An Antique Man and His Anachronistic Existence, Part Two; In Case There Isn’t an Apocalypse

I posted last night about how I’d love to travel dusty roads in a donkey-drawn wagon full of my experiences recorded in journals, books on edible forage, a guitar and my wife. In this day and age, this isn’t a very realistic dream. Folks would think me nigh on to outright looney. Oh well. A man can dream.

I have a backup plan though. This one is a bit more realistic in that it doesn’t require some sort of apocalypse to befall us. I’d love to buy as many acres as I can get my hands on (and afford) and build a field stone windmill to grind my own flour. I’d only use ancient grains. Not because of their health benefits so much as because it would make me feel as though I was truly in an earlier period in time. I would have a bakery from which I’d sell artisan breads baked using my own flour. I’d even sell my flour; and for a reasonable price, no less. I don’t think people should have to pay a lot of money to experience history.

I could even make it into some kind of immersion bed and breakfast type thing for others who share my desire to do seemingly simple things with their own hands. They could pay me to stay in a cabin and work my wheat field. Then I could teach them about milling flour and baking bread and the health benefits of eating bread made from non-over-processed grains. Did you know that there are healthful oils in bread that are removed from commercial flours and breads to extend the shelf life? These oils supposedly strengthen your heart, but also make bread go bad more quickly. I will leave those oils in and see if it’s true. Perhaps, if we all just lived like antique people we’d be much more healthy and happy.

But it would be hard to accomplish. I feel that the “antique” people would be shunned at best. At worst they could become a society of pariahs.

But is that really such a horrible thing?

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…embrace your dreams and ideals, even if they aren’t mainstream.

A don’t…judge others who wish for a simpler life. After all, does all the modern technology benefit us that much? Sure, it’s fun and we feel more connected, but modern technology has reduced us to a society who can’t, without extreme effort, even get all the nutrition needed without some sort of supplement. Our sustenance fails to sustain us. How odd.

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An Antique Man and His Anachronistic Existence; A Wondering About What Could’ve Been and May Yet Be

I’ll start off with an anecdote only very loosely related to the topic of this evening’s post. My wife and I had a humorous misunderstanding at a local Mexican restaurant this evening. We both, for some reason, deviated from our favorite Mexican cuisine ruts and ordered something called “Special Dinner”. We visit this place fairly often due to the quality of the food and the fact that every server and staff member we’ve ever dealt with has been extremely friendly and attentive. We each have our favorites, but they’ve re-done their menus and added a few items. Special Dinner has a chile relleno, a chalupa, a tamale (my least favorite Mexican food, but I really wanted all the other items), a taco, an enchilada, refried beans and rice. My wife was looking at her phone when a waiter and waitress arrived, each bearing two plates loaded with food. They set the stuff down and we just stared at it for a moment. As my eyes perused the offerings on each plate relaying suggestions to my mouth about what to try first, I forgot that my wife had been looking at her phone when the food arrived. I heard my wife’s voice floating, as if from outer space, on the periphery of my hunger limited audio zone. She said, “Do you know any 24 hour plumbers in town?” My brain slapped back to normal speed so suddenly that I just stared at her, slack-jawed. To me, the food looked amazing. Nothing that would cause the need for a plumber soon after eating it. So I said so. Now it was her turn to stare, slack-jawed. Apparently one of her friends had come home to frozen, possibly burst, pipes and needed an emergency fix for baby bathing and formula fixing and whatnot. Oops. We laughed ourselves even more hungry. After my wife sent her friend a link to Roto-Rooter, that is. We aren’t jerks.

This brings me to what I really want to talk about. I feel like I’m an antique man in a modern body. Nothing would make me happier than to wander dusty roads in a wagon pulled by mules or some other such beast of burden collecting stories like the one above and jotting them down in neat looking journals that I’d stow in my wagon and read from to random villagers at festivals. My wagon would contain everything a man really needs. Fire starting materials, a guitar, books on edible forage, a bow and arrows for hunting (this antique man needs his meat), and tome on tome on tome of historical accounts, and, hopefully, my beautiful and wonderful wife. I’m sure antique her would be up for a nomadic life spent with a penniless scribe. I suppose the closest I can get in these modern times is to finish up the history degree I’m currently working on, blogging and writing books and trying to grow amazing tomatoes, succulent corn, nutritious green beans and giant pumpkins. All that and darkly and guiltily wishing for some sort of apocalypse.

It would be fun though. I’ve always been a nomad at heart. My current job is the only one I’ve ever stayed at for more than a year, other than the Army, but they forced me into six years of servitude. After I signed a paper promising six years of servitude. Anyway, the Army provided me free trips to Kuwait and Iraq and the means to afford a month and a half long trip to Europe. This was a veritable glut of travel to a life-long nomad devoid of the means to roam. And it was fun, even if there were bullets and rocket propelled grenades flying all over the place for a while. I’ve also lived in Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, and fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada with brief stints in Kansas, Washington State, South Carolina and California thrown in for good measure.

It’s been quite a life so far and it can only get better. At least once I earn my degree I can rightly call myself an historian, even if I never get the chance to travel lesser known roads in a mule wagon loaded with tomes and tomatoes.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…let your antique self express itself if you have it. Be who you are even if who you are is anachronistic compared to when you are.

A don’t…deny your modern self if you’re of a more technological bent.

 

Re-purposed Costumes and Child Prodigies: A Proud Father Horrified

A couple of quick insights before we get into the meat of this post:

  1. Halloween costumes are cheaply made (the ones we buy are, anyway) and might as well be re-purposed.
  2. I am aware of the dangers of trampoline ownership and usage. We monitor the kids closely when they use it and have had no trampoline related injuries in the 2 years we’ve had it. Well, no injuries to the kids, anyway. I’ve pulled several muscles moving that ridiculous thing out of the way so I can mow under it. Oh, and also the blood blister from trying to stretch those extremely stiff springs during setup.
  3. Bicycles the size of the ones my 7 year old daughter and 5 year old son use are not equipped with kick stands. I take this to mean that the manufacturers do not expect that children that young will need the training wheels removed. What it likely means is that they’ve already spent money installing training wheels and don’t want to spend more on manufacturing and installing a kick stand.
  4. I choose to believe that my son, despite the bicycle manufacturers implied assumption, is a bike riding prodigy. I choose to believe he will be the bike riding equivalent of Beethoven and/or Mozart.

With all that said, let me explain the intent of this post. My son can ride a bike. He enjoys riding his bike to an extent that horrifies me because, the more confident he gets, the more risks he takes.

Before he learned how to turn, his risk was to get as close as possible to the trampoline before stopping. As his turning skills improved he decided he simply MUST try to ride around the lotus pond.

This caused me much consternation. I didn’t want to discourage him, however, I especially didn’t want him to fall into the stagnant, odiferous muck that inhabits the pond now that all the blossoms and leaves have fallen into the water. This stuff is very nearly alive and I rue the windy and overcast day that it finally burps up some strange, dripping, glob-like life form.

Side-note: I refuse to clean out the lotus pond in the fall because not only will the lotus grow up and hide it in the spring, but he muck makes a wonderful addition to mulch and I want it to get as mucky as possible before I scoop some out in the early spring to schlop onto the garden.

As soon as I saw him headed toward the pond, I took off running. He rides with his knees out to the side and I don’t know how to describe the sight, but he pumps his legs so fast that the sight of those knees bobbing out on the sides of his bike is very comical. So I laughed as I ran. Just as I caught up to him he executed a perfect turn mere inches from the edge of the pond.

When he stopped his bike by intentionally running into my theoretically evergreen tree I lectured him on the dangers of what he had just done, implied there would be consequences if he did it again and sent him off to ride a different route.

He was proud of his turn, though, and kept bringing it up. “Hey Daddy, did you see, I, I, did you see me I turned and didn’t splash?!”

Apparently this gave him confidence and, feeling that he had mastered the challenges of turning before riding into a pond, he decided it was time to tempt fate another way.

When he disappeared into the house, I figured he had to go to the bathroom. Instead he came back out in his Halloween costume and decided it would be fun to horrify the dogs and his sisters as he rode after them helter-skelter, cackling and crashing into obstacles he couldn’t see through the inadequate eye holes of the Halloween mask.

Here’s the moral of all this: There may be many ways to repurpose a Halloween mask. Bike helmet is not an acceptable option, even though it has the potential to be hilarious.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…allow you children a few eccentricities. They are good learning opportunities for you as well as them. While sometimes scary, they can also be hilarious.

A don’t…feel guilty if you monitor them closely when they have their “good ideas”. In most cases, they are envisioning positive outcomes that only exist in the realm of the miraculous.

 

A Day in the Yard or When Work Isn’t Work; Cherish it While You Can

I have three children. Of the three I have two accomplished bike riders and one aspiring. Strangely, my oldest at 9 and my youngest at 5 are the accomplished. My 7 year old is still aspiring. She’s a bit of a free spirit, though, and nothing holds her attention for very long. She’s getting very close to taking the training wheels off for good.

There’s no rush, I suppose. I know adults who never learned to ride a bike.

Anyway, the other day there was no school and the weather was perfect and after breakfast we went outside and I watched them ride bikes for about two hours. When their legs finally began to get tired and they drifted to other activities I got the wheel-barrow and rake and started loading up needles and leaves.

We moved into this house two summers ago and I thought I had an evergreen in the back yard. Apparently either I don’t or it’s very sick because last fall and again this fall, the needles have browned and fallen just like the leaves on our sometimes-greens. This tree drops so many needles that it covers the ground beneath it so thickly that it feels like walking on a shag carpet. Maybe the tree is an evergreen, and it’s simply a nostalgic sort of tree, pining away for the ’70’s.  A ha ha ha.

Ahem.

As I was raking and loading and trudging and dumping the loads of leaves and needles on my garden spot the kids began to follow me. They took my rake and began raking their own piles. They took my wheel-barrow and began carting loads themselves. They asked for rides and I gave them, at first in the empty barrow back to the trees and later (after my son was hit by a bolt of inspiration) in the leaf laden barrow en route to the garden spot.

Needless to say, by about 11:00 we were a bit hungry. I had worked up a sweat and I couldn’t think of anything better than sitting down in the cool kitchen for lunch. My oldest daughter insisted on a picnic. The electric company recently cut down a tree in our yard that threatened their lines. I asked them to leave the wood and they left slabs perfect for stools and a nice short, wide one that makes a fine table. As I performed one last task and maneuvered these into place, the kids ran inside to find their old Easter baskets.

We loaded the baskets with sandwiches, chips, “juice” pouches and dog biscuits.

I sat on a rough chunk of tree surrounded by kids and dogs and had the best grilled cheese sandwich and cup of coffee it has ever been my privilege to consume.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…let your kids help you work. I hear it won’t be long before they realize it isn’t fun. It is, actually, but only when you’re very young or getting old.

A don’t…blame your trees for pining for the ’70’s. The air was much cleaner back then. No wonder my evergreen wants to hold its breath for the winter.

 

Pecan Pie…Or Not; A Natural Disappointment

There’s a dream tree in my back yard. The tree was bare when we moved into our house last fall, but as soon as the leaves started budding this spring I started day dreaming about the pecan pies my wife would (hopefully) bake this fall with the bounty of our back yard dream tree. My wife makes the best pecan pie I’ve ever tasted. It rivals even Amish recipes, of which I’ve tried several, and found they all pale next to hers. I’m convinced that she has been divinely touched to make a pie that could beat the offerings of such a very devout and down-to-earth, tradition rich folk.

I was convinced of that until this year, anyway. Maybe it isn’t her, though. Perhaps I am the one who is cursed. After all, she could still make the pie…if she had the pecans, that is. Let me explain:

Just a few short weeks ago the tree was so heavy with pecans that I couldn’t walk under it without leaves brushing the top of my head. I’d feel the tickles on my scalp and the top of my ears and think about everything they meant. The branches are heavy with nuts. They’ll soon be ripe. They are hanging so low that I’ll barely have to work to get them! Then, one fateful day, I was in my garden checking on my ghost peppers, tomatoes and pumpkins. I heard a chittering sound and something that certainly wasn’t a leaf hit me on the head.

I thought perhaps a bird had made me its bathroom, but no such luck. I patted my head and, my when my hand came away unbefouled, I looked up at the tree just in time to catch a bit of the green covering that encases pecans in my eye. For the next few days every trip to the garden was an adventure as a squad of special forces squirrels scampered around the upper branches of my tree, dropping natural bombs on me and screeching at me when I threw the projectiles back into the foliage. I even released my hounds in the hopes that their size would be enough to scare the thieves off, but alas, my baying hounds were reduced to whimpering scaredy dogs at the hands of these efficient intruders.

And so, out of options, I resigned myself to losing my pecans. The squirrel squad stayed in the upper branches, audible but barely visible, so I allowed myself to believe they’d leave the lower ones for me. Or perhaps not even notice them. No such luck though. I had about three weeks to keep dreaming pecan pie dreams, but this morning I stepped out and immediately noticed that the branches were hanging much higher than they had been.

Not a pecan to be found. And the surreptitious squirrels had also vanished. Where is the love? If they were going to steal my pie fixings the least they could do would be to stick around so I could watch them chase each other around the tree trunk. I got the message. I’m a pecan tree haver to them. Nothing more and nothing less. I guess it’s ok though. I can stand to lose some weight anyway and from what I understand they’ll need to gain some for the winter.

Maybe it’s a symbiosis after all.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…appreciate your animal neighbors, even if they seem nefarious at times.

A don’t…bother making room for skunks. There’s no benefit at all to be had from them.

The Haunted Garden

I see them sometimes through the kitchen window. A flash of green when the wind blows just right or a glimpse of brilliant red-orange as the setting sun catches one off guard. They are odd, for ghosts. Whereas most ghosts are described as cold to the touch these are quite oppositely hot. And, as I learned the other day, they are mostly benign until you work up the courage to disturb them.

I encouraged the haunting on purpose. I literally cultivated it. I waited patiently through the long summer watching them mature through their otherworldly stages of pale yellow-green to a deep, verdant green to orange and finally, two days ago, one exuded the most shockingly vibrant shade of red I’ve ever seen. It was still a bit green at the tip so I begrudgingly gave it an extra day.

That night my dreams were haunted by the ghost of what could’ve been. I could’ve made salsa that day. I’ve been dreaming of making salsa ever since I first set out my onions and hardened off my tomato plants. These ghosts I grew were the last bit I needed to satisfy my hunger for a fresh, homegrown sauce with a luscious kick. I tossed and turned and hoped and, finally, slept a time-killing sleep.

A noble virtue is patience, usually, however this time it did not reward me. When I went out yesterday to pick the first ripe pepper of the season I saw that I had been beaten to the fruit by some sort of burrowing bug.  I pronounced many curses upon it and, out of spite, picked the pepper to deprive the pest of further enjoyment. I found an untouched bit near the stem and defiantly tore it away. I touched my tongue to the juice on the ragged edge of the tear…

…And quickly realized that the curses I placed upon the bug were moot. That creature had cursed itself and I had now also fallen victim to the curse of  Bhut Jolokia. I pronounced, then, many counter curses to no avail. I hacked and spat and struggled to breath. My pores wept. My every breath haunted my tongue as the air supplied the ghost new fuel with which to burn. I tried many things to exorcise it. I tried to breath through my nose. Thanks to the curse of seasonal allergies, though, the nose that had been plugged as if with a cork mere moments before was now draining like a bottle of champagne after the cork has been popped. I gnawed on bread and guzzled the holy water of the pepper world, whole milk. All for naught.

Upon my eventual recovery I counted the peppers I had left. Nearly thirty. Thirty ghosts hanging silently, eerily upon the plant. The very sight was terrifying. Perhaps they’d make good Halloween décor, I supposed. I could hang them under a sign that says BOO! Anyone familiar with these particular ghosts would run screaming at the sight.

In the end, though, I know what will happen. I’ll harvest them. I’ll make salsa. I’ll eat it. I’ll share it with friends. And enemies. I’ll suffer. I’ll scream. I’ll counter curse and exorcise.

I’ll do it all again next year. I’ve read a lot about the benefits of peppers. Whether it is true or not the fun of spice is, to me, as fun as being horrified. I’ve spent many a sleepless night haunted by movies or books or stories told by friends. And though I’m regretful in the morning it isn’t long before I again crave the novelty of terror.

My haunted garden is scary. But amongst its benefits are the destruction of monotony and the opportunity to try to “beat” a fearful pepper.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…face your fears. Even if takes a lifetime to beat them, you’ll learn something about yourself every time.

A don’t…forget the importance of a little spice, in your cooking specifically and life in general.

P.S…a don’t…think that the cheesiness and cliché of the last few lines is lost on my. This has been a traumatic re-telling and my brain has become fearful of going deeper on the subject.

Living Jack-O-Lanterns; In Answer to Why I Say Why Not.

The picture above is of a budding pumpkin. It is the first to have appeared in my garden and is of a variety that boasts the ability to grow to upwards of half a ton if properly cultivated. I don’t hold any misconceptions about my first attempt being successful at growing it to maximum size, but my research shows that this variety of pumpkin consistently produces fruits that weigh a few hundred pounds. If I can successfully grow just an average pumpkin of this variety, which I now realize I haven’t mentioned is called Dill’s Atlantic Giant, it should be sufficient to satisfy my goals.

Goal one is to make a living Jack-O-Lantern. I’ll hollow it, carve it, coat the inside with something to control the slime factor, then place my kids inside with flashlights. Not only will I have the first ever (as far as I’m aware, anyway) living Jack-O-Lantern with the potential for responsive lighting, I’ll also have the first Jack-O-Lantern that I know of with intuitive sound effects. I think that the kids will enjoy this greatly. They can pop out and scare people and just have a generally entertaining Halloween experience.

Goal two is to figure out what to do with the pumpkin shell after the holiday. I need an idea that doesn’t involve carrying it anywhere. So far I’ve entertained a few ideas for using it as a planter. I could either coat it with some sort of resin and attempt to make a permanent pot or just fill it with dirt and let it serve as a planter that will also provide some food to the plant I plant in it as it rots away.

Perhaps, if my neighbors don’t begin to complain, I can turn it into some sort of time lapse art project. Or it could serve as a combination bird bath/street side urinal for the homeless. This is the least desirable of all, so I hope one of the other ideas will work.

I likely wont have to worry about any of this at all because my green thumb is more brown with a greenish tinge.

I bid you adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…try new things even if you expect only very limited success.

A don’t…pee in my pumpkin if I am somehow successful.