Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Time to retire . . . again!

The sky is definitely moving faster today. As I study the clouds of change, my thoughts race to keep pace. All of a sudden, though not at all unexpectedly, life has sped up and we are now on the far side of Thanksgiving. This year the clock has been ticking down to Art's third retirement and I wonder what this one holds in store for us?

He retired in 1973 from the menswear industry and we moved to the farm where he started his electrical parts rebuilding company. He retired from that business after 16 years in 1989 to become a judge in 1994. He might have remained on the bench for a fourth term but for the mandatory retirement age thing, for this was the job he really loved.

But really, you ask, what will he do? What will you both do? What will you EACH do? What will be different? What will remain the same? How will you spend your time? Will you tackle new projects, take up new interests, travel, move away? So many questions. It is hard to imagine the future. But life speeds along a linear timeline and forces us to watch the road ahead and try to straddle the potholes.

We have always lived our lives without plans. We mainly go with the Cosmic Flow. That way things feel right, and we have made our life choices based on feeling and intuition. So, I expect that nothing will change. I expect that everything will change. I expect, too, that we will embrace whatever does change as we have always done.

Retirement - he has no wonderment about this subject. He has done this twice before. He is excited! gleeful! playful, SURE, willing, and! Speak to him about his plans and his face lights up. Ask him what he will do every day when he no longer has his career-burden to carry and he will reply, "everything... and nothing!" You just know that whatever it is, he will enjoy every minute.

But that's the way he has always lived - in the moment, in the present and in full, glorious gratitude for a God-granted wondrous life to live on Earth, in freedom, with humor, spirit and exuberance, with love and in friendship, with respect and in abundant good health. What more could anyone wish for? Not another blessed thing!

I doubt we will travel. I doubt we will alter our lifestyle. Maybe we will write a book... if so, it will be a funny one! And I know what his comment will be should you ask him for one. He will tell you, "Have no expectations and you will never be disappointed."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Soup Season.....

The first fire of fall is always a noteworthy event for us. The warmth from the woodstove on a chilly, blustery day marks the change of seasons as surely as the colorful falling leaves, acorns under foot, skeins of migrating geese, and the dog finally ceasing to shed as he begins to grow his new winter coat. We fired up our new Avalon woodstove for the first time ever on October 1st. It was installed back in May and we were instructed to light several small fires initially to 'season' the new stove, after which we could use it unrestrainedly as we wished. The stove is a dream to light; it takes right off into a roaring fire... no smoking, no fanning to create a flame. The chimney was built correctly too. What a relief! I now have my Girl Scout fireplace - no electronic controls, no fans needed; just a basic heat source that will warm the house during emergencies or very cold weather without electricity or other extraneous technological contraptions.

Art is away at continuing education school this week and I've been home with just the animals for company. Mo and I took a long, exhilarating hike along the lake, stopping to feed the fish, then up through the harvested fields to the high spot on the farm from which you can see clear to Heaven! Most of the leaves have already fallen, helped by the strong winds and torrential rains over the past week. But some of the trees have yet to give up their bounty. All of the oaks lining the back field are still holding onto their leaves and their acorns; many maples along the way are still resplendent in their red and gold mantles. The air smells earthy and musty and crisp all at the same time. Gone are the swarms of gnats and other flying bugs though the occasional lazy bee can still be seen gathering the last of the season's pollen from some sheltered wildflowers.

I didn't light a fire in the woodstove today as it really wasn't cold enough for one, but the cooler weather and approaching cold front did give me the urge to make a stockpot of soup for the freezer. I have been craving my favorite, Chicken Chowder with Chipotle (Chupe de Pollo con Chipotle). I took some pictures of the preparation. I thought I'd share the recipe as there are some friends here who are sure to ask for it! I usually double this recipe as it's just as easy to make twice as much and I always regret not having made more...

You will need the following for a Dutch oven, but if you have a large stockpot, double this recipe to make 1-1/2 gallons:
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
Olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
6 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast
2 medium red potatoes (about 12 ounces) cut into half-inch pieces
1/2 pound fresh slender green beans or use a 15 ounce can, whichever is easier
1 (15.5-ounce) can white or golden hominy, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup whipping cream (or half and half to lighten the fat)
Salt to taste

1. Remove 1 chile and 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce from the can; reserve the remaining chiles and sauce for another use. (I freeze them in little baggies so I always have them on hand.) Finely chop the chile and set the chile and the sauce aside separately. (Hint: wear rubber gloves when handling chiles and remove all the seeds and veins inside as that is where the heat is stored!)

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven (or stockpot if doubling the recipe) over medium heat. Add chopped chile, onion, carrots, celery, cumin, oregano, thyme and garlic; cook 7 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Add chicken, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken and cool slightly. Shred the chicken with 2 forks, cover and keep warm.

Remove the pan from heat and let stand 5 minutes. If you are using a blender or food processor, puree the broth mixture, a third at a time, until all of the broth is pureed. (I use an immersion blender so I can puree the broth right in the pot.) Return the pureed broth mixture to the pot. Stir in the potatoes, green beans and hominy. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Stir in the chicken and the cream and simmer 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved adobo sauce and salt to taste. ENJOY!

Yield: 8 servings (about 1-1/3 cups).
Calories: 246. Fat: 6.2 grams. Protein: 24.5 grams. Carb: 21.8 grams. Fiber: 3.5 grams.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

5773 ... a New Year

My fervent prayer for the New Year - that these negative human traits and acts be abolished from our lives and our hearts, our minds and our planet .....  fear, pollution of any kind, religious dogmas, violence, capital punishment and prisons, male superiority, social caste systems, cruelty to any life form, poverty, mind control and closed minds, greed, jealousy, envy, cheating, prejudice, corruption, harmful chemicals and drugs, political haranguing and bureaucratic red tape, wanton destruction, health afflictions, anger, ruthlessness, divisiveness, self-centeredness and egotism, dishonesty, military mentality, weaponry, addictions, pornography, homelessness, slave trade, media control, corporate monopolies ... God bless us, every one!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Serendipitous September ...

My emails this morning brought a delightful surprise from one of my most talented friends of the blogosphere. Patsye, to whose charming blog "Whimseytopia" I subscribe, awarded me an honor (pictured at the right, and now ensconced on my blog with my other 'gadgets'), along with the following deeply moving words:

 " ... Of all the blogs I follow - and there are not that many - you were one of the first. And if I recall, you taught me how to link to you. That was a big step for me. I was such a neophyte. I still am. But in these 9-10 months I've learned much about the world of blogging, life on Jolico Farm, fracking, and how to make the blogosphere a better place - I hope. You're the best Max. I think of you every day - especially when I see one of those horrifying commercials about gas deposits in western Pa. It must be driving you mad.

I made this award and hope you'll accept it and use it on your blog. And share it. There's nothing required. No lists. No secrets to divulge. Just a huge thank you for all your posts, and your friendship. I would be singing like this crow if I stumbled upon this image, given to someone I don't know by someone else I don't know - all because we're kindred spirits."

I am smiling, my heart is full of the warmth of Patsye's kindness; I am very touched. To learn one has made a difference in the life of another person is a great honor in itself. To unexpectedly receive an award and the beautifully heartfelt words that accompany it, well, that just totally made my September!!! Thanks Patsye, you are such a special soul; you shine!

Among other serendipitous things that have occurred this month - I took on a part-time job! Yes, I have returned to the ranks of the employed as an editorial assistant at the Somerset Daily American newspaper. I work from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, with an occasional Saturday thrown in when I'm needed. My duties are varied but I feel like an integral part of the team that publishes Somerset's daily morning newspaper. Those who know me and my love of words (and newspapers) will understand why this type of work is so enjoyable to me. I have a large group of very kind, very capable co-workers who are eager to be helpful to a newspaper neophyte. New opportunities for learning await me every day I step into the newsroom. We use Macintosh computers and software programs with which I was totally unfamiliar but have come to like. While I've been typing and editing obituaries, announcements, school menus, letters to the editor and other items of interest, interspersed with lots of proofreading, I look forward to learning how to enhance photos in Photoshop and work with In-Design, both programs I've used before but never worked with in their Mac versions. I'm sure there will be other interesting responsibilities that will come my way in time.

Just about the time I started my new job, I received another serendipitous honor from my friends at Sipesville VFD. In 2009 I had written a FEMA grant for a new tanker. The estimated cost for the truck proved to be too expensive and the grant was not awarded. So in 2010, we sharpened our pencils and re-submitted that grant for a 3000 gallon tanker with a more economical price tag. We were notified at the beginning of 2011 that the grant had been awarded. The truck was ordered up, built in Missouri and was finally delivered at the end of August. I was invited to share in the delivery celebration at the fire hall on the evening the truck arrived. Imagine my surprise as Mandy Shroyer led me over to show me some of the details on the truck and she pointed out two small but very important emblems. On both sides of the truck, just behind the cab doors, emblazoned in gold for all the world to see was the prettiest, wholehearted 'Thank-you' a grant writer was ever rewarded with! I am blessed to continue to be a part of this wonderful group of volunteers since writing my first grant for them in 2003. In turn, they have honored me in the most rewarding way with their deepest gratitude.

Beyond all of the excitement of the world at the end of the lane, life at Jolico Farm follows its familiar patterns. Through a wetter than normal early and late summer with a very dry mid-summer, we have had an abundant harvest and squirreled away lots of tomato products, peppers, pesto, potatoes, pickles onions, garlic, carrots and pears. Our flowers were spectacular this year! Our woodstove and chimney installation earlier this spring and our gazebo rebuild were our two major projects of 2011. An early August trip to Washington D.C. to see our nephew Sgt. Michael Blank off to his new posting in Germany was another highlight for us. Now, as we put another summer behind us, we are left with these beautiful memories:

Art, Mike and Hank in D.C.

Wonderful veggies!
Early morning wonders...

Spectacular colors and scents.

Huge elephant ear plant!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our 15 Minutes of Fame ... this article about us appeared in The Somerset Daily American on our 42nd wedding anniversary!

VICKI ROCK Daily American Staff Writer
SOMERSET PA, August 25, 2011 —

Arthur and Maxine Cook, Jolico Farm, Somerset, have been gardeners for 42 years. Like many gardeners, they are often faced with what to do with their excess produce after eating and preserving much of it.

A writer on a gardening blog that Maxine was reading mentioned the Ample website. She visited the website and clicked on the link for people who have excess produce to find a food pantry that would accept it. The nearest food pantries listed were in Ligonier, Acme and Latrobe.

“This is a great idea — gardeners with excess produce to give it to food pantries — that’s fabulous,” she said. “But none in Somerset County were listed.”

Jeffrey Masterson, executive director of the Community Action Partnership for Somerset County Tableland Services, said food pantries in Somerset County do accept fresh produce as long as people call the food pantries first.

“With the cutbacks in federal and state funding, we appreciate fresh produce people are offering,” he said.

Arthur Cook pointed out that some people may not be aware of how to prepare fresh produce. Masterson agreed and said the younger families especially may not know how to use everything. If people could provide written directions as to how to use various items, that would be helpful.

“The elderly do know how to prepare the vegetables, and how to preserve them,” Maxine Cook said. “Friends don’t like to see me coming in the summer because they know that I’m bringing them vegetables — I print out recipes and leave them with the bags of zucchini. Wasting food bothers me terribly. It breaks my heart to throw out produce, but I can only use, can and freeze so much. Most people who produce food work hard.”

Arthur Cook said their zucchini plants produce 30 pounds a day during the peak season and he ends up composting 98 percent of it.

If the food pantries aren’t willing to accept all the excess produce, the Cooks think it would be nice if a local church or other organization would offer space in a building. Gardeners could bring in their extra produce and anyone who wants it — not just people eligible to use food pantries — could go and pick it up.

“I just think with the cost of food — think of how much it has gone up in the past three months, six months, one year — people would be happy to get it,” Maxine Cook said. “If you don’t garden, take the food. There could be one in each community. A committee could get together to organize it. This could become a movement, or a new practice.”

Her husband agreed.

“You can’t stay healthy without fresh food,” he said.

A similar project is being planned. The Rev. Barry Ritenour, pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church, said a Produce to People group is being started in Somerset. A monthly distribution of fresh produce will be available for residents of Somerset County. This produce will be excess from local farms. Details of the first distribution will be announced soon.

“The farmers who are willing to donate will have a contact person and we will send in gleaners to pick the produce,” Ritenour said. Gleaners are people who go into a field and pick up produce left behind by machinery.

Produce to People in Somerset County is being sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Feeding America, Somerset County Farmers’ Market, Somerset County Community Action Partnership, Somerset Area Ministries and St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.
Copyright © 2011, Daily American

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Second Mother's First Wedding Ring ...

She passed away in 2000. While cleaning out her dresser drawer I found a slim platinum band engraved with the initials "IMT to FK 3/10/46". The sight of it stopped me in my tracks and I sat on the edge of her bed marveling at its simple beauty. Engraved on all of it's surfaces with a delicate herringbone pattern, it sparkled as if it were studded with a million brilliant lights. It looked as if it had never been worn, and indeed it had not in more than 50 years. I knew about this ring but I had not seen it before. I didn't realize she might have kept it all these years. She divorced her first husband within a year of their marriage. She once told me he reneged on his promise to have children with her and she, an only child, could not imagine living a lifetime without children.

My second mother is how I refer to this woman who married my father two years after my birth mother's death. 'Stepmother' would never do justice to this mother who scooped me up at the age of 2-1/2 and called me her very own forever afterwards. She met my father on a blind date, fixed up by mutual friends. She said she fell in love with him after he introduced her to me. I guess we made a complete and compelling package, my dad and me, and we three became an instant family.

I slipped the ring onto my finger that day in her bedroom. It was as light as air and as lovely as my memories of her. I wore the ring for the next ten years, and each time I looked at it I was reminded of her.

Last week, after tossing a stick into the lake for my dog Moses to retrieve, I realized that the ring was gone. It had simply vanished. In that moment of loss I imagined that when I had flung the stick far out into the deep water for the dog, I had cast the ring from my finger as well. I felt an immediate and profound sense that I had lost a physical connection with my mother. My brain told me that it was futile to think I could find the ring under the water, and I sat by the shore thinking fanciful thoughts to comfort myself ... maybe a fish will swallow the ring and one day I will catch the fish and the ring will come back to me; if it is meant to be mine, the ring will return; maybe I am no longer needy of physical reminders of my mother....

My finger was naked for a week and many times each day I missed the physical presence of the ring. I still felt it's ethereal energy circling my finger and I mourned its absence. Many times I told myself that I was experiencing loss and that I must learn some constructive ways to deal with this. After all, it was just a ring. Yes, but also on some level, I was experiencing anew the loss of my mother. Ah, the old familiar feelings of loss and having to let go. I do not handle loss well, it having been a recurring theme throughout my life.

Then yesterday in the bedroom, something small and shiny caught my eye just before I swept it up into the vacuum cleaner. There, wedged in the thick carpet at the side of the bed was the ring!! It had indeed come back to me. I was flushed with relief, delight! I found myself again sitting on the edge of a bed marveling at the appearance of the ring. It must have slipped from my finger while I was tucking in the sheets but I didn't miss it until I whipped that stick into the lake. So strange... but I am comforted by the fact that sometimes what seems lost is merely misplaced. Sometimes loss is temporary, not permanent. Sometimes the sadness of loss turns into the joy of reunion. I think Eckhart Tolle is telling us that there is no loss... "When life takes away the forms that you thought were the foundation of your life, what's left? The life that needs no foundation; that is the foundation. The formless. The essence."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The First Ever Wedding Held At Jolico Farm...

The wedding of Ellen Yun-ju Jeon and Nick Mazerov went off without a hitch on June 4th at Jolico Farm. It was a beautiful wedding, as beautiful as the couple who were married here that day. Much preparation and attention to detail went into this international event - the marriage of a Korean Beauty to an All-American Guy!

They met in Korea where Nick went to teach English to Korean students a couple of years ago. They fell in love.....what more is there to tell? They decided to marry and did so, first in Korea and then here in the USA. When Nick's parents, Mike and Connie called to ask Art to perform the ceremony, we were delighted to oblige and offered Jolico Farm as the setting for the wedding. We've known Nick since he was born (30+ years) and it was an honor and a pleasure to host his wedding at our home. It was indeed an honor for Art to preside over the ceremony, as he prides himself in performing marriages that "stick".

Enjoy some pictures of the event while reading excerpts from the Judge's words of wisdom to the couple.

We are gathered here today in the sight of God and in the presence of this company to join together Nick and Ellen in holy matrimony. Marriage involves more than the joining of two hearts. It is the joining of two families.
The key to true happiness and harmony in marriage involves patience, consideration, tolerance and giving. Learn to be each other’s best friend. Work together as a team. Find what each of you does best and make that your major responsibility. Never forget to express your love for one another, not just with words but with actions. Love is the language of the heart and it is often non-verbal. May your love for one another radiate out in all directions and touch all.

Life is not easy. There are many challenges ahead of you. Learn to find strength in each other. Respect each other’s space and permit each other room to grow. Remember, you are sharing your lives here on Earth but each of you is an individual. You are not the property of one another but free spirits, children of our Divine Father. Do not place your happiness in the acquisition of material wealth for this is an empty hole that will not ever be filled. Our Divine Father always gives us what we need. Rather, make kindness and sharing your goals in life. Help those who are less fortunate. Be of service to all.

 Do you Nick, take Ellen to be your wife, to love her with all your heart and soul, to forsake all others, to love her in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, to put her needs before your own, to be kind and gentle to her for as long as you both shall live? If so, say "I do".

Do you Ellen take Nick to be your husband, to love him with all your heart and soul, to forsake all others, to love him in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, to put his needs before your own, to be kind and gentle to him for as long as you both shall live? If so, say "I do".

Then, so as Nick and Ellen have pledged these sacred vows of marriage, one to the other, in the presence of God and this company, by the powers granted me by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I declare you are, this day, husband and wife. What God has joined together, let no one put asunder.

hors d'oeuvres

.... Champagne Punch & Cocktails for all!

A brief rain shower refreshed the crowd, which sheltered under the porches.

...until dinner was served on the patio!

The gorgeous flowers!!

....the lovely setting.

The Chef du Village - (the village headman!)

....the honored guests.

The happy couple!!

More honored guests!

Happy parents of the bride.

Cutting the cake ....... yum!!

...and they lived happily ever after!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Busy days of spring 2011...

Old square nails, snail shells, white Macaw egg & Robin egg  
I came in from weeding around the Daylily border on the shady side of the house on the first nice and sunny day we had here in a long time and started this blog post. It's taken me 2 weeks to finish and publish it before my self-imposed deadline of the last day of May. Friends have been calling and emailing asking for an update. Well, here it is!

Temperatures have really been heating up here these last weeks. I had my hair buzzed short last week as I just couldn't stand the humidity from the constant rainy weather, mist and fog that we've had all spring. We've not had any late frosts once the nights started to get above freezing and the fruit trees went through their blossoming without any problems. The pear and apple trees all have small fruits forming now and are leafing out nicely. Our garden is all planted. Honestly, I don't think there is room in there for even one more plant! Everything is up and growing already. We put in 18 tomato plants that Art started from heirloom seed in early March. They all survived the transition to the outdoors and are doing great; some even have blossoms on them! Our potatoes are up as well. We put in Yukon Gold, reds and some Russets for baking and french fries. We put in several types of small round squash like 8-Ball Zucchini, a yellow pool-ball sized summer squash called One-Ball, and one that is supposed to be square and blocky called Piccolo . I bought the seeds from Territorial Seed Co and we're anxious to taste them! I also got some seeds and planted some Moon and Stars Watermelon. This is a midnight blue watermelon that is supposed to have yellow stars on the skin with one large yellow moon! The flesh is red and sweet, but I can hardly wait to see the unusually colored fruits. Other goodies out there are the usual radishes, lettuce, spinach, arugula, basil, parsley, cilantro, peppers, eggplant, beets, carrots, kale, onions, garlic, cucumbers and Brussels sprouts. I've probably forgotten some things as it is a very full garden patch.

Our newly sown grass came in lush and thick this spring around the new patios after we replanted it 3 times! Art just mowed it for the first time this week and took down the temporary fencing we had up to keep the dogs off of the seeded areas. After so much mud, we finally have quite a nice lawn. We've been spending a lot of time moving plants around in the perennial garden. When the concrete guys built the patios, we moved a lot of the plants back away from the edges of the gardens so they wouldn't get bulldozed under. Well, we're moving some of them back to the bare edges again but also bought a lot of new plants to try out and also to fill in the bare spots. The good thing is that with all the rain we've had, including some incredibly hard and long downpours, we have had NO water in the basement! So the new drains are working just fine.

We had the new three story chimney built and just this week installed the new wood heating stove in a corner of the kitchen. The stove is an American made Avalon Arbor and a real beauty! Though it looks black in this picture, it is cast iron with a porcelain ceramic finish in an espresso brown color. The shiny ceramic makes it easy to wipe clean and prevents the cast iron from rusting. This is a highly energy efficient wood heating stove that re-burns the smoke before it is allowed to escape up the chimney. We plan to use it as an adjunct to our Tarm wood hot water furnace so we don't have to run the oil furnace to supplement the heat from the Tarm when temperatures are very cold. We burn over seven cords of wood in a heating season. With the cost of fuel oil at almost $4.00 a gallon, we don't want to use much of that if we can help it!

We are planning to throw a wedding here at Jolico Farm on June 4th and we are in countdown mode here with final preparations taking up much of every waking moment! The gardens are finally taking shape. We've planted many new perennials and filled out the borders with colorful geraniums. A new Eden Climbing Rose bush has replaced some old never-blooming Wisteria on one side of the arbor. Hopefully the Eden Rose will like that spot more than the Wisteria did! It should be a wonderful occasion and a beautiful happening. I hope to have pictures to share in a couple of weeks when all has been put back in order, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Moses, Art and I are SO happy that it's finally spring!

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's All About The Money... Thoughts On Earth Day 2011

How much money would you sell out for? How much money would it take to induce you to sell the gas rights under your home, knowing that the process of extracting the shale gas will probably pollute your well water with poisons, render it undrinkable and contaminate it with toxins for 1000 years? The surface would smell of methane leaking through cracks in the ground. No bank would grant a mortgage for you to sell your land with a gas well on it. But my question is, how much money would it take for you to agree to allow a gas company to move onto your land, knowing that this will happen?

The Earth is a living entity, not just rocks and dirt. It is alive. It suffers just like we do when it is tortured by uncaring, greedy, rapists who seek to suck out the riches in exchange for killing life on the surface. Does that sound a little too over dramatic to you? Many people are eager to trade their piece of Mother Earth for money. They will readily agree to make a quick buck in exchange for the ultimate destruction of their property. That tells me that they care less about the Earth than they care about the almighty dollar.

How fickle are we careless with our covenants? We do not own the Earth any more than we can own the air or the sky or the planets. We are trustees, stewards. We have the fiduciary responsibility to pass this Earth on to future generations in a condition that will allow them to live here, grow their food here, and draw clean water here. Anything less is a crime against nature and God.

On this Earth Day, 2011, I pray that we come to our senses before we have traded away the mostly precious gift with which we have been entrusted, for a handful of beads. God gave us a gift of 86,400 seconds this Earth Day. Have you used one to say 'thank you' for the beauty and sustenance of Mother Earth?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's A Dog's Life. . .

Readers will know that Mimi is a black Standard Poodle who is the BFF of our white German Shepherd Moses. They will also know that Mimi spends more than a little time at our place throughout the year. She has been here with us to share blizzards, heat waves, wild thunderstorms in the night, dog days in August, spring flowers blooming and harvest moons. She often spends several idyllic weeks in a row with us. Other times she may only stop by for an afternoon hike and some dinner.

Mimi and Mo share the same schedule. They eat the same food and divvy up the two dog beds that are a permanent fixture in our bedroom. They each have a couch in our living room and they know exactly which couch is theirs. They nap together, bark together at the mail-lady, run and play and chase the barn cats together, enjoy the lake together. And like a long-married couple, even their er.. um.. bathroom habits coincide…

In our house, we cannot casually utter the ‘Mimi’ word. If her name accidentally crosses our lips, Moses immediately takes up his station at the lookout window and will wait the entire day for Mimi’s expected visit. The same is true at Mimi’s house. Mo’s name cannot be casually spoken unless a visit is in the immediate offing.
Of course, the highlights of their days here on the farm are rambling hikes that take us across hills, woods, fields and streams. Oh, the wondrous smells and sights this land contains for two high-energy canines as they race ahead to explore the many mud puddles, stands of burr-filled brush and miles of rabbit and deer trails on our daily expeditions!

The terrain is ever changing. The crops grow tall and conceal wildlife for dogs whose natural born inclination it is to flush and chase. Toward the end of their nose-to-dirt, zigzagging runs, we arrive at the lake, its cool, pure water so refreshing to drink and stand in, belly deep… perhaps even a swim is in order today. Who says that being treated like a dog is a bad thing?

Mimi and Moses would like to remind all humans that it is unlawful in Pennsylvania for owners or keepers of any dog to house the dog for any period of time in a drum, barrel, refrigerator or freezer regardless of the material of which the drum, barrel, refrigerator or freezer is constructed. Also, it shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep the dog confined within the premises of the owner, firmly secured by means of a collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premises on which it is secured or under the reasonable control of some person, or when engaged in lawful hunting, exhibition, performance events or field training.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Will Spring Ever Come?

Icicles cling to the pines on the last day of March, 2011. "Out Like A Lion" this year, winter still resides in the high country of Pennsylvania in the waning days of March. The nightly news warns of a Nor'easter for the east coast of the US, with up to two feet of snow expected in New England on April 1st. We will get a taste of that here, too. We are all April's Fools this year!

More disturbing is the radiation being discovered in milk, in the air and in the ground. Its unique signature, Iodine 131, reveals that it blew in from Japan, fell on the countryside and was consumed by cows. Humans are at the end of the food chain, so this poses a 'tip-of-the-iceberg' problem for America and ultimately for the rest of the world.

The fight for freedom escalates in the Middle East with the struggle in Libya keeping us riveted to the talking heads. That part of the world seems so far away, but we are inexorably tied to them by our insatiable thirst for oil. Do we really care about the terrorized people there, or is it the price per gallon of gasoline that gives this such worrisome prominence on our news?

Here in the high valleys, the snowmelt reveals bare, frozen ground. The sun gives the illusion of warmth and the promise of greening grass. We wait, our pale faces turned towards the bright, cold sunlight. The landscape resembles a desert, despite plentiful moisture. It is the grip of cold that will not allow the warmth to seep into the ground, into our winter-weary bones.

We busy ourselves with the ritual repairs of spring; nailing up the sagging gutters, rolling out the deep ruts made by the snowplow in the soft berm of the lane, replacing the lagging solar tracker motor loosened by the incessant buffeting of the winds, replanting the grass seed that didn't grow when we planted it too late last fall. We fuss over the tender eggplant and tomato seedlings that will bear the succulent veggie fruits of summer. It's too early yet to bring out the patio furniture, the chairs where we will sit and bask in the summer sun, the tables where we will dine alfresco on grilled delicacies and fresh produce.

We make plans for the next warm day. We should think about bringing out the planters; think about giving them a good scrub and filling them with soil in preparation for the flowers we will grow. We get out the push-broom and brush the muddy dog prints from the walkways, sweep up the falling pin oak leaves where the swirling wind has heaped them into piles in the sheltered corners of the house.The barn cats sit hunched on the picnic table, taking shelter from the biting west winds, alert for a brave chipmunk, vole or field mouse to venture close enough to provide them with fresh meat. We all wait patiently for spring.