Saturday, November 10, 2018

Winter is back!

Winter has set in now. It was 5F this morning when I went out to feed the horses, but at least yesterday’s howling wind subsided. It blew away the 7 inches of snow we got here so there is just enough left to act as filler between the blades of frozen brown grass. I try to take a short walk on these mornings just to get the circulation going and see what’s what around the farm. Lots of fox tracks and a few deer tracks, although it is hunting season so I suspect most of the deer are in hiding from the Pumpkin People (orange covered hunters) wandering around the forest. 

My garage has been converted back into a place to park cars again after a summer of alternative uses. This is handy as it usually stays above freezing in there, except during a long cold snap. It fools the vehicles into thinking that it isn’t winter until the doors open and we back out into another climate. At least there is no scraping of ice and snow from the windshield and the block heaters don’t need to be plugged in.

Now for the potential TMI part of this week’s entry. I have had an ongoing battle with a little bit of skin cancer. Back in July of 2016 I had a chunk of my scalp removed to get rid of the basal cell carcinoma that was making a home there. The treatment wasn’t terrible and most of the offending cells were removed, but these things are not always completely fixed. A little has come back so I have been treating a larger area around the original chunk. After three weeks I get to stop putting on the fluorouracil  5%  which is sort of a topical chemotherapy. Now the healing begins. It has been covered and will remain so as it is kind of unsightly red burn looking thing. In a few weeks or months I will be beautiful again!

Next week is the Winterer’s Gathering (based on all those who have decided to winter here) at North House Folk School which is sort of an early winter celebration with activities, films, a winter gear swap, and a dance for which Over The Waterfall, including yours truly, will be playing the music. I really will post a song at some point when someone records one and I figure out how to embed it. I have been saying that I will do this for some time now and I really will. Maybe this will be the time I can pull it off. Keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Random Rants

Sure, just as I get used to getting up at a particular time and the horses and cats get used to being fed at a certain time, SOMEONE, and I don’t know who, decided we should set our clocks back an hour! They didn’t have eleven cats clamoring for their breakfast, fighting amongst themselves, and harassing me in a big way, for if they did they would have thought twice about doing such a silly thing! Does EVERYONE do this? I doubt it!

Yesterday, I was repairing the fence around the arena from a seriously strong wind that broke two posts a few weeks ago. After digging the post holes and setting the new 4x4s I went to lift a section of board into the position near where they needed to be. As I lifted I heard and felt something give in my right hamstring. I said bad words and nearly fell over and decided to call off the repair for the day. Fortunately, I could still get on the tractor and drive myself back to the house. It was one of those, “I don’t remember that ever happening before!  It was a not-too-subtle reminder of my mortality and possible stupidity. I need to stretch all my parts before doing any physical work. My quick morning walk wasn’t as quick this morning as the limp slowed me down a bit.  Oh, well.

Did you vote yet? Vote early and vote often, I always say! Since voter fraud is rampant against voters, in the form of suppression, the rise (again) of Jim Crow, and candidates overseeing their own elections(Georgia), to name but a few methods, it is extremely important to get everyone out to vote. This country has an appalling record of poor turnout, but indications are that it is much better this time, even though it is an “off-year” election.  Maybe people are waking up to the embarrassing and often frightening reality that is our current regime. I am hopeful for some meaningful change, but no amount of optimism will guarantee that we will get back to the (sort of) decency of our former selves. We vote by mail, so I already did it, but be sure that those of you in the U.S. get out and participate. Otherwise we will continue this downward spiral.  

One last thing. It takes me a long time to get used to certain changes in this world. While I am fairly adaptable, I do have issues with the date, the year, specifically. I am finally getting used to 2018. I still have a tendency to write 19 instead of 20 and the 18 part gets me all confused. So, after practicing for the better part of a year I am getting the hang of it. You know what? They (yes, THEM again!) are going to change it after the end of next month! Seriously?! I’ll have to learn to write 2019. Not only learn it, I will have to remember it each and every time I write the date!  Give me a break, people! You probably think it is an aging thing. Well, I can tell you that it isn’t the case. I just looked at an appointment card written by a young person a month ago. I have an appointment for this January fifteenth and they wrote 2018! Hahahahaha! See? It isn’t just me! 

Just so you don’t think I am always complaining, here are a couple of pics. The first is of a few Blue Geese that were passing through a few days ago and another of five of the cats being calm and peaceful. This is their sofa.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Cheesy Story

Long ago and far away, those being relative things, I was a young college student working in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. It was the summer I turned nineteen and I was off to work for a couple that I had never met, although they were old family friends, doing whatever needed to be done for them. You who have followed this blog for a while have heard about some (not all) of the fascinating people I got to meet working for the McKennas for those three summers. I was also introduced to some other parts of their cultural world that I had not been exposed to in my young life, but that made an indelible impression. One was cribbage and another was Herkimer County cheddar cheese. It is the latter I wish to tell you about.

Map of New York highlighting Herkimer County 


 It was aged and sharp and I had never tasted anything like it. A white cheddar in a world of Kraft slices was something a little new to me. Sure, my European father had little stashes of exotic cheeses which I thought, for the most part, smelled too bad to eat. The exception being Norwegian goat cheese, or brunost, in which I did get to partake. I love it to this day and can even get it in this tiny town.

 Ski Queen Gjetost Original Goat Cheese, (8.8 oz), Size: One size, Ivory  

Image result for brunost
After a long day being the “boy” around camp (Adirondack cabins are referred to as “camps”) we would often have a few hors d’oeuvres and a drink before dinner. We were civilized even in our buffalo plaid. Several times a week we would have this delicious treat along with bourbon, sherry, or beer (His, Hers, mine) while we discussed the events of the world, the nation, or our own little spot on the planet. Anyway, I grew to love this taste treat by itself or with a few crackers. In addition to my room, board and $50 a week cash (all stashed for tuition), this cheese made me feel like life couldn’t get much better. 

When it was time to return to school for my sophomore year I knew I would miss this sophisticated taste treat. I decided that I had the ability and money to order a whole cheese to have, to savor, and share with my friends until it was gone.  Five pounds of cheese would be my treasure and souvenir of my first whole summer away from home.

 It arrived about a week after I got to school. Big and round and covered in black wax, it was a sight to behold. The only knife I had was a hunting knife so that had to serve my needs. I had never cut into a five-pound cheese before and I probably even then didn’t realize just how much cheese five pounds is. Let me tell you from experience that it is more cheddar than you would be able to eat in a week unless you were into some kind of self-punishment. Not to say I don’t love the stuff because I still do. I do, but too much of anything, no matter how enjoyable, might not be so much fun after all. 

Over the next few weeks I would have a cheese and crackers snack any time I wanted to or to remember what a great summer I had. There was plenty for all, so I always tried to share. After a few weeks of sharing and eating I had only gone through a wedge that was maybe a pound. My consumption slowed as the school year got more intense and eventually I started to forget about it. It was an old dorm and there really wasn’t any good, safe place to store my still massive cheese.  I would remember now and then to eat some after I cut the mold off of it, but the times lengthened and the mold thickened. Mold can be a good thing when it comes to cheese, but in this case not so much. 

 Image of moldy cheese
I finally made the big decision sometime during the winter. It was time to dump the holy cheese. It broke my heart, in a way, but by then I was pretty sick of it. By the next summer back at camp I was ready to eat it once again, but sparingly from that moment on.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A trip to anywhere south of here

I suppose you don’t believe that I really am back. Well, I had a little getaway, some of which I will share with you all. I also have this “problem” of the first world sort. I have too much vacation time built up. I am only allowed to carry over 200 hours of PTO (paid time off) and I am well above that. Otherwise I will forfeit it; at least that is the threat. So I took this week off and traveled a bit in order to visit some old friends and watch autumn all over again. I got down to the southeastern part of Iowa, Iowa City, where I lived for a couple of years back in the mid 1970s. 

Before leaving I asked a friend who is from a small town in Iowa if she thought anything might have changed. She basically said, “It’s Iowa. Nothing ever changes.” While that may be true of the many small rural towns there, Iowa City is a dynamic university town with constant growth and change. The street names were recognizable to me, but they didn’t look at all like I remembered. The houses I had lived in were still there, but updated and the university hospital where I worked was unbelievably huge and complex. Several buildings had been added and the old ones added on to. I was lost wandering around the area, but as I said, the street names were the same so I was never that lost. 

The Iowa River was high and nearly over the dam into the spillway and as much of the upper Midwest there was a bit too much water everywhere and the harvest has been delayed. Along with lower prices and less access to international markets (thank you Donald of Orange) the agricultural sector, the people who grow the food we eat, are hurting. This is never a good thing. 

I opted to head over toward the Mississippi for part of the return trip for a look as I hadn’t been along there for quite a few years, either. It is still quite lovely and fascinating in so many ways. It is a major shipping route and bird migration route and just damned pretty, too.   

I am afraid that all the leaves at home have dropped from the trees so the forest looks like a jumble of vertical sticks, but at least I got to have another week of colors for myself. Now we have to brace for the next phase. When I lived in the Middle Atlantic States it seemed as though autumn lasted a few months. Here we are lucky to get a whole month in before the inevitable change to winter. This may be an exaggeration as my memories and observations are subject to my own prejudices, but it sure seems like it’s not much of an exaggeration.    Click the pics to embiggen.

 That's me on the right.

 Corn still in the field.

 Strawberry Point, Iowa. The strawberry is about fifteen feet tall.

 The Mississippi isn't at flood stage, but it is getting there. Fortunately, it has been a dry week.

 Some bluffs on the Wisconsin side of the river.

 The river is a major flyway for migratory birds. There were hawks and eagles in the sky and various waterfowl on the river. This is a swan, but I saw numerous species of ducks and some pelicans, too.

  It was worth it just to see all the colors again before coming home.