Monday, August 29, 2011


Instead of hitting the floor running, I decide to sit for thirty minutes after breakfast.  There are hash browns that litter the floor when my fork missed my mouth and a ketchup smear on my right leg when I bounced a fresh made french fry off my calf at lunch yesterday.  I'd like to think I'm not entering senior la-la land, just distracted.

I walked in the garage and opened the upright freezer to take a picture of yesterday.  Seventeen quart freezer bags jammed full of blanched soybeans.  That's a 14 gallon ( 53 liters) Tupperware tub of washed, sorted edamame-the Japanese word for soybean. It's an unknown out here in the sticks.  When one hasn't been any farther than Lacrosse and fresh sushi comes in plastic containers at Festival Foods or frozen at Wal-Mart, sushi is the equivalent of eating fat white maggots with a little sea salt to locals whose idea of a delicacy is cod made gelatinous with lye.

Mandy takes advantage of an open back door to sneak back to bed upstairs.  Her camo bed in the breezeway is a bit too cool at 7 am and 58 degrees.  Poochie the cat ambles in, brushing against my ankles for a fast snort of a raw chicken liver breakfast.  Then, it's back outside to prowl.  What a guy.

Jorge, Dawn and I harvest half of the half of the soybean patch while listening to a rebroadcast Prairie Home Companion and another program on WPR called  To The Best of Our Knowledge. The programer interviews a woman who's an authority on trees.  She's planted over a hundred varieties of trees on her property and enlightens us of the healing properties of trees.  I was out in the soybean patch hauling new stalks which we hold by the root and strip the pods from the plant so I didn't catch much more than Dawn's excited exclamations about Black Walnut Trees and the worth of a full grown walnut tree at harvest-$60K. 

The other half of the Shirofumi organic soybeans out there will be saved for seed next year. I'll blanch  as many as I have time to pick for shelled beans.  In December steamed edible podded soybeans coated with some coarse kosher salt or sea salt and a beer will top off a cold winter night.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Lookout Platform on Notre Dame of Paris-1977
It seems like a hundred years since I've been at the keyboard.  

The cat comes up in the middle of the night to meow some cat concern.  The dog jumps off her futon, does her yadda-yadda shake I associate with a "yes"  to anything in dog-speak.  This time it means "yes" I gotta pee. I stumble down the stairs hoping not to misjudge that last step before the carpet and open four doors so Mandy Mae can go out and pee.  I hear her upstairs groaning, yawning and grunting as she does when she first awakens.  Then, she races outside while I, too, take a leak.  I let her back in, turn off the light hoping streak the cat didn't get out to be mauled by lions, tigers and raccoons in the foggy mist of 2:44 am.  Mandy grabs her blankie for a bit o' nuzzle and I nestle under a single sheet.

Don Stenson, a teaching associate, once mentioned that alcohol disturbs your sleep patterns.  I'm wide awake creating a check list of chores for the morning, afternoon, and evening. I hold off the anxieteers, a classic cartoon depiction from Pearls Before Swine of the nighttime frights, obsessive-compulsive over achievers like me suffer from, by making a long to-do list.

The neighbor who bought a ten acre corn field behind us and decides to erect a fence that will run through a wood lot on our south property line and threatens to demolish,destroy and remove valuable black walnut trees that the squirrels and I carelessly planted, I leave to lawyers and the wrath of Gitchee-Manitou who has favored me with his/her presence when I first realized that I'd parked on a railroad grade sleeping off a drunk with my first wife in my 1960 Ford Sunliner convertible.

I grab a new book Dawn brings home-Blood, Bones and Butter written by  New York chef/restaurant owner Gabrielle Hamilton who chronicles an astonishing childhood(I've only read two chapters).  Reading works wonders for me as I turn off the reading lamp above the bed promising myself to cut back on the wine after dinner. Her youth rivals mine.

I awake with a start.

It's been 45 years. What?  August 26.1966 a 170 pound stick man, similar to the figures T.Roger Thomas draws in his excellent blog  cleansheetsanddirtygirls  marries the girl he slept with in his Ford on the railroad track.First light breaks through the still thick fog. I have to take a dump.

Oh shit.  I ate too much steamed kale last night. A gigantic red Burpee Delicious tomato which split open in sweet juiciness when I brought it in from the front field, got sliced to accompany a memorable Yukon Gold baked potato and beer battered cod. Life is good.

The cat comes in the bathroom to lick my toes and gnaw on the big toe, while I ponder the mysteries of life. He props his paws on the seat to watch the mysteries of life swirl down to the septic tank with cat eyed wonder and I fix a cup of espresso. It's treat for me since I cut back on being caffeine-crazy in the morning a month ago. Believe or not, but I get more work done without it. 

August 26th, 2011 passes without a single thought of the reception at the Shorewood Women's Club on the Milarky River and the guy I compared to a used car salesman who married us at The Roundy Memorial Baptist church.

Jorge and I hustle to Lacrosse to buy lumber pulling a 16 foot trailer in tow behind his luxury SUV. We make numerous stops for supplies.  Farm Fleet has canning jars on sale.  Woodman's Market carries a full line of organic and vegetarian groceries.  I pick and choose between the two categories depending upon cost and function.  Five pounds of organic carrots are ridiculously expensive, but the taste of organic carrots is far superior in my homemade carrot juice. Better even than my own home grown. I buy cheap hamburger for the dog's breakfast, chicken livers for the cat and since I'm on a vegetarian kick-two kinds of soy and almond milk.  The Amish have been out of "farmer eggs" so I break down and buy Sparboe farm ( family owned since 1954) jumbo eggs.

Jorge is rich enough to buy a forty-four thousand dollar Kubota tractor in a pissed off whim involving a neighbor. He drives 6 miles over the ridge to our place to scoop compost in the neighbor's corral in order to put enough hours on the machine to get it serviced at the 50 hour mark before the depths of Wisconsin winter.  He wants to stop at Goodwill to buy a shirt. I don't remind him about the stop when in a senior moment he forgets to turn off the interstate.  He forgets to remind me to go back to the grocery store liquor department to buy Carlo Rossi Merlot in five liter boxes at a 4 quantity discount. We stop at Sam's Club to buy sugar because it's 35 cents cheaper than Woodmans.  Both of us qualify for the "senior" lunch discount at the Country Buffet at $5.49.  We decline purchasing a drink out of miserliness and dietary concerns about the sugar/chemical combos of diet soft drinks.  Watching a slow shuffle of elderly and lower economic, poor rural America parade by the  buffet tables, I decide the convenience of a large selection of vegetables and salty prepared dishes isn't worth the pain of watching the obese person in the booth next to us.

Forty five years ago,.the event is uneventful.  When it's over, we have a burger in The Big Boy restaurant on the south side of town.  Sixteen years later, when it's truly over, I feel like I  got out of jail.  The kids are all grown now.  The oldest keeps choosing to be involved with low rent men. I get blamed for being the bad guy although I bail her out of car wrecks and a drug addled boyfriend who breaks down her door.  The youngest never sees the sacrifices I made when she was a tot to keep her life usual and orderly in spite of a putz for a mother who couldn't provide her with clean clothes and basic life skills. Number two son calls me once a month out of obligation. Then he has little to say and I monopolize the conversation with rural tales. Number one son is too busy brewing beer to share his life.   All are far enough away to have excuses. 

By the way.  The trip to Paris?  A gift from my late mother.  What you don't see in the picture is a crabby woman who doesn't want her picture taken.  She's wearing a suede jacket and the wind on the observation deck at mid-level of the Notre Dame de Paris is fierce.  She's cold. I'm more than amazed.  The worn limestone steps leading to the observation point have been hollowed out by a million historic footsteps. The gargoyles are gruesome and curious. The view-ecstatic.  It's all Greek to a woman who'd never been to a french restaurant and now has to rely on her husband to translate everything.  She's freaked by being goosed in the ass by cheeky french men in the Marche Aux Puces (sp?).  The trans-Atlantic flight, train ride from Luxembourg to the Gard Du Nord, a stop at Shannon Ireland airport on the way back are inconvenient.  It's obvious now since she still lives in the same house I bought for a song in 1975 and paid for with an Opera and a pound of flesh in 1984.

No I'm not pissed.  Gabrielle Hamilton told me not to be upset when I read her book last night. It's just the way life goes. Never a straight path.  In case you're wondering it's why I call this blog Seven Roads To Home.  The Ojibway believe that you have seven alternate journeys off the main stem of life. I realized that it took seven highways to get us here. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Country Commerce

Weather, crops, critters, the wildlife parade and retail commerce are part of recent events that keep me off the net.  I side stepped e-mail, avoided the headlines on Yahoo and checked out one of my favorite bloggers who writes about dog sitting.

On any "normal" morning the task is to get outside before searing heat and dripping humidity make work in the front field hellish.  This is not easy.  Yesterday, a brief thunderstorm at first light turns air saturated with 85% moisture up three notches.  Relief comes later in the afternoon.  Today's 66 degree temperature at 7am  gives me a respite from the treadmill.

Mandy barks at something in the silver maple behind the house.  I walk over to check it out, calling Pooch the cat to help me out.  The two animals are great hunters.  "It's probably only a squirrel",  I muse peering up into the branches of the tree.  Since the Pooch is a cat with dignity, he takes his time ambling over not wanting to be as overtly doggish as Mandy.  With a thump and thud, a raccoon falls from the upper reaches of the tree.  I'm dumbfounded.  Mandy wants at it in a large way and the Pooch shows signs of curiosity.  The raccoon does the cartoon yadda-yadda head shake, as if to say "What the hell?"  I walk to the house for my .22.  Raccoons in the day time are a bad sign.Rabies.

My Amish friends kill 4 skunks who have been eating their chickens.  96 birds in all.  Tales of rabies abound.

Walking back from the house, rifle in hand, I slide the clip in the slot and load a shell into the chamber.  It's been a awhile since I shot the .22 .  I don't remember if the safety shows red when it's on or the reverse.  Rocky is still sitting where he fell.  I'm worried about Mandy trying to get at it because a cornered raccoon could bite.  The raccoon doesn't try to get away.  Aim, fire-nothing.  The safety is on you dolt.  Red means danger and  safety is off.  Fire again. Nada. The shell in the chamber does not fire.  "Make a note to yourself to clean this rifle."  I walk back to the garage to pry out the malfunctioning shell and reload.  Raccoon still squats in the same place he fell.  "It must be really sick." 

Calling Mandy away and ordering the cat to go back, so neither is hurt by an amateur marksman, I finally get a shell in the chamber, aim and shoot.  Dead raccoon.  I take the rifle back to the garage and place it next to my cleaning kit.  No excuses this time. Keeping Mandy at a safe distance, I grab the carcass by the feet with gloved hands and toss it over the east fence into high weeds  in a swampy area where for the next week I savor the smell of ripe raccoon every pass I make in mowing the front yard.

Signs at the front entrance to our lane announce the days fare.  People driving down the lane ask for vegetables we don't have or have sold out.  Two weeks after the season for beets, people are clamouring for the things.  If I over-plant next year, Dawn and I will be using them as baseballs.  Finally I make a sign. A simple sign. 

I have wonderful customers who tell me how much they appreciate the quality and the prices.  One elderly couple, who remind me of a mentor and his wife in Sedona, tell me that at the Amish produce auction near Cashton, they're selling corn at fifty cents a dozen.  I assume there's a gut on the market.  I'm thankful that I could gather enough sweet corn off our ground thrashed stalks to eat corn until I never want to see a yellow ear (until next year).  I freeze 14.75 pounds of shelled sweet corn late one afternoon. 

A couple drives down the lane in a sporty black convertible.  Usually Mandy will greet newcomers with her Batman Frisbee in her mouth, wanting to play keep-away.  She barks menacingly at the pair.  Hmm.  They are nice enough people who ask about the area having some knowledge of Kickapoo Center from years past.  They select potatoes and I go into my spiel about pesticide, chemical free potatoes. "You can eat the peel," I tell the woman.  "Oh, I always eat the peel," she says.  Then she gives me that universal excuse, that Jorge associates with cigarette smokers. 

"You know, you have to die of something."