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Good Friends, Great Time

The recommended pizza place with our “dear friends.”

Middle-aged people should frequent middle-aged vacation spots and middle-aged lodgings.

We batted 1000. Meeting our Florida friends in Florida wasn’t even on our radar a few weeks ago. But unused vacation points beckoned the Gordons who beckoned us. We couldn’t turn down a free stay in Ormond Beach, Florida. Since becoming farmers, we’d hardly taken a day off, much less six.

We packed up, tucked Mom in with competent caregivers and hit the road. I’d never traveled to that part of the state so I googled it.

“Tom, it says the city is a great quiet place for middle-aged couples.”

“What?” Tom asked.

Arriving at the beachfront hotel, our friends hovered over the balcony. A smile spread across my worn face.

“We’re in luck, they have shuffleboard!” Michael grinned.

I felt as if I’d been in a dessert and reached an oasis. An oasis of friends and memories and fellowship. We walked the beach and talked. We ate “Sticky Burgers” that combined a hamburger, peanut butter, bacon and cheese on a bun at a local hangout and watched college football.

The next day, our other friends, the Brinkers, made the three-hour trek to visit for a few hours. We crowded into the apartment and laughed, snacked, and reveled in just being together. Priceless.

Tom and I haven’t made much money over the last 18 months, but I feel rich. Those friendships didn’t bloom overnight. They took years of cultivation and feeding and pruning. Now we have a beautiful strong friendship that’s endured storms and even neglect–because like a magnificent tree, it’s rooted and established.

On Monday the four of us traveled to St. Augustine.

“Oldest city in the country. How appropriate.” Tom said.

Overwhelmed with touristy venues and parking, we stopped a mailman to get a quick restaurant review.

Without hesitation he said, “To be honest, all the places around here are overpriced and the food is (expletive).”

“Gee, tell us how you really feel,” Diane added.

We ended up at a pizza place he recommended. It was near the chocolate factory we toured earlier in the day. Lots of “early birders” there, too.

The Gordons left yesterday and Tom and I spent the evening alone last night. That part is a secret.

Today we see our son and his wife at their apartment. We also meet the Grand dog, Kratos. Tomorrow we head home.

I don’t miss Florida. I miss walks on the beach, sure. Mostly, I miss my friends. I’m making new friends in North Carolina, but friendships take time.

For now, I’ll remember great times with good friends.

If I can remember.

 

 

The Mystery of Mopping, A Day in the Life of a Farmer’s Wife

If I were stranded on a desert island, and could choose one person to be with, it would be my husband, Tom.

The feeling is not mutual.

It’s not that he doesn’t love me. And he probably would say he’d like to be with me, but it’s just not practical.

He knows when faced with opposition, I would give up and die.

So when he went to a farmer’s day conference on squash (yes there are such things), he gave me one assignment.

“Mop the back porch, Pauline.”

“But how do I do that?”

“Get a big mop..” blah blah blah, blah blah blah.

It’s not that I wasn’t listening, it’s that mopping makes no sense to me. And the back porch was FILTHY DIRTY FROM 70+ CHICKS.

In the past, I’ve pretended to know how to mop. When ladies get together, occasionally the topic of mopping comes up.

“I mopped all my floors today. What a job!” my friend, Diane might say. I nod my head and cluck my tongue, but actually I don’t know what she means.

I can sweep. I can run the vacuum, and I can even dust. But I’ve got a mopping handicap.

You take soapy water, put a fuzzy white thing in it, swish it around and then push it all over the floor. Where does the dirt go? Is it magnetically attracted to the fuzzy white thing? Then the fuzzy mop thing gets dirty and then what? Rinse it out? Where? With what water?

So I never know where to start and where to finish. Like the chicken or the egg. Or getting your car registration. You need proof of insurance to get it, but you need the registration to get insurance.

I think.

It’s a mystery–like mopping.

But a farmer’s wife has to face her fears.

So, desiring to be the one Tom would like to be stranded with on a desert island, and trying to prove I could pass the Girl Scout badge for farming, I got busy. I moved everything off the porch, got a mop and pushed the fluffy white thing all around, pressing hard to get the really yucky stuff off.

I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed with a brush. I rinsed with water from a different source.

I sweated.

I clucked my tongue.

I think tomorrow, I’ll call my friend, Diane.

It Takes a Village To Can a Quart

Most people have a bucket list. Challenging, fun things like repelling the Grand Canyon, Climbing Mt. Everest, hiking the Appalchian Trail, or canning a few quarts of tomatoes.

Today, for the first time in my 54 years, I chose the latter.

I should have attempted Everest.

Actually, “The Canning” was a group effort. My two canning friend experts supervised the event.

Since there was no dishwasher in the farmhouse, we hand washed several mason jars. Since there was no room on the counters, we spent approximately 57 minutes clearing them.

“Pauline, the jars are dirty,” my helpful husband stated after our dishwashing marathon. (By the way, he was not part of the canning committee. Just an opinionated onlooker.)

So we spent another 28 minutes rewashing the jars. While we washed, we heated approximately enough water on the stove to bathe the Dallas Cowboys.

“Canning’s not hard, Pauline. You just mix the tomatoes and run them through the food processor. Then you pour them into jars. You heat the jars on the stove in a water bath and you’re done,” my friend Sue said.

Easy for her to say. She left.

Then Sue’s husband, Bill, and I cut 20 pounds of tomatoes which took approximately 49 minutes.

I settled on a soup base with okra. We looked it up and Bill read the directions.

“It says we have to cook the tomatoes.”

Sue arrived home. “Why are you cooking the tomatoes?”

“The recipe says so.”

She read the recipe out loud. “I see you decided to change the recipe we agreed on.” Her eyebrow lifted as she spoke. Bill and I slinked away, pretending to wipe counters.

I answered. “I figured they’re all about the same. How long do we cook it?”

“About fifteen minutes’.

After we processed the tomatoes and rewashed the counters, we ladled the tomato mixture into a pan on the stove. “What are all these pans for?”

“One is for the bath, one for sanitizing the jars, and a smaller one for the lids.”

I wondered if they’d forgotten about the absence of the modern appliances.

“How much water do I need for the water bath?”

Bill answered. “A lot. But first you have to sanitize the jars.”

I started to add the squeaky-clean-jars to the bathtub water we’d been heating for over an hour. The kitchen temp topped 105. “Don’t put the jars in yet!” Bill shouted. “You have to heat them as you pour the tomato mixture!”

“How do you know that?”

Bill and Sue chimed in together, “We read the directions!”

“Wait a minute,” Sue said. “Did you say you added okra? If you did you up the time to 45 minutes.”

“Yeah, and what’s the altitude? That changes the time too.”

“How much headroom do we leave?” I wondered why they were talking about their car.

“The recipe says one inch,” Bill stated as he munched on an apple. It had been four long hours since lunch.

We used tongs to submerge the the jars in the Cowboys’ bath and a special tool to take the jars in and out of the bath. We bathed the jars for an additional 45 minutes. Finally, we poured the fragrant mixture into glass jars through a special canning funnel, placed the lids on and waited. They popped.

All six of them.

After about nine hours of manpower, $20 worth of tomatoes and and a hundred dollars worth of equpment, I figured we could have eaten at Carabba’s three times. The whole bucket-list-canning-adventure struck me as hilarious. No wonder pioneer people died young.

“It takes a village to can a quart of tomatoes!” I spouted as my belly shook. We all laughed.

After we gained our composure, Sue took out a Sharpie, “What are you going to call this?”

“Village soup, of course. And when I pull out my soup, I’ll call you at your place in New Jersey and you can eat yours, too.”

Some bucket list adventures are just about friends.

And it’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

Horse Drama, A Day in the Life of a Farmer’s Wife, Day 13

I could tell you about the 2,000 pounds of mulch that when loaded into our Tundra by a front loader the size of a small house almost covered my husband in the cab and leveled our truck. We even paid real money for it. But you kind of had to be there to experience it.

Or I could share with you the dreary tale of unloading a ton of mulch into our field. My back hurts just thinking of it.

Or perhaps I could share with you about the family of deer that got separated crossing my driveway this afternoon when I picked up the mail. Bambi takes on new meaning in the country.

Today, I thought I’d share a happening that made me angry.

It was all about horse drama.

The neighbor who is a horse trader keeps shifting the horses from one field to the next. There is the field on the farmhouse side. Pete the donkey lives there, along with Red and a few others.

The field across the gravel road is our property. Blue, the horse I thought would be mine lived there until Jamie thought he should live at his pasture up the road.

I miss Blue.

Recently, there’s been a very unhappy paint horse in that field. Tom and I think he was separated from his friend. Often during the day and sometimes in the evening, we hear his forlorn cry.

We’ve named him Sad Horse.

The other day, I gave an apple to Sad Horse. He didn’t smile but did let me pet his head and talk to him. There are three other horses in the field who ignore Sad Horse.

Horse cliques. Who knew?

I thought I’d sneak two carrots to Sad Horse today. Trouble was the horse clique noticed. They trotted to the fence in a sort of synchronized swimming horse routine. So I broke up one carrot and shared.

Then I called Sad Horse. Gray Clique Horse didn’t like that one bit. He suffered from carrot envy and edged his way in while Sad Horse stood away from the fence.

“Come here, Sad Horse. I have a carrot just for you,” I said as I moved away from the other horses, trying to draw Sad Horse to the fence.

Just then, Gray Clique Horse ran over and bit Sad Horse on the back! Then Sad Horse moved forward and kicked Evil Gray horse! I couldn’t believe it! Horse justice welled to the surface of my astounded-city-dweller-brain.

“Get away, Gray Horse! You are mean! You’re all mean to Sad Horse and I don’t like it! Go away!” I sniffed. “You should be nice to Sad Horse. How would you feel if they took your buddy away?

They stared at me. A bird flew by. Leaves fluttered in the breeze.

I waited for an answer.

None came.

Probably a good thing.

Being a horse must be tough. There are usually several flies on your eyes, you stand while you sleep, and you never know when your buddy might be sold.

And then there are the cliques.

Kind of like humans.

Tomorrow might be a better day. They’re going to set our house on the foundation and we don’t have to shovel mammoth-sized-mulch piles into our garden.

I think it’s gonna be a better day for Sad Horse, too.

He’s gonna get two apples.

Bugged-A Day in the Life of a Farmer’s Wife, Day 11

Rain makes me claustrophobic. Especially when I’m sharing an early 1900 farmhouse with Tom, Mom, and about 10 million bugs.

And a snake.

The bugs are not all in the house, mind you. They are underneath, above, inside, outside. Omnipresent.

Here’s the rub. Some of them are good. At least by gardening standards.

That thought crossed my mind as I did “Bug Duty” in the field the other day. Bent over white plastic, I shook collards until 8-10 flea-like-beetles flew off. The trick was to get them while they were confused on the white plastic of our raised beds. Then, I swiped my hands over the plastic trying to annihilate as many as I could. Those who used their mammoth microscopic legs to catapult them to the next raised beds to munch on tomato leaves escaped. Others were too stunned. I mushed them.

Such is the life of an organic farmer’s wife.

Killing bugs gives me plenty of time to think. Good bugs and bad bugs. Who knew? I picture good bugs with super-hero-capes and a serious countenance. Bad bugs scowl and have dastardly laughs.

The trouble is knowing which is which.

Last week, I saw a 4-inch bug that looked like it could swallow me. Tom killed it per my insistence. Turns out it was harmless. A Dobson fly.

I moved on to a different row in my bug assassination duty. A rather large, armored-like bug sat on a squash leaf. I squished it with my shoe.

I know for a fact there are no good fleas or ticks. Yet they party on my dog, Sam–ocassionally hopping on one of my Bible study ladies or nestling in my bed.

The other day, I was so overwhelmed with bugs, I decided to empty my hummingbird feeder to encourage a visit from those pint-sized birds. I set my purse down since we were headed to town and stepped over what I thought was a stick.

It wasn’t.

A five foot black racer came out of hiding to get a glimpse of the sky just like I did.

I left my purse for a while and circled round the house to retrieve it.

When you’re a farmer’s wife, you have to be creative.

“Did you kill a large bug on the squash plants?” Tom asked.

“Yep, why?”

“It’s a bug called an assassin bug. He’s good.”

I assassinated the assassin bug.

I guess I didn’t see his cape.