By Sammy Wight
Photos from the WightHouse, and our newest addition to the household. Our First Beehive.
Our Bees are a mixed breed of Carniolan, Russian, and Italian. They are very calm and have great temperament. Only the Italian Bees are a bit more calm than ours. They seem to be happy here. We have had them since last Thursday. They reside in our orchard. Our Nuc had 4 pounds of Bees in it, with one Queen. Hopefully she will be busy and lay lots of babies, and we will have an extra 200+ bees a day born. We won’t harvest honey this year, but next year we should be able to extract up to 90 lbs.
We are underway with out Dandelion Wine with Champagne Yeast, Plain Mead, Sweet Mead, and still have Blackberry, and Elderberry to go yet. Eydie made herself some Lemonbalm wine that she loves. Not my cup o’ tea. Eydie’s brother is supposed to be posting stories and photos to our “WIGHWAY PRESS” SITE, but i haven’t seen any lately, just keep an eye out for it. More adventures to follow.
By Donna Dell’Aglio and Michael Townsend
Michael and I are committed city dwellers. We appreciate the many advantages that a large metropolitan area provides. It is wonderful to visit world class museums, hang out with exotic creatures at the Maryland Zoo or National Aquarium, catch a professional baseball game, or explore culinary treats of the many cultures that comprise our city. Mike is profoundly disabled and we are also grateful for the close proximity of outstanding medical care, accessible public transportation, and a range of other supports that would be impossible to find in a more rural setting.
Still, something almost intangible is missing… We yearn for a taste of a quieter, gentler life. Despite all of our great urban advantages, we are a bit envious of our friends who enjoy life in the country. Oh, to have a garden (or even a yard) of our own! We dream of all things country: tending to the land and raising fresh vegetables, collecting farm fresh eggs, making jams or jellies with my own fruit, beekeeping, observing local wildlife. We often read Eydie’s blog with a certain amount of envy.
Over the past several years, Michael and I have attempted to infuse some aspects of country living into our city lifestyle. Often, we fail… Determined to have our own fresh veggies, we planted a container garden on our patio. Wonderful concept, but just about everything went wrong. We planted tomatoes — easy enough, I thought. We bought roomy containers with a nice drainage system. Procured top-of-the-line soil. Researched and obtained the finest quality seeds especially suitable for container gardening…
Mike and I were happy as we envisioned a robust garden and bountiful harvest. Even happier was Kathy, Mike’s service monkey from Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled. Little did we know that monkeys like to garden.They love to explore the soil, dig, catch bugs etc. Hey, Kathy thought we were setting up this garden just for her enjoyment.
Well, despite all of our efforts, the results were disastrous. Everything started well. Our plants appeared to be sturdy.They grew and grew — then stopped growing only to sprout mutant little tomatoes that seemed to become infected with some kind of fungus. Our pepper plants failed to become pollinated (I think — we had lots of flowers but no baby peppers). It was a sad experience — far from the beautiful, lush plants that I had envisioned. Over the course of several months, we managed to kill off a small herb garden and our flowers just wilted.
We grieved the loss of our plants and wondered what to do. We are committed to healthy eating and we really wanted to grow our own foods — even just a few. It seems like such a healthy and wholesome activity. And I am convinced that gardening is good for the soul on a deeper level. I love this quote from Thomas Moore:
So, we wondered what to do. Everyone seemed to have a theory to explain the demise of our tiny garden. Fear undermined our attempts to try container gardening a second time. We didn’t want to become serial killers…
Still desiring a taste of fresh fruits and veggies, we researched our options. Traveling to our nations capital, Mike and I toured the White House gardens. We had the opportunity to stroll past the Kennedy Garden of the East Wing and the famous Rose Garden just outside of the Oval Office. We wandered though the Children’s Garden where the hand and foot impressions of all the White House children and grandchildren line the floral walkways. Finally, we found our inspiration: the First Lady’s Victory Garden! Right in the heart of downtown Washington DC is an example of what can be achieved — a productive and healthful garden in the context of a urban environment. (Yes, we can!)
Now we knew what we could explore. Mike and I returned to Baltimore to find a bountiful garden within the city supported by like-minded folks. Community Supported Agriculture! Did you know that there are gardens sprinkled throughout our city? Plots of land worked by neighbors! Growing veggies and growing friendships. Making a positive difference in our community as well as our larger world. What a sensible and eco-friendly concept.
Just down the road from us, we discovered our farm, our garden, our slice of the earth to tend. The Cromwell Valley Park is a municipal park created from three former farms. Today, Cromwell Valley offers “an educational, hands-on CSA experience”. In addition to the weekly share of freshly picked, delicious, certified organic vegetables and fruits made available to members throughout the season, an incredible “U-Pick” garden packed with a wide variety of culinary and medicinal herbs, flowers, peas, beans, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries is also open to members. An on-site flock of rare breed chickens provide the highest quality pastured eggs, which are available for purchase at CSA pickup in limited quantity. The CSA also serves as a demonstration farm for students, farmers and the general public, with many educational programs offered over the course of the season. The Cromwell Valley CSA is a not for profit organization managed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The farmer and farm staff live and work in the beautiful Cromwell Valley Park near Towson, surrounded by abundant wildlife and many hiking trails. The land is protected from development by the Maryland Environmental Trust. Picnic tables with sweeping vistas of fields and woodlands make it an ideal site for picnics and nature walks.”
WOW! What more could Mike and I want? We pay a fee as well and provide sweat equity. Community Supported Agriculture is an intelligent and healthy alternative. Presto! We have a garden — a garden for our bodies and our souls.
By Eydie Wight
Well, here it is midnight and I’m sitting on the couch with the laptop, in my pajamas (I am in my pajamas, not the laptop) Futurama is on TV, and I’m sipping on a glass of Lemon Balm wine. I made a small run of this wine on a whim at the end of last summer, eight bottles total, and I have to admit it’s become my favorite. Lemon balm, also called “Melissa”, is a square-stemmed aromatic herb in the mint family. It’s leaves, fresh or dried, make good tea, especially iced tea. In the summer, whenever I go out, I crush a few leaves between my fingers and then roll them along my arms. The scent is fresh, vaguely citrusy, and mildly minty. I get several cuttings throughout the late spring and up until the first frost from about a one foot by two foot bed on the side of the house. The plant is said to have a mild sedative action, and I’m not sure if it’s that or the alcohol content, but I feel pretty mellow. It was a good day today.
I picked dandelions for my second run of dandelion wine. This is the first wine of the year that I make.
(Sidebar. I fell asleep shortly after the first paragraph last night, and have now, after coffee, resumed. As I am typing here I am interrupted every few minutes by a thud or series of thuds against the bedroom window. We have this kamikaze bird who sees either the reflection of “his” tree in the window, or sees the reflection of himself in the window and thinks it’s another bird in his tree. It repeatedly bangs into the window. I would think by now the poor thing has brain damage, it’s been hitting the window MANY TIMES a day, starting shortly after dawn, for over a week. I just got the bird book to find out what kind of bird this birdbrain is. So much for animals learning and adapting for survival of the fittest. Thud. There he goes again.)
Anyway, I picked dandelions today while Sammy mowed the lawn. He had to leave the areas where I was picking until the last, and since I seem to wander blithely with my bucket in hand from patch to patch, he must have looked like a drunken sailor weaving around in the yard. It takes about a gallon and a half of dandelion heads for one gallon of wine, and I usually pick enough for two gallons at a time. If you have dandelions like WE have dandelions, that takes about an hour and a half. I went out in the afternoon. Dandelions have to be picked when the flowers are fully opened to the sun. Otherwise they are full of bugs. Although these bugs ARE edible, for the most part, they can make the wine have a bitter flavor. So, if the flowers heads are open, the bugs will either leave when you start to pick, or you can flick or tap them off.
There are many methods to picking dandelions. I’ll share mine with you. It involves beer. My favorite apparel is a pair of very baggy shorts and Sammy’s Blind Melon t-shirt. I stole the shirt from him and cut the neck and sleeves out. The front of it is printed with the picture of the little bee girl from the “No Rain” video. That girl looks just like me at that age. (Hey! Brother John here… I would love to see a picture of you in your dandelion gear!) I never had the cool bee costume (wish I had, I’d have worn it every day) but I did have a black and yellow striped shirt that I appear in several pictures wearing. I also pick dandelions barefoot. Cool breezes and tender spring lawns are meant for bare feet. The only equipment needed is your hands, a bucket, and a can of beer. I use a bucket that has gallon lines marked on it. I tend to use a six gallon bucket because it’s tall enough to use like a walker when I’ve been picking awhile. Some people sit to pick, and I do at times. In fact, last week when I picked my first batch of dandelions in the 82 degree heat, I did sit. I’d pick everything I could reach, stretching out further and further until I was lying on the grass. Then I discovered that if I just rolled to the next patch it was much less bother than getting up to relocate. That worked fine, for about seven rolls. The last time I had apparently parked myself on a red ant hill. Little devils put me on the afternoon banquet menu. So today I would lean on my bucket walker and pick one-handed. I sat the beer on the arm of the glider-rocker that looks down over the grassy slope where the dandelions grow the thickest. Every fifteen minutes or so I would work my way back up to the rocker, sit down, sip a little beer, and just enjoy the day.
There were blooms everywhere. Tulips and some late daffodils and hyacinths in the cultivated beds and pansies in the flower box. Dandelions, violets, speedwell, grape hyacinth, forsythias, lilac, redbud, crabapple, cherry blossoms, and ground ivy. The Wisteria trees are covered with bloom buds. This is the first year the white wisteria will bloom.
While relaxing, I can sometimes hear a hawk pair that court in the skies (and will later raise their family in a nest somewhere up on the ridge). And always there is the sounds of songbirds, the air is full of chirps, coos, and warbles.
I have been so tickled this spring to see my friends, the Italian Honeybees, out and about in the yard. Not in as great a number as they were two years ago, but last year there were next to none and I worried about them. I always let the honeybees go first when I’m picking dandelions. I watch them and sometimes have little conversations with them or sing to them, or follow one from patch to patch. My honeybees will be arriving later this spring. The hive is painted a lovely Bahama green and ready to set on its chimney block foundation up in the back of the six tree orchard.
Thud. The crazy bird is back.
I have a couple of whimsical rules when I pick dandelions. I try to pick at least a few flowers from all over the yard. That way the wine will reflect home. I never pick all the flowers from a patch, leaving some to go to seed. That way the wine will reflect bounty. I’ve picked thousands of dandelions, and there are still thousands more. And no two are ever exactly alike. Cool! As I picked today my hands become so full of pollen I left yellow hand prints on the bucket. A couple of the bumblebees I saw had such loaded pollen baskets they could hardly lift off from flower to flower.
After I finished picking the dandelions I took the bucket inside and let it sit while I made supper. That way, not only did I get supper made, I gave the flower heads time to close. Supper was venison chili and a simple dessert. Yummy. Once the supper dishes were done Sammy and I sat down to cut the stems off each dandelion flower head. Some people leave the stem bits attached, but I think the sap from the stems is bitter. We just grasp the now closed flower petals with one hand and cut the stem off at the base. The green “involucre” (a ring of small leaves, or bracts, at the base of a flower or flower cluster), is left on. You can pull the stem away with your fingers but I think cutting is easier. It takes about as long to prepare the flowers as it does to pick them. By that time Sammy and I were both getting tired. So we channel surfed while cutting and cutting and eventually settled on “Captain Ron.” After the heads were prepared I placed them in a bucket, poured in three quarts of boiling water to each gallon of heads, stirred the mess, and put the bucket lid on tightly. The mash will be stirred once a day for a week and kept covered. Then the process of adding the yeast, sugar, and lemon juice will begin.
Thud. Little bugger has to have a headache. He never knocks himself unconscious but the cats are starting to hang out under the tree.
I’d better finish this and try to fit in a few things before work tonight. Maybe play my fiddle a bit. I’ve been working on a Scottish version of “Amazing Grace” using drone tones. And trying to combine two versions of “Bill Cheatham” that I like. And I found a peppy little version of Bach’s Bourree in E minor. (Remember Jethro Tull’s version?) Or I might go for a jog. I should go for a jog. Okay. I will go for a jog!
Sunday Supper: My chili recipe is nothing special except that it uses ground venison (courtesy of Dad) to replace the ground beef, tomato juice Dad and I canned last summer, and a cup of finely diced young dandelion and chicory leaves from the yard. The chili needed a handful of mashed potato flakes to thicken it slightly and was served over brown rice and topped with cubed Colby cheese.
Dessert was easy. Mom made and froze a million zucchini breads last year in our never ending search for ways to preserve the summer squash harvest. I put a crumbled slice of zucchini bread in a small bowl and added a heaping spoon of chunky applesauce. I microwaved this for one minute. Then I added a big spoonful of vanilla yogurt and drizzled the top with cinnamon and honey.
By Eydie Wight
Well, here it is nearly 5:30 AM and another night has passed in work rather than blogging (I’m hearing wheezing, sneezing, and coughing in my after work sleep these days.). Brother John may have to post another yummy recipe while waiting for me to catch up. But, Sammy and I have the weekend off and I have a list. Writing a blog is on it. Somewhere near the top. Along with painting my beehive, filling out Roger‘s Fafsa form for college this fall, cooking the turkey that’s been in the freezer since Christmas, repairing Roger‘s hematite frog necklace for the fifth or sixth time, sending Uncle Dave a get well card, sending Uncle Mike a very huge thank you for doing our taxes, moving the old refrigerator out to the shed so the work on finishing the basement can continue next week and, of course, the usual weekend dusting and vacuuming, laundry and litter box detail. I may hold off on single-handedly solving the national recession until next week. Ditto world peace.
Sammy and I plan to sleep most of today, then go to coffeehouse tonight. We’ve been working on the song “Good Riddance” by Green Day and I thought maybe we would have it ready, but we both had a few days of feeling a bit peaked this week and I didn’t have enough time to get my part comfortable. Sammy does the singing and plays guitar throughout and could walk on stage with five minutes practice. I have two measures here, three or four there, and a little chording at the end, but my fiddle has a HUGE problem with stage fright so we’d better practice some more. I do plan to read a few of my poems. Our usual coffeehouse has a nice mix of musicians, poets, and storytellers. I think I’ll read “Street Busker of Her Heart” and “The Musician’s Wife.”
I think I mentioned in some of the Christmas posts that Santa brought me a “beginning beekeeper” kit. It came from the Dadant catalogue (making beekeeping a family tradition since 1863!) Ever since Sammy and I made our first batch of mead and started having conversations with beekeeper Dan I’ve been dreaming of honey bees, writing poems in their honor, and catching every show I can find on National Geographic and Animal planet about them. Last summer I discovered “wild” Italian honeybees in great numbers all over my flower beds and nearby wildflowers, and became fascinated with them. So, this year, Sammy and I are going to give beekeeping a try.
My “hobby kit #2” came un-assembled and contained two medium ten frame supers, an inner and outer top cover, and solid wood bottom board and some essential equipment. (Smoker, gloves, hive tool, feeder, beginner’s book, veil.) This was about $153.00. A little plug here for the Dadant catalogue. Not only does it offer everything a large scale beekeeper might need, but it also has equipment, cool bee factoids, and helpful hints and suggestions for us “newbees” (ha ha.)
I have to admit that my hive sat unassembled in it’s box until last week. It was only partly procrastination on my part. Sigh. Santa had also brought me several books on beekeeping. I made the mistake of starting to read the big flashy one with all the fancy expensive pictures (and I won’t mention it’s name ’cause I’m not going to be very complimentary.) The very first thing the author started opining about was that you should NEVER get an un-assembled hive to start out with because they take a rocket scientist to assemble, the instructions are lousy, the parts are never cut to fit, and it’s all “oh so off-putting.” And of course here I was with the unassembled hive. Then, as I read on, it was a never ending series of “you can’t do this, you can’t do that, people do it that way but that’s WRONG.” I know nothing about this author and she may be a pleasant enough person but boy, I was stressing before I got halfway through. I just didn’t want to read the section on foulbrood, hive beetles, varroa mites, tracheal mites, and wax moths BEFORE I read about joyful, happy, healthy hives. I want the “Joys of Beekeeping,” not the “Buzz about Bad Bee Bummers.”
So I agonized about the whole beekeeping idea for a nearly two months, and then did what I should have done from the start. I talked to beekeeper Dan. His advice was to “put that book down and start another.” He also said, in his gentle way, something that interpreted as, “You’re not an idiot, just sit down and put the darn hive together.” So I did. Both. Seeing as the Dadant catalogue had been my friend, I opened the book that had come with my beginner’s kit, “First Lessons in Beekeeping.” It started with POETRY. I was sold. And, Sammy and I sat down that night and in a few hours had the hive together. It was easy. Once all the pieces were laid out in matching groups, and the nails sorted, the diagrams made sense. We put the whole thing together on the living room coffee table with a minimum of mess. We put the whole thing together while watching “City Slickers” and drinking mead. I was in my pajamas. Putting together the frames with their foundation wax was just as easy, but a bit more time consuming as there are ten frames to a super and two supers. I did that the next day in about an hour and a half while watching CSI New York.
As I write this it’s now Saturday morning. Coffeehouse went well last night. It was a packed, appreciative house with a pretty even mix of musicians and poets, about a half dozen of each. I read three poems and received an official congratulations on my recent “specialty”award for a poem I had entered for our county’s annual poet laureate competition called “Winter Morning”. The poem was a villanelle. Now for those of you who aren’t into this stuff, maybe just skip this part. You’ll find It’s going to be boring. A villanelle is a highly structured poem consisting of 19 lines and only two different rhymes throughout. It has five tercets (three line stanzas) and one final quatrain (four lines.) The first and third lines all rhyme. The second lines all rhyme. In addition, the poem has two “power lines” that are used throughout the poem. They are the first and third lines of the first tercet. The first line becomes the third line of the second tercet, the third line becomes the third line of the third tercet and so on. The quatrain has the two power lines as the last lines of the poem. One of the most famous villanelles is Dylan Thomas‘ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.“
Well, I’m an “old hippie” free verse poet by nature. I don’t rhyme, it stresses me. But, like a dog with a bone, I had to try this villanelle thing if for no other reason than the gauntlet had been laid down before me. So for weeks I agonized. At first I tried this Celtic story of murder, kidnapping, betrayal. My power lines were “‘Tis naught but one left to tell the tale. With voice that falters and lips that pale.” I had rhymes of: tale, pale, fail, sail, ale, nail, jail and: greed, need, freed, bleed, deed, mead. Maybe it would have worked. But it made me crazy. Then I tried a magician story. I had: mage, stage, wage, page, cage, age, rage and: illusion, delusion, confusion, profusion, exclusion, occlusion. Again, though the possibility was there, it made me crazy. Finally, in the wee hours of the deadline day for the competition entries, as my friend Lynelle and I communicated with each other with increasingly frustrated and desperate e-mails, I put together an idea while I was standing at the kitchen window drinking coffee and waiting for dawn. It made me crazy. But, I agonized on and ended up hand delivering it to the arts council gallery with ten minutes to spare before the deadline, saying that it was “The worst piece of crap I’d ever written.” Go figure it would win. My villanelle experience is, I hope, laid to rest eternally.
Back to the Bees
I’d better finish this up soon so I can wake Sammy and we can go accomplish our daytime Saturday errands. Two of which are buying paint to paint the outside of my hive to weather proof it and calling Bjorn Apiaries to order “nucs” for beekeeper Dan and Sammy and I. A “nuc” or nucleus (I just love learning this new “beespeak.” I probably will get stuff wrong or misuse terms and I would appreciate being corrected by those more knowledgeable than I) is a good way to get started. It contains four or five frames of nurse bees, brood, food, and a queen which is introduced to the incipient colony. I wanted to order Italian bees (Apis mellifera ligustica) because that’s what my “wild” girls were that I enjoyed watching as they foraged on the property last year. I think this apiary may have only Russian Carniolan (Apis mellifera carnica) which is what beekeeper Dan wants. That may be a good idea in the long run as the Carnolians seem to be more resistant to some of the bad bee bummer mites. So much to learn!
I have learned that beekeeping is an up and coming area of interest. Those that were wholeheartedly into knitting and bead stringing the past couple of years, and gardening and canning last year, are looking at beekeeping. Any why not? Beekeeping (so I’ve been told and have read in numerous sources) is relatively inexpensive, relatively easy, less time consuming than most gardening, harvesting, canning experiences, and can be done in very little space. There are even New York City beekeepers who have rooftop hives and bees that co-exist with the flowers, musicians, homeless, and knock-off watch entrepreneurs of Central Park! Honey has long, and I mean like Biblical, ancient Egypt long, been a natural sweetener. It has medicinal uses for healing wounds that “modern medicine” has given up on. Honey makes mead, mead makes one happy, therefore (a little twisted Aristotle) honey makes one happy. I could go on and on extolling the virtues of honey, propolis, beeswax, and honey bee pollination services, but let me just end with some way cool facts I lifted from the Dadant catalogue:
- If honey bees ceased to exist today, about 1/3 of all the foods humans eat would disappear
- It would take one ounce of honey to fuel a bees flight around the world. The average honey bee will make about one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
- The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
- A honey bee visits 50-100 flowers during one collection trip.
And now I must get out of my pajamas, take Sammy to our favorite little restaurant “The Joyful Bakers” for breakfast as I promised, and get to the post office, hardware, and grocery store. The sun is shining, the sap is flowing in the maple trees (although I don’t think any of the neighbors have tapped their trees yet,) my tulips, daffodils, and surprise lilies have broken ground in the front flower bed, and we were just visited by two whitetail deer that we could see from the kitchen window. It is a propitious day, rife with possibility.
By Eydie Wight
Sammy and I had Valentine’s Day off! An unheard of phenomenon. And, we had an EVENT planned. Sammy had gotten us tickets to see the “Fab Faux,” a Beatles review band that was coming to the Harrisburg Forum stage on Valentine’s day. We had plans to go to Cracker Barrel for dinner. I admit it, Sammy is a Cracker Barrel addict. Is it the fried okra? The broiled catfish? The cole slaw? or the chicken and dumplings? Yeah. Usually it’s all of them. Plus he likes the old time music, TV shows, toys, and candies that are always for sale. Sugar Babies, Mallo Cups, Teaberry gum, and maple sugar. And, what’s not to like about the decorations from times past. Old advertisements for Mr. Suds and Caro syrup, Dutch Maid cleanser and Bromo Seltzer.
We slept in very late indeed, exchanged cards and kisses, got each other coffee and did only the bare minimum of house chores (fed the fish, dogs and cats.) I did not (Granny, cover those angel ears of yours) make the bed. I did not wash the dishes, scoop the cat litter, wash, dry or fold any laundry, mindlessly tidy any out of place items or pick lint off the carpet.
Sammy got dressed in (of course) a Beatles t-shirt with a camp shirt worn open over it. The camp shirt had an acoustic guitar printed on it. I wore (no, Big Brother, I did not wear my pajamas, how come you think I never wear anything else? — Brother John here… well… ??? :) ) a black lacy shirt under a beautiful jacket printed all over with butterflies. And a long jeans skirt and my cowboy boots. I love my cowboy boots and I always wear them over my bare feet. No socks. Just supple leather and low heels that make that satisfying boot sound when I walk.
And walk we did. We arrived for the show in plenty of time, soon realizing that city folk must know the parking genii because we circled round and round for blocks. Every open space was handicapped, permit only, reserved for government employees, fire lane, delivery only, or alternate Tuesdays in July. We finally found a space we could squeeze into in the nearest (but not so near) parking garage. Sammy had to let me out before he eased into the space because the scratch-wary Lexus owner two cars down had taken more than his share and thrown everyone else off. We then walked the multiple blocks to the Forum in the cold, in the sleety rain, in the bitter wind, in my cowboy boots with no socks. But, I stuck my hand in Sammy’s hand inside his pocket and we kissed in the middle of the sidewalk. We were middle aged, in love, and about to hear lots of Beatles music on Valentines’s Day. Plenty of warmth for me.
The Forum is a beautiful venue. The ceiling is painted with signs of the Zodiac. Sammy did comment more than once that Miss Virgo had some pretty perky breasts. I thought the Gemini could have used a little more chest hair. Our fellow audience members, mostly, probably, had seen more than their share of the original Beatles in concert. I saw broomstick skirts and brightly colored shirts, bangle bracelets and shoulder length earrings, and lots of .people ready to enjoy themselves. And the band, oh MY they were good. They don’t try to dress or look like the Beatles, but they try to duplicate every nuance of each song exactly as it sounds on the albums. All the harmonies, alarm clock, rooster crows, clapping, muttering, funny sounds and sound effects. The “Tangerine Strings” (violin and cello) played an “Eleanor Rigby” that melted my heart. The “Hogshead Horns” provided a four man horn section that was top notch. I was toe tapping, singing along, smiling ear to ear having a good time. My only two small criticisms were that my legs are a little long for the closely knit Forum seating, and that we had the token “drunk chick” two rows behind us who kept shouting at the top of her lungs “Play Hey Jude. Hey Jude. Heeeeeeyyyyy Jude!!.” Oh, and the husband of the woman sitting beside me kept mistaking my hip for that of his wife and patting it until I would place his hand back on his wife’s hip. Of course he was the token drunk guy yelling “Free Bird! Play Free Bird!”
We kissed our way back to the parking garage after the show was over, snuck a little (more) mead from the bottle that somehow gotten under the car seat, and drove happily home to wood stove and pajamas.
By Eydie Wight
Well, it’s nice to have Brother John back from the throes of learning new Internet languages (do they have a Rosetta stone for that?) and able to post for us again. Let’s see what happened over the last month or so in the continuing adventures of Eydie and Sammy.
We realized about the end of January that the woodshed was nearly empty. What had seemed like a treasure trove of cut and stacked wood back in the fall had now become a puny pile of sticks and twigs and a couple of weeks worth of mouse nested middling sized pieces. I was puzzled, I’m usually pretty good at estimating how much wood will get us through a winter. And that’s with me stoking the stove enough to keep the house comfy and toasty warm even on the coldest of days. I blithely wander throughout the house in shorts even when the wind chill outside is -30 degrees (as it was a couple of weeks ago.) (Brother John here… but… but… I thought you ONLY wore pajamas when home. Perhaps it was just an urban myth?)
Sammy and I discussed the necessity of going over to our neighbors, who generously offered us all the fallen and standing deadwood we want in return for clearing it away. The only problem was that we had had several days of light snow alternating with ice, and we knew that cutting frozen wood with a chainsaw while standing on snow covered, ice coated, treacherous, stone and hole booby trapped ground was not really something we wanted to do.
And then I had the epiphany. Not the one where I realize that the cell phone I’ve been frantically looking for all over the house is the same one I’ve been talking on to my mother for the last hour, but the one where I realized that we have, neatly stacked against the woodshed wall, at least a month’s worth of beautiful huge chunks of cut wood. The only problem is that it was still in big pieces that needed to be split before they could go into the wood stove. That was where the rest of my wood calculations had gone!
So, Sammy went into town to the local hardware/rental/landscaping/lumber store (behind the police station) and rented a wood splitter. We had to set the splitter up on the graveled flat part of the driveway, due to the ice and snow we couldn’t pull it up the hill to the woodshed. Neither could we get the farm truck up the hill, even in 4 wheel drive. Which meant someone had to bring that mountain of heavy, unsplit wood to Sammy Mohammad. Since we’re currently empty nesting with Rog trying life in his own apartment, that someone was me. So, I got ready to brave the cold, the ice and snow, and the wood pile. Picture Nancy Sinatra in white go-go boots, then change the boots to white rubber coated snow boots, and you get the picture. (Well, sort of. Put Nancy in red plaid flannel pajamas and an old gray chainsaw-oil stained sweat jacket with a bright orange knitted hat and work gloves layered over gardening gloves, and make her plump, 50ish, and wearing glasses. THEN you get the picture.)
I began schlepping the chunks down the hill to where Sammy was set up. At first I would carry each piece down to the splitter. I did that four or five times until my feet flew our from under me on the icy hill and me and my wood chunk slid down on our backsides. Then I had a scathingly brilliant idea. I loaded seven or eight chunks on the plastic tarp that had been covering the pile. I thought that if I dragged it over to the hill and got it started, that I could sort of sled it down the hill. And I still think it could have worked. (Brother John here… Uh Oh! I don’t think I like the sound of that… :) ) IF I hadn’t accidentally stepped on the tarp, which was even more slippery than the icy ground, and fallen part way on the wood and part way on the ground, causing enough forward momentum to push me ahead of the loaded tarp as it went down the hill. We ended at the bottom with me backwards and my pajama bottoms full of snow. And I got a boo-boo on my elbow. Sammy was, wisely, silent. I don’t think though, that the tears in his eyes were either sorrow at my plight or from the cold. He just had a little sip of mead from the bottle we had stuck in the snow in the back of the farm truck, and kept on splitting.
I went in the house, changed into sweatpants, abandoned the tarp idea and instead would carry each chunk to the top of the hill, toss it down to roll as far as it would, and repeat that until I had a good sized pile at the bottom of the hill. Then I’d carry that pile, piece by piece, over to the splitter. Sammy, by this time, had a huge pile of split wood ready to be stacked under the deck. We have both split our share of wood using an axe (or my favorite, the maul and a wedge) but in four hours time the wood splitter had gone through enough wood to stack an eight foot wide by eight foot tall stack under the deck. I know because I stacked it. Sammy and I high-fived each other, tarped our afternoon’s labor, and went inside to stoke up the wood stove. As Sammy and I sat together on the downstairs couch, basking in a job well done, I heard the unmistakable sound of my woodpile falling over and crashing to the concrete. I took one look out under the deck and stormed upstairs, breaking my New Year’s resolution not to say: “@*$^&#*@*$^&*@!!!“ By the time I got up the next morning Sammy had re-stacked my woodpile, made breakfast, and brought me coffee. Why I love the man.
By Brother John
Ask any southern woman the best way to her man’s heart, and she will tell you it’s her crispy Southern Fried Chicken! Today I’m going to walk you through making my version of this all time favorite. We’re going to make Southern Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes with Pan Gravy, and a nice veggie side. Yummy! You’ll get the step-by-step right here, and I’ll include a recipe on our sites “Food and Wine Recipes” section to go along with it.
By Eydie Wight
Last weekend all the weathermen, both national and local, seemed to agree that we were in for a major snowstorm. Maybe 6-10 inches. At least for our part of the world that seldom sees snow before January it was a major storm prediction. Whether (weather?) from global warming, cyclical temperature shifts, or just plain old quirky Mother Nature, our winters have, in recent years, been mild. I know this, but still I seem compelled to prepare like it’s the coming of the next ice age. I know there are all those jokes about people running to the grocery store before a storm to buy milk, bread, and eggs. Never mind that they don’t eat milk or eggs often, it just seems to be the magical combination for snow. It snows, the whole county has French toast for breakfast the next morning using their fresh eggs, bread, and milk. Me being me, I already had all the groceries we would need. (I keep enough food stuff on hand to pretty much survive a season, even if the milk would be powdered, the bread homemade (and darn yummy too!) and the eggs bartered from the chicken lady who lives down the road.
Now, I’m the first person to laugh at myself. I know how somewhat obsessive my essential nature is. So, I could sort of understand the reaction Sammy got when he arrived at his work (the snow hadn’t started there yet) carrying, what one nurse fondly termed, “a barrel” of food. In my mind, we might have gotten a blizzard, and he might have had to stay at work to cover extra shifts if the roads were bad, and his co-workers might not have been as prepared as he with extra food, and they might not have brought money to buy food, or the hospital might have run out of food and I wouldn’t want anyone to have to resort to cannibalism…
For his twelve hour shift I packed: a gallon Ziploc half full of cereal, a package of pop-tarts, a sixteen ounce bottle of milk, a small can of pineapples, a small can of mandarin oranges, two wedges of soft Swiss cheese, a half bag of butter flavored pretzels, six pieces of fudge (peanut butter and chocolate), two cokes, a ginger ale, a Fanta orange, a turkey breast sandwich, a small salad with bleu cheese dressing, two steak rolls, 14 homemade meatballs with red sauce, two Snack Pak puddings (butterscotch and lemon), an orange cut into sections, and a granola bar (in case of emergency starvation.)
Needless to say, Sammy‘s hospital got absolutely no snow before he left the next morning. My hospital got maybe an inch of snow. At home we had three inches of lightweight, fluffy snow. We got home safely and without having to dig our way out of any shoulder high drifts and then we slept for a few hours. Then we ventured out to “shovel,” or in this case sweep off the cars.
After checking on the shed cats in their warm and cozy space heater heated shed where they recline on old comforters folded over old pillows, and bringing a few wheelbarrow loads of wood from the wood shed to fill up the wood box inside the house, Sammy and I decided to take the dogs and walk up the ridge to enjoy the snow. It was light and powdery enough to blow from our hands as we scooped it up. Making a snowball was pretty much out of the question. Felon kept sticking his nose into the snow and eating big mouthfuls of it. Jasper romped and rolled and ran ahead. Both dogs followed the tracks of deer that crossed the access road. The footing was a bit treacherous due to the many small springs that come out of the ground and then freeze. With the snow cover it would be crunch step, crunch step, crunch step, whoa slip windmill arms clutch each other slip again, crunch step.
Up at the top of the ridge we stopped by the tree stand. There are sight lines cut along the top of the ridge and in lines down the front and back slopes of the ridge. Since the snow several deer and a small flock of turkey had passed by the stand and our old turkey feeder. There were still remnants of the ice storm from a couple of days past clinging to branches of trees and they clacked in the slight wind. We heard the scree of a red tailed hawk in the sky above somewhere, and saw evidence that a woodpecker had been interested in a couple of the standing dead trees. We didn’t go far along the top of the ridge, we’d slept most of the day and at 4:00 it was already beginning to “gloom.” But, we got to watch the dogs wrestle with each other in the snow, we got to hold hands as we walked along the top of the ridge, and we had some lovely views of the ridges next to us.
Once home, I quickly changed into my pajamas and made us cups of hot cocoa. We pretended we were snowed in and I watched TV through the backs of my eyelids while Sammy surfed the Internet in search of political outrages to rant against. It was a good day.
By Eydie Wight
Well it’s officially (and somewhat past) the advent of the New Year. I rang in the year all unawares as my Croat co-worker Marija and I ran from floor to floor at our hospital giving respiratory treatments and answering calls. It was midnight plus 23 before we met up to give each other a hug and say “Happy New Year.” Then my phone rang again and we got back to work as Marija said “Vat do dey vant now, wen I am trying to vish you a Happy Year.” I love Marija, working with her makes for much happiness in the workplace.
She, friend Carole, and I had gone out for dinner and a movie one night (Sylvia honey, we missed you!) and as we had talked straight through the start time of our movie we decided to just talk more until the next show started (uh, and have dessert and another beer.) We got to talking about men, a conversation inspired by our cute-until-he-opened-his-mouth server Brad, or, as he told us “That’s B-Rad.” (Like P-Diddy, but we middle aged ladies ain’t too down with that. We still live in the land of cool, don’tcha’ know.) Anyway, I said, “What would be your favorite physical characteristics in a man, strictly physical looks, what kind of man are you attracted to?” Carole went first, she said, “I like the Italian men, dark hair and eyes, and physically fit, like a boxer.” I went next, “Easy answer, give me a tall, braw, red-heided Highland Scot.” I asked Marija, “Your turn, what would your ideal man look like.” She considered a minute and said, “Vell, he vould look like he has money.”
I’m typing this as I sit at my mom and dad’s kitchen table. My dad had a total knee replacement this past Monday (thanks to everyone who sent prayers and good thoughts his way) and I came down to give mom some company and chauffeur her back and forth from the hospital. Dad’s doing pretty well, supposed to come home tomorrow, but is plagued by nausea.
It’s Thursday now (the computer decided to freeze up last night which it does occasionally) and I’m up in Dad’s hospital room waiting for him to be discharged. Today started out as a brisk sunny day with blue skies and I had a wee walk in mind down past the farms at mom and dad’s. But now the clouds are rolling in and I hear that snow is on the way. A little snow never bothers me but I didn’t bring proper footwear. But wait! I do have my winter “survival” kit in the car. Boots, coat, hat, scarf, gloves, sleeping bag, granola bars, water, signal flag. I sent Sammy down to Georgia over Christmas with his kit in the Saturn. It was the topic of some amusement when he arrived down there to 70 degree weather!
Brother John had suggested (as we were talking about the bloggless end of last year and our resolution to do better this year) that something New Year’s-ish might be nice. Each year I resolutely resolve (like millions of others) to change, change, change. Me and the president elect have a bond. Hopefully he will do better at his resolutions than I have over the past years with my vows to stop eating an entire block of cheese with pretzels as I read novels, control childish outbursts of @#$%*&(!@#$ when working on the wood stove pipe, stop gardening in my pajamas, or finally finish that poetry book (oh wait! I DID do that last year, Yipee!, one for me!)
This year I kicked the resolutions up a notch. I resolve to create, to shine, and to genuinely like myself, nay, even love myself just as I am. I have a pretty blessed life, any change for the good is icing on the cake. I resolve to accept this gray hair that never grows as fast as I’d like, this cellulite that pirouettes with me in the mirror, the odd surgically removed organ here and there that requires replacement medication, these varicose veins. How about, as a friend said of me, I shine that thousand watt Celtic smile on the world and drop some of the guilt.
This year, I resolve to relax and enjoy the fact that I’m married to a man for whom there are never enough exclamation points in a love letter. I resolve to embrace my pajamas (’cause they make me happy) and not worry that the Jehovah Witness ladies found me in them Christmas eve.
And now, our Dad has just been sprung form the hospital and I must go.
Happy New Year!