Friday, April 17, 2009


All I wanted to do was add an image of a pie. Simple, no? I have no pie images in my pictures file. I have no pie to to photograph. On Sunday the pies I ordered from the Amish drove to Milwaukee with the daughter. I go to an approved website for pie images. Simple, no? Being computer challenged and stubborn, I waste precious moments trying to download a pie image. Am I simple? Yes. The image of Aunt Jemima is my compromise. I inherited the small lead statue years ago. She stands hands on hips watching me in the kitchen. It's a relic from politically incorrect bygone eras. Jemima watches my futile efforts in the kitchen of late, grins and snickers at the ineptitude. I waste an entire afternoon fiddling with a bank of switches and an outlet above the kitchen counter. In desperation, I call the electrician late on Thursday afternoon and leave a message. Dawn says that he may not be busy with the current economic conditions. It's hard to get a tradesman out here in the boonies.

How crazy am I? I flip the switch over the workbench in the garage. The radio tuned to NPR doesn't come on automatically. I jiggle the switch. The program starts and fades. I jiggle the plug. The program heads to full volume and fades again. Jiggle and fade. "This is an omen," I tell myself. "Do not attempt electrical work today." I'm stubborn and disregard the voice. Besides, the 60's tune "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Polka Dot Bikini" has been replaying in my head all morning. The forces of evil are gunning for me. I've spent 45 minutes looking for a Phillips screwdriver I know I put in the rack of drivers on the pegboard. I'm tempted to call Dawn at work and chastise her for using my screwdrivers without replacing them in their holders. If I'm wrong there will be crow for dinner.

In the morning I drive to the Amish farm with a pillow under my arm. Titus is driving the horses in a field behind the workshop which pull a disc through the soil in preparation for planting oats. The day before he prepared another field for 2,000 strawberry plants. "I'm moving in," I tell him when he makes a pass with the team of horses nearby. Not to be outdone, Titus tells me to go to the wash house. "Tell Viola you only need ten chickens instead of twenty for May," he says. We're short on chickens and it will confuse her. Before I leave to continue the ruse, I ask Titus how to adjust the lazy Susan shelves. Dawn complains that the bottom shelf scrapes the cabinet when it turns. He tells me how to make the adjustment. Later I lift the shelf and see the pin and slots for raising or lowering the shelf. I'm chagrined at my ineptness.

In the wash house, Titus' wife and two daughters are plucking chickens. The daughters are standing next to a stainless steel counter top. Mom toss a chicken on the counter top. She's plucked it clean and removed the feet. The daughters prepare the final cleaning before tossing it into a container. Next to the door is a plastic washtub. It's exactly like the one I Jerry-rigged in the bathroom to wash dishes while waiting for the new counter top. I tell Titus' wife I need only ten chickens in May. She sighs with relief. She's wise to Titus' sense of humor. We move on to the pillow. The antique Turkish rug cover is unraveling at a seam. Previous to now an elder daughter mends clothing I bring over with an expert's touch. I offer our plastic washtub in return for saving my antique pillow. I'm directed to the house where the eldest daughter is breading and preparing chicken for lunch. I explain my folly. "Sure, I can do it. No problem," she says. "You'll have to wait until after we plant the strawberries." The other daughter is mixing food at the counter. She walks away and returns with a mustard jar I'd given them. "Do you like horseradish?" she asks. "Sure," I reply. "Is it hot?" She smiles. I ask her to make me a pie in the next batch. She promises to call, which in reality means walking a mile round trip to the neighbors.

Before leaving I check with Titus on a half dozen other minute details concerning the cabinets, including making a new island for the newly expanded kitchen. " I'll talk to Dawn when she gets home from work," I explain. She'll give the final word on the design. I stop for a minute and talk with a neighbor who's standing next to his car with a cup of coffee and two dozen eggs. He works in Madison, but like the rest of us is busy preparing the ground for spring planting. The recent dry, warm weather has everyone scurrying to spread manure and work up the soil. The dairy farmer who works the fields behind us has been spreading manure daily. I drive off with a wave to fiddle some more with electrical outlets.

I'm successful in leveling the refrigerator by cutting carpet adjacent to the frig and adding shims so the frig door doesn't swing open by itself. I remove a partial wall near the refrigerator which opens up the kitchen area, giving it the look of every farm kitchen I ever had the good fortune to work in and around. I haul the wall intact to the barn and remeasure the floor. There are open areas of old flooring that need to be covered. Here's where the island figures in the plan. Then I find my screwdriver in the summer kitchen next to the cold frame. I walk by the radio and wiggle the plug one more time, puzzled by the problem. I can see that one of the wires on the plug is almost severed. Only when it is aligned exactly will the radio come back on. So there are no mysterious disappearances. No ghosts haunting the old schoolhouse.

In the morning Dawn comes downstairs after her morning shower and savors the new open kitchen plan. The electrician calls. I explains the mess of wiring. He promises to come early Monday morning. I'm relieved and decide to plow the corn patch, haul manure and sand. Saturday's promised rain will bring an onslaught of new growth.

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