic, we dare not become one bit careless at any time. A dear little fawn, with its spots still showing, stood beside the road and one morning and you bet, I slowed down a whole lot! Fortunately, Bambi turned back into the wooded area.

July 31, 006
It's canning time again

Pop goes the weasel ... no, pop goes the lid on the jar as canning projects fill our summer schedules. That welcome sound reassures a person of a good vacuum seal on those foods we are putting away for the winter. The watermelon pickles had been processed, the spicy fragrance of vinegar, cinnamon, and cloves still lingered, and the six pints had been taken from the boiling water. Now the music to my ears was the one by one popping sound. From years ago I remember listening for the same signals. That was the era when my faithful Burpee Can Company pressure cooker was in constant use. Seven quarts at a time would fit into the container, the lid would be carefully and tightly sealed down, and the gas flame was turned up high. An hour later, the jars had been taken out and because the task often was done at the end of a very busy day, I would hear them seal, one by one, after I went upstairs to bed.

"Are we there yet?" Oh, my, how often that can be heard while taking the family on a trip! I was never able to read or do any coloring, drawing, etc. while riding in the car. Nausea would hit before long so I learned, the hard way. Prescription eye glasses made my traveling comfortable, yet I've never been able to handle the above activities or motion sickness takes over.

To pass the time, my folks had other activities my sister and I could choose. One would be to notice the license plates on cars, and see how many states were represented. Even more variety is possible now. Minnesota itself has various designs. And then, there are the personalized plates. Last week I chuckled when I saw this one. YUXALOT. This was on a California automobile.

The inlaid linoleum on the kitchen floor is refreshingly cool. Walking on it, sans shoes, is a great way for me to enjoy relief from the heat. A friend shared memories of hot summer nights when she and her siblings would come down from their second story bedrooms and camp out on the hard surface which held no warmth. Ah, to be a kid again!

July 24, 2006
Surprises in gardening

Several surprises have made gardening very interesting this summer. The green beans I planted turned out to be bean poles, my mistake as I hurriedly purchased some of my vegetable seeds. Because we always bury garbage scraps of orange peelings, banana skins, salad trimmings, potato parings, etc., into the soil out there, we are no longer puzzled when baby spuds pop up here and there. Occasionally one or two are given a chance to produce, and do quite well, I might add.

Slabs of salvaged cement sidewalk, from another project years ago, make a nice solid surface area between the back deck and garage. A lot of volunteer stuff sprouts and grows in the cracks. Usually they are eliminated but this year I have allowed several tiny openings to share their volunteers when moss roses appeared. Those seeds certainly scatter and travel. Rains carry them across concrete into areas several feet away. The old-fashioned ground cherry is another persistent plant which flourished in many gardens years ago. I still have them, and several will mature in my pin-point patches.

A dozen cousins gathered around the big table in one of the special conference rooms and we had a wonderful three-hour visit. Old letters, scrapbooks, pictures, geneology charts were spread out and kits of interesting information flew in all directions as we shared memories. Family reunions are so very important and although some of this group had never met before, there was a wonderful warmth of kinship. Sadly, this is not always the way it goes, but we were all blessed, and grateful for the opportunity. When dear parents now live in a care facility, make haste, for goodness sakes, and don't wait for a funeral reunion.

How long has it been since you pulled into a gas station and received full service? The nice looking gentleman, in his 80s he said chatted pleasantly with me as he did a great job of cleaning the windshield and side windows, all the while gas was filling up my Ford's tank. He was tired of retirement so comes to his son's place of business every day, gratis, to see people and help. The price of gas in the same, no extra charge. Sorry folks, this is not a local opportunity. But I sure hope he still works there the next time I go back home to visit.

July 17, 2006
Restoring a treasure

Half-pint, pint, quart, two quart, glass jars came in all sizes. I'm thinking about those we used in our homes when I was growing up and lots of canning was an important part of the summer work. Of course, those containers are still serving a multitude of purposes in addition to holding food. My basement shelves sure display quite an array, although reducing their number is a goal towards which I am working. So, why did I add to the collection last month? Well, it's like this...

Friends were visiting and we were at a young couple's farm home, enjoying some exploring of the old abandoned buildings back in the grove. In one such deserted structure were a few very large glass jars, capacity for a gallon! A regular lid, not wide mouth, was rusted on one, and a unique heavy wire handle also in place. How could I safely restore this treasure without breakage? Carefully I made a hole through that old lid using a nail and hammer, then put it upside down in a Cool Whip tub. Oil placed therein came up through that opening and the entire top soaked for a couple of days. Then it was no effort to simply unscrew the ancient lid. This item will be a topic of conversation for sure.

Cattails should be picked now! Those decorative brown spikes are at their prettiest stage, and the smaller, slimmer ones are especially lovely in tall vases or mixed with other flowers. Before long, these wetland plants will reach their peak growth and then begin their decline and drying. The cattails I gathered last week are placed in a tall Red Wing pottery pitcher-vase, set on the floor and in front of the full length mirror by the kitchen door. There is no water for the bouquet, no need for that moisture. They will remain just as nice for years.

The Pope County Fair's exhibitor handbook arrived with the Pope County Tribune a while back now. I hope you have paged through it and plan to bring an entry. This participation makes the annual event much more personal and interesting. That listing edition is free and found at banks and many other business places. Get ready for our "great Pope County family gathering.!"

July 10, 2006
Allow yourself a treat

Take time to enjoy summer. We all have calendars that become jam-packed with memos. There are things to do, places to go, occasions to observe. But, whoa! Please allow yourself a treat for a few moments, at least, to see summer sweetness. Look closely at a flower, developing fruit on a tree, a cloud floating in a clear sky. Step outside with that cup of coffee and take a deep breath of the warm July air. My suggestions simply begin here. Add to them.

"See you Sunday, the Lord willin', and the creek don't rise!" I heard that old-timey remark the other day and was reminded of a dear old lady who regularly quoted this saying. It would be interesting to capture some of these gems on paper. One of my treasures would be of my mom calling Daddy "an old fool." Now this seems terrible, but it was an unusual term of endearment. If you watch the wonderful TV classic, The Waltons, I'm sure you've heard Grandma sprout off with the same words when Grandpa slips his arm around her. My brother-in-law in Georgia comes to mind when I see a flame-colored car, and his remark at such sightings, "For another nickel, that automobile would be red!"

One of my favorite displays during the Independence Day observance is the small 5" x 3 1/2" flag, our United States banner with 48 stars. Today's generation is surprised to see the blue field with the six rows of eight stars each instead of the nine rows to our current flag, staggered with five in one, six in the next. Alaska and Hawaii were U.S. territories yet in my growing up years. As each new state was added over our country's growth, the stars also were added. It is so interesting to study those various flags. When Alaska  became a state in January 1959, another design was needed, with 49 stars. It was used only one year because Hawaii was granted statehood on Aug. 21, also in 1959.

Fly nets, now those were important pieces of tack for the work horses on the farm during summer. Placed over the harnesses, the coverings of canvas with dangling lengths of heavy string helped to keep insects from biting or stinging those four-legged power sources. Were they really the "good old days?"

July 3, 2006
Star light, star bright

"Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight." Do children still chant that little rhyme? I hope so. Summer is filled with simple pleasures and one of my favorites is watching for that first twinkling glow as the dusk deepens. The wide open spaces out at the farm gave wide open opportunity to look for that special sparkle. Away from trees and buildings, our pasture afforded the best ever "theatre." It is hard to imagine what it would be like to grow up in a large city and live among all of those bright  lights and big buildings which would absolutely extinguish any hopes to observe the darkened heavens above.

A treat to go, that's a good description of an ice cream cone. When some of my family popped in the other afternoon, on their way to a rodeo, there was no time for lunch with Grandma. But the offer of something they could enjoy on the road was not declined. I even had a choice of two flavors, how about that? Years ago we had a dear friend who was known as Cone Queen of the neighborhood. Bless her heart, she always had a supply of those edible containers and the frozen sweet on hand for children who came for a visit, and a reward? We adopted that habit and it is a beautiful way to make memories.

Fourth of July food traditions usually include watermelons. Seeing those big, plum green melons on display at grocery stores is a marvelous sight! The juicy red pulp and those "made for spittin" seeds delight most kids. Watermelon pickles from the rind, salvaged after the feasting, are a delicious recycling project, as well. It has been quite a while since I've prepared a batch, but the recipe is still in my file. Maybe this will be added to my list.

A native of Africa, watermelons are just one of many kinds of melons. They are mentioned in the Bible when the children of Israel were complaining on their journey to the Promised Land. They missed the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. But I don't know if there were watermelons in Egypt at that time in history.

June 26, 2006
Oh, those summertime scents

Our neighborhood is filled with various fragrances the middle and last part of June. The basswood trees are coming into bloom and their perfume is one of my favorites. The clusters of flowers will be gathered while in their prime and dried for a wonderful tea. This can be done so easily by spreading them out on cookie sheets and letting them air-dry, or speeding up the process in a very slow oven. Does that sound contradictory? A slow oven is one set at a low temperature, in case someone is wondering! Native Americans took the bark for woodland rope, using several ways for "retting" the fibrous material therein. My old college book states the basswood is called a linden in Europe.

Another tree, the Japanese Lilac, sports its white bouquets and the scent is stronger, a bit sharp in my thinking. Then, the white clover, left to grow tall in unmowed spots, gently releases its sweetness and if the stems are long, a braided halo can adorn a little girl's head. My old-fashioned cabbage rose bush is heavy with those absolutely marvelous blooms with the heady perfume Avon cosmetics copied.

Especially at this Fourth of July season, we think back several centuries and remember how our country struggled to become a nation of free people. Most of my forefathers had been in America almost from its beginnings and family reunions have little mention of the "old country." We can go back to Scotland, in the 1700s, to Alexander Hamilton, who became our first Secretary of Treasurey. How about that?

Parades have always been a part of the "good old summertime" and even the small communities have their share. Horses are of special interest to me and get my undivided attention as they come along. Considering this, it is strange that I never rode in a parade, but I remember on of my piano students, way back when, asked if she could use my strawberry roan in our hometown event one summer. Oh, I was so proud to see this and took plenty of pictures. Yes. Lady acted like a lady and only on the way back to the farm did she act up a bit. Because we lived just one mile from town, a horse trailer wasn't necessary.

June 19, 2006
A shared rhubarb recipe

Fruit or vegetable, which is it? Rhubarb is the plant to which I am referring and my guess has always been fruit. However, several times recently I have read that is incorrect. Checking my Webster's New World dictionary, some of the details in explaining that word states it is not eaten as a desert. Well, that really makes for confusion. Rhubarb sauce, rhubarb cake, rhubarb pie, what stretch of the imagination would put them in the vegetable category. Ah, words, how confusing they become.

When entertaining friends one afternoon, I served a rhubarb cake which won high approval. I said I would share the recipe, so here it is.

One and one half cups brown sugar, 1 stick margarine (1/2 cup), 1 egg, 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (sweet milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice, or vinegar, is a safe substitute), 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 cups flour. Mix well, then stir in 2 cups of rhubarb which has been cut up fine. I use my big salad knife to chop it up even more afterwards. Pour butter into 9"x13" pan, then sprinkle over the top 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon (1 tsp.) mixture. Bake 40-45 minutes in 350 degree oven. Any leftovers keep well in the refrigerator.

Here's another interesting word. Garage...a shelter for automobiles, a place where automobiles are stored, repaired, etc. Ah, now that wonderful building is needed for garage sales, a real blessing when the weather doesn't cooperate. (No, the garage itself is not for sale.) Graduation Open House events depend heavily on that extra space and marvelous decorating, plus wonderful food is found inside those walls where folks gather. Days before, the vehicles are exited to another spot for the duration, as the structure is transformed into an entertainment center!

And then there are a few garages here and there which never feel tires entering their doors. You can find almost anything else therein, except a car! Oh, the wheels can be lawn mowers and numerous other things, yet I have always saved space for my Ford, Chevy, whatever, over the years.

June 12, 2006
A nature adventure awaits

Wildlife surprises surround us and if we stay alert, it is amazing at the variety nearby. I was reminded of that again last Sunday when I was driving home from a lovely gathering, a graduation open house. Thinking of that nice time as my car was heading south, a dark object on the side of the highway caught my eye. For a moment, I paid little attention by going on past, suddenly my thoughts were alerted. Was I missing something interesting? Could that be a nature adventure just waiting for my study. Almost a mile zoomed by and then I chided myself. Why am I in such a hurry. Schedules keep us on our toes, but that afternoon there was absolutely no obligation to be met after that party. 

Turning safely at the next road, my car headed back so I could check out the mystery. No, it wasn't some road kill, it was a large snapping turttle. Immediately I realized the reptile was laying eggs! Years ago, this same situation had come to my attention and was quite an exciting adventure. She was backed in to the slight excavation made for this "nest" and her future children were being deposited therein. The great big ugly creature wasn't about to chase me away, although I took no chances and didn't come close. My ever present camera came out of its case and a picture was captured for show-and-tell. Mama's big carapace (upper shell) isn't a thing of beauty but a curiosity.

The rubbery soft shelled eggs will take many weeks months even, to hatch. The warm sun on that gravel bed will incubate them, yet how many will survive? Will a heavy vehicle veer off the hard surface onto the cache? It is in a very vulnerable place!

The old red pump at the back door here, and the moss roses growing around it, provides me with a memory of my maternal grandmother. In fact, that is about my only remembrance of her, as she went to Glory when I was only five years old. Those dainty pastel colored flowers on the succulent foliage reseed themselves down year after year. Yet they are slow to sprout so I buy a few plants from the nursery and set them out, just to be sure their place is marked. Now I see dozens of tiny seedlings popping up among the early-bird purchased portulaca.

A good weather prediction: When you smile, it "rains" sunshine.

June 5, 2006
The gloves are off, it's gardening time

Gardening is a major topic of conversation at this time of the year, especially for those of us who like to get our hands dirty. That's the closing comment on the TV program Rebecca's Garden, isn't it? I have learned to use garden gloves more the past few years, but there are some things that just cannot be done properly with covered fingers. Is it possible to thin those tiny carrots any other way than with bare hands? I don't think so.

Visiting with another lady who has a "green thumb," a mention was made of checking under the boards in her carrot row. This was a new idea for me! She puts those lengths over areas where very small seeds were planted, thus giving them added protection of keeping the soil moist. This gives them a fighting chance to emerge quickly and not dry out. Be sure to check under that protection regularly. Parsnips benefit especially with this method, she said. Those root veggies are one of my favorites, and also have always been a difficult crop to get started. Shall I try once more?

A favorite picture I put up on the kitchen wall by my typewriter in June shows a farmer cultivating his field of corn, sitting on the equipment pulled by his team of horses. With his feet he is guiding the shovels through the soil, eliminating the weeds and at the same time, avoiding the young crop. His hands also grasp handles which move carefully to plow out competing growth. The team follows the straight line with little or no help from the long reins, which are tied together at the ends and slung across the man's back. They will go back and forth, needing only slight assistance at the end of each row and starting the next. The "checked" rows make an intriguing pattern and will be gone through from east to west one time, then from north to south the next. It is a scene from the past, a precious memory of this farm girl.

The Slinky toy so popular when my children were young, seems to be making a comeback. A grandmother told me of her unique discovery with that interesting coil of wire. Did she possibly have the treasure in her toy box? Good grandmas need that important item. Anyway, she put  it on her bird feeder in such a way that the squirrels are unable to steal the food! Can't you just imagine their frustration.

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