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There are certain foods in the summer heat I crave: corn on the cob, tomatoes (which are finally coming in and are they tasty!), cantaloupe and refrigerator pickles.  Even people who scowl at pickles change their mind when they have just a small taste out of the jar.  Basically you can’t go wrong with pouring large amounts of sugar and vinegar over vegetables altering flavors into pure goodness.





REFRIGERATOR PICKLES

{family recipe}

1 cup vinegar
2 cups white sugar
1 T salt
6 cups sliced cukes
1 cup sliced onions
1 cup green peppers

heat vinegar, sugar and salt until sugar dissolves
pack jars full with cukes, onions and peppers
pour brine over cukes. needs to sit in frig at least 24 hrs.

Growing up in small town prairie land creates for a rich history in pioneer living. My grandma has a wardrobe full of pioneer dresses, aprons and bonnets, which was a dream to wear and made recreating Laura Ingells Wilder’s excitement in receiving her new calico dresses a reality.
I went to a L.I.W. day camp where we made rag dolls and butter. Sarah, Plain and Tall and the Oregon Trail computer game were a part of our history curriculum.  Replacing the cultural experience of metropolitan art museums were school field trips to an old one room school-house where we dressed up,  wrote on slates, read from primers and ate lunches out of tin pails.

One cannot learn life on the frontier without learning about its hardships and tragedies:  People dying of starvation, being attacked by Indians and dying of dysentery (thanks Oregon Trail) or typhoid. A memorable field trip was to the Farmer’s Valley Cemetary, a few miles outside of town, down a dirt road, over a one lane bridge, tucked between cornfields. The oldest gravestones around are found here as well as the results of many hardships including Mary and her son Otto who froze in 1873 Easter Blizzard while her husband sought to get them help.

I hadn’t been there since the 4th grade when we went and did grave rubbings to read the epitaphs on the old mossy stones.  “Remember friend, as you pass by, as you are now, so once was I. As I now am, so you shall be, prepare for death, and follow me,” reads Mary and Otto’s double headstone.

I took my nieces and nephew there for a picnic.  It’s a quiet, serene resting place along the Big Blue River (a very small stream), but maybe a river appropriately named to reflect the beginning of many homesteads.

a perfect summer evening, apart from a sunset and a bbq, is the one experienced on the farm, complete with soundtrack. (apologies for the poor sound quality. as usual, somethings are better experienced live)

[because henderson is low on the list as the next hipster mecca]

dear seattle, today i’m missing you.

the day begins early because the whole idea is to beat the heat.  (did i mention it’s 115 heat index around here).  the corn has to be picked, hand picked, to make sure ripe enough ears make the list.

no, we aren’t feeding the 5000.  as we say in these parts: we’re doing corn today.  (it’s been pointed out to me that in farm language pronouns and possessives are often dropped or used loosely.)

mother of my mother. mother of my father.

and it’s a family affair, the putting up of corn.  all ages are expected to help for anybody and everybody is of age.  the more the merrier…well actually the more the quicker we can return to the air-con.  but as my 4 year old niece is signing for her second year of service, I too have been doing this as long as I can remember.  corn day is another picture of community life on the farm, helping prepare for the harsh winters, the reality that many tasks cannot be done alone.  it takes the hands of many.

four year old niece

after the picking, comes the shucking, silking and washing. (kaylee BEGGED to wash. so did six year old alex.)  next comes coffee break, an essential to any work day that begins before normal waking hours.  only then can the corn be carried to the kitchen where it is blanched in pots of boiling water for 6 minutes then transferred to a sink full of cold   water.  the corn is carried back out to the waiting cutters (my job of choice).

mother.

cousin. father of my mother.

cutting is actually a trick….cutting too close to the cob makes for a disappointing bite in january, cutting too far away leaves the sweet juices behind.  the sign of a true cutter (which I haven’t quite attained) is the swift move of finishing the cut, eating the end kernels missed by the knife and pitching the cob into the buckets without ever missing a beat to pick up the next ear.  the piles of fresh cut corn mound, the bagger comes in to play.  notice the white board behind my mother.  that was a new addition this year to track progress or for the satisfaction of crossing names off a list…everybody who wanted corn wrote their name, how many bags wanted and how many cups per bag…the total came around to 170 bags of corn, 2 cups each.  (you do the math)

corn day concludes. when I was younger, my cousins and I were dropped off at the pool.  but now, I go home and take a short nap.  tomorrow is peaches. then green beans. then tomato soup………

plan {a} seemed so logical. practical. i took a train ride down to portland. wearing my favorite cranberry sweater. graduate school. portland state. an mpa. a new city. new routine. a step towards, well, the great future.

but then a week before i received the letter of non-acceptance, i began having doubts. not really just a week prior; i had been doubting the path for a while but they became stronger, revealing to myself that myself was not in plan a. my head spinned and

as the saying goes, i put some irons in the coals. and many of them are still heating up.

i have a logical/practical side which i tend to lean on for guidance when i am unsure of how to proceed. it looks at the general population, my general interests and makes a plan. but those of you who know me, know that is not my true self, as exhibited my many years of what seems like aimless wandering, endless moving, constant introspection. at the very last minute before giving into practical self, wildly rash self fights to make its thoughts heard.  wildly rash because though its seems irresponsible and inappropriate there is a level in which the wildness understands and challenges decisions that put me into box.

silencing my voice.

i have been fighting my silence for years. and it was been a brutal journey to listen to the foreign noise clamoring in my head only to discover its passion and liveliness was a sweet voice belonging to me.  this is coming across a bit as self proclamation and do understand there is also an outside presence strongly influencing my life. thus, preserving my voice had begun to take precedence.

which leads me to where i am physically:

“When despair for the world grows in me…I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief…For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”  Wendell Berry

the farm, henderson, nebraska, in the home of my youth.  picking, canning, storing up, running, reading, piano playing and yes,
writing.

i had wanted to come back to spend time with my family, with nieces and nephews growing up too fast, to be able to drink tea with my mother, to play skip-bo with my grandmother, to sew with my other grandma and mother.  to be near the support of my parents. and then i also needed to come home to make the next step. i needed to be somewhere i could let words catch up to my voice, allowing me to speak.  to take the time needed to process the last two years, making a decision that is a product not a bi-product of what has wearied my body.  finally allowing my words to become my stepping stones onward.