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marlingardener's Blog

Farm living and laughing

Funeral Ladies

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Mon Feb 15, 2016 4:59 pm

It may be a small town phenomenon, or it may be a Southern custom, but we have funeral ladies.

A group of ladies, usually of "a certain age" attend funerals. A few years ago a member of the congregation of the church we attended passed away. I recognized many of the people there, but there was a group of ladies sitting together that I hadn't seen before. Perhaps they were members the deceased shared a club or lunch date with?

Then, a couple of years later, a dear friend who lived down the road passed over. We were surprised to see the same group of ladies at the funeral. However, the widow was a member of several clubs and also volunteered at schools, senior citizen center, etc. so we thought that was why the ladies were attending - to support the widow.

Then a new member of the congregation (are you getting the idea that the average age of a congregant was "up there"?) went to the Lord and the same ladies were at the funeral. Now the deceased had been seriously ill for a while, and both he and his wife were pretty much house-bound with his inability to do much and her caring for him, so I couldn't figure out how these ladies knew the bereaved family.

I finally broke down and asked a friend about the six or seven ladies I kept seeing at funerals. "Oh, those are the funeral ladies. They attend almost every funeral so that there will be a good 'showing' of mourners", I was told. It seems that they get together, dressed appropriately in somber colors and subdued jewelry but with their hair freshly done; one is the designated driver (whoever has a big enough vehicle to accommodate them all); and they attend a funeral. They say the appropriate things to the family, sign the guest book, and go to the post-funeral refreshments. They sip tea (hot or cold), have a cookie, discuss the genealogy of the deceased's family (I think his second cousin married the niece of so-and-so which makes them related on the mother's side) and generally bump up the attendance.

The funeral ladies are non-denominational, and do not discriminate on social or economic standing. Their attendance at any and every funeral is kind of like a community service. If the most hated person in town dies, they will be there. They know the quickest route to every cemetery, can tell you which florist doesn't skimp on the flowers, and offer words of condolence to each member of the family (even the ones who flew in from Detroit and haven't seen the deceased in 20 years - it's the thought that counts).

And have you noticed the euphemisms for "died"? That may be a Southern thing, too.

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Category: Serendipity | Posted: Sat Dec 05, 2015 9:09 pm

My husband and I have had some wonderful vacations, and most of them involved a strange encounter with local life.

It all started with our honeymoon. We were fairly impoverished, so we went to Canada for a week. The first night we stayed at a hotel that had live music--right under our bedroom. We referred to our room as the "boom boom" room since we could actually feel the vibrations of the drums and bass guitars.

Then we went to a "resort" called Turkey Point. That should have been an indication of things to come, but we were young and inexperienced. There was a small lake which had wildlife in it and a small tour boat. The wildlife included seals (not native to the area, but cute). We were the last ones on the boat, and I was seated where the fish bucket was usually kept. The seals were used to getting fish from the boat, and one jumped up and bit my arm, which obviously resembled a fish. The nurse at the nearby hospital commented, "Oh, look, you can see his little teeth marks!" Well, yes dear, that is why we are here--I WAS BITTEN BY A SEAL!

I won't mention the joy my husband's severe sunburn added to our honeymoon.

When we were older but no wiser, we went to Pennsylvania for a vacation. When we visited the State House and saw a tile depicting a house fly, we should have caught on. We were having lunch at a diner, and the lady in back of us was armed with a fly swatter which she wielded with great efficiency, showering our table with dead and wounded flies. We skipped the offer of bread pudding with raisins for dessert.

Then, when we became more affluent and needed desperately to get away from upstate NY winters, we went to the Caribbean. Bonaire is a delightful island--great people, nice restaurants, great snorkeling, and the occasional invasion by the Dutch army.

We were in Bonaire during Carnival immediately preceding Lent. We woke up one night to the sound of what we thought was fireworks. We looked at each other, said some poor fool doesn't know that Carnival is over, and is setting off the last of his firecrackers. We went back to sleep.

However, it seems that the Dutch army had scheduled a training exercise. They were to "pretend attack" the airport. They hadn't planned on the airport personnel shutting down and turning off all the lights so they could go home and watch the latest episode of Simon and Simon on the TV. Seeing lights from their offshore boats, the army attacked the hotel where we were staying. When we got up in the morning we dressed and went into town to have breakfast. We saw several blond men in fatigues on the street, and some were under park benches holding big guns, but we figured if the locals weren't worried, why should we be?

When we got back to the hotel, there was a very apologetic letter from a colonel, who would be in the lobby all day trying to calm down the tourists. We went snorkeling. On the way to one of our favorite spots we saw blond guys up trees, with guns and really fantastic sunburns. We waved to them, they waved back, and we went to watch fish.

About Carnival--it is like a big parade with the whole town joining in. We were in town to see one of the parades (there are at least one every day, and the costumes and floats are wonderful). I was standing on the sidelines enjoying the children with flowers and the different floats provided by the local businesses, and I got hugged by a werewolf! Someone in a werewolf costume decided I need a hug, so I hugged him/her/it back. My husband said I didn't even look surprised. I think that was when he decided we needed to go on cruises where he could keep me in a more contained environment.

We were on a cruise that stopped in Venezuela. While wandering around the outlying areas, a young man showed up and offered to let me hold a sloth for a quarter. Well, who could turn down a chance like that? I held the sloth, my husband forked over the quarter, and we all had a fine time, although we just assumed the sloth was having a fine time (it's hard t tell--sloths aren't really very expressive of feelings). Then the young man offered to sell me the sloth for fifty cents. That was when my husband separated me from my new sleepy, furry friend and got me back on the boat.

Lately we have been taking short two or three day vacations here in Texas. I say it is because we can't leave the farm and hens for longer than that. My husband says that it's because he can't keep me under control for much longer than that.

I find vacations to be very restful and interesting. My husband comes home and breathes a sigh of relief.

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Losing a company I loved

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Sun Nov 29, 2015 4:36 pm

Why do companies feel compelled to change their websites when there is absolutely nothing wrong with the current site?

I have ordered garden seeds from PineTree Seeds for years, and recommended them highly to fellow gardeners. Well, you guessed it, the website is now "new and improved" and Bill Gates would have trouble navigating it.

On Friday I struggled for two hours to place an order for 15 packets of seeds. Why I didn't throw in the trowel (pun intended) and order from someone else, I don't know. Guess I'm either stubborn or slow to catch on, or both.

Anyway, I finally was able to place my order, and got a confirmation the next day. I also sent an e-mail to customer service (a misnomer if there ever was one) and got an answer today. It seems that I don't know how to use a computer and the customer service representative gave me a brief tutorial on how to use their website. Well, gee thanks honey, but we have a monthly e-newsletter, and I help moderate a gardening forum, so I'm not exactly in the quill and ink group! When I tell you a link doesn't work, it doesn't work.

By now you have guessed that I am not going to order from PineTree ever again. I'm a patient woman, but there are limits and PineTree crossed that threshold on Friday. At least the door didn't hit me in the behind as I exited!

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Magnet for the strange, part 2

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2015 8:31 pm

I had blogged before about being a magnet for people who are a bit strange. At dinner last night, my husband reminded me of several other "happenings".

When we lived in upstate NY a neighbor stopped by at midnight, carrying a 2x4, and asked if we had seen a German Shepherd dog. We assured him that no German Shepherds had gone through our living room at midnight while we were watching old Sherlock Holmes movies. The neighbor, who had a bandage on his head (more of this later) said that the dog had tipped over his garbage can every night for a month and he was going to beat that dog with the 2x4. We didn't point out to him that he had one swipe at the dog, at which time the dog would come right past the 2x4 and get him in a vulnerable spot. It seemed right that he would find that out for himself. We asked about the bandage. It seems he had shut the car door on his head. We didn't pursue that line of conversation.

Since moving to Texas, we have met several other interesting people. We lived in town, next to a Methodist Church which occasionally hosted training programs for professionals. We mentioned to our neighbor that Janelle, the town clerk, had come over during a break and admired our garden. The neighbor said, "I bet she was dressed to the nines! When she was in high school she only had one bra and it was full of holes. My daddy used to give her a ride to school on his mule." Since her daddy went by the initials D. L. that gave rise to the story about D.L., Janelle, and the Holey Bra. A Texas take on the nativity story.

The husband of the aforesaid neighbor had a PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) sticker on the back window of his pick-up. He was such a cowboy that we had him convinced there was money to be made with "stud mules." He tried to rope a ram with clothesline, and after being butted, dumped in the dirt, and rammed a couple of times, his 10 year old daughters asked if he wanted that goat in the hauler. When he said yes they just said, "Come on, goat." It seems they had played with this goat since it was a kid, and it would follow them anywhere. He also tried to rope a feral emu (when the emu oil market tanked, emu owners just let the big birds go and they became something of a nuisance). We told him he was lucky that he had failed to rope the emu since they had a kick like a mule, a stud mule.
He also went hunting with his car keys hanging from his belt and making a nice clanging noise, smoking, and a $1 bullet in his pocket. He wondered why he was never able to sneak up on a deer.
Chupacabra is a mythic animal that supposedly exists on sucking the blood out of goats. Every once in a while a new chupacabra sighting surfaces. There is an element of Texas society that firmly believes in chupacabras, even though they always turn out to be raccoons with mange (the chupacabras, not the element of Texas society). My husband worked with a guy that swore that "them chupacabras are mean suckers." One doesn't argue with someone who firmly believes in chupacabras and has an arsenal in his home.
Texas is so darned interesting.

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Responses to bogus phone calls

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 4:27 pm

I admit that picking up the phone and finding that some bogus company/person wants to either sell me something or have me send money makes me a trifle angry. However, I have come up with some answers that baffle the caller.

The "Internal Revenue Service" wants late payment fees and will issue a warrant for my arrest if I don't send $$$ to a drop box address. I respond that I'm already in jail for murdering a phone solicitor and have nothing to lose.

Friends are vacationing in the (insert country) and were mugged, so please send money so they can fly home. I respond that all my friends are smart enough to buy round-trip tickets so these dummies could not be my friends.

Whoopee, I have won a big prize and all I have to do is send $$$ to Nigeria to claim it. I respond that I have so much money that I'm having trouble spending it all, but have been thinking of just buying Nigeria.

"Microsoft" calls, telling me our computer is "infected". I either pretend that I think Microsoft is some kind of new toweling for cleaning, or thank them for telling me about the infection and I'll spray the computer with a bug killer.

There are so few opportunities to yank someone's chain when you live the isolated rural life. One makes what one can out of the opportunities offered.

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I love change!

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 8:23 pm

I love change - not the kind that means "different from what was", but change as in pennies, nickels, dimes.

I was in our local post office, and an elderly lady (she must have been at least two years older than I) was mailing a birthday card. At least I'm assuming it was a birthday card - it could have been a threatening note to the American Association of Retired Persons. It was an oversized card and heavier than usual, so the postage was 70 cents. She pulled out a change purse - the kind your grandma used to have with a little snap clasp - and was ten cents short. I had change! I offered her the dime she needed, and she paid for the postage and thanked me profusely. Where else could you get such a good feeling for a dime?

At our local Western Auto while I was picking up the mower blades we'd had sharpened, a farm worker came in to get oil for some type of machinery. The oil was $1.79, but all he had was a dollar. I dug into my purse and came up with 79 cents (love those pennies!). He was flabbergasted! He insisted on carrying the blades out to the truck for me and was so grateful. For three quarters and four pennies, I got a big smile from a stranger!

And lastly, I admit I was sneaking a candy bar at the local grocery. I usually don't eat candy, but for some reason had a craving for chocolate. I had the bar in hand and was waiting at the check-out, when the lady in front of me, who was using food stamps, told her toddler that she couldn't buy the box of Gummy Bears the toddler wanted. You can see where this is going. I picked up a box of Gummy Bears, and bought both the Bears and the candy bar. I caught them in the parking lot, gave them the candy (chocolate for mama since anyone with a toddler needs all the energy boost she can get, and Bears for the toddler). Anyway, it's better for my diet to not eat chocolate. I got 39 cents in change from buying the candy. I'll probably find a good use for a quarter, a dime, and four pennies!

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Lonesome George in the morning

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 5:47 pm

We have a large Gum Bumelia tree in the backyard, and the very top of it is a favorite spot for Lonesome George.
Lonesome George is a Mockingbird. He starts his song about 5 a.m., when it's just getting light. He continues trying out his entire repertoire until noon. He sings, imitates other bird calls, does a fairly good imitation of a squeaky wheelbarrow (I must get some oil on that wheel), and even does a bad, but enthusiastic, train whistle. While running through his list of greatest hits, he flings himself in the air and flaps his wings.
There is a platform bird feeder under the Gum Bumelia, and other birds congregate there to have breakfast. George never joins them - he's too busy being the Karaoke King of our yard.
When I'm going out to the barn to say good morning to the hens and let them into their outside coop, I am serenaded by George. He also serenades us while we are picking beans, dead-heading roses, and watering the new apple trees. I was mowing the back yard and I could hear George doing his thing on top of the tree - over the mower sound! George has an admirable set of lungs.
We call him Lonesome because with all his beeping, squeaking, whistling, and flinging, he has yet to attract a mate. Female Mockingbirds are either very picky, or Lonesome George just isn't considered marrying material.
We call him George because that seems like a good name for a Mockingbird. Edward just didn't fit.

Mockingbird ( photo / image / picture from marlingardener's Garden )

Last edited: Sat Jun 13, 2015 5:58 pm

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Not picking blackberries

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Sat May 23, 2015 3:54 pm

A dear friend called earlier this week to ask if I wanted to go blackberry picking with her. She has a friend with a blackberry patch, and with all the rain we've been having, the blackberries are particularly nice. Of course I wanted to go!
We decided Friday morning was ideal-early enough before the temperature climbed, and giving us lots of time after we got home to deal with the gallons of berries we were going to pick. It rained.
We decided to go Saturday morning, early enough, lots of time to deal with the berries, you've heard this refrain before. It rained.
We were half-way there before we decided berry picking was out of the question for the day.
This is the fun part-we had such fun riding through the rain and swapping stories.
She told about attending Sunday School when she was first married. The teacher was a nice man, but terribly boring and just strung stories together, none of which were biblical. One Sunday she got so fed up she slammed her Bible shut, and in the quiet of the sanctuary it sounded like a gunshot. They changed churches shortly thereafter.
We started to talk about strange conversations we have had with others(conversations between the two of us are always coherent and intellectual). I told her about an interesting conversation I'd had with a perfect (well, maybe not perfect) stranger at the grocery store. He wanted to put honey out to attract bees to pollinate his garden. I patiently explained that the bees would come to the honey, eat it up, and leave. Why work with nectar and pollen when there is a feast sitting right there for the taking? He didn't believe me. Bees like honey, ergo they would come to his garden and pollinate. I guess he thought the honey would serve as a reward for being busy as a bee.
She told me about her daughter, who is pretty, charming, and extremely practical. When she attends a party and brings something to share, like chips, she is horrified to see people digging into the bowl with their hands. When the party is over, and any of her contribution is left over, the host/hostess says that the leftover chips can be put back in the bag and she can take them home. She declines. She waits to get home to say "Uggghhhh"!
Then we discussed strange customs. When my husband and I were driving into the city last week, we saw several cars parked by the side of the road, with the driver just sitting there. On the way home we saw the same thing-different cars but just sitting on the right-of-way. We must have missed the message about that day being the "Texas park on the roadside day". A lot of important things miss us.
She said she was driving to a meeting in Ft. Worth and stopped for gas. A man at the next station told her to avoid a certain road because there was "trouble". She avoided it, and when she got to her destination asked about the "trouble". It seems someone hit a deer and there was a state trooper and a meat wagon dealing with the situation. Trouble for the deer, not so much for drivers. It seems if you see a state trooper's vehicle, it means "trouble." Especially if you have outstanding warrants . . . .
We decided we had better go home and do something constructive with the rest of the morning. I froze beans, and she was going to bake a pie. We share an interest in recreational cooking.
Not picking berries can be a lot of fun if your not-picking partner has a great sense of humor!

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Hanging out laundry

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Sat Apr 25, 2015 7:00 pm

I do enjoy hanging laundry on the line. I think of the bag my mother had for clothespins, and of the bag I use that was given to me by an elderly lady who thought I could use a clothespin bag.
When we moved to the farm one of the very first things I wanted was clotheslines. We put them up, made extra posts that would support the lines when I hung something heavy, and I put my clothespin bag into use.
After getting the clothing or linens clean in the washing machine, I pile them in my big wicker basket, grab the clothespin bag, and go out for several minutes of sheer enjoyment.
This morning as I was hanging sheets on the line, I saw a flock of Cooper's Hawks fly over. Two circled over the orchard area, then were joined by six or seven others. They flew big circles over the pasture, then headed east. I stood holding a wet sheet, wide-eyed, and thoroughly entranced by the fly-over.
There are two large cedar trees near our clothes lines. When I go out early in the morning to hang clothes, the cardinals, sparrows, and occasional dove serenade me. They like to spend the night in the shelter of the cedar branches. When I go to get the laundry off the line, there are mockingbirds sitting on the fence and holding sing-alongs. Occasionally a barn swallow decides to swoop over. Luckily they are fast moving birds and don't leave deposits on the clothing!
As I'm leaving the house I often brush against the rosemary growing near the kitchen. That lovely smell lasts until I get to the scent of the rose in the corner of the fence near the clotheslines. While hanging laundry I can smell the rose, and I still have a lingering scent of rosemary.
When I bring the laundry in to fold, I still get the fresh scent of outdoors. I fold our sheets carefully and put them into the blanket chest my husband made years ago. There are two bunches of dried lavender in the chest to give a nice scent to our bed linens. The lavender will need to be replaced this year.
Doing laundry can be a chore, or it can be a small everyday pleasure.

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On being a magnet for the strange

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:55 pm

My husband swears that if there is a weird, strange person within five miles, he/she will find me. Over the years, his statement has proven true.
We had been married a short time, and were sitting in our living room watching an old Sherlock Holmes movie at about midnight. There was a knock on our door and a neighbor was standing on our front porch, holding a six-foot long 2x4. Since he wasn't in the construction trades, we figured something was up.
He asked if we had seen a German Shepherd go by. We replied very few dogs trotted through our living room at 11:45 p.m. so no, we hadn't seen the dog. It seems this neighbor constantly left his garbage can out, and the dog constantly knocked it over. The 2x4 was to whack the dog if he encountered it. We didn't mention any dog worth its salt would go right past that six foot stick and get the neighbor by the nether regions.
The neighbor also had a rather large bandage on his forehead, and since I have no sense at all, I asked him what happened. It seems he shut the car door on his head. I left it at that.
When we moved to Texas, I stepped up my game. Here in Texas we don't keep our strange folk at home, we let them wander about to entertain the populace.
Our vegetable garden faced the Methodist Church parking lot. One evening a gentleman came to the back door and asked if he could plug in an emergency light so he could fix a van that was used for a charity's clothing distribution. We said sure, and showed him where an outside plug-in was located. We chatted, and found out that his name was "Lucky". A misnomer if there ever was one! First, he had only one arm, having lost an arm in a farming accident. Then he said that he couldn't drive his car because the driver's side door was missing. He went to the library to fill out forms for unemployment benefits and parked on the street. When he opened his car door to get out, another car whizzed by and ripped off the driver side door. Since he had no transportation, he couldn't get to the charity that let him drive the van. The charity had him on a waiting list for food and shelter, however.
Then there was the older lady who lived on the street in back of us. She came over one day to ask if we had seen her garbage can. (Remember the German Shepherd incident - deja vu!) No, we hadn't seen any garbage cans going by. Well, it was missing. Later that day she drove by, dragging the garbage can underneath her truck. It seems she had backed over the can which got stuck in the undercarriage, and she was trying to figure out where that strange truck noise was coming from!
Since we moved to the farm we've met a better class of strange people. There was the guy that wanted my husband to 1)trap bees that were in a camper (with flat tires and that obviously hadn't been used in years; 2) provide the hive, frames, and other equipment that bees need; and 3) give him the honey when we got it extracted and bottled. He was slightly offended that we weren't enthused about his plan.
We also have a neighbor who recently got a smart phone, and is convinced it has gotten into his head somehow. We tried to explain "cookies" that trace your preferences and recently visited sites, but he wanted to take it back to the store because it knew too much about him. I felt sorry for the smart phone.
And then there was the absolute stranger we had never laid eyes on before that pulled into our driveway and laid on the horn. We went out and she said she wanted to fish our pond and we should open the gate for her. Needless to say, she fished somewhere else.
I go into town once a week, and my husband worries I'll find yet another stranger that is strange. I cope well - over the years I've learned to smile, nod, and edge away (unless they are really strange, in which case I stash the story away for later use!).

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