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Turkey Creek Lane · Life

Life

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Tuesday night my father died.

He had terminal cancer, congestive heart failure and failing kidneys. The last years of his life he slept in a recliner to breathe because fluid kept filling his lungs.

The daily newspaper and keeping up with goings on around town was my father’s pleasure. But, he developed a problem with his tear ducts. Not only did that prevent reading, but his cheeks were often chapped from being wet and wiped dry.

On good days my father was able to drink a couple of cans of Ensure. Other times he only finished half a can. Nothing else stayed down. With so little food, the weight drop and dehydration caused his arms to turn dark and purple, which itched. His arms became scratched and bruised. Because the cancer had spread to his bones, the pain was constant despite prescribed patches. The doctors kept upping the dosages. But care had to be used with medication because my father’s kidneys and heart were failing

Yet, almost to the end and on the last day of his life, my father was aware and communicating coherently.

I never knew a person who wanted to live or savored life more.

He refused to sign the “no code” papers.

“I want to be around a little longer,” he said, “the pain isn’t so bad.”

“What about prostate cancer vaccines?” my father asked the doctor who inquired if he had looked into hospice.

The doctor said it would be awhile before they were released and said he would discuss vaccines with my father then. Which to me was his way of telling my father he was going to be gone before that ever came about. It hurt to see my father’s lingering hopes so casually stomped out. I looked up the latest information online and was heartsick to find out that my father had already been alive long past the most optimistic results from the newest vaccines for his stage of cancer . I gave excuses to my father for not looking up and printing out for him the information he requested.

Last summer my father’s medication caused internal bleeding, a loss of 8 pints of blood, weeks in the hospital and a stay in a nursing home. Few would have survived the blood loss, even without cancer, congestive heart failure and poor kidney function. But, my father was motivated.

“I don’t want to die,” he said to my mother while they waited for the ambulance. “I don’t want to leave you.”

The doctors asked my father if he had a living will. He refused to answer. Despite his pain and limitations, he wouldn’t consider an end. Life still contained pleasures.

My father slept days so he could stay up late to listen to the RFD channel which featured old time country and western music in early morning hours. I remember how his eyes shined when he told my husband and I about a Statler Brothers’ special.

My mother’s Yorkshire terrier, Pixie, is something else. She doesn’t come when called most of the time. She digs into pockets and purses at every opportunity and refuses to give up her stolen treasures. She’s full of bounce and mischief. Yet, she was gentle and careful with my dad and often took naps with him on the recliner. I can’t believe I will never again see her cuddled up against his leg with my father absently stroking her.

More than anything else, and with every core of his being, my father loved my mother. He loved her voice, her moods, the way she loved animals. He loved the way she spent days and hours researching to get a piece of furniture in an exact color. Or repapering a kitchen wall because she’d decided she didn’t really like her first wallpaper choice. My father was as proud of her accomplishments as if they were his own.

And no matter how bad things were for him, mom was my dad’s main worry.

“Go see your mother,” he told me when I visited him in the nursing home. “She gets lonely.”

“Your mom is going to wear herself out coming back and forth to see me,” he said while he was in the hospital,” she doesn’t have to come tomorrow.”

During my father’s last good day, my daughter called him. They discussed stocks, one of dad’s favorite subjects. But, before they hung up, my father told my daughter to be happy, to do with her life what she wanted to do and not to waste a moment.

My son visited. He got a lecture on being careful with his money. Then before my son left the hospital room, my father asked him to stop. He told my son he loved him and said to stand there for awhile because he just wanted to look at him.

Soon afterwards my father was drowning from the fluid in his lungs and unable to breathe. He still would not discuss coding with hospital personnel. The doctor said that they could drain the lungs but there was a good chance they would fill again. I did not want my father to drown that way, scared, unable to breathe and knowing he was dying.

I see things differently than most people. My Living Will includes taking extraordinary measures.

Like my father, my happiness comes from life on this earth. I cannot imagine greater pleasures than seeing my husband’s special smile for me, hearing my child’s voice over the phone announcing a new baby on the way, hearing one of my daughter’s works has been published, burying my face in Simba’s cottony good smelling fur and kissing him all over or seeing Abby’s face light up when I say the words “walk “or “garden“. I want to stay here. Clouds and harps and song and light hold no attraction. I want to live.

My father took his last stand. He wanted his lungs drained. He was trying to do what he had been able to do so many times in the past. He was trying get better and go home. The operation was a success. His lungs were x-rayed and declared clear. I thought he‘d make it.

He always had.

Only my father’s voice became raspy. His face became ghostly and gray. He couldn’t talk. Trying drained him. He might be aware enough to see my husband and I and say, “How have you been?” Then he’d be gone. He slept most of the time. He’d smile to see family, but his eyes would roll back. He began breathing mainly through his mouth.

Tuesday the nurses called and said to come right away.

When we arrived at the hospital, my father didn’t seem to know us. My mother said she and my brother and I were with him now, that we loved him and that we would stay with him. She said he nodded.

The doctor ordered blood.

As the blood dripped into his arm, the change in my father was dramatic.

He rasped out a request for water. He was able to sip from a cup. He said something about home. Soon, we said, maybe tomorrow. My father’s heart rate began dropping. He started making the scrunching movements he makes when he needs to be raised in his chair to breathe better. He asked for air. He already was getting oxygen. We got a fan and blew it in his face and asked him if that was better. He nodded yes.

He said he hurt and tried to pull out his IV.” Hurt” he kept saying, and then he would beg for air.

I went out and talked to the nurse. She said because of my father’s heart and kidneys they could not give him pain medication because it would wipe him out. She said he had not had medicine for pain for two days. I asked if his lungs might be filling up again with fluid. She said they most likely were.

My father was drowning and hurting. I asked the nurse if he was going to die. She said he was, and that the best thing to do for him was to be with him and to hold his hands.

I started crying.

“He hurts. He‘s drowning and he knows it. He‘s scared.”

The nurse said she would talk to my mother and then talk to the doctor.

I went back to my father and watched my husband and brother try to make my dad more comfortable. He was squirming and trying to pick his shirt off. He pushed my hand away. He said something about my mom. Fortunately she soon came in.

“He wants you, mom.”

“I’m here. The kids are here,” my mother said. She put her hand over his.

“I love you. I‘m going to stay with you.”

Then, I saw the nurse. She had liquid medicine in a plastic cup and held a hypodermic. Softly she said the doctor had ordered morphine. I looked into her eyes and knew.

“Take your medicine so you’ll feel better,” my mom said.

“She’s giving you medicine so you can go home, Dad.” I said.

My dad relaxed. As dutifully as a little boy obeying his mother, my father pursed his lips. He sipped the drink. He then straightened his arm. The nurse injected morphine into the IV. My father’s face became soft. His breathing slowed. He quit gasping and picking at his shirt.

I watched the machine that had long ago started flashing red instead of green. My father’s heart rate dropped to twenty, then ten., My eyes began misting. I couldn’t look at my mom or brother. I looked across the room and saw my husband fold his hands in prayer.

My father was not a quitter. He raged and fought against the dark longer than I ever believed any human could have the strength. But, in the end he went gently.

For that I am grateful. I know his last thoughts were of home, my mother and all he loved most.

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Our vegetables have spread from the counter to the table. It has been so rainy, we are trying to cure our onions inside.

Tomato cake?

Whoever heard of tomato cake?

We have given away cucumbers and onions and potatoes and tomatoes to just about everyone we know. I’ve made sauce. I’m not fond of canned tomatoes. Then, I found a recipe from who-knows-where, stuffed into a cookbook for tomato cake. I had only to read that it included an ENTIRE cup of dark brown sugar to know it was a recipe with potential.

 With cream cheese frosting, it was wonderful.

dsc00481.jpg The first step toward peeling tomatoes is to put them into boiling water until the skin cracks.

dsc00482.jpg Next plunge the tomatoes into ice water and pull the skin off.

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I’m stirring in the tomatoes, raisins, dates and walnuts. It is not looking very good.

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The cake is done and cooling before being frosted. I used a silicon baking pan for the first time and didn’t use enough support taking the cake out so it cracked. But, I can tell from the smell and what I can see I am going to like it.

FRESH FROM THE GARDEN TOMATO CAKE

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar, dark
1/2 cup vegetable shortening

2 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups ripe, peeled and chopped up tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins

Directions

Mix cream sugar and shortening.

Add eggs.

Add sifted dry ingredients, mixing well.

Stir in tomatoes, nuts, dates, and raisins.

Put into greased and floured 9x inch baking pan.

Bake in preheated 350’F oven for 35 minutes or until cake tests
done.

Frost with cream cheese frosting.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions: In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

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Tomato cake ready to be served.

As promised, here are my SUPER, SECRET ingredients to always perfect, moist and tasty roast chicken with crisp and golden skin:

dsc00499.jpg I’ve been stuffing my roast chicken with an apple and onion for over 20 years and always had perfect results.

For a flavorful and moist roast chicken, stuff it with an a cut up apple and halved or quartered onion. Don’t bother to core or peel the apple. Butter your chicken. Sprinkle with rosemary, paprika, salt, pepper and maybe a little lemon (or not). Bake at 325 to 350 degrees and baste often.

Your chicken is done when the legs move freely and the juices are clear.

 UPDATE: Healingmagichands, http://healingmagichands.wordpress.com/ , wrote to say that she puts sprigs of rosemary inside the chicken cavity along with lemons and onions. She says putting fruit & onions inside her chicken  gives her a crispy crust with very moist and flavorful meat.

I like the taste of rosemary with chicken so much that I use it to butter the outside of my roast chicken. (And always with roast potatoes.) But, I bet my chicken WOULD be even better with a sprig of rosemary in the cavity.

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Macho, tough Buster, chaser of cats and bully of Abby, is scared.

“Collars are cruel,” said DH, “they make dogs choke. Before we go to the vet, I’m getting harnesses.”

And he did.

But, it was as if Buster had ESP.

“Isn’t Buster pretty,” we said. “Good boy, Buster, beautiful Buster.”

Our talk didn’t fool Buster one bit. He cowered and shook with fear. He seemed to know what was coming.

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Buster is so upset because of the harness, I had to hold his head up to get him to look at me. He was also plotting his escape.

Buster wasn’t going sit and let it happen either. At the first opportunity he bolted through the dogdoor and hid in our backyard. DH had to go out and get him and carry him to the jeep.

In the meantime, I was in charge of putting Biggs in the cat carrier. 

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Biggs inspects the cat carrier.

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Then Biggs strolls on in.

I had only to shut the cat carrier door after Biggs went in on her own. Abby proudly let me put her regular collar on, strutted out to the jeep and hopped in. Except for Abby getting carsick and drooling and Biggs meowing, the ride to Maplecrest Animal Hospital was uneventful. 

Once we got to there, Abby practically drug me into the front waiting room. Then, DH signed everyone in and Buster retreated to hide in the corner with his head under a chair.

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Buster is still wide-eyed. Abby is calm, but soon drooling from carsickness.

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Buster hiding in the corner of the waiting room.

There was a different veterinarian in the office today, Dr. Jeff Longenbaugh. He won Abby and I over when he said her weight was just fine. Biggs didn’t fare as well. Eleven and a half pounds is a lot for such a small boned cat. But, despite all the talk about her fatness, Biggs purred contentedly through the examination and her vacinations.

 Buster didn’t recognize the vet and clung to him avoiding DH and I. I think Buster was remembering past times DH and I had betrayed him in the examining room. Once the vet took out the syringe to draw blood, though, DH had to help hold Buster down.

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Biggs purrs through her embarrassing weigh-in and vaccinations.

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Abby had an old scab from a tick bite.

No fleas, ear mites, heartworms or signs of problems. Everyone got a clean bill of health. DH paid.

We will be back again next year. In the meantime, I would like to thank the veterinarian, Dr. Jeff Longenbaugh and the staff at Maplecrest Animal Hospital.

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Maplecrest Animal Hospital’s staff is hard at work.

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The dogs lie low on the way home.

Other posts about Buster, Abby and Biggs include:

http://jolynna.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/my-big-fat-animals/

http://jolynna.wordpress.com/2007/08/02/bad-boy-buster-temptation-and-dog-whispering/

http://jolynna.wordpress.com/2007/07/09/the-cat-ladder/

http://jolynna.wordpress.com/2007/06/10/the-cat-box/

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hottie_33.jpg My “look” was a combination of Cher, Cleopatra and Morticia from the Adam’s Family. It took hours to get it right.

I was fifteen. It was my birthday and I was going on a “real” dinner date. 

It was also the first time I ate at a restaurant where  the person behind the counter didn’t ask if I wanted fries along with with the main course.

I’d spent hours getting ready.

My eyes were sexily ringed like Cleopatra’s. My lips were heavily coated in peppermint pink for maximum kissability. My dress was maroon with an empire waist and mini skirt. My shoes were clogs with big silver buckles. I’d poured “My Sin” by Lanvin over my pulse points every time I couldn’t smell myself.  And my long ironed hair hung down past my shoulders, like Morticia’s from the Adam’s family. Except, in my mind,  it was swinging from side to side like Cher’s did when she strutted onstage.

hottie1.jpg My, fried from being ironed, dark hair was my pride and joy. In humid weather curls still managed to sneak out.

Only “he” was 15 minutes late. Which cause me to overcomb and  flatten the top part of the hair I’d teased to perfection. My stomach was in knots.

But, I had only to smell his English Leather cologne that filled my parents front room and see his sporty, Madras plaid jacket to forget his breach. It was a wonderful start to an evening I expected to get better.

I wasn’t disappointed.

“He” took me to the M&M, a restaurant with early American maple tables, waitresses with red checked aprons and paper napkins. I’d never before had shrimp and saw the listing of breaded popcorn shrimp on the menu as proof I was in a top-rated place. Molded jello desserts on the buffet table were further evidence of sophistication.

“He” gave me a necklace with a single pearl for my birthday and his class ring. 

me_young21.jpg The pearl necklace is featured prominantly in this picture.

I had a boyfriend. 

With a ring to wear on a chain conspiciously around my neck or to cover with mohair and brush with a toothbrush in study hall, I was no longer an “unwanted”. I had a name to write over and over across my notebooks. And a “him” with wonderfully cute bad habits to complain about to those nearest and dearest.

 I will never forget that birthday. The M&M has been long gone. But, I do have a recipe that accurately replicates the cucumber mousse served on The M&M’s buffet.

It was and is still a favorite side dish.

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We have cucumbers and tomatoes in abundance. Using them up in different ways is a challenge.

CUCUMBER MOUSSE

  • 1 package lime-flavored gelatin
  • 3/4 c hot water
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 1 T grated onion
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1 cup cucumber, pared, seeded, lightly salted and chopped
  • Dissolve gelatin in water. Add lemon juice and onion. Chill until almost set. Stir in sour cream and cucumbers. Fill a wet mold with mixture and chill thoroughly. When set, invert onto a platter and garnish.

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    Cucumber mousse topped with a little mayonaise and served over lettuce makes a refreshing and different side salad.

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    Abby by the garden. She’s a lab/border collie mix with eyes that radiate love.

    “Don’t forget to call the vet to make an appointment for Abby and Buster.”

    DH reminds me of the card we  just got in the mail announcing it’s time for our dogs to get their yearly checkups and shots.

    “OK.” I wonder how long I’ll have to get Abby’s weight down before I have to face the vet.

    Abby officially became a senior dog this month. Because of her advancing age, last year I was told to restrict her diet to take off  her extra weight. I did mean to take Abby on more walks, not to give her treats or to give her leftovers. But, nobody appreciates my cooking more than Abby.

     By default she’s my dog. Prevented by Buster from getting near DH or getting exercise from chasing a ball, (Buster gets to balls first and they are HIS)  Abby stays by me, where she can have bones and toys, without them being stolen. Rawhide twists, pigs ears, old socks with a knot in them, the sound of Abby’s gnawing is constant. She is a chewer. I hear her chewing as I type on my laptop, read, watch tv or drift off to sleep.

    I’ve been taking Abby to the garden with me. It is our special time.  All I have to do is put on my old tennis shoes and Abby’s eyes widen, her ears go up.

    She is asking.

    “You can go,” I say.

    Abby’s eyes shine, she smiles, her tail wags and she prances as we go out the door. Once outside she hurries to sniff the groundhog hole by the compost pile. She digs a little. Then she settles down in the shade and watches while I weed. Without her partner in crime, she doesn’t run away.

     But, even more than the garden, Abby likes being with me in the kitchen. Pie dough’s her favorite of favorites. It turns her into a greedy begger–one that barks if pie crusts are rolled out and no trimmings come her way.

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    Poor Abby has to go to the vet and be WEIGHED.

    However, Abby’s chubbiness pales in comparison to Bigg’s bigness. I don’t know how long it has been since Biggs has had a checkup or vaccinations. So she needs to go to the vet, too.

    And she will be weighed.

    In all fairness, the cat was not small when my daughter gave her to us. DH and I said, when we first saw her, that Biggs lived up to her name. But, despite my daughter’s instructions to feed Biggs limited amounts of dry cat food only twice a day, Biggs quickly discovered Simba and Kitty only eat Fancy Feast. 

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    Biggs is mad because there’s hard cat  food in her bowl.

    She was a quick convert.

    She not only swats Kitty and Simba away from the Fancy Feast until she polishes off as much as both of them used to eat combined, she meows and rubs against DH when he puts whipped cream on my coffee with cinammon…until DH gives Biggs her own little pile of whipped cream. 

    Biggs hasn’t slimmed down under our care.

    Pie dough, whipped cream, the cans of Fancy Feast, why are the things which give loved ones the most pleasure so often what you have to deny them?

     I am cringing at having to face those scales. And the vet.

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    Whipped cream with cinammon on sweetened coffee.

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    Tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden have become part of our kitchen decor.

    Horse manure!

    DH brags about the power of his horse manure compost as if he invented it and got a nobel prize for the invention. “George Washington swore the secret to good farming was horse manure,” says DH.

    “You just wait,” he said last summer, “George Washington knew his stuff, you’ll see.”

    We added dried manure to our compost pile of grass clippings and shredded leaves last fall. This spring DH tilled it into our garden. Then we used more grass clippings and shredded leaves for mulch on top.

    I was hoping the mulch would prevent unwanted plants from popping up, resulting in a no till, weedless garden. That didn’t happen. We had weeds. But, DH was so right about horse manure producing garden miracles. Our one cucumber plant has produced 60 cucumbers…so far.

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    Our onions shortly before they were pulled up and cured.

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    The first watermelons we found. There are at least 15 on that plant now.

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    An 11 pound zuchini that came from a volunteer plant on our compost pile. We didn’t find it until it had grown to this size.

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    A basket full of Yukon Gold potatoes. I had no idea potatoes could be so good.

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    Browning the meatballs and simmering the tomato basil sauce.

    Dinner tonight featured home grown tomatoes and basil.

    MY MEATBALLS

    Soak in milk, water or stock;

    1 slice of bread, 1 inch thick

     Beat:

    2 eggs

    Add eggs to:

    1 1/2 lb. ground meat/I used ribeye

    Saute until golden brown:

    1/4 cup finely chopped onion

    Add to the meat. Wring the liquid from the bread. Add the bread to the meat and then add:

    3 tablespoons chopped parsley

    1 1/4 tsp. salt

    1/4 tsp. paprika

    1/2 chopped clove garlic

    3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

    1/4 tsp. oregano/I’ve used Italian Herbs

    Mix and form into balls. Brown lightly in:

    2 tablespoons butter

     Cover your frying pan and simmer on low until the meatballs for 1/2 or until the meatballs are firm and no longer pink in the middle.

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    Cooking down the sauce.

    SPAGHETTI SAUCE WITH FRESH TOMATOES AND BASIL
    6 peeled, seeded and cut up tomatoes
    2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
     garlic, minced to taste or pinch of garlic powder
    1 tablespoon white sugar
    2 tablespoons fresh basil (more or less to taste)

    DIRECTIONS
    In a large skillet or saucepan combine the tomatoes,  tomato
    sauce, garlic, sugar and basil. (Other herbs may be added. I really like basil and prefer just that with tomatoes.) Stir all together and simmer over low heat until thickened. More sugar and a tablespoon of butter may be added if the sauce is too acidic. Flour (1 to 2 tablespoons) may be added if you prefer a thicker sauce. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

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    Homemade spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes and basil over meatballs & spaghetti. It was sooooooo good!

    HOW TO PEEL TOMATOES

    Put the tomatoes, a few at a time in a large pot of boiling water for no more than 1 minute (30 – 45 seconds is usually enough)

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    then….

    Plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice water.

     

     

    This makes the skins slide right off of the tomatoes!  If you leave the skins in, they become tough and chewy in the sauce…not very pleasant.

     

     

     

     

    After you have peeled the skins off the tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half. 

    Now you need to remove the seeds and excess water. Wash your hands then squeeze each tomato and use your finger or a spoon to scoop and shake out most of the seeds. You don’t need to get fanatical about it; removing just most will do.

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    Toss the squeezed tomatoes into a colander or drainer, while you work on others. This helps more of the water to drain off. You’ll end up with a thicker spaghetti sauce in less cooking time!

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    Skipper being led to the riding enclosure by DH’s nephew.

    Skipper reared today.

    I’ve had him for almost 3 years and he’s been a dream. He is 15 years old. A former child’s 4-H pleasure champion with perfect gaits, he’s child safe and has good sense. Or at least that’s what I thought. 

    My other horse, Summer, is six. She’s flighty and nervous. She loves DH, tolerates me and is wary of everyone else. I also saw her buck like a bronc soon after I got her. 

    A birthday present from DH the first year we were married, she was by far, my best birthday present ever. Perfectly proportioned, with a tiny head and ears, intelligent alert eyes and a typical quarter horse rump, Summer is a gorgeous bay. Her red coat gleams, her muzzle sock, mane and tail are coaly black. Her eyes are are exotically rimmed in black. I fell in love immediately. However, it was soon apparent that she needed work. She didn’t neck rein. She was nervous and spooked easily.  She stomped her feet, turned her rear toward me in the stall, crowded people, used them for scratching posts and worse sometimes flattened her ears and threatened if approached. 

    blog-pictures-5-020.jpg  Summer & I.

    I hired a horsetrainer who said she had an attitude problem and took her off to his farm for two months of schooling. That’s where I saw her buck. DH and I were at the trainers  watching her being schooled. The trainer was showing us what they’d been working on. Summer saw us by the fence and decided she’d had enough training. She bucked. She bucked as viciously and hard as any rodeo horse being spurred and abused. The trainer, whose hobby is rodeo contesting, stayed on. He got her calmed down, rode her until she was tired and then I forced myself to get on her back and rode her around the ring as instructed. I pretended to be calm because I didn’t want to show misgivings and hurt the trainer’s feelings. Or appear anything but thrilled with my birthday present. But, I was afraid.

    Summer graduated from Training School and returned home. But our relationship was changed. Because I knew if she ever bucked that hard with me, I’d be a goner.

    Today DH’s family joined us on the farm for a barbeque and DH’s nephews wanted to ride the horses. Marc, is an experienced rider and he rides Summer on every visit. I think he likes knowing of her wicked past and knowing he is skilled enough to deal with it.

    Steven rode Skipper, formerly known as the “one anybody can ride”.

    Steven was holding Skipper to a walk and Summer got ahead. Which wouldn’t have been a huge problem except Marc wanted to go faster and Steven still wanted to walk. That’s when disaster struck. Skipper wanted to run too. He reared and did some wimpy bucks. There was no danger of Steven being thrown. But, he was nervous and done riding.

    Steven got off. Now Skipper was proud as punch. Nostrils flaring, he pranced when I lugged myself up into the saddle cursing (in my head) that I was wearing my too tight skinny jeans.  But, no way was I going to reward him for his antics. Skinny jeans and hot sun notwithstanding, we were going to walk, trot and canter around the enclosure until Skipper didn’t care which horse was first.

    And we did.

    Summer, I am proud to say, was a perfect lady the whole time.

    blog-pictures-5-021.jpg Summer talks & gives kisses.

    For dinner we had grilled pork chops, pasta salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions with sour cream, green beens from the garden, sweet corn from Mrs. Weaver’s vegetable stand, coleslaw (from the grocery deli) and cherry pie (from our farmer’s market).

    dsc00320.jpg Getting the cucumbers and onions ready.

    SOUR CREAM CUCUMBERS

    Sour cream cucumbers are a popular dish at midwest family gatherings. They always make me think of summer and my mother’s garden.

    2 large cucumbers peeled and sliced

    1 onion sliced into rings

    3/4 cup sour cream

    3 tablespoons cider vinegar

    2 tablespoons sugar

    salt and pepper to taste

    In a bowl combine the cucumber and onion. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers. Mix well. Chill.

     UPDATE: Rockyroadoflove has suggested an old southern method to make these cucumbers more crisp and flavorful. She uses salted ice water and says it works wonders for cucumbers. My cucumbers were good as they were, but I think Rockyroadoflove’s technique will make them even better.

    Rockyroadoflove’s cucumber article is here:
    http://rockyroadoflove.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/marinated-cucumbers-in-sour-cream/

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    Sour cream cucumbers with mixed herbs sprinkled over them.

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    Pasta salad with fresh tomatoes and creamy parmesan dressing.

    I cheated with my pasta and used a box of Betty Crocker’s Suddenly Pasta mix. I followed the directions on the box and then added fresh, lightly salted cut up tomatoes. I sprinkled herbs over them also, hoping they would look more homemade.

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    The green beans are snapped and ready and the corn is being shucked.

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    Handsome Buster loves DH and going after cats, deer, racoons and rabbits.

    “Buster doesn’t chase,” says DH, “he’s part Australian Shepherd. He herds.”

    DH talks about the time he saw Buster “herd” 23 deer. According to DH, Buster  flat-out ran after them yipping his deer yip and drove them into our woods.

    “I wish I had a camera,” DH says. “Buster was so proud.”

    Unfortunately, Buster could someday pay a price for his happiest moments.

    Neither Buster, or our other dog, Abby always come when called. Deer, rabbits and squirrels are too enticing. Interesting trails are also irresistable.

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    Temptation…notice the deer tracks on the trail in our woods.

    Sometimes it’s a long time before the dogs come back.  We worry. There are nearby roads and neighbors protecting livestock.  In the fall there is hunting season and hunters.

    Oh, and the smell. Our dogs roll in deer poop. They eat horse poop. Smelly marsh muck clings to feet, legs and bellies. Which makes their indiscretion all the better. The dogs practically smile as they pant.

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    Buster and Abby run through the willows.

    Buster is not only a hunter, he is also a natural herder. Part lab, with a little border collie and a lot of Australian shepherd, Buster often does the snaking neck and goes into a herding crouch. His  “stare down” is intimidating. As jealous as the most suspicious wife Buster guards DH. His “look” effectively keeps rivals out of the same room.

    “Buster…noooooo,” I say, gathering up a cowering Abby or cat wanting to be with us.  Buster retreats still sneaking in his glares.

    “Mom, why does Buster act so nervous around you?” my daughter asked on her last visit.

    “Because, I’m training him. He’s learning to walk on a leash,” I told her. Which didn’t adequately describe the experience of a gagging, gasping and squealing Buster trying to escape.

    “Awwwwww, poor Buster, you’re choking him,” said DH.

    “Don’t say awwwwww in front of him. We need to act like this is no big deal. Maybe if he can’t see you…”

    Miraculously, that worked.

     Soon after DH went into the house Buster  was walking at my side in a way that if it wouldn’t make Cesar proud, was at least respectable. 

    Our other dog, Abby, took to the leash as if  she had gone through obedience school as a pup. Even when visiting the vet, she prances and her tail wags. 

    Sadly, more often than not, snap on a leash and Buster’s head goes down, along with his ears and tail. His eyes are mournful and sad. He looks at DH pleadingly.

    “What have I done to deserve this abuse?”

    I have had to compromise on leashes.

    The dogs are tethered by our voices during the day on walks. After dusk, when the deer and rabbits are out, DH says we will use leashes. He also agreed to leashes during hunting season.

    Admittedly, my insistance that we  use leashes in the veterinary office makes them more horrendous for Buster. He hates the vet. Before leash training, Buster once got away from DH and crawled under our jeep in the veterinary parking lot.

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    DH, Abby, Buster, our woods and our trails.

    Today, on our walk, temptation again won out over training. We hadn’t gone far before the dogs smelled something and took off.

    Fortunately, Abby wasn’t gone long. And DH had an idea.

    Instead of calling and calling for Buster, and then going into the woods trying to find him,  DH turned the other way and headed toward the house.

    As he walked, he praised Abby, “Good girl, Abby. Good dog, Abby.” he said loudly, ” What a good Abby…I like Abby best.”

    Guess who came running?

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    “Beautiful Buster”

    Other posts including Buster are:

    http://jolynna.wordpress.com/2007/07/09/the-cat-ladder/

    http://jolynna.wordpress.com/2007/06/10/the-cat-box/

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    Many of my friends and neighbors hitch up their horses to go shopping.

    In my neighborhood, women aren’t judged by the size of their diamonds. That would be prideful.

    Nor are they judged by designer labels or gowns. Most wear calico dresses they make themselves. Veiled buns are the hairstyle of choice. A luxury car is rarer than a hen’s tooth. Ladies around here hitch up and head for town in buggies.

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    Wildflowers in a field.

    But, those same women whose manner of dress and way of living is known as plain…in their gardens create artistic masterpieces worthy of display in any museum. Beds of lavender phlox spring up through silvery rocks in contrast to pink spring tulips. Clumps of blue salva alternate with red geraniums. Tubs and old wagons overflow with colorful pansies. Red petunias then white petunias then purple ones line long, winding drives. Wildflowers abound in uncultivated fields.

    drive-through-the-country-025.jpg A Mennonite Buggy takes the family to town.

    A ride to town through the country is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s also the source of intimidation and pressure. Because I want to fit in. And before I met DH, the only flower I ever planted was a marigold.

    It died.

    To avoid failure, I bought expensive already done-up hanging baskets. And the prettiest flowers the greenhouse had. Mission accomplished. A piece of cake.

    Only I didn’t know you were supposed to deadhead blooms once they’d wilted. I had no idea how much water impatiens drink. Or that they don’t do well in direct sun. Or that they should be fertilized.

    blog-pictures-007.jpg Birdseeds fall from the feeder and grow into flowers that attract bees, butterflies and lots and lots of goldfinches.

    I put my geraniums on my porch in the shade because I thought they were the nicest looking of my flowers and I wanted the people driving by our house to see them.

    “Your flowers are looking wilted,” DH would say. But, I’d watered them the day before. They didn’t need water every day.

    It is amazing how long and stringy and dried out toward the bottom petunias can get if they are never deadheaded. Or how soon geraniums quit flowering. And then there were the weeds in the front flower bed.

    I didn’t take pictures of my flowers the first year.

    blog-pictures-073.jpg My favorite lilies. There is only one bloom now, but more are budding and on the way.

    The next summer I did better. Because I didn’t want to take chances, I still bought expensive already-done hanging baskets. But, I read the directions on the flower tabs. (Before buying, even.) My mother explained deadheading and gave me starts. On one happy day a lady at the greenhouse complimented me on my flowers after I told her where I lived.

    That was two years ago.

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    “Meet me at my garden gate.”

    This spring, I did my own hanging basket arrangements. Some were even from $5 flats of “not such good looking” flowers and $1.25 geraniums purchased from kids raising funds for their 4-H club.

    There were mistakes.

    I accidently pulled out a bunch of what I thought were weeds. Except, the one weed I missed grew into a tall, lovely and out of place looking, lone flower, right in the middle of the bed. I didn’t have the heart to pull it.

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    Another flower picture.

    My beds are kind of haphazard because I forgot what I planted where last year and perennials have popped up unexpectedly between annuals on sale I couldn’t resist. But, my new flower hobby is colorful, challenging and outdoors. Digging in dirt, strangely enough, gives me the same feeling I used to have when I painted on canvas.

    I am an artist living among many great masters. As religiously as any apprentice, I study their technique. And, I dream and aspire…

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    The cat’s favorite napping place is under the bench. Wonder why?

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    Touching up my Thyme sign in anticipation of spring and summer.

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    Our trumpet vine will soon be blooming. Two years ago, before we rearranged our fencing, the horses ate it.

    blog-pictures-005.jpg The trumpet vine eaters.

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    Simba helping DH play the piano. 

    One of DH’s most treasured possessions is his mother’s piano. Although he only took a few lessons, he spent many an hour, growing up in his parent’s home, playing whatever tunes were popular on the radio. Simba, our big orange tomcat, also has an ear for music and hurries to join DH at the sound of a piano key.

    Not that he is especially wanted.

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    “Jolynna, I’ve got a small problem on my hands,” says DH, “can you come and get him?”

    “He won’t stay with me,” I respond.

    And it’s true. Although Simba was my cat before we were married, Simba is DH’s cat now. Simba meows and scratches the bathroom door should DH be so rude as to close it. Simba follows DH inside. He follows DH out. When DH takes an afternoon nap, usually all three cats join him.

    I tease DH about his animal magnetism. And all of the (ummm…) cats he gets.

    But, actually, DH’s love for animals is the reason we met.

    When I first moved to the midwest, I checked out the Yahoo personals. Just to look. Although I had moved into a rural area, there were 900 men in my age range on Yahoo. But, it was the “must love animals” in DH’s ad that caught my eye. (That and he is nice looking.) I joined Yahoo personals immediately, composed my own profile and sent DH a response.

    “I am looking for a man that is macho enough to know how to fix the things that break in my  house, and sensitive enough to hold my hand during scary movies.” I listed among my requirements. But, there was more…

    It took DH three long days to check his e-mail and answer.

    “Yes,” he said,” yes I have a barn. And yes, I will get you a horse.”

    We were married within three months.

    jolynna.jpg My Yahoo personals’ profile pic. It is still taped to the back of our bathroom mirror. That’s where DH put it when he got the first e-mail.

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