Category Archives: home

Will You Be My Neighbor?

We have a small four year college in our town that is part of the ND University system. It is traditionally a teachers college, and also has a good business  administration department.   I was excited to see one of the new business faculty is a native of Bangladesh, and brings a family history of an uncle who is the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who created the Grameen Bank, which provides small loans for people in Bangladesh to start their own businesses.  The nephew brings the same sort of social responsibility to his class room, and I am really glad we have in increasingly diverse community.  His philosophy is that  you create business to solve social problems, unlike traditional businesses which are exclusively profit-oriented.

Every summer we have an ethnic heritage festival in which the Germans from Russia, Norwegians, Ukrainians, and Dutch groups have food booths and displays of traditional dress and crafts. The Mexican Americans have now joined the festival, and this year the local Rwandan community featured a traditional dance group.

I am happy to report that everyone in town seems to be getting along for the most part, and I am glad that we have new community members who aren’t like the majority of white mid-westerners.

Who would you like to see move into your neighborhood?

 

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?

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???

Objects of Fascination

It happened again. Husband and I were weeding in the front yard veggie garden when a car pulled up and the driver got out. He introduced himself as a new neighbor from down the block. Then,  he asked the inevitable question “What are those”?

By “those” he was referring to our metal bean poles. We regularly  get questions about them, what is growing on them, and why we use them.  It surprises me that those poles and their beans are such objects of wonder for people.  I like answering the inquiries.  I told the 3 and 5 year old neighbor children that they are the beans from “Jack and the Beanstalk”,  and that they should keep  a eye out for giants. They tell me excitedly whenever I see them that they are. Sometimes I tell people we use them to communicate with aliens. Some realize I am joking. Others just give me an odd look. Keep them guessing, I say!

What do you wonder about your friends, neighbors, and relations that you are are afraid to ask?

The Order of Things

Last week when I was in Madison, my friend and I spent a couple of hours yakking in her bedroom. At one point she had to take a phone call so I was left to let my mind wander.  That was when I noticed that all her books are sorted first by fiction/non-fiction and then alphabetically by author and THEN alphabetically by title.

Except for putting titles by the same author together (mostly), my books are not categorized at all. My fiction and non-fiction are wantonly cavorting together and nothing is alphabetized at all.  I feel so inadequate.

Do you have your books organized? Tell me how?

Strange Portents

The cats and I noticed something alarming in the garden this morning-a large flock of Chipping Sparrows fluttering around the pea fences.  (Well, I was alarmed. The cats were merely curious.)

I usually see birds flocking around the time school starts in mid to late August. It is only mid to late July, and I certainly hope that this isn’t a portent for an early winter. Our garden is a couple of weeks behind as it is, and we will need as many frost-free days as we can get for a good harvest.

How good are you at predicting things?

Too Hot to Shop?

Wowser! Over lunch I decided to run a couple of errands so I wouldn’t have to do them after work.  (I hate doing errands on a Friday after work – I just want to get home!)  And, of course, the heat and humidity is in the “you’ve got to be kidding me” range.   As I walked through the doors at Joann’s, the first big display is all about fall.  Pumpkins, dried vine wreaths, autumn wall hangings, the works.  Nothing specific to Halloween that I saw, but I was making a beeline to the fabric section.  I’m guessing that if I’d wandered past the initial display I would have seen stuff for little ghosts and ghouls.  It was so incongruous to me that they are selling items for the fall when it’s mid-July and 94° outside.  If I weren’t already overheated from Mother Nature, it would make my temperature go up!

I’m not sure why this drives me so crazy, but when retail jumps the gun on holidays and seasons, I just dig in a little more. I just want to celebrate the season I’m in, thank you very much- no need to start stocking up on pumpkin-themed items just yet.  And of course I’ve ranted here before about the Hallmark Channel running Christmas movies for weeks at a time during the summer months.  I adore holiday movies (well maybe not all the Hallmark ones) but they definitely have their place in my world.  And that place begins the day after Thanksgiving and not before.

So I guess I’ll just have to stubbornly keep ignoring the fall displays and the holiday movies until I’m ready. Sorry retail America.

What gets your temperature heated up?  What do you do to cool off?