Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Farmyard from south field
Mike and I were hiking behind the farmhouse (he called it bird-hunting) on Saturday (Nov. 10), when we were surprised to see lovely clumps of elderberries still clinging to the branches of the bushes, now mostly bare of leaves. I could tell that Mike wanted me to make more jelly. He suggested I return to the farmyard for the picking equipment, but I explained that I would be unable to accomplish the picking by myself. The accessibility of the berries is deceptive. Once you find solid footing under the bush, the berries are very high. And you know how it is – the best fruit is always at the very top of the tree.

I did go back to the house, though, and took the interior photos. As soon as Mike returned, we took a bucket and our hook and headed back to the elderberry bushes. I let him negotiate the bank while I stayed above on the edge of the field. The ground had thawed enough to be muddy and slick, and as it was, I slipped and nearly fell. Mike pulled the branches down with the hook and tugged at the berry clumps, catching many of them in the bucket.

We were back at the town house by early afternoon. Now, I consider just the trip to the farm and back enough for one day, but I dutifully set to work removing stems and cleaning the berries. We estimated we had about ten pounds of berries in the bucket, which translated to six quarts cleaned and ready to cook, and from that I got 8+ cups of juice – enough for two batches of straight elderberry jelly and a third of elder/apple.

I put off making the jelly until Sunday. I have to be especially organized when I make jelly by myself. I also lack the proper equipment here in town, but I made do with one stock pot and a Dutch oven. I only burned myself twice and broke one jar as I lowered it into the stock pot for processing. I suspect it was cracked. The process stopped as I cleaned the kettle, took care of the broken glass, and then re-heated the water.

In the end, I had 14 half-pint jars of elderberry jelly. The third batch I stretched with plain old Safeway apple juice and it turned out fine. With the October batches, I added apple juice concentrate, and the set was firmer than I like.

I’m always saying that I have no idea what I did the last time, and that's not a problem for me. I just muddle through again. But I guess it bothers Mike that I'm not more systematic, and he insisted that this time I make notes on my recipe sheet before filing it. 

As I wiped down the stove and kitchen cabinets the next day, I could hear my mother say, "You have to clean the kitchen after you make jelly. It splashes everywhere." KW

Monday, November 12, 2018


In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
                      By John McCrae (1872-1918)

When I was in elementary school (1955-1961), one of my teachers assigned several poems for us to memorize. My teacher assigned them, but I credit my mother for teaching me the nuances of poetry recitation, pointing out where to pause and where to continue the thought. “There’s no comma at the end of that line,” she would say, “which means you continue to the next line without pausing.” She listened to me recite over and over, often while we did the supper dishes. “Don’t sing-song,” she would say. “Keep your voice even.” On a given day in school, we would stand individually before the class to recite the poem – yes, for a grade. I’m sure I was nervous, but I was prepared and confident, thanks to my mother.

When I announced to my parents that I was to memorize In Flanders Fields, the news was accepted with solemnity, almost reverence. “They know about this,” I thought to myself. My dad explained that soldiers from our country who fought in World War I had been killed and buried in Flanders (present-day Belgium), but I was just a child and the significance of that was lost on me. What he didn’t say – and what I see today – was that the author, John McCrae, himself a soldier, was speaking on behalf of the fallen. (Wikipedia tells me that Lt. Col. John McCrae, M.D., was a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier who served as a surgeon during World War I. He died of pneumonia before the end of the war.)

My parents, born in 1904 and 1909, both had memories of the World War I era, and one day when I was older, they talked about it.
“As the boys went off to war, we would have a picnic in the park, and everybody would go to say good-bye,” Mother said.
“You didn’t know if you would ever see them again,” I observed, suddenly struck by the poignancy of that event.
“You figured you wouldn’t,” she said, matter-of-factly. “And we had so little news of the war. We wanted to know what was happening. But when ‘Johnny Jones’ was drafted, we knew he would tell us all about it when he came back. He was such a talker! He never quit talking.” Johnny did come back, she said, but he never talked again. The war had changed him.

Poppies became a symbol of World War I, and I have another childhood memory of little artificial poppies being sold on the street in Lewiston, probably by the American Legion. Mother gave the man two dimes for two poppies. He had little safety pins available, and she pinned one on my collar and one on her own. “It means that you remember those fallen in World War I,” she said. Another time she stressed to me that the poppies were about World War I, not World War II. KW

Sunday, November 11, 2018


“It’s just like they stepped out in the 1930s and didn't come back.”
Joni Walrath Nunan commenting on the Dobson farmhouse, c. 1990

Big Mike the Contractor called to say that the cabinets and flooring had been installed at the farmhouse, so yesterday (Saturday, Nov. 10), Mike and I drove up to take a look. I have made choices as we journeyed through this remodel, and I just didn’t know how it would all come together. I was nervous.

I approached the kitchen door with trepidation and gingerly peeked in. Oh! What joy! There it was – a mid-century kitchen. The configuration hasn’t changed from the previous, but the white cabinets look just right in this old house – a much lighter appearance, both in color and design. Right for the house – and right for me!

The water ruined the century-old white maple hardwood flooring in the dining and living rooms. Yes, too bad about that, but let’s move on. We were forever protecting it with rugs and runners and it was difficult to clean. Now we have the same flooring in all three rooms – and I love it!

And that green on the walls in the dining room pops against the white of the kitchen, reminding me of the Depression Era colors, a time period that is of special interest to me.

We all agreed that the cupboard doors in the hallway should remain oak, but the “beadboard” is a nice tie to the kitchen cabinets.

Upstairs, the pine floor of the master bedroom has been replaced with vinyl flooring, just like the main floor. Now it just remains to decide how to finish the boards of the new upstairs hallway.

So, what’s left?
Finishing the upstairs hallway floor
Baseboard and wood trim throughout
Kitchen countertops
Replacing kitchen appliances
Dining room wallpaper
Repairing the fireplace hearth

And then – putting the furniture back and moving in. KW