Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Alice, the Mad Hatter and Me

I had a wonderland day today.  Well, minus the falling down a rabbit hole. And the talking cat.  The "Tweedle" twins showed up, but that comes later.

My strange out of context day came with no warning slide through the mud. Which, if you ask me, is just as well.  My day may have been three degrees left of context, but at least I stayed clean.  It started with the first words the fella said to me at the breakfast table: "yanno, I think we need a crane".  I don't know about you, but to me, breakfast conversation should be limited to "would you like some more coffee" or "how about a nice toasted bagel" and the like. Not today.  Sigh.

::Waving both hands:: the burning issue of a need for a crane or not aside -- my morning consisted of looking for various bits and pieces of maintenance parts for both our trucks and the current locomotive under rebuild.  That I was talking to the same places the for items for the two was part of the problem, I suspect.  Have you ever had a conversation with a salesperson who obviously suspected that you were more than a little bit out of your mind? Gets you to wondering too.

My afternoon consisted of various errands in town with a final stop at the local cellular phone company to resolve a data loss problem with the fella's phone.  The salesperson made a lengthy show of reprograming the slightly older than a year old phone, then proceeded to try to convince me that it didn't work, was out of warranty and that I would need to buy a new one.  Her sales pitch might have been more convincing if after the reprogramming show, while she went to the back to check to see whether I was authorized to talk about the account, I hadn't picked the phone up from behind the counter where she thought she had secured it and made a phone call out to the fella.  "Can you hear me now"?  Loud and clear lady.  Guessing she thought I was crazy too.

Then while watching the news, I saw where Michael Moore was at the Republican convention and received a hearty round of Boo's.  He stood there waving and smiling.  Suddenly, in my weird out of context frame of mind I decided that I actually like the man.  Don't get me wrong, the man's viewpoint is anathema to everything I think, but he does say things that he believes need to be said and he lets no one stop him. Gotta admire that.  I decided that I have a warm spot in my heart for Michael Moore, I am gonna get a ride down that muddy rabbit hole yet.

The "Tweedle" twins.  My dogs of course.  On our evening walkies, they both took to barking like crazy up at the top of a slender maple.  There was nothing in that tree!  Could not have been more than a hundred leaves at the ends of a few twigs. Nothing was in that tree, but they kept barking and looking up until I too was standing at the base of the tree looking up.  They had me convinced.  I suspect that to end my day I was the victim of some sort of dog joke and the dogs are still laughing.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

You! Me! The President!

The President was on his way to Perrysburg, Ohio today to make a speech, were it not for a weather delay along his route, he would have made (we were told) a short stop in the city of Fostoria, Ohio.  Even though Fostoria is a city that struggles with unemployment and is considered more a "union town," a large crowd gathered along almost the entirety of the President's route through town, a mile or more anyway.  The crowd gathered and stood in drizzle and threatening rain for hours, just to wave as he drove by.  We hoped that he would have time to stop, but understood that he might not.

I like Fostoria, mostly working folk, mostly working on welcoming and blending Asian, Black and Hispanic citizens into the mix of people that live there.  The Fella spent his early years there, before his family moved out to the farm.  He still likes the place better than the other cities in the area.  Fostoria doesn't put on airs.  The citizens of Fostoria are good people.  And those people were excited that our President was going to drive through, and maybe stop. I waited with my friends Dana who works for a local paper and Scottie, a truck driver and EMT.  Next to us stood man that owns a small business and his wife and children, four extraordinarily well behaved boys. One of the group around me, stood out, a woman with a poster and a story.  Two of her children are currently serving in Iraq, one of them volunteered for an extra three months on his tour so that a fellow soldier with a family could come home instead of him.  A third of her children is in the service and scheduled to go "over there" soon. 

The crowd was excited and waited to wave as our President drive by.  He did.  I turned to my friend Dana and said.  You! Me! The President!  For a flash of a second that is how it was.

Half and Hour of Heaven

Weekend Assignment #21: School Daze

Fifth grade, Mrs. Sturgis's room, reading. Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 1 PM.

Ten is a wonderful age, we have it all together then. A time when we truly become who we are going to be, pause, then move on to the roller coaster ride of adolescence.  Reading.  Mrs. Sturgis, I am getting there.

Half and hour of wonder.  Three times a week for half an hour of reading class, instead of assignments out of a dry textbook, vocabulary lists and pop quizzes, my teacher, Mrs. Sturgis sat in a straight backed wooden chair in front of her desk, opened a book and read aloud. In those thirty minute sessions of wonder, I searched for golden tickets and visited a magical Chocolate Factory, listened to The Trumpet of the Swan and cried my eyes out over the loss of a hunting dog who was more of a friend in Where the Red Fern Grows.  Because she was a great teacher, those reading sessions were not just entertainment.  At the end of each book Mrs. Sturgis asked us to think about the ideas that the author introduced in the book and how they used the setting, characters and writing style to bring those ideas to life.  I was a reader before those sessions, after, I understood written words are a doorway to places that I would never be able to see and an introduction to people and ideas that I was not likely to encounter any other way.

Thirty-three years later, I still remember the sound of her voice, think about the books she read to a class of fifth graders and ride the magic carpet of written words.

Ode to an Ag-Gator Too

I have one of those jobs that few even know IS a job. One that fewer want to hear about.  Sludge Hauler.  Yep, it is a job. A necessary occupation that combines some of the aspects of Farming and Trucking.  Essentially, we move lime from water plants and ...  uhhh, fertilizer -- from wastewater treatment plants and apply it to farm fields. These municipal services by-products benefit farmers as they do not then have to buy lime or nitrogen fertilizer for the fields that receive the application.  I could go on and on -- but I won't, because I understand that folk's interest in this is limited. 
I was going to talk about my Ag-Gator! Nope, not a star in a "B" horror flick, not some protected reptile from the swamps of the South, a really cool machine. My little baby floater.  That is what I call it, but it is not little.  The tires alone on my Ag-Gator are five and a half feet tall.  Floatation tires are designed to reduce soil compaction in the field that the gator operates on.  Design aside, the effect is to make it seem as if I am operating a vehicle with tires made of marshmallow.  Bouncy, springy, fun!  The ride makes me laugh!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Ode to an Ag-Gator

This is another of my pretend entries.  The plan -- to finish a four day job that we are currently working then tell you (mostly) about it.  Because I have a few minutes, I thought that I would stop in and tell you that I am not ignoring my journal, I am spending my time in a place that doesn't even have bathrooms, let alone an Internet connection.  Back soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Diesel Fumes and Dancecards

I intended to add a photo of Locomotive number 5 to this entry, but my computer has the program that can read the "big disc" for our digital camera (which is where the pictures of "old rusty" reside) and I am using the fella's computer to write a journal entry because my computer is riding around in the back of an ATV programming switches for the baby railroad.  Never mind, really, just don't think about it.  Heaven knows I am trying to do just that.

Why the silly animation then?  That is one that I put together of our first engine, the Brookville, to represent the steps we went through to bring her from near scrap condition to where she is today.  "Old Rusty" is in the very first steps of a similar but far more complicated process. So just pretend that the animation above shows all the sheet metal coming off (that could be done like and explosion -- wouldn't that be cool)? the engine being pulled and disassembled, and the smell of "blaster" wafting through the air.

*****Added Note****  My computer returned from the earlier adventure, so I replaced the animation of the Brookville with a photo of Loco number 5.  The silly animation has been moved to http://journals.aol.com/thisismary/ViewFromAFarmHouseWindow/entries/56

Did I read that there was a ball of some sort last night?  Fancy dresses and music? Music and laughter?  Conversation?  Sigh.  Just as well I heard after the fact, the smell of old rust and solvent hangs with a gal, even after a hot shower and a dousing in perfume.  You don't even want to know what axle grease does to chiffon.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

No Getting Around It -- The Leaves are Changing.

It is the middle of August here in Ohio.  Usually this time of year the weather makes a person feel as if they are living in bottom of an asphalt layer's work boot. This summer has been cooler than usual, which is fine.  But now the trees are all weirded out.  The leaves are starting to change color.  In a normal year, this process would start in late September.

I suspect that the Buckeyes are the instigators here, they are the furthest along in the process. The Ash trees and the Sycamores always tag along and do whatever the Buckeyes do so I don't really blame them.  So far, the Oaks are having nothing to do with the early change of the younger trees. We will see if they hold out until mid October as they are supposed to do.

Friday, August 20, 2004

My Favorite Entry -- So Far ...

A walk in the woods.  This entry is my favorite because it is a record of a delightful but minor surprise that would likely have soon been forgotten had I not journalized it. 

More than anything else, this entry made me realize how valuable journaling is. With my journal I can preserve and share life's tiny wonders.


Heart's Desire

"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with."
- Dorothy to Glinda   "The Wizard of Oz"

Ok, so it aint Thoreau. :: Shrugging:: My life has always been more whirlwind than walden anyway.

Heart's Desire. Looking around.
Was Dorothy right in deciding that a lifetime in blue gingham and oxfords dull with Kansas farm dust should be the height of aspiration? Or is that part of human nature that tells us to go for the ruby slippers the greater dream?

Much Too Much

Update on the fella's adventure. It turned out to be more than railroad bits and pieces, we now are the proud owners of locomotive number six. My mother used to have a phrase when something (anything) someone was doing started to get out of control. Her phrase went something like "oooooooh! That's much to much!".

I am starting to understand now EXACTLY what she meant.

The link below takes you to the entry explaining how the railroad "thing" started.


Thursday, August 19, 2004

And then the neighbor fella

Ok, just now -- neighbor guy. Honest we do not get this many unannounced visitors in a usual week. What is up with tonight?
8 PM and all seems to have quieted down. Talking to friends online via IM and reading my favorite message board "Free Parking" in the Autos area.

Amish folk and politicians

An evening online. I have decided that this is how I am going to invest my free time tonight.
Mail!!  One of those forwards that asks you to answer a series of questions. Purpose is for my friend to let me know how they think and a chance for me to respond letting them know a little bit about me. I suspect that my answers will surprise and possibly annoy.  Questions like: 

Is the glass half full or half empty? 

Require answers along the lines of :


:: pause in the action::
Ok busy night tonight!! Just half an hour ago -- the crew that built our pole barns stopped by to fix a couple of leaks in the wainscoting. Unannounced of course. We knew that they were going to stop by sometime. But tonight. So there I was walking halfway down the lane, no shoes, to end up talking to a group of 10 or so Amish fellas. (At least this time I was clean) last time the fella was gone and I had to talk to them I was in the middle of sandblasting...

Where was I? Oh! Dealt with the Amish builders and then not 5 minutes ago -- a neighbor running for the board of our local electric co-op stopped by.

So far tonight -- Amish folk and politicians. Gonna get interesting.

Time Alone

My office work is done for the day, the house is clean, the fella just left for one of his adventures seeking old railroad bits and pieces and once the trucks that are out get back safely and their drivers headed home I will have an evening to myself. Thinking -- thinking, how will I invest this rare alone time?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Last Dance of Stardust

I am going to stay awake tonight to watch for shooting stars. Have not done that in years. Been too busy being busy to loose sleep over the sight of stardust heading towards earth. Wonder why that is. How did an early start on accomplishing things of little importance end up on my schedule ahead of watching the last dance of stardust?

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Sweet Corn Day

Yesterday was the official yearly sweet corn day here.  I believe that folk would lobby for this day to be at a minimum, a regional holiday, but the date changes every year and at that is subject to opinion, so how could an official date be set?

Sweet corn.  Wonderful stuff. Cooked and served on the cob a messy but wondrous summer treat. Cooked, removed from the cob and frozen, tiny little kernels of preserved sunshine, ready to warm cold winter evenings.  Corn on the cob is a delight any time that local grown corn is available during the growing season.  Freezer corn is a different vegetable entirely.  You may not know it (or even care) but there is sweet corn and there is sweet corn worth freezing.  Sweet corn worth freezing cooks up and hold sweetness through chilling and reheating.  Early season corn wont do that.  Wait too long and starchy sets in.  Freezer corn is sweet corn that has reached the summer peak. The only way to determine when those few days in a growing season occur is to cook local corn, chill it and reheat. If it tastes sweet on reheating, the corn is ready.

Yesterday was the day here.  Nine AM and six bushels of corn were in the back of my truck headed home.  Ten hours later all six bushels were shucked, cooked, taken off the cob, bagged and in the freezer.  The counters were sticky and I was tired, but a year's supply of sweet corn like none you can get from a grocery freezer or out of a can was safely in my deep freeze.

How To Freeze Corn

Some preparation is absolutely necessary.  You will need at least two friends.  One to watch any childern that you, they and the third friend may have.  Putting up sweet corn involves large pots of boiling water.  Boiling water in the proximity of children is a very bad thing.  Don't risk it.  Friend number two is to help you shuck the corn and help you put it in bags to run to the freezer.  If they mix a mean margarita, that is most helpful, but not necessary.

Start early in the morning.  Buy sweet corn fresh from a LOCAL grower.  Make sure that you get corn picked that morning.  Find out the time that the corn arrives from the field, be there when the tractor arives.  Buy your corn, put it in your car and speed home.  I mean speed.  Put the corn in the refrigerator (or in the event that you are buying large quantities, cold running well water).

Put fresh water in the biggest stock pot(s) that you own, me, I use two twenty four quart pots, but then I also have a commercial stove that kicks out btu's like you wouldn't believe. Oh, and a 24 quart pot full of water and corn weighs around 40 pounds, if you can't lift that kind of weight, bearing in mind that the contents will eventually be boiling water and hot corn, pick smaller pots.

 Put the pot of fresh cold water on the stove on high heat.  Wait for it to boil.  While you are waiting for the water to boil, shuck the corn.  When your water reaches a full boil, put the corn in the stock pot.  Wait for the water to come to a full boil again.  When it does, set your timer for eleven minutes.  Not ten and one half minutes, not twelve minutes, eleven minutes exactly.

While the corn is cooking, prepare your chilling water.  I use a big tub and fill it with running cold water and a bag of ice.  At the end of the eleven minutes cooking time, take the stock pot off of the heat, dump the boiling water down the drain, dump the corn into the ice cold water.  Wait for the corn to chill completely.  Take the corn out of the cold water, cut it off of the cob as fast as you can, put the cut corn into plastic freezer bags and then run the corn to your deep freeze. Refill your stock pots with fresh cold water and start over.

Yes it is a lot of work.  Yes it takes all day to put up enough corn for all year.  Yes it is worth it. Pictures to be added later, but the fella took off with the camera that had my corn fixin pictures on it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

It was an Eastern Bluebird!! I just looked it up. In my very own hayfeild a real live Bluebird! (Not so common around here). Oh! I was back in the feild today as were the Purple Martins. Living on a farm in Ohio can get lonely, but never once in my years of city living did I have the chance to watch Martins dance.