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Getting the blues

Realizing that I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do, I took a deep breath, leaned against a display table and relaxed. The time on my watch said, ‘five thirty’. Since getting up that morning, I’d been racing around gathering beans, beets, carrots, butternut squash and eggplant from the garden. Then, picking out my best specimens of the same size, I attached the entry tickets to their containers.

I’ve come to dread fair entry day. No matter how hard I try to prepare in advance, there is always a scramble to get everything ready. I know my stress levels would lower if I would just stop entering vegetables that need to be picked, dug up, cleaned and sorted at the last minute before being transported to the fair. I can’t make myself do that, though. I have a garden and like to show off my produce.

After rooting through the garden, I ignored my foggy, salt-stained glasses to gather the breads, rolls, cakes and cookies I’d baked. Then, rummaging through my treasure box of crafts, I retrieved projects I’d created during the winter; frosted glass, paper mache and ornaments.

One of my biggest complaints is that fair entry day is always hot. By the time I arrive at the fairgrounds to submit my entries, I am awash in salty streams of sweat. My hair and clothing are sopping wet. I look and feel like a wreck. Even if the day is cool and rainy, the day is always hot to me. Continue reading

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Chainsaw Granny

A huge dead limb lay on the ground next to my old crab apple tree. Sighing over the loss, I crossed the lawn to take a closer look. The tree had been old but still beautiful when I had moved here almost forty years ago. Slowly, though the years, some of the tree’s big limbs stopped growing leaves. Yesterday, a wind storm had broken this limb from the tree.

Putting a foot on the limb, I tried to rock it back and forth, testing to see if it was lightweight with rot. It was not. It felt solid and heavy. How was I going to be able to pull it back to the refuse pile at the back of my property? I knew the answer to that question only too well. I would have to cut it up with my trusty little hack saw.

It took me a long time to cut the limb into several logs. Eventually I had chunks that were light enough to handle. Wiping sweat from my forehead, I looked around my yard. The exercise was probably good for me, but I was glad I didn’t have to do this often.

When my daughter asked if I wanted to come with her to look at a house she was thinking of buying, I eagerly accepted the offer. The house was big. The yard around it was beautiful but overgrown and in need of pruning. I said, “Niki, this is a great place for you and your family to live!”

Once the papers were signed and the previous owner had moved out, Niki decided to paint several rooms and do a deep clean before moving in. She wisely pointed out, “Painting and cleaning is so much easier to do when you don’t have to move furniture.”

My daughter is the family painter, so when she began refurbishing the new house, I went there to prune trees and shrubs for her. Lilacs from the civil war era were ripping holes in window screens, scratching the porch roof, poking at eaves-troughs and rubbing against the siding. I nipped off what I could and used my hack saw to cut bigger branches.

I accomplished only about five percent of the trimming that needed to be done. The job was too big for me. That night I spoke to my big sister Agnes on the phone. Her response when I described my dilemma, was, “Kathy, you know I have a lady’s chainsaw. …And I know how to use it!”

My sister accompanied me on my next visit to Niki’s new house. We lifted her battery operated chainsaw out of the trunk and cut down a big branch that I had only been able to top. The small, sharp chain sliced through the wood as though it was soft butter!

Looking around at the yard, I pointed out, “See those pine trees in the center of the circle drive? Niki wants them cut down. I told her they would look nice if they were under-brushed. Let’s see what we can do with the first tree.”

For the next hour we cut away long scraggly branches that were half-dead. Huge false elder plants had woven themselves into the trees as high as the second story of the nearby house. The diameter of some of the false elder trunks were larger than the pine branches, but the wood was soft and cut easily. When we finished, we stepped back and admired our work. What a huge difference it made to have those branches gone!

There were three more pine trees nearby that badly needed the same treatment. And I knew one thing for sure, I wasn’t going to use a hack saw to chop off hundreds of branches to finish this job.

The next time I headed over to work in Niki’s new yard, I stopped by a store that sells chainsaws. I went in and told the salesman, “My sister has a lady’s chainsaw. It works great. Now I want one.” Half an hour later I walked out with a Stihl chainsaw in my hands.

The salesman saw me to the car, saying, “You be careful with that now, OK?”

Being able to easily cut off branches is wonderful, but I fully realize that my new ‘toy’ is very dangerous. I plan on being careful.

When I told someone that I’d bought myself a chainsaw, it amused me how startled that person looked. I guess the thought of a chainsaw-totting granny is kind of scary.

Having a Kitten

I handed a glass of apple ale to Niki. My daughter took a sip and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask…would you like to have a kitten? My neighbors across the road have a mama cat with a litter. They’re giving away the babies.”

Sitting down at the dining room table, I shook my head. “Kittens are fun, but I own a fat, crabby old cat that doesn’t even like the other cat who lives here. That mean old biddy would have a hissy-fit, or as some people would put it, she’d have a kitten, if I brought home another cat!”

Niki persuaded, “Jonah will be fine. She keeps to herself. You said Louie loved Basil, your last kitten.”

“You’ve just mentioned the main reason I don’t want another kitten.” I sadly pointed out, “Basil slipped out of the house one night and I couldn’t get him to come back in. Because that had happened once before and everything worked out, I didn’t worry. Do you remember what happened that night? Basil was hit by a car and died. I’m afraid of having that happen again.”

“You’ve had cats ever since you moved to this house thirty-nine years ago.” Niki protested, “Basil was the only one that has ever got on the road and hit by a car!” Continue reading

Schnitzelbank

Gemma, my five-year-old granddaughter, held up a picture she had drawn, proudly explaining, “See, Grandma? Here is a flower and a heart and a person…” I leaned forward and looked at her picture and praised her work.

From the other side of the dining room table, Niki, her mother looked up from a cookbook she was studying. She said, “I’m taking the kids to Farm Technology Days this week. Do you want to join us?”

Remembering past visits I’d made to this yearly farm show, I eagerly accepted the invitation. “Sure. Hopefully it won’t be too hot the day we’re there. One year I felt completely baked by the time we went home. I want to go to the women’s tent first. They put on cooking shows and have dozens of information booths.”

My daughter smiled and admitted, “The thing I want to see on the day we’re going is someone carving cheese.” Three of my young grandsons who were listening to our conversation all chimed in saying how they wanted to see the cheese carving, too.

I laughed and teased, “Maybe you just want to be there to eat the cheese shavings.” Continue reading

Marianne

I leaned back in my chair at the dining room table. Blaise, the last of the children to finish eating, stood up and proudly, forcefully burped. My daughter Niki admonished him, “Blaise, what do you say when you burp?”

Grinning, the dimpled three-year-old patted his belly and ran into the living room to join his brothers and sisters watching the ‘Incredibles’.

I suggested to my daughter, “Let’s share a bottle of Redd apple ale for dessert.” After dividing a bottle between two wine glasses, I sat down and confided, “I’ve been wondering if I should trade in my car for a new one before its value drops.”

My conversation with Niki quickly faded from memory until a deer jumped in front of my 2013 Chevrolet Equinox while driving home from my sister’s, on June 22nd. Instantly, I knew my car had transitioned from a good trade-in, to a worthless piece of junk. Fixing it would cost more than it was worth. Fortunately, a fair settlement came quickly and without quibbling from the car insurance company.   Continue reading

Oh, Deer!

Cresting the hill, I glanced at the clear sky above the western horizon. Purple and salmon-colored jet contrails, stained by the setting sun, crisscrossed above. They looked like random brush strokes on a canvas. Passing the cheese factory two miles from my house, I scanned the highway in front of me. It was clear all the way to the base of the hill where a small bridge spanned a creek.

A field of corn lay to my right and hay to my left. Although the weeds beside the road had been mowed, the ditches were filled with tall grasses. I had spent a pleasant evening with Agnes and Jim, my sister and brother-in-law. Now, as I returned home, I regretfully thought about the empty house waiting for me.

Most events in our lives take place one ‘screen-shot’ at a time. Suddenly that rule was suspended when I saw a tawny-colored blur leap in front of my car, felt a thud, the airbag in my steering wheel both blew up in my face and immediately collapsed as I stepped on the brake. I knew what had happened, wished it hadn’t, and accepted that I had to deal with the consequences. Continue reading

Smart, Smarter and Smartest

Tammie’s cell phone made a familiar ‘ping’! She glanced over at it from where she was sitting behind the steering wheel and said, “Mom, that’s probably Niki answering my text. Why don’t you see what she said.”

I gingerly picked up my daughter’s phone, afraid that I would accidentally press a button or somehow damage it unintentionally. The message had already disappeared from the screen. Not sure what to do, I hesitated.

Tammie encouraged, “Don’t be afraid to handle my phone, Mom. You’re not going to break it. You know my code. Go ahead and enter it to see what Niki said.”

Reluctantly, I did as my daughter directed. I suspected she was hoping that if I used her phone a few times, I would begin to want one for myself. Several years ago, she had asked me, “What would you do if your car broke down while traveling to visit me? You need to own a cell phone so you can call for help!”

I doubt what I did was what she had expected. I went out and bought a primitive flip phone. It doesn’t have dozens of bells and whistles, but I can make calls and take mediocre pictures. Continue reading