Thursday, June 28, 2012

Minners, Polecats, Wineberries and Green Beans

A fellow with white hair leans on a walking stick and peers into Hopper Creek. I've met this smiley guy, so I take a break from running. "What are you watching?"

"Minners," says he, "not as many as they used to be. I'd leave my light burning out back to gather bugs, then bring 'em here to feed these guys. I knew exactly where two watersnakes'd be lying, over on the right under a couple rocks. They'd glide out, mouths open [he forms an "O" with his mouth] and swaller a couple minners. They're not here any more. One day, two polecats, biggest I ever seen, were lyin' there belly up [he points to the far bank], with a couple dead babies behind 'em. Now who'd do somethin' like that? They's some mighty crazy people 'round here. I used to fish every single day. Never kep' 'em, threw 'em back. Brook trout. Don't see many any more. There's a pool up thar by the cabin, used to have lots of trout. Haven't been in years. I lived in that brick house next to your'n, married to Frances 25 years. She still lives there, with her mother. She's somethin', about 90 now, still ridin' that mower with an umbrella on it. Duck and me, we used to gather up the road, the one that wanders by the Devil's Marbleyard, and drink home-made moonshine. I had a still back then. And beer. No trouble, just good fun. Another meetin' place was old man Marshall's farm. He had an old black buggy, you know the kind with the top rolls down, he loved that thing. We'd get together Sundays, drink a lil beer, and watch the college girls ride by nice and fancy. [He pretends he's holding reins and posting up and down, up and down.] 'Let's get those horses,' Marshall'd say, he loved that buggy, and we'd go tearin' after. His horse liked pullin' that thing, too. He'd stand up tall, proud-looking, in front of that buggy. I never got a DUI for driving horses. Not that I ain't been in jail. One night down in Fincastle, I called Frances and she got her dad to come for me. When he showed up to bond me, I said 'that's that, I'll never do this again.' Looking at him, I didn't want to ever see him come after me. Not that I haven't been in a couple times for other stuff."

About this time, he ambles over to his pickup. "Well, you have a good day," I say. "You, too," says he.

That was yesterday.

"I guess he didn't find out much about you," says Virginia.

Many blog visitors seem to be interested in two things this time of year -- wineberries and freezing green beans. This is a banner year for wineberries, thick as can be on our mountain. In 4 trips I've picked about 13 gallons, more to come. I made juice with the third picking because a shortage of jelly bags had maxed out Karen's winemaking capacity. She says she wants us many as I can find, so I'll keep picking. For hints on using wineberries, click on "Wineberries" on the right, under Labels. Some day maybe I'll show how to make juice: add water to cover, simmer about 10 minutes, mash, strain through a jelly bag or cheesecloth in a colander (not a flimsy plastic one), add sugar to taste, bring to simmer again, put in jars, then can in a water bath (30 minutes boiling for quarts).

A flag's waving for green beans, too. I've been picking them small, so each time I go out they seem to be making fun of me by ripening faster. I've stir-fried and frozen 6 gallons so far. For instructions on freezing green beans, my most popular blog posting ever, click on "Freezing Vegetables" on the right, under Labels, and go to June 3, 2011, "How to Freeze Green Beans and Sugar Snap Peas."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Happy 90th Birthday

Wanda Suter Pannabecker
(photo courtesy of Mary and Fred Steiner)

"What did she do?" says Virginia. "Win the lottery?"

Almost. She received a lifetime membership to the local senior citizens center. Ten years from now, we'll be celebrating her 100th birthday. In the meantime, all 4 generations are getting together this weekend to cheer her on. Yep, only 4. No 16-year-old moms in this family, yet. In fact some of us waited until almost 40 or later, which can cramp a progenitor's style.

We put together a "short" program that's sort of reminding me of a Krantz music party. Those parties -- catch one if you can -- begin at 4 or 5 and end after midnight. Don't worry; I think we're still under an hour, depending....

Friday, June 8, 2012

Brains and Brawn

Yesterday, after I wrapped up another book update, which is how I bring in the bacon, I pulled on my boots and turned to gardening, which is how I bring in the nonbacon. I had strangled one of my beautiful young apple trees, so it stood in a wasted hole, dry and brittle. The strangling was well-intended. My once-intended, now stuck with me forever, had complained about the tree's leaning like the Tower of Pisa, so I'd roped it straight. It complied, then died. I dug it up, added it to a pile of brush and replaced it with a peach pit. I once liked a peach so much, I planted its pit. There, now, the transplanted pit sits.

Next, I cleaned up the garden bed south of the greenhouse. I had just said that I regretted not planting more carrots to take advantage of the cool weather we've been enjoying. I thought I might get some carrots in before the gray western sky descended. When the hard part was done, I began broadcasting carrot seeds, relaxed in the quiet, calm afternoon. A few raindrops sprinkled.

How many times have I said that one of the secrets to gardening is not taking off when work needs to be done? Some folks have told me they've had a tough time getting their gardens planted this spring because of all the rain. Sorry guys, that's a poor excuse; it hasn't rained every day, or even every week.

"Maybe they had to go to work," says Virginia.

Oh. It's been so long since I punched a clock I forgot about that.

"Fred called, said the boys are outside the fence! I need to leave soon!" Karen interrupted my reverie. Persistent honking drew her to our driveway entrance. A second neighbor was reporting the escape. My cellphone cussed at my pocket, "Now Keri's out!" I tossed the rest of the carrot seeds, ran for the keys to our stationwagon, and tore down the lane and James River Road. Karen had already coaxed the goats back inside the fence and Keri was perched on the front seat of our Camry.

She returned Keri and waved goodbye, off with some women who meet for dinner every couple months. The least my brawn could do with my quiet evening was fix the fence. I gathered a couple sledgehammers, a T-Post with brackets, a length of fence (just in case), a pair of pliers, and rolled my wheelbarrow to the gap. Two hours later, I decided the fence would keep the kiddies in.

The rain had merely dropped. I still had time. After a quick dinner of Elk Cliff peas, toast and cheese, I put in this year's third planting of sweet corn. Then it poured. Perfect timing.