A Lament to a Fine Old Friend and Love from the book of O.G.

September is usually my favorite month of the year. This year, not so much. I lost a dear old friend a couple of weeks ago. Not a human friend nor an animal friend, but, silly as it may sound, a tree friend.

Most Idahoans who live on the high desert steppe of south-central Idaho agree, cutting down a beautiful, mature, tree of any kind is akin to sacrilege. In truth, trees are so important to Idahoans, nearly sixty percent of the state lives in or near a Tree City USA.

Unfortunately, nature sometimes takes its course far more quickly than one may like. Such was the case with my tree buddy. An arborist informed me it wasn’t bugs or even disease that was choking the life from my tree. It was simply old age. The average life span of a silver maple is one hundred years. He estimated my tree was at least one hundred twenty years old.

I haven’t counted the tree rings yet, but now that my buddy is down, I can sure see there are lots and lots and lots of them. I was actually depressed for a couple of days over the loss of my tree. It served as both excellent shade from the brutal heat of summer, and a play ground used by five rambunctious kids for everything from climbing to ziplining. Now, weirdly, my house feels “naked” and my grandkids will lose out on a lot of cool play space.

A couple of days after the tree was down, my Mama came home for the weekend. I told her losing the tree was really bugging me and I wasn’t sure exactly why. Leave it to Mama to have the answer.

“Well,” she said, starting to giggle, “if you think about it in tree terms, you have fifty-four tree rings, about half of that old tree, and your life expectancy isn’t one hundred years. I think you’re feeling as old as your getting!”

By now, one should think I would simply listen to my Mama’s words of wisdom instead of challenging her thought process. But I’m not that smart.

“Geez, Mom,” I said with a fair amount of indignation. “I admit I’m getting old, but you have ninety-one tree rings, and will have ninety-two by the end of October. If I’m old, what are you?”

“Nearly as old as your tree!” she said, now laughing so hard she was bent double. “Look at it this way. The tree is gone but that is one hell of a stump! If I were you, I would build a big ol’ tree house on it. Your kids and your grandkids will love that. Besides,” she added, “That tree was dying and it could very easily have fallen on your house if you hadn’t taken it down.”

Later that evening, it really came home to me what Mama was saying. I would give about anything for her to live to one hundred twenty, but the chances of that are pretty slim. She has already been informed her kidneys are in bad shape, and her children have been told we should “prepare ourselves.”

As if one can.

Still, her amazing wisdom came through to me like the vibrant, shining light she is. Change is inevitable, nothing lives forever, and while your looking for the upside, never forget there’s always a downside.

That’s my Mama. Honest as the day is long, and as refreshing as ice water on a blistering summer day. In her own way she reminded me once again, she will leave us one day.

She also reminded me, she will leave us with one hell of a big stump to build on.

Motherhood is an incurable addiction. Wise warnings from The Book of O.G.

I am an admittedly decisive person.

According to the dictionary of Mama, that means I’m headstrong, stubborn, sometimes unforgiving, and always far too independent for my own good.

Although I respectfully disagree with her definition of my personality, I do have to admit, as time unfolds, I’ve more often than not found Mama is mostly right. Actually, she’s generally always right…like 99.9 percent of the time.

Still, I did feel the need to push back a bit when Mama interceded in a Grandma moment I was having with my one year-old grandson, Harrison. Harrison is a busy little guy, and thoroughly enjoys discovering the world–which basically means everything within two feet of the floor.

Mama became quite concerned, rightly so, when he made a beeline for one of my outlets and promptly unplugged my Wifi router…for the fourth of fifth time. I firmly told Harrison, as I had every time before, “NO,” and moved him away from the outlet.

Mama let out a very heavy sigh, and informed me I was going to spend the remainder of the day dragging Harrison away from the outlet if I didn’t do a bit more to get his attention.

“Mama,” I said, using the same firm tone I had used on Harrison, “This isn’t my first walk in the park, you know. Harrison is my grandson, which means I actually raised children first.”

“Well apparently you’ve forgotten a few things!” she huffed. “If you want Harrison to quit pulling things out of outlets, you better get his attention.”

I’ve never been brave enough to take Mama on in a head-on confrontation, so I decided at that point to indulge her opinion. “Really? Okay, what is your suggestion?”

“Smack him a good one on the hand and let him know your no means NO! Kind of like you did with your own kids. Like you said, you were a mother.”

I’m not going to lie. I was quite offended by her comment. “What do you mean by ‘I was a mother,’ I still am a mother.”

“I know,” she said, completely unfazed by my obvious indignation. “You have no problem telling your grown kids what to do, but apparently you lose your head where your grand babies are concerned.”

“I do not tell my kids what to do!” I said. “I give them advice, yes, but I certainly don’t, ‘tell’ them what to do.”

I should have realized much earlier in the conversation my Mama was moving the conversation in the direction she wanted it to go, because she was about to make an important point.

But I didn’t.

“I didn’t say telling your kids things you’ve learned is wrong. I’m simply saying you do it all the time, so you shouldn’t judge me. You need to recognize once your a mama, you are always a mama. It’s an incurable addiction. Believe me if I could stop being a mama, my life would be much easier because you are a pain in the butt.”

I really wanted to argue with her. I truly did. Unfortunately, I had to admit she was right.

DANG IT.

I do tell my kids how to raise their kids, and I am a worrying, helicopter-mama-from-hell most days. !@#$%^&*^&%$*. That’s all I have to say about that.

“Whatever,” I said. “I’m not going to argue with you.”

“I know,” Mama said, with her charming giggle, “because you know I’m right.”

Ya. I did. I most certainly was not going to admit it, however.

“Well, I just think sometimes you should remember I am 54 years-old. And I’ve raised five kids. AND, I now have six grandchildren.”

“Oh, I do know,” Mama said, still giggling. “I’m a few weeks away from 92, raised four kids, have 16 grandkids, 22 great-grandkids, and two great-great grandkids.”

What Mama didn’t say was, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” But I’m pretty sure that’s what she was thinking.

@$#!^%$&(*(%$#.

Yup, that was my response. It’s pretty darn hard to argue with someone who has experienced what she has.

“Fine,” I said, totally defeated. “You’re right. I just don’t like to smack my grandkids. Harrison is only one-year old!”

“Right,” Mama said. “But I’m pretty sure a solid, but not mean, smack on his hand will feel a whole lot better than a 110 volt smack down that could actually do serious, if not deadly harm.”

She had me there.

Sure enough, a few minutes later Harrison made a beeline for my Wifi plug-in. I gave him a solid smack on the hand and much more firmly than before told him, “NO.”

His bottom lip came out quivering, my bottom lip came out quivering, and…I have no proof…but I’m pretty sure my Mama’s bottom lip came out quivering. Harrison shed a few alligator tears…but…it’s been over two weeks and Harrison hasn’t touched any of my electrical outlets.

Who knew? I can finally say to the whole world, “I’m an addict, and I couldn’t be, more proud!”

I probably won’t admit it to my Mama though.

The Pioneer Spirit still prevails in Idaho

My family, especially my children, know better than to ask me questions about history unless they are ready for a lengthy dissertation on Thus and Such. I don’t mean to imply that I’m an great historian, or even an good historian. But I do love me some history. I am, in all honesty, an unapologetic fact junky.

I like every historical subject in general, but I’m particularly infatuated with Idaho history. Recently, and possibly because harvest season is my favorite time of year, I’ve been studying Idaho’s early agriculture history. I find it fascinating so I hope you enjoy some of the nifty things I’ve discovered. If not, read this blog post when you go to bed and you’ll likely be out cold by the end of the next paragraph!

I assume most Americans know at least the basic story of “Westward Ho!”–the intrepid Pioneers of the 1840s and 50s who packed up whatever they thought they could feasibly drag across the Great Plains, and headed west. The discovery of Gold in California, and the promise to homesteaders of free land, sent hundreds of thousands of Americans on a thousands-mile journey, looking for opportunity. There are amazing stories of daring-do and, sadly, a not to few stories of daring-don’t. But in the end, the west was settled and this great country was able to boast of greatness from “sea to shining sea.”

What a lot of folks don’t know is on their way out west, a lot of Pioneers came through Idaho, then called Idaho Territory, and absolutely hated every inch of it. Idaho was then, and still is, a land of rugged mountains, high desert steppes, treacherous rivers, and, as more than one Pioneer described it, “mile-after-mile of absolute barren, relentless, nothingness.”

Having spent most of my life in Idaho, I understand why many Pioneers felt this way. Until one stops to actually look at the unique and amazing geology of Idaho, it can be quite intimidating at first glance.

But when one does stop to take a closer look, one is often amazed at how a once barren and ugly stretch of nothingness has become among the most fertile and productive tracks of agricultural land in the United States.

The reason for this can be attributed in great part to a Wyoming Senator by the name of Joseph M. Carey. Senator Carey introduced the Carey Act, also known as the Desert Reclamation Act. With the intent of helping his home state of Wyoming, and in bringing more settlers to Wyoming and the west, Senator Carey introduced his bill in 1892. He was well pleased to announce its passing in 1894. The Carey Act while intended to bring prosperity to Wyoming, included Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, as states that would benefit from its passage.

In a nutshell, the Carey Act authorized the building of irrigation systems, to include dams, diversions, and the sale of ‘reclaimed’ water, in order to irrigate desert lands and turn such lands into agricultural meccas.

Wyoming folks aught to be proud of their senator, his intent first and foremost was to help his state, but, in truth, it’s Idahoans who aught to give great thanks to Senator Carey, because the only place the Carey Act really took root and worked well, was Idaho.

The Carey Act authorized the Federal Land Office to transfer up to one million acres of arid public lands in each state that developed reclamation programs. Companies interested in developing water projects were tasked with proposing, designing and building the irrigation projects. From 1908-1910, irrigation companies initiated 40 new Carey Act projects in Idaho–the majority of which still exist.

No other state approaches Idaho in the success of the Carey Act. Over 60 percent of land irrigated by the Carey Act are Idaho projects.

What Pioneers in the 1850s called an “Arid, ugly, wasteland,” by 1912 was quickly becoming the agricultural mecca it is today.

I suppose a lot of folks might read this and shrug. It’s nice history but really, who cares? I understand that feeling, but here is why you should be at least a little amazed. Irrigation projects are neither new, nor really all that interesting–but building irrigation projects in a geographic area where sheer cliffs, lava flows, steep mountains, and an average of 10 inches of water a year, really is remarkable. The fact those irrigation projects still exist, many using the same dams and ditches built over 100 years ago, is nothing short of incredible.

Most westward bound Pioneers of the 1850s might have been extremely happy to leave Idaho in their dust, but Idaho Pioneers, in my opinion, had a bit more grit. They turned the ugly into the fertile, and that Idaho pioneering spirit is still alive and well today.

Don’t play in cheat grass. Words of wisdom from the Book of O.G.

A few weekends ago, I was hanging out with Mama working on the book of O.G. I asked her what her best words of wisdom for her kids, grand-kids, and great grand-kids were. At the time, she declined to answer, telling me she would have to think about it.

Today, I asked her again if she had any specific words of wisdom for her family. She sat quiet for a few minutes, her head cocked to the right–which is what she always does when she’s thinking–and finally answered.

“The best advice I can give anyone, I think, is don’t play in cheat grass.”

“Uuuhhhh. What?”

“Don’t pay in cheat grass.”

Now I have to insert here, Mama is almost 92 years-old. So far, her mind seems to be holding up pretty good. Her eye-sight and hearing–not so much. For a moment, I wondered if perhaps her mind was slipping.

“Mama, I’m being serious here,” I said. “The book of O.G. is for the people you love most you know.”

“I do know,” she answered. “And I am telling you my best advice is DO NOT play in cheat grass.”

I’m a bit ashamed to admit I thought she was just being cheeky. So, I sighed impatiently, put down my notebook, and left her sitting on the deck while I went and pulled some weeds in the flower bed.

As I was yanking weeds, I was muttering to myself that it would really be great if she would take my little project seriously because it meant something to me and I know it will mean something to the rest of her family.

After about an hour, I took a break and sat down with her again. I was determined not to ask her any questions–unless I could determine she was going to take me seriously–when she said: “Are you done pouting now?”

“I was not pouting,” I said, somewhat indignantly.

“Yes. You were,” she said.

Before I could say anything else, Mama put her hand up, and glared at me.

“Do you know what cheat grass is?” she asked.

At that point I did get indignant, and possibly a little snarky, and answered: “Gosh, Mama, I have no idea. What is cheat-grass?”

I’m pretty sure if I had used that tone of voice on her in my childhood I would have gotten a well deserved swat on the backside. Instead, Mama in her infinite patience, sat back in her chair and waited for me to change my tone.

Knowing Mama wouldn’t say another word until I ‘dropped my attitude,’ I waited a minute and said in a much more conciliatory tone, “Sorry, Mama, explain what you mean…please.”

Mama gave me her mama-knows-best smile.

“Cheat grass seed heads are called awns,” she said. “When you walk through cheat grass what happens?”

“You spend a lot of time pulling the nasty little things out of your socks, your shoe laces, and any other part of your clothing the stinking things get in,” I said.

“That’s right,” she said. “So don’t you think it makes sense not to play in cheat grass?”

“Well of course it does, but everyone already knows that so I’m sorry, but I’m a bit lost on how this translates into great words of wisdom, Mama.”

Now it was Mama’s turn to sigh.

Looking back on our conversation, I’m sure at that point she came to the conclusion I was a best dense, at worst, somewhat stupid.

“There are a million different paths a person can take in life,” she said. “My advice is avoid those paths that leave nasty things, like cheat grass awns, sticking to you. Sometimes, it may only take an small amount of time to pull off the awns. Sometimes it may take hours upon hours to pull off the awns. If you avoid the nasty things, or awns so to speak, that can stick to you, you don’t have to waste any part of your life picking them off.”

I swear it took a full two minutes for her incredible words of wisdom to really sink in. I was actually so dumbfounded by the simple beauty of her wisdom it took me a couple of more minutes before I could respond in my own very profound way.

“Huh. Wow,” I said. (forgive me, but I was a bit gob smacked).

My Mama, you must understand, will be the first to admit she has made many, many, mistakes in her life. She has often said if she had a penny for every mistake she’s made, she would be a billionaire.

We sat quietly for a bit longer, and Mama finally said: “Tell them to do the best they can to avoid the nasty things in life. Tell them the nasty things can take a very long time to pick off. Tell them to learn from me, because I know what I’m talking about.”

Completely humbled, it took my Mama’s fragile hand and gave it a squeeze.

“I will tell them, Mama. I promise.”

“Good!” she said, with a hearty giggle. “Because I’m here to tell you pulling cheat grass out of your socks really, really sucks. Finding they’ve infiltrated your underwear is torture!”

Travel is the gift that keeps giving

Long before it was the refrain of a popular 90’s song, my Mama told us kids whenever we traveled to take every opportunity to enjoy our experiences. “We may never pass this way again,” she said. “There is no question once in a lifetime memories are the best.”

Of course, being a kid I didn’t completely understand what she meant. I was usually busy making funny faces at passing cars, yanking my fist up and down so truck drivers would honk at us, playing the ABC game–and cheating at it by writing the letter Z on a piece of paper and holding it out the window. Perhaps most importantly, to me alone, I learned to pronounce the names of towns. Raleigh is no longer Raw Leaf. Missoula, is no longer Miss Suey.

We were blessed at the number of places we traveled when I was a kid. I’m sure I’ve lost as many wonderful memories as I’ve retained. Still, memories aside, I’ve learned an awful lot for which I am most grateful. I’ve learned people may have a completely different culture from the one I grew up in, but if you take the time to listen, you’re likely to learn you have much in common. I’ve learned the forests within a few miles of my home are every bit as beautiful as the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’ve learned the jagged peaks of the mighty Bitterroot Mountains are every bit as intimidating as the lofty peaks of the Bavarian Alps. Most importantly, I’ve learned to take every opportunity to enjoy myself.

Last week, when my husband and I were blessed with the chance to travel to Alaska on a cruise, I did my best to turn back the hands of time in my grown-up mind, and remember the awe and wonder I felt as a kid seeing something for the first time.

The first couple of days were a bit of a bust. I’ve seen the ocean. I’ve seen Seattle. I’ve seen islands.

Despite the fact I was having a blast on our big-ol’ boat, by the third day of our cruise, I was beginning to wonder if we would see anything that would bring back that childhood sense of awe and wonder.

I woke up at 6 a.m. on the fourth morning of our trip. Deciding I’d had plenty of sleep, I stepped out on the verandah of our state room. And for the first time in more years than I can remember, I felt that wonderful, child-like sense of awe.

We were slowly making our way up Glacier Bay.

I’ve seen glaciers before, but I have never seen anything as truly pristine as the area I was now gazing upon. There wasn’t a building or road in sight. No blaring horns. No hoards of people. No aircraft buzzing overhead. Pristine is an understatement, but probably the closest word I can find in the English language to describe the experience.

With my husband–and his binoculars–in tow, I raced to the upper decks of the boat only to be treated with sightings of mountain goats, a grizzly bear, sea otters, and Orca whales. To coin an old phrase my Mama often says, “My dance card was full.”

I was so excited by the beauty around me, I truly forgot I was on a boat with 2,200 other people. Nearly everyone around me was starring, slack-jawed and quiet, at the brilliant beauty around us.

After nearly two hours of slowly floating up the bay, I assumed I had seen the best their was to offer of Glacier Bay. Naturally, I was so enraptured by the sights around me, I managed to forget the bay got its name for a reason. In the middle of watching two sea otters frolicking in the frigid milk-colored waters below me, I realized the boat was turning.

I felt a tremendous amount of sadness because it was obvious we would be heading back the way we came, and within a couple of short hours this beautiful wilderness would pass from view.

At that point I looked up from the water, and realized the captain of the ship had turned the boat to position it in the best possible way, to show the majestic expanse of a massive glacier.

I suppose I could wax philosophical at this point, and attempt to use the 26 letters of the alphabet to describe the sight in front of me. But I would fail. Breathtaking. Yes. Beautiful. Yes. Indescribable. Yes.

But honestly, the only thing I could think of as my eyes drank in the beauty in front of me was: I must etch this this memory as deep as possible in my conscience, for I may never pass this way again.

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Papa’s Timeless Wisdom

My Papa, Henry Howard, was one of the finest human beings I ever met. He was wise, articulate, extraordinarily kind, and in his own words: “Invented before automobiles, telephones, cars, and computers.” Papa was 97 years-old when he passed in 2005 and I miss him terribly.

But I have my memories of Papa and they are fantastic. Among my favorite memories is my Papa’s love of modern technology. Many of his generation sincerely look, or looked as the case may be, on technology as the ruination of mankind. Papa always considered technology wonderful and understood technology often makes life better for everyone.

Papa certainly took issue with technology being used for harm, but many times he told me it was wondrous to see how quickly a new invention could help everyone live a little easier. Papa, after all, grew up in an era when most everything was done by the sweat of the brow and the sore of the back.

Papa was particularly infatuated with large machinery. Bulldozers and backhoes were his favorites of all modern inventions. He watched these pieces of equipment at work like most of us watch sitcoms. He found the VCR to be an almost magical invention. Not only can one watch a movie once–which in his day was a once or twice a year opportunity–one could watch one movie after another!

Still, Papa understood with advancing technology, much of the old-ways would be lost. He understood people would likely forget how to produce their own food, and worse in his opinion, how to preserve their own food.

He prophesied technology would be harmful on the family unit, and children especially might lose the opportunity to learn important life lessons from: “The round-table of a well prepared family dinner.”

He lamented people might well become addicted to modern ways and forget the importance of history–turns out he was right on that one.

Despite the possible problems, Papa was a true fan of modern technology–with one exception. Papa was a cattleman most of his life. To him, a man or woman on a horse working cattle, was something no technology could ever improve on, especially when it comes to branding calves.

“No technology can improve on working cattle from a horse,” he said. “It’s personal. Your cattle aren’t just your livelihood, they’re a part of who you are and what you are. If working cattle isn’t up close and personal, what’s the point. There is no old-fashioned way about branding cattle. The way it’s been done for generations is the only right way.”

Maybe because he was my beloved Papa–and I simply can’t find a single thing wrong with any of his thoughts on life–I must say I absolutely agree with him. There really is something personal, magical, and amazing, in carrying on the multi-generational tradition of branding, ‘the old-fashioned way’.

It requires skills no computer can match, It requires hard work no technology can relieve, And it leaves one with a deep and personal satisfaction that only comes with a lot of sweat, a lot of blisters–and a few saddle sores one will never find anywhere but from a hard saddle on a good horse.IMG_0605.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Idaho is best discovered off the beaten path.

When I tell people who don’t live here south-central Idaho is an amazingly beautiful and unique place, I generally get a loud guffaw followed by a look of extreme disbelief and sometimes, even pity.

Most folks zoom along I84 from the Oregon border to either Utah or Pocatello in a desperate 80 mph daze, fervently hoping they don’t suddenly come across road construction, accidents, or heaven forbid–one truck passing another at the disgustingly slow speed of 70 mph.

When seen from the Interstate, or even from most state and county highways, south-central Idaho isn’t all that pretty. After all, it’s a high dessert and by mid June, anywhere there isn’t a pivot, wheel-line, or hand line, the landscape is dirt brown, littered with the dull gray of sagebrush and dotted with solar panels or stark-white windmills.

If I didn’t know better, I would absolutely agree with my fine uninformed friends. When you bomb through south-central Idaho, it really is kind of ugly.

But I do know better. I have to admit as a kid, I didn’t pay much attention to my Idaho. It wasn’t until I joined the Army and subsequently traveled to many other states and oversees, I realized where I grew up was one of the most unique places, not only in America, but in the world.

Idaho sports the deepest canyon in North America, yes even deeper than the Grand Canyon. We call it Hells Canyon. Shoshone Falls is taller than Niagara Falls. We have more gems in our state than any other state, and over 50 percent of our great state is still unsettled wilderness.

Most nod at those statements and remind me only Shoshone Falls is actually in south-central Idaho. Agreed, but I wasn’t finished. Idaho also sports some of the most pristine natural and geo-thermal springs in north America. Yup, right here in south-central Idaho!

But, you have to get off the beaten path to see the true beauty of those springs and the thousands of other amazing sites that are the true south-central Idaho.

Recently, I took a hike to the 11th largest spring in the continental United States. One might assume a spring that gurgles 2,640 gallons of water per second (that’s 180,000 gallons per minute) would be overflowing with tourists. The water is pure blue and crystal clear.

Turns out, I was the only one standing on the platform that overlooks the 100 or so foot drop to the gorgeous vista below. It really was in utter peace and tranquility that I stood there for nearly forty minutes and never heard the sound of another voice, the rumble of a vehicle, or the buzz and snap of hundreds of cameras.

Occasionally, my thoughts were interrupted by the chirp of a rock chuck, or the cry of one or more of the dozens of bird species that make this spring and it’s canyon walls home. But other than that–total peace.

This gorgeous spot is known as Earl Hardy Box Canyon. You won’t see it from the Interstate, you won’t see it from a state highway. But to not see it, is to truly deny yourself the opportunity to see nature at her very best.

Earl M. Hardy Box Canyon, is part of the Thousand Spring State Park Complex.

IMG_0227 (2).JPGEvery one should share their travel experiences right? Meet my buddy, rocking chuckles. He sat a few feet away from me for nearly 20 minutes enjoying the view too.chuck.JPG

More from Mama’s treasure trove

Last week Mama and I decided to include some recipes that might actually work in the modern age, from our “Henry’s Exchange,” adventure. This week, we decided to find some fun ones. I suppose you can try them out if you like. If they work will you please let me know?

We were pawing through yet another tote, when we found another pamphlet. It was stuffed inside a book I bought when Mama, my nieces, Kassidy and Lesha, my Aunt Gertie, and a family friend Eileen Shaffer traveled with me to Ireland in 1987.

So, in the spirit of the moment, I included a few beautiful pictures of Ireland to add a bit of eye-candy to your reading experience! But first, here are a few more tips you might find, at the very least, entertaining:

When bringing a new canary  into your home, if you place a white towel over the top of the bird cage for a few nights, then hang the towel out in the sun and wind each morning you will soon rid your pet of mites.

Run a lead pencil up and down the zipper after it has been closed. This will oil it and keep it in good shape. The graphite in the lead does the oiling.

To remove dents in wood, fold several thicknesses of blotting paper together. Soak the blotting paper in water and let the excess water drip off. Lay the paper over the wood and apply a hot iron to the paper. This will draw up the wood and can be repeated if necessary.

The white of an egg acts as a cement for use on small pieces of wood which have been chipped off of furniture.

When frying or baking a rabbit, sprinkle a little sage and onion juice over it. The rabbit will not have that wild taste. This makes it almost taste like chicken. J

If you want to be sure of always having tender meat, here is a good idea—Make a solution of one-half cup of vinegar and two quarts of cold water. Lay the meat in this solution for about ten minutes, then remove and cook in the usual way.

Always turn roasting or boiling meat with a spoon. A fork penetrates the surface and allows juices to escape.

When covering the ironing board, put the cover on while it’s still wet. It will dry and will tighten smooth.

Sprinkle a little lavender sachet powder under the ironing board cover. The dampness of the clothes is enough to bring the fragrance into clothes when ironed.

If a garment is stained by perspiration, sponge the spot with white vinegar.

When making jelly, jams, and preserves, put a number of marbles of medium size in your kettle and it will keep the juice from burning.

When making jelly, drop a lump of paraffin in the bottom of the glass before pouring the jelly in. It will melt and come to the top, forming a perfect seal.

Along with more interesting stuff from “Henry’s Exchange,” I also found a treasure trove of stories from the 1950’s my grandma apparently thought were cool. Stay tuned!

P.S. I took these photos while I was in Ireland a couple of years ago. Everyone says Ireland is every color of green. This is true, but there are a lot of other colors mixed in beautifully 🙂

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The book of O.G.

My Momster is getting mighty close to her 92nd birthday. She can barely see, and her hearing is nearly gone, but her mind is sound and the fount of knowledge she possesses is amazing. Her great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren refer to her as O.G. or, old-grandma. To some, that may seem disrespectful. To Mama, it’s a badge of honor.

I love when she comes home for the weekend and we two sit on my deck remembering her life. Sometimes she feels like she’s too old to be worth much anymore, but I disagree. Every question I ask, I learn something new about her history, about her accomplishments, about her failures–about her hard earned wisdom.

This weekend was no different. We were sitting on the patio enjoying the smell of fresh mown hay, one of Mama’s favorite smells, and somehow ended up talking about life during the Great Depression. Mama was only three-years-old when the stock market crashed in 1929, so the Great Depression was a major part of her entire childhood. But since she never knew “better times,” she was quite content with her family’s lot in life.

“Everyone was poor, so I never really thought much about it. We did what we had to do to make things work, and somehow they always seemed to work just fine.”

Mama said among her favorite things to do as a kid was listen to radio programs. “We didn’t have television, so it was radio and newspapers we got our information from. I do miss the family gathering around the radio. It was an enjoyable time for all of us.”

One of Mama’s favorite radio programs was called Henry’s Exchange Hints. (Now I have to insert here, if you grew up in the Great Depression, you are an extreme hoarder. Needless to say, Mama still has her “Henry’s Exchange” books!)

“Basically, ‘Henry’s Exchange’ was a program for people to share ideas and tips on anything from canning to cleaning,” Mama said.

Mama insisted she still had a couple of the pamphlets that were produced once or twice a year by the program, and sure enough, digging into one of her many totes, I found two of them.

It was great fun to read the pamphlets to her and hear her sweet giggle as she recalled poignant memories from her childhood.

Needless to say, I learned a bit myself

Henry Hornsbuckle originated and conducted “Henry’s Exchange,” and during its heyday, it was on the radio five nights a week. Mama and I picked a few of our favorite exchange hints to share with all of you. Enjoy!

COOKING TIPS:

If an egg breaks on one end, crack the other end, and you can boil without the contents coming out of the shell.

If you place vinegar on top of the stove when you are cooking, it will absorb the odors of cooking. It absorbs the odors and prevents them wafting through the house.

Turn a mettle colander upside down over meat when frying it. The small holes let the steam escape but the grease can’t splatter.

Poor cold water over eggs before putting them into boil and they won’t crack.

CLEANING POTS:

To brighten aluminum ware, use lemon juice rubbed on with a cloth, wash afterwards with warm, soapy water.

When anything sticks or burns in a kettle in which you are cooking, mix half water and half vinegar, set back on the stove and let the solution come to a boil. Wash with warm soapy water after boiling.

HOME REMEDIES:

For bee stings, dissolve a pinch of salt in two tablespoons of vinegar and rub on the sting. This also keeps the area from swelling.

For burns, moisten a cloth with vinegar and bind onto the burn.

For sunburn, boil strong tea and when it cools rub it over the affected area.

GARDENING:

When young cucumber vines have bugs on them, sprinkle with pepper when the dew is on in the morning. You can also plant two or three moth balls in the hill when planting cucumbers.

To get rid of ants in the garden, powder moth balls and mix the powder into the dirt where you find ants. They will never return.

For planting fine seeds such as lettuce, mix the seed with corn meal and you can see where you planted them.

Pull your tomato vines in the fall. pile them in a large pile, cover them with canvas or old quilts and tomatoes left on them will continue to ripen.

If you are leaving home for a few days and you don’t know of anyone to water you house plants while you’re away, take several sponges and soak them in water and place one by each flower. they will keep the dirt moist for a long time.

Sprinkle crushed moth balls over your bulb beds and you will never lose them to gophers.

BEAUTY REMEDIES:

Rub vinegar on brown spot on the skin for several days. The spots will disappear.

For complexion and freckles, squeeze lemon juice into milk. Rub the mixture over face and neck.

FOOD SAVERS:

To prevent peeled peaches from losing their color and turning dark, put into water which a little vinegar has been added. The peaches will not take on the vinegar taste.

A small amount of lemon juice put on sliced bananas will keep them from turning black.

Pour a can of cream-of-mushroom soup over meat loaf about half an hour before it comes from the oven for a delicious gravy.

Grated orange or lemon adds an especially delicious flavor to sweet potatoes.

ODOR REMOVAL:

Odors from cabbage can be avoided by dropping two un-cracked English walnuts into the kettle while cooking.

After peeling onions, wash your hands in vinegar and them in soap. All odor will be removed.

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as me and O.G. did preparing it. Cheers to all, and I hope these hints are helpful even in our age of modern technology.  Watch for more in future posts from “The Book of O.G.”

Here’s a picture of O.G. with her great-granddaughter Adeline Jayne Kast.

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