Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers

In this house we love peppers. All sorts of peppers, from bells and capsicums (that are actually in the nightshade family) to sweet bananas, habeneros to Chinese bull hearts. We have stuffed Bell peppers at least twice a month and no vegetable dish is complete without that hot little pod of long pepper. On the Sunday's we go to the Smokehouse for the buffet, I often carry a zip lock bag of peppers that I took from the garden just that morning. Mac grew a lovely little sweet pepper for eating without the aid of a glass of milk that we found especially good with succotash (butterbeans and corn). Our garden is never complete without the benefit of the pepper plants. I picked peppers yesterday to make pepper vinegar to go with the collard greens we'll be enjoying this winter. Making pepper vinegar (or pepper sauce) is so simple it's ridiculous. You simply take any heat proof jar (or cruet, as I have done) stuff it full of hot peppers of your choice and slowly fill the jar with boiling vinegar, close tightly, turn the jar upside down to seal (unless you're using a cruet, in which case just refrigerate immediately) and when the collards are ready, you will be, too!

So anyway, while I was working with the peppers I remembered the peppers Mac grew about 8 years ago. He bought the seed for these peppers from a little man at the flea market. He asked him what kind they were. The old man laughed a little and replied "don't know their name, but they're hotter'n hell!" As we walked away, our little packet of seeds in hand, he yelled after us "be careful handling them seed...they hot...they really hot!" When we came back by the spot where he'd been, I swear there was no sign he'd ever been there. Mac started humming "do da do do do da do do" from the Twilight Zone. I laughed.

The first pepper plants came up and they were really pretty little plants, thick and bushy and an odd green...not really dark, not quite light...not exactly in between...like I said, odd. Mac went out and hoed around them, fertilized them, making sure to give a good dose of phosphates and when the peppers came on, it was unbelievable. Each bush was over two feet tall, had so many blossoms on them you couldn't count them all and was so thick with leaves you couldn't see daylight in the middle. I got home from work one night and Mac was sitting in his chair, his hands in a bowl of milk. "What in the world are you doing?" I asked. "I picked those peppers for you to can and the old fella was right. They're really hot...you Mother told me to soak my hands in milk to take the burn out. It works. She said sour cream would be better...but I didn't know if she was joking or not." Shaking my head, I walked out to the kitchen and got the tub of sour cream out. Laughing fit to be tied, I handed him a towel for his hands and began to smear the sour cream on them. "She wasn't joking," I told him.

One night at work, we were talking about peppers and I was telling them I didn't know what I was going to do with the ones I had put up because they were too hot for consumption. (Mac had even diluted some with water and used as a spray for garden insects. It killed them dead. Of course it killed the plants, too...) So one of them says "when I eat at the Pizza Hut in Pageland they put the hottest they have out for me to put on my salad, they haven't been able to get me with one to hot, yet!" I guaranteed him that he'd not be able to eat one of these, in fact I doubted that he would be able to stand a drop of the juice. He looked at me as though I may have sprouted a second head, and said "I'll bet you 20 bucks I can eat at least one pepper. You on?" I turned to the Dispatcher and said "you heard that, he has 20 bucks that says he can eat one pepper, right?" She agreed that she had heard him and we made plans for the next night, the bet would be won or lost on single pepper.

Just as I was leaving for work the next day, I happened to remember to grab a jar of pepper sauce. I took it to the jail and placed it prominently in the middle of the table in the break room. At 7 pm we were to meet and settle the bet. Imagine my surprise when the break room was filled to capacity and we had to move out to the back lobby to complete the test. I set the jar down and told Deputy Dawg "here you go...just one pepper. That's all you have to eat."
He took the jar in his hands and twisted off the cap's ring. Someone handed him a church key (type of bottle opener) and he handily snapped up the cap. He brought the jar to his nose and inhaled deeply. And began to cough. Then he began to choke. He put the jar down and ran out into the Sally Port and bent double. He then went to the emergency water station and let the water run over his face. After about fifteen minutes, he came (crawled) back inside the lobby and slapped a twenty dollar bill down on the counter. "Remind me never to bet with you again, McBride, okay?"

We worried about what to do with those jars of pepper sauce. Mac wanted to empty the jars in a pit and bury them. I was terrified that they would take sprout. We ended up pouring them in the burn barrel and setting fire to them. It only took one match. We pulled up the plants and burned them, too. As we were turning to leave, Mac took the little envelop with what was left of his seed and tossed them in for good measure. "Tell your dad hello when you get back to hell," he muttered.
And yes, this is a true story...only a name has been changed to protect the ignorant. I mean, innocent.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Computer Health 101

Mac, that genius of the computer, the wizard of the keyboard the Mr Fix It to the neighborhood, has been working for several days reformatting and setting up a friend's computer that was attacked by the dreaded virus syndrome. How many viruses you might ask? I am not really sure, but when the screen came up he said "OH MY GOD!" I took this to mean that the computer was sick beyond repair. Our friend had taken her computer originally to a person in business to do this. He has a shop in the center of a small town and a cutesy name to invite you in. Once he has finished with you, you may feel that you wish you had , in the words of a song, walked on by. Sadly, this is not the only person we know of who will take advantage of the common computer user's lack of knowledge about the inner workings of this marvel of science. After being taken for $75.00 by a businessman, Mac set about to learn all he could about the computer. He studied, took courses, has become something of an expert in all things computer. He is one of those amazing people who, if he doesn't know something, is not afraid to say so, but assures you he'll find out. And then he does. So, he's working on this computer and finds that rather than repair the problem the original operating system had, the "Professional Shopkeeper" had simply installed anther OS (operating system) and added some games for the kids, while losing most of the other things our friend had uploaded, such as music and pictures. What he failed to tell her was that he had installed a pirated copy of the OS. So, it could never be updated with the security patches and upgrades to the programs already loaded into the computer. (You may ask why this can't be done...because Microsoft has it set up with a validation system so that pirated copies are identified, then they tell you where you can purchase an authentic version.) The viruses that came along can just, well, come along. Which they did. Our friend, who like me, knows how to use the computer, but little about the inner workings of the computer, had no idea that she should be getting new updates (live update) and that the computer should be set to receive them. No one told her. Certainly not the thief who charged her $125.00 to take the lazy man's way out of fixing her problem. That is to NOT fix her problem, just replace it with another problem. So, I hope y'all have your PC's set to get live updates as they become available. They are important vaccines that will keep your PC healthy. Arm yourself with knowledge. Know what to ask the repair person working on your equipment. And when ever you take your computer in for repair, don't be afraid to ask those questions. If you don't like the answers, walk out the door. Take your computer with you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I don't do windows...here's why

Mama was a neat freak. Okay, that sounds like a popular 60's song, you know, like "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag". I never really understood that song and the more I listened to it, the less I wanted to understand. It seemed somehow misogynistic to me. If you aren't sure of the meaning of this word, rather than tell you to look it up, I'll just say look at the letters "gyn" and tell me if that brings anything to mind. Okay? So anyway, as I was saying, Mama was a neat freak. She didn't get over this ailment till she and Daddy moved to Ruby and she suddenly had a yard big enough to go nuts in. I come by this malady honestly, you see. So, since she was at the Clinic working with Daddy every morning and playing in the yard every afternoon, she found the housework going downhill. She discovered what closets were for. One thing she really didn't like was dirty windows. She was a so so disciplaniarian, grounding you for two weeks one day and realizing no one was paying her any attention two days later. So the punishment became "go wash the windows." I hate washing windows, but I'll do it if I can't get anyone else to oblige. Washing windows always makes me feel as though I'm being punished. I could always bribe the boys to wash windows when they were living at home...boys will do nearly anything for pocket money. Easy marks that they were, they have homes of their own now...I wonder who's washing their windows?

So, I was standing at the sliding glass doors leading onto the porch Saturday and I noticed that I couldn't see out of them very well. I wondered when was the last time they'd been washed. I am ashamed to admit that I honestly couldn't remember. Sometime around April 1st I think. Then I decided I'd best look at the windows on the storm door...the windows in the bedrooms and baths...the living room windows...I thought of the windex commercial with the Magpies and wondered if they'd pay me a visit were I to wash the windows, inside and out. I love Magpies. I miss the ones who lived in our garden in England. They were always stealing anything bright and shiny...they lived in the huge Cherry tree in the front garden.

I gathered my paper towels and a bucket with warm soapy water for the window frames and the windex for the windows. I set to work. I got the house windows first, and then moved to the storm door. All nice and squeaky clean, I then tackled the sliding glass (acre of glass) door. After doing the outside, I started in on the inside. I took my wad of paper towels and after spraying them liberally, went to work. The paper caught somehow and I jerked my hand forward and then suddenly found myself in pain. Terrible pain. I looked at my hand and the joint where the finger meets the hand was already starting to swell. "Well, damn!" I whimpered. Yeah, I was being a bit whiney...not only do I hate doing windows, but now this!

Mac came in from the garden and I was sitting with an icepack on my hand. "What's wrong with your hand?" he wanted to know. I was scowling, I'm sure..."I think I broke my finger," I moaned. He walked over to me and looking at the swollen finger joint wanted to know how I had done it. I assured him he would never believe me in a million years and he kept insisting I tell him. "Alright, I broke it washing windows, okay? You happy now?" I was totally amazed when he said "and what makes you think I won't believe that? You'll do anything to get out of washing windows." Men. Can't live with them. Can't just kill them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

WICKED

While I was busy "breaking" I was doing something I have not treated myself to in a long while. I was reading in the evening. I read a couple of Kay Hooper's fun mystery/paranormal books and of course a Dean Koontz epic. The last three days of my break (or evenings) I picked up Wicked (by Gregory Maguire) to read. I have been saving this book for some time, I wanted to see the stage play first. Then I saw a photo on authorblog that David had taken of the Marquee where Wicked was playing in Australia. My heart began to throb with the anticipation of finally breaking my word to myself. I was going to read it.

When we were youngsters, my cousins and I read voraciously, we read anything we could get our hands on. My Uncle worked at a place where they made paper products and often brought home stacks of old comics and paperback books. He always took them to the little old house that stood empty eyed and forlorn a few hundred feet from his house. He always told us when new comics had been placed within. In the summer, dried tobacco was stored tied up in field sheets, waiting till time to go to market. Those aromatic bales of tobacco made for very comfortable reading. We would read comics and pass them back and forth, especially if they were good. I first found Mr Baum's "The Wizard of Oz" in a box of those old comics. When we had a book, we would take turns reading aloud, the audience kicked back on makeshift sofas, taking it all in. I learned to hate and despise The Wicked Witch of the West and idolize Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (or was it North? I barely remember). When we were reading about TWWOTW we shivered in delights of fear when the winged monkeys attacked the little band heading for Oz...we felt the cold when Glinda sent the snow to waken the sleeping victims of TWWOTW's poppy fields (opium???in a a child's tale???) . We read that little book till it was ragged and frayed and learned what "dogeared" meant, as we turned down the page where we would take up next day. Ah, the thrills of reading that followed me like a second skin into adulthood.

And now, I'm reading the adventures of Elphaba, the young green Miss before she became The Wicked Witch of the West, and all about her sister Nessarose, she of the barber pole stockings and ruby slippers. I'm learning to appreciate how they came about, how family history turns on a look or a word. I'm learned to feel pity for TWWOTW, and admiration for her as well. I've learned that Glinda wasn't always the sweet little Fairy Queen we once thought she was. I learned you shouldn't judge a book by its insides OR its cover! And if you haven't read Wicked...oh please! Do yourself the favor. I promise you won't regret it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It is September 15th. I'm a day early (or should I say night) on my return from break. It's also, as I was informed by Evil Sister's son, opening day of deer season. Okay okay, you all know I'm a bunny hugging tree loving bird and deer watching maniac and while I believe in a person's rights to carry firearms (as long as you are not involved in any Criminal Mischief), I am not an aficionado of hunting. We provide seed, corn and fruit for the wildlife to eat when they are on our property. Our property is posted against hunting. So, Jay called tonight to tell me he's ready to start on the pole barn he's going to build for us and in the conversation mentioned that he had just come in from hunting. "I can't believe it," he said, "all I saw was a turtle. Not one deer!" And it took me back a few years, to a time when I was still working. One of my brother officers was an avid hunter and usually quite lucky. He was talking about the hunt he had planned for the next morning. I was elbow deep in paper work and as I looked up at him found him grinning like a Cheshire cat. "You may as well sleep in Chris, " I told him. "You aren't going to get anything tomorrow." The next time we worked together he told me that he had gone home empty handed, never even seeing a deer the entire day. I laughed and said "I told you so!" This went on for weeks, Chris always telling me his hunting plans (knowing it bothered me, I think) and me telling him to make other plans. The season had been open for nearly six weeks and he came by our house one morning. He found me working in the flowers and walked over to where I was pulling weeds. "I don't know what kind of curse you've got on me, " he said, "but please, take it off. The season will be over soon and I've yet to get a deer!" He looked so pitiful, but I told him that I really hadn't cursed him, in fact had no idea why his luck was so bad. "But you'll take it off, right?" he said. I'm ashamed to say I was about to burst with laughter, but I assured him that the curse was gone and that I didn't really want to hear any details of his hunting trips anymore. He agreed to keep any such plans to himself, and he does to this day. So tonight, when Jay called and was telling me about his hunting plans I had to say it..."you don't want a Chris Curse on you do you?" He blew air out so hard I could it over the phone. "Oh no now don't go and say that! You've got it in my head now, take it off!" So my dear friends, while I know there are women hunters out there too (Chris's wife for one) I am not one of them. I have only three simple rules in regards to anyone pursuing this (odd) pleasure. They are as follows: I don't want to hear about the hunting trips, or their successes and failures, and I especially don't care to know how to field dress anything. Deal?

Gosh, it's good to be back! I've missed you all. I plan to spend time visiting all of you, I know you're been busy posting lots of fun things and I can't wait to see what you've been up to while I've been away!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Taking a break!

There's just too much to do to prepare for fall, so I'm taking a 2 week break from blogging and will return on September 16th. I'll visit as many of you as I can during my hiatus, but I'm wearing myself out mentally and physically trying to get everything I need to get ready and help Mac with the garden to. We have a hurricane headed our way, and two more behind her (Hanna) and lots of things to do to prepare for that, as well. I'll miss being in here I'm sure, but the work has to come first I suppose. Here is a short film I did of the pond area this morning, and we've already decided that we're going to expand it...my visions will be the death of one of us, I was told this morning. That Mac. He is too funny! Maybe that's why I adore him! See you in two weeks!
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