Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Happiest Surprise

When I was little and we would visit my grandparents in New Orleans, we would sometimes be there when Norman's fig tree was bearing fruit. Norman was the next-door neighbor, and the fig tree was right on the property line, so there were figs all over the place. Norman didn't mind sharing. There were far too many figs for him to eat by himself, anyway.

Thus began a lifelong love of fresh figs.

Unfortunately, fresh figs are hard to find unless you grow your own, as my parents do now in Tucson. Also unfortunately, figs do not appreciate our climate. The MiL one time got a cold-hardy variety of fig that we kept in a pot. I think we got a dozen figs from it. Then the pot it was in broke and we planted it in a sheltered spot in the garden.

That winter was particularly brutal and the fig was not cold-hardy enough. Dead fig. Sadness.

But someone around here has had a lot more success with fig trees, because when I stopped at the very small farmers market in the village on my way back from the dump this morning, I spied figs hidden way behind some very exuberant kale. (All kale is far too exuberant, in my opinion.) Several small boxes, and two varieties.

One of the varieties was the standard brown turkey fig--the only fig I have so far had any experience with--and the other was a yellowish-green. The lady selling them didn't even know what kind it was, but she thought maybe it was the same as the kind they use to make Fig Newtons.

Did you know they use yellow figs to make Fig Newtons? Me neither. The things you can learn on a random Saturday morning.

So now I have two boxes of fresh figs. And that makes me happy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Tidying Outliers

A few months ago, I was seeing this little book that somehow totally took over the Internet: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Perhaps you've heard of it?

Thought so.

I needed to see for myself what all the excitement (dare I say obsession?) was about, so I checked it out at the library and read it.

And then I called bullshit.

Not on the premise that people need to get rid of stuff. Most people do. Including me. But I called bullshit on it because it is not applicable to everyone. Not even close.

If you want to live in a sterile apartment and do nothing but go to work and, I don't know, stare at your TV when you're home, get on that tidying up method. If you live alone, or with one other rational adult? It's probably perfect for you. Even if you live in a nice, modern suburban home and have a nice, modern suburban life (as I used to), it would probably work really well. And has for a lot of people.

But if you live in the country with three insane boy-children, two other adults with varying interests--one of whom is an enormous man with enormous clothing--in a climate that requires multiple wardrobes and equipment for the change of seasons, plus dogs, ducks, and a cat . . . well, I'm afraid Marie Kondo would not know what the hell to make of Blackrock.

We need tools. We need snowshoes and utility sleds and snow shovels. We need building materials. We need lots of changes of outdoor apparel for the children (and ourselves). We need a lot of STUFF.

Yes. Need. That's what I said, and that's what I mean. To live the life we choose to live, we need things. More things than will fit in an apartment in Tokyo, for damn sure.

I am the opposite of a hoarder. That happens when you grow up in a military family and move every three years. Packing boxes so frequently makes you very conscious of what is worth shipping three thousand miles. Throwing things out brings me great peace, and I do it with some frequency, but Marie Kondo's tidying just doesn't work here.

Though I think it would be pretty amusing to have the lady herself show up and try to apply her principals to Blackrock.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Photo Dump! WHEE

So many photos the world has been deprived of. Allow me to remedy that.

That time I gave Jack a whole pear to eat/mutilate while I was making dinner. And then he had a bath.

That time Charlie and I made grape jelly while Cubby was at his first day of school. It seemed like a fitting activity: school+PBJ, right? Plus, then Charlie had a nice, sticky spoon to lick.

That time A. packed a thousand pounds (approximately) of tools two miles into the gully so he could build a winter camping lean-to with Cubby and Charlie. Of course, now he has to take them winter camping. Have fun with that, A.

That time I washed all the hats, mittens, gloves, scarves, and other winter apparel that's been moldering in a drawer in the dining room highboy all summer so we'll be all ready when the cold weather comes.

That's all. Carry on.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Items of Specific and General Interest

First of specific interest (meaning for my mom).

As of yesterday, Jack can officially crawl.

This development pleases him greatly.

And entirely uncoincidentally, he has also been sleeping for a nine-hour stretch for the past couple of nights. The electrical outlets are no longer safe, but I'll take constant vigilance over sleep-walking through my day.

And now for the general interest item . . .

Charlie spotted a white caterpillar on the picnic table outside while we were eating our lunch in the kitchen. We went out for a closer look and I told him we would look it up and try to identify it.

Do you see the "Do Not Touch" sign? No? It should really have one.*

Turns out it was a Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar, and that those particular caterpillars are kind of venomous. Venomous enough to produce symptoms similar to poison ivy, anyway, which is definitely a bummer. Good thing we didn't touch it.

So if you ever see a fuzzy white caterpillar with black spots running down the center of its body and little spiky hairs, don't touch it.

You're welcome.

* You can probably tell from the quality of the photo that I did not take it. It's from this University of Wisconsin website.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Slowing My Peach Roll

I was out on the front lawn with Charlie yesterday afternoon when I noticed an enormous branch that had broken off and gotten hung up on a maple tree. The jagged end of the branch was pointing straight down about five feet off the ground, very close to the horse chestnut tree that Charlie and Cubby have been playing under lately.

I had a vision of two small boys I know whacking that branch with sticks and it crashing down on them, possibly impaling one of them with that jagged end.

So I told Charlie to stand over by the driveway while I investigated closer and determined whether it was securely lodged in the tree or just swaying precariously up there.

Here's where I caution you to not do what I did.

What I should have done was gotten a long rope to toss around the branch and yank on it from a safe distance. What I actually did was walk right up to it, grab it with my hand, and yank on it to see how secure it was.

It was not secure.

It came crashing down immediately. Thankfully, not on top of my stupid head, because the bulk of it was in front of me. It did, however, wrench my right shoulder* pretty good, scrape up my whole left forearm, and leave a few deeper gouges in both hands.

But at least it didn't kill or maim one of the children, right? Right. Idiot.


My injuries are mostly superficial and not worth mentioning (except I just mentioned them in about, uh, six paragraphs), besides the fact that they are going to make it hard to deal with all the peaches I have.

No, not the peaches in the bushel basket. Those are already pureed and in the freezer. I now have the same amount of peaches again, because our Very Elderly Neighbor called on Sunday and said he had more I could come pick up and . . . well, I'm a sucker, I guess. And a glutton for punishment.

Peeling all those nice acidic peaches with cuts all over my hands will probably be pretty punishing, but we're going to be all set for peach yogurt this winter.

Maybe this time I'll be smarter than my branch-pulling self and wear gloves. Maybe.

* Luckily, it was not the shoulder I use to carry Jack around. I found out at the doctor's office yesterday that he weighs 22.5 pounds, which is a lot to be hauling around even with an uninjured shoulder. He is also 31 inches long. That is insane for a nine-month-old.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mornings Get Fun

Cubby's school is Monday through Thursday. Charlie's preschool is Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. Their schools are a half mile apart, and I drive them both to school in the mornings. So three days a week, I drop them both off--Cubby first, then Charlie. On Mondays, however, it's just Cubby. On this particular Monday, when I announced it was time to go to school, here's what went down:

Cubby: I hate school!*

Charlie: I love school!

Me: Cubby, get your boots on. Charlie, you don't have school today.

Cubby: No! I'm not going!

Charlie: Yes, I do! I'm going to school!

Me: Cubby, you're going. Charlie, you don't have school today.




And then I woke Jack from a sound sleep to put him in the van too.

Just about as fun as it sounds, yes.

Thankfully, when we got Cubby to school he didn't stage any protests. And Charlie forgot about school when I suggested we should come home and have some toast.

Still, let's hope we don't repeat this every Monday morning.

* Upon questioning, he stated that there are too many rules (never thought I'd hear rule-obsessed Cubby say that) and they don't play enough. It's a rough transition from playtime preschool to real school.

Friday, September 18, 2015

What You Might Call a Mixed Blessing

Last night at around seven, our Very Elderly Neighbor drove up and gifted unto us a bushel basket of peaches from their tree.

Okay, three-quarters of a literal bushel basket. But I think we can all agree that is still a shitload of peaches.

I have a reputation, I suspect, as a person who will take free produce and turn it into something prepared in jars. No doubt our neighbors figured that gifting me with this shitload of peaches would result in a couple of jars of canned peaches on their doorstep in a few days.

They are right. 

They're very nice neighbors. They let A. hunt and trap and cut firewood on their considerable land. They give us fruit from the trees and bushes they can no longer manage themselves. Plus, they are both literally almost 100 years old. A person that age deserves some consideration.

I was still not entirely happy to see this basket appear, however. And that is because if I were to can all those peaches, I would end up with about 18 quarts of canned peaches, yes. Canned peaches are the best of all canned fruit, but that represents approximately 10 hours of kitchen work--including all the dishes resulting from canning peaches--that I really did not want to do.

I feel like a real jerk even saying that. Like, "Take your free, delicious peaches away! How dare you!" Stupid, right?

But still. Ten hours of peeling, jarring, boiling, and on and on and on is just not something I'm into right now.

But I did it, for a couple of hours this morning during nap/Curious George time for the children. I ended up with a pint of pureed peaches for yogurt and five quarts of peaches in syrup. Mostly I did it so I can give two of those quarts back to our neighbors.

I still have over half that basket to deal with. To be honest, I might not get through them all. But if some of them end up the compost, I suppose I'll just have to live with myself.