Sex, Lies, and Corgi Ears

There’s been some unusual excitement locally, as well as on the home front this week (and I don’t mean the fact that I lost Internet connection for all day yesterday, which was why my blog posting is really late this week!).

A news report recently made not only the newspaper, but the evening TV news when it was discovered that here in squeaky-clean Utah/Syracuse a live sex show was going on after-hours in the nearby (read 2 blocks as the crow flies from our house) family movie theater.  I don’t know the details, but suffice it to say that someone (inside job?) had key access to the theater in the wee hours of the morning and 6 participants were caught “performing” for patrons.  My question is: did they have the popcorn machines going?  Once caught, they were all charged with lewd public acts and the proper authorities are dealing with them.  I can only guess that the other inmates of the county jail were encouraged when they got wind of what this group (3 men and 3 women) had been booked on.

So that’s the sex part, and the lies come in the form of a hoax–a really awful one.  Some misguided 13-year-old from a local junior high school, called in what turned out to be a false report from a land-line in his own school.  He reported to 911 that “there’s someone with a gun, and I can’t talk anymore.”  He then hung up.  Of course, 90 plus police cars and officers from surrounding towns descended on the school and it went into lock-down.  Scary stuff.  This kid then followed the first call up with 2 more 911 calls and hang-ups.  Once the situation was sorted out, somehow the caller was identified and he’s now in a world of trouble, facing all sorts of charges, including felony.  What possesses kids to make these prank calls?  Are they that bored that this becomes amusing in a strange way?  Are they just looking for attention?  Anger?  There are probably many theories on this.

Now, for the rather “which one of these doesn’t belong?” categories.  Poor Charlie, our Welsh Corgi had a rather unpleasant visit to the vet.  Corgies, as you may know, are a dog breed known for their distinctive, pointed, upright ears.  Charlie had a sore spot near the tip of his left ear that seemed to be a tick that had bored under his skin.  A trip to the vet proved otherwise and a biopsy (yes, biopsy) resulted in the lesion being identified as a small cancerous growth.  That meant a return trip, surgery and an unfortunate loss of about one inch of the tip of his ear.  It’s now cut straight across.  What a shame.  While he was under anesthesia, he had a courtesy teeth cleaning, so at least his teeth are whiter now!  He also came home with the cone of shame–or as our vet calls it: an Elizabethan collar–but so far he hasn’t been rubbing or trying to scratch his ear.  Probably because his little legs are too short to reach his ear.  So, it seems Charlie will now have mismatched ears, as reconstructive plastic surgery is not necessary or available.  It’s so sad….

Charlie trying to preserve his dignity with part of one ear missing.

Charlie trying to preserve his dignity with part of one ear missing.

Published in: on May 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

May Garden Scene and What’s New

So, how did you spend your Mother’s Day?  My daughter and I focused on getting the garden is shape for the summer growing season.  We had already accomplished some planting, but we really laid to and got 90% of the digging, weeding, and planting done.

On that Saturday, we hit J&J Nursery and bought all kinds of plants with and eye toward beauty and future edibles.  Since the Honeycrisp apple tree we planted 2 autumns ago finally has significant blooms, this will be the year to start spraying once the fruit sets so we can, hopefully, enjoy the fruits of our labors.  After this much time and fuss, we don’t want any nasty worms ruining the crop.

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

In the front gardens, two gorgeous rose bushes were added: one a solid yellow and one a variegated fuchsia and white “stripe” rose.  Their fragrance is lovely and hopefully they’ll thrive there.  Roses don’t like “wet feet” and in the front it’s pretty hot, so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that.  A lovely bleeding heart bush to be planted in the partial shade rounds out the showy flowers.  We even broke down and bought Sammy, the cat, a catnip plant (even though he wakes Lara up each morning at 5:15am to play).  We also planted the two back patio pots, purple and yellow this year) and the pot on the front porch step (shades of pink again for 2013).  Hanging baskets complete the landscape effect.

Meanwhile, along the side near the mint, where it’s partial shade, instead of zucchini and yellow squash, which Bob hates and which take up loads of room, we moved the green bean rows.  They were showing signs of bean rust in the leaves last year, so it’s best to rotate the placement of them to let the spores die.  I put in a row of the really tall sunflowers along the back wall of the house and in front spread out the green, yellow, and red peppers, the basil and the tomatoes we use for sun-drying, instead of crowding them in with the bean rows.

Around the corner in the “Mediterranean” spot of the garden, where our herbs thrive in the sun, we are trying strawberries.  Hopefully, they’ll like it there and start multiplying by sending out runners.  We hope for a nice crop at least next year, if not a few to tempt us this year.

Maybe we'll get to taste a few this year.

Maybe we’ll get to taste a few this year.

We also invested in 12 red raspberry canes which are still hunkering down in their pot.  We’ll have to dig up a long, thin garden area along the fence to get them in, but we’re in no hurry there.

We had moderate success with cantaloupes last year, so we are trying them in a different spot and a few more plants.  Fingers are crossed on this venture.

Slicing and cherry tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, scallions, and radishes fill out the rest of the back plot that’s 6′ x 12′.  We still have loads of gallon bags of cut tomatoes for cooking frozen from last year, so we didn’t plant any Romas for sauce this season.  (Less prep work for me!)  This means the tomatoes we do have will have loads of room to spread out and not crowd each other.  We’re even trying an heirloom pineapple tomato (I think it’s the color, not the flavor, but we’ll see….).

At the start of the growing season.

At the start of the growing season.

Will update you all later in the summer with the success/failures we have.  Never a dull moment in the desert garden.

Published in: on May 15, 2013 at 3:21 pm  Comments (1)  

If It’s Monday, It’s Wash Day

As I’m a bit short of time today, I’m falling back on one of my stashed history articles for the Islander.  It just might bring back memories for those old enough to recall laundry days prior to the 1950s or 60s.  Judging from a recent posting on Facebook, people enjoy nostalgia: the photo was one of laundry hanging on a clothes line and propped up with a big wooden clothes pole (Remember this?).  I also remember my grandmother putting metal pants stretchers in my grandfather’s work pants so they would get a sharp crease while drying.

If It’s Monday, It’s Wash Day

Each day of the week seemed to have a specific chore or activity attached to it.  If it was Saturday, you baked; if it was Sunday, you went to church and rested as much as possible; but if it was Monday, you did the week’s laundry.   With the approach of spring, pioneer women looked forward to being able to wash outdoors and even hang the clothes out to dry instead of draping them inside on lines or on furniture in front of the fire.  Luckily, folks didn’t have many changes of clothing, so laundry piles were smaller than today!

Today, laundry loads are a snap and can be tossed in to wash or dry with relative ease, but what was washday like back in the nineteenth century?  Well, it certainly was a lot harder and more time-consuming than it is today.  Let’s pull aside a virtual sheet hanging on the line and take a peek at laundry day in Utah (and the rest of the country) around 1875….

Way before electricity had an impact on just about everything, clothes were scrubbed by hand.  If you didn’t own a tub, you used the nearby stream, and, yes, the water would be cold–icy cold!  (Needless to say, clothes went unwashed a lot more in the winter.)  Soap was harsh and handmade from lye and animal fat.  For those unfamiliar with lye soap, lye, a caustic acid, was made by straining water through wood ash.  Animal fat, usually lard rendered from pork fat, was heated and the lye added and boiled for several hours, then poured into a tray and left to harden.  You could then cut it into bars.  It was a time-consuming and dirty job.  Fabric softeners, you ask?  Hah!  That concept hadn’t been thought of yet, let alone developed.  Clothes were slapped and pounded against a handy rock to loosen the dirt and grime.  It was back-breaking work and hard on the knees.  Wringing out excess water after rinsing was demanding and helped develop strong arm and finger muscles; if there were two sets of hands, to wring the fabric in opposite directions, it made the job a whole lot easier!  Then, depending on the season, the clothes could be draped on trees and bushes (if any were nearby) or hung on lines, if you had that set-up.

When galvanized laundry tubs became more available, housewives had the option of heating water over a fire or on the wood stove and carrying the kettles to fill the tub, making the laundry chore a bit more pleasant with warm water.  In the days before less-harsh soap and aloe-infused lotion, hands became chapped and cracked from this weekly chore.  Imagine how much fun it was if you had cloth baby diapers to deal with!  Along with tubs, washboards, which would fit in a tub, became popular.  A piece of corrugated metal–later glass–held in a wooden frame was developed to be an improvement over a rock.  Women, and even younger girls, could now enjoy a faster washday.

Even though they were invented by the mid-1800s, wringers weren’t widely used in family households until the late 1800s, probably because they were expensive and perceived to be mostly for commercial use.  Two wooden rollers were held in a sturdy metal frame and the rinsed clothes were then fed through while hand cranking the rollers. This squeezed the excess water out much better than hand wringing. Once these machine became available, clothes washing entered a new era.

Soon, electricity would change washday dramatically and now a small motor not only agitated the clothes in the soapy water, but it also operated the wringer. The rest of the story is obvious: electricity reduced the amount of hours and energy people expended to do everyday chores, and it wasn’t limited to laundry. Just think how many power tools and appliances make our lives easier today. Today’s clothes washers and dryers would be a miracle to a woman of 130 years ago!

Laundry equipment at the museum.

Laundry equipment at the museum. Recognize anything?

For a real appreciation of laundry chores in the “good old days,” visit the Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center and have a look at the laundry day display in the farm building. You’ll leave with a better understanding of what women faced to keep their families’ clothes clean. You’ll also leave with a thankful heart that technology has made our lives much better!

The Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5 pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.

Published in: on May 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bread and Butter (Mostly Butter)

Let’s see, no garden report this week; just rest assured we’ve had plenty of rain and it’s happily growing.  Sunny and cool today: perfect weather for lettuce.  The sunflowers are up and I expect the beans to be popping through the soil this week.  All we need is one really warm day.  Radishes are up and the carrots can’t be far behind.  We finally got all the new flowers and shrubs in the ground, save for the raspberry canes.  I imagine we’ll tackle that over the long Memorial Day weekend (summer is officially on the threshold!), as a new bed along the fence has to be dug.

I’m still writing the history articles for the Islander, so I’m going to indulge my lazy streak and share the most recent one with you and take the week off.  We put together a mini-exhibit to go along with my honey pot collection: it’s butter churns and related items.  It’s the first thing one sees after walking in the front door of the museum and it’s a solid reminder of hard farm chores for women and older children.

And at long last, about two weeks ago, the museum took delivery on our new vintage covered wagon, so I’ll be sharing that with you in an upcoming blog posting.  Meanwhile, let’s churn some cream into butter.

Butter Fingers: Churning Butter

“I like bread and butter/I like toast and jam….”  Remember that song from the 1960s by the Newbeats?  Who doesn’t like bread and butter, and toast and jam, for that matter?  A thick slice of homemade bread slathered with butter has been a perennial favorite with kids as a snack.  In fact, some form of butter has been known to civilizations around the world for several thousand years.

The simple pleasures of life like fresh butter weren’t always so easily gotten by picking up a pound at the store, conveniently wrapped into four individual sticks.  Churning cream into butter was a frequent farm chore across the United States for housewives and older children.  After milking the cow, or cows, the fresh milk could be collected in larger milk cans and partially submerged in a spring house–if you were lucky enough to have access to one–to be kept chilled until the cream separated and rose to the top.  For those who remember the days of home milk delivery, especially in the winter, cream would rise to the top and the cold air would freeze the air in the cream causing it to mushroom up and over the top of the milk bottle.

Once the cream was separated from the milk, it was put in a butter churn and after several hours of turning a paddle, plunging a plunger, or rocking an enclosed container built on curved rockers, you would have thickened butter and the by-product of butter milk.  Adding some salt would improve the taste and the butter could be used for cooking and baking or be molded into bricks for table use.  In the days before reliable refrigeration, salting the butter helped keep it from going rancid so quickly and probably improved the taste, as unsalted butter is pretty bland.

Like eggs, butter was a highly portable and tradable commodity.  Farm wives found these products useful to barter for items they couldn’t produce on their farm or sell to the general store merchant for cash.

Today, for anyone who has used an electric beater to beat heavy cream to make chantilly–whipped cream–just by adding sugar instead of salt, you know you have a sweet topping for desserts.  You also know how easy it is to beat past the soft peaks stage and, suddenly, you have the beginnings of butter; it’s a fine line.

Butter churns and related items at the museum.

Butter churns and related items at the museum.

A new feature exhibit has just been assembled at the Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center which showcases the museum’s wonderful collection of butter-making equipment and related items.  On display you’ll see a rare wooden butter rocker from the 1830s, as well as a plunger-style churn, and two different churns operated by crank handles and a simple gear wheel mechanism; one is a glass Dazey churn and one is a Banner churn made of metal.  There is also a barrel churn on legs with a paddle spinner turned by a handle.  Cream pails, a butter paddle spoon, butter molds and butter dishes round out the exhibit for a fascinating look into the past.  This new feature exhibit is running concurrently with the display of honey pots.

The Syracuse Museum and Cultural Center’s hours are Tuesday-Thursday from 2-5 pm and by appointment (801-825-3633) and is located on 1700 South (Antelope Drive) just before 2000 West, Syracuse, UT.

Published in: on May 2, 2013 at 2:24 am  Leave a Comment