Category Archives: Uncategorized

Socially Distant Strawberries

The alarm clock went off at the crack of dawn.  The woman who answered the phone at the berry farm the day before had said that they had been very busy the first week that the strawberries were ready for picking.  (I guess strawberries are the new toilet paper.)  I wanted to be there when they opened so threw on my shorts and shirt and got a move on.

The berry farm was doing a good job with the covid restrictions: everyone got a good spray of sanitizer on their hands before and after going into the field, masks were strongly encouraged, containers brought from home were strictly forbidden and they put us in every other row of berries.  And we were told in no uncertain terms that this year we could not sample berries as we picked.   I had thought I would be irritated by wearing a mask while picking berries, but soon my knees and ankles took my mind off it.  It was a beautiful morning and I found that none of the restrictions bothered me at all – although I will admit that with folks in every other row, I wasn’t able to eavesdrop on other folks’ berry patch conversations like usual!

The berries were great and I managed to overfill my two flats just as I got to the end of my row.  Having gotten there so early, I got home early and had 14 jars of jam and 8 quarts of frozen berries processed by 10:30!  I had been worried that the pandemic would wreck my annual strawberry routine, but the berry farm did a great job of getting safely on with business!

When was the last time you set your alarm clock?  Do you even HAVE an alarm clock?  What kind?

Mass Hysteria

I news clip caught my eye yesterday about incidents of hysterical dancing that broke out in Germany in the 1300’s.  Men and women started to dance, and were unable to stop.  Others  joined them. The dancers rarely stopped to eat or sleep for days and sometimes weeks.  They did not appear happy to be dancing, but they didn’t stop. Outbreaks of this dancing continued through out the Middle Ages.  It was sometimes called St. John’s Dance, and, later, St. Vitus Dance and the Tarantella. There are theories that it was caused by ergot poisoning, but that is still up for debate. Other theories attribute it to living in stressful times. It seemed to die out with the advent  of Protestantism.

There was a modern outbreak of hysterical laughing  in 1962 in a girls’ mission school  in Tanganyika which eventually affected  around 1000 people in the surrounding community for 18 months.

Given the stressful time we are living in, I started to wonder what sort of mass hysteria might we see occurring. I thought it would be nice to see mass recycling or picking up litter and trash.  Unstoppable acts of kindness would be refreshing as well.

What mass hysteria would you like to see? Have you ever been “hysterical”?

What Party Do You Belong To?

Husband started volunteering  at the local food bank on Thursdays, and was asked rather pointedly by another volunteer what political party he belonged to.  The questioner was a disabled Gulf War Veteran who was rather unhappy with the possibility of a George Floyd protest march at the local mall, and who was supportive of the local bikers who surrounded our mall to make sure there wasn’t any destruction or looting. (It was the most peaceful, non-eventful happening our town has seen.)  Husband answered, quite brilliantly I thought, that he was a member of the Lutheran Party and Lutheran Tribe. That seemed to puzzle the questioner, but ended the discussion. If asked the same question, I suppose I would say I was a New Deal Democrat, but I don’t know how many younger people would know what that meant. I am so proud of the questioner to be volunteering at the food bank, no matter what his political persuasion. I am dismayed to think that he would judge someone on the basis of their answer.

What party do you belong to?  Be creative.

What To Read Right Now

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown.

When Toni Morrison died on August 5th last summer, I was amazed to realize I’d never read anything by this Pulitzer (and Nobel!) Prize winning author. Then I watched, on CBS Sunday Morning, and excerpt from an NPR interview, and promptly read three of her books to get a sampling of her writing. They were not an easy read.

What I’ve realized in the past few weeks is that, while I’ve heard myself say I love to read about women’s lives (and lately some men’s, too), I’ve read precious few books about black women’s lives, most by Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker – either fiction or memoirs. There have been tons of posts on FB, etc., about what it is like to be African-American in this country (not to mention Native, Hispanic, Asian) – stories that try to explain what the term “white privilege” means, and I think I’m just beginning to understand.

Something  PJ said the other day on the Trail spoke to me:  “At the moment I’m immersed in learning more about American history, race relations, politics, and the changing vocabulary and strategies that have been used over time to divide us along racial, economic, and political lines. I’d much rather be doing something else, but it feels as if it’s my civic duty to be as informed as I can be so I can better understand what’s going on all around us.”

To that end, I’ve ordered James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, after hearing a conversation about him with MPR’s Angela Davis. I came upon this “Anti-Racist Lit. Starter Kit.”

It can be argued that we need to do much more than try to fix it by “throwing a book at it”. But like PJ, educating myself is what I can do right now.

Do you have any recommendations for books we could read right now, to further understand what needs to change in our culture?

Knuckleheads and Knuckle Balls

Husband had been so hopeful.  The two libraries in town (Public and University) had been closed until two weeks ago.  The Public Library opened “appointment only”  and he ordered a classic, 1930’s book from inter-library loan about the history of the Great Plains. He has been reading it this week and is pretty happy about it.  He was hoping this was a sign that things were returning to normal.

The COVID-19 numbers had not increased in our county for about three weeks, with a total of 63 as of last Sunday.  That was until yesterday,  when it went up two. It went up because there is this baseball league in town in which young adult players come from other parts of the country, live in sponsor homes, and play baseball all summer. Well, an 18 year old player from Oklahoma came up Sunday, was feeling ill on Monday, and he and one more person tested positive for the virus. Now, all the players and hosts  and their families are being tested. The rest are all negative as of yesterday, but we will have a couple of weeks of continuous testing to see if it has spread. This is frustrating.

How do you think reopening should occur?  How are you doing with precautions?  What will be a sign to you that things are returning to normal?

Successful Combinations

In 1892, on this date, macadamia nuts were first planted in Hawaii.  They are native to Australia. This was a rather a successful combination, and Hawaii was a leader in macadamia nuts until South Africa took over that role in 2010.

I am not a great fan of macadamias, preferring pecans and pistachios.  When I think about successful combinations, I think about hazelnuts in Oregon, wine grapes in France, and potatoes in Ireland. I suppose there could be successful combinations with people, too, such as Julia Child in Paris.

What is your favorite nut? What are some successful combinations that you can think of?

Hilling Up the Potatoes

We decided to try something different in the garden this year, and are mounding dirt up to almost the top inches of the potato  plants. I don’t remember any of my relatives doing this, but we have seen others do it, and decided to give it a try.  It is supposed to increase your potato  yield. The guys in husband’s Friday morning Bible study were pretty skeptical when he told them about it, but just the other day I drove past a garden where someone had done it. I suppose it would be difficult  to do if you had a whole lot of potato plants, but we only have eight hills, so it is doable.

The garden is coming along pretty well, although it has been battered by the relentless southeast winds we had lately. We need rain.  There are a couple of errant bunnies who are leaving all the greens alone.  I keep my eye on them, as do the dogs who live in the  on three sides of our house.

Given all the recent weirdness, stress, and uproar in the world, I would rather stay home and  pull weeds all day instead of go to work. Gardening is a refuge right now

How is your garden coming along? How are you coping?

Bloomsday

Happy June 16th, Baboons!  It is Bloomsday, the day that Ulysses was set. I have to admit I read that book several decades ago and couldn’t  make sense of it. I am tempted to reread it now, as I think I have some added maturity to “get” what Joyce was trying to say.  We will have to see about that. It may be as incomprehensible as it was the first time I tried to read it in my 20’s. I have really enjoyed hearing recitations of Ulysses on Bloomsday, as it seems to be more accessible when it is read aloud.

What are your experiences with James Joyce’s works? What do you reread?

Buttering Toast Is Hard

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

Buttering toast is hard

It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but it is. In order to butter your toast properly, you need to get the butter on IMMEDIATELY after it comes out of the toaster so it’s still piping hot and the butter will soak into the bread. But also, when doing that, depending how soft your butter is, it will disappear before you’ve covered much of the bread and you may end up using more butter than is really healthy to use to butter your toast.

I remember my father in law being at our house. There was maybe 2 tablespoons of butter on the tray and I was getting another stick out of the fridge. He pointed out the butter on the tray and I said that wasn’t going to be enough and he had quite a fuss about that. To which his daughter pointed out if we were at their house, he would have used a lot more butter than that too.

But ever since, I’m very self-conscious about how much butter I’m using on my toast. (The whole issue of whether butter is good for you or not set aside for the moment.)

Because we don’t have AC in our house and the butter stays on the counter next to the stove, the consistency of the butter changes by season. Winter it’s nicely firm, but soft enough to spread on bread or pancakes or whatever. Summer it’s generally soft, but it might be right on the verge of melted – if not actually softened into a puddle. And trying to butter your toast with that is just a mess.

Course if you keep your butter in the fridge, well, that’s a whole nother story. And if frozen, all bets are off. Then it’s just a mess with slivers of butter and randomly spotty buttered toast.

Ever tried to soften butter in the microwave? We have the button to do 30 seconds, which I use often, because you don’t have to do the full 30.

I’ve tried just a few seconds and then roll the stick over to a new side. I’ve tried higher power and turning more… There’s a very fine line between cold, soft, and melted. A line of about 1.5 seconds.

Does your toaster toast evenly? Ours does one of the two slices fairly evenly but the second slice toasts one side but not the other. So when the first piece is done I flip the second around and toast the other side of the second piece while I butter the first. But that’s only the first two pieces of toast. If I make 2 more pieces, side Two of the second will be a little more brown. But don’t forget to turn the level down or piece One will burn.

There is a play called ‘True West’ by Sam Shepard. Part of the show involves one character breaking into homes and stealing toasters. What we see onstage is the next morning with a dozen toasters spread around the kitchen. When I worked on that production, part of the issue was toasters take a lot of power and simply having enough power to run all the toasters involved extension cords from all over the theater. Well, not to mention, finding a dozen toasters. But for several years after that, no one involved had to purchase a toaster; we just went and got another one from the props room. And it gave me a line I’ve never forgotten when another character finally says “What is this bull**** with toast!?”

Waffles or pancakes for you?

Summer Sleep Outs

I was out in the garden weeding after work yesterday  when  the children from next door came over to help me. (They were remarkably helpful and pulled all the right weeds and none of the vegetables.) They were so excited to tell me that they were sleeping in the back yard in a tent with their dad  that night. Sure enough, there was a tent in the back yard with sleeping bags and pillows.  We did the same with our children in the back yard. It was so much fun!

I have the fondest memories of outdoor summer sleeping in various venues-with cousins, with friends, with my dad. What a wonderful thing to do!

What are your Summer sleeping-out memories? What are other Summer night memories?