Category Archives: Family

A Day At The Zoo

I came home from work yesterday at 10:00 am.  Friday is my short work day.  Husband asked as I came into the house “How about going to Bismarck to the zoo today”? I said yes, and off we went.

We haven’t been to the Bismarck zoo for years, not since our daughter was little. It was a fun day made really special by watching a zoo keeper train bobcats. They are trained, with raw meat treats, to follow verbal commands like sit, paws up, follow the target, and go in your crate. She also exposed them to sprays from a bottle of fly spray so they would tolerate the spraying. Raising one’s paw above one’s head allows zoo keepers to check paw pads for cracks or injuries, and underbellies for impending kittens or too much weight gain. Rufus, the bobcat male, loves being trained and is really good at all the commands. Ginger, the female, is a bit stubborn. Rufus hates the spray bottle. He very willingly went in his crate, an important skill to have if you need to go to the vet.

What a fun job!  The zoo keeper paired the command and its successful completion with a loud click and a morsel of raw meat. I don’t fully approve of zoos, but I see their purpose in protecting endangered species.  I would love to train bobcats! I wonder how they train the primates?

How do you feel about zoos? What are your experiences in training animals?

What About Cousins?

I live pretty equidistant from about three Indian reservations in three different states.  I sometimes see tribal members  at my community mental health agency.  Part of doing my work is getting a good family history.  I have noticed, over 30 years of practice,  distinct differences in how tribal members and everyone who is not a tribal member describes family relationships.  For my tribal clients, there are any number of aunties, uncles,  sisters, and brothers who are important in their lives. They  just don’t match how I, in my eurocentric  orientation, define family.

A good friend of our, a person who is an Arikara Indian,  one of the Three Affiliated Tribes from the Fort Berthold Reservation where Husband works,  posted on Facebook recently a way to navigate these family relationships.

This apparently comes from some sort of Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa tribal handbook. Here is how you navigate relationships. for boys. Girls are pretty much the same.

Who is my mother?

  1. My birth mother.
  2. .My mother’s sister
  3. My father’s brother’s wife
  4. My clan father’s wives (My father’s clan brothers)

Who is my father? 

  1. My birth father
  2. My father’s brothers
  3. My sister’s husband
  4. My father’s mother’s brother
  5. My clan fathers (My father’s clan brothers)
  6. My father’s sister’s son

Who is my sister?

  1. My blood sister
  2. My father’s brother’s daughter
  3. My sister’s daughters
  4. My female clan members (My mother’s clan)
  5. Female children of my father’s clan
  6. My mother’s sister’s daughter

Who is my brother?

  1. My blood brothers
  2. My father’s brother’s sons
  3. My sister’s son’s
  4. My mother’s sisters’ sons
  5. My clan male mothers
  6. Male children of my fathers’ clan
  7. My mother’s brother
  8. My mother’s mother’s brother

Who is my auntie?

  1. My father’s sisters
  2.  My father’s sister’s daughter-each generation
  3. My clan aunts (My father’s clan sisters)

Who is my grandmother?

  1. My mother’s mother
  2. My mother’s mother’s sister (Grandmother’s sister)
  3. My father’s mother
  4. My father’s mother’s sister
  5. My mother’s father’s sister-each generation

I notice that great uncles, great aunts, and cousins are defined differently here.  I also find that if I use this to define my family relationships, I have a lot more siblings, parents, and aunts and uncles. That is kind of comforting.

How do you define family? How would your definition change given the above information? 

 

Bean Freak

Husband and I lived in southern Indiana for a year just after our son was born while Husband finished his psychology internship.  It was much warmer than Winnipeg, and we were introduced to many garden plants I had never seen before. Salsify?  Who knew what it was and that you could grow it in your garden?  The real surprise for me was shell out beans. Those are  beans like navy beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans and all sorts of other beans that I had never seen grown in gardens and that you harvest fresh, not dried.  We became hooked on them.

We didn’t  grow them in our garden until the last 10 years or so due to limited space, when Husband discovered metal bean poles, and we have been growing them ever since. Growing vertically really saves space. This year we are growing Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans and Vermont Cranberry beans.  The Hidatsa beans are traditional beans grown by one of the three tribes husband works for on the Rez. They are big, plumpsters that parboil and freeze well.  I love them in soup and chili.

The problem with beans like this is that they are addictive.  You want more and more. You can read about this phenomenon in this recent New Yorker article:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/23/the-hunt-for-mexicos-heirloom-beans.

Most pole bean cultivars of this type need 95-110 days to mature after they germinate. We don’t have that long of a growing season., and we will buy dried beans that we can’t grow here. Recently, I was searching beans on line and found  the source listed in the New Yorker article for dozens of exotic and long season dried beans. You could get the traditional French beans for cassoulet (Tarbais beans), flageolet beans, and every exotic South American and Caribbean bean that is currently produced. Husband had to stop me (But we have two ducks in freezer. Let’s whip up some cassoulet!)  He reminded me that we didn’t have to order pounds of beans at that moment, and that perhaps we should see what our harvest will be this fall. I agreed, but I am secretly planning an order.

What have you been obsessed with? What is your favorite bean recipe?

Backyard Revival

About 25 years ago we planted 15 feet of raspberries along the fence on the North side of our yard. Husband had inadvertently killed a 4 foot wide strip of grass along the fence the entire length of our property.   We planted day lilies and irises in the remaining length of the dead zone.   As our raspberries grew and flourished (and spread beyond the original 15 foot bed), so did an ash tree on the other side of the fence  along the property line in our neighbor’s yard, throwing increasing shade on the canes. The canes have  moved away from the shaded area under the tree over the years and invaded the lawn, leaving a large, empty space along the fence that fills up with weeds.  It is hard to walk between the invading raspberries and the strawberry bed. It is impossible to mow.

The raspberries produced prodigiously until this year. The berries  were small and hard, and withered immediately after ripening.  I suppose there could be disease going on, or else, after so many years of productivity,  the new canes that grow up every year are just worn out and don’t have the vigor of the originals we planted.  The ash tree is too tall for us to trim, even though we would be within our rights to trim every part of it that hangs over our property.  We decided it is time to reclaim the area, dig up the raspberries that are too shaded, and plant hydrangeas,  ligularia (aka “The Rocket”), and ostrich ferns,  in their place.  That shouldn’t cost too much, but it won’t be a picnic digging up those raspberry canes. There are still raspberries that get enough sun, and we will leave them be.  They haven’t invaded the lawn yet.

Hydrangeas grow beautifully in our yard, and can cover a large area of landscaping sins.  I am tired of such a wild looking back yard. We will have to sell the house in the next few years and it isn’t too early to start sprucing the place up.  I look forward to a backyard revival, but not the expense and the labor that will go into it.

If money and  labor were no object, how would you change the landscaping  in your yard?

Bad Funeral Music

My father-in-law was buried in a large Presbyterian Church in Littleton, CO.  We met at the church at 10:00 am for the service to place his ashes in the Columbarium in the church yard, and then trooped inside for the memorial service. My father-in-law and mother-in-law had chosen the music for the funeral a couple of years ago. Neither of them knew a whole lot about church music or the pragmatics of congregational singing.  There were issues.

The first hymn we all had to sing was “The Lord’s Prayer”. It is very difficult for a congregation to sing, being better handled by a soloist. (Our daughter-in-law has a beautiful voice and sang it at my parents’ funerals. )  It really doesn’t have a set tempo, and the tempo changes as the song progresses. Then we had to sing “How Great Thou Art”. That went a little better, but the whole thing was made worse by the piano player.

The piano player was an elderly man who played the grand piano in the sanctuary like Liberace. I was surprised there was no tip jar.  He is the main keyboard player for the church, and he is a soloist, not an accompanist,  who seemed to not care a bit if he helped the congregation get through the hymns. He was loud and bombastic. and played with lots of arpeggios and ornamentation.  It was all about him and how flashy he could play. I would find attending regular services there really annoying.

I suppose I have been spoiled by the wonderful  music I have been exposed to in the Lutheran churches I have attended in my life.  This experience made me decide to to write down  what music I want at my funeral.

What music do you want to celebrate your life when you are gone?

 

 

A very Special Dinner

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

Imagine that a very special person will be visiting you soon. Maybe this is someone you were once close to, but life sent you along different paths. This is a person—or possibly a couple or a family—that you haven’t seen in a long time. Now they will become a guest at your home. You aren’t worried about the reunion. You will hug and have tons of news and memories to share. Conversation won’t be a problem!

Here is your challenge: you have to decide what meal you will prepare. You want to put out the best meal you can. You wouldn’t consider a catered meal, even if you could order a terrific restaurant meal. That just wouldn’t be personal enough. You want the meal to reflect your respect and affection for your old friend.

I used to have such a meal. The main recipe was given to me by a fascinating man I met only once. Dan Brennan was a novelist and professional tennis player who lived most of his life in Minneapolis. Before the US joined the Allies in World War Two, Dan traveled to England to volunteer as a fighter pilot for the RAF. Amazingly, he survived the war. He told me he married “a girl from the English countryside.” She was the source of the recipe for this pheasant dumpling pie.

That recipe looks a bit odd to me now. It includes a wonderful made-from-scratch white sauce with several store-bought ingredients (including Pillsbury biscuit dough from a tube, frozen broccoli from a box and a pie crust from a box mix). When I was a hunter the dish inevitably starred pheasant meat, but over the years I began substituting chicken thigh meat, and both were wonderful.

I always cooked this dish in a heavy crockery casserole dish. At the bottom of the pie was broccoli, carrots, onion and the meat. Everything floated in a white sauce made from pheasant stock, whipping cream, pimiento, flour and several whole peppercorns. (I came to regard the whole peppercorns as the secret ingredient that made the sauce work.) Chunks of raw biscuit dough were placed on top, then a double-thick pie crust went over everything. After baking, the chunks of dough puffed up and became flavorful dumplings. When I was learning to cook I saw nothing strange about the recipe. Although the cook was incompetent, the pheasant dumpling pie was never less than spectacular.

The dish was perfect for our special guests. It was something nobody could order at a restaurant. Pheasants have been prominent throughout my life, starting when I was three, so I never found a more appropriate dish to serve guests in my home. We entertained frequently. Half-jokingly, we referred to our little bungalow as Grooms Rooms, as if we were in the hospitality business. We even had that name on a signboard on the front of the house. Pheasant dumpling pie was the signature dish at Grooms Rooms.

The rest of the meal varied little over the years. We served our pheasant pie with baguettes of French bread, a good light red wine and wild rice cooked with nuts and bits of onion. You might wonder: shouldn’t poultry be served with a white wine? Yes, usually. But pheasant is not exactly a delicate meat. A light red seemed better to us. A frequent desert was pecan pie with cinnamon ice cream.

What would you serve for a really special guest?

 

 

 

 

Too Hot to Handle

I didn’t start cooking until I moved into my first apartment. My mom doesn’t like to cook and when I became a vegetarian at 16, the few things she could cook became out of bounds for me.  She had 2 cookbooks all the time I was growing up, Joy of Cooking and The Betty Crocker Cookie Book.  So I wasn’t surprised when she gave me a copy of Joy when I set up my first kitchen.  It wasn’t too useful for a beginning vegetarian so it was joined quickly by Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Laurel’s Kitchen.

I didn’t cook with too many exotic ingredients back then – nothing even remotely “different” made its way into my mom’s kitchen so I didn’t have any experience with the out-of-the-ordinary. I don’t remember the first time I cooked with a jalapeno or any other hot pepper, but it’s been at least 30+ years and now they are a staple at our house.

So you would think that I know better by now about handling hot peppers. Just one Mucho Nacho (a type of jalapeno).  I cut the seeds and inner veins out, thinking about the capsicum all the while.  Then I apparently turned my brain off, because after I dumped the peppers into the pan, I just kept working instead of washing my hands.  Within 10 minutes I had touched my lips in two places, licked a finger and gotten the juice under my thumbnail as well.  Paper towel soaked in milk helped the lips, held the thumb in the milk for 5 minutes and then drank the rest.  Aaaahhhhh.

What lesson do you wish you would learn? Or took you too long to learn?

 And does anybody need a hot pepper or two on Sunday???