Category Archives: Animals

Big families, big turkeys, big memories

Here’s the thing about Thanksgiving. If you grow up with a sizable extended family, you figure it’s just expected to have a huge deal with more food than anyone can eat, lots of kids running underfoot, lots of adults shooing kids outside to play, and too many cooks in the kitchen. You also learn to pretend that you’re busy, because if you’re not, you will quickly be assigned some unwanted job. Like setting the table.

Trust me on this. I grew up in one of those semi-large families, with a set of grandparents, four children and spouses, 20 grandchildren with an age range of at least 20 years. This meant that eventually, the 20 grandchildren expanded to include some significant others.

Thanksgiving rotated between the three homes in our immediate area — my grandparents’ farm, an aunt and uncle’s farm, and our house. But then…as always happens, those 20 kids grow up, get married, and often move out of the vicinity. Sadly, the grandparents die, as do some of the aunts and uncles.

I’d kind of forgotten about this until my husband mentioned something about how many people would be at the Thanksgiving dinner our daughter is attending with her significant other’s family. I felt a momentary pang of sadness for those big childhood gatherings.

That feeling came back briefly today as I drove down the long lane toward my cousin’s farm — the farm on which he grew up and on which still stands the big white two-story house where many of our Thanksgiving dinners took place. photo(9)

 

 

 

 

 

As a kid, I remember my stomach getting that nervous, excited feeling as we turned down that lane….a loooong stretch that seemed to take forever to cover. Excitement at seeing cousins I hadn’t seen in awhile, eagerness to explore rooms in the big house. There was plenty of space to play, to hide from the boys, and the coolest laundry chute. The best smells floated out from the kitchen to the rest of the house, where tables were set up in every available space.

Today when I drove down the lane, there were none of the pigs I remembered. Instead, there were cows and sheep happily grazing on grass.

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And in the red barn at the end of the lane was a much younger version of my cousin — one of his sons — happy to hand me my turkey. At only 10 pounds, it’s tiny in comparison to the ones I remember feeding our big family.

But that’s okay. This turkey technically isn’t for Thanksgiving dinner and there won’t be 30-plus family members to feed. But when it starts roasting and the house begins to absorb that rich, mouth-watering smell, the memories will come roaring back. And that’s okay, too. Because that’s what memories are for.

And this is one time I won’t have to argue over who gets the drumsticks. And the wishbone? That’s mine.

Sights, sounds, and colors of fall

What was with that whacko weather last Saturday? If — like me — you live in Northwest Ohio (or happened to be visiting), you were probably wondering whether you’d been teleported ahead or back to March. It was cold (30s and 40s), windy (40 mph gusts), and dreary. The vendors at the final farmers’ market of the season were bundled up in parkas and the customers zipped through their shopping. But..to make up for it, Sunday arrived in full fall bloom — one of those beautiful crisp, sunny days that are the perfect setting for the gorgeous changing colors of the trees.

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Saturday’s long run was a battle with the elements — with the wind, it was fine, but against the wind, not so fine. As if to make up for that, Sunday was the perfect day for a long walk. At the     quarry, we were entertained by the usual ducks and — surprise — two herons in the same location!heron2

heronUnlike Saturday’s run, today’s was perfect — clear, calm and starry — with the smell of fall in the air.

Early morning runs in a small town are usually quiet with limited traffic. But in late October the quiet is often interrupted by the sound of farm tractors pulling wagon loads of corn to the local elevator. Here is one of today’s early arrivals — I suppose an eery site to those unaccustomed to rural life.

photo (10)This guy was one of only two farmers waiting for the elevator to open this morning, but a few weeks ago, the picture was different. The line was long and moving slowly. No one seemed antsy or in a hurry — clearly, they were happy for the chance to talk.

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Day 2 of Mary’s Excellent Adventure: Eagles, bluffs, and a babbling brook

Today started with an early morning run on the Chaseburg Nature Trail, a one-mile paved path that crisscrosses a field of wildflowers and cattails  and at times borders a babbling brook. Really! I never really understood the term “babbling brook” until seeing — and hearing — this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAPSmdeZlus

Across the water are a bunch of cows who alternated between loud mooing,  grazing. and staring at the crazy woman running in a circle.

Actually, it’s pretty amazing that a tiny town like Chaseburg (pop. 283) can maintain such a path. Donors funded the path in honor of families displaced by a flood in this lowland area. Benches line the brook and miniature street lights were just added along the path.

Four miles passed quickly because I was busy watching for Sand hill cranes, unusual birds like indigo buntings, cows, and wild animals. image (17)

Then it was back to academia — work for my daughter, exploring a new campus for me. Here are some of the sights…instead of the Beaver mascot that surrounds my job, there were signs of the Eagle mascot.photo (14)

Later in the afternoon, we drove up Grandad Bluff — about 600 feet up from the land around it. From there, you can see a panoramic view of La Crosse and the three rivers — Mississippi, Black, and La Crosse.photo (13)

From there we went to the local farmer’s market, lined with vendors selling the usual produce, but also organic cheeses and meats like buffalo and alpaca. Supper was at Kate’s Pizza — pear and Gorgonzola   on one and spinach, yellow squash and garbanzos on the other.

Weekend sightings: snapping turtle, geese and — maybe — blackberries

Yesterday before the onslaught of rain arrived, the water in the creek near our house was still low enough to see whatever creatures were swimming. That’s when I saw a HUGE snapping turtle, his lumbering body swimming upstream. Of course, I had no camera, not even my iPod, but the body (not including the neck and head) was roughly the size of the horseshoe crab I found on Tybee Island earlier this summer.IMG_0514[1]

Later we went by to see if he might be hanging around but the creek was full of muddy, rushing water. We did see a cute little frog who appeared to be riding the rapids on his back.

Today, I was ready with my iPod. No turtle, but the geese that hang out at the local quarry seemed to tolerate my presence far longer than usual. One of them began a halfhearted attack but even he seemed to agree that a Sunday morning stalemate was called for. Phew. Hissing geese can be a little scary!
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Leaving the geese to hiss at the next innocent passerby, I headed off to check on my blackberries. Here’s the thing. They’re not really mine and I’m not really sure if they’re blackberries. Are they black raspberries? I’m not sure…maybe someone out there can identify these for me. They grow wild on low-growing bramble bushes and are just slowly turning black.
Oddly, I’ve never like raspberries or blackberries until recently when I discovered some wild patches  on one of my running routes. I brought some of the raspberries home and my husband — who likes them — was hesitant to eat them. I think he thought I was trying to poison him.
Anyway, last year I decided to try the blackberries, which are huge and tart. I love to eat them off the bush — especially when I’m really thirsty on a hot, sweaty run.
So…who knows what these are? Please tell me!
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