Friday, August 31, 2012

NEW USE FOR SNAKE TONGS



I suggested that we buy a box of pears to dry during this stay at the farm. Mike asked why we didn’t just pick the pears from our own old tree. So, I didn’t buy a box of pears.

Instead, I arose on this smoky morning to refresh my memory on how to handle the pears. I found an online article through the extension service of Oregon State University. Pears don’t ripen on the tree, it said. Instead, you have to pick them at the right moment, and that’s when they snap off the tree when pulled horizontally. Then the pears must be placed in cold storage (30 degrees) for a day or two. After that they need four to five days at room temperature. Some people ripen the pears by placing them in brown paper bags with a ripe banana. I think there’s a lot of margin for error in this process. There’s something to be said for buying the box of pears, lovely fruit picked by experts who provided the right kind of cold storage.
 
But of course, picking from the old tree, the only remaining tree of a vintage orchard, appeals to the homesteader in us, so that’s what we did. I enlisted Mike’s services to climb the ladder and pick the fruit off the higher branches, which he agreed to do after target practice.
 
Many of the pears were just out of reach, so Mike sent me to the woodshed to get his snake tongs. That worked well as far as reaching and picking the fruit.

The only cold storage available is the refrigerator, already loaded with our food. However, I was able to clean out the bottom drawer and put most of the best pears there. The rest I had to stash here and there in the fridge with the exception of some culls that I put in the cooler with ice cubes.

We wonder if they picked pears back in the day. Pears won’t ripen without a spell in cold storage, so how did they manage that without refrigeration? Did they use the cellar? It wouldn’t have been 30 degrees unless they brought in some ice, and maybe they did.

If we were dependent upon my garden for sustenance, I’m afraid we would waste away. There’s always cake . . . KW

Thursday, August 30, 2012

FOOTBALL AGAIN? ALREADY?!


It seems like yesterday we discussed the joys of football season. Was it really a year ago? Well, here it is again. Mike has looked over the sports menu and made his selection of games to watch this evening. The possibilities for me are most enticing – read and crochet, or crochet and read.

Mike arrived home from his Wyoming trip Tuesday afternoon. He says a blog post is forthcoming. After a day to recuperate and stock up on supplies, we packed the Dakota and came back to the farm this morning. “You aren’t taking as much this trip,” observed Mike. And of course, that’s quite true now that I have a sewing machine at the farm. All I have to take is my project box. (However, I forgot to bring along my “tools and notions” box. We’ll see if I can get along without it.)

Today has been lovely – 75 degrees with a cool breeze. Nellie and I like it better when it’s not so hot. But – it’s still dry and dusty with no rain in the forecast for at least the next ten days. Days will be warm (around 80) and evenings cool (around 50).

And it’s still smoky – smoky on all sides, as the pictures here show.

This afternoon Mike and I sat on the kitchen porch and watched a mountain bluebird family play in the yard. The mountain bluebird is the Idaho state bird, but in reality we only occasionally see them here. The hummingbirds are gone now; I washed the feeders and put them away.





And now the game birds come into play. Mike is an avid bird hunter. I play it down, but nevertheless, a big part of our autumn is the successive opening and closing of bird seasons. Mike and his hunting buddy, Ken, diligently follow these in both Washington and Idaho.  Both Mike and Ken are expert hunters, and being "seniors" has yet to slow them down. That’s why we had to laugh when Washington announced that hunters 65 and older will be given a four-day head start on the pheasant season. Ken checked it out. It’s true. KW


Monday, August 27, 2012

A DISAPPOINTED WALMART SHOPPER


The division of household duties dictates that I shall do the dishes and the laundry and Mike shall handle the business. He does a great job of it, too. My only responsibility to our bookkeeping is to submit receipts for what I buy. He makes entries on a daily basis. And if a problem arises, he makes the obligatory calls to India to get things straightened out. I hardly have to pay attention. That’s why I was so upset when the bogus charge appeared in my Walmart.com account.

Last week I ordered a portable sewing machine table through Walmart.com. (The one I'm using is actually a serger table.) Perhaps that’s when my troubles began. The table was available through many outlets, but I chose Walmart.com because they had the best price. Certain of my family members don’t approve of shopping Walmart. I might be joining their ranks.

Checking my email Saturday evening, I discovered two messages from Walmart.com acknowledging my order for an “Xbox Live 12-month Gold Membership online – Xbox 360.” A charge of $49.96 had been applied to my credit card. I was very tired. I had taken friends and traveled to Tri-Cities for an all-day meeting. I’d had enough, and now this bogus charge! I immediately checked my Walmart.com account, and sure enough – the charge was there. I changed my password, but I knew further action would be required -- and I would have to step up to it since my business manager wasn’t available. I went to bed – too tired to cope. The matter would have to wait until I could think more clearly.

Sunday I googled “Xbox scam, Walmart” and discovered that mine was not an isolated incident. I knew I had to act – the sooner the better. I called the number on the back of my credit card. After running through the maze of automated questions, I reached a real person to whom I related my concern. She confirmed that my card had indeed been charged $49.96 and that the charge had come from Walmart. We reviewed other recent charges, all of which I had made. I just didn’t order the Xbox 12-month Gold Membership. Could someone else – a child or grandchild – have ordered it, the rep asked. No, that didn’t happen.

It’s a nebulous kind of thing because the order is not for anything tangible – just a code that allows access to games. It’s not something you can return to the store because you don’t want it, and the dangers of this were apparent to me the minute I saw the email statement. The code, sent to my email, isn’t going to benefit anyone else. It just seems to me that if Walmart could slip this one by me, they’d be $50 to the good.

Discussion ensued with my credit card company, and we decided that for my peace of mind, I should order new cards. I hate that! I’m gonna miss XXXX XXXX XXXX 5287 – always ready, always recognizable. Gone. Too bad.

I finished this process by sending a message to Walmart.com requesting an explanation. I’m seriously thinking that saving a few dollars might not be worth the trouble. KW


Sunday, August 26, 2012

MOVING DAY



Last Wednesday morning, Mike kissed me good-bye, patted Nellie on the head, pulled on his helmet, and rode off into the sunrise on his Triumph. A report reached me that he had briefly visited with son Milo in Boise and that son Clint fixed him a hamburger in Gooding. Thursday was a long day of riding into Wyoming where he met son Yancey for a long weekend of geocaching now in progress.

In response to Mike’s question as to what I would do while he’s gone, I replied that the time would pass quickly. When you factor in a trip to the farm (Thursday), lunch with a sister (Friday), a day trip with friends (Saturday), caring for the demanding dog (every day) – well, the days just evaporate.

But of course, my big focus has been to move into my studio by the time Mike gets back on Tuesday. The work has been a daily time-consuming challenge. I have worked so hard, and the mess only got worse before it got better, spreading into the living room.

And just what was that work? Well, I tend to keep a lot of “inspiration” in a homely format – notebook upon notebook of articles, patterns, recipes, etc. I love all these pages – ideas I just have to save for future reference.  And all of it has a homely appearance – a treasure trove stored in ugly notebooks. With the coming of the new birth signaled by a hobby room of my own – well, it was time to meet the enemy face to face – to review, save, toss, consolidate.
 
I was grateful I could pursue this process in privacy while Mike was away. Notebook after notebook came out of the closet and the contents spilled onto the living room floor. While “junk” programs played on television, I parted with past inspiration or became inspired all over again. What remains is still shelved in homely notebooks – just less of them.

Today I was finally ready to move 'Nina (Nee-nah, you know) to her new room. Her new table will be delivered this week. The chair is a lightweight from Staples. Hope it holds me!

As Mike was packing for his trip, he pointed with pride to his new travel bag. “It just keeps expanding and expanding,” he said. I replied that I wished my new room would do the same.

Still things to be done with the room. Oh, and I will clutter it unmercifully. Sewing is a cluttery activity. But – now I can close the door. KW

Friday, August 24, 2012

HUCKLEBERRIES

 


My dad loved huckleberries, and apparently he came from a family that loved them, too. I’m proud of the family for carrying the camera along when they went to pick huckleberries in the Weippe (we-ipe) and Grangemont area in 1921. Unfortunately the photos were marred by a light streak, but they tell something about the times even so.

Huckleberries are difficult to find; that is, I think you have to know where to go and what to look for. Apparently they grow where the timber has burned or where the forest has been logged. Huckleberries like the sun. Yes, I remember that about picking huckleberries. We were in the sun and it was hot.

Huckleberries ripen in August, and of course, altitude affects their readiness. As the berries are picked out at lower altitudes, you can find more by climbing higher.

Mother, Daddy, and I picked huckleberries most every summer as I grew up. My dad’s method of finding them was to ask the mother of one of his Grangemont students where he might find a good patch. Even as a child, I thought it presumptuous of us to ask someone to tell us where to find the elusive berries, but Daddy seemed to get away with it. We would go to the place the lady said and find the huckleberries.

The next year, the whole scenario started all over again. Instead of returning to the patch we picked the previous year, Daddy again questioned his acquaintances. We’d go there and pick the berries. And no, I don't think we ever took the camera. 

I love huckleberries, but picking them isn’t my favorite thing. The picking is tedious; the berries are small and grow in the sun. It seemed like I picked forever just to get a few. Mother and Daddy picked quickly.

I remember one year Mother came back from huckleberrying with her legs, particularly her ankles, covered with no-see-um bites. She was in agony, but she wanted to make a pair of summer pajamas for me. So she sat at her sewing machine with her feet in a pan of water to which something had been added (Epsom salts?) in order to sew. That machine, a Domestic, was operated with a knee lever. It still gives me pause to think of her operating an electric machine with her feet in water.

Another year we set out in our 1962 Ford station wagon (very low clearance) to look for huckleberries in the national forest around Elk City. At that time, the Forest Service was involved in a project to improve the road and had installed new directional signs as a first step. Na├»ve as we were, we followed those new arrows, even as the condition of the road deteriorated to the point of being deeply rutted and impassable. With no way to turn around, we kept going. Daddy drove, managing to straddle the ruts by following Mother’s instructions from outside the car.  Eventually we came to paved highway – except that it was on the other side of the river. We couldn’t go back; we had to ford the river with the station wagon. Daddy determined the best spot and then gunned the car through the water, which wasn’t deep, and up the bank to the highway. We drove into Elk City, rewarded ourselves with ice cream cones, and headed home. I don’t remember whether or not we found huckleberries.

Mother made huckleberry pie, and sometimes we had huckleberry jam, jelly, or syrup. But my favorite was huckleberry ice. Daddy froze the berries in pint containers, then ran the frozen berries through the meat grinder with sugar and ice and put the product back in the freezer. He loved to eat his with ice cream. I loved it just the way it was. (But you must be careful to seal the huckleberries tightly. The flavor is so strong that the odor will contaminate your other foods.)

Those days are gone in more ways than one. In the whole of my adult life I haven’t picked huckleberries, and except for the fact that Nick and Hallie would like the experience, I’m not much interested. Competition for a good huckleberry patch is now reality, not just a questioning thought in a child’s mind, and Idahoans apparently don’t handle that well. I read that people are now territorial over the patches, and some people actually tear out the bushes and take them home so that they can pick in comfort, thereby thoughtlessly destroying or hampering the future of that patch. It’s a crime that’s hard to trace, and among the states where huckleberries are found, apparently it happens only in Idaho. KW

[Photo 1: Grandma Ina is in the center of the picture. Vance stands on the left next to an unidentified woman. Maybe she's Maud McCoy Wedlock. Shirley is on the right.
Photo 2: Just like any kid, Shirley eats something from a box. Myrtle is seated next to her, the Ina and the unknown woman.
Photo 3: The Clearwater River above Orofino in 1915. (Just posted this one for the interest.)]