Category Archives: Sue’s Corner
Now that warm weather is back, my husband and I have been spending the evening hours relaxing on the front porch and watching the birds that come in to the feeder. Some of them have been frequenting the feeder since their parents first brought them as fledglings. The people on the swing no longer frighten them. The chickadees in particular are courageous enough to occasionally use a human being as a landing strip. But the boldness that these two, rose breasted grosbeaks displayed was quite a surprise as they bounced around our feet picking up seeds. In spite of the fact that we had never seen them before, these two boys seemed almost tame. I think there is a chance they were a “raise and release,” and see humans as a safe food source. We are hoping they find lady grosbeaks and decide to stay for the summer. If anyone out there raised these little guys, we wanted to let you know that they are still safe and happy.
I must confess that I am a workaholic. I measure days by the amount of work I get done. A bad day usually includes something like never getting out of the house because a small change in cat food has me mopping up after six or seven constantly barfing kitties. A good day is when I can prop up my feet in the dying light of a summer evening, and look back of the multitude of jobs that I completed throughout the day.
Today, I took care of my mother, picked the berries, hoed the garden, and pulled the weeds. I made dinner, did some cleaning, and washed a little laundry. It was a good day. So before the sunlight began to fade, I decided to grab my camera, and take a little time for myself. I took a few photos of my rose tree, and some of lilies, and of course, I had to photograph my almost weed-free garden, before the weeds got revenge. As I turned to take a photo of the sun shining through the trees I saw it… a red fox! A really small red fox was hiding in the grass by the barn. I knew I was too far away to get a photo, but I just had to try, and… Ugggghhhh…. Not again!!!
As you can see, this is definitely not a fox. So much for the good day.
And this is kitten number 2. Below are kittens number 3 and 4. I have seen five so far, and I’m pretty sure they belong to the tortoise shell that someone threw out a while back. I’m glad I never got into the habit of swearing, or the whole neighborhood would have heard something far more explicit than “OH! NO!!!!” and “JUST BECAUSE I HAVE A BARN DOES NOT MEAN I WANT YOUR CAT!!!!”
Irresponsible pet owners are one of my pet peeves. If you take an animal, you are responsible for that animal, and that doesn’t mean dropping it off by someone else’s house in the middle of the night because you think that person will take it. So she got pregnant, and that’s a problem, but it shouldn’t be my problem.
I understand that getting a pet proper medical care can be expensive, but I also know that with little effort you can find a place that offers low cost, or even free spaying and neutering and basic immunizations. I got seven of my cats altered, immunized, and treated for fleas at the local Humane Society. I added a very generous donation to my payment, and still only paid a little over a third of what I would have at the vet. A local spay/neuter organization also offers vouchers to help people who can’t afford to pay the meager amount that the Humane Society charges. Getting your cat fixed doesn’t necessarily have to be a checkbook emptying experience.
With the help of the Humane Society and some other great people, we eliminated the feral cat colony in this neighborhood. Only one, wild tomcat remains at large. All of the others are fixed and now have happy, indoor homes. Thanks to an uncaring pet owner, we have the starting of a new colony. To that person I say, (add lots and lots of sarcasm here.) “THANKS A LOT!!!”
The robins have come back to the hollow and we are hoping that spring will be shortly behind them. I’ve been monitoring the weather forecast, and it seems they are always promising fifty degree weather in the distant future, but that future never seems to grow nearer. After the family left yesterday, I used the final hour of good daylight to practice with the new camera, and I cannot believe the distance it will allow you to be from a subject and still take a clear photo. The little guy at the bottom was sitting at the top of the tallest tree in the yard. These two robins were not at all disturbed by this amateur photographer, because I was quite a ways from them. Let’s hope these little fellows brought some warmer weather with them.
Canning is in my blood. My mother, grandmother, and great grandmother before me all preserved food by canning to provide for their families. When puzzled people ask at how my husband and I managed to raise four kids and half of the neighborhood on a single, small income, I don’t have to look any further than my larder to find the answer. I planted the garden, the Good Lord provided the water and sunshine, and I harvested and preserved the produce. My daughter has recently married and is now walking in the footsteps of her ancestors, preserving food so that her family may eat in the future. But things have apparently changed since I learned to can.
The new box of canning jars she brought to the house last week came with a note, boasting that her jars and lids would stay sealed for a whole eighteen months!! This is a joke, right? The jar of blueberries to the left was canned in 1946. Although the fruit has darkened through the years, seventy-two years later, this jar is still firmly sealed, and the jar companies are bragging that their seals will last eighteen months? Pitiful!
Recently, an elderly friend of mine passed away, and her family brought me hundreds of jars from her basement. At least half of them were filled. Among these were cases of peaches from 1970, all canned in mayonnaise jars. Just as beautiful and yellow as the day they were canned, these peaches had stood the test of time. Having an over abundance of jars myself, I decided to offer these jars to a friend, who, very politely, informed me that you couldn’t can in the old mayonnaise jars because they would break in the canner and destroy your food. I suppose someone should have told me that when I started canning in the late seventies, because I’ve been using them all of this time, and never had a single one break. In fact the only canning jars that have broken for me in the canner, were ones made specifically for canning.
I have also been told that one can only safely can using the regular canning lids or the new equivalents. Whoops… I’ve messed up on this one too. When I was a kid my family would spend summers camping along the river. In a cabin not far away lived an elderly hermit named Marlin Miller who would often stop by for a chat. As self-sufficient as they come, Miller canned his own food… in spaghetti sauce jars. We were living on a very limited income when I first started out, and canning jars and lids were expensive. Almost forty years later, I still reuse smaller jars with pop lids (with rims that curl under, not out) for things like tomato sauce, jellies, juices, and apple butter. The lid on the jar of apple butter above has been reused (and perfectly sealed) twelve times so far.
They also tell me that antique canning jars should only be used for dry storage. Fill them with rice, popcorn, or candy. Never, never can in them. Oh boy, I’m guilty again. I have jars that date back one hundred and fifty years. Do I can in them? Sure. Why not? They are three times the thickness of the new ones, and I’ve never had one break, not even in the pressure canner.
This week, as I helped my daughter can a ham, (Yes, youngsters, meat can be canned.) I had to wonder, should I teach her the old ways that have been passed down through the generations, or should I step back and allow that knowledge to fade into oblivion? I’m in favor of the old.
When I was about ten my mother and I would sometimes take an afternoon and walk across town to visit my elderly, Aunt Edna and Uncle Ed. While mother sat in the kitchen and chatted with my talkative aunt, I would settle in on the metal, porch glider beside my uncle, with his huge, black dog resting at our feet. There we would slowly rock back and forth and talk about nothing in particular as we watched the wildlife in the yard. (Birds, squirrels, and the occasional cat)
My Great, Uncle Ed was a man of many unusual talents. Unguarded valuables seemed to stick to his fingers and vanish without a trace. He could avoid work while appearing to be busy. He could lie far better than he could tell the truth. I wouldn’t have trusted him with my meager allowance, and I would never have repeated one of his preposterous stories as gospel, but unlike a lot of people, I liked the cantankerous, old villain.
It was Uncle Ed that gave me my first close up look at squirrels. Ten of them to be exact. Skinned, gutted, and pasty white they floated in a kettle of salt water upon Aunt Edna’s old, gas stove. When he proudly lifted the kettle’s lid to show me the results of his morning, hunting trip, I gasped in horror.
“Uncle Ed, you’re going to eat rats!” I exclaimed. Needless to say, my reaction took away a little of the old man’s joy. No, I’m not emotionally scarred, and I am not anti-hunting, but every time I hear a person say that a squirrel is nothing but a tree rat, I see those naked carcasses floating in that pot. Sure, if you take away the soft fur, the fluffy, twitching tail that curls in question marks as a squirrel watches you through the window, if you take away that feisty personality and funny, expressive face, you may have something that looks like a mere rodent, but you don’t have a squirrel. Not the whole squirrel at least.
The squirrel’s intelligence always leaves me in awe. They can get past some of the most advanced, squirrel guards, raid candy machines, and train humans to do their bidding. They can lope across high wires and leap incredible distances onto branches that wouldn’t hold a song bird. They can fall from the treetops, leap to their feet and bound back to the tree to try again. They are gentle mothers, fearless combatants, and brimming with attitude. They can bury a nut and find it three months later under six inches of snow, when I can’t even remember where I put my car keys five minutes ago. A squirrel is not “just” a tree rat. A squirrel is one of God’s more miraculous creations, placed on this earth not only to fill a nitche in nature, but to entertain us and teach us to take a chance, have fun when we can, and always prepare for tomorrow.
It’s been an interesting week here in the hollow.
One of the cats has taken to knocking down the litter scoop and leaving deposits on the handle. I can’t even imagine the reason for this. We think we have solved the problem by tucking the litter scoop inside an empty, kitty litter bag. I really hope kitty doesn’t become more creative.
My daughter got married this week. At night this house sounds like a morgue.
Our credit card account got hacked. Someone changed our passwords, security questions, and address, then charged over two thousand dollars at two online sites. Because my husband checks our accounts often, he caught it quickly. We straightened things out, changed everything, and put a “Fraud Alert!” on our account. Would you believe that the hacker had the gall to call the credit card company, pretend to be a business, and ask for our new information? I can’t believe these people.
The outside cat, Skitty, has become outrageously fat. She has always been a little portly, and she is an excellent eater, but lately people keep telling me that my cat is pregnant. I am in denial. We have Skitty on the list of cats to be fixed for the sake of her health, but she hasn’t had kittens for a long, long time. She looks like a basketball with feet. We now have five cats in the house (counting the two young kittens) and two cats outdoors. I don’t want any more kittens. I’m too old for this. She’s just fat. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Mother’s house is in the process of being sold. Because it is one hundred and eighteen years old, we specified that it would be sold “as is.” The buyer sent back a list of things that they wanted done. The most notable was “Repairs need done to hot water heater. Pilot won’t light when gas is off.” This leads me to two conclusions. “As is” doesn’t mean what we thought it did, and some company must sell “gas” hot water heaters that don’t require “gas” to light the pilot. I wish someone would tell me where to get one of these energy-efficient models.
A new cat has been spending time on my porch. I have been attempting to get a photo, but she hasn’t been cooperating, and I must admit that in spite of the fact that she is small and incredibly beautiful, I’m a little afraid of her. If I can remember where I put the game cam, I’ll set it up in an effort to get a better photo. Or perhaps I can just lure her closer with a little cat food…. Here kitty, kitty…