A Midsummer night’s ramble

As we get closer to mid-summer (or the beginning of summer, depends upon how you view June 21), the days lengthen into something extremely tolerable.  The latitude is about 44° (North) where I live so where I grew up was even better (45 °) in the summer…..darker in winter.  But not enough difference to make growing things any different.  Even the soil is similar – A lot of clay below the topsoil in the non garden areas (so if you dig a new garden, you will need to add good black dirt and compost).  Campfires go late into the evening with not too many bugs yet.  It is a charmed time of the year right now.

Around the summer solstice, it becomes almost easy to be tranquil, kind and peaceful.  There is hospitality in having folks come over, even when things aren’t perfect, so do not fail to meet together. Of course things must be comfortable for the guest, and disorder and clutter are rarely comfortable.

Jonathan is working hard in the beeyard these days, after his day job.  We help when he needs help.  Simple trigonometry problems go up on the whiteboard almost each week so the children can keep their brains exercised in practical word problems (like figuring the height of something too tall to measure, using shadow lengths, or a simple formula for an easy-ish combinatorial) through the summer, and book reports continue at a much slower, lazier pace.  Such is the homeschool family, that we find learning in all things.

I cannot part with my large pot of rosemary this summer so I sincerely hope it enjoys being in the house getting daily personalized attention.  As I get older, I become more and more attached to this particular smell.  I love the lavender too, but it would be deprivation to make it stay in here all summer long.  I’m late getting the front porch cleaned (lots of spiders around here), and the outdoor bench and wooden boxes I use as end tables need their coat of beeswax polish again.  I will need to deal with it before the 4th of July, when our intimate little group of relatives and whatever friends might want to come (and this entirely up to the potential guest, who would be, in most cases, quite welcome. One simply has to ask), will have a bbq on the porch and drink water and talk all afternoon until supper and then fireworks at Clear Lake in the nearby town.  Possibly a few games of spikeball, volleyball, practice throwing a few discs (so I can maybe become not *so* awful at disc golf), etc …

I would like to think that life always flows with midsummer ease.  I know that isn’t so, but my illusion at this time persists.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

“The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover any time to him
is aristocracy.” (Emily Dickinson)

Spring Things

I was recently reflecting on how spring seems to be passing me by this year.  I heard someone say that we’ve had no spring, but indeed we have.  It is on the calendar and in the heavens.  But they are right in that it has been too cold and rainy to do the spring things we usually try to do about now.  So I guess that is where my thoughts and reality come to convergence (and I love when that happens): If I don’t hurry and do the spring things outside that need doing, while it isn’t raining, they won’t get done and summer will come crashing in on me.

If you happen to recall my last spring’s thunderous disinterest about my gardens, that last paragraph may sound ambitious.   But each spring brings a different thing to us.  There is still time to get a jump on summer and if you need help, call me.  I’m willing but ignorant.   And just so we’re clear, what you’ll get is an immediate appointment for my physical labor in your garden, that brings no expertise, just experience and a fresh eye.

My children could vouch that a recurring motto with me is “Learn by others’ mistakes.  You don’t have time to learn all you need to by making your own”.  My concern here is that we all make mistakes – and hopefully learn from them.  But if we rely on making a mistake in order to learn a hard thing – we’ll be fresh out of years before we learn some really valuable things in time to use them.  So while I never advocate being nosy and watching for dirt, one can be wise and realize things going on and quietly learn.   When they were very young it worked like this:  one child gets in trouble for something, the rest see that go down and decide to not do it themselves.   Life’s simple little lessons continue all our lives that way.

Last night we were helping Jonathan (the current main beekeeper here), install a whole bunch of bees into two different yards.  He’s trying Russian bees this year.   Now some people say that type is more aggressive, but we were thinking that after bouncing in a horse trailer for 900+ miles in the rain, anybody would be temporarily aggressive.  So we all received bee stings, and I personally am resisting the urge to say : “Здасвуйте мой товарищ!”

Tonight’s dinner will be salad, and some burgers that I found done up in the freezer.  I think I’ll try them on the grill.  With me, that is always a risky endeavor, but Mark cleaned it, so I should not need my usual arsenal to put the fire out.  Odd juxtaposition of words, but you knew what I meant.  The salad will be whatever I clean out of the vegetable bin, added to the lettuce and tomatoes from the greenhouse and the burgers are truly a cleaning of that section of freezer.  I must have thought I would use them right away because I never labeled them.  It’s clear though what they are (so I hope I’m right).  Any potential freezer burn can easily be masked with enough ketchup and mustard.    So in true Pam fashion: tonight is clean the fridge night.

I think I’ll make a cup of coffee and take it outside with me.  Go watch somebody else for a bit.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

Quite Sincerely, Pam.

A Tale of Two Gardens. Eventually.

It is inevitable that at least once each year I will discuss gardens and flowers.  So for all you indoor people, be forewarned – worms ahead.  Worms are good.  Actually a lot of things are good in their right places.  For  example, worms are good in the garden but not as good in my refrigerator.  In a way:  The worms do keep longer in the fridge, and they’ll wake up when they warm up, in time to be put on a hook and eaten by a fish.  But I really don’t care for when they escape the container inside my fridge.   Snakes are also good in their ecosystem.  They eat an abundance of bad bugs and mice.  This keeps the population of those things in check.  But when they get in a house and multiply, nobody is happy.

The trick in the flower garden, is to pull out the actual weeds, but to leave those tiny seedlings you want, that have grown from last year’s flowers.  This is why I can’t just assign someone else to go out to do it unless I am going too.  Not that I would. Just saying.

It is also time to bring all overwintered plants outside with the understanding that they can come back in if it freezes.  This gives more space in the living room to reorganize and wash the floor and windows.  All projects lead to more projects.  There are also plants that want to be repotted, or divided.  I prefer doing this in the fall but some won’t wait.  It’s nice when it isn’t terribly windy, but here in Southern MN, spring is wind.  You just have to find a secluded spot so the dirt doesn’t blow away while you’re working on it.

If you haven’t gotten out to trim vines before now, it is probably too late to benefit the plant, but you can still do it if you’re willing to sacrifice future flowers.  Roses that are runaway, can be left to stab you all summer, or you can trim them even though they clearly have leaves and possibly buds already.  It’s a difficult thing but experience will tell you it may be better to just clip them.  Had the dead vines from last year been trimmed off of the clematis, it would have sent the energy into new ones this year.  But the old ones will suffice and they’ll all look sort of eclectic out there.  In other words: things don’t have to be perfect, to be wonderful.  So in your “survival of the fittest gardens”, don’t worry too much, just do what you can.  The plants will take care of themselves, or they’ll die.  Either one.  But you can look at it and decide what to do each year and that is fun.

I have an older garden, that has taken on many forms and border changes through the years.  It looks like I don’t have a clue, right now.  But soon it will look like it was all planned out to every detail, and I’m always happy with it.  I have another garden that has also gone through forms and border changes and it never quite is what I want.  It’s newer, so that may be partly why, but I also haven’t fallen in love with it and involved my children in its photography over the years.  It may be those things, but I just don’t know.  It’s hard to feel motivated about this garden, and it usually looks scruffy.  If you judge me by one, you’ll feel one way about me.  If you judge me by the other, you’ll feel another way about me.  My recommendation is to not judge me by either.  It’s easier for you.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils…”

(From “The Daffodils” by William Wordsworth)

Signs of Spring around our Place

The giant snow piles are nearly all gone, but that isn’t as clear a sign of spring as honeybees loose in the house and the local Dairy Queen finally open for business.

Our Very Small Dairy Queen (for our Very Small Town). :-)

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My bee gloves have had a rather foolish hole in them for a couple years.   Mark never gets holes in his.

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I finally fixed them with Mark’s fly tying thread.  Had to use a thimble because I couldn’t find my small needle nosed pliers. :-/  Good as new.

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Local News. One more time.

This Southern MN hack “reporter” is trying to stop looking at the world this way, if only because she may end up in a small amount of trouble if she doesn’t.  But one must scratch an itch, so here is another installment of the “Local News”. 20131115-222206.jpg

This is one of 2 ethanol plants along a certain highway stretch.  Ordinarily I Capitalize People’s names even if they can’t do 5th grade math, but I make exceptions for entire industries.  That beautiful steam cloud coming out is truly steam so I’m not complaining.  It is useful for telling wind direction and political correctness.

The small a capella singing group (very) nearby is suffering from a chronic case of- no tenor or bass.  They are a lively bunch, sometimes alternating hymns, with drinking songs from the Renaissance era.  This insures that no matter where they sing, they meet disapproval.

Winter Squash Harvest is on.  Energetic Squash Farmers are racing the clock to get their squashes baked and put in freezer bags.  This is not an exacting procedure, but it does take time.  Once it is all done we’ll finish the growing season off with a large squash casserole and a stuffed turkey, possibly mashed potatoes (although Mrs. Ingvetch has a conviction against serving partially digested food to her family. “It makes them lazy” she says).

Mrs. Johnson has forgotten a couple of rotations of her bi-monthly plant turning, which has resulted in some very off-centered looking plants.  The foliage has so far not taken a break in their photosynthesis but they are beginning to bicker over ledge space.  A neighbor has called the anonymous hot-line to report poor posture and a general demoralization going on among the greenery.  Mrs. Johnson claimed it must be one of the other 10,000 Mrs. Johnsons in MN.

We’re gearing up for snow down here in the Southern part of one of the northernmost states in the country.  Buck hill ski area opened four days ago and those folks already need their skis sharpened again as the base is still only 6-12 inches.  But the advert is great, being on the major North/South Highway as it is.  Little Lowell Krebsbach, the local “season” prodigy, saw a flake and declared it will be a long winter.  Experts weren’t sure whether he meant an actual snowflake or otherwise, but we’re all pretty certain about his forecast.

And that’s the news. Good night.

…for now...

 

More Local News

The information in this article may or may not be entirely true. It depends upon how you take it.

The nursing school in Mankato is auctioning off their gently used supplies because as nurse Helga explained in her advertisement, “We didn’t use these things on real people, but the wrappers are off so now we can’t.  But you could”.   So until they’re gone, a good deal can be had on catheters, sample collectors, and gauze.

Algot Tollefson, the local weatherman, has stepped out on his porch again today and declared it “A Sunny day with not too many clouds.  All in all, not too bad a day”.  He further mentioned that since we go off of daylight savings time this weekend, it will be darker, earlier now.   Good thing we have Algot to help us through these dark days.

Because it is considered proper, in some more conservative church circles, to stay about 20 years behind the world, the local Internet café – Dial-Up-Heaven (DUH for short) which was located in the Lutheran church basement, has now been recently evicted.  Church elders claimed that “the internets are in the air now so there is no need for actual space to be taken up.”  Also, they wanted to paint the basement a different shade of green, and with all those wires snaking around it made stripes, so they want it cleared out.  Social networks have created small pockets of agoraphobists who hesitate to leave, but who tend to reach out to virtual strangers.  Other disappointed locals, who now have no café to congregate in, have moved to one of the 4 local bars in this small town of 15.

The Catholic diocese has agreed to add a new Patron Saint to their repertory.  Saint Verbatim – Patron Saint of gossip.  There was some reluctance to admit this one but it was generally agreed that it was inevitable.  Saint Verbatum medals will now be sold at the corner drug store along with instructions for those who are of other faiths since, as the local Parish priest says, “this will be a popular one for all the masses, and may finally unite us all”.

School is going fairly well in this small, sparsely populated region.  Students continued to look blankly at the physics instructor as she lectured on Newton’s laws of motion today, until she explained why “May the Force Be With You” was said to fellow Republic members. This was actually the second law of motion, since an increase in force would result in an increase in acceleration, while to say, “May the Mass be with you” would be said to the Dark Side, since the inverse relationship of Force and Mass would cause a decrease in acceleration.  She is hoping they will get this enough for the final test so she won’t have to dress up and act it out.

And while that can’t be all the news, it’s probably enough at any one time.

Local News

This is a long awaited (for the author) update on Southern MN news.  Events may or may not be…totally true  slightly irreverent.

There are 2 colleges in Mankato/North Mankato.  The sorority group:
Sigma
Omega
Sigma, (the sorority that tends to need the most academic help) has members from both the colleges, with the North Mankato girls mysteriously just disappearing after 2 years.   Locals are not sure if it is because the North Mankato chapter is just a 2 year college, or if the Ukulele playing group got run out by those who prefer concert instruments.  Their theme song “Tell me Why” was a local hit, but by that I mean *very local*.  Mostly those who meet each Tuesday at the “Coffee Hag” for coffee and pastries.

Perhaps you remember when a few years ago, a note was found nailed to the door of the Local Conservative Lutheran church, claiming that church supper hotdishes work quite well using 5 ingredients, as opposed to the previous requisite 4.  This caused quite a stir at the time (Mrs. Dagmar claimed she only did it to set hotdish making housewives free), but since then, many Lutheran hot dishes with 5 ingredients have been consumed in southern MN, without any spiritual backlash.  This resulted in 2 things: 1)they changed the standard on hotdishes, and 2)Conservative Lutherans from other States now look just slightly down on southern MN Lutherans who have moved to this practice.

The Local Chapter of the Norwegian Bus Drivers Guild meetings have experienced less interest than previously.  One of the drivers retired, the bus company got bought out, a few of the other drivers have landed in ditches (nobody was hurt), and there are generally fewer coffee meetings, even though eggshells are still provided free of charge.  Tours are still available, but most people are afraid of being bullied by students.  I’ll keep my eyes open for future developments.

The Spam Museum in Austin is still the most happening place in Southern MN, with tours daily, including free spam squares (1 per person) and activities that you are not allowed to discuss outside the building.  The gift shop is enormous and accounts for most of the net worth of Hormel, with items such as golf balls with the word “spamalot” printed on the side being best sellers.

Next update will include “Whatever happened to that local internet facility in the green church basement”