Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saint Clare

First Floor Closet
We have three TV's.  Two are in the closet along with an old Mac II E.  On the shelf above are two printers and a photo printer.  There's another TV in the living room, a 17 inch monstrosity, on which we watch rented DVD's.  In the basement is an IMAC and a microwave.  My fax machine is packed away in Dawn's studio next to her easel.  It still works but the paper cutter is non functional.  The paper it uses is the onion skin type stuff that fades in a week.

For the news, I step outside with the dog at 6:30 am.  Wind direction, honking geese, a pheasant pair walking down at the north fence line, horses whinnying, a far off bark,  sandhill cranes skrawking in the cornfield across from Freymiller's farm,  a bluejay yelling "thief,thief" and a crow convention in the treeline at the river tell me all's well.  From the amount of traffic on the highway, I can tell the day of the week.  Three radio stations play non stop oldies, country music and Christian music.  For  national news I turn to NPR. Because we're close to the Minnesota border, I can also pull in MPR(Minnesota Public Radio).  It's not much different than WPR. That and a weekly news magazine called The Week are all I need. Wait! I take that back. My connection with the world of bloggers( spell check declares floggers as an acceptable substitute) keeps my finger on the pulse of the nation. At least ones with more than half a brain. Sherry and Jean watch out, I'm feeling your pulse.

My daughter sent me this as a Christmas present a few years back.  There's a double meaning here. She's a quick wit. I wonder why she still lives in Arizona.  I'm an apprentice carver.  I studied under a famous santero when we lived in Arizona.  True to my upbringing as a lapsed Catholic, I carve lapsed saints. The nun below is not my third grade teacher.  She was and is a saint.  It's carved in the image of Sister Sixtis the Principal who carried a wooden yardstick.
This lady is slightly chagrined because an indiscretion has left her with child. The stuff in the background is used for perspective. The sun was out this morning when I began.  The dog came in the office several times to remind me of this fact. I ignored her.  Now, it's getting ugly out there.  When will I learn to listen to those with more brains.


Friday, April 29, 2011


I get distracted by all the fun stuff on the web.

I  forget to check the weather. Unless I'm working in my garage workshop, I don't hear weather reports.  First off this morning, I go to the NWS for Lacrosse.  Before the entire map of Wisconsin can download, I point and click south of Interstate 90. In a stroke of luck I get 4 miles N/NE of Soldiers Grove.  That would be North Clayton. R* B* lives there. He's the guy who asked Mountain Man Johann to come out and butcher a Yak that had died. He forgot to mention to Johann that the Yak died two days ago, coyotes had feasted on the tender morsels and presently, in the heart of winter, the carcass was frozen solid.
Mountain Man Johann
In lieu of monetary payment, RB offers a quart of apple cider and a go at his wife.  And I thought eccentric folk are found only in the city.

The forecast calls for sunshine today followed by thunderstorms tomorrow.  It'll be "work until you drop" day.

Thus, I'll have to limit this to short snorts.I had a blog by that name once upon a time.

The Kwik Stop down on the highway is having an 30th anniversary celebration. Hot dogs and a soda are 25 cents. All the employees are dressed in baseball shirts.  I stop in a sign up for the raffle. They're giving away a load of gravel.  Two years ago, I began work on a patio on the north side of the house. It's purely decorative.  I need the gravel to complete the project.  We'll never sit on this patio since we hardly ever sit on the wrap around deck on the east side of the house.

I removed the silo block sidewalk around the house, lined them up nicely on a bed of leveled sand underlain with black plastic. Four feet below the surface I discovered a four inch thick slab of concrete.  The company I hired to lay a new sidewalk couldn't break up the slab with a jack hammer and to my dismay, it sloped toward the house, acting as a water collector.

If the weather man gives us four sunny days in a row, Jorge and I will hit the county highway on our mountain bikes.  I need to lose 30 pounds and to get off the bi-polar exercise routine.  Work like a banshee, vegetate, look out the windows, curse and make up ridiculous art projects for my chicken wishbone collection.

Over the weekend, the local fire department is having a pancake supper.  I need to attend as a show of support after they promptly put out a grass fire I accidentally started. I also want to meet the guys the chief labeled rookies who got lost on the way to our house.  Then the same night, we'll be feasting on Middle Eastern Food  at the recall ball for Dan Kapanke. Feast, then famine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

As I Lay Dying...I told ya I was sick.

I think my wife is trying to kill me. Lord knows, she's capable.

I don't often mention this. She's a former postal worker.  Nineteen years on the flat sorting machine in the city.  The stories are legendary, but with all the disclaimers in the credits of movies we watch nowadays, it'll be a blue moon before I ever write personals.  The names can't be changed nor would innocent ol' me be protected.

Let's just say that after a particularly violent event, the postal service decides the employees need a quick refresher course in tolerance.

They hire a short bus to transport workers from the windowless concrete cell block called the main unit to an undisclosed location.  A friend of Dawn's is a lifer.  Been at it since she was a svelt babe until the present.  She's not so svelt. Sort of a grosvelt.  Picture this.  She won't fit through the front door of the van. The man behind her nudges her gently on her tush.  Oof, she's finally up the stairs. Oh wow.   

Dawn's dad was a postal carrier before his knees gave out and he moved to Sun City. She's a brand new Mom, just shy of a few credits for a degree in Fine Art specializing in theater. The ex is a  photographer. Circumstances require that she get a job, pronto.  She works nights while a babysitter tucks the kid in his cradle. It ain't enough to sit at a machine keying zipcodes five nights, holidays and weekend included.  She teaches tots at a dance studio during the day.  Nearby is a karate studio where she learns and teaches kick boxing. The owner is a world champion. She scores number four in the nation at a tournament in MNLPS.

As I oogle Jennifer Aniston in a silvery sheath dress on the screen, Dawn passes me a small dish of mixed nuts.  I fill my paw, carefully scrounging most of the almonds, cashews and filberts.In the kitchen cupboard is a plastic jar. I look at the net weight on the label and try to decipher the kilograms into pounds and ounces.  I glance at the island to see if there's a fifty pound sack leaning against the birch panel. I have no ability to monitor my mixed nut intake, save for choking on a peanut or going into immediate cardiac arrest.  See what I mean?

At the assisted living center, pre-Waldorf kids are coming over to entertain the elders.Most are three and four years old.  If you're eighty five, three or four year-olds running around doing their thing is like me watching that bald Brit who plays tough guys, whatshisname, drive a shiny black BMW over a mountain road. Dawn fills plastic eggs with Pooh figures and a few treats.  It's after Easter but the kids don't care.  Life is one long holiday when you're four.

When I was four a box of vanilla wafers and a sand box is as close to nirvana as I could get, that is, until a big hairy dog stuck his wet nose in my box of 'nilla wafers.  Scared the beejesus outa me.

The kitchen table is littered with strawberry, raspberry and orange filled chocolate eggs. Nearby is a bowl of red apples.  It's to divert attention once the CSI team comes in and examines the scene for evidence as I lay/lie on the floor. Laying and lieing. It's what I do.

Since I work at home, there's the mistaken notion that I have more time.  Dawn's the queen of one minute meals, trips to Kickapoo Corners for a "whatever" burger or Chinese 20 minutes away.  I fancy myself as a pretty good cook. If you can't fancy yourself, whatdayahave?  Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer as they say.

Ever so saintly, I remove all the skin from the chicken leg quarters.  Under the skin, there's a fair amount of fat. That gets cut away.  I dry the pieces on a clean terry cloth kitchen towel and dust them with organic flour.  Then I break two Amish eggs into a zip lock plastic storage bag and coat the pieces evenly.  In another bag I mix spices (secret recipe if it turns out well)  breadcrumbs and crushed cornflakes.  From egg dip to crumb mix and on to a Danish blue and white enameled pan sprayed with canola oil.  An hour at 375 crisps the chicken nicely.  I nuke our own sweet corn mixed with petite peas.  A neighbor gifts us with their own BHG recipe canned beets cut into quarters.

The Neighbors House-Check Out Front Porch
My camera is dying. Until I figure it out, just call these artistic shots.



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Balconies and Rooftops

It's raining.  My downspout extensions are sluicing water away from the foundation at a steady pace.  Part of the time, the downpour is wind driven at a 60 degree angle filling the gray nylon window screens with water, obscuring the view.

Mandy, at first, refuses to go out.  When I walk out to the front of the garage, she follows, does her business and hurries back to the breezeway enclosure.  ToughCat, surveys the scene from a window perch I made for him next to the back door.  He's out of the rain and can monitor bird activity. Then he slinks along the foundation of the house where the overhang creates a dry walkway.  He knows the area under the arbor vitae planted at the northeast corner of the house provides shelter and prime viewing.  I call him in for breakfast and he dashes through the steady rain on the deck and in the house.

Winding around my legs, I dry him off with a small towel.  Rules of the Salvatore Pucci Cat Code say outwardly one must not appear to enjoy being toweled off. The remainder of his damp fur, he dries on my legs.  Next he jumps to the island counter and puts his paws on my shoulder.  It's all a ruse-a morning show for one raw chicken liver. I fall for it every time, especially when he puts his head close to my face and pushes his nose into my beard.  A cat kiss. Mmmpf.

I expected the weather.  Yesterday, I repeated Sunday's compost extravaganza .Standing on the pile, I tell my neighbor,

"I paid good money for today's weather. You'd better enjoy it."

In the corral two horses are mating.  I've never been that close to mating horses. Oh my.  Julie is slow walking the cornfield looking for arrowheads.  My dog is digging for moles in the compost pile. Mother and foal are nuzzling.  Purple Martins are walking a straight line in the back yard picking up litter.The wind is soft and slow.

Never satisfied, I mumble feast and famine.  All day long I suffer through lingering 80's bubble gum music in this brain.Why can't my demented musical mind remember an aria or some really good jazz, Heck I'd settle for gospel music instead of Yummy yummy, I got love in my tummy.I have the same trouble writing and cliches. Durn weather.  Here we go again.  Two days of sun and nine inches of rain.

The solution. Read the NY Times online.  I catch a glimpse of a title in the real estate section.  " Back Forty In The City." Here's the link.NY Times . I feel better. In NYC balconies are 6X10 feet.  For the unfortunate, white lawn furniture left on a balcony will be covered in oily dirt and grime.  For the fortunate few, a rooftop garden complete with raised bed lawn and one of those fancy non motorized reel mowers.

The local high school principal bought the corn field behind us and two hundred acres of questionable tillable land.  I say questionable, because the field at the end of our road is under water forty per cent of the time.  The same goes for another field behind the fifteen to twenty sloping acres (pictured above) located closer to the Twisted River.Some years tenant farmers don't bother to plow or raise a crop.  Eyebrows raise when the price of the sale is quoted $1750 per acre.

All the money he forked over at auction wouldn't qualify as down payment on a rooftop garden apartment in NYC.
click for expansive view 

Monday, April 25, 2011

In My Backyard

Them's horses.  Just beyond the scotch pines on the west edge of our property my neighbor keeps horses in a corral attached to a loafing shed.  The shed has several pens and a wired-off enclosure with a mare and a cute new foal with a white patch on her chest.  Just beyond the corral, there was a horny stallion in a riding arena egging on the mares to join him for some fun in the sun.  Now there's just a horse wearing a blanket.  My neighbor's horses aren't feeling well.  They picked up a bug going around.  He told me yesterday that even the horses running free down in the flats were looking thin.

"Oughta turn 'em all into cheeseburgers," he complains.  I know he loves those horses. Two dogs accompany him on his rounds feeding the mother and foal, hauling water, forking big round bales of hay with his Massey-Ferguson tractor. The tractor has "Sassy" painted in silver on the cowl.  I thought only sailors named their boats.The dogs are Sarah and Tucker.  Mandy, my girl, thinks Tucker is swell. He's half her size.  He can walk on his hind legs. 

I shoveled s**t on  Easter.  I hauled 5 loads of composted horse manure ( pronounced man'-nurr locally) with a new 10 cu.ft. pull-behind cart. My neighbor periodically scrapes the corral clean of horse apples and dumps it over the fence.  After a year of aging, I take a chance that the seeds and weeds that went into the horses stomachs as hay and come out as poop are decomposed.  Since we use no chemicals and other defoliants popular with local farmers, I sometimes get a nice crops of weeds in my corn patch.  It cuts down on my harvest from a total avalanche of corn to a whole 'effing lot. The rule of thumb (ROT) this year is no manure.  I spends lots and lots for organic composted poultry manure.

Hang on there, it will get more boring if'n you're not a farmer.

I look over the fence at the fresh manure riddled with hay. It's soft and crumbly, pliable to work with but nothing but trouble.  The stuff I'm hauling has been compressed by winter snows, rain, ice and the finest that Southwestern Wisconsin weather can throw at the land. I hope that no one can see me from the highway, working the manure pile with my Troy-Bilt horse so I can fork it in the Huskee cart.

It's one of those days for doing stupid things to your body.  First I dislocate my finger when I catch it in latch of the storm door of the barn.  Don't  ask me how I did it.  Then I throw my shoulder out leaning over to hug the dog. I pull the cart up a hill and back it into the former squash garden.  I pull the nifty lever and the cart flips up and dumps part of the load. Each load of compost has to be helped off the cart.  I pull it forward a bit like the big boys from the gravel pits do with their dump trucks. Three hours of this and I hit my recliner to "rest my eyes" as Grandma would say.

You can't just dump and run.  That compost also needs to be spread with a fork and shovel. Dawn comes out to join me in the fun. Together we spread all those mini mounds over one half of the new onion patch. The soil here is a blend of rock and loam.  It's very close to the artificial berm created to keep the crooked river out of our field.  Way back when, it is designed to keep the river off the highway when it snaked in front of the school house.  The highway is relocated and the old highway is covered in gravel to become a dead end road.  Today,I'll move more compost over the other half while Mandy chases birds and sneaks under the barb-wire fence to smell fresh horse hockey.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Late Again

Dawn calls to tell me she'll be late getting home from work. 

"The Easter Bunny got here at 3:45. He was supposed to arrive at 3:00. I had to escort him to each resident's room.  They got tired of waiting for him in the dining room."

Insert photo of snoozing octogenarians at tables with bunny basket centerpieces..

The library in the big town is closed when Mandy and I pull up to the curb.  I walk past a white Toyota Corolla with the side window down.   A voice comes from the Corolla,
"Save yourself the walk up the stairs. It's closed for some reason." 
You could have cut his pissed off tone with a knife. I heave a sigh of relief, since the last time I stopped at the BIG Library in town a rather rotund girl dressed in a flowing purple robe asks me,
"Hello sir. You wanna buy some pot?"
Sir? Pot? 
I looked down the street for the squad car. 
"No thank you."

Back in my misguided youth many, many, many years ago we held the unofficial record for most marijuana consumption in one month. It was self awarded .We ( myself and two other stoners)  lived across the road from a hippie commune that openly advocated smoking weed. The county sheriff refused to prosecute them.  We always said we were smoking for medical reasons- preventing glaucoma, alleviating nausea from chemotherapy or fighting asthma. We might have referred to ganja as "smoke" or "wacky weed". Never, pot, tea or refer.

Until I resigned from my non-persidency (not a typo) of the liberry board in the little burg close to home, I didn't need the big'un in town. I opt out of the controversy over misbehaving kids in the back of the library. What do I know?  Eighteen years as a teacher didn't give me any skills. I've two DVD's in my paw due at another small town library two miles to the north. The parking lot is full. The librarian is hustling to help people check out.  Whatever help she used to have disappeared in the pockets of politicians.  The nice old lady at the counter who would regale you with stories of life as a cigar roller for the Kickapoo River Region Tobacco Pool is gone.  The teenager who volunteered once a week, quit.

The weather is 44 degrees, misting and gray like the picture.  One goose is standing knee deep in water and his mate is swimming in the deeper water in the pasture next to the highway.  Unable to resist the real reason for Easter, the one that precludes the current trend where everything shuts down for three hours on a Friday afternoon, women wear funny hats on Sunday and the beet sugar consortium and dentists get together in Las Vegas to plan their portfolios, I plant potatoes in my own annual pagan fertility rite.  I wrestled with this.

Insert photo of Gorgeous George, the wrestler. Hulk Hogan or Jesse Ventura will do if you don't remember George.

Dawn consults the ephemeris to find out when the moon will be in Taurus."May 2nd," she says. It is the next  window of opportunity for planting spuds, if I skip local tradition. I hope that Taurus hangs around until after May10th, another fertile time.

Unlike my second wife, Taurus is fertile sign. For her, just being a Taurus is a fertile opportunity.  I have a canceled check pinned to the nudie calendar in the garage made out to her in the amount of $10,050 which reminds me of her. My attorney says I got off cheap.

With four days of rain, cold, gray skies in the forecast, I'm asking for trouble planting potatoes according to the moon and local tradition. Two days after the full moon is propitious for root crops the almanac says.  The old Norwegians of the area planted spuds on Good Friday, had lefse(potato flat bread) and salt cod soaked in lye and went to the tavern between noon and three to wash the chemicals away.

Organic gardening is a gamble.  I look at it as an experiment. I can talk smart  because I have seven egg crates of seed potatoes stored in the summer kitchen. Therefore, I plant one row and take copious notes for 2012.  Time, temperature, soil condition,variety, size-all of which I'll never ever be able to duplicate. 2009 we store and give away 700 lbs. of Kennebecs, Pontiacs, La Rouge, Yukon Gold and Russets. 2008- 50 lbs of potatoes tops.  2010 we harvest three varieties totaling 500 lbs. A crap shoot at best.        . 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Horse Sense

People still ride horses here in rural America. One doesn't see them on the highway very often because some Wisconsin drivers are on the low end of the intelligence spectrum.  Yesterday's freak snow storm which closed the schools at 1:30 pm caused numerous accidents.  Dawn says a co-worker returned from a trip to Milwaukee via Interstate 90/94. Normally that's a 3 hour trip.  It took this person 5 hours.  She was stunned to drive by the scene of an accident and find the wheels of the overturned  RV still turning.

Jorge and I travel to Cashton via two main highways.  It's snowing. In front of us is a Neanderthal driving as if there were a foot of snow.  There wasn't.  The road was slushy, but clear.  Road crews were working on clear cutting the shoulder of highway 14 for the new four lane highway.

"Run for your lives, there's a storm coming."

Since the snow storm came in the middle of April. there is cause for concern.  If it were December, it would be just another squall.  We leave 15 minutes early not because of the weather, but because we want to get to the food bank before the crowds form. Insert comment about food bank.

[There are no qualifications for eligibility for the food program, save for one. You must be human.  Donald Trump could park around the corner from the Tip Top Tap, get a number from Spunky, banter with her about going home with her if the snow continues and sit on the balcony watching the parade of humanity. This is a partial view of things I pick up at the food bank for my Amish friends.]  

Bottom right, extra large peanut butter chips. Cookies made with these chips have mandatory labeling:
One moment on the lips-30 years on the hips.  
Danish butter cookies in a tin, same moniker. Two plastic bags of salami strips: sodium alert.  Six cans of chili and beans 990 mgs of sodium per 8 oz. serving.  That's 1980 mg per can.  Lethal for one with elevated blood pressure. Two cans fruit cocktail-I intensely despise fruit cocktail. Today, I'll bring them the rest of the load when I go for fresh milk. 

My Amish friends love the stuff.  You must remember that once while helping them butcher a hog, we talk to man with a beaver carcass hanging from his arm as he walks in the butcher shop. "You want it?" he asks. The Amish Patriarch states he's never tasted beaver, but that they'll give it a try. Later I ask, "How was the beaver?"  His reply, "Probably wouldn't eat it again."

Lunch after I return from the trip are two food pantry temptations-(I rationalize it as an experiment. The same is true for planting onions, spinach and peas in April just south of the arctic circle) corned beef hash and this bag. I  never buy junk food,  The six bags of onion rings, bags of barbecue chips and a 32 oz. bags of pretzel sticks would last us a few years before they get stale.  Most of the items I get from the food bank go to others.  I save the Greek yogurt, sour cream and a stick of pepperoni for homemade pizza. A loaf of bread goes in the freezer for hot summer days when I don't feel like baking. Every Friday the Amish bake sale features  fresh baked pie, bread and cinnamon buns from a state inspected kitchen.  My dog won't touch the leftover corned beef hash. It was an experiment on my part. I saved back one can before I donated the rest to the Amish.  I wash it down with a 16 ounce bottle of diet Mountain Dew.  So much for a healthy diet of organic food.

I go head to head with my doctor about alternate medicine.  His solution to any medical problem is to throw a prescription at you. If you ask about side effects, the standard reply is, "Even water has side effects." another favorite is, "You have to take the good with the bad."   It took me 11 days to get in to see him. He's 35 minutes late for the appointment.  He's running late because he tries to squeeze in too many patients in the three day week he's at the clinic. In twenty minutes not all my questions are answered and the few he answers before his nurse interrupts the appointment to tell him on the phone ,"You're running late."  are standard replies.  I can see him flipping the medical reference textbook from his intern days in his mind.


Saturday, April 16, 2011


couch potatoes
Did I mention I'm part wolf?  No, not the kind presented by Warner Brothers-the one with the long snout and a piercing whistle when a a hot woman walks by.

The Pooch(Salvatore Pucci) comes inside after a stint punching his morning time clock at preset mouse stations under the deck, on the south fence line and in the woodshed.  He's covered in snow.  As the cat walks up the steps from the entry way into the main hallway, Mandy makes sure she gets a passing whiff. It's a time, temperature,date and olfactory stamp on the part of the blue heeler. I , too, love to snuffle. Shampoo, perfume, the french fryer outside the Kickapoo Inn, garlic simmering in my kitchen.

In a ludicrous pipe ceremony at the height of the new age fascination for anything Native American , I receive an Indian name.The pipe carrier is a woman. Highly unusual.  In the bathroom a friend overhears a conversation. The pipe carrier is in a stall talking to a friend.  "Let's get the hell outahere,"she says, "and go have a beer."  Hey lady, I'm all for the beer but you got fans out there that wanna tell their friends they been inducted into the Native American Hall of Fame with names like Woman who Farts Discretely, High Eagle or Tall and Stately Tree .  People are asked,
"If you want an Indian name to sign up on the paper being passed around the circle."
I pass on the sign-up.  I'm still wanted in several states for punning with intent.  I wear a black turtle neck and fasten a square faux -ivory pin at the front of my collar which gives me  a priestly look.  I'm having fun with the charade as people politely defer to me on questions about absolution for past life sins.

The pipe carrier comes to me, looks me in the eye and says,
"I name you White Thunder Wolf. If you want that name repeat it back to me."
Another classic WOW moment. I break off a relationship with white witch with deep blue pixie eyes from  Milwaukee's sout' side.  She accused me of sending junk mail to her co-dependent mother. Yes, really-junk mail.  As I'm standing on her porch retrieving things I'd left in her bathroom, she says to me,
"I am soo sorry about what I said. Please forgive me. What can I say?"
In my classic John Wayne imitation, I draw myself up to my full six feet one inch height and reply,
"Just say good bye."

To the pipe carrier, I reply,
"White Thunder Wolf???"
She doesn't see the question marks.
Later I'm named by a real Anishnabe. I can't tell you my name.  I'm not allowed. It has something to do with "wolf."
Our self portrait
  Dawn is the swan. I'm the wolf.  Dawn's maiden name freely translates from the German to Swan By The Lake. Beware of Swans. They can break your leg with a flap of those wings.

The kids are shut in today. At 10:47 it's still snowing. Saturday, April 16th.  Dawn is off making her lasagna garden presentation.  The  weatherman promised that the white stuff would melt.  Oh yeah,sure, you betcha.  If weather patterns follow prescribed patterns, there will be a sudden cold spell.  Easter bonnets will be fur lined.  The potatoes are ready for sowing on Good Friday. Until then, chop water and carry wood as Buddha says and wait for yer onions to rot. 

Friday, April 15, 2011


Epicure- fr.epicurus ( medieval Latin) One whose chief happiness is in carnal pleasure.
The Oxford dictionary of English Etymology.
A long time ago, I used to hang out with an Athenian philosopher, Epikouros. 

Yesterday we took a road trip to Lacrosse.  Jorge's driving his SUV which is worth more than our converted schoolhouse.  Secretly I pretend I'm being chauffeured. On the nearside of 70 years old, he drives like a cop on patrol-slow and even. In front of us, a pickup piled high above the sides with feed sacks is cruising at 45 mph on Highway 33 coming from the farm supply warehouse in Cashton.. 
He hits the gas pedal and my head jerks back from the G force.

"Even I can't drive that slow," he says.

He punches a button on his dashboard labeled info. I ask whatissit

"Gives me information about the trip-mileage, amount of fuel, gas mileage and chances of scoring if the passenger in the front seat is female."
Last week my driver attended Grady's funeral.  Grady is the person about which Jorge's uncle is reputed to have said,

"Keep f***ing with him, you'll learn."

It's a mantra we repeat frequently when confronted with dipsticks and dweebs.
Riding shotgun, if you asked Grady if the traffic from the right was clear, he'd respond, "Yeah."
That's when you'll notice a semi bearing down on you as you pull out in traffic.
"I thought you said it was clear, Grady?" 
"What do I know," is his response.
The end of any Grady phone call is always "I'll holler."
"What?"  I ask.
"Some kind of southern expression," Jorge says.
Although he drives a flex-fuel SUV that gets 19 mpg tops, Jorge comments that the morning's news reports indicate car makers are still producing SUV's despite high fuel prices . "What's wrong with those people?"
My response,
"75 % of the American people believe in angels and after the Japanese nuclear fiasco, a Gallup poll reports that the per cent of people worried about global nuclear contamination increased by a mere 2%." 

And so it goes...

My mission in Lacrosse is to purchase garden supplies for my wife.  In an effort to improve the quality of life for seniors at the assisted living center, Dawn started with raised bed gardens, table top gardens , upside down tomato containers and this year's project a "lasagna"  garden.  A garden specialist, the president of the local garden club, the Vernon Broadcaster and other news media will be there. She describes her success and the frustration of working with the elderly.  One woman sits enchanted in the dining room watching as a squirrel systematically chews every new green bean plant down to a nub.  Earl, the self appointed garden supervisor, takes a hand weeder to a plot destroying a near by seed bed.  On weekends when she's not around, the gardens suffer.

At Farm and Fleet I find the inexpensive soil test kit I need. Two previous kits I bought hide worn out chemicals in the test capsules and a filter contraption that plugs and break with the first use   The Ph on the potato garden is a smidgen higher than 7.0, therefore, I need to bring it down a point.  I sow 320 feet of yellow onions in two plots. My projected planting time was 2 days after the full moon.  Weather conditions take precedent over moon signs.  Thursday's rain and threat of snow is highlighted with a cold front and 36 degrees mid-day. I light a fire in the wood stove last night.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dragon Buffet

Jorge, ever the buffoon, asks the waitperson, "Is there any dragon on today's menu?"  The cute, dark haired Asian beauty looks at him questioningly.  In the cartoon balloon above her head are a half dozen questions, none of them printable.  He repeats himself, "Are you serving dragon today?" That's where I step in.  I can't remember exactly what I said.  Perhaps it was just the circling motion next to my temple indicating this guy's cuckoo. Then she laughs. "Oh, you so funny!"
When Jorge drops us off, I open the first fortune cookie, withdraw the paper and give the crunchy cookie  to my dog for a treat. The above was inside.  I open Jorge's fortune cookie.  He's dieting and restricting the intake of carbs.  He gives it to me.  The cookie advises him to quit buying things on sale. Buy only what you need. An apt description of Jorge.

The only reason he asked the wait person at the Dragon Buffet about dragon on the menu is because I said to him as we walked in, "I 'll give you a dollar if you ask her if they serve "dragon".   " You owe me a buck", he replies. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Ten things you'd like to forget?  It took me 24 minutes today to add a new blog to my blog list.  Yesterday and today I'm plagued with tech problems.  Pictures I wanted to download wouldn't.  Posts I didn't want to add, did. WTF?

Turns out that comedy comes in the weirdest ways.  No, I didn't forget ten things that I wanted to forget. I merely changed the title of the post. Blogger took over from there. I don't remember what I wanted to forget.
2006 Miss Nude Russet Potato Contest

There was a time when I had the time to play with my food, as the picture suggests.  Carrots with forked legs, tomatoes with tuber noses, obscene zucchini and ridiculous cross bred vegetables like squashkins. This photo was one that wouldn't download for yesterday's post.

In the east bedroom of our converted schoolhouse Willy Coyote is propped against the back wall. He's named Willy because he's not too clever.  There is a smaller version on a shelf I call Tammy Wylette.  Willy wears a twenty two bullet necklace and has wires in his ears to make them stand up straight.  His nose droops forever  When I bought the thing, it was an outrageous expense. The kids couldn't care less.

The coyote figures prominently in my youth.  Saturday cartoons were a must watch.  I rooted for the coyote.   Many frustrating moments were spent enduring his foiled attempts to snatch a feathered meal. Living in Arizona, I got to see Roadrunners live and in action.  I admired them greatly for their foraging habits and curious way of running.  Observing quail families-mom, pop and 17 f feather balls walking across the cul-de-sac down our arroyo was another real treat.  I wear a Phoenix Coyote baseball cap when I get dressed up. The double irony: he's the mascot for an Arizona ice hockey team and a symbol of the trickster. 

When my daughter attended the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, she lived in a building purchased from Hugh Hefner. Yes, the original Playboy Mansion.  Weird things happened there. She was not happy living there. I gave her a coyote tooth necklace(a real tooth) to ward off the trickster.  Coyote is also famous among western Native Americans as the sexual buffoon.  I'm not sure it helped ward off weirdness as my shy, blond haired, blue-eyed daughter now wears a snake tattoo down her left arm.  But that's my own perspective.
A disgusted Willy Coyote

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kisses and Licks

A long time ago a Popsicle cost 5 cents and gas is 27 cents a gallon during price wars.  Gas stations are called filling stations and someone would come out and ask if you wanted your oil checked.  It didn't cost you a buck to have your windshield cleaned by a vagrant with a greasy rag(remember then?) About that time, I regularly e-mailed the town clerk tidbits of trite information just like this post. She was the friend of a friend.

So I begin by telling her about a dream of mine.  I was kissing Marilyn Monroe.  "I'M NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR DREAMS," she replied. I never got to the point of the e-mail which,  if it were a blog post, it would be titled, No Big Deal , because that's what it was.  I was so surprised that a huge sex symbol like Marilyn Monroe would be a so-so kisser. There's probably deep down psycho-babble meaning here.

Recently I dreamed I was licked in the face by a comely woman. When I was a kid,  I'd surprise Auntie Irma who'd bend over to pinch my cheek and give me a smooch by giving her a huge slurpy lick.  That'll teach her to pinch my cheek.

The cartoon balloon over my head in the dream says, "In all my eighty years, I've never been licked!"  Eighty years?  I may be older, but I can assure you I haven't reached that golden age. When you awaken you tell yourself you should write that one down, but you don't.  Musing the dream over breakfast, I decide I must stop letting Mandy Mae, my dog, lick my face.  It's causing me nightmares.

Dawn calls me yestewrday afternoon to tell me the blood test results came back positive for Lyme disease.  First the dog and now my wife.  My first thought?  Is it catching.  I'm waiting for the doctor to call back.  Nights in front of the tube, Dawn positions a hoist over my recliner so that she can extract me so I can take the dog out before bed.  I don't sit on the couch anymore because it's so soft, it swallows you up.  Dawn has to prop her feet against my behind and give me a good push to get me up.  I rationalize it's due to all the field work.It may be Lyme disease.

I got my peas in yesterday.  I planted three varieties of spinach.  Tyee, Baby Leaf hybrid and Bloomsdale long standing are sleeping snugly in 24 foot long rows each.  On either side of a 16 foot long cattle panel are edible podded peas and snow peas.  We're in the first quarter leading up to a full moon.  Mother Nature's on the opposing team so I have to balance weather events against the moon signs.  The Amish act as sideline coaches when I do not have enough information. Spuds ( two 80 foot plots) and two onion plots are next.  I'm saving eggshells for the bottom of the holes of the 20 tomato plants I put in the ground.

The good news is that spud production is now totally organic .  My seed potatoes last year weren't organic.  I am not independently wealthy to afford the organic variety of seed potatoes.  This year I have a good supply of my own organically raised potatoes to plant a field that could supply a small village.More good news.  The recent 80 degree weather over the weekend that caused a spate of broken tree limbs and razor sharp, flying tin carpets I used to cover a woodpile have caused only a minor amount of spud sprouting in the dark reaches of the summer kitchen.  Goes to show that one does not need a heavy chemical dose of growth retardant on potatoes. The russet were harvested last August. Count on your fingers- Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb. March April- 8 months and they're still good.  The secret?  Storage temperature. Most of the fall and winter they were kept just above freezing in the summer kitchen, in total darkness, unwashed. Optimally the humidity should be 90%.


Ten Things You Want To Forget

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kisses and Licks

Stay tuned folks for a segment called Kisses and Licks. It's a dream.  No time at present.  The other segment, maybe I'll combine the two is Broken Wind. We had a heck of a windstorm yesterday. 

Friday, April 8, 2011


Corn garden on a rainy day
Dawn asks what I want for my birthday.
"Flame thrower," I tell her.
Sarcasm and dull witted statements are the norm, therefore, her reply-
"Really," I say.
"I thought you were kidding because of the grass fire."
Lee Valley Tools has one in their garden catalog for April. She folds back the page for future reference.  Later, I check the price of nozzle, hose and connector. Wow.
( paraphrasing the fetilizer sales man at the agri-center).
Since there are no dimension to the width of the flame on this weed killer, I conjure up this scene.
Tra-La-La-, Tra-La-La.Tra-La-La...
Gavrillo skipping down rows of onions killing weeds and making french onion soup at the same time.
Let's get practical. More birthday shoes.
The 46X30 foot plot (mid-left photo) is our corn garden.  In the lower left hand side of the corn garden is Pucci Kitty's favorite poop spot.  The sand pile below the white frame structure we use to dry onions is another of the Pooch's outhouses.It's no longer the granddaughter's sand pile.
Lee Valley sells a Cat Scat ( not the trade marked name in the catalog) ultra-sonic device to repel cats
(white cats, older cats, exotic breeds may not be affected).
Dream on about peasant knives, wheel hoes, collapsible rain barrels,heat activated window openers and a nifty stainless steel spatula for $9.95 to replace the worn, inexpensive chrome plated one I use.

Dog and I journey to Johnson's One Stop in Seneca.  The route follows the Kickapoo River up to and beyond Gays Mills.  I watch for waterfowl in abundant wetlands while Mandy keeps an eye on an undulating, twisting road.  The hills are broader, the fields larger and the countryside makes me want to plow deep furrows with a $200,000 John Deere tractor while listening to Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp.  I'd toss in some Laurie Anderson to counteract eons of country music that lie fermenting beneath the topsoil, excluding, of course Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr. and Patsy Cline. I hum Crazy and I Fall To Pieces as we pass Tavern Lane ( there's no tavern on Tavern Lane). A little way down the road we pass a one story white steel building that says, "Christians Who Worship Jesus In His Everlasting Glory But Only on Weekends"  Wow. That's a really long moniker. I tsk tsk and cluck my tongue at names I see on businesses and buildings.  "Ed's" & "Dicks" are two of my favorite names for grocery stores.  Ed's Super Value always brings to mind tons of delicious fruit, select meat and fresh produce.  "Dicks Grocery Store."  It could only be surpassed by Ricky's Finer Foods.

Johnson's One Stop turns out to be an accurate description.  Grocery store, hardware, lumber mill and agri-center combined.  I'm looking for an organic (can be used up to the day of harvest) dust for Colorado potato beetles, squash bugs and an assortment of other leaf eating pests.  The one pound containers are on sale. In the height of the season the local hardware stores sell it for twice the price.  Grass seed, chicken leg quarters, Cannelini bean seed, country ribs, butter and twine complete the list.  I wait in a long line at two register lanes squeezed into the last aisle between a bank of freezers on the right and canned goods at left wondering why the owner doesn't put loss-leader specials and impulse purchases on the shelves instead of canned goods. The lady in front of me has eighteen pounds of butter and a leaning Tower of Pisa stack of  frozen pizzas. The old gent at my left is grinning and carrying a cardboard case of country ribs.
"I bet they're counting the dollar bills flying through, " he says to me. The farmer to the left of Pizza lady is wearing train engineer, seersucker bibs that are badly stained  in the butt portion. "Need to wipe off that tractor seat Bub,"  I muse.He could be a stand-in for Grandpa in The Grapes of Wrath. When he munches his free popcorn his nose touches his chin.

As I load my purchases in the car, a grocery bagger woman comes rushing out to snatch the cart I'd pushed across highway 27.  Fearful that I'd load the cart into the truck of my Chevy, she grins as I thank her for saving me the walk across Main Street. I gaze at the many wonders of Southwest Wisconsin on the way back.

Two stately Victorian bed and breakfasts sit dangerously close to the river.  Highwater marks many of the houses in the two block long stretch of downtown Gays Mills.  One house is on steel beams ready for relocating which  forecasts the creation of another ghost town like the original town of Soldiers Grove.  The Mt.Sterling  goat cheese factory,  plywood aliens waving from Crazy Frank's, Digger Don, "Go Westby Girl's", Thurfane (whatizzit?), "We smoke anything" at the meat locker.   
Working on a new sign for the front field,
Blackbird Farm
Organically Grown
 I swat two mosquitoes.  When I mention it to my wife, she says, Not already."  "Yes, already."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pall Mall

It's election day in Tunnel-ville.  Same goes for Kickapoo Center.  If you're wondering, yes, there is a Tunnel-ville. It's nearby.  Mountain Man Johann explained the origins of the place in a journey across the tundra through the Kickapoo Reserve.  My faulty memory says it has to do with tunnels and an old railroad grade.  In Sedona, actually the Village of Oak Creek, a road sign announces a side road called Back O 'Beyond. Clever pioneers, yes they were.

Since I'll be going to the polling place today, I'll need to spruce up. I'll forgo my favorite khaki shirt with the frayed collar for a maroon L.L.Bean chamois shirt. I've got a few more days in these blue jeans.  I won't, however, have to turn them inside out like Jeannette Walls' grandmother did in Half Broke Horses.

No one's running for office in Kickapoo Center because no has lived there for 100 years.  In the Town of Kickapoo all of the town board is running unopposed. The former town chairman calls on our land line yesterday.  After nine rings, I decide to answer the phone. Telephone solicitors usually give up after eight.  I'm guessing  Jorge is trying to get in touch and is out of telephone minutes on his cell.

"Were you sleeping?" he asks.  "No," I reply. "I don't answer this phone because some one tries to sell me something when I do."

"I'm not selling," he says.  "I'm buying. I need your vote.Write me in tomorrow. They never applied for the grant to repair town roads. I got a grant three out of four times when I applied."

I'm sold..  Disgruntled because of the condition of our road after the town snow plow scrapes all the gravel and a swath a half mile wide with their front mounted plow and side swinging scraper.  I'm frazzled and worn from three hours  spent repairing huge divots, raking boulders off the lawn and replanting turf.  It's a dead end road, for cripes sake. Dawn, myself and the telephone company are the only travelers on this road the town crew figures should be wide enough for two 18 wheelers to pass simultaneously. ...And there are three more hours of road work left.

The best reason to vote is the election for State Supreme Court.  A Republican governor nominates David J. Prosser jr. to the Supreme Court in 1998.  His opponent is(according to my wife who heard an interview on NPR) an articulate speaker, Assistant Attorney General Joanne Kloppenberg.  The news media quickly fixed attention on Prosser after he loses the key support of a respected former governor, is quoted as labeling liberal Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson, "a total bitch", is endorsed by none other than Sarah Palin and  has turned a normally non-partisan, dull election into a proxy fight closely allied to Skippy Walker's anti-union bill.  We need another conservative Republican judge playing politics in office?

If you're wondering Pall Mall is an alley in London.  A game similar to croquet, knocking balls through iron hoops, originated there.