Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Holding on

Two little boy birthdays this month.  My eldest is now eleven and my youngest is six.  When my boys were babes people would tell me, 'make the most of these days because they grow up so fast.'  I would look down at my child's face and wonder.  Those first few months after they are born seem to go by so slowly.  You wait expectantly for each milestone -- the cord falling off, the first smile, the first hand clap, the first roll over.  Time seems to be something that happens to other people.

Sometime between then and now, between bottle feeding and swimming lessons, time has sped up.  Considerably.  This upsets me.  I don't miss the work of babies, believe me.  I can do without the breast pumps, midnight feedings, bottle washing, diapers and baby gates.  But I do miss other things, like burping and socks and naps and baths and baby toys.

That's the thing that has brought this on, I guess.  Toys.  Over the past several days I have been going through my kids' toy collections.  With extremely generous grandparents and aunts and uncles, my boys have amassed a lot of toys.  A LOT of toys.  90% of which they don't play with anymore.  So in order to make more room in closets and shelves and basically everywhere else in the house, I've been sorting the 'still-played-with' from the 'not-played-with.'  And removing the 'lost-pieces' and the 'broken-pieces' as well.  It is a huge effort.  And I have to do it while the boys are at school, else they will fish every other thing that I put into the 'going away' pile and claim that it is their favorite toy and they still want to keep it.

Actually, the biggest difficulty I've had to overcome is my own nostalgia.  I remember some of these toys with great fondness.  The playmobile airport set that took me three hours to put together.  The spiral ball slide with four openings at the bottom.  The musical tree house.  The classic plastic jewels that snap together.  The alphabet, number and shape puzzles that are missing most of their pieces.  I played with all of these with my boys, and it brings back wonderful memories.  I am loathe to part with them.  My long-term memory pretty much stinks, so unearthing these old toys has triggered forgotten images of play and laughter that catch at my throat.

I am tempted to keep some of them.  Not for my boys to play with, but for me to remember with.  More than tempted.  I've already got a sack of baby clothes stashed away.  And I save a good bit of their artwork and schoolwork.  Why shouldn't I keep some of the toys?  Am I being overly sentimental?  Probably.  Who cares.  I have a feeling that when I'm 70 years old and going through these things, whatever I do decide to keep, I'll wish I had kept more.

Besides, I need to save some for the grandchildren, right?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Up to

What have I been up to?  A plethora of activity, including:

Rendering tallow and lard;

Baking (actually the hubby made this particular goodness);

Hauling several boxes of donated dishes to a local cooperative kitchen;

Making more garlic powder for someone who is certainly not my brother;

Celebrating two boys' birthdays (they decorated the cakes themselves);

Walking a bit;

Stripping dried seed from dill, arugula, radish and broccoli;

Making sense of my jumble of stored seeds;

and trying to enjoy the tiny bit of snow and the colder temps that arrived this week.

Just a typical January in western Minnesota.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fresh powder

No, not the fluffy white kind, unfortunately.  The smelly garlic kind!

My garlic and onion storing skills are obviously lacking.  I've already got sprouts on my alliums and it's only January.  So, what does one do when one has numerous pounds of garlic about to go green?  What do you do when life gives you lemons?  You make garlic powder, that's what.

Peeling garlic for a couple of hours is not the most exciting thing in the world.  Fortunately you can peel garlic while playing checkers, Yahtzee, RoboRally and any number of other games that little boys ask you to play.  The game pieces may end up smelling a little strong afterward, but that's okay.

And whatever you do, don't let a little piece of garlic get stuck under your fingernail, and not notice.  Because by the next morning it will have begun to burn a hole through your skin.  Or at least feel like it's trying to.

After I got sick of peeling (about half way through my garlic stash) I sliced them in half and set them on my dehydrator trays.  Knowing the tremendous smell this process would create, I set the dehydrator in the mud room and turned in on.  Ten hours later, I had a bowl full of garlic chips.  Which, in case you're wondering, are not nearly the same as potato chips and do not make a tasty snack.

My coffee-turned-spice grinder worked like a charm.   I ended up with three full cups of garlic powder, which is about a three-year supply for us.  We use the powder in pasta sauces, on steaks, in hamburgers, on garlic toast, on pizza, etc.  But this homemade stuff is so strong a little goes a long way.

Now, what to do with the rest of my sprouting bulbs?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Autumn on the prairie

Only, it's not autumn.  It's winter. Or it's supposed to be, anyway.

We had a high today in the upper 60s.  That's about 40 degrees above normal for this time of year.  Everyone I talk to says, "Isn't this weather wonderful!"  But their smile is worried and their eyes are strained.  Up here in Minnesota, we start to get suspicious when we get too much of a good thing.  The pendulum has got to swing sometime.

Mother Nature reigns our lives from solstace to solstace.  Summer is warm and winter is cold and that's the way it works.  Lots of rain in the spring, lots of sun in the summer and fall, and lots of snow in the winter and that's the way it works.  Suddenly, here we are faced with a warm winter and no snow.  This isn't the way it works.  Something is wrong.  Nobody wants to say the big CC words, for fear of looking like a fool or worse, a liberal, but people are beginning to wonder.

The ice on the lake is breaking up, and we have open water along the banks.  Thankfully people got their icehouses off before the thaw, and nobody had to be rescued.

Yesterday I took my worried and strained self to Bonanza for a dose of prairie.  It's good for what ails ya.  Sitting on a hillside surrounded by tall grass and clear sky is a kind of medicine that most folks need and crave, only they don't know it. 

I love dead trees.  Or 'snags' as they are called in forestry lingo.  They are so good for wildlife.  The caverns made by woodpeckers looking for insects are very cool.

And the caverns in turn are used by other critters.  Like squirrels feasting on acorns.

The insect larvae eat etchings under the bark of the trees.  In some cases (as with Emerald Ash Borers) these trails end up girdling and killing the tree.  In most cases the trees are able to withstand the damage.

Bonanza boasts many springs, including this one that has been converted into a flowing well.  It's simply a pipe stuck into the ground at the right spot and the right depth.  The water runs clean and clear and cold all year round.

The ice sculptures are fabulous.  In the summer this creek is teeming with frogs.

Of all the natural landscapes in Minnesota, I think I love oak savanna the most.  The perfect blend of tall grass and tall trees.  A radiantly blue sky and cast of golden sunlight doesn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Longjohns and Leis

and a feisty game of RoboRally.  A great beginning to the new year.