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April 17, 2014
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Root Cellar

Haying season

I’ve always had tough feet. It is a distinction garnered from my childhood days of running barefoot around our farm—turning tour jetes through the hard stubble left after the grass had been cut and baled during haying season.

While I mainly wear shoes now, I still have those callouses. Partly from all those years of ballet lessons and feet-warping toe shoes, but also from the summers spent bunching and tossing and stacking hay bales with my family and neighbors.

That was back when all bales were square and tied with bailing twine and not the large, round bales mainly seen today.  Read more

Feast of weeds

The asparagus is up. The stout, purple stalks put those pencil-thin, store-bought shoots to shame. We have been enjoying them along with the other early spring wild things—leeks and dandelions and toothwort.

I have been gathering wild leeks (ramps as they are called in finer restaurants) with friends in the woodlands near my home. And, it is just a step outside the back door for a feast of weeds from the lawn. Dandelion greens, wilted with a dressing of vinegar and bacon grease or olive oil, make a delicious salad as well as a nutritious, green smoothie.  Read more

A memory of James

“Maybe a Root Cellar?” said the note tucked into a book—one in a pile destined to get the heave ho. My husband John had been sorting through his books during spring break, adding to the heap of the kids’ outgrown winter clothes (and a few sacrificial stuffed animals) headed for the Salvation Army.

Really? Was John’s suggestion that this would make a good “column topic” (something of which I am always in quest) for real? What could I write?  Read more

Spring is here

I walked out to find the spring and found it in the radiant pussy willows growing at the road edges of our old farm, tangled in the hedgerow of last year’s multiflora roses and grape vine. Spring is in the snow drops budded at my front door and in the nervous sunlight. The seasons engage in a tussle of one-upmanship that brings new snow one day and thaw the next. And so, although we don’t see it in green yet, spring is here. Winter is left to lick its wounds in the exultant mud.  Read more

What’s in a blizzard’s name?

We held our annual 4-H sledding party this month in the good fortune of the storm now known as Nemo.

For us, the snow was a stroke of luck, as we had scheduled the event well in advance of a forecast. Not so much for my mother-in-law, who had upwards of 27 inches in Massachusetts, or those shoveling the roofs in Milford, CT, which had a record 38 inches. Nemo will be remembered there—and not as an orange Disney fish.

The recent trend of naming winter snow storms may help make it easier to remember them in the future, but it is a trend that is not without dispute.  Read more

Our new kitten

Our new kitten purrs like a lawn mower. At night I hear her motoring down the hall to jump on our bed, walk across our faces, and lick our fingers. Her loud, vibrating purr seems to say: “I am here. Get up and play with me.…”

The kitten is my daughter’s Christmas present. It just worked out that way. We had tried to adopt her earlier in the season, but between the vet’s schedule and her immunization timetable, she arrived just before Christmas. Rocket, our dignified, older cat, woke from her nap, quickly sized up this turn of events and ran yowling under my son’s bed.  Read more

The list-driven life

This is the season for lists—holiday gifts, cards and those letters to Santa, who is understood to be making a list of his own.

It can all get to be too much so that it seems that life itself has become winnowed down to a list of “to-dos” dictated by half-legible scraps of paper.

“I can take that off my list,” I hear people say, in a world-weary kind of way, whether it be, say, cleaning the fish tank or attending the kid’s holiday concert.  Read more

Visiting the Larches

On Election Day after casting my ballot I took a drive down PA Route 191 to see the Larches.

It may sound like the surname of some old family friends who are up for the weekend or the long-lost name of a distant cousin (to be sure, the Larches are as contradictory as some of my most eccentric relatives) but they are friends of a different sort.  Read more

Make me the sea

When I was a kid, in the early ‘70s, the highways were filled with people thumbing a ride. My father, who had a hippie-side all his own, often stopped for hitchhikers and occasionally brought them home for a meal, or to spend the night.

Now, for the most part, hitchhiking is a thing of the past. We are too afraid to catch a ride with strangers or pick one up. But for a time in the ‘60s and ‘70s as well as during the Depression, it was commonplace. “The roads are swarming with kids,” my father liked to say.  Read more

‘What is it? Wednesday’

School has begun and with it starts a whole new year of “What is it? Wednesdays” in my husband John’s 12th grade social studies classes at Sullivan West.

What is “What is it? Wednesday” you ask? Well, are you old enough to have used the gramophone, 45 records, eight-track tapes, the Walkman or only the Ipod?  Read more