Happy Vacation To Me! Unless You Are Also On Vacation.

Dear Friends,

I am on vacation, and you are not. Unless of course you are. On vacation. Are you? I am. And I’m enjoying every minute of it. Please pass the Lemon Flavored Soil Testing Kit while I rake these flavor crystals into a small, gently seasoned skillet full of fresh asparagus, mushrooms, peppers, and Dondo Frijole Jumping Beans.

See there?? That’s what happens when you work for a very long time, and then vacation comes. Well OK maybe not. But if I remember correctly, vacation is a time for escaping reality, at least to some extent. Reality is this: I like to eat food, and I also enjoy living in a home with electricity that powers various things I use to enhance my tender hair follicles and skin cells. Therefore, these conditions (among others) require money, and that means I need to go to work.

Not sure about you folks, but I work because:

A) I’m too proud to be a bum and

9Z6) I’m too chicken to be a criminal.

So I must work for my money. However, I have earned vacation so I am taking two whole days in conjunction with the Memorial Day weekend. Do the math: that means I get 16 days off in a row!! What?? No??? 5…? OK… 5. 5 days off in a row!!

I feel sad for those who feel compelled to do work stuff while on vacation. I almost always do not… although this time I actually got a call from the Help Desk and did a little “coordinating from the remote position” to help things along. That was yesterday. Today, I peeked at my work e-mail briefly, then put the iPhone down and ran away screaming. Or maybe I just put the iPhone down. OK I picked it up several times later; but no more e-mail peeking. It’s just not healthy to let my mind be consumed with work all the time. So I don’t allow that. I’m pretty good at maintaining strong boundaries that separate work from home.

My mission this weekend (5 DAYS!!!) is to get at least SOME of the garden planted. I’m so far behind… but as I always tell my Beautiful Girlfriend, “work interferes with my free time.” Next year at this time I’ll have a reeealllllyyyy looonnnggg vacation because I’ll be retired.

Got a bit of a start though. Bought some peppers, eggplants (not eggs from chickens. Eggs from plants) tomatoes and herbs. Yesterday I mowed the garden. HUH?? Yes, the quack grass was already out of control, so I took the garden tractor and put the mower deck into soil scrape mode. In other words, I put it on the lowest setting possible and scalped all the weeds and such. Then I began the laying out of the beds in preparation for tilling. And of course: rained much of the day today. I suppose I could have done more garden stuff, but I would have become very soggy. And yes, all this takes some preparation; which of course is time consuming. But the rewards are very great. We not only get wonderful food, but it is also very good for my spirit. And speaking of the spirit, I’m very happy to announce that I’m definitely in vacation mode now. I know this because I forgot what day it was today.

Success!!

This vacation is for staying home. Very few plans. Plant da garden. Be with my Honey Pie. Maybe catch a movie. Just not sure; and that’s OK.

So, I hope you are also on vacation. If not, well nyaa nyaa na boo boo to the likes of YOU!! Ha ha!!

Yours with 3 more days,

Kenny “Am I Retired Yet?” Compostflinger

Now I’m off to learn new gardening techniques from Porky…

Yesterday… Or The Day Before

You may not believe it when I tell you , but I am blessed beyond belief. Actually, I really could give a rip as to whether you believe me or not, because it’s true!! So there!! Put that in your smipe and poke it!! Sure, I’m getting old. I’m older than compost!! But one thing nice about being older, at least for me, is that I’ve suffered more than enough growing pains for one lifetime. And I may have even learned a few things along the way.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me when I start bribbling about having learned stuff. If you know me well, you know from time to time I’ll mention that I’m on a constant recovery journey. That’s right, friends, I’m trying every day to recover from the dreaded Mr. Know-It-All Disease. Some days I try harder than others… but I think I’m getting better at it. I hope. Maybe. I just don’t know!! To quote the late Alistair Sim, who, in my professional opinion performed the very best film rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge, “I don’t know anything… I never did know anything!! But now I KNOW I don’t know anything!!”

With a little help from my friends and The People Upstairs, I’ve made it to a time in life where I can definitely relate to Mr. Scrooge’s awakening.

So why, you may ask, am I so blessed? OK so maybe you didn’t ask. Well if you don’t wanna know, quit reading awreddy!! Otherwise, know this: I’m in love with THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE UNIVERSE!! And guess what?? SHE LOVES ME BACK!! Or at least, she says she does. Now all you other women in the universe, please don’t fret; because my professional opinion is that although my Beautiful Girlfriend is the Most Beautiful Woman In The Universe, ALL other women are the Second Most Beautiful. God doesn’t make junk, you see…

Wow… can you believe that this coming Sunday is May 19th already?? And you might say, yeah, so what?? And then I might say, “whaddya mean, so what???!!!” And then I might go on to say, “this May 19th is the 47st anniversary of my first official date with THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE UNIVERSE!!” I can’t believe it’s 47 years already!! Seems like just yesterday, or perhaps the day before!! OK maybe a couple weeks or months… but 47 years??!! Sheesh!! So why, you might ask, would I remember the exact date?? Well since you’ve been silly enough to read this far, I’ll spill the beans.

A little Cosmic Holy Mackerel first: when I was 12, my family moved from Long Island, New York to the North Woods of Wisconsin. When she was 17. her family moved from Ferndale, Michigan (near Detroit) to the North Woods of Wisconsin. Now here comes the Cosmic Holy Mackerel part: after Christmas vacation of our senior year in high school, we were planted next to each other in study hall. I’m very certain that The People Upstairs were pulling strings. We instantly became friends, and then she pulled a dirty trick: she changed her wardrobe from jeans and smock tops to dresses and makeup. My reaction was: holy crap, I think she likes me!! I fell head over heels in love. She went back to the jeans and smock tops; but by then all I could see were her beautiful blue eyes.

Now comes the May 19th part: Katie, a young lady from Chicago with whom I had a long distance relationship, was coming up to the resort on the lake where we lived. We saw each other when her family came up on vacations and wrote letters in between. But my last couple of letters mentioned a new friend I met in study hall named Kathy. Then on May 19, 1972, Katie and her family came up from Chicago; and of course, she expected me to come visit. I rode my 1970 Honda CB175 racing bike over to the resort; and told Katie about my new love. It was a rather unpleasant thing to do… Katie wasn’t shocked but she definitely was not very happy.

After the nasty deed was done, I hopped on back on my racing bike (OK, it’s not really a racing bike) to go meet up with my sweetie. We had a very provocative first date: we rode to the fire tower and climbed up to admire the view. Then we got in the flat bottom boat and I rowed around the lake a bit… then we went for ice cream… then back to the fire tower at night to enjoy the view again. No kissing, no holding hands, no monkey business. Just deep friendship that was quickly evolving in to much, much more. A little over a year later, we were married at the ripe old age of 19.

Much has changed over the years, but we believe the strong friendship gave us a foundation on which to build a lasting, loving partnership. Our love just keeps getting better all the time. I still have the 1970 Honda CB175 we rode around back in those days. It hasn’t run in years, and I doubt it would accommodate us very well now (we may have um… “grown” a bit). I also have the flat bottom boat… still floats after many patches and gobs of silicone sealant. It sits on the shore of a much smaller “lake” now… our pond.

So what has changed? Tons!! But since I can’t speak for my Beautiful Girlfriend, I can only mention some of my stuff. Most importantly, I’ve lost the “requirement” to be right all the time. I am by no means perfect at this, but I’m trying to remain in recovery from this Mr. Know-It-All Disease. I can still be a stinker, but not nearly as often. And when I am, I’m much quicker to apologize (and mean it). During “The Great Adjustment Period” in our early married years, we’d make each other cry a little more often than we care to remember. Now we make each other laugh, and we know how to be silly with each other and not take it personally. We are best friends. She even lets me kiss her!! And she kisses me back!!

Anyway… I’m fortunate beyond my wildest dreams. We have a very good life. If our marriage survives until August, we’ll be dating for 47 years and married for 46 (I think we’re gonna make it). Does that mean I’m getting old?? Not sure what old is supposed to feel like… but I don’t feel old.

I feel lucky.

OK! Now it’s time to make with the mushy songs!!

EVERY Day Is Earth Day

Yes, I know it’s not Earth Day anymore, but there’s been some buzz in the news lately and I just had to speak up… again.  Unless you’re living in a cave with no TV, radio, or interwebs; you’ve probably heard that scientists have determined that because of human activity, up to one million species are at risk of extinction within the next few years.  In other words, Mother Nature is in serious trouble, and that of course means WE are in serious trouble.

Each year, when Earth Day comes around; someone will inevitably say something like “today is Earth Day,” or even “happy Earth Day.”  My response has always been:  “EVERY day is Earth Day.”

What can I say? I just can’t help it. Every day really should be Earth Day, right?

Can it really be that we just had the 49th Earth Day already? Holy Carp I’m getting up there. I was 16 when Earth Day was first plopped onto the calendar in 1970. Seems like last week!  I wondered what ever became of the Earth Day flag. I found a picture of it on line, but I can’t post it because it has a copyright warning and I’m too lazy to ask permission. However, you can click on this link and go look for yourself:

http://www.inhabitat.com/wp-content/uploads/earthdayflag2.jpg

I’d love to say I’m all warm and fuzzy about the progress we’ve made, but there’s so much more to do. I want to scream every time I see someone with bottled water. Of course, I’m not interested in banning bottled water completely. There are times when it’s the easiest way to get safe drinking water like during a disaster, etc. But most of the time, bottled water is a big fat waste. Many times the source is municipally treated water. In other words, it’s tap water in a plastic bottle (made from petroleum), which gets shipped many miles to a place that already has municipally treated water.

Then you have all the waste from that silly crop way too many people are raising at home: the lawn. Chemicals, water, exotic seed, and machines to make it grow and cut it down are consuming ridiculous amounts of energy and causing unnecessary pollution. You may ask, “so, Mr. Tree Hugger Hippie Freak, are you for banning lawns too?” Well let’s put it this way, I’m married and my beautiful girlfriend likes to have a lawn. So yes, I’m for banning lawns but I’m too chicken not to grow one at our house. Fortunately, though, we’ve made a truce and we don’t use any chemicals at all, but we do mow it. Still, it makes absolutely no sense to me that we humans spend so much effort raising a crop we don’t eat.

As far as crops we DO eat, the chemical companies and large agribusiness firms are doing their darndest to keep a strangle hold in the food business. However, farmers markets are thriving more and more each year, and the customers are favoring organically grown veggies and fruits. At our house, we’ve been growing produce organically for almost 46 years (which coincidentally is how long we’ve been married). I can’t help but think the chemical firms and the large corporate farms are suppressing news reports about organically grown food. Once in awhile though, you actually hear the “scientific discovery” that organically grown food is healthier and much more Earth friendly.

We are getting a little better with more efficient cars. However, we are also still affluent enough that several of us humans choose monster trucks and fancy cars that are not meant for fuel efficiency. Compared to Europe, our mass transit system barely exists. We could conserve a lot of fuel by switching from semi-trucks to trains. Here in the U.S. we’ve converted way too many railways into bike paths. And no, I’m not trying to ban bike paths, but trains are a very efficient means of transport. We’re still way too dependent on fossil fuels, but we’re making progress there (albeit painfully slowly).

And what about turning of the stinkin’ lights when they’re not in use?? Not just at home… Mom and Dad always yelled at us to turn lights off so most of us are pretty much conditioned to do that. Ever go past a shopping mall after 9 p.m. (or later)? The lights are all going full blast. Holy Carbon Footprint, Batman!!

Sheesh.

I could go on and on, but here’s one more completely wasteful human activity: WAR. What a huge waste of energy, natural resources, not to mention the terrible toll on human lives. You may ask, “so, Mr. Tree Hugger Hippie Freak, are you for banning wars too?” OH YES!! YES PLEASE!!  War, pure and simple, is a form of hell on Earth and must be banned forever.

OK so I’m a dreamer. It’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it (yell about banning war I mean). And I’m sure I’m not alone on that one.

Well folks, Happy Earth Day, Every Day, Every Year. Please do something nice for your Mother (Nature) very soon. She loves you, you know. If you’re not sure what to do, just go to your favorite search engine (mine is Google), and do a search on the following text:  what can I do to save the planet    You’ll get lots of ideas.

Some of you kids may remember this song. The video is a bit fuzzy, but it appears to be made by Spirit, the same band who recorded it way back when.

Peace!!

Retirement Pregnancy – 9 Months To Freedom!!

I may have mentioned before that I have a retirement countdown thingy that comes up on my work computer screen every morning. Now I don’t want to sound excited or anything, but I am Holy Mackerel, Oh Boy Wow, Hey It’s Getting Close, COMPLETELY GEEKIFIED!!

In other words, I’m kinda looking forward to it.

So there I was, minding my own business, booting up my work computer thing, and there IT was, right there in front of my nostrils, being seen with my own eyes, that the countdown timer had moved to the 9 months, 29 days mark all by itself and now I thought to myself, “hey self, it would be funny to start greeting people with a line like ‘I’m pregnant!!’ and laugh to them as they squint with disbelief and unwittingly become part of a run-on sentence.

So I did.

Yes, I’ve been telling all my friends that I’m pregnant, and when they broop and harrumph at me with gribbly smiles and wiggly eyebrows I of course explain that “yes!! In 9 months I will be retired!! Kinda like carrying a baby, right??” And then they snicker and tell me they’re jealous and such. Of course, this is nothing at all like carrying a baby; and God bless all the Moms out there who have done that. They are amazing people… not sure I could endure such reproductive kaboom!! But lest I repeat myself, and I will, over and over again, because it’s fun, and it can also make yet another run-on sentence to which I can just add more words so you can get frustrated with the silliness and ridiculously long length; this retirement is truly making my brain muscles jump up and down like little aardvarks on a professionally cleaned trampoline during a hail storm while “Bohemian Rhapsody” is blaring on my remarkably powerful Sansui speakers.

I think…

My wife is getting a bit anxious… she’s expressed concern of the “half as much money, twice as much husband” formula some friends of hers have mentioned. I’ve tried to reassure her that we’ll be OK… I guess she’s hoping I don’t cramp her style too much when I’m home a lot more. We’ve talked about it of course, and I continue to reassure her that I’m not interested in disrupting her when she needs space. We’ve talked about lots of things I’d like to get done, also, like removing debris in the garage from when the “clutter bomb” exploded. The clutter bomb somehow made a huge mess of shelves, work bench space, and even the floor. It was interesting because although it sure looks like an explosion occurred; it apparently was very gradual and without much noise.

Lots of chores to do to tidy up around our place.

However, I also have some projects of my own that are secret, because I’m making them up right now as I write this for your smiling muscles to enjoy. How about a zip line from my 2nd floor office to the back of my property?? Oh, and perhaps I’ll buy a bunch of helium and fill my car to make a lighter-than-air-car… a Toyota Zepplin. Gosh yes, and not to forget the tunnel. I’ll need a tunnel alongside the interstate to prevent driving poopyheads from bothering when the helium runs out. Another invention I’d like to work on is a blowtorch toaster that makes toast in 3 milliseconds.

So as you can see, my Honey Pie needn’t worry about me invading her space. I’ll be VERY busy!!

Maybe Betty Boop and her friends can help me with other inventions…

Sines Of The Thymes

Yew no, even inn this day of spell checkers and grandma checkers, lots of writing is on display awl over the place that is just plane inn correct. Weather it’s the youse of the wrong word ore sum thing is spelt badly, computers wheel only help yew two a certain egg stent, and then hay, ewe gist half two no how to spell and yews proper grandma. Shore, the spell checker will help yew often. Butt if you use words that our inn the diction aerie, and their all sew spelled write, the spell checker thinks everything is honky donkey.

Oh and hay, don’t four get about punctuation!! Gist ask my lovely girlfriend wife person: eye used two get total lee up set when eye saw apostrophes used badly. Yew no, like when sum won uses one to make a word plural; witch is knot watt an apostrophe is four at awl.

Egg sample: “Open 12 – 8 Monday’s through Friday’s”

Oh golly that makes me crazy. OK maybe craziER. Their should bee know apostrophe inn such play says.

ANYWAY… enough of such soap boxing (I never really enjoyed boxing soap anyhow). On with the topic at hand, “Sines of the Thymes.,” like the tight Al says. Sum of the sines yew sea these days are gist plane funny. Haven’t seen won in a long while, butt one of my favorites over the years has been:

“BANANAS .49 CENTS PER POUND”

First of all, how can they make any money if they only sell bananas for not quite ½ cent per pound ??? Second of all, are the farmers giving away bananas and paying for the freight??? Yes, eye no they are two lay Z right the price correctly. Probably they mean $.49 (49 cents) butt it steel looks pretty funny.

On the other hand, yew have the very expensive beer sines, like:

“BUD LIGHT $1899 A CASE”

Wholly carp eye say two yew, who kin a ford two bye a case of beer for $1899 or watt ever?? That’s all most the prize of a cheep car!! Well OK knot much of a car for that kind of money these daze. Butt yew no what eye mean.

My most favorite egg sample of a goofy sine came to me from Comedy Heaven sum years ago, when I had to go to Plumbs for a few groceries. Thanks two mod urn technology, eye was a bull two get a pretty good pitcher of it sew I could Cher it with awl of yew:

Is that two cool or watt?? Knot only was cheese on sale for a pretty good price, butt yew kin all sew use them to patch yore roof!! Eye confess, I’ve never herd of shingles made of cheese bee four. Their they were though, so I bought one pack of pepper jack and one pack of Swiss. When I got them home I figured, watt the heck and I tried some.

THEY TASTED JUST LIKE CHEESE!!! No shingle flavor at all!!!

Knot shore how many rains they could take though… they looked pretty floppy. Don’t think I could really walk on them either.

Well, I wheel bee on the lookout for moor funny spellings and word miss usage. Eye reel E love thee ability two snap a photo when eye find a funny sine. And of coarse, I’m steel a bit chagrinned when eye sea something in print that I’m pretty shore sum won checked with the spell checker but is steal a mess. Oh well… that’s my anal retentive spelling and grandma snootiness four yew.

In the meantime, pleas have a lovely day and eye shore hope you don’t fall for those $1899 beer “sale” prices or the .49 cents per pound bananas.

Crazy, yes?

The Annual Egg Challenge

Sunday, of course, is Easter; and for pagans like us that means the Easter Bunny will be visiting. Not sure how the Easter Bunny came into existence, but my Lovely Honey Pie mentioned a reference she heard that the famous bunny has pagan roots. I did some searching on the interwebs and learned that nobody really knows where the Easter bunny originated; but there is speculation that the pagan festival of the Goddess Eostre might fit. Legends tell of a goddess of spring and fertility, and a rabbit was associated with both due to their prolific breeding abilities. Nobody seems to know for sure.

Anyway, we’ll be hiding eggs so the grandsons can go hunting. We might even boil some up and color them! Oh wait… that sounds backwards. Maybe that’s because the ones we’ll hide are going to be the plastic kind. You know, eggs you can open up and stash a surprise inside. Hopefully we’ll remember where they all are… might be a good idea to count them before we do the hiding. Last year there was one “golden egg” that had a $5 bill inside. Seemed like a fun idea, until one grandson got a golden egg and the other didn’t. So this year there will be two golden eggs. That way, regardless of who finds them; each grandson will know in advance that there will be one golden egg per person.

In the “good old days,” we would hard boil a bunch of eggs a day or two before, and then they would mysteriously be hidden by the Easter Bunny. Also hidden were the infamous Easter baskets, loaded with jelly beans, chocolate eggs, and of course a chocolate bunny. Back then, it was especially important to find all the eggs; because unlike the plastic ones, eggs will eventually smell really bad if left at room temperature. So yes, we counted the eggs ahead of time and made really, really sure all were picked up before the Easter morning festivities came to a close.

So the egg hunt has evolved into a cash enterprise… my Beautiful Girlfriend has been dropping coins in a jar for the last several weeks so she can load the plastic eggs with money. I’m not sure money is a good replacement for chocolate, but of course you can use it to buy sweets. But since their parents would have to drive them to a place to spend their loot, cash is probably a healthier gift than a few pounds of candy.

Maybe.

Anyway, the most important part of all this Easter fun is spending time with the family. I’ve invited the family over for Thanksgiving. “I’m making Thanksgiving for Easter,” I told them all. “Mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, and pumpkin pie.” “Oooh,” our daughter said, “you know those raisins you put in the pie last time?” I assured her I’d be doing that again. I love to cook, but I also love to push the envelope a bit with recipes. Sometimes that works nicely, other times, not so good. Raisins dropped in the pumpkin pie mix just before they go into the oven turns an ordinary pumpkin pie into an intriguing treat!!

Please have a splendid Easter. Oh, and let me know if you see any of these “funny little bunnies.”

Spring Really IS Coming

Been a lot of whining around these here Beautiful West Michigan parts lately. Folks have been crying and rolling on the floor, thrashing their feet about and all such nonsense. “When’s it gonna warm up?!?!?! I’m sick up and FED with all this cold and snowy weather!! Last year I was mowin’ my lawn already for cryin’ out loud!!! WAHHH WAAAHHH WAAAAAAHHHH! “

Crybaby kaka-roaches…

Holy moly I haven’t thought about that in a long time… when we were kids in Noo Yawk we’d sing to the whiny babies:

Crybaby kaka-roach!

Wash your face in gravy!

Wrap it up in bubble gum

And sell it to the Navy!!

Made absolutely no sense, but when we were very young it seemed to have a nice ring to it. Oh, and don’t forget the “nyaa nyaa na boo boo!!” for good measure!!  Anyway, to all youse whiny kids out there who are all upset that spring is taking so long, I have a news flash for you: too much warm too early makes badness with the crops!! Sheesh!!

That was technical talk, by the way…

If you’re old like me, you surely remember that winter came in around Thanksgiving and stayed icy cold until the end of March or so. Then the weather would gradually warm up and ease into summer. A few years back, unfortunately, we had several 80 degree days in March, which is simply not natural. Not for these parts anyhow.

Consequently, all the fruit trees said, “huh?? Time to make babies?? OK!!” And of course they bloomed way too early. Usually we get enough fruit here to ship out to the world and still have enough to stash in various cold storage facilities. But that year, the inevitable frost came with a vengeance and nuked much of West Michigan’s fruit crops. That caused me to become an “apple snob.” I’d rather be sad and miss my Michigan apples than buy from far away. Now I know the farmers in other parts of the country have to make their money, but there’s simply no comparison to the quality of locally grown fruit. I confess that I’ve resorted to buying some Washington (state) apples some years ago. They looked and felt nice, and were crunchy and juicy. Nice, yes? Ummm… well… this apple snob is don’t liking them so good. They remind me of crunchy, juicy water globes with a subtle apple aftertaste somewhere in the dingle weeds of taste bud world.

Good Lord willin’, we’ll have a spring that will be kind to the fruit trees this year. I am always eagerly awaiting the newly picked, simply amazing flavor of local fruits. There’s a cornucopia of yummies we spoiled Michiganders get to enjoy each year. All youse naysayers can bark all you want, but in my professional opinion, climate change is very real. A lot can happen between now and the traditional frost sensitive planting date of Memorial Day. Let’s hope things stay on track.

Not to fret, kids… I heard the spring peepers again tonight!! A sure sign of spring. And one thing I love about this time of year is when I leave the house for work in the morning, I’m greeted by a beautiful, loud chorus of birds. They don’t sing quite like these Byrds…

Peepers and Peeps

‘Twas the 1st of April, but no foolin’, we heard our first peepers. Now we’re coming up on Easter and several more have awoken. That, of course, means that if it ever warms up this month, we’ll be hearing a chorus so loud we’ll have to raise our voices each evening in order to communicate. I said “if it ever warms up” with a smidge of sarcasm; but not really, but maybe yes, I just don’t know, but this seems to be as good a place as any to inject an run-on sentence and whine about the cold nights and HOLY COW it’s supposed to be in the 30s tonight which means any peepers that may have awoken will go back to bed but it’s also supposed to be near 60 tomorrow and then the rains are gonna come and oh boy howdy the peepers will really start singing then!

For those who are unaware, peepers are frogs; and are a welcome sign of spring here in Beautiful West Michigan. Of course, they usher in springtime elsewhere too. But I don’t live elsewhere, I live here, so I’m always a little giddy when the peepers sing. If you’ve never heard peepers, well that’s just too bad. But because I love them so, I hereby include a recorded them for you so you can enjoy their songs. Now the sounds in this recording are from two different species:  peepers and toads (the peepers are the ones shouting, “PEEP!!”).  Just turn on your speakers, click on the little triangle thingy, close your eyes and open your ears. Why close your eyes? Well that’s because the peepers sing at night, and to be honest I’ve never seen them except on TV!! OK, here we go…

And now for something completely different: Peeps. You know, those marshmallow candy chickens that appear in the stores during Easter time. When I was a kid, peeps only were yellow and chicken shaped. The name and the shape went well together; because hey, they kinda looked like little baby chickens. And little baby chickens say “peep” a lot. I’ve never eaten a real baby chicken, but I suer have had my share of Peeps. Now I would never intentionally harm a baby chicken. But regarding Peeps, well just never you mind all the naughty things that went through my mind when the Peeps arrived in my Easter basket.

I admit it, I have squished their little heads. I place my forefinger on one eye and my thumb on the other, and press them together until the Peep’s head looks like one of those cartoon characters that had a very bad accident. I have also decapitated them with great delight. Usually their heads are removed with my teeth. In fact, I don’t think I can ever remember eating them any other way. I’ve never forced them to joust though. Seems like a waste of Peeps if you ask me.

Joust?? Yes, I’m not sure I’m happy to know about it; but a friend once told me about “Peep jousting.” Of course, I just had to ask what the heck-a-ma-hookey that was all about. “Well you get two Peeps and place a toothpick in each one. That’s their lance, you see. Then you put them on a plate and pop them in the microwave; hit the juice and watch them stab each other as they expand. Really cool in a microwave with a rotating plate inside.” Ummm no. Rather boring really. Yes, I tried it, with family watching.

We were not impressed.

Back the peepers… there’s a song about them that has been a jazz standard for many years. It originated back in 1938, and below is a clip with Louis Armstrong playing his horn and singing it in “Going Places,” the movie for which the song was written. When I grew up during the Mesozoic Era, this song was still being played somewhat regularly and was often featured on an extinct brand of TV program called the “variety show.” The second video is a 1958 recording of Louis Armstrong swingin’ it on “The Gary Moore Show.”

Feeding Dirt To The Ant Roaster

My Beautiful Girlfriend and I bought a home here in Bear Swamp back in 1982. In those days, for the exorbitant price of $36,900 we were able to purchase a 1940 vintage home with 5 acres of land. We probably could have done a little more research before buying. For example, as I mentioned, we live in a quaint area known to the old timers as Bear Swamp. We bought the place in the summer, when the two creeks that traverse the property were flowing nicely, the grass was nice and green, and the basement was dry. “Did you ever get water in the basement?” we asked the sellers. “No, no” they replied, “no problems.” The following spring brought lots of snow melt that made the creek REALLY wide. And something strange happened: water in the basement. Just enough to let us know we live in a… um… swamp. And these folks didn’t even bother with a sump pump!! We fixed that of course… still get a little water that comes up through the cracks in the concrete, but not nearly as much as before the sump pump was installed.

Looking back I also remember asking, “heater works well?” we queried. “Oh yeah, keeps us nice and warm in the winter.”

Well that’s nice.

Winter came, and our ½ tankful of fuel oil was gone rather quickly. No biggie… didn’t really know what to expect. We filled the tank, and it was gone again in less than a month. Not so good!! Fortunately, the chimney was originally built for a coal furnace, so I knew it would be OK for firewood. Got us a cheapie wood stove and started burning wood. Lots more work, but saved us a bunch of cash.

Since I work for a living, I don’t want to spend all my free time cutting wood; so we buy most of it. Lots of folks out there who want to sell us firewood. Some are better than others. Now my Dad kept me and my brother very busy with firewood when we were kids; so I know a little bit about this wood heating stuff. One of the cardinal rules: seasoned (dry) wood works the best. Sounds like a no-brainer right? And lots of folks say they have seasoned wood for sale.

With wood suppliers, we’ve had good luck and we’ve had bad luck. Good luck is when we get nicely seasoned wood, predominantly oak; nice clean load of logs. That’s the kind of luck we’ve had for the last couple years; but this past time we got about 40 % oak and 60% beech. Oh, and we also got at least 2 cubic yards of soil that I don’t recall ordering. Apparently the front end loader they used to scoop up my wood went just a smidge too deep. I was not very happy when I literally had to use a shovel to get some of the logs out of the pile. And when I bring the logs in the house for the fireplace (actually a furnace with glass doors and fake bricks for pretty), it’s pretty dirty and leaves a nice little mess.

Really bad luck is one of those “learning the hard way” experiences. We ran out of wood a couple of winters ago, so I found a guy who said he had some nice, seasoned oak. Well the wood was green, and about 10% of the logs were full of ants. Can’t really bring logs full of ants in the house… they crawl around while wondering what the heck happened to their home (poor kids…). Well guess what? After exhausting all the logs from the dirt pile, I answered a Craig’s List ad for seasoned oak. Called the guy and he knew who I was!! Then he told me who he was, and I was apprehensive.

“So… your ad says this is seasoned oak? Ready to burn?” I asked. “Yep!” he assured me. So I went ahead and bought two cords. He delivered it after dark, so I didn’t get a good look at it. I did notice it was a bit heavy; and the following day I realized why. Green wood. And just like last time, about 10% of the logs were full of ants.

So this year our wood stove started out eating dirt logs; and when the dirt logs were gone I started roasting ants. I know it sounds cruel to burn the ants. Seriously, my spirit hurts when I embark upon the selfish journey of heating my home with ant infested logs. I keep the logs just outside the door and bring them in only when they can go straight into the fire. And I say a little prayer for the ants.

Needless to say, two of our local firewood suppliers have lost my business. I bet they don’t even know the log driver’s waltz!

A Secret Party That’s Not Really Secret

It’s that time again… my Beautiful Girlfriend is away for the weekend. She and several of her friends have embarked upon a Women’s Retreat; and of course boys are not invited. That’s OK… I had chores to do. I took advantage of the sunshine today and brought in some firewood to warm our bones. We do have natural gas heat but we like the way wood feels much better. And it’s pretty in our “fireplace” (it’s a furnace that looks like a fireplace, with glass doors).

Anyway, there I was, earlier in the week, scheming about what I was gonna do when my Baby left for the weekend. There was a time when I was young and much more foolish when I would seize such an opportunity for drinking too much herbal stuff and smoking too much beer (or something like that…). Thankfully, those days are long gone; but I still have a propensity to spoil myself with goodies that I don’t normally eat too much anymore.

One of the first treats that always seems to pop into my noggin is pizza. I mean, hey, that stuff should be classified as a controlled substance. It’s right up there with fried chicken, potato chips, and butter pecan ice cream. I like all that stuff way too much. Good thing I limit my intake, or I’d soon weigh 793 pounds. I’m no skinny boy mind you, but I’m not a complete Harold Honk-A-Doodle either. And yes, Harry Honk-A-Doodle is a name I just made up and that would be on my shirt if I ate all the goodies in the universe until my skin exploded.

But once in a while is OK, right? Well I can convince myself of that. And yes, my Lovely Bride knows full well what I’m up to this weekend. I toyed with ordering pizza tonight, but I like lots of sauce. Seems like every time I ask for extra sauce, the opposite occurs. And here in Michigan pizza is often cut into squares. Don’t they know you’re supposed to cut it like PIE??!!?? Pizza… pie!! Hello!!!

The more I mulled it over, the more I kept going back to the same conclusion: if you want something done just right, sometimes you gotta do it yourself. Got me a Boboli crust, poured almost the whole jar of Classico pizza sauce out and spread it on the crust. Cooked up some Italian sausage; laid some chunks in the sauce. Then on went the cheese, and on top is onions, mushrooms, black olives, green pepper and uncured pepperoni (no nasty chemicals). I actually read the directions on the Boboli crust package: preheated the oven to 450 and popped it in for about 10 minutes. The final product was magnificent!! Oh, and had to wash it down with a Coke from Mexico… they use glass bottles and real cane sugar.

Am I naughty or what?? But wait, there’s more… I might accidentally eat some ice cream later. And you guessed it, butter pecan. Haagen Dazs no less. A little container. I had to do it you see, it will nicely complement the last piece of carrot cake that’s left over from my birthday.

My Beautiful Girlfriend will be home Sunday some time; so that means I’ll need to chill out on the goodies beforehand. Why? Well no special reason, I just don’t want to greet her while I’m spacing out from a food coma. Probably would be a little weird… eyes like little slits, walking badly, nodding off during conversation, burping, mumbling unintelligibly… yeah I’ll need to avoid that scene.

Good thing she’s only on retreat once a year!!

This week’s video has nothing to do with the story… but it’s a hoot.