Fancy Coffee Friday: Prodigal Rooster


I think that is the best word to describe my feelings when I discovered that my favorite rooster, let alone chicken, had not returned to the barn last week Wednesday.  He was always one of the first of the chickens into the barn at the end of the day.  Already it was dark and finding a black rooster in a wooded lot on a dark night was going to be an exercise in futility.  I gave a heavy sigh and put out my wish to the universe that he still be alive and Mr. Muse and I nodded our heads in unison, after I mentioned my boy wasn’t in the barn, that Sumo the Sumatra was lost to the wilds.

My favorite rooster.

My favorite rooster.

The next night found me searching the outdoor perches for Sumo in the dimming light as I approached the barn and not seeing him there I headed into the barn.  I went about my routine of feeding the sheep and goats first and then grabbed my egg basket to collect what the hens had laid that day.  As I stepped into their pen I saw a black object out of the corner of my eye and turned, surprised to find Sumo huddled up in the corner of the pen, his head tucked beneath a wing.  I watched him and thought he didn’t appear to be breathing and touched his side.  He jerked his head up, unbalanced and wobbly and that’s when I saw the blood smeared on the wall behind him.

This wasn’t good at all.

I collected the eggs and headed to the house, calling for Mr. Muse to, “bring me the gun,” explaining Sumo was in the barn but there was blood on the walls and if he was gravely injured I would put him down.  Mr. Muse, gallant man that he is, fetched the gun and some ammo and asked if he should come with me as I grabbed a flashlight off of the shelf.  I said that two pairs of eyes might be good as one of us had to hold Sumo up so he could be examined and we headed out to the barn.

Gingerly, I picked up Sumo, who has been handled from the day he arrived at our house and didn’t make any fuss, and with flashlight in hand we looked for damage.  Sumo’s big, black eyes blinked as he watched us and though there was a lot of blood, we couldn’t find any injuries more serious than blood feathers that had been yanked off or broken from his backside.  Whatever he’d tussled with didn’t kill him, but did leave him hungry, dehydrated and exhausted.  I’m not sure how long it took him to get back to the barn from wherever his fight happened on the property, but he was back.

Mr. Muse and I swept into action, grabbing the cage top to an old guinea pig habitat that has become our go-to Medical cage for chickens, food and water dishes and the heat lamp.  We examined him once again, grabbed a can of Blu-Kote and sprayed the bleeding feathers that were left, checked for broken bones, other injuries and gently I placed him in the cage under the lamp.

Sumo is my buddy.  He knows his name.  He knows a couple commands (mostly because he’s highly food-motivated) and will fly up to my arm to perch parrot-like and will let me carry him around.  While he’s still “a chicken”, I became attached to him when he was just a little guy and he’s definitely a pet.

I placed my hand under Sumo’s chest and held him up as I put the dish of food in the cage and he wavered on his feet but began to eat.  I held him for a few minutes and felt him steady himself enough that I could let go.  Offering him the water, he refused, preferring to fill his belly with food first.  Satisfied that I was pretty sure he’d make it through the night, we left him standing under the heat lamp, slowly eating food, and me declaring, “He’s the prodigal rooster!  My beloved rooster has returned!”

The next morning, I was greeted by Sumo who was standing up in his cage, had drank about half the water in his bowl and ate a good deal of food.  He was much less shaky on his feet and his body temperature was back to normal.  My patient appeared to be on the mend.

Now, a week later, Sumo has become a spoiled rotten rooster, expecting a small offering of grain morning and night.  Of course, the fact that I started that which puts his expectation square on me is beside the point.  He’s still a bit wobbly but when he is walking around he’s much more sure of his steps.  He’s going to be confined for at least another week to continue to regain his strength before being turned back in with the rest of the flock.

Let’s hope that he stays away from whatever creature it was with which he went rounds.

Posted in Chickens, Fancy Coffee Friday, Musings, Personal, Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Do Not Disturb

I was cranky.  I was close to eating all the things.  I was not my normally joyful self.  It crept on slowly over the course of months, but it was definitely more pronounced in the last few weeks.

Need I say more?

Need I say more?

I’d been eating “right”.  I was getting up at 4:30 every morning to work out just so I could be sure to get in my exercise.  I was going to bed at a reasonable time and falling asleep (after reading a while) at a decent hour.

What was I doing wrong?

I looked at the history of my FitBit and the answer was staring me right in the face.  Despite my getting to bed early enough for that 4:30 AM wake up – I was getting an average of 5 hours of sleep a night.  I knew the moment I saw that average that my biggest issue was: I needed a nap.

Maybe not just a nap.  Maybe what I needed was to go back to doing what I shouldn’t have gotten away from doing in the first place:  getting in a full night of sleep.

Sleep?  I don't need no stickin' sleep!  Oh... wait.  Yeah, I do.

Sleep? I don’t need no stickin’ sleep!
Oh… wait. Yeah, I do.

I love sleep.  There were times in my life after particularly stimulating events (weekend camp for 4-H teens, traveling to Washington DC for 4-H…. come to think of it, 4-H was responsible for most of my extreme exhaustion up through age 18) where I could easily sleep for 14 or more hours straight up.  I discovered that to maintain myself as a happy panda, I needed to literally sleep 7-8 hours a night.  Months of less than that had revealed themselves a few weeks ago when I replaced my makeup with gluten-free versions and included a stick of yellow concealer to camouflage the beginning of dark circles under my eyes.  This was no good.

Happily, the last 10 days of foregoing the early morning wake up and workout routine and getting the extra hours of sleep have helped out tremendously.  The dark circles are going away.  The overwhelming need to “eat all the things” has dissipated.  And my naturally joyful nature?  That’s coming back, too.  Bonus, I haven’t gained weight – in fact it’s gone down.

So let’s hear it for resting!  Let’s give three cheers for napping!  Go sleep!


Posted in Blogging, Fancy Coffee Friday, Musings, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: A Rantling on Rudeness

Have you ever sat down and pondered if you were a rude person?  Do you do things that are rude?  Say things that are rude?  Are you uncouth or uncivil?  Impertinent perhaps?

I’ve thought about this a lot.  While my personality lends itself towards a propensity for being blunt, disliking “small talk” and liking a lot of alone time, when it comes down to it, I’m not a rude person.  I’m actually quite friendly and can talk the ears off of perfect strangers if it’s a subject that interests me.  I’m the person who gets cornered by the sweet, elderly women on planes who spend the whole flight telling me their life stories (I was seated next to Molly Sims‘ grandmother’s best friend, so she said, once on a trip to Las Vegas – for real and very random).  I’ve humored talkative drunks in bars and entertained waiters in restaurants.  I’m able to hold my own in a give-and-take conversation and will focus on the person or people I’m with because I want them to feel important and worthy of my consideration.  I’m that person.

What I see more frequently these last few years, when the younger generations became all thumbs-and-texts, was a dearth of conversation.  A lack of respect.  A predilection to ignore the person present in lieu of the cell phone, iPad, eReader or whatever electronic communication device was in hand.

At first, I was pondering writing a post – a rantling if you will, on cell phone usage and how terribly, terribly rude people are becoming with whipping out their little “Electronic Leash”.  But, my Friends, it is more than that; while I think computers, and therefore the internet, are wonderful things, I also believe that they are responsible for the general lack of propriety, comportment and inability to converse with our fellow man.

Case in point.  I was out to lunch a while ago with a friend and during conversation the friend kept checking their phone.  I would stop speaking.  Friend would look up and say, “I’m listening, you can keep talking.”  My response was, “No, I’ll wait until you’re finished.” The simple fact was that I was speaking with them in what I had thought was a conversation, not a one-sided diatribe.  There was no give-and-take repartee.  There was no respect and I felt unimportant and unworthy.

Dear Readers, I have a cell phone, I’ve had one for many years, but I resist the urge to frantically reach for, and check, it every five minutes.  When I’m out to dinner with friends, my phone is tucked away in my purse and it’s only brought out if someone asks the time, inquires about a particular calendar date or a few other valid reasons to take the phone out.  Once Mr. Muse teased me about being “one of those people” when I’d gotten my phone out to check something (by request).  He won’t be making that joke again as he now has a smartphone and is still in the honeymoon phase of owning it.

I like to think I have a strict sense of decorum and adhere to a code of etiquette when I’m “out”, and unless I’m with someone who explains after the initial greeting that they’re “waiting for an important phone call”, I get very perturbed about Frequent Phone Checking.  No one is more important than the person one is with, and if you are compelled to constantly check your phone when out with others, what does that say about you?  I’ll say it, you’re rude.  Period.

This culture of shorthand responses has bled into face-to-face conversations, or lack of them, to the point where trying to having a meaningful discussion about anything is reduced to trying to decipher one-word responses or guttural sounds.  Was that grunt a “yes” or a “no”?  Like Johnny 5, I need more input.  People have taken to interrupting others with incredible persistence, disallowing them to finish sentences, thoughts even entire words or just flat-out ignoring them.  Even trying to have a conversation about serious subjects is reduced to a frustrating combination of standing ones ground and batting away misguided (and oh-so-unfunny) “jokes” about sex.  I’m sorry, I fail to see the connection between frac-sand mining and sex.

The casual approach has even encroached, and perhaps been made worse by, social media – particularly Facebook and it’s “Poke” feature*.  Random users seem to think that it’s “cute” to poke someone rather than send a message expressing interest in getting to know someone else.  Do you do this?  Please stop, it’s not cute; it’s rude, obnoxious and beneath you.

I put the question out there on Facebook and Twitter, “Do you think cell phones and social media are making people rude? More rude? Socially inept? Unable to hold a conversation?#Letmeknow“.  One response that I received permission to share was:

@RSVRZach  @The_AmusingMuse more shallow and less capable of face to face interaction. Just my .02 anyway.

So what do we do?  We put away the phones (on silent).  We actually have conversations about things other than “did you see what so-and-so said on Facebook” or the newest reality show.  We stop “face-palming” anyone who disagrees with our point of view and actually make an effort to understand their perspective.  We step up our game and stop being rude, unseemly and boorish.  We stop being disrespectful.  We make concerted efforts to make sure the people we’re with feel important and worthy of our consideration.

*Since I wrote the first draft of this a couple years ago, the “Poke” feature has become less visible and it’s not used nearly to the extent it had been.  I’m happy about that.

Posted in Blogging, Fancy Coffee Friday, Friendship, Personal, Random Thoughts, Rants, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday*: Pinterest Failure #1

*So apparently trying to schedule posts from my phone just doesn’t work.  Here is Friday’s post… on Sunday.

Pinterest Fail.  Me do it!

Pinterest Fail.
Me do it!

I have always been an avid baker.  My Mom made what I considered to be the most delicious bars and snack cakes on the face of the earth and I aspired to be as good a baker as she was.  The simple Chocolate Chip Cookies, “Congo Bars” (aka fancy name for Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars) and Wacky Cake (a Depression-era snack cake that didn’t use eggs) soon prompted me into forays of making Double-Crust Apple Pie, Marble Chiffon Cake, Two-Layer German Chocolate Cake and even a “rabbit cake” for one of my sister’s birthdays.  (That would be two 9″ round cake layers cut into shapes and put together to look like a rabbit.  I’d also made her a “Cat Cake” another year – same concept.)

My adventures in baking contained numerous victories: high praise and many a ribbon at the county fair.  However, this is not to say that I haven’t had some failures.  When I was twelve, I pulled out my Mom’s very beat up (held together with masking tape) Betty Crocker Cookbook and found the recipe for a Chocolate Souffle.  I read the list of ingredients and a check of the pantry and cabinets revealed that we had them all.  It was a pleasant enough day and I began to bake.  Loving and careful attention was paid to every step and I heeded the warning that loud noises or banging around inside of the house may very well cause the delicious beauty to collapse before it finished baking, so I kicked everyone out of the house.  This was to be a baking triumph!

What nobody told me was that as beautiful as that souffle looked when it was done, big, puffy, chocolatey with steam escaping from the cracks on top… was that it was going to collapse as it cooled and that you really should serve it immediately after coming out of the oven.  I was terribly disappointed.  Ultimately we all had a good laugh that evening as we enjoyed our dessert of Chocolate Souffle-come-Chocolate Souffle Brownies; and that brings me to last Saturday and what marked what could be considered in current culture as a “Pinterest Fail“.  If you’ve not heard of these or stopped by the site, please do – they’re hilarious.

I’d been craving cinnamon rolls for weeks by this stage.  The Udi’s Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls were a major disappointment, I wouldn’t even call them an acceptable substitute.  Especially not if what you’re craving is the high fat, high sugar goodness that is Cinnabon (come on Cinnabon…. we need a really good gluten-free cinnamon roll from you).  My America’s Test Kitchen Gluten Free Cookbook didn’t have a recipe for cinnamon rolls (another disappointment), but I had a box of Gluten Free Bisquick in the pantry and a quick look at the website found a cinnamon roll recipe.  I made my decision on Friday night that I would make the cinnamon rolls in the morning and went to bed.

Saturday morning, I was excited.  Cinnamon Rolls! They would soon be mine and I opened up the laptop to the page with the recipe, pulled out the ingredients and began.

So, funny thing about gluten-free dough… it’s very, very…. mushy.  This was the case with this cinnamon roll recipe as well.  If you just wanted to scoop it out into a pan and bake it, great; unfortunately, cinnamon rolls require some manipulation, i.e. kneading and rolling the dough.  Having been gluten-free for the last two years, I knew that the dough would be sticky (understatement) and since I had to roll it up, my best plan of action would be working on something like waxed paper (had it) to help facilitate a smooth roll.

You know what they say about good intentions, right?

I had envisioned my cinnamon rolls to turn out just like the photo on the website.  My intentions were that I’d have a photo-ready recipe to say, “Hey look!  I made these cinnamon rolls and they were delicious and easy-to-make, too!”

The reality turned out more like this…  The dough mixed, I scraped it out of the bowl onto the Bisquicked waxed paper to perform the “knead 5 times” of step three of the recipe.  I think I succeeded more at mushing the dough around and scraping my hands off with the spatula than I did at any actual kneading of the dough.  After kneading you’re supposed to “roll out the dough”.  Really?  Really??  With as sticky as the dough was, breaking out the pastry pin would have just resulted in an additional exercise in futility, so after washing my hands of sticky dough residue (again), I sprayed them down with nonstick cooking spray and patted out the dough onto the waxed paper in a neat rectangle, washed my hands again, brushed… no, dabbed on the melted butter and sprinkled the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture evenly.

Time to roll this puppy up!  Applauding my brilliant idea to do this all on easy-to-clean-up waxed paper, I began to roll the dough, which is not just sticky, but fragile.  My first roll went “okay” but the dough had nearly saturated the waxed paper and was now sticking to that and my hands.  I brought out my dough scraper, using it to encourage the dough to pull away and forgetting that I should have sprayed that with nonstick spray as well.

One clean dough scraper, freshly spritzed, and I was at it again.  The end result was no neat, tight bundle of dough with cinnamon and sugar filling, oh no.  The end result looked more like a threatened sea cucumber ejecting it’s innards in an effort to escape a predator.


I realized that there was just no way I could salvage this cinnamon-sugar sea cucumber disaster and make it look pretty so I started hacking away at it with my dough scraper and plopping (that’s a technical baking term) pieces into the cake pan.  There was no beautiful, textbook photo ops though there were plenty of “I think this qualifies as a Pinterest Fail” moments and as I laughed at how un-cinnamon-roll-like everything turned out, I caught Mr. Muse in the hallway and said, “You have to come see my Pinterest Fail!”

He entered the kitchen, took one look and raised an eyebrow as he stifled a laugh and said, “It looks more like Cinnamon Roll Dump Cake”.  How apropos!  “For all the effort,” I commented, “this better taste good.”  While it didn’t turn out to be cinnamon rolls, it did turn out something like a Cinnamon Roll Coffee Cake.


And that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Posted in Baking, Gluten Free, Humor, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: I’m Not Completely Antisocial

Apparently my post last week touched a nerve with some people regarding my preferred status as a non-hugger.  It’s cool.  It’s alright.  Like much in life, I can fake enjoying hugs as well as I show genuine enthusiasm for mariachi music while I dine at Mexican restaurants.  (Yes, I do dance in my seat in time with the music as I eat my gluten-free entree.  I can’t be the only person who does this.)  However, lest you, my Dear Reader, be led astray in thinking I’m completely antisocial, let me explain a little further.

So many decals to choose from yet... always with the Luke and Leia. via

So many decals to choose from yet… always with the Luke and Leia.

I don’t dislike all people, quite a few, but not all.  In fact, I quite enjoy conversations that get beyond the weather (it’s getting colder), the Badgers or Packers (I don’t watch sports) or the latest “reality” show on TV (I barely watch TV and avoid “reality” TV like I do shopping at Walmart, i.e. I never shop at Walmart).  I’m one of those people who seem to attract every poor soul with a story and am pressed into service as Chief Listener (check out Lisa’s take on that same issue).  While I tend to avoid conversations about religion (I identify as Philosophical Taoist; also acceptable are Humanist or Atheist) and politics (they’re all crooks and I say we drive them off cliffs like lemmings and start over from scratch); I relish discussions about pretty much every other subject known to mankind.  Want to talk about organic versus conventional growing practices?  I’m your gal.  Will humans truly colonize the Moon or Mars?  Let’s discuss.  Why do STAR WARS fans with the “family” decals on their vehicles always pick Luke and Leia for the parents when they were brother and sister in the movies?  Together we can get to the bottom of this problem!

And so, the other morning I found myself reading an article about Matt Kuleza from Australia who decided to meet every one of his 1000+ Facebook friends for coffee and blog about it and I thought, “what a neat social experiment”.  I can’t even come close to comparing what is my obviously paltry 166 friends to his 1,088 (at the time of the article for the both of us), but as I prefer quality over quantity, I have whittled my list down to people I actually know, have met or have been talking to online for so long that I know them as well as Mr. Muse.  (In fact, that 166 people is still almost more than I can manage and some of them may find themselves Facebook dumped in the very near future.)  However, this doesn’t mean that I stop meeting new people.  In fact, today I’ll be getting together with a mutually-following Twitter person for lunch.  Since they and I have both put our “I hate small talk” cards on the table, I think we can skip right past the weather and get on with discussing Lionel Richie’s songs, singing career and life choices.  Darla over at She’s A Maineiac would approve.

Is anyone else skeeved out by this video as much as I am?  I really hope this is a professor/college co-ed and not High School teacher/student situation.

There have been other offers to meet people from chat rooms, Facebook and Twitter in person that didn’t pan out.  Admittedly, I have met people from online in the past and left thinking, “Wow – never doing that again,” after way too much over-share in the objects-up-the-rectum category (literally – the person brought out photos).  That said, I’m from the camp of “I don’t say what I don’t mean” and if I suggest, or someone suggests to me (and they aren’t creepy), meeting for coffee/lunch/after-work-cocktail, there will be follow-through.  “Put up or shut up” as the saying goes.  You want to meet, then let’s get it on the books.    Perhaps we’ll get to the bottom of the STAR WARS decal family conundrum?  But no matter what, if we ever meet, leave those hidden-object photos you’re dying to share at home.

Share Time: Divulge your most awkward or worst met-online-and-met-in-person story.*  

*Bonus points if you met the same person with a penchant for objects-up-the-rectum photograph show ‘n tell.

Posted in Musings, Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Musings on Personal Space

“This is my dance space… This is your dance space.  You don’t go into mine and I don’t go into yours.” – Johnny Castle

(That happens about minute 2:55 in the video… go ahead, swoon over dreamy Patrick Swayze… you know you want to.)

Angry Porcupine! via

I have personal space issues.  Like Vampires or Satan, I don’t go into someone’s dwelling or personal space unless I’m invited in (or they’re family, close friends, have given me prior permission, are harboring the newest shipment of peanut butter kisses that only come out around Halloween)… and I expect the same courtesy.  Invading my space uninvited is one of those triggers that can cause me to go from happy panda to angry porcupine.

I’m adaptable – personal space in Europe was much, much smaller than it is in the USA.  I got that, I knew that going in, I was fine.  But here in the good ole USA – personal space is vast.  You don’t sit next to people in waiting rooms unless there is no other option.  You sit in entirely different rows from other patrons in movie theatres until or unless you have to sit in the same row, let alone next to someone.

Here’s something many people don’t know about me.  I was not a “hugger” until college.  I blame college friends for turning me into an occasional hugger… damn you college (and current) friends!  I was FINE in my personal space bubble.  I was fine with waving Hello and Goodbye and the occasional handshake.  Then I met all these people who wanted to pull me in for a big hug.

I can laugh now at the memories of those first hugs, but at the time – I was flipping out!  Whichever friend had decided it was a good idea to hug me would go for it – wrapping arms around me in a big ole squeeze – and I would stand there, stock still, deer-in-the-headlights eyes, not breathing…. and they didn’t stop hugging.  It felt like millenia was passing for the duration of those hugs and in an effort to expedite the, what I hoped would be rapid, end of these hugs, I’d futilely raise my arms from the elbows and give a “there, there” pat on their back.  That usually sufficed and the hug would end.  I’d take a deep breath of relief at my release.

Yeah, this is a pretty good depiction of what I look like when someone attempts to go in for a hug. via

Yeah, this is a pretty good depiction of what I look like when someone attempts to go in for a hug. via

Oh, they worked on me.  They hugged, they one-arm-shoulder-squeezed, some even added on the freakish kiss-on-the-cheek (stop doing that!  I don’t know where your mouth has been!  Cultures for which this is a norm get a pass because I’m cultured, damn it.).  My GODS!  There was no END to their incessant touching!?

Eventually, I grew to trust these people and many went from friends to “chosen family”; hell, I even married one of them – one of the worst offenders even!  (Did you notice the emphasis on “these”?  Yeah… more on that.  Keep reading.)

But those people who I allow into my personal space are few and far between.  I’ve not made a full leap to a “Hugger” (with a capital H), choosing to hug, touch, let alone get close to their personal space, only a handful of people with regularity.

What people who I don’t hug regularly appear oblivious to when they go in for one is the panic, the deer-in-the-headlights look, that I’ve held my breath and in my head I’m wondering, “Just how long do I have to let them hug me…and will they notice if I don’t really hug them back?”  People I don’t particularly know who go in for a hug often receive my right side (I’m right-handed) and a one-arm-pseudo-squeeze with the “there, there” pat as I turn my head away or I thrust out my hand as I take a step back if I think of that move fast enough.

This is not to say that I don’t like hugs.  There are people in this world whose hugs I quite enjoy, thankfully Mr. Muse is Numero Uno of those people.  If this were proper Victorian society, I venture to guess that most people in the world would be presented my offered hand, fully encased in a glove.

Needless, after reading all of that, I bet you figured out that I like my space, because you, my Dear Reader, are a very smart person.

I spend a good deal of each day alone.  If I’m around people for too long I become a very angry porcupine, all coarse and bristly, flinging quills about left and right (porcupines don’t actually “fling” quills).  I even have my own room in the house.  My room, my stuff, my mess, my space.  It’s not set up how I’d like it to be at the moment, but it works for now; one day it’ll become my “She Cave” Study complete with a “Stay Out” sign on the door.  Okay, there won’t be a sign on the door.

But this personal space issue isn’t just my own space – it’s everyone’s.  For example, Mr. Muse likes to do woodworking.  He has a large shop to do that in and I leave him to it.  I seldom venture into the shop because that’s “his space”.  He tells me I’m welcome any time, but for me it’s taboo to enter without invitation.  I don’t want to interrupt his personal “me time”.  Once he asked me into the shop to make “Aldo Leopold benches” and I went, but I was very concerned about using things in a way he didn’t want them used.  I realize that it’s our money that bought the tools, but in my mind, everything in the shop is “his”.

Mr. Muse is bemused by my formality over the my space/your space issue.  I’m not a cuddler, he is.  I don’t like to be interrupted when I’m working on something, he doesn’t mind.  He understands, yet doesn’t (to a certain extent), and that is okay. I don’t like being touched unless an invitation is extended and as long as I remain a happy panda, all is well.  I also get a little slappy/punchy if I’m held onto for “too long” which can vary greatly depending on the day.

Let’s agree to keep physical touching to a minimum and just shake hands on it… but only if we have to.

Are you a “Hugger”?

How do you feel about your personal space?

Most awkward personal space moment?

Posted in Musings, Personal, Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Fancy Coffee Friday: Mark of the Berry

I woke scratching.  I’d managed to get through the whole night without waking up with my arms feeling afire with the maddening itch of my latest battle with poison ivy, but that didn’t stop me from waking up with my alarm only to begin attacking the rash.  I silently cursed climate change and the overabundant crop of poison ivy that came with it and made my way to the loo and as I blearily went about my business I noticed new spots on my fingers.  And forearms.  And elbows?  What was this curse that had descended upon me?!

Taking up the bar of poison ivy soap, I began scrubbing at the itchy, welted patches and examined the new spots that appeared overnight.  And then it hit me:  I was sporting the Mark of the Berry.  Black Raspberries.

The afternoon before, in one of my pull-up-my-saggy-jeans-and-get-to-work (they only get saggy like that when I’m working for some reason) moods, I spotted the raspberries looking ragged, as old canes were shriveled up and spiky while the new canes, like wicked, toothy tentacles of an octopus, sprawled every which way.  The hedge needed cleaning up:  the dead canes needed removing and the new canes needed wrangling.  Unwisely, I chose not to change out the thin, knit work gloves for my more substantial pigskin pair.

Playing a botanical game of Jenga, I gingerly worked a section of cane out here, another there. Unraveling the weave of this year’s berry patch, I was attacked by the thorny tentacles that seemed to reached for me at every turn.  They grabbed my work shirt, bit through my jeans and nipped my fingers.  Each cane that I picked up and gently eased into place between the guide wires didn’t go gently, but I fought the good fight and my hedge of berries was soon looking well-kept and tidy.

The pile of spent canes, exhausted from producing a bumper crop and at the end of their natural lifespan, they were piled high.  I squinted my eyes in anticipation of getting my fingers poked as I reached down to tentatively pluck pieces and move them to the campfire.  I felt prickles sink into my fingertips.  Another left a large scratch on my elbow.  The fronts of my fingers looked like I’d taken part in a teeny-tiny knife-fight, scratched and bleeding.  Only for a brief moment did I ponder if this much pain was worth the effort for the berries – and it was.  The sixteen feet of black raspberries turned into two and a half gallons of wine in the secondary fermentors and a lot of bowls of berries with whipped cream.  It was our best crop so far and we enjoyed all we got, the local birds took the rest.

There is a pleasure that one gets when doing something for themselves, a satisfaction far superior to what is felt when a project is completed when working for someone else.  I hear time and again from people how much they’d like to have a garden or orchard but how they are plagued with little time with which they can attend to the plantings.  They tell me they admire how I make jams and jellies, and now wine, wishing they had the time and knowledge to do those things, too.  I continually tell people that the time is available, it’s just a matter of prioritizing what they want to do.  As for learning how to preserve the harvest – I’ve offered to teach people and not a single one has taken me up on the offer.

A little pain now equals gain later.  Hopefully by next spring we’ll be enjoying the raspberry wine in anticipation of spring and another season of showing off the mark of the berry.

Posted in Blogging, Fancy Coffee Friday, Gardening, homesteading, Musings, Personal, Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments