Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2017 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mystery Vine

About a month ago, a mysterious vine started growing on a low-lying limb of the pin oak.

The vine grew pretty fast, but it wasn't kudzu. We decided to take a closer look.

It had big leaves and some small flowers on stalks.

A variety of bees seemed to like the flowers.

The vine has  tendrils that attach themselves to branches and leaves of the pin oak.

It also has odd little pods that grow beneath the leaves.

 I asked some friends on Facbook what it might be. Guesses included kudzu, wild grape, fox grape, moonseed vine, and moonflower. A few folks suggested wild cucumber, which seems the most likely possibility, but a wild cucumber has a different flower. Most likely my mystery vine is a bur cucumber—but my vine looks slightly different from pictures I found online.

Whatever it is, its days are numbered on the pin oak.

So—is it a bur cucumber, or what?

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Friday, September 15, 2017

A Place in the Sun

by Tanner

Today was a good day to stretch out in my place in the sun and play with a big feather that my daddy gave me.

He said it fell out of a turkey. The turkey didn't come back for it, so it is mine now.

Anyhow, right in front of the sliding glass door is a purrfect spot fot a cat. My cat-tower is nearby, and I can look ot the door and watch stuff. And the sun shines in real bright, so it is a good place for a cat. Also, I can push things under the chair if I want to keep them safe.

I like to rub my face all over the big  feather. That makes it mine.

I rub it on the back of my head, too. Sometimes my kitty Arlo wants to join me. I raised Arlo from a little bitty kitty, and he is a big cat now.

When Arlo first came here, I had to teach him how to play with a big feather. I wrote about it in this blog post from two years ago.

After Arlo got tired cuddling with me, Alfreda (who is Arlo's kitty) came along to see what I was doing. She wanted my big feather, but I wouldn't share because she would tear it up. 

Alfreda tried to distract me by looking out the window like there was something out there I ought to see, but I didn't fall for her trick.

Finally Alfreda and Arlo left me alone so I could enjoy my big feather and my place in the sun all by myself.


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Childhood Food

This meme, which has been making its way around FaceBook recently, made me recall food from my childhood from the late 40s through the 50s in Roanoke, Virginia:

How many of these do I remember?

Pasta: I don't recall the word "pasta" being used when I was a kid. The only kinds I knew were macaroni and the little letters of the alphabet in soup. Never had spaghetti or lasagna until I was in college, even though Chef Boyardee had been advertising on TV in the 50s.

Curry: Never ate anything curied until I was an adult. Don't particularly care for it now.

Take-away: Yeah, it was math! We said "take away" instead of "minus" in elementary school. Is "take-away" the same as "take-out"? "Take-out" food didn't exist when I was a kid—at least I never heard of it then. But then, we didn't eat out, except for an occasional hot dog at a dimestore lunch counter downtown. I suppose my first experience with "take-out" was getting a Kenny Burger at the stand on Williamson Road as I walked home from William Fleming High School when I was in the 8th grade, or maybe it was the 9th grade. Anyhow, the price was right.

Pizza: Another food I never ate until college. Some folks called it "pizza pie." I can remember getting my mother to buy a frozen pizza from Mick-or-Mack in 66 or 67 when I was home on break. I don't remember what brand it was, but I do remember that it wasn't too many years until pizza ads appeared on TV.  I remember eating pizza at Pizza Hut on Hershberger Road in the early 70s when I was back in Roanoke. Soon there were other pizza places or restaurants that served pizza.

Bananas and oranges: We had these year round. Fresh oranges were the source for orange juice, which Mama squeezed herself using this juicer. (I mentioned it on my post "Old Things" a few years ago.)

We also sometimes sucked on oranges that had a hole cut in the top. After we'd sucked out the juice, we peeled apart the skin and ate the remaining pulp. A little messy, but good. I saw fresh pineapple in the grocery store, but usually we had the rings that came in a can. Mama made good pineapple upside down cake with those rings.

Chips: Yep, they were plain. The best ones I remember from my childhood were fresh off the conveyor belt at the Lay's Potato Chip Company on Williamson Road. I'd gone there with my daddy when I was about five. The man grabbed a paper bag, scooped up a bagful of still hot chips, and handed them to me. I ate them on the way home. When I was in junior high and high school, a handful of chips wrapped in wax paper was in my lunchbag every day.

Oil and fat: Mama fried food in Crisco, which was supposed to be an improvement on lard. I don't remember oil until "vegetable oil" came along later. I never used olive oil until 10 or 15 years ago. Now it's a staple in my kitchen.

Other stuff: Mama made tea from Lipton tea-bags, we never had sugar cubes (way too posh for us!), and I'd never heard of yogurt until I was an adult. I'd heard of  people eating "shish-kebobs" on TV shows, but we never had any.

I never heard of broccoli, brussel sprouts, or cauliflower until I was in college—where I also discovered blueberry pie and tuna casserole. I ate my first zucchini in 1971 and my first eggplant a few years later. I don't think I ate a bagel until the 80s. Food we ate was limited to what grew in our garden or what was easily obtainable. Mama and Grandma always had gardens and canned their surplus. Here's a 1932 picture of Grandma in her garden on Watts Avenue in 1932:

Our main vegetables in the 40s and 50s were potatoes, corn, green beans, tomatoes, peas, lima beans, cabbage, and yellow squash. Potatoes were rarely baked, most often sliced into round slices and fried. Squash was sliced and fried, too. Sometimes we had fried okra. Most lunches and suppers year round featured at least two—and sometimes all three—of the following veggies: potatoes, corn, and green beans.

Besides canning tomatoes, corn, and green beans, Mama canned chow-chow, pickles, sauerkraut, and pickled beets, but I didn't like those as a kid. Consequently, I didn't have much variety in my meals.

For meat, we had chicken (always fried, never baked), beef-steak (which was pounded with a hammer-like tool to tenderize it) and then dipped in flour before it was fried, salmon cakes (always fried), hot dogs (always boiled) with a piece of bread wrapped around it for a bun, ham (slices were fried; a whole ham was baked), and—at Thanksgiving or Christmas—a turkey, which was baked. The turkey was never stuffed; dressing (never called "stuffing") made from white bread was served as a separate dish. Once in a while, we might have fried fish. Sometimes we ate canned Spam (fried, of course) or bologna (pronounce "baloney" sandwiches. We never ate lamb or duck or lobster or shrimp. We might have oysters—dipped in cornmeal and fried—once or twice during the winter.

Most food was made from scratch, the exception being canned soup which was just re-heated.

Bread was white sandwich bread—usually Merita. No one ate brown bread or bread with "whole grain" in it. Sometimes there were biscuits at breakfast or rolls at dinner—especially after "brown and serve" rolls becme available. Once in a while, there'd be homemade "light rolls" which were crusty on top and bottom but soft inside. They were wonderful. I blogged about Grandma's light bread recipe a decade ago on this blog post.

We didn't eat a big variety of foods in the 50s, but we didn't go hungry.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Cutting Corn 2017

Across the nation bad things are happening—floods in Texas, wildfire in Montana and other states out west, the threat of deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.

In my neighborhood, about all that's appening is corn being cut for silage. The field across from me was cut yesterday. Last week ago, the GMO corn (which needs an application of Round-Up to grow) towered over the road.

Yesterday, the cutting began.

I'd been taking a nap when the rumbling of a tractor and trucks woke me up. A truck pulls alongside the tractor that's cutting the corn.

When the truck is full, it moves away and another takes its place.

Meanwhile the tractor keeps moving. So does a truck.

And the pattern repeats. Over and over. . . . 

By evening, most of the field is bare.

Silage blown off from the over-filled trucks litters the road.

Today, except for a few stalks that the tractor missed, the field is bare.

Except for a few buzzards that glean any little critters killed in the harvest.

This corn silage will be used to feed the cattle at a big dairy farm down the road. Of course, traces of  the glyphosate needed to grow the genetically modified corn will end up in the milk

And it will end up in the milk drinkers, too.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Maggie and the Eclipse

"Me and My Mommy View the Eclipse"
by Maggie, a geriatric border collie

Some of you who've read this blog for a long time will remember I used to post when I was younger. If so, you remember that I decided to be a kennel dog whan I was about a year old even though my mommy had bought me to be a house dog. A couple of months ago, after a decade of being a kennel dog, I made a career change and became a house dog again. A few months ago, I had to have surgery on my ear, so I got used to being in the house while I recuperated.

I don't stay in the house all the time. I make Mommy take me outside. She has to use a golf-cart because she can't walk good so I walk beside it. She keeps me on a leash because she knows I might slip away if she wasn't watching. Anyhow, Mommy said were going to see an eclipse. I wasn't sure what one was, but it involved going outside. Once we were out, Mommy looked at the sky but she said there were too many clouds.

She said the eclipse might be behind these clouds.

 I looked around but I didn't see anything.

I did see some blue sky toward Smith Mountain, but she said that the sun wasn't over that way.

She said the eclipse was taking place behind these clouds, so we were missing it. I still couldn't figure out what it was.

Before long, Chloe saw us looking at the sky and decided to join us. 

I like Chloe better than the house cats because she doesn't mess with me the way certain house cats do. She doesn't try to take my toys like Alfreda does or smack me like Arlo does or—Oh, I guess I'm getting off-track. Anyhow, Chloe and I sat down to wait for whatever Mommy was waiting for.

Waiting for the eclipse was boring, so we took a little nap. 

After we'd napped for a while, I asked Chloe what an eclipse was supposed to be, and she said it was when the moon blocked out the sun, but the sun still shone around the edges. "It looks like the end of my tail," Chloe said, and held up her tail to show me. 

I thanked Chloe for her explanation. "You're welcome," she said. "Always glad to help out a good dog."

Back up in the sky, not much was happening. Mommy said she could see a little sliver of sun every once in a while, but I didn't see anything.

Chloe had some cat-work to do so she left, but I had to stay with Mommy. Finally Mommy got tired of waiting too.

I don't see why she couldn't have just looked at Chloe's tail. It would have saved a lot of time.

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