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marlingardener's Blog

Farm living and laughing

Werewolves, Dutch army, and vacations

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Wed Feb 18, 2015 7:53 pm

Have you ever hugged a werewolf? One February, while fleeing upstate New York's winter, we arrived in Bonaire just before Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and got to enjoy the costumes, parades, and music. One gentleman (gosh, I do hope it was a gentleman) in a werewolf suit was hugging the ladies, and I got hugged!
That night, shortly after midnight, the sound of firecrackers woke us up. We decided some fool didn't know that Mardi Gras was over and was still shooting off fireworks. Being pragmatic tourists, we rolled over and went back to sleep. We were from upstate New York and were unfamiliar with the sound of automatic gunfire.
Next morning, we drove into town to have breakfast, and noticed there were soldiers in camouflage under the cement benches along the seafront, and they had automatic weapons. None of the locals seemed particularly worried, so we figured we shouldn't be either, and had a nice breakfast. Joanna the parrot, who was the restaurant's resident mascot, left our breakfast alone, but was very interested in another man's toast. He ended up huddling over his breakfast plate to guard it from marauding birdlife.
We had a nice seafront view, which included uniformed men running up and down the main street. Interesting, but again, none of the locals seemed upset, so why should we?
When we got back to the hotel, there was a nice note in our room, saying that the hotel regretted any inconvenience to its guests, and that Colonel somebody-or-other would be in the lobby all day explaining why the Dutch army, on maneuvers, had mistaken our hotel for the airport. It seems that the airport was their practice target, but since a favorite TV program was on that night, the airport personnel had closed down early and shut off all the lights. Therefore, when the Dutch army arrived by ship, the only place that had its lights on was our hotel! Imagine the surprise of the landing force when they encountered the seaside bar of Flamingo Beach rather than tarmac!
This was shortly after the attacks on the airports in Rome and Vienna, and a lot of tourists were pretty nervous when they found spent shell casings outside their rooms, and saw soldiers hanging about. We, of the other hand, decided to go snorkeling and let the colonel deal with the nervous types.
On our way to one of our out-of-the-way snorkeling sites, we passed several soldiers perched up in trees, trying to look military. They just looked terribly sunburned, their Nordic complexions didn't adapt well to Caribbean sun. We waved to the tree-perchers, and they waved back. Nice boys, and we hoped that someone had thought to pack sunscreen for them.
We visited Bonaire for several years, and always enjoyed the people, the weather, and especially the underwater life. We never encountered the Dutch army again, although they were a friendly bunch.

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Christmas letters

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 8:14 pm

You may think that February 9th is a little late to be talking about receiving Christmas letters, but one came in the mail today from the neighbor across the street.
We were congratulating ourselves for not receiving the annual Christmas letter touting the accomplishments of their extended family, but we were a bit premature. The neighbors admitted they were a bit (?) late in sending out their letter. I was sincerely hoping they had given up on the three page, underlined, paean to their family.
How do you say "I just don't care"Âť in a nice way? I just don't care whose granddaughter is playing softball; I just don't care who lives where; I just don't care what church everyone goes to. I just really, really don't care!
We also get another Christmas letter from another couple. It seems they caught a big fish - whoopee. Some of the grandchildren can walk on hind legs now - whoopee. The children are doing well (would you tell us if they were homeless?). Whoopee.
I am sincerely thinking of sending out our own Christmas letter next year. We can tell everyone every little thing that has gone wrong all year long; mention how badly our family members are doing; and explain why our finances are now such that we are accepting donations.

Hello dear friend or slight acquaintance,
We are barely hanging onto the farm after the tornado hit and removed our barn with the chickens in it. We have found feathers, but no chickens. We tried to salvage the vegetable garden, but the cows next door took advantage of the downed fences (see reference to tornado) and ate everything up. They didn't even have the decency to die on our property so we'd have the beef.
Most of the house is still here, and we are making do with an outside toilet and the charcoal grill (one for cooking and the other, well, you know). It's been about three months, but the utility company is promising we'll have electricity soon, probably sometime in the new year.
Our church members are praying for us, but so far haven't taken up a special donation to help us out. Prayers are nice, but $20's are appreciated also.
We notified our family members that we had survived so far, but if they could help we'd appreciate it. We found out that we must have been adopted - no one is claiming to be related to us.
On the bright side, we now don't have to worry about decorating for Christmas - there is very little left to string lights on, and anyway we don't have electricity.
Hoping you have happy holidays, and if so, could we please come to your house for Christmas dinner. We're tired of grilled hot dogs and it's darned cold in what is left of our house!

Your cold, hungry, and slightly testy neighbors

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My Aunt Tula

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 1:08 am

My Aunt Tula was Uncle Charlie's wife. Uncle Charlie, my daddy's brother, was a horse trader. He didn't limit his transactions to horses, since he'd trade almost anything for something of greater value. That is why Aunt Tula had a grand piano.
In our small town, she had the one and only grand piano, and that gave her a certain cachet. She made sure her three daughters could play the piano, almost chaining them to the thing until they mastered Chopin, Bach, and Mozart. None of this was easy for three teenage girls, but Aunt Tula was determined.
After the daughters were moderately proficient, Aunt Tula started having afternoon teas and evening soirees, at which the girls demonstrated their ability to play the grand piano, and Aunt Tula lorded it over all the other ladies in town.
My sister and I were too young to be invited to the teas and soirees, but Aunt Tula saw an opportunity to instill some social graces in us. She would come to lunch and rearrange the place settings (When Aunt Tula was there, we didn't just have plates and silverware--we had "place settings") which involved cloth napkins, not paper ones. My mama cheerfully hated Aunt Tula . . . .
Aunt Tula also had a passion for posture. We were to sit in our chairs without our backs touching the chair backs, cross our feet at the ankles, and make delicate conversation. The time I tried to describe our cat's giving birth to kittens while I was at the luncheon table was unforgettable. Aunt Tula cast a suspicious eye on me ever afterwards.
Aunt Tula nearly met her match when a new doctor came to town and brought his young wife from "up north" with him. The wife immediately joined the most socially prominent church (don't think about that one too long), started a bridge club (which most of the town's ladies thought involved putting a new crossing over the Wabash River), and, worst of all, played the piano! She knew Chopin, Mozart, and Bach, and was also acquainted with Dvorak and Beethoven.
Have you ever seen a cat fight between two evenly matched cats? Aunt Tula and the doctor's wife went at it with teas, charity doings, and soirees. The ladies of the town were pawning their engagement rings to buy enough dresses to attend all the social events these two women were arranging.
Aunt Tula won out--she had lorded it over the other ladies for so long that they were thoroughly cowed. The doctor's wife licked her wounds, smoothed her fur, and became the leading light of the hospital's ladies auxilliary. The field was clear for her because Aunt Tula considered it beneath her to associate with sick people.
Aunt Tula left me with good posture, impeccable table manners, and a loathing of playing the piano.

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Advantages of small town living

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 7:07 pm

There are quite a few advantages to living in a small town.

First, if there is anything that needs fixing, a neighbor has a recommendation. Often it is a relative of the neighbor, but that person has a double burden--keeping up the family's reputation and getting more recommendations. We have found roofers, tree trimmer/removal services, handymen, and car repair places this way. Each one has worked out well.

If you go to the feed store and have forgotten to bring cash, they'll trust you until the next time. They don't forget that you owe them but they also don't take back the feed sacks that they just loaded into your truck.

If your truck is in the shop for an inspection, and you take the car into town to get something, someone will call and ask if there is an emergency ("I saw both vehicles were gone. Is everything all right?") and if everything isn't all right, the caller asks what can they do.

A siren is closely monitored. If it goes down the state highway no one gets overly concerned. However, if it goes down a country road, there is a parade of pick-up trucks following it, driven by men in hats with fire extinguishers and six-packs of beer. The ladies are at home heating up casseroles and calling their neighbors and relatives. there is a whole network of caring/helping people that go into action at the sound of a siren.

And of course, births! If there is an imminent baby, everyone goes into high gear. Knitting, quilting, baking (the new mama won't have the time/strength to cook properly) and letting everyone know that there is a baby on the way! Everything is delivered as soon as the mama is on the way to the hospital (and you wouldn't believe how quickly that word gets out) and then for a week only the family members are allowed to visit (new mama and baby don't need to be disturbed). After that first week, all bets are off and there are lines of folks at the door of the baby's home. Each baby is the most beautiful anyone has seen. If you've seen a newborn, you know how kind and somewhat blind these nice folks are.

So, living in a small town, or near one, has its advantages. Mostly the advantages are the folks who populate these small towns, and have learned to depend on each other in times of happiness and grief.

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Southern Living

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Sun Sep 21, 2014 3:13 pm

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You can judge a man by his boots

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Mon Aug 25, 2014 3:34 pm

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Early morning trip to the barn

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Tue Aug 05, 2014 5:53 pm

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Night Sounds

Category: Nature | Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 3:40 pm

There is an old Scot's prayer that says: "From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!"
We don't have ghoulies and ghosties, and the "long-leggedy beasties" (coyotes) stay away from the house, but we do get the occasional bump in the night.
With the unusually cool spring we've had, our windows have been open at night. Laying in bed and listening to the wildlife serenade, argue, and seek a companion is lovely night music.
At dusk we get the frogs in the pond croaking out a chorus. I don't know how many frogs we have, but they are all baritones! We also get the sleepy peeps from the birds. We have nests in most of the trees, and at night everyone goes home and nestles down for the night, but first they have to call out a goodnight to the neighbors .
When it's good and dark, we hear the coyotes yodeling. Yes, they yodel, they don't howl. Coyotes often hunt in packs and they keep in communication with each other with a series of yodels and trills. Then of course the cattle on the surrounding farms have to have their say. They bellow, moan, and make a gulping sound. If a heifer is about to drop a calf, she can keep you awake all night!
Toward morning you get the nighthawks swooping and calling. Their wings make a sound like a bull-roarer, which is their other name. A bull-roarer is a racheted noisemaker that makes a terrific rattling sound. Coupled with their high-pitched calls, you might thing that some "ghosties" are around!
One night we heard a sniffling, scuffling sound just outside our front door. A skunk was examining the premises to see if there was a den possibility. Thankfully, turning on the outside light discouraged her. She later moved under the workshop and had three kits. Now we get little skunk tracks through the flowerbeds.
Early in the morning, and I do mean early, we get Lonesome George the mockingbird doing his imitations of squeaky wheels, other birds, and whistles. He is trying to attract a mate, but if she hasn't shown up by now, she ain't comin', George! I'm just very glad he hasn't heard any rap music to imitate. The squeak of the wheelbarrow wheel imitation is bad enough, thank you.
The Eurasian Collared doves take over when George runs out of repertoire, or steam. Their gentle, if somewhat mournful cooing is a relief, at least for the first hour. After that, it gets a bit monotonous.
When full dawn arrives, we get the chickens. Our girls just discuss the coming day and make plans. However, a neighbor's rooster feels obligated to announce that the sun is up and we are burning daylight! Of course, he makes the same announcement several times during the day. Wish someone would get that boy a wristwatch.
Since all the birds, amphibians, and mammals have had their say, we two-leggers get up and start our day after listening to the night sounds.

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Unsolicited Advice

Category: Serendipity | Posted: Tue May 27, 2014 1:58 pm

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The Pig and I

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Mon Apr 21, 2014 7:10 pm

Shortly after we moved into our little farmhouse, we had an urgent need of a plumber. That is when we met Buck, a thoroughly delightful young man and one heck of a plumber. He came, fixed our problem, chatted a while, and left. About two days later he called and asked if we wanted a pig. I told him we didn't have a pen or sty for a pig, but I sure appreciated the offer.
No, he was offering a feral piglet. It seems his mama ran a "we buy feral hogs on the hoof" business, and someone had come in with a large feral sow and her piglets. Buck got stuck with the butchering and there were ex-piglets up for grabs. Since Buck was so nice, I said I'd love to have a piglet.
Buck came with a cooler with a headless, footless, skinless pig carcass with the tenderloin laying by its side. "I cut out the tenderloin because I wasn't sure you knew how," Buck said. Honey, I've never seen, much less cut up, a pig carcass!
Undaunted (after all we are in the country and I need to learn these things) I let the cooler water and the blood drain out, as instructed by Buck. Then I hauled the little carcass into the kitchen; donned my apron; opened my trusty cookbook that has instructions on how-to-do everything; whipped out a filleting knife and a chef's knife; and learned how to dismember a pig. We ended up with two fresh hams, ribs, the tenderloin, a pork sirloin roast, and various little bits where I made a mistake or the knife slipped.
Feral pig, at least the young ones, are delicious. We ate "high on the hog" for a while, although my apron has never been the same.

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