Category Archives: books

Beans and Friendship

Husband and I like to grow shell-out beans in the garden.  These are beans that form in their pods and you can let dry and then shell and store,  unlike green beans that you eat whole when they are fresh.  We use them in soups and stews.   We have grown several varieties over the years, like Vermont Cranberry Beans and Good Mother Stallard.  We particularly like shelly beans, as they are sometimes called, because some of them are pole beans and they save space in the garden since they grow vertically.  One problem with the more popular varieties, though, is that their growing season is a little too long to reach maturity here before frost.

The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Indians were agricultural tribes who lived (and still live) on the Missouri River in North Dakota. They liked to grow shell beans, too. Many of their bean varieties were collected by horticulturists in the early 20th Century and can still be bought from certain seed companies.  Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden published in 1917 by anthropologist Gilbert Wilson, is his account of a famous Hidatsa gardener’s advice and stories about gardening in the Northern  Great Plains.  She grew huge gardens of corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers on the rich bottomlands near the river.   All that rich land was flooded with the building of the Garrison Dam and the development of Lake Sakakawea, and the members of the three tribes were moved to family allotments on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. That land isn’t very fertile at all.

We grow Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans, which are fat, creamy white pole beans, and Hidatsa Red Beans, which  are smaller, red bush beans that get to be 3 feet tall and need a fence to grow against or else they  sprawl all over.  Both have shorter growing seasons.  I have never seen either of the seeds for sale locally or on the Reservation.  We got them from Seed Savers Exchange.  Our native friends from the reservation don’t seem to be very familiar with them.

I mentioned to our Arikara friend Bruce what beans we were growing, and he said he got some authentic Ree Beans (another word for Arikara)  from a woman Elder some time ago.  You can see them in the header photo.  He tried to plan them on his allotment, but the soil just wasn’t good enough.  He wondered if we would be willing to try them in our garden. I said we would be very happy to. They are brown bush beans that  seem to be very similar to Arikara Yellow Beans that I see in seed catalogs. I told him that we will have a bean feast next fall with him and his wife, and our Hidatsa friend, Leo.  I may have to refer to Buffalo Bird Woman for some recipe ideas.

Got any good bean recipes?  What are you looking forward to doing with friends once we can gather? How are your garden plans coming along?

Family Secrets

Today’s post comes to us from Bill.

Lately, I’ve been going through the boxes of genealogical and inherited material, some of it originally collected by my grandparents and even more accumulated by my parents. It’s the sort of thing I never found the time or will to do prior to Covid. My general aim is to separate the detritus from the meaningful and to secure the meaningful—I use the term generously—archivally in mylar sleeves in 3-ring binders so that they can all fit in a compact space.

The detritus includes photos even I can’t identify, duplicate and triplicate copies of images, a lot of printed dot-matrix family trees from the days before the internet, albums of really bad Instamatic photos my parents took on vacations long after I had left home and just generally stuff that is no longer meaningful. So far so good.

Among the items in the boxes my Mother left behind was a packet of letters from a life-long friend of hers. I knew this friend and her family when I was young, no more than twelve or thirteen, but I have a distinct impression of her. She was smart and witty, outspoken and, I think, unhappy—probably stifled by her circumstances. The letters were written at a time when she was in the process of getting a divorce and still had two dependent children. She wrote to my mother as a trusted confidant.

I considered discarding the letters, but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. Her letters are funny and frank and expressive. At the time she wrote them, she was still in her early forties, which seems quite young to me now. They offer a perspective into her thoughts that she would have been unlikely to share with her children at the time—comparable to a diary. I can’t say I’ve ever had a similar glimpse into my parents’ unguarded thoughts.

Using my Ancestry account, I was able to ascertain that this person’s daughter also has an account and has posted a family tree. I wrote her a message, telling her about the letters and asking if she would like them. I told her I wasn’t sure if it would seem intrusive or inappropriate (and I apologized if it seemed that way), but I just couldn’t throw away the letters without asking her first. The letters were written over fifty years ago and the letter writer has been dead for thirty, so it seems safe to let those private thoughts out. I haven’t heard from the daughter yet.

Would you have discarded the letters and let their sentiments stay private? Have you ever been in possession of family secrets? What did you do with them?

Paper Chase

There is a mysterious creature in our home, one that is a constant source of puzzlement for our cat. The creature resides in the room with the computer. It whirs, makes odd internal noises, and then shoots out paper.  Sometimes the creature pulls the paper back inside before shooting it out a final time. It usually comes to life when Husband is seated at the dining room table working on his laptop.

Whenever she hears the creature make a noise, Luna races to the computer room and  peers into the place where  the paper emerges. She often walks behind it to see if anything is there, then perches along side it to watch the paper come out.

If she is feeling particularly feisty, she will stick her paw in to catch the paper. That usually results in me or Husband needing to fix a paper jam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other day I changed out ink cartridges,  and Luna was very, very interested to see what was inside  when I opened the front. There was no creature to be seen, though, just gears.

I imagine Luna vowing to solve the mystery and find the creature inside the printer.  Until then, she has a constant source of amusement and intrigue to keep her life interesting.

What mystery would you like to solve?  What mystery novel character would you like to be? What makes your life interesting these days?

 

It’s a Mystery

You all know that I turn the tv on for background and comfort; I rarely watch anything “new”.  In the last few weeks, I’ve turned even more to my oldies but goodies.  Not sure if it’s the weather or the holidays being over or even 2021 being a buzz-kill for the time being.

So I’ve been happy that a couple of movies that I really like have been available on demand through my cable company.  The World of Henry Orient is one and two old Agatha Christie’s as well: Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun.  Knowing that these won’t be around forever on demand, I’ve been watching them quite a bit, as if I can fill myself up with them before they’re gone.  Yesterday, I not only watched all three of these while I was working in my studio, I followed them up by watching Murder on the Orient Express (the old one), which I actually own.  I love Agatha Christie, although she breaks one of my “rules”; she almost always leaves out one or two necessary clues for the reader to figure out the mystery. 

YA came into my studio while Death on the Nile was playing and she commented that I should know the whole movie by heart by now.  She might be right – I can do most of the dialog right along with the actors.  One of my favorite scenes contains this bit:

  • Hercule Poirot: Do not allow evil into your heart, it will make a home there.
  • Jacqueline de Bellfort:  If love can’t live there, evil will do just as well.

So melodramatic – I love it.  I’ve searched for a couple other Agatha Christie movies with the library – can’t wait for those either. 

Tell me a movie you’ve watched more than once.  Way more than once??

The Bookmark

I have never spent much time thinking about who has read a book before I have.  Every now and then I get a book from the library that is old enough that it still has the check-out card in the little pocket in the back and I love to see the dates on the card, but even that only suggests when it might have been read prior to computerization. 

Last week I found a bookmark (photo above) in a book from the library, left by the prior reader.  It’s not a store-bought bookmark, but a little piece of artwork that some parent (probably) grabbed when they need to mark their place.  This resonates with me because I often use a folded post-it note, an old receipt or even a piece of used envelope when the need arises, although I do have massive numbers of official bookmarks.  When I was working in the bookstore, publishers often sent bookmarks and I always grabbed one.  If I found a bookmark when I was traveling, I always picked it up.  And, of course, I make bookmarks, often as gifts, but I always make one for myself any time I do that.  But you know how it goes; if you are downstairs when you get to a good stopping point, you’re not going to go upstairs just to find a bookmark!

This particular bookmark looks to belong to someone who works in a financial advice company and is the parent to a four- or five-year old.  The book that I found it in was How to Fly in Ten Thousand Lessons by Barbara Kingsolver, so clearly a poetry lover and someone who prefers library books to purchased books this year.  But in my fantasy world I’d love to think that the last person who picked up this book was Shirley Jackson.  I just finished her book Life Among the Savages and she mentions reading several times.  She had four kids and I can imagine her grabbing a scrap of kids’ scribbling when she needed to put down a book.

What was the last book you finished?  Who would YOU like to have read it right before you? 

Standing Firm

Our grandson is 2 1/2. His parents are good about keeping a steady schedule for meals and naps and bedtime.  Prior to our visit he suddenly started a period of change into a new developmental level, and he became disorganized and his schedule became disrupted. His appetite decreased, he didn’t want to nap, and he did everything he could to delay going to sleep at night.

A typical bedtime would see Son or DIL getting him ready for bed, reading  the requisite three books, and putting on music to lull him to sleep. In the past it only took one song to do the trick, but during our visit it turned into multiple requests for “one more song”.  Many times after it was quiet and we thought he was asleep, we found him with his light on and his bed full of books. “I reading, Daddy” he would say with an impish grin. Then came multiple requests to use the bathroom, usually with no results.  Every time he got up, he also needed to be tucked back in bed. They wisely have a baby gate in the doorway of his room so at least he has to stay there and can’t come out at will.

Son and DIL took our advice to put duct tape over grandson’s light switch so he couldn’t turn on the bedroom light. He has a night light.  They also found longer songs and stories to play continuously so that he wouldn’t keep asking for one more song.  They even agreed to stand firm and not go up to his room when he made his stay-awake ploys once he was in bed and was supposed to be going to sleep.

On Saturday night after he had been put to bed after several attempted diversions on his part, I walked past grandson’s room  His door opened, and he looked at me with big brown eyes and he said in a very plaintive voice “Oma, will you tuck me in?”   Well, of course Oma tucked him in! That sort of plea is impossible to resist.  I am happy to report that his plea to me was the last of the evening, and he slept for twelve hours despite my failure to stand firm.

How are you at standing firm?  When is it hard for you to maintain your resolve?

Comfort Ye

Husband announced the other day that he considers Gjetost to be a comfort food. I have never considered it to be so, but he was really happy when he found some at the store earlier this month.  It is too sweet and chalky for my tastes.

This is a year that has screamed a need for comfort. It has been hard to find at times over the past ten months.  I think the worst day in memory was yesterday, as we anxiously waited to see if Daughter’s plane left Denver with her on it.  We hadn’t seen her for a year.  Her flight into Bismarck on Tuesday was cancelled, and she couldn’t get a flight home until Christmas Eve. She had an excellent  time with her grandmother. though, which was a comfort to both of them.

I was so worried all day yesterday.  I tried to distract myself with music. The King’s College Lessons and Carols service was a good start, but it was a really long day. I made some soup, cleaned the kitchen, played solitaire, did laundry, and wrapped some presents, all with a horrid sense of dread and apprehension.  Our cat must have sensed my distress, as she stayed unusually close by me all day.

The only thing that would provide comfort for me was to hear that she was boarding her plane, and then to give her a big hug (but not, she insisted, until she showered to get the Covid germs off her). She was texting us  in caps as she waited for the plane to take off.

What foods, books, music, people, places, activities, or  other things give you comfort these days?

The Chess Gambit

Several baboons responded on Tuesday to a comment about the 6-part Netflix mini-series called The Queen’s Gambit. It’s based on a book by Walter Tevis (who is also author of three other books which became movies: The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth).

Apparently chess sets have been flying off the shelves, both in-store and online. I have located our set here, a Christmas gift years ago from son Joel. I’ve never really taken to chess – though Husband has tried to teach me, I never thought I had enough…  desire, mental acuity, or stamina to be a competitive player.

Because of this movie, I’ve become aware that women have been serious chess players for centuries first documented during the Middle Ages – this from Wikipedia:    “Chess games between men and women were a common theme of European art[2][3] and literature in the fourteenth through 18th centuries.” By the 19th Century, the field was dominated by men, and “during the 20th century, female players made significant progress in breaking male dominance on the game.” The first female International Grandmaster was Nona Gaprindashvilli, who received the title in 1978.

Back on the home front:  It wasn’t that I thought women in general wouldn’t be good at chess, just me. I am willing to rethink that and, with a long and at-home winter facing me, I think I just might take another stab at chess. I will, however, need to do a quick room-arrange to accommodate a table where we can leave a chess board up. And wouldn’t it be fun to paint our own chess board right on some old table?   

Here’s a puzzle:  Imagine you’ve decided you need a chess set and there are none to be had in all the land. By what art or craft would you create the board?

What found objects around the house could stand in for the various pieces – pawns, rooks, bishops, knights, king, queen ?

OR:

Because you may be home-bound for several weeks (or months), what other sort of learning might you tackle, that you would otherwise not have attempted?

Mrs Pollifax: Spy

I just saw a headline (yes, big enough to warrant a headline) that the tv series Friends is doing a reunion show in the spring.  I never saw an entire episode of Friends when it was originally airing – the bits I did see didn’t make me want to tune in.  But between what other people talk about and all the various commercials, I know enough that I’m thinking an enjoyable reunion show almost 20 years after the fact will be hard to pull off.  I’m sure I’ll be passing.

But there are a few bits of entertainment that I would like to have seen more of —  Mrs. Polifax, Spy for one.  There are boatloads of Mrs Pollifax books by Dorothy Gilman but just two movies.  The first one came out in 1971 with Rosalind Russell and Darren McGavin.  It’s clever and a bit silly, but just what I need every now and then.  Rosalind Russell was perfect but a follow-up was never made.  Then in 1999 Angela Lansbury starred in The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax.  Good enough to waste a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon but that was about it; she was too old for the part and the movie took itself much too seriously.  It really just felt like an episode of Murder She Wrote

The 1971 version is currently available on Amazon Prime and I will admit that I’ve watched it several times since March.  I wish that Rosalind Russell had made a few more of them!

Anything that you would have like to see more of (or read more of)?

RIP Sir Sean

I knew it was coming but seeing the headline that Sean Connery had passed away still hit me hard.  I was only three when he played his first leading movie role in Darby O’Gill and the Little People but I remember seeing it in theatres when I was about eight and I was stricken.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen everything he has starred in, good and bad.  I even watched Zardoz on purpose because he starred in it. 

As you can imagine, he was THE James Bond as far as I’m concerned.  I do like most of the others but Sean will always embody Bond for me.  I know the movies are seriously outdated at this point (well, what isn’t these days?) but I will still watch one if I come across it while channel surfing.

In fact, I’ve just gotten a notification that Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure in DVD has arrived for me at my library.  I’m not sure if I’ve seen it before, but I’ll be especially watching for Sean Connery playing one of the bad guys.  Then hopefully I can find a few more of his supportive roles in the next few weeks.

Any Sean Connery movies you’ve seen?  Anybody else who you’ve seen (or read) all their work?