Category Archives: home

Door Stoppage

Photo credit:  The Avocado

On Friday Steve suggested a book be used for a doorstop that Clyde needed.  My very first thought was Ulysses.  I was an English major at Carleton and there were two infamous lists.  One was the short list – about 100 titles that you’d better have read before your comprehensives at the end of your senior year.  Then there was the long list – this was about 500 titles – that the English department thought you should read if you wanted to be truly well-read.  I know, I know, incredibly  presumptuous.  I got copies of these lists in my sophomore year and kept them for years.  As you can imagine, Ulysses was on that list and while most of my brain knows there is no reason I have to read this, a little bit still thinks that I should wade through Joyce.

Three years ago when I started getting rid of excess stuff, I realized I had THREE copies of Ulysses.  Unfortunately for Clyde’s needs, I got rid of all of them, along with most of the guilt that I never could get through the first chapter, much less any farther.

But it made me think about what other books I could imagine consigned to doorstop-hood.   I pulled up my reading list to look for 1-star titles that I wouldn’t mind using to keep a door open.  I started keeping this list in 2007 but didn’t start assigning stars until 2013.  I actually don’t have too many two-star titles, and next to no one-star ratings (it’s a 1-5 rating).  Life is too short – if a book isn’t shaping up, it goes back to the library (or if I actually purchased it, on a pile to be donated to the library).

I do have a few one-stars, but they bring up a secondary problem… I don’t actually remember all of them.  So here’s a short list of my one-star doorstop recommendations:

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (not even a whiff of memory about this one)
  • The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan (I know that tim loved this one, but it didn’t have enough surrealism to support an unbelievable plot)
  • Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke. I kinda liked the first few and I do like the Hallmark movies made from the series, but this one stunk and the main character stepped over so many lines (moral AND legal) that I couldn’t believe it.
  • Man in the High Castle by Philip Dick. You all know I love alternate-reality future stories but this one did NOT satisfy.  Several concurrent stories, which did not ever intersect, did not wrap up  in any meaninful way and one that jut didn’t make sense.  (And in looking at the reviews of the tv series, they pretty much didn’t use 95% of the book.)
  • And then my one and only negative star title… Swamplandia by Karen Russell. I only finished this because it was a book club title.    Unbelievable set-up, unlike-able characters, tragic outcome and ending that could not happen in anybody’s reality.  There are actually good reviews of this book, but I can only say that hallucinogenics must have been involved.

Any nominees for a door stop?

52 Loaves

Clyde sent me a reading recommendation – 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by Wiliam Alexander.  It’s the year-long journey of a man trying to make the perfect loaf of bread.

I was a bit leery.  I’ve read quite a few of these “set yourself a journey” books in the last few years.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, Tolstoy & the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch – to name a few.  While mostly enjoyable, it started to feel like a fad to set yourself a year-long challenge and then write a book about it. And I was a little worried that after about 8 weeks of bread baking, I’d be ready to toss the book in a 550-degree oven.   But I’ve never gotten an unsatisfactory reading recommendation from Clyde (well, except for that Death by Rhubarb), so I picked up Loaves and read it through.

It was quite nice.  Just about the time you never wanted to hear about air holes and crumb texture again, the author would veer off on a related (or not so related) topic such as the history of pellagra, the maker of the Quik Lock – that little plastic bit that hold a bread bag closed, building an oven in his backyard, a trip through the streets of Morocco.  He does eventually make what he considers a perfect loaf; interestingly enough it’s when he ends up teaching some monks in France how to bake.  And then at the end of the year he realizes that his single-minded pursuit of that loaf of bread had really kept him from enjoying his kitchen and lets it go.  

I used to make more bread.  I have several bread cookbooks and even two bread machines (long story) but these days, bread just doesn’t get eaten fast enough around here.  One of my favorites is a thick, moist oatmeal bread but YA doesn’t like it much and I can’t eat it fast enough before it spoils.   Maybe I should just find a neighbor that I can foist a half loaf on every time I bake!

Any bread stories out there?  Make your own or have a favorite bread bakery?  Knead by hand or with a dough hook?

September Farm

The farm report comes to us from Ben.

We had some friends and their kids visit and we had a good time giving tractor rides and gator rides and collecting eggs and seeing cows. It’s always fun giving farm tours.

I finally got around to working on the brush mower. I had to order bigger sockets to get the nut off the broken spindle on the big spinny thing. (It’s 45mm by the way) And then trying to get the gear box off the mower deck, I didn’t have the right size sockets for that either. It’s 30mm. I am getting more and more metric tools, but I didn’t have anything that big. I have a 3/8” drive socket set that I use for a lot of things. And a 1/2” drive set for some of the bigger stuff. And then I started buying 3/4” drive stuff for the really big stuff. (I mean the size of the square on the head of the ratchet is 3/8” or 1/2” or 3/4”). Then I put a 3’ long pipe over the handle to get enough leverage to get the nuts loose. Took the gear box up to John Deere for them to fix.

How’s that go: Every job is an opportunity for a new tool. Worked here.

On the way home from John Deere I stopped at a farm stand and bought 4 dozen ears of sweet corn. A couple kids run this stand and it is really good corn. Got that frozen and it will be really good this winter.

My mom has a possible Covid exposure from one of her physical therapy people. I had seen her on Sunday, and she found that out on Monday. But she hasn’t tested positive herself yet and they all wear masks and mom is vaccinated and I’d think the PT person was too. So hopefully she stays good. She needs to isolate in her room, which she isn’t very happy about. And her food comes in a Styrofoam container with plastic cutlery and that’s her biggest complaint. We had a care conference Tuesday and there seems to be exceptions for everything so she’s gotten real plates now. Hope that keeps up.

Monday was Labor Day and I wondered if I should really take the day off or do some work. If I didn’t do anything I’d feel guilty. I took a nap first off. But then decided to clean up the swather and get that put away. I washed it off and oiled the chains, loosened some belts, and filled the gas tank and added some ‘Stabil’ to the fuel, and tucked it into the shed for winter.

Then decided it was a good day to burn a small brush pile behind the shed. Got that burning and cut some grass while keeping an eye on it.

We’re having a little experiment with the ducks. When they go into the pen at night, they can either walk up a ramp or they can hop up onto a block and then into the open door. Most of them seem to hop in. One day I had not put the ramp in the door, it was sitting down on the block. Everyone had gone in except one black duck and two brown ducks. They were very distressed to be outside on their own and I finally went down and put the ramp up and one brown duck went up the ramp and the other two hopped in from the block. Hmm, were the other two moral support for the ramp duck?

This is very curious, so the next night I also left the ramp down and everyone had gotten in except a black duck and a brown duck. I put the ramp back up and both ducks hopped in without using the ramp.
The third night I put the ramp in the door right away. About dusk everyone heads over to the door and the white ducks always go first and hop on the block and up into the door. Might take them two tries, but they make it. Eventually the ones waiting got tired of waiting in line and they all went and got a drink and then came back and some more hopped in, and again, the remaining few got tired of the queue, went and got another drink and then came back and no one used the ramp and everyone hopped in. Evidently the ramp is more emotional support or a guide? It’s very interesting.

FOURTH NIGHT! I had the ramp up and I watched closer; they seem to use the ramp as a guide rail. A few actually use it, some bump against the side while hopping in, and some jump up onto the ramp about 1/2 way up. Very curious. And when they come out in the morning, it’s last in, first out.

When I got home one day, all the ducks were out of their pen. We’d been talking about letting them out; they’re old enough and big enough, but being ‘adolescent’, they don’t always make the best choices and we lose a few to coyotes. That day they found a hole – or maybe ‘made’ a hole and they were all close, just on the wrong side of the fence. It wasn’t too hard to round them up, patch the hole, and get them all back inside. And then I noticed one of the white ones has a wound under one wing. Neither Kelly or I were working from home that day which makes me wonder; maybe a coyote came in the yard and caused a commotion which is what scared them out. Kelly says every day around noon there is some kind of commotion, and the dogs bark and guineas get upset so there’s something going on.

I showed Kelly how to fire the rifle and the next day, when the noon commotion began, she fired a shot. We never see anything, but we’re trying to scare it– whatever “it” is– away. Kelly really wants to shoot a coyote but she’s having trouble making the scope work for her. She is just hoping for plain, dumb luck. And she’s going to work on firing from the hip.

Chickens; they get into the ducks pen, but they can’t ever figure out how to get back out…

BONUS! Two Sandhill Cranes standing in the field when I left for work the other day.

There has been a pair here all summer, we don’t see them, we only hear them. I’m guessing this is another pair passing through.

Can you fire from the hip? And accomplish what you are trying to accomplish?

Out Of The Doldrums

Ever since April, 2020, Husband has stayed at home, seeing only a few psychotherapy clients a week and filling his time with volunteer work and gardening. He was relieved to be done working on the Reservation. He had his pension and Social Security.

I noticed over the last year, though, that he just didn’t seem to be getting much done at home, and his typically solemn demeanor became even more lugubrious.

Since he was hired at his new, part-time job last week, everything has changed, the world is full of new and exciting possibilities, and I can hardly keep up with him. It is really good to see. He really was deep in the doldrums, and I didn’t realize just how deep. He feels he has a purpose again. A ten hours a week job made a huge difference! His new found exuberance has partly taken the form of cooking, however, and I worry we may need to get a new freezer.

What helps you to feel really happy? What helps to get you out of a funk? What gives you purpose?

Havin’ a Blast

Last week I was the recipient of the fabulous Baboon support that others in our little community have experienced over the years.  After hearing me talk (whine?) about my front porch project, tim sent me a message.  If I rented the sandblaster that he linked me to, would I like it if he came over to help?  I didn’t have to think about that very hard.  After two+ years of scraping layers of paint off by hand, making some real headway seemed like a good choice.

The first hiccup was when I went to pick up the equipment.  While the sandblaster and the hoses fit into my little car, the air compressor that makes the sandblaster go did not.  I called tim from the rental lot and he volunteered to pick it up before coming to my house that day.  And, of course, this meant that at the end of the project, he got to return all the equipment as well.

The second hiccup was finding out that we couldn’t just scrape up the sand on the floor and re-use it.  Paint chips clogged the nozzle.  We ended up straining the sand through my metal sieve into a big bucket, then re-using it.  I’m sure the manufacturer didn’t want to hear that. 

We pretty quickly settled into a routine.  I swept and sieved while tim blasted.  We had to improvise a few times; we used the kitty tower to get the sandblaster high enough to reach to top parts of the walls and we used my Mickey Mouse cake tester to unclog the nozzle a few times.  The cake tester and the sieve survived the ordeal, the kitty tower did not.  (The new one arrives next week).

Let me tell you that sandblasting in a small, enclosed porch (even with the windows and front door open) is like working in h-e-double hockey sticks.  We didn’t get finished the first afternoon and on the second afternoon, we both had upgraded our headgear and eyewear.  In fact, we both had shiny goggles the second day and I’m sure we looked like large bugs.  Both days, we hosed off in the backyard.  I can’t speak for tim, but the showers after each day for me were epic.  The first day I wasn’t sure I would ever get the sand and grit out of my scalp.

We also re-visited our personality differences.  While working, tim, being a big picture person, could not stop thinking of the next steps after the sandblasting was done.  Some new plaster/mud, plywood on the floor.  I could see his point but I, being a non-big picture person, didn’t want to think about it right then.  I just wanted the h-e-double hockey sticks to be finished.  And, of course, tim is correct – there is plenty more to do.  In fact YA has added to the chore list by doing some wood fill on the window panes.  And I broke two windows doing some clean up so now there will be some new glass and glazing.  And most of the other windows need re-glazing as well. 

But even with all the work left, I feel completely renewed by how much we got done in two afternoons with a sandblaster.  And even if you don’t think I need to tell you, I will anyway.  There is no way on the planet that I could have accomplished this by myself.

So my hat is off to tim.  He is a miracle-worker and a life-saver.

Has anybody worked a miracle for you lately?

My Favorite Insects

Having a lot of flowers and vegetable plants to care for has been a relief in some ways lately, since it has kept me outside the house and off my phone looking at news feeds and becoming more and more despondent. Between drought, excessive heat, the pandemic and all the associated idiocy, Afghanistan, and US politics, it has been a heart-heavy summer.

The other morning I was turning the sprinkler on the dahlias when I saw a perfect dragonfly perched on the fence. I like dragonflies. We only see them here when it is sufficiently humid. It is sometimes humid here in the early morning. I love the way they tear around. I also like hummingbird moths and their imitation of hummingbirds. They are a rare sight here, too. I saw a Tiger Swallow tail last weekend, and that always cheers me up. On the rare nights it has been cool enough to have the windows open and the AC off, I even have enjoyed hearing the crickets, unless they are frogs, but I think they are crickets.

What are your favorite insects? How to you cope with bad news? How can you tell a frog call from a cricket chirp?

Hey, Hey Straw

To wrap up the oat harvest, let me explain test weight and pricing.

There isn’t a big market for oats, so they won’t take the oats if the quality is a little low. By ‘Quality’ I mean if it isn’t at least 32 lbs test weight (That’s the ‘standard’ weight of a bushel of the product. 56lbs for corn, 60 lbs for soybeans, 32lbs for oats). The weight can vary depending on a lot of things; moisture content of the crop, the weather as it grew, the variety, ect. The market price is based on that weight though, so if it’s low, we don’t get paid the full amount because while we deal with the crops in volume (the trucks and wagons it takes to get it hauled in), we’re paid by the bushel. If your corn sample only tests 50 lbs, then it takes more corn to get to 52 lbs and we get docked for the low TW.

My oats samples tested 38 and 39 lbs. The truck is heavier, which means it takes less grain to make 32 lbs so I get more bushels on the truck. But no bonus for being Over TW.

Price this year was $3.58 / bushel at the Elgin elevator (which is closest so most of the oats went there) but they were full so the last of the oats went to another elevator and it was $3.71 there. Heck; if I’d known that I’d have taken it all to that second place!

Remember; hay is something animals will eat; it contains nutrients. Straw is just an empty stalk; there’s not much nutritional value in straw.

Baling straw; it went pretty well this year. No problems.

It might take a while to get the baler working right; get the rust off it, so to speak. I like to bale straw; it’s light and the bales are easy to throw around.

I broke a shear bolt just after starting; a ‘shear bolt’ is protection against something bad happening. It might simply be overloaded or it might be a safety feature against something catastrophic. But sometimes they just wear out. That was the case here.

This shear bolt hooks the baler flywheel to the hydraulic pump for the baler kicker and sometimes it just fails. Then the kicker looses it’s oomph.

In the old days, Clyde and my dad had to have someone on the wagon to catch the bales coming off the baler and stack them on the wagon. I was about 10 years old when Dad bought a kicker baler which ‘kicks’ the bales into the wagon. Less manpower needed. Course, getting them back out is a little more trouble.

In 1993, we hosted 2 men from Russia for a few days. They were here as part of an exchange program with the Farm Bureau. They didn’t speak English, but they had a Russian / English dictionary and we had a good time doing hand gestures. I was baling hay and they rode in the wagon and insisted on stacking the bales as they flew in there from the baler. I tried to stop them; warning them this was dangerous and not to get hit by one. They assured me it was fine and kept stacking. And it’s a wonderful thing; so much easier to unload when they’re stacked, plus I get more bales on the wagon. I’ve been stacking a few ever since. Just the bottom row or two, and a ‘wall’ at the front to help keep the bales in the wagon.

The kicker part of the baler rotates left and right. That allows me to throw a bale in the wagon even when making a corner. And there’s a power adjustment to kick the bale just a little bit or kick it real hard! The average is 3 or 4. It goes to 8, I haven’t had to use it that high unless I’m kicking it all the way over the wagon just for fun. Because the power is based on weight, kicking to the back of the 16’ wagon only needs about 4. If the bales are so heavy it needs 6 or more, then they’re too wet to bale and I can’t even pick them up.

Up or down hills changes that a bit… and making a corner when it kicks can still kick it over the side. All in all, it’s kinda fun.

Here’s what it looks like from the tractor cab.

I’m watching my left mirror as that shows the back of the baler and I can tell the bale is good (not missing a string) and I can see most of the wagon. The right mirror shows the row going into the pick up.

Here’s three loads in the shed.

A few weeks ago we talked about backing up wagons. Here’s what it looks like to back up a wagon into the shed:

You need to trust yourself about what’s behind you.

I had about 200 straw bales left in the barn. I baled 612 (there’s a mechanical counter on the baler; each time it ties a knot, it trips the counter). 166 bales (one stacked load) went to the neighbors for their strawberry patch. He’ll use it for cover this fall. The other 446 went in the pole barn. I unloaded one load by myself; back the wagon into the barn, toss a bunch out, get out and stack them, toss a bunch more out. It’s not too hard when the stack is low. It’s too much work once up about two rows.

My brother came out; he helped me get the elevator set up and then he and I unloaded the last two loads. The cows came to watch me.

Here my brother is trying to figure out how to start the load

Here comes a bale destined for VS’s garden next spring.

A clean field and the last bale are welcome sights.

I didn’t need anymore small square bales this year so I hired a neighbor to make round bales from the rest of the straw.

 I’ll sell them to the neighbor with the cows.

I’ve left off the tractor that inexplicable died. (turned out to be the coil wire). And the dead battery in the other tractor. And the post that has somehow twisted a bit so now the gate doesn’t swing in AND out anymore, so I have to take it off to get the elevator put up.

I did get the hitch welded back on the elevator so that’s one thing.

And I got the second show open.

And time to cut grass again.

Hey! “Straw is cheaper, Grass is free. Buy a farm and you get all three.”

So? “Sew Buttons on a balloon, you’ll get a bang out of it.”

What’s your favorite sarcastic reply phrase?

Overcoming Adversity

Early in this blog’s history, we had a contributor who wrote exceedingly well and who was excited about life and his role in the world. His name is Aaron. Aaron was a reader and regular commentator in those early years.

This week, Dale Connelly, the founder of this blog, contacted me and Sherrilee about posting some writing by Aaron’s sister, Jessica. Dale commented:

“Aaron has multiple disabilities and gets around primarily in a powered wheelchair.  You may have seen him at some of the State Fair shows back in the day.  His family is organizing a Zoom event next Saturday, (August 7) to premiere a short (55 minute) documentary about Aaron and the difficult decisions his family faced when he was born.  The event is also a fundraiser to gather money to replace Aaron’s accessible van, his primary form of transportation.” 

We thought this was a great topic for a post. I have communicated with both Aaron and his sister, and this is how Aaron describes himself:

Aaron Westendorp is a musician, online variety music show host, and a self-advocate in Hopkins, Minnesota, who uses a communication device. Aaron has a brain stem lesion which causes spastic quadriparesis, a partial paralysis from the eyes down.  He still has a independent life and a fun personality.

The following is a heartfelt statement from his sister, Jessica Westendorp:

I could have written a different speech every day this year, that’s how many different feelings I have about Aaron and growing up with Aaron. I have humorous, light, jovial speeches, and dark, scary, cynical speeches that underscore Aaron’s evil side. Just kidding. Aaron doesn’t really have an evil side. That Aaron is a bright light, most of you already know. He has always been a calm being, open and waiting for whatever the next step might be. The only time I can remember Aaron loosing his cool was for a brief period in the 5th grade when math and after school studies pushed him to desperation and low lows. He got angry. In that time there was a moment when Aaron looked at me and sighed and it was if he said to me, “so…this is how it is”. And then, he was fine again, calm, collected, open and ready to keep going.

Aaron is disabled. I know this is news to you. It’s hard to see the disability when there is so much AARON to see. But, in case you didn’t get the memo, he is special, differently abled, challenged, a short bus super kid. Other words that were used on him were Duke, Duker, King of Kids, and because there is only so much wonder and excitement I can allow to follow him around, he is also a bratty kid brother.

Aaron’s disability was large. It was another person in the family always taking all of the resources and lightness out of anything. Trips to anywhere were filled with, “but are there curb cutouts? Can he fit through the door? Are there steps inside? Will we need to ask for special help maneuvering or accessing the bathroom?” And then, the weight of carrying all emergency equipment and healthcare needs with him. The backpack needed to be packed and repacked. He needed help with shoes and jacket. He needed to be loaded into the van and tied down. Then Jill and i would translate his finger spelling, “why don’t we go on more family outings?”

I feel heavy and angry re-living that. It was not glamorous. but, the humor helps. One time, when we were all tired and in a long stint of hard times, Mom and Aaron, and Jill went to Burlington Coat Factory. They got out of the van after parking in the handicapped spot. As my mom walked away from the van someone snarked about her use of the handicapped parking spot. Used to public perception often being askew there would usually be a kind reference to my brother or ignoring the problem. On this day my mom said, in her voice we all know as the “mom is not in a great place voice”, “WE ARE HANDICAPPED!”. “we”. “are”. “handicapped”. We are not, and yet, we are and the clashing perceptions combined with the fatigue of it all was the hilarity. And then, there were the helpers. The nurses and PCAs were there ALL THE TIME. Whether they wanted to be or not, they became part of the fabric of our family. They may remember us as a job. I remember them being in my home, sharing a space, and I remember processing my life in front of them. Like any family members some were super duper cool and others, we’ll say, clashed with our brand of special. But, they were there. They helped support the constant needs. Food prep. treatments, mobility, translation. My favorite of these people were those that understood the need to keep the light, the humor, and the irony alive, even and especially when I could not find these.

This all must have been so different for my parents. They had a childhood, a million years before and now they had the weight of this adulthood that they finessed and juggled and braved with faces of intensity and love. But for Jill, Aaron, and I this was our childhood. The pieces of it leave deep impressions. The shiny medical equipment, the smells of medicine, the short quick pace of a nurse who is tasked all become your normal. I will always be a force of quiet, deep love, forever broken by the immensity of daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly struggles that are inexplicable in this speech. I am full of gratitude and am privileged to have learned so much, but due to broken perceptions and realities faced and viewed often, I will also carry a force of anger, always, a deep understanding of disparity and injustice.

Thank you for showing up. Thank you for loving the little brother i worked hard to push and challenge. Thank you for loving this guy who I prayed for, who was surrounded by the light of many prayers. Thank you for knowing that there is no clear narrative here, only people with real needs, hopes, and aspirations all in real time. 

Here is the hyperlink to the video regarding Aaron.

Who do you know who has overcome adversity? How did they do it? How have you overcome adversity?

Lending a Hand

On Saturday morning, Husband and I were in the garden preparing to remove our spent peas plants and the wooden frames we had erected for the peas to grow on, when the 5 year old plant scientist from next door asked if he could help us pull weeds. We said of course he could, so over he came, and began pulling pea vines out of the ground and manfully carrying armloads of them to the garbage bag Husband held open. Of course, any time we spied a viable pod we shelled it and gave him the peas to eat.

Our young friend loves to help us in the garden, and wants to know everything about the plants. He has shown an intense interest in gardening since we met him when he was 3. I explained that the white dust accumulating on our clothes was powdery mildew from the pea vines. He alerted me to the presence of flea beetles in the kohlrabi. He took great delight in the small green caterpillars he found where the pea roots had been. We then searched for butterflies in the Cone Flowers, and I reminded him that he and his sister were welcome to come over and pick the red currants from our bushes. We predict he will become a horticulturist at a major university.

Later in the day, his mother decided it was time to clean the small storage shed in their back yard, and his father had him pick up small twigs and branches from the front lawn. He was far less happy doing that than helping us. Husband commented that it is always more fun helping adults who aren’t your parents.

Who were the adults you liked to help when you were a child? What were your most disliked chores at home?

Dee

Unlike my mother, whose best friend is someone she has known since kindergarten, I don’t have any friends from childhood.  We moved many times before I was in high school, never in one place long enough to make any relationships last.  I had friends in high school but going away to college in Minnesota and basically never coming back stretched and broke those ties.  

I left college after two years and started my life (as I used to say) in Northfield, so I could be near my boyfriend.  My second job in Northfield was at the brand new Ole Piper Inn and that’s where I met Dee (names changed to protect the innocent).  Although the job only lasted about 10 months before the Inn closed down, it was long enough to cement our friendship.  When Dee moved to the Ole Store, I went with her: she was the manager and short-order cook, I was the baker and occasional waitress. 

Dee is originally from the southern part of the country and hates the cold weather.  Most mornings I would pick her up on the way to the store (I had a car by then) and even with a short ride, she would come out of her house bundled up as if she was expecting to trek across Antarctica.  She always said she was waiting for her youngest two kids (she has five) to graduate so she could flee the frozen tundra.  Of course she is still here 45 years later.

We had a great time at the Ole Store.  The Ole Store was part of a grocery store/butcher shop and sometimes we’d come in to find various chunks of meat in the restaurant fridge that needed to be used up.  Once the owner left moose meat.  We were joking around, trying to figure out what to do with it and I said (without thinking), “what about spaghetti and moose balls?”  Dee laughed so hard that her side hurt and she had to sit down.  Do this day, I can reduce her to a puddle just by saying “moose balls”.

When I married my wasband and moved to Milwaukee, Dee used to be startled into silence whenever he answered the phone, since he had never picked up the phone in my Northfield apartment.  Once he answered the phone, said nothing for a minute and then handed me the phone…. “It’s Dee.”   It was indeed, although she hadn’t identified herself.  He told me later than whenever there was silence, he knew it was her.  When we were first friends, she referred to wasband as the Greg-Person.  Later she shortened that to GP.

For many years Dee and her youngest son worked at the Renaissance Festival every fall and it was always fun to see them.  She did a wonderful costume for Child with lots of petticoats and ribbons.  And or course, she knew everybody so we always got good food at a great discount.  I made the wedding cake for this son when he got married.

Her family has a timeshare in Florida that they visit every summer and Dee’s favorite way to travel is to fill up the van with kids and grandkids and drive straight through.  When YA was younger, she was included a couple of times. 

Dee reminds me a lot of my mother.  She is extraordinarily caring and she “collects” people.  Once you fall into her orbit, her gravity holds you there.  For example, one of her daughters was married for a few years and had a step-daughter.  When the daughter split up with the husband, the step-daughter came to live with Dee.  Now that step-daughter has kids of her own and they all happily refer to Dee as Grandma.  Dee’s life is filled with stories like this.  I am one of her collect-tees and she has always been there for me.

She’s going through a very rough time right now with a diagnosis that will most likely shorten her life so I’ve been thinking about our long friendship and how much I treasure her.

Who is the friend you’ve had the longest?