Winter: The Condensed Version

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

This picture pretty much sums it up. A series of storms that began last Thursday night and ended Sunday afternoon dropped some 18.5 inches on us, the vast majority of precipitation for the season.

Thursday morning, Oakley and I went shopping for his food, then I made the last minute run to the store for milk, eggs, and so on. We had bread. Hubby had just purchased a fresh bale of toilet paper. After running the gauntlet, I grabbed a pizza for lunch, and went home to batten down the hatches. Called the guy who does the driveway? Check. Supplies in place? Check? Reading material and dog treats? Check. Settle in and enjoy the storm.

The first flakes drifted across the window as we ate dinner. Peace, coziness, and gratitude descended.

Until the next morning when everything went off the rails, making me wonder momentarily when the walls and floors would emit flames and sulphur.

Hubby hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of days. We had chalked it up to one of the variations of the crud going around and treated it with standard home remedies of soup, tea, NSAIDS, and Vernor’s (you can take the kids out of Michigan, but you can’t take the Michigan out of the kids) ginger ale. His symptoms intensified to the point where he went to the local walk in clinic.

By himself.

Fine. I didn’t ask if I should go with him. He’s driven himself to the emergency room twice with gout in his right foot and once for stitches in his left knee after a mishap with a grinder while restoring a pickup truck. Should he ask me to accompany him, I’ll take it as a sign that he really needs an ambulance.

In this case, his solo journey was not a bad thing, even with my mumbles of “fine, be that way.” Just after he left to pick his way down the slippery sloppy road, Oakley frantically ran in circles around his crate and the dinette table. I snapped on the leash and lead him outside just before he had an attack of colitis. That was for the first time in over two months. That was when we started him on the Prednisone for his eyes. His digestive system calming down has been a bonus. We–the vets and I–had been weaning him off of it. I will spare the details, but will say that Stephen King could have used the incident in a novel. Luckily,  I had the herbs for calming his colon and the preferred antidiarrheal here at home.  Both were administered before I took my coat off. He paced around a little like he does when he’s crampy, gave himself a good shake, then joined me on the sofa with his tush pushed up against my hip before the snoring started.

Hubby had picked his way home again, pharmacy bag in his hand. Only two other patients were there. One was on the way out with a bandage enveloping one hand; the other was signing in as Hubby left. The doctor called in the prescription to the pharmacy across the street. His whole adventure had only taken an hour and a half, even with the abysmal roads and the obligatory moron going the usual speed limit of 55 and honking at Hubby for not doing same. He ate lunch, drank tea, then took his meds and went for an afternoon-long nap.

Little else could be done. The driveway guy came and went several times. Hubby rested. I tried some new recipes based on research on food choices to reduce blood pressure since his was high on Friday. Not bad, pretty tasty.

Finally, the roads cleared and we were all able to get out yesterday. Hubby went to school. I went to the local big city for a long overdue lunch with a friend before a self-care appointment.

Today starts the February thaw. No precipitation until this weekend, but that seems up in the air at this time.

We welcome the thaw. Even with a condensed winter, it is a welcome friend.

 

The Summer of Our Discontent

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image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

Yes, I know that the quote from “Richard III” is “winter” and not “summer.” However, the hellish humidity combined with a heat index of something like 103 is not making me happy. Throw in an air action alert, and we are neither amused or comfortable. It’s making us all downright crabby, in fact. Short, clear sentences with no room for misunderstanding are the order of the day.

Oakley and I slapped together a 30-minute walk. Emphasis on “slap” due to the mosquitos that plagued me. He tended to his social networking and business while I frantically waved and swatted. The good parts of the walk were its speed and efficiency and not whacking myself in the face with the cleanup bag. I am truly grateful for that.

When we finished, I dropped Oakley off at home, then ran to Walgreen’s to get antacid tablets for him and ice for me so I can indulge myself with a homemade iced coffee later this afternoon. I look forward to that. Not the same as from my favorite drive thru window, but worth it in the long run between calorie sparing (I use stevia here at home and can throw in a splash of vanilla extract to liven things up) and not contributing to the flow of plastic, even that which is destined to be recycled.

Later on we might make a run to one of the farm stores. This one allows dogs, and we will both benefit from a couple of laps around the store. For some reason, Oakley is infatuated with the automotive department. The scents of rubber and metal must have some kind of exotic appeal, the way that humans search out food not of their own ethnic background.

I’m doing my best to avoid news on TV. Part of me wants to monitor the weather, but the desire to avoid the deepening insanity surrounding the elections competes with it. I know that I can go on line, but the visuals and the walkthroughs by the weather people makes it more real, somehow.

Reading is always an option. I’m still working on Seafaring Women purchased during the opening Ren Faire weekend. I’m bouncing back and forth between that and Lake Woebegon Days. 

Oakley has toys to quietly maul. I’ll freeze some pumpkin in a Kong for a special treat–the last time he had the soy-based ice cream for dogs it didn’t sit well with him. He doesn’t mind pumpkin at all, especially with a squirt of spray cheese thrown in just because.

Tonight will bring storms and some respite. If not, a Thai curry is in order and we’ll pretend we’re in Bangkok. We’ll live, but the quality of doing so must be maintained.

Early Spring Food

I’m thinking about historical foods today. Not the kitschy vintage ones with Jell-O. Not the elaborate feasts of nobility and aristocracy. I’m thinking about what pioneers and peasants would have eaten at this time of year when the bottoms of the barrels of salt pork were getting scraped and the last of the potatoes had started sprouting alongside the remaining withered apples. Perhaps some legumes and staples such as cornmeal and flour were available. Perhaps not. 

Dandelions might have appeared on the table. Yes, they are bitter. I like a few leaves in my salads. I’ve never tried them cooked, but I’ve heard they’re good that way. 

If one lived near water, perhaps a fish could be had. Or maybe a smoked one from the previous fall would be available. 

Did they keep cows? Goats? Maybe a little hard cheese was on hand. 

This is the time of year when all of a cook’s creativity needed to be in play to make sure that everyone made it through to later days of spring when a somewhat wider variety of food would be available. Survival came first, and if you could make something appealing on top that, you had done your job well, indeed.

The Unintended “Little House” Pageant Continues

In my childhood, I read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books at least twice. In my adulthood, I was able to visit her home in DeSmet, South Dakota, and saw the surveyor’s house where she and her family lived in On the Shores of Silver Lake. Amazingly, the five Ingalls and several railroad surveyors all squished themselves into a structure with fewer square feet than the closet in my master bedroom.

The book that’s been on my mind since November has been The Long Winter. At the beginning of the book, Pa goes to town one September day. While he’s at the general store, an elderly Native American man warns the settlers of a tough winter ahead, one that comes around every twenty years. “Old! Old! I have seen!” he states before riding out of town. When October rolls around, that part of South Dakota gets its butt kicked by a blizzard. The settlers don’t catch a break until late April or early May. Most of them survive, though. 

Today in modern times on the edge of the farmland between Chicago and DeKalb, it is February 27, and we are looking at a single digit high today. Tomorrow will be a more respectable 27 or so, but still below average. Oh, and before I forget, we’re supposed to get even more snow over the weekend. Yippee freakin’ skippee. 

Unlike Ma Ingalls, however, I can make a run to the store tomorrow. Their February meals are the meals of desperation and survival: beans boiled with salt pork; cornbread consisting of little more than cornmeal, salt, and water. There was one scene where Pa considered butchering their dairy cow, but fate intervened and one of their neighbors did so with a steer.

At least they had tea and Pa played his fiddle.

I hope that partially drowned out the wind. Around here, it’s been roaring like a wounded animal. I have the radio and TV that mask it, partially, anyway. The heat is pretty reliable, unless we have a power outage. 

So with basic needs met in a downright decadent manner in comparison to the Ingalls’, we soldier on, hoping this breaks before May. 

First person kvetching about the heat gets fifteen minutes on the naughty step.