A Visit to the Ag Store

 

agriculture tractor
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

We didn’t get out for a walk yesterday due to freezing rain. Outdoor activities are a no-go today, too. While it’s too warm to freeze, at least until tonight when the temps will plummet, the north wind tosses drops of drizzle around like the star-shaped weapons used by Ninjas.

On days like this, I struggle not to bake all the recipes. Oakley proclaims his boredom by pestering for snacks or licking the coffee table and the knickknacks on it to see how much of a rise he can get out of me, there’s only one thing to do: go to the ag store.

The one we frequent is housed in what once was a Wal-Mart on the far side of the next town over from us. The march of progress called for a move to a super center across the street, leaving this building unoccupied for some time. Then a furniture store that underwent reinvention at least twice moved in there. After its demise, the building sat empty again until the ag store chain bought it and set up camp there.

It’s not quite as good as a walk in the woods, but a bit of browsing and window shopping in a dog-friendly environment dulls the edge of cabin fever. We aren’t the only ones looking for a comfortable place to spend a bit of time. It’s not uncommon to see other people chatting or checking the bulletin board by the front entrance or debating the best tool for a given job.

After Oakley leaves messages on a lamppost or two in the parking lot, in we go. He’s happy and eager to do so because of the scents and the associates who tell him what a good boy he is and how handsome, mitigating the neglect he receives at home.

At the customer service desk, there’s popcorn and coffee for the people and a dish of biscuits for dogs.  The biskies don’t fit my criteria for Oakley’s daily consumption, but once in a while as a treat, they’re OK. I take two, then drag him away before he scarfs up the rest of them. From there, we proceed to the automotive department to give the tires and accessories a good sniffing.

When that department has passed inspection, we practice “sit,” munch on a bite of biskie, and walk through the aisles where hoses, hardware, and paint wait on the shelves to be purchased. Again, “sit,” and biskie bite.

Power tools don’t have much of a draw for either of us, and neither does the clothing intended for average sized and much younger women. We bypass those displays. We weave through the other aisles until we reach the livestock department. They have rabbits for sale year round, and next month spring chicks will join them. Oakley quickly peeks into the holding pens, keeping his nose high enough so he can sniff but not frighten the bunnies or chicks.

I rarely buy anything if Oakley is with me. It’s infinitely easier to make a solo return trip than to juggle 75 pounds of dog, a cartload of stuff, and my purse so I can pay.  When I see items I need such as pet safe ice melt or gardening supplies or the like, I make mental notes and swing by to pick them up after the day care run–it’s on the main route between our house and Ms. Lanette’s.

The true test of patience is in the garden department. We practice long sits as I look longingly at the seed packets and hand tools, anticipating the upcoming season of sun and earth. When I’m done, Oakley gets the final bite of biskie and we say “thank you” to the associates at the customer service desk as we make our exit.

We go home with stories to tell about who we saw and what smelled good that day. On days like today, those are just as important as the items I’ll return to purchase after the next day care run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Today, Reaper. Not Today.

Oakley had his distemper shot and yearly once-over yesterday. He’d lost a bit of weight, not a bad thing with his left hip. That’s the one that may have dysplasia, a condition that increases the odds of him getting arthritis as he gets older. Dr. P and I chose to hold off on X-rays as long as possible because he’d need to be sedated, something neither of us are thrilled about. He forgave the vet and the vet tech for the needle pokes, and received a sizable chunk of freeze-dried liver for his reward. The week began to redeem itself as we walked outside into the grey morning.

Monday started off with a round of my own gastrointestinal unpleasantries. Not Oakley’s, but my own. He just sat and cuddled against my leg while I called and cancelled a scheduled breakfast with a couple of friends I don’t get to see enough. There were several calls with a grumpy Hubby as he negotiates the bureaucracy of retirement while the renovations on his mom’s house drag on.

Meanwhile on the world stage, actors and singers left the planet in numbers I cannot remember ever happening before in less than a week. David Bowie (deep respect to him–his music and style didn’t resonate with me, except for “Let’s Dance,” but my God/dess, did he have guts and talent) , then Alan Rickman (Marianne’s true love in “Sense and Sensibility”), then Dan Haggerty of “Grizzly Adams” fame. There were several others, but they were the most notable.

The personal left curves came later in the week. One of the women I’d known in Brittany rescue circles and hung out with at picnics died unexpectedly. Evidently she’d sustained a heart attack in her sleep. Her last post on Facebook gave no hint of anything amiss. I’m sure that she had quite the welcoming committee on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. She will be missed by many, two- and four-legged alike.

The second one came in the form of an entry on a blog that I love and follow. The author, like me, has had issues with her weight throughout her life. She also love history, and created an eating plan for herself based on rationing during WWII in the UK. (please check out The 1940’s Experiment for more details.)  She wrote this week about ending up in the hospital while on vacation with some issues where weight may have played a factor, and then she wrote about getting herself back on track. She’s on the mend now and rededicating herself to her efforts.

Ever read or hear something and felt that God/dess, the cosmos, the Universe had just dealt you a kick in the pants? Her blog entry was mine. Right now, I think I’m OK–some crackles in my knees, a stiff back in the morning. But what about a year or so down the road? Am I playing dice with myself?

I’m probably, based on my grandparents’ ages, going to live to 96. I used to believe that I would live to be 100, but between Orion’s allergies that prevented us from sleeping during corn season (100-1=99), getting Oakley properly trained and socialized (99-2=97), and his tummy (97-1=96), 96 is a reasonable guess. And I want to do it in good health.

I begin again. Every morning has involved Pilates (not pie and lattes, unfortunately) and/or yoga. After just a few days, my back has stopped cursing me when I roll out of bed. I made a run to Woodman’s and stocked up on more exotic fruits and veggies to amuse my ADHD-addled impulsivity-controlled palate.

I keep in mind, too, the words of a local acquaintance who lost a tremendous amount of weight with daily yoga and a strict diet. She would ask herself when she was having cravings if she was living or dying with each choice.

It’s that simple. Perhaps not easy, but it’s that simple. I’m choosing to live today.

 

 

 

Let’s Go Shopping with the Inner Child

The end of the Thanksgiving leftovers brought in the beginning of a new shopping cycle. So be it.

I stopped at Aldi after acupuncture on Tuesday. Fruit (limited but lovely organic selections), some veggies, a pizza, some pumpkin for Oakley. OK.

At this time of year, Aldi brings in holiday goodies from Germany. Fancy chocolates; cookies; specialty cheeses; cakes and breads; crackers hum a chorus of temptation.

My adult self can tune out all but the the deep vibrato of the most celebratory chocolate. My inner child, however, needs noise canceling headphones.

I stood there with a bag of dark chocolate almonds in my hand. My early elementary self whispered,  Can we get these, please? 

Not a good idea.

Why? Almonds are good for you. So is dark chocolate.

True in theory, but what happened last time we bought a bag?

Shrug.

How long did the bag last?

Uhh… But they’re good for you. Look, they have dark chocolate and sea salt and they’re almonds!

If we eat it all in one shot, they’re not so good for you. I think we’d better put the bag down.

But–but..

PUT. THE. BAG. DOWN.

Sigh. 

The bag went back on the shelf.

Similar inner dialogs occurred in the seasonal isle with the sea salt caramels, truffles, and some crackers as well as the cheese section. We were able to compromise on some regular dark chocolate, a little extra fruit. That placated her.

We were able to get out unscathed, on budget, and with a minimum of bruised feelings. I made pasta for dinner (which makes her smile) and we went on to have a bit of chocolate for dessert, leaving us both at peace.

 

Reconsidering Aldi

No, dears, I’m not getting paid for this. I have simply developed a fondness for it after many years.

When we first moved out here, Aldi was the store of last resort. The turn off of the main road is at an unnatural angle and shared with two other businesses. The old building, now demolished, smelled odd. Many of the foods were processed overseas, and the labels read like the culinary world’s Periodic Table. I bought what I could comfortably (read: pasta) and dreamed of the post-construction days ahead when I could shop other places without fear of overdrawing our checking account.

As do other trying times, those passed. I drove past it with little thought.

Then in came the new building.

And in came reviews and raves from unexpected sources. One friend with a kid en route to college told me over several lunches that Aldi had started to carry organic and natural and gluten-free products. Another who runs in business circles of the highest order on the east coast posted several raves about it and how much she had cut her grocery bills. Then came the biggest shocker of all: my sister whose taste buds out-discriminate mine called and told me of a delicious dinner that she’d made with fish purchased there.

Oh, and let’s not forget my personal kryptonite: chocolate. Really good high-quality made in Europe chocolate.  Hubby brought a lot home before I caved and decided to give Aldi another shot for everyday shopping. We went there one afternoon, and well, he won.

Caveats:

  • Take a quarter and bags with you. The carts are chained together and can be freed for a quarter. This prevents loss and damages incurred by rogue carts roaming the lot. They do have paper bags, but they’re something like six cents each. Oh, and you have to bag your own purchases. But it’s worth it.
  • Take an extra bag or two. Remember the stories about shopping in Cold War-era Russia where people always carried bags with them so they could purchase food, clothes, etc. to make sure they didn’t run out in case of a shortage? You never know what you might find on special at Aldi, so be prepared. Not just food wise, but kitchen equipment, household goods, and chainsaws. Really.
  • Do extra scrutiny on the labels. I bought some salsa that had sugar in it. Some argue that sugar in tomato products lifts and balances the flavor. To me, you might as well pour it on ice cream. Also the nut butters have palm oil in them with no indication about whether or not it’s rainforest safe. Their grape supplier sprays them with sulfur to preserve freshness.
  • Be careful about the meat and fish for additives such as dyes and preservatives and where it was produced. Also be aware that the dairy products give no indication about GMO or antibiotic safety.

But that being said, their parent company is in Germany, and they usually have breads, jams, and soups manufactured in the EU, so that helps with the safety factor. They have a lot of gluten free offerings: corn-based pasta, mac and cheese, pizza (which incidentally gives two Weight Watcher friendly servings), and cereals and snack bars. The produce is a little hit and miss, but they are making strides with the organic offerings.

I mentioned the chocolate, didn’t I?

 

 

 

 

 

To Beef or Not To Beef: That Is the Question

Yes, by all means, beef, but choose grassfed:

  • Grassfed beef is as lean as chicken breast and contains fatty acids such as ALA’s and omega-3’s that may promote health.
  •  Its raising my actually benefit the environment.
  • No antibiotics are used in its production. 
  • Feedlot beef routinely gets fed what amounts to garbage: bakery waste, candy, and potato product waste. And then the consumer eats that. Eeew.

For more information, point thy browser to http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm

Bison is a good alternative. It’s carried at Whole Foods, Costco, some health food stores, some markets, and if you don’t mind paying up the wazoo for shipping, you can order it from producers. It is a couple bucks more than grassfed beef, but it’s a good investment in health.

A few caveats:

 

  • Both bison and grassfed beef cook very quickly and can cross the line from pleasantly chewy to rubber band consistency in a heartbeat. Cook slow and low for the most tender results.
  • Some people find bison too gamey for their tastes.  
  • They are pricier than grain fed products.

 However, they can be a wise investment for your health. Just handle gently, mix in some veggies to maximize servings, and enjoy.

The Day As It Is Given

One more weather related cancellation or postponement and I will not be responsible for my behavior.

We had the post-Big Storm Big Thaw yesterday. Warmer temps melted the snow from last weekend’s dumping. That’s a good thing.

The bad thing: we had a pretty hard rain go through. Sheets, buckets, cats, dogs, and a few pocket pets thrown in for good measure. The ground is frozen nine inches down, so there’s nowhere for it to go. The runoff is regrouping in the form of seasonal ponds and black ice in inopportune areas. Nothing livens up your Friday like driving through standing water on black ice. 

After a week of rescheduling and postponements, I was ready to go out for a good walk with Oakley, then out to lunch with a couple of friends. Not so fast. The superintendent at the park was waving people away from the mirror-slick trail, and my road started freezing up again despite a salt truck driving as if in the Indy 500 trials to get the roads covered before the temps tank out again this afternoon. My road follows a hill, curves along a row of telephone poles, then goes straight along a creek .    

I’m erring on the side of caution. I would really like to get out, but what would I be driving into or on when I’m on the way home? I’ve spun out a few times and landed in a ditch. No, thanks. I don’t want to add landing in a creek to my driving resume. 

It’s a good day to practice acceptance. Again. I was able to get out and do some shopping yesterday, so we are set for the duration.  I forgot almond milk, but I will live. 

I have a variety of creative projects to work on, and will delight in the entertainment of “Prairie Home Companion” this evening likely followed by the rest of “Dances With Wolves.” I might even run the vacuum.

But I’m not that desperate yet.

Group Deep Breath

Currently in the soybean field, we are getting snow. A lot of it. And then there will be very cold temps and very bitter wind chills. By Wednesday, however, we will be back to a more moderate twenty-something. 

Yes, we will have a few days that will call for acceptance and adaptation. We will be OK, and the odds are good that most people will live.  But there’s always the inevitable flip into survival mode. You know, where instead of a fast trip to the store to grab an extra carton of milk or another pack of toilet paper just to be safe, people lose their blessed minds and buy cases of sriracha and five kinds of chips and, well, you get the picture. Like the lady at Target the night before the Blizzard of 2011 who threatened Hubby over eggs at Target. To hell with the Wal-Mart, Aldi, Jewel, Walgreen’s and two gas stations perhaps a mile away. Nope, those were the last eggs in her known universe. He graciously let her have them and grabbed some at one of the other stores. 

I had my deep breath moment this morning. Oakley sees the vet for his yearly once over on Monday (theoretically–we’re slated for a high of -12 with Kelvin scale-worthy windchills that’s going from St. Louis up into Canada) and of course I ran out of his Chinese digestive herbs and probiotics yesterday. So I considered a trip to Target this morning. We also walked at a local forest preserve, and as we walked, I felt the barometric pressure change and saw the dark slate cloud wall inch southwards towards us. Barometric changes make me feel as if I’m having a being chased by a tiger. I started doing my breathing exercises as my mind took off. On top of stuff for his tummy, I would then need…OMG…I need chocolate and frozen dog desserts and pizza and a rotisserie chicken and my own personal hygiene supplies and….

Breathe. No, Fran, want or need. You need stuff to keep Oaks’ tummy leveled out. You have enough personal supplies to get you through until Tuesday when you have acupuncture at the clinic almost across the street from Target. You could use some chocolate. Where could you go where you could get stuff for his tummy? Oh, yeah, the drug store two miles from my house.

So I went there, found some probiotics that are safe for the lactose intolerant, a couple of other OTCs to calm things down if need be, and some lovely chocolate. And spray cheese to get everything down Oakley without a fight. 

I was home in about a half-hour. Worth the extra money in this case. Hubby called shortly after I arrived with a story of going to the Target by his mom’s house. All the lanes were open and they still had shoppers in a holding pattern over Detroit Metro. He just went back to his mom’s, grateful for his tuna and soup. I also talked to my sister who lives north of the Detroit area. She and her husband had gone shopping yesterday at their Meijer’s and no carts were to be had. 

So we will be holed up for a couple of days. I’m grateful for my pantry and my freezer, and for basic cookbooks like More with Less and Laurel’s Kitchen to guide me through essentials such as bread should the need arise.

Now as the light slips over the western horizon, it snows. Let it. It will move out in divine right order. Oakley naps next to me with his tush pressed against my leg. I’m thinking chili for my dinner and turkey and pumpkin for his. I lift a prayer for the people and animals out in this. And let the day do what it must. 

 

Hunting and Gathering

There was a host on a now-defunct classical station who would describe today’s weather as “moody and introspective; a good day for tea and Russian novels.” I would add wool socks to the list. If I had any in the house, I’d add a shot of blackberry brandy to the tea.

Today’s introspective processes are brought to you by the irony of living in still more or less farm country but having to make a 20 to 30 minute drive to go grocery shopping. I’m blessed with a home delivery service for some items such as eggs, greens, organic chickens, and bison at competitive prices. For nonperishables and some organic stuff, I divide my shopping between Trader Joe’s and a couple of local family- or employee-owned stores. 

We have some chain stores, but I really prefer to avoid them. One which offers deep discounts smells kind of weird, even in the new building, and carries too much stuff made in China. Another that used to be locally owned is chronically overpriced, and its new parent company has a creepy policy of sending a bagger to your car with you to “help” (working theory is to prevent shopping cart loss). Then there are Target and Wal-Mart. Target is OK for grabbing milk and has a pretty decent line of pizza made in Italy, but I don’t get much else there. I try to avoid Wal-Mart, except in an extreme emergency.

When Hubby worked in the physical office before telecommuting, I would send him a list for Woodman’s and Trader Joe’s. Nowadays, I do most of my shopping mid-week on days when I have voice lessons. My teacher is within spitting distance of Woodman’s and Trader Joe’s. I take a cooler for things like cheese and chicken so they can sit in the quiet cool of my hatchback while I sing. 

I have a local friend, another unrepentant foodie, who shops at the same places. We carpool in summer. If we go out for lunch, we have made a day of it. 

This year, I’m toying with joining an organic CSA for the summer, anyway. The farmer’s market the next town over has some good options, especially as summer rolls on. 

I picked up some chicken from a decent producer for dinner tonight. I’m thinking oven fried, a nice compromise between comfort and austerity. My produce lady brought asparagus yesterday. Probably roast that. Maybe some mashed sweet potato. 

It sounds good enough to take a nap on, and dream of the coming summer.