Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Is it the fulfillment of a Biblical prophesy, a result of global warming, an eleven year cycle of gyrating storm patterns or part of the theme I hum evenings, a popular song here, In heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here ? It's the question I debate frequently with my alter ego, also my pseudonym   Is there a heaven or hell?  Is this life really a hell on earth?

After a leisurely breakfast in which I allow myself a full thirty minutes to read The Shopping News and a few articles from the Christian Science Monitor,  I skip a shower, grab a laundry basket and limp shirtless downstairs. I tell Mandy, "soon"  when she yawns and does her extended ooouuut groan  The bare chested routine is to slather insect repellent and sun screen over my neck, shoulders and arms  for the full farmer tan effect. Even I don't want to see me naked on a beach.

"Oh shit."  Glancing out the north windows of the second floor, I see the ominous gray clouds let go with a fine shower of rain. My plans change instantly from outdoor work to inside chores. 

Half of the wire towers I hauled to the front field are adjacent to the tomato patch.  When I was able to get out to the field to tie up tomato plants, they'd changed from teenagers to full grown blossoming giants.  I snip and trim and use a leftover piece of muslin originally slated as a sun-dried tomato covering for cloth tomato ties. I'm driven inside by heat and humidity at mid-day.  

Much of my morning involved getting a urine sample from Mandy, the dog and transporting it to the vet in the largest town 20 minutes away.  After a few minutes on the phone with the vet's assistant, I explain that she'd probably not want to eat cereal at our house anytime in the future.  A ceramic bowl I use exclusively for the dog and cat, is pressed into service as a collector.  Following closely behind my girl, I wait until she squats and slip the bowl underneath her hindquarters.  Success! I transfer the contents to a plastic Tupperware salad dressing mini. 

Mandy's been slurping water and peeing even more frequently.  The connection between hot weather or other plausible causes is ruled out when she has an inside "accident" overnight.  Taking a sample to the vet for laboratory analysis will rule out any doubt. 

Over three weeks of drought changes overnight to frequent drenching rain-the kind that turns gardens into mud banks.  There's a race between weeds and vegetable plants to reach the sun.  In the spinach plot, the lambs quarter won.  I push aside weeds to get at rangy spinach in the middle of the 20 foot row.  Washing mud and sand from the leaves and separating out grass and weeds takes most of an afternoon.  The easy part is blanching, bagging and freezing the crop.  While the water is heating, I reorganize the freezers and make new notes on the map hanging above the chest freezer.  The chest freezer holds four cardboard orange juice boxes with  cut off lids on each layer.  Without the map, I'd never know where to find jalapenos and green peppers, snow peas or broccoli.

Outdoor work follows a routine.  Properly attired and sprayed for black flies, I arrange three sheets of Bounce fabric softener under my straw hat.  I grab a used chicken liver container half full of water and dish soap to drown Colorado potato beetles.  There are for plots to pass by looking for striped adults and red larvae.  Next, I scan for tasks and order them into a mental list for 1. immediate attention, 2. later and 3. when I can get around to it.  

Cabbages are three fourths grown, so I haul five gallon buckets from the back addition to the garage workshop we call the summer kitchen, to the entrance way of the house.  After shredding twenty or so pounds of cabbage, it is salted and covered with cheese cloth, a dinner plate and a gallon jug of clean water to ferment into sauerkraut.  It takes two weeks before Dawn adds caraway and processes it into pint jars.  The broccoli still hasn't headed.  Potatoes are in full bloom and onions are taking advantage of the long daylight of the summer solstice to bulk up.  Cucumbers for pickles are inching up their wire trellis having grown two new sets of leaves in the last week.  The pole beans are the Secretariat of the vegetable race.  I'll add three foot extensions to the five foot high trellis before they are full grown. Called rattlesnake beans because of the purple striations of the pods, they are the best tasting of the green bean family.  Besides freezing them as is, we can them as "dilly" beans and add them to four bean salad.  Dried, the bean seeds are nutritious and tasty as barbecue beans. 

When the winds are strong  and the grass dries in the late afternoon, Mandy finds a quiet spot to watch me sail over the lawn on yellow Ted or orange Fred, my riding mowers.  Ted's short and squat and hugs hills.  Fred is tall and fast and runs like the deer Mandy scared from the backyard late the other night.  He's powered by a Kawasaki motor. 

On Monday I got two gallons of raw milk from my Amish friends to make into mozzarella cheese.  The recipe comes from pig farmer Jake, also Amish.  The title of the recipe is 30 minute cheese,

Pooch the cat is restless lying behind my useless printer, snoring away.  Mandy gave up on hopes of chasing a solitary rabbit hanging out down the lane toward the corn field which will soon turn to lake if the rains continue.

If the skies clear, I'll be able to hang wash.  The time consumed running the basement stairs is well worth the savings in dollars on the electric bill.  Substituting a fan on medium high for the dehumidifier and hanging wash has saved us on average of thirty dollars a month.  The electric utility foiled our quest to reduce the bill ,shown as a line graph, to "lowest ever" when they raised the rates.    

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