Rodential Resentment

What kind of resentment is this now?? Rodential?? What the… ??? Well you see it’s like this: there I was, minding my own business, stringing the Christmas lights around the rail of our deck. Pretty much becoming an annual thing. The strings go up shortly after Thanksgiving, them come down… um… later. Sometimes just before Easter!! Hey, we have them on a timer and they come on just after sunset and go off before midnight. Then they come on again at 5:30 AM for a couple hours so my Honey Pie can see better when she heads to work a couple times a week.

When the lights are done for the season, I stash them in an old woven wooden basket all nicely placed so they’re easy to pull out the following year. There’s also enough room for the timer and a couple extension cords. Convenient, right?? Well this year I plugged the lights in, and began to string them up. As I was running my fingers along the wires, I got a pretty good poke!! A shock!! Electric ouch awreddy!! I let go quickly, said some “magic” words, and then went in for a closer look. Looked like some of the insulation had been scraped off the wire. No problem, I thought, I’ll get out the trusty electrical tape and fix the problem. As I continued on, I got shocked again. And again I shrugged it off, saw the minor damage to the insulation, taped it up and continued on.

Third time is a charm, I’ve heard. Well it wasn’t very charming to receive a third shock. This time a substantial amount of wire damage was evident. Then I looked in the bottom of the basket where the remaining lights were waiting for their turn out of the basket. Shavings. Green shavings. The “scrapes” on the insulation were not scrapes at all, the wires were being nibbled by mice!! Rodents!! So I got rather annoyed.

Hence the term: rodential resentment.

Wasn’t sure if rodential was even a real word, so in my search for a catchy title for this week’s silly story I went hunting on the webbernets and found a definition.

Rodential: of or pertaining to a rodent.

Well my resentment definitely pertains to a rodent. Probably several. My Beautiful Girlfriend suggested I lay some traps, but hey, we live in the dingleweeds. Pretty sure the number of mice is far greater than any number of traps I might set. “No,” I told her, “the lights need to go in a mouse-proof container.”

A similar event happened earlier this year but with carrots. I love to grow vegetables, and after much labor I was able to convert a weed patch into a pretty nice carrot bed. But something was nibbling the greens… kinda weird because the greens were being snipped off about 8 inches or so above ground. I couldn’t see any varmint tracks, but I figured maybe chipmunks or squirrels were the culprits. A couple days and few more carrot plant munchings later, the small live trap I set in the garden proved useless. “Must be meeces!!” I said to myself, remembering that cartoon cat Snagglepuss. I set several mouse traps near in the carrot bed and sure enough, I got one! The next day, another! A grand total of 6 over the space of a week or so. Traps stayed in the garden until the mice quit coming.

I consider myself something of a veteran mouse trapper (if there is such a title). After trying several types of traps over the years, I’ve stuck with the old fashioned Victor snap traps. The key is to put something on the bait pan that reliably springs the trap. Nothing is more frustrating than baiting a trap with peanut butter only to find the bait has been licked off and the trap has not sprung. My tried and true method now is to take a hunk of walnut and tie it to the bait pan with several loops of sewing thread. Mice simply can’t resist that big hunk of walnut, and they have to tug at it to get their reward. Unfortunately for them, their “reward” is a quick trip to Mouse Heaven. I really don’t like killing them… but I really don’t like them eating the carrots I worked so hard to get!! So when I remove their little mouse bodies from the trap I say a little prayer of apology for them. I mean hey, they’re just doing what meeces do (as Snagglepuss might say).

The carrots are sleeping now… they get covered up with a healthy layer of leaves to keep them from freezing during the winter. Then I go out and uncover what I need and carefully put the leaves back to keep the soil from freezing. I’ve also learned (the hard way) to mark where I left off harvesting. Not much fun to dig for carrots in the snow only to find out that you had already dug there!! Not sure if the mice are sleeping… but I hope so.

So if any mice are reading this, please be warned: Christmas light damage is annoying… but if you mess with my food, I’ll be setting out a deadly surprise for you.

I just hope they don’t find a way to fight back like these did…

Slurp The Soup and Kill The Bugs

So much paranoia about COVID these days, and rightly so.  Hopefully everyone who’s reading this has been vaccinated.  If not, well I’ll keep you in my prayers.  My Honey Pie and I have both had our shots, but we still mask up in public places and are diligent about keeping our hands washed and / or sanitized.  Neither of us really enjoy being as careful as we are; but hey, it’s paid off.  Neither of us has been sick in a very long time.

We’ve been getting our flu shots every year for some time now; but of course, there will probably be a few strains that will fly around under the radar.  Then people will bring them to work or other public places and spread them around for all of us to enjoy.  Coughs and sneezes spread diseases ya know.  Are you suffering from a cold?  Do you hab a stubby doze?  Or maybe you feel achy all over and are trying to cough your head off?  Then please do the rest of us a favor:  stay home and get well.   While the flu is attacking, please fight back so the rest of us don’t get sick.

In other words, IF YOU ARE SICK, STAY HOME AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!!

I’m enjoying retirement these days, but while at work I would always warn all my friends who were looking for their normal hug or handshake that I’ve had the flu.  After looking up how contagious the flu crap really is, I felt it was my duty to let them know.  I really don’t want to make anyone sick.  Not even people I don’t like.

Now, if you are achy and hab coughing and stubby doze, you probably  are getting attacked by a virus.  So that means that if you go to the doctor and ask them for an antibiotic, you will get better, right?  Wrong… antibiotics are for bacterial infection.  They just don’t work on the flu.  The onliest thing that will kill the flu is YOU… in other words, your immune system.

Maybe some of you have seen this before, but I’m resurrecting this here Happy Friday installment so I could pass gas.  NO!!  That’s not it!!  I wanted to pass along some tactics that have really helped our family fight the “cold wars” over the years.  We’ve learned from grandmothers, friends, and yes, even those “weird alternative medicine magazines.”   One of my favorite weapons against flu bugs is garlic.  Lots of it.  Sure… people say, “ya, kill the cold and those around you!”  Well, I’m married, and my wife has promised not to divorce me over garlic breath.  This is a very good thing, because we both eat lots of garlic even when we don’t have a cold.  One thing many people aren’t aware of, though, is that if garlic is boiled, it loses a lot of its cold killing power.  Also, fresh garlic works best.  “OK,” you may ask… or not… “how can I use garlic and not boil it??  Anyhow?  You expect me to eat it raw or something you crazy person you??”

Well yes you can…but it’s a bit harsh, don’t you think??   Instead, cook it gently without boiling.  In fact, one of the best cold killing methods we’ve ever found is:

A) Mince 3 or 4 cloves of fresh garlic (maybe two… depends on the size of the cloves).

5) Prepare one can (or about 20 oz.) of your favorite soup according to the directions, and stir in one teaspoon of ground sage, and also one teaspoon of thyme leaves

L) Heat until it just begins to boil, then reduce heat.

9) Simmer while stirring for a couple minutes, and finally

!!) Remove the soup from the heat, add the garlic, stir well, and cover.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  Eat the soup all gone just before you go to bed and you will kick the germ bugs in the booty.  Might be a good idea to repeat the procedure, or maybe make an extra big batch so you can enjoy the soup for a couple days.

Then, after you wake up, make with the vitamin C, the zinc lozenges, and lots and lots of water and stuff.  We’ve also had good luck with the generic equivalent of “Airborne.” which has all kinds of good immune system kaboomenheimers.  Oh, and not to forget the echinacea tea!!  Blecch you say?  Well it isn’t that bad ya know…

On the other hand, you have an ounce of prevention.  You know, eat yogurt several times a week.  Have generous portions of green vegetables and fruit.  And then there’s that nasty “E” word (exercise).

Of course, if you’re sick, you’re sick… but the things I just described will help shorten the duration and severity of the attacking germ booger animals.

Back to this garlic monkey business: call me crazy if you want.  I like garlic.  I eat it even when I’m not sick, because as my Grandma used to say, “it’s good for what ails ya.  If nothing ails ya, it’s good for that too.”   I like yogurt.  I like green vegetables and fruit.  I like… well, ok, sometimes I even…  once in awhile, um…. exercise is good.  I need to do more of that “E” word.  Yes, I am a very sick man.

Come on over some time and we can have a garlic milkshake and some avocado flavored yogurt with a nice salad of lima beans and bananas.  Then we can take turns on our combination treadmill / electric generator and we’ll not only get fit, but you can help us keep the electric bill down.

We try to be hospitable, you know.

And now for something completely different but also the same… this same video was tagged at the bottom of when this Soup Recipe Happy Friday Thing (SRHFT) was first published.  I’ve watched it a few times… still amuses me.  And the message “This Too Shall Pass” gives a sick person hope that maybe someday they won’t need a box of tissues with them 24/7…

Old Fashioned Video Fun Stuff

Grandkids are here for the weekend. Ollie is 12 going on 17, Gabe is 8 going on 12, and holy MOLY time is flying!!  We are horrible grandparents:  we buy them disgusting things like milkshakes on the way to our house, and then we torture them further by allowing them to play video games until 9 PM.  Then it’s time to brush teeth and settle in for our traditional ritual of…

CARTOONS!!

And yes, for those of you who may be concerned, yes, they are required to put the video games down for several hours at a time and do really weird things like read books.  Ollie is pretty accomplished at reading; but Gabe is still learning so I decided to have a little fun with him tonight.   He was holding my Beautiful Girlfriend’s iPad, to which I can send messages from my phone.  While he was exploring the various apps I began to send him messages.  He very much enjoyed my surprising texts, a few examples of which are:

“Gabriel smells really bad.”

“I’m trying to lick my eyebrows.”

“Do not try to sniff the couch, it may bite you.”

“If I put potatoes in my ears, it may sound like potato chips.  Then my ears will be crunchy.”

“My legs are made of vanilla chicken worms.”  And of course,

“My nose is full of bedroom furniture.”

Gabe was able to read all these with very little coaching; and a hearty giggle erupted with the completion of each sentence.  Then it was time for The Brushing of the Teeth and The Going to the Bathroom; followed by funny videos.

We’re not talking Sponge Bob or Minions either… no no. Papa (that’s me) goes for the good old fashioned cartoons that were around long before computer animation. Superman. Popeye. Betty Boop. Gabe has become hopelessly hooked on Chip and Dale.  Ollie’s tastes are broadening as he matures.  Both enjoy pretty much any old cartoon I manage to dig up from my childhood on YouTube.  They have even had some good belly laughs from the likes of Laurel and Hardy.

Of course, slapstick and fake explosions were considered funny stuff back in “the old days.” I really loved “the old days,” primarily because I was able to live through many of them. Many of our favorite cartoons were made long before we were born; but these were the ones that were on the TV when we were kids. To some, the humor could perhaps be considered too violent. To us, the gags were outlandish and silly; and the cartoonists simply had a way of throwing them all together in impossible situations that made us laugh.

I like to interject a few funny music videos before the cartoons. The grandsons groan at first… Gabe asks, “is this a song??”  Then I explain that since Ollie is learning the saxophone, this is a really cool example of what he might be able to do someday.  The example came in the form of a rather entertaining group of folks who call themselves the Leningrad Cowboys.  Following the music, the cartoons must flow; and at least one Chip and Dale episode is mandatory viewing.  I watch the time during all this and try to get their hineys to bed at 10 PM.  Inevitably, when I announce that bedtime has arrived I hear the refrain, “one more Papa??  Please??”  And of course I give in.

So here are a few of our favorites for your enjoyment.  If you want more, just say “one more Papa!!”  and search on YouTube for something for your inner child.  OK… here goes.

Dust Flingers Don’t Dunk Donuts (Or Do They??)

Hello Dust Flingers,

As none of you are able to hear, this Sunday marks yet another period of a time change in this part of our universe.  Because of this radical shift in sunrise and sunset times, all humans will wonder what day it really is and will probably try to spit small chunks of Tootsie Rolls out of their car windows while driving backwards into the firewood pile.

Therefore, I have appointed myself to inform none of you that all new banana recipes should be turned in to the Front Sniffing Room before 12:47 p.m. on Tuesday, August 72, 19127.  Those of you who think you can merely squawk and sneeze loudly instead of dunking donuts down deeply into dense but delicious Dingly Drinks will be sent to live with the Carnivorous Cranberry Credit Card Cultivators.

That oughta show ’em who’s crinkly!!

None of you may remember the hatchling song; the words of which were “stolen” by Gus Parbnackle during the second Coat Hanger Revolt of 1924.  This enjoyable malady has been renewed during the last 28 microseconds and is now sung to the tune of “Inna Gadda Da Vida”:

Guess who barfed on my shoes today??
Do dah, do dah!!
Hatchlings shouldn’t act this way!
Oh do dah day…

If you find it necessary to rekindle the spirit which is found to be both blue and wormy; please run directly to your neighbors and ask them to return the crescent wrench your uncle borrowed shortly before dinner last Wednesday morning at precisely 4 PM.  It may be wrinkly from soaking in the Cream of Marshmallow Soup for 13 days, but that should not deter you from accepting the responsibility of teaching slimy, hairy chickens how to yodel during Disney movies.

Come now, don’t you remember the terrible consequences from the last time you tried to clean your ventricles by drinking 134 millimeters of petrified braunschweiger??  You see, it doesn’t matter that you slathered it onto caraway seeded rye with just a little mayo and some yellow mustard and HOLY MOLY I’m suddenly getting a craving for some freshly smoked shrimp on the half shell!!  Why would you taunt me in such a manner??  Don’t you have any respect for Lando The Lizard’s self esteem??  I doubt he’ll ever visit here again at snack time!!

I hope you’re happy!!

In summary, I must remind you not to rub sandpaper inside your mucous membranes. Fortunately, that practice has been abandoned long ago due to the over abundance of spaghetti in water fountains made by Mattel.

Therefore I beseech unto you:  Please remember that:

A) you can pick radishes before they are ripe and they will still be red,

9) Being flatulent is not necessarily helpful during a job interview.

@!)  When Santa sees those dog toenails you’ve been collecting; he’ll likely ask where you got those fancy display cases.

Thank you for being who you are. After all, if you weren’t you, you wouldn’t be. That would be very confusing to you now wouldn’t it??

My toes look like morel mushrooms again!!

Happy Bozo Express,

Zibnick G. Amplegrane
a.k.a. “Monty the Moth Rancher”

Now, as Rocket J. Squirrel used to say, “now here’s something we hope you’ll really like!!”

The Invisible Private Eye Monster

‘Tis the season for monsters ya know. We’re pretty sure we are plagued by one. Things keep coming up missing around here and we’re not sure who’s to blame. I mean hey, we are gentle people; and as far as we know we haven’t done anything mean to anyone… at least not on purpose. Nevertheless, stuff keeps vanishing when we least expect it. While deep in search the other day, in exasperation my Beautiful Girlfriend proclaimed, “I think we have a monster!!”

I have never seen this monster. Neither has she. Haven’t heard any nasty groans or growls… although yesterday there was a shocking “CRASH!! BONK BOnk bonk!!” that we had trouble identifying. Scared the living hoodlemonkers out of me!! And I don’t even know what hoodlemonkers are!! I leaped up and went searching for what might be lying in pieces somewhere. I was ready to blame this destruction on Freddy The Freeloader (our cat, Fred); but I didn’t find any evidence of broken stuff lying around. After a couple trips to various rooms, I discovered that the horrible crash emanated from the hand shower that sticks to the wall of the shower enclosure. It had come loose (again), and although there was no damage it sure made one heck of a noise. We rarely use it, it works off a little valve off the main shower head and sticks to the wall of the shower enclosure with a very expensive (cheap junk) suction cup thingy. I’ve tried to make it stick better by putting a little water on the surface of the suction cup doomaflochy (pardon my technical talk). That worked for a little while. Then I used a tiny bit of olive oil. That worked for a few months. This time I tried some shampoo. Who knows?? Maybe it will stay put for a bit.

So the monster probably did not make the shower head fall down.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here though and blame the clutter bomb fragments that adorn our garage on this invisible monster. Anyone else out there have a favorite tool, then go to actually use it, and it’s nowhere to be found? So what’s my solution? Go to the store for a replacement. This also happens with nails, screws, caulk, caulking guns, packages of sandpaper, paint… you name it. The monster hides all these things from me. Then when I come home with replacement stuff, I find the original “missing” things about a week or so after the project is complete. And of course they’re all right where I left them. We’ve embarked on a few cleansing missions though, and let’s just say that the local Rescue Mission Thrift Store has benefited from our accumulations of goofs.

My Lovely Bride came home from a short shopping jaunt yesterday, and said, “I bought 3 more pair of reading glasses!” “OK…,” I replied. “They keep vanishing!!” she explained. “Must be the monster!!” I said. “Yes!!” she retorted. Now I have to admit that I’ve made some big mistakes during our 48 years of marriage, but I wasn’t about to point out that she has approximately 174 pairs of glasses in the house already. I’m not as dumb as I look, you see. And OK maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit, but we do have several. Some of them are mine!!

We were watching the news today, and I looked across the room on the windowsill. I blurted out,“Hey Honey, there’s some glasses over there!” “Where the heck did those come from??” she wondered. “Maybe the monster put them there.” I responded. After the news was over, I was soliciting ideas for this week’s “Happy Friday!!!” We were both on the same wavelength regarding this mysterious monster as a main topic; but I was looking for a name. “The Private Eye Monster,” my Dear Honey offered. “How did you get that?” I wondered; thinking aloud that it sounded like the monster was a detective or something.

“No,” she explained, “it keeps stealing my private eyes!!”

And now for some seasonal monster cartoon fun.

I Killed The Mice And We Ate The Maus (and it was delicious!!)

Many moons ago, when our kids still lived at home, I grew some pretty doggone wonderful carrots. I’ve been making garden beds instead of rows to grow as much food as possible in my small plot. In those days, the soil was relatively weed free and I was able to get some pretty nice carrot beds which I’d cover with a nice layer of leaves just before the snow came. A bit labor intensive at first but once the carrots were established it was pretty much smooth sailing. The result was several harvests of candy sweet carrots just sitting in the beds waiting for me pretty much all winter.

Fast forward several years, and after allowing weeds to thrive the garden, well, let’s just say the term “labor intensive” grew several magnitudes larger. Those of you who know about gardening may have guessed why. Yep, I let too many weeds scatter their seeds in the dirt. There’s an old saying that refers to this blunder: “one year of seeds, seven years of weeds.” So there I was, on my hands and knees, carefully removing weeds from the carrot bed, sometimes using the scissors on my Swiss army knife to snip away any weeds that were too close to baby carrot seedlings to be yanked, because yanking that closely would rip the poor baby carrots out too and they are so very tiny and jeez I didn’t want to go through all the effort of planting and then watch them get crowded out by weeds like last year when I just completely gave up and there was no way that was gonna happen this time thank you very much and yes now it’s time to stop with the run-on sentence awreddy.

All those many afternoons (there were several) of tending the carrots paid off!! Lush foliage, and very nice sized roots. I picked a monster a few days ago that was literally over 3 inches in diameter near the top, and it tasted pretty darn good!! Then a horrible thing started happening. Something started nibbling the greens; and I didn’t find that amusing. Whatever it was had chomped off the greens about a foot off the ground; so I thought maybe a bunny or a chipmunk was trapped inside the fence. I put out a small live trap for a few days, but nothing. Examined the soil carefully for tracks but I couldn’t see any signs, so I began to suspect mice.

I hauled out my old Victor mouse traps and used my old “you ain’t licking my bait and gettin’ away” trick: I tied a small piece of walnut on the bait pan with some sewing thread. They can’t resist gnawing at the walnut, which of course causes them to tug a bit and the trap sends them to Mouse Heaven. I’ve gotten 5 so far and I’ll keep setting traps till I quit getting them. I do feel bad about killing them… I apologize as I remove their dead bodies from the trap and send them flying in to the woods while I utter a prayer in their behalf. Hey, mice gotta eat too ya know!!

They are too small to eat in my opinion; but if the end of the world comes, hey, who knows?? In the meantime, our family really does enjoy eating Maus (pronounced mouse). I made some Wednesday as a matter of fact. No mouse meat or any other kind of meat in Maus though. It’s really delicious with a couple of eggs fried over easy on top. Also very good with Norwegian meatballs and gravy. The recipe below is my rendition in honor of Mrs. Spoelma, the nice old Dutch lady that lived next door when my Beautiful Girlfriend was pregnant with our first child. She brought us a container of it and I asked “what’s in it?” She didn’t have a recipe but here’s what I do, and it is very, very good. Please note that the quantities are approximate, you can always adjust to your liking.

Maus: Delicious Mashed Potatoes, Kale, Barley and Onion

Ingredients:

Potatoes : enough to fill a 6 quart pot a bit more than halfway when diced (we do not peel ours)

Barley: ½ cup hulled barley (pearled barley is OK but not as nutritious as hulled)

Kale: 3 – 4 tightly packed cups, chopped

Onion: one large yellow onion (about the size of a small apple) or 4 or 5 small onions, diced

½ stick of salted butter

½ cup of milk

salt to taste

Potatoes, barley, and kale will be cooked in separate pots.

Add more than enough water to the barley to cover, at least 2 inches higher than the barley. Boil the barley until tender, then drain, cover and set aside.

Add 1 cup water to the kale, and cover. Bring to boil, turn off heat after 2 or 3 minutes of boiling. Toss the onions in with the kale; stir to mix well, and cover again, let that sit for about 5 minutes. The heat will cook the onions just enough. Drain, then set aside.

Wash and dice enough potatoes to fill a 6 quart pot a bit more than half way (we leave the skins on). Fill with water till the potatoes are barely covered, and boil until tender, drain. Add butter and mash, adding milk and a dash or so of salt along the way. When the potatoes are creamy, add barley, kale and onions to the potatoes and mash together until mixed thoroughly.

OK, you’re done! Now, don’t just stand there, it’s time to eat!!

Speaking of Maus, here’s one I’ve never trapped nor eaten.

Zagnut Explosions

There are times when I want to roll on the floor with my tongue flapping in the breeze, all the while flailing my arms and legs about as if I my pants were on fire; but if you heard me say this you would probably know that I may be fooling and then you could chant “liar liar pants on fire nose as long as a telephone wire” with that silly singing voice you have and then of course I’d confess that you’re correct and my pants might actually catch fire because I was fooling the whole time.

Breathe… breathe…

OK, it’s like this, awright?? Very soon I will have to pay for car insurance. I would really rather buy candy or maybe a doughnut or something. Do you think you can use doughnuts to pay for car insurance? Or can candy be converted into fuel for small jet packs that do little more than disrupt public speakers and / or eggplant processing machines?

I’d really like to know where my flashlight is.

How may more insurance price increases do I really need to endure, I ask you? Don’t they know that I’d rather have them just hand me the money and say “thank you for being” and just let me be?? NOOoooo… they actually expect me to pay them because they are supposedly protecting me but if I don’t sign up for “unlimited” medical coverage (which I’m sure they will want to limit somewhere down the road) then they can watch Godzilla and King Kong fight over my car with me inside and my legs will soon have nasty monster bites which will cost lots of money at the medical place and, please excuse my use of rough language, but at times I’m really tired of people dying from COVID because they don’t want to do what science says is the right thing;  and I have absolutely no idea why I’m using both bold and italics for no apparent reason!! And there we go with yet another run-on sentence, and enough with the superfluous exclamation points awreddy!!!!!!!

Breathe… breathe…

Yes, yes, I know full well that there’s no free lunch, you don’t get something for nothing, a penny saved is a penny earned, a stitch in time saves nine, and you can’t milk a goat with a Crescent wrench. After all, nobody would be rushing to the farmers market to buy wrench cheese stitched with nine pennies for lunch or nothing. No, these are difficult times, so every free something is either saved or earned, and in time I’m pretty sure we’ll find out that goes for all nine of them. Harvey Ticknoodle would be rather annoyed at all this falderal and its associated fiddle dee dee; therefore I implore you not to implode while trying to get those last molecules of milkshake out of the spark plug sockets.

Please, please quit reaching for my Zagnut. You know how doggoned good those are with coffee, right??   MMmmmmm coffee… cream and sugar please… no… honey. No I didn’t call you Honey. Well OK you’re pretty nice but I’m not that kind of Zagnutarian. I just like honey in my coffee instead of sugar. OK Honey?? And if you don’t believe me, just try a Zagnut with your honeyed coffee and cream surprise leverage beverage.

While eating the coffee and drinking the Zagnut, nothing in this world will bother you for the entire 12 microseconds it takes for a hummingbird to sing “Oh What A Beautiful Flower Drink” during the last 12 innings of the World Series. That completely unfamiliar Zagnut aroma flavor will cause a sensory explosion the likes of which you’ll never scream to the Sheriff’s Office. You’ll feel refreshed, and of course you’ll be thoroughly Zagged. Only a Nut would deny this delicious cloud softening cable the chance to tinkle on the tastebud tours of Flampington, Indiana.

Well OK, now that I’ve vented a bit I feel quite a lot better. Thank goodness. Thought I was gonna have to get silly there for a minute.

Greens: Good For Your Heart

Although summer is my favorite time of year, autumn rates a very close second when I consider what’s happening in the garden. Most of the warm weather crops will get frosted to death soon; so the remaining harvest is, in large part, greens.

My beautiful girlfriend and I got hooked on greens as a result of living in Florida while I was in the Air Force. Southerners do love their greens: collards, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens…   We tried all of them and were smitten pretty much instantly; and when we moved up north we added Swiss chard to the fold. I recently surprised a lady at the grocery store when I noticed the beets she was buying had some very nice greens attached to them.  “Those are nice beet greens!  Do you eat them?”  I asked.  She was completely unaware that they were edible; and seemed interested in actually trying them.

Greens of one variety or another have been a staple in our garden for over 40 years. They are easy to grow and packed with nutrition. And of course, while we are eating our greens, we recite the Greens Eating Poem:

Greens!! Greens!! They’re good for your heart!!

The more you eat ‘em the more you’re smart!!

The more you’re smart, the better you feel,

So eat your greens with every meal!!

 (And eat clam chowder to make them louder!!)

Well maybe that’s not how the poem goes…

Anyway, greens are one of the most versatile vegetables for the simple fact that you can eat them just as soon as they start growing; and continue to harvest right up through winter. I garden intensively; meaning I grow a lot of food in a small space. I often purposely sow seeds for collards or kale a bit too thickly and thin them out as they germinate. The remaining seedlings are then allowed to grow a bit more, and I continue to harvest by thinning as the plants grow. The sprouts and / or young plants are a wonderful addition to any almost any dish, salad and stir-fry to name just two.   Just snip off the roots, rinse a bit, and toss them into whatever you like. I’ve even been known to use them as a substitute for lettuce on a sandwich.

Eventually my beds of greens will be thinned so there’s about a foot between plants. Many of them, like collards and kale for example, will thrive throughout the entire gardening season.   I often plant root crops in the beds with the greens.   The combination of leafy vegetables and root crops keeps weeds at bay while the vegetables thrive. Beds are also a good habitat for toads, spiders, and other beneficial creatures who keep pest insect damage to a minimum.

Swiss chard is a big favorite of ours.  It tastes very similar to spinach but will produce right up to winter. It’s frost hardy, but after the temp falls below 20 degrees F for awhile it will die. Therefore, the Swiss chard has to be completely harvested before the weather stays bitter cold. Kale and wild cabbage (ancestor to collards), though,will survive the entire winter. These two are among our favorites.  They’re good, hearty fare at the table either by themselves or mixed up in other dishes.  The flavor is pretty strong in summer but mellows nicely when the cool weather comes.  And besides, aren’t they just plain pretty?

On more than one occasion I’ve picked wild cabbage, kale, and also kohlrabi out of the snow. Although they appear to be dead in the garden they’re still green. When brought inside the effectiveness of their natural antifreeze shows up as they magically “come to life.” A good snow cover is welcome in the kale and wild cabbage beds, because snow protects their leaves from getting wind burn during the cold winter weather.  However, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s a good idea to mark where the beds are with some long sticks. It’s no fun shoveling snow around looking for your greens!

For those of you who are old enough to remember, Granny used to cook up a mess of collard greens pretty regularly on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”  I went hunting for some video of that;  didn’t find any.  However, I found this and rather enjoyed it.  Hope you do too.

Stan and Ollie Warm My Heart

Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away, there lived a boy named Me who amused himself for hours on end with old movies and short comedy films. The land was an obscure place called Long Island, New York. Due to the proximity of a very large city, our family enjoyed many TV stations that broadcast many entertainers, both very new (for the time) and very, very old.

Back then you could buy 3 candy bars for a quarter, dinosaurs sold gasoline; and if there was any mention of cellular phones, it would have been some strange communications device used by atomic monster amoebas. Radio programs would entertain whole families; but while listening one could do lots of other things while listening to shows like Fibber McGee and Molly or the Green Hornet. I arrived on this planet about 6 years after commercial TV came into bloom. By the time I learned English, though, I was completely hooked by all the cool stuff on the magic glowing box.

Looking back, I consider it quite a privilege to have grown up where I did. Local stations from New York City of course had nationally televised network shows, but they also had their own very entertaining local programs. All of these were broadcast live; which often made for interesting viewing. On top of all that, the New York stations had access to extensive collections of both silent movies and movies with sound.

Our parents did the best they could to encourage us kids to play outside. However, when it got dark early or if the weather was icky we’d be in the house. Often in desperation our Mom would say, “go watch television!!” Didn’t take much persuasion… and we enjoyed many hours of shows like the Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello, Looney Tunes, Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy. The laughter from all these was a great escape for me. Things at home weren’t always pleasant (every home has its moments I suppose). I won’t go into any gory detail… but suffice it to say that comedy films gave me the healing touch of laughter I often desperately needed.

Fast forward to my own journey into parenthood; and of course I shared the joy of the “old guys” with our kids. Both our daughter and son know, for example, that Stan and Ollie were the first names of the famous comedy duo, Laurel and Hardy. Not sure if that had any bearing on what was to come, but our first grandson was named Oliver. Ollie is now 12, and we’ve already begun a second passing of the torch, so to speak. Both Oliver and his brother Gabe have had many laughs while watching some Laurel and Hardy shorts. Even a couple silent films! To my great delight, they both enjoy them greatly (thank you, YouTube).

Our daughter and son in law also have two dogs; Arrow and Stanley. Both are beautiful, loving creatures who greet us warmly every time we go to visit. And now of course, their family have their very own Stan and Ollie!!  So… long story longer; not only did Stan and Ollie warm my heart when I was a kid; but they continue to do so now that I’m older than compost.

In more ways than one!!

For those of you who have read this far, please enjoy this Laurel and Hardy short film. I have a feeling Stan and Ollie will lift your spirits, too.

If You Can’t Have The Heat, Go Out For Some Chicken!!

A very horrible, high-class, terrible yet luxurious thing happened to us about a month ago. Our oven died!! I was gonna cook something very important (in other words, I can’t remember want it was), and when I checked on the oven after the preheat, the oven just sat there with that silly room temperature look on its insides. I’ve dubbed all this sadness a “horrible, high-class, terrible yet luxurious thing” because all I have to do is turn on the news and I can plainly see that I am a very spoiled American. Much of the world would LOVE to have their only problem in life to be a broken cooking appliance!

Anyway, I cried and rolled on the floor for a few hours, thrashed about, filled my mouth with soapy water and sprayed it everywhere while yelling great howls of boo-hoo and ickety-boo; and of course none of that is actually true but it was nice fodder for a run-on sentence so I just threw all that in there for the halibut and any other fish that may wish to be included.

Then called our friendly neighborhood repair folks to come to the rescue.

When the guy arrived, I showed him what was going on: everything seemed like it wanted to work, but no heat from the electric ouch elements. “I dunno… maybe a fuse or something??” I offered. Then I stepped back and let the guy do his thing. After about 20 minutes, he said, “looks like your computer is dead. I’ll have to go back to the shop to see if I can find one.” The retired electronic service guy who still lives inside my brain was somewhat in disagreement, but hey, I called the experts for a reason (the reason: I didn’t wanna mess with it!!) so I let it go. I mean hey, the oven is 15 years old and anything is possible.

Got a call a couple days later. “Ken, we can’t find that oven control computer board anywhere. I mean, it’s supposedly still available but nobody has stock.,” my trusted repair guy told me. “Oh flarn..,” I sighed. And yes maybe I used a stronger word, but hey, flarn is pretty powerful, right?? “So the stove is 15 years old, time for a new one?” I asked. “Yeah probably,” he replied, “but because of the chip shortage, everybody has been waiting for months to get parts. I can order you one but I have no idea when it will come in.” “OK, please get one on order for me,” I responded.

Joni Mitchell sang “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” Ain’t that the truth? Grandsons came to visit; and a regular favorite is frozen pizza. My Beautiful Girlfriend lamented, “oh crap!! We don’t have an oven!!” “It’s OK,” I reassured, “Pizza Hut has an oven.” And they do!! So we did what any other spoiled American would do, we ordered take out pizza. Then came the time when we were hankering for some chicken. Lee’s has chicken!! Pretty darn good too!! And if you go on Tuesdays, you can get two, 2-piece senior meals with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and biscuits for ten bucks!! Oh and have you had their pot pies? MMmmmm….

Well nearly a month went by, and no word about a new stove. So again, this spoiled American guy took the high-class route and went hunting for a new stove online. Of course I was being picky… I wanted to stick with American made; and our service folks recommended GE as the top choice. Then we wanted the same basic style: a white drop-in range with glass cooktop. Several places said they had stoves, but when I called to verify stock, there was a resounding NOPE each time. Again, I exclaimed, “FLARN!!”

Finally I decided to break down and put my electronic service guy pants back on and went hunting for an oven control board. Several sites in the U.S. said there was stock, but again after following up it was a big goose egg. My last-ditch effort involved hunting for alternate part numbers and BINGO!! There was an outfit with one in stock, in Ontario, Canada!! I called and the very friendly guy on the other end reassured me that yes they did indeed have one; and offered to take my credit card info over the phone (never do that, folks!!). I thanked him profusely and told him I’d order online. “Oh, OK, perfect,” he said. I ordered the $330 part (way cheaper than a $1500 stove), and it was at my house in less than a week.

With much grunting and wondering I was able to pull the oven out and replace the board. Feeling pretty good about myself, I turned the breaker back on and did a quick test. No heat. I cried again, weeping buckets of tears which I collected and tossed into the air while howling my sadness to the tune of The Funeral March. After a few milliseconds of this whining and saying FLARN a few more times, I turned the breaker off and commenced to remove the back covers to hunt for that blasted fuse I thought might be the original problem.

Yep!! I bypassed the fuse by using a plastic chip-clip to squish the leads together and did another test. This time when I touched the electric ouch element it lived up to its name I just made up! Houston, we have HEAT!! Called Alex Appliance in the Heights. Those folks have always been there for us in a pinch. “Yes, we have the fuse. But we only have the Whirlpool one. It’s fifty bucks.” Got the part, slapped it in, and did the electric ouch test once more for good measure. Success!! I told my eagerly waiting Lovely Wife Lady the news as she sat on the couch, “OK, we’re good!! A little expensive… I don’t remember ever spending $380 on a fuse.” “Huh??” she queried. “Well, $330 for the control board, and $50 for the fuse…”

Called my friends at the repair shop and told them the good news. The nice lady who takes the phone calls asked me how upset I was… and I blatantly and (not even) forcefully said, “not at all!! This was a completely human mistake. Just wanted you to know so that isn’t overlooked if you ever run across it again.” I went on to explain that hey, even though I considered myself pretty good while I was working, I made my share of mistakes. I really was not at all upset.

She was very relieved and then asked me, “Ken, would you like a job??”

I told her no thanks, but if I did want a job, it could be fun to work here maybe. As an observer anyway.