Sunday, October 10, 2010

Unh Hunh

A good friend, the 88 year old santero in Arizona would utter unh hunh frequently in any conversation. It would speed things up and save a bit of side commentary. Pretend you're the santero and just do the unh hunh for the rest of this. I gotta get my ass in gear.

The last of five Boston Butt roasts is hiding in the back of the ice box. On Friday I went on a spending spree. I'd hoped that taking the kid along would keep me from power shopping, but in this case my list was short and sweet. The Village Market features a one day meat sale. Friday only. It's part of the culture at this time of year in the country. Called stocking up, it's a reaction to the economy but mostly a time honored tradition in poor, rural areas. Apples, grapes, cider, hickory nuts, walnuts, elderberries, mulberries, wild turkey, venison(if you're a bow hunter), squash, pumpkins, and the beginnings of the fall butchering season.

I walk out of the grocery store $100 poorer. The pork roasts I trim for the meat and grind for sausage. All weigh over 6 lbs so I reserve one for roasts in the future. A case of ground turkey, some premium beef re-cut into steaks that'll be slivered for stir fries and fajitas, a beef roast that I'll turn into jerky or slow cooked, cod loins, pork steak and to top it off fresh crullers.

I'm on a tight budget for time. Off to the cut stock sawmill for a load of cut off timbers. All around the white metal building which rumbles in its bowels from a Cummings diesel engine running all the pulleys and sawblades are pallets of 4X4's cut in eight foot lengths. The trimmed rough parts are sent by conveyor to a converted manure spreader on the shaded side of the building. It takes me the better part of an hour to hand toss oak, walnut and poplar blocks into the pick-up while Mandy sits patiently on the front seat watching two Amish five year-olds haul corn shocks with a buggy frame.

I cast a crooked eye at my tires under the weight of the load and hope I make it home before the state patrol spots me hauling over a half ton of wood with $75 plates for recreational trucking. On the back road to home the dog keep a keen eye on oncoming traffic while I marvel at the fall colors which are muted but still outstanding. I pull the truck into the wood shed and unload for 15 minutes. Then it's off to Muscoda for cheese with the Amish Patriarch.

I owed him big time for working on the chimney at our place and frequent little beggars items like birch molding, free pies and watermelon. Before we take the 40 minute drive to this town on the Wisconsin River, we stop off at Bent and Dent to deliver fresh pressed apple cider. The Mrs. and the youngest daughter are operating a gasoline engine powered crusher that feeds directly into a wooden hand operated press. They already been up since dawn butchering some of their chickens. "Some" can be anywhere from 50 to 85 fryers.

The cheese selection, that is the "cheap" cheese, is limited since a local business makes an agreement to buy all their cut ends and irregulars and markets them for a higher price outside the area. The Patriarch calls on my mobile phone to alert the cheese store of our arrival as we pull out of the heating contractor where I buy my yearly specialized, high efficiency furnace filter. The price has inched up another buck.

The parking lot for the cheese store in the industrail park of town has a truck and a Toyota hybrid with out-of-state plates. The counter person brings out two cases of five pound slabs of salsa cheese. 16 blocks cost just under $100. The Coleman cooler is jammed tight with cheese. There's no room for my homemade soda bottle ice. When we load the cheese in the truck, the Patriarch notes Mississippi plates on the car that pulls up next to us. "I don't think they have cows in Mississippi," he chortles. I chime in with experience that Wisconsin cheese is hard to get when you live in far away. Cows in Phoenix under triple digit summer temperatures don't milk the same.

The ride down County Road O will take us to the stockyard and auction barn. My Amish passenger notes the large scale farming along the way. Instead of the state highway we travel the back roads past postcard picture farms in rolling southwestern Wisconsin.

The auction barn parking lot is empty. "I guess I got my days wrong," my passenger says. Taking advantage of the Wal-Mart across the street, we stop for bleach and dog food. After a $4.65 lunch at the China Inn we start for home. Saturday is another institution in the country-Fall Clean-up. I need to unload the truck of firewood, to fill it with junk saved over the course of six months. Mandy's been penned up in her new improved dog kennel. The Pooch and her are good buddies, but she still greets me like I've been gone for months. The Pooch is small enough to fit between the four inch squares of hog panel to come and go as he pleases. No doubt it pisses the dog off. To add insult to injury he frequently will sit on the roof of the dog house out of reach of a slobbering dog.
Tossing drawers from an old dresser that was converted into a cold frame last April, I rehearse my lines for arrival at the dump. All the town officials as well as the regular dump employee, whose new Golden Retriever puppy is tied up in the shed and yipping at people pulling up with truck loads of construction debris, rusted metal and old lawn chairs. The new town chairman greets me cordially and I ask him, "Where do you want Grandma?" He gives me a puzzled look as I continue. " I've got Grandma in back. You know, lots of drawers and no chest." He chuckles as his Dad, a former town supervisor, says, "I gotta remember that one."

Today after a run to the big city for more supplies, I'll be finishing the day making Italian sausage. The kitchen floor is still sticky from the wine bottle of corked cider that blew across the ceiling and the front of all the cabinets. Johann is busy with last minute home repairs and painting jobs that people put off in the high heat and rainy summer. He barely has time to find a home for the new baby chicks that arrived by mail on Saturday. Even Mandy is into the fervor of the fall season getting ready for the winter season. She's been busy stock piling bones in the rocks of the silver maples out near the road. Nights I have to accompany her outside for her late night potty break as the wild animal population is busy, too. After a quick pee she'll race to the fence barking in her "this is my place" growl at whatever varmint is passing through. One night she gets kicked out to her dog pen for restlessness. Dawn brings her in after fifteen minutes of barking at an intruder just beyond her fence line. In the morning, I find a small feral cat caught in the live trap. The Pooch watches in amusement as I open the cage door and the cat streaks off for cover in the weeds by the east fence line.

Mandy watches birds flying overhead as the Pooch head off down the lane.

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