Sunday, March 15, 2009


Feteer is a Bedouin flat bread cooked on a flat rock over an open fire . My feteer is a white, whole wheat flour pancake with craisins, chocolate chips, walnuts and cottage cheese. Dawn's early light isn't what my wife sees this morning. She's still abed. The Pooch decides that the faintest glimmer of light at the eastern horizon at 6:30, fast time as the Amish call it ( 5:30 by my own slow time clock) is enough light to jump on the bed, settle next to my face and lick my nose until I can't tolerate the tickling of his whiskers. It doesn't help that I remember seeing him gnawing on a field mouse early Saturday morning.

Because of the kitchen remodel, there's no light at the foot of the stairs. I grab the handrail and carefully touch each step in the dark. I'm wearing thick wool socks which are slippery on the wood steps to the first floor. In the kitchen, there just enough light to see a wisp of smoke from what's left of the evil maple tree in the front field. I've been burning branches and scrap from the wood shed on a burn pile over the stump. The rotten portion caught fire and burned . The remaining stump is hard as a stone. I may have to take the chain saw to it, level it for a pedestal of outdoor sculpture . Overhead, two honking geese fly across the field. When I open the porch door for Pucci, I can hear the black birds chattering in the cottonwood tree on the south fence line. The cardinals are singing loudly now with the springtime rush of hormones and urge to nest. Sandhill cranes near the river perform their mating dances, all the while calling out with their loud raucous crowing.

Early mornings there's a white crystalline frost cover on everything from porch railing to the grass which is beginning to turn green. Yesterday, the bank thermometer in town reads 52 degrees at noon. The garden is almost free of snow cover. Soon the moist, brown loam will absorb enough heat to prepare the soil for planting. I've been to the small town 18 miles away a half dozen times in the past week. First, I'd stopped to chat with friends at Wal-Mart on a brief shopping trip. My friend Dawg tells me to call the woodman. He's got firewood. I pick up more Tenderquick for bacon curing, pita pockets for falafel and humus for dinner and find some smoke flavor sugar cure at the Village Market.

On Friday I make an appointment to have the clutch of the pick-up truck checked out. At the same time, I'll walk next door and have the CPA check out our taxes. The drive to town with the truck turns out to be a wild ride, culminating with its collapse next to the auto repair when the clutch freezes in third gear. There's another hog scheduled for butchering in the first week of April, therefore I make frequent trips to confer with the Amish. As I pull up to the hilltop farm, I see they've erected a plastic greenhouse. I make a point to save egg cartons, containers and plastic bags for reuse by the Amish family. I hand these to the elder's wife along with a never used cookie gun in it's original package. All the daughters gather round the table to examine the cookie maker. "We've been looking for one of these," Titus' wife says. A hot cup of coffee and a slice of pecan pie appears quickly in front of me. It tells me I'm more than just one of the many visitors picking up eggs or chickens. The hog is for my daughter and her husband. It'll be a three day event. I ask Titus details about the tables he makes. A friend in the city is looking for a new dining room table. The conversation changes frequently. I'm used to side tangents and many bits of important information. Before I'd left the house, I took the ham steak I'm curing in sugar quick and soaked it in warm water. By the time I return, an hour and a half will have elapsed. The woodman says he'll deliver the load of wood today, but he'll call first. From experience, I know that the delivery may range anywhere in the next 8 hours.

I'm told the "girls" are making pie on Monday. If I want to learn pie crusts I should show up early. "I hope that you don't begin at dawn, " I mention with mock horror. They say they'll wait until 9 am, but I neglect to ask if that's slow time or fast time. Titus stands to go to the barn to clean the stalls. He says he's warming the cows. I ask how he warms a cow. I laugh when he repeats that he's worming the cows. With my slight hearing loss and the German inflection of Amish speech, I often have to ask that they repeat a word or phrase. One of the horses has a puncture wound to the leg that he's soaking. I walk with him outside as he slips on his muck boots that stand on the porch. He tells me the greenhouse is for early planting of lettuce and spinach. I put the dozen farmer eggs I'd traded for the cookie gun in the trunk of the Prism and jump in the car. The gravel road is icy and I slide near the turn, braking so that I don't go off the edge of the hill.
The access road in the adjacent corn field is firm from the frequent trips with a manure spreader. The logger backs down the lane toward a space I'd cleared for the cull logs of oak. There are two electric lines overhead. The logger asks me to watch the lines. As he swings his small crane to and fro with surprising facility, I watch as he comes dangerously close to the lines. He drops several logs cross-wise to act as a base for the wood pile to keep the logs off the ground. He tosses the logs as if the jaws of the hoist are his own fingers. When one of the logs falls next to the pile, I ask Dawn to help me lift it onto the pile. We strain to push the log closer to the pile. Later, when the logger jumps down from his perch, he says, "Leave it be. They weigh over 160 pounds. You're better off cutting right there."

Finally, the five cords of oak logs are unloaded. In the country there's no such thing as a short delivery. Only the UPS man makes a quick stop to drop off a package. Dawn watches the whole proceedings with amazement and stops to talk to the logger when he secures the crane. While I walk to the summer kitchen freezer for some Polish sausage, she talks with him about the wood market, the state of the economy and all the other things people in rural America are concerned about. I hand him a package of Polish and Italian sausage. He's grateful. "How many loads have you done today?" Dawn asks him. "Five or six," is his reply. He tells us about a mishap with electric lines in which he broke the electric line. " Luckily," he says, " when it snapped it snaked away from me." I tell him that would be the end of our wood supply. He nods with a grimace thinking about being fried by the current coursing through the electric lines. The poles which mark the south line of our property hold up lines that are frayed and feeble. When he drives off, I snatch the Pooch up who has maintained a safe distance. He doesn't like big machinery except for tractors for which he has no fear. I place him on the highest log so he can overlook his domain. The Pooch jumps down immediately. The logs are too new. They are still an intrusion on his perimeter. In the weeks to come we'll see him watching the corn field like he does from his maple log perch near the edge of the swamp.

No comments: