Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Rains Came

I think I may have told you that we  purchased nearly 5 acres of land that adjoins us a few months ago.  At the time it was one of those things that I was for and upon which Mac dragged his feet.  I had already made an offer a year ago on one parcel and was turned down.  Then the land didn't sell and didn't sell and the owners came back with an offer on both parcels that I felt we couldn't or shouldn't turn down.  Still Mac looked over the acreage and only saw grass that would need cutting.  Since the bushhog had been through it, it didn't look all that bad to me.  So I began to harangue and cajole and plead.  He of course had a different name for what I was doing and after we bought both parcels, he began calling it my hissy fit land.  Therefore, it is now Hissy Fit Acres.  At the time, as I mentioned, the bushhog had been through and the place looked pretty good.  We immediately began caring for the plum trees and peach trees, hired a young man to clear out the trash and pure garbage that the renters had left and prepared for a proper mowing.


And then the rains came.  They came for days.  They came for weeks.  Our one mower could not keep up with mowing nearly 6 acres of grass.  I thanked God for the three acres in woods.  We didn't need to mow that.  As soon as we had two dry days forecast, we would begin mowing.  Or should I say Mac began mowing.  Our big mower would absolutely not start with me perched atop the seat.  Not even if I bounced up and down to try to trigger it, it just refused.  Mac got on and off it went.  So we had (yes we, not just me) this brilliant idea to buy a bigger mower.  We found a 52 inch cut Cub Cadet and had it delivered to the house.  While the rain that lasted six days was going on, Mac read the handbook for the lawn tractor.  It even has cruise control.  Now, Mac will not use cruise control on the truck so I have no reason to believe he will use it on the Cub.  Finally able to actually mow grass with it (it stopped raining for a few minutes) off he set.  He got more than half of the highway frontage land mowed but back where we are at the house...well  those three acres of grass continued to grow as it  didn't get a look in before the rain started again.  Now we had time to read the instructions for the tripple bag grass catcher that we had bought for the machine.   What fresh hell was this?


So Mac has the book on the bagging system in hand and off he goes.  After about an hour I hadn't heard anything out of him and went to check on him.  He was sitting on the ground with the instruction manual in hand and a look of exasperation on his face.  They don't send instructions for these things in just seems like Greek   I went to Catholic schools most of my life until we moved to Ruby, and had taken over  two years of Latin.  The instructions for putting this thing onto the mower was every bit as difficult as trying to take a second year Latin exam with only two weeks of classroom exposure.  The pictures of the parts and where they go looked as though they had been drawn by a not terribly bright five year old, and slots a b and c was not part of the equation.   We have been working on it for over a week.  We are nearly there.  I figure that as long as it doesn't rain for a bit we may have the thing assembled and put on the back of the mower by the end of the month...all we have to do now is get the mower deck back on.  And perhaps salute it with a stiff drink.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Days

I received a call from our grand daughter last evening that I was not really expecting.  She had just completed her first day of High School and was calling to tell me all about her class schedule, the friends she had not seen for awhile, her teachers.  I was pleased to learn that her first impression of her teachers was all thumbs up.  We spoke for about fifteen minutes then she asked to speak to her grand father.  What?  Knowing how he hates to talk on the phone, I told her to hold on and went in search of himself.  I told him that Arianna had asked to speak to him.  So she regaled him with first day High School Hi jinx  (as though in my dotage I might leave out a detail).  Then he was speaking to Michael, 2nd son, and laughing at something he was telling.  Mac says, here's you mom, tell her about that, and he thrust the phone in my direction.  So, Michael tells me how they dropped her off at the bus stop then drove around the block to sit just out of her sight to wait for her to board her school bus.  Michael told me that he was telling Anna (daughter-in-love) about how he felt the first time Arianna asked to go into school all alone, no Mommy or Daddy trailing behind to make sure she got into the right classroom.  She was in first grade.  As he was talking to Anna, he had a melt down.  When they eventually arrived at work, one of his work friends asked about the red swollen eyes...and he told him "just having a bad morning".  But eventually he had to tell them how this sudden feeling of losing his baby girl had affected him.  And as he related it to me, I had to laugh as I recalled my own meltdown episodes in my sons' lives.


My major meltdown did not come with Wallace's first day in Kindergarten in Norfolk, Virginia.  I still had a baby at home after all, and the nest might be feeling a tad roomier, but it was not really empty.  Both of us waited at the bus stop that first afternoon to welcome the young fledgling back in.  He showed us the pictures he had drawn (even then his drawings were better than mine had ever been), about his teacher and about nap time.  Yes, nap time.  I think he was glad of nap time.  Then  that year flew by and the following year it was Michael's turn to be initiated into the great school time experience.  I watched him go into his first class room, went to the car and cried as though my heart were broken.  Mac, who was at Sea a good deal of the time, never got to go through these traumatic times.  The Navy owes him so much for all he missed.  But anyway, I cried for two days.  Then my good friend Patricia Roney, took me by the shoulders and shook me.  It was like a scene out of Moonstruck as she yelled, "snap out of it!  They will both be back at 2:30!"  It was like having cold water dashed in my face.  Of course they would.  Then she proceeded to talk of shopping without beggars (oh come on, you know what I mean...."I want"  is always the first things out of their mouths when you hit a store.)  And off we went, shopping till nearly time for the school bus to arrive home.

  I am so glad she didn't remind me of the other firsts that would eventually bring me to tears...first day of High School, first day of college, first move away from home forever as they took wives...and the first born grand child who even now was breaking my heart as she grew up and away from us.  Too soon grown, too soon gone.  Happy first day of school you children of Chesterfield County.  Don't forget to tell your family all about it, it is a memory they will hold in their hearts forever.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Tree

I was on my way to my Dad's house yesterday afternoon, the top down the wind blowing my hair all over creation (and me not caring) when I got behind a slow moving log truck ,filled with freshly cut pine trees.  The aroma that drifted back to me was overwhelming.  It was my childhood unraveling like ribbons and wrapping themselves around my heart. I could see us, the cousins, pinching off little balls of amber and chewing them like gum. The amber colored blood of the pine would have been hardened in a century or more to make fine jewelry, but for then, it was a tasty treat...yes, I did say tasty. It was as though we were living in a primeval forest and scrounging for sustenance at any source.  You will forgive us, we were children.  We also chewed Indian Pepper and drank from Honeysuckle flowers. 

But the memory that was so strong that it brought tears to my eyes was of Daddy Dwight's tree.  It was a very tall long leaf pine that stood at the crest of a hill above Mammy and Daddy Dwight's big old farmhouse.  You traveled up a steeply graded dirt road went past the gas pumps on the left that serviced the farm equipment, past the big old barn on the right, and around the curve and there he stood.  Too tall and straight to climb or to see the top without craning your neck painfully. Now, the pines surrounded us on three sides but this one old tree stood sentinel all on his on. He stood near the highway (145) and could be seen for miles.  This pine tree was not for cutting, it was for viewing.    And we could view him from five miles away atop a fast dropping highway hill as we traveled to our grandparents from some far away state we lived in.  Every summer of our young lives was spent with them, and we eagerly watched for the first sighting of his lofty branches which signaled that our arrival would be soon.

That tree stood for so long that we thought he was indestructible.  And that Daddy Dwight, though bed ridden when I was in my mid twenties, was destined to be with us forever.  I will never forget that he held my first born son in his arms as lovingly as that big old tree of his held the birds nests in his gnarly boughs.  That when my boys were two and three, although he couldn't sit up anymore, he motioned for them to come to him and stroked their little heads with love shining in his eyes amidst the tears. 
Daddy Dwight passed away a year or so later.  On the night he died,the big old Pine breathed his last and fell across the dirt road adjacent to the highway, humbled and brought low.  After Daddy Dwight's funeral, someone had the foresight to cut slices from the big old tree, and mark them as Daddy Dwight's tree and each grandchild received one in memory of both Daddy Dwight and his tree.

So there I was, traveling down Angelus Road and this load of pines had me weepy. It was like receiving a hug from my grandfather, those memories evoked by a log truck traveling slowly through the forest of the Sand Hills.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Laying the Garden By

It is, unbelievably, August.  Where did our summer go ,I keep
asking myself.  It has been uncharacteristically cool and wet,
everything we planted has made well. I have made enough jellies and jams to
keep us in sweets for the next three years.

The tomatoes in the raised beds have furnished us with over 70 quarts of canned tomatoes, and I am in fact about to can twelve more quarts.  I find myself astounded that as often as I have offered free tomatoes to my face book friends, enough for them to can their own, I have had no takers.  Earlier in the summer I offered free Iris rhizomes and water plants for ornamental ponds.  I had one taker (thank you Carol for taking them off my hands).  In fact,I still have water plants looking for another tub or pond to call home.  But I refuse to go on Face Book and offer a darned thing again.  You read it here, if you want to start a water tub or ornamental pond and need plants, look my phone number up in the book and give me a call.  If not, well I have a number of tubs I can "borrow" from Mac to divide them out.  
But, as I was saying before I went off on a tangent, it is August
and time to start planting the Cole crops, the cabbage, collards,
broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  I am getting anxious
now to pull up the tomatoes and retill the beds adding nutrients to
the soil to make them grow healthy enough for canning.  I have found
that I love canning and love my pressure canner.  I often cuss it
when the lid doesn't want to go on lickety split, but eventually I
sweet talk it on so the pressure can build and the time begin
counting down.  Last week I made vegetable soup. I called my aunt,
Margaret Kneece, and asked her if Mammy and Mama put the cabbage in
the soup to can or added it when they opened the soup to eat.  She
assured me that the cabbage went in with all the other veggies.  So
the soup has butter beans, okra, tomatoes (of course) carrots,
cabbage and potatoes.  I made my father pint jars that he can fix
as single servings.  I intend to make more next week. 

I made a new friend in the canning aisle at WalMart.  She thought I
had called her name (Cathy) and turned to speak.  Well, I can
hardly not speak when someone looks at me expectantly so we had a
long conversation about fig canning (I start that tomorrow) and
before I knew it we were exchanging phone numbers.  She makes
Mozzarella cheese, from goats milk.  I intend to get a bit from her
for my Eggplant Parm.  I used to think we grew it all.  Never
thought about growing cheese!  Now what better place to make a new
friend but in the canning aisle at WalMart when you are laying the
garden by?  I'll bet I can talk HER into taking some water plants! 
Well, the jars are hot and ready to fill with luscious seed free
tomatoes, so I'll get to it...Little Susie Homemaker cans again!  Tomorrow? Fig preserves!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The life of a box

Our grand daughter celebrated her 14th birthday this past Sunday, but her party was held on Saturday, the 27th.  We happily drove to Coward (SC) with the large box containing her present from us.  She is turning into a girly girl and is changing her room decor to a beach theme.  We found the perfect comforter set for the new look she is trying for and knew she'd be happy with what we had chosen.  She is our only grandchild thus far, so nothing is too good for our Princess.  I gladly tell everyone that she is a child of her own age, she was 13 going on 14, not 13 going on 30.  She doesn't wear a ton of make up, dresses like a young teen should, jeans and tees...just what an anxious grandparent would want, you know? So we have this large box and all the way down we talked about how when she was little (wasn't it just yesterday?) the toys often got tossed to the side and the fun would take place within the deep recesses of the boxes. We talked about how we would miss those days from now on, that she would enjoy getting clothes for birthdays and Christmas, she was growing up, a baby no more.
We drove up to their house and there were half a dozen teens on the front lawn chasing and kicking a ball and a good time was being had by all.  Arianna ran over to us, gave us our hugs and kisses then ran back to rejoin the play that was ongoing on the front lawn.  Michael (our younger son and father to the Princess) took the large box from the truck and I swear the box was smiling. It was happy to be a part of the frolic, I tell you.  As we went inside, the smile slipped a bit from box's flat face.  There in the middle of the floor were two babies, a boy and a girl.  One was maybe a year old. the other one was two.  They had their toys scattered around them and spared not a glance at boxy. He sat in the corner of the room awaiting his opening so he could spill his contents out onto the floor for Arianna's perusal.  After all the food was devoured, happy birthdays sung, candles blown out and cake and ice cream served came present time.  Boxy sat swollen with pride that he was the biggest box there and couldn't wait for the ripping and tearing to begin.  And so it did.  Arianna grabbed her loot and took it to her room to lay on her bed till she could give it the proper attention, but the four girls ohhed and ahhed over how great it was going to look.  The boys there could have cared less and were busy sitting on the floor kicking a balloon around, yelling "don't let it touch the floor".  The girls came back to the front room and joined in.  Even the adults got involved in the play.  Someone had taken all the paper and plastic from within Boxy and he sat waiting for someone to pay him attention. The babies could have cared less.  They were more interested in naps than play.  Then Arianna's eyes found him...boxy grinned as she quickly crawled over and like a flash was inside and laughing.  The other kids noticed the fun and the game was on.  As soon as one long legged teen vacated boxy's depths, another took its place.  Boxy, once crisp and bright and new, was losing it's shape and shiny glow.  Wrinkles now appeared on its once flawless face and little rips appeared where the box once closed itself off at the bottom.  Arianna now had boxy back and wore him like a coat.  From across the room we heard her father say "who do you think you are, SpongeAriannaSquarepants?"  The room erupted in laughter as she replied "that's who I want to be for Halloween" and he replied with "careful what you wish for, when we lived in England your grandmother dressed me in a box for Halloween!"  Laughing, I said, "yes, but you won for best costume...a calculator".
The party went on for a while longer, till boxy lay flat on the floor, worn out from all the fun that had been had at its expense.  As I looked over at the flat little pile of fun, I was so glad that Arianna was not as grown up as she would have us believe. Maybe we had another year or two before she would be too cool to get down on the floor and play with a box.