Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Apple Pickin' Time

Going off to the orchard was like a family outing back when we lived in simpler times. It was a seventy-acre peach and apple orchard in southeastern Ohio, near the little village of Ilesboro, Ohio. I thought it was a great adventure but then any outing was an adventure back then. We didn't often leave the farm. My uncle did the driving since my grandmother didn't drive. We went to the orchard riding in a red 1948 Dodge truck. It seemed like it took a very long time to get there because of all the hills and curves on State Route 93 South. People didn't make a habit of driving fast back then. My grandmother thought that 30 miles per hour was too fast. She would frequently order my uncle to slow down when approaching the curves. 

I remember apples packed in bushel baskets but my brother remembers a bushel of apples being packed in large sacks. I guess that might depend on what orchard you went to as to using baskets or sacks. A bushel of apples weighs about 48 pounds so I reasoned that a sack of apples would be like carrying a sack of potatoes. I asked my brother how much a bushel of apples cost in the 1950's and he thought it was about $3.00. There was a variety of apples back then...Winesap, Jonathan, and Red Delicious were the most common. There are so many varieties of apples that you would need to become an apple connoisseur to know which is the best.

Apples are ready to pick in September and all apples must be hand picked to prevent bruising. I think my younger brother came along with us that day. He was the reason my grandmother said, "Don't shake the tree branches!" The brother who liked to tease and ask a million questions. The one who was always inquisitive and testing out everything. I didn't know back then that apples had to be gently twisted off the branches.

Some orchards have pre-picked apples or pick-your-own apples. My older brother tells me that this particular orchard had pre-picked apples but I remember standing in the orchard under the apples trees looking up at red apples dangling from the branches. My uncle drove the truck into the orchard and placed a few bushel baskets of apples into the back of the truck. Maybe I imagined that, however, that picture of the apple orchard is stuck in my brain.

Apples can be prepared many ways...baked, fried, dried, snacks, apple butter, applesauce, apple jelly, pies, apple cider, apple juice, cobbler, and vinegar. Did I forget anything? Oh, yes...caramel apples. My grandmother made applesauce, apple jelly, apple butter, apple pies, and canned many quarts of apples for the winter.

My grandmother had her work cut out for her when she got home. I can still see her sitting in the kitchen peeling a whole apple in one long, curled strip. I thought that was amazing. I still can't peel an apple in one long strip. She and my mother sat paring apples and cutting them into slices for canning. How my heart aches for the comforting aroma and taste of apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg  coming from one of her homemade hot bubbling pies. I find comfort and peace when I look back on those days. 

Our neighbor had an  apple orchard. My oldest brother said he picked apples for our neighbor. Mr. Funk had a day job so he hired my brother to do chores on the farm while he was at work. Picking apples and taking them to one of the orchards that had a cider mill  was one of my brother's jobs. He drove the neighbor's truck to the orchard and waited there until the whole process of squeezing juice from the apples was done. The apple cider was put in glass gallon jugs.  The end product was about 30 or 40 gallons of soft apple cider. It takes about 40 apples to make 1 gallon of cider. Mr. Funk would then sell the apple cider at his farm. I'm sure it was non-alcoholic cider.

Some folks spike the apple cider with bourbon or rum during the holidays which then becomes hard apple cider.  I would never do that. Cheers! 



Saturday, May 12, 2018

Going Hunting

Back in the day when I was growing up going hunting was a favorite pastime for the men in my family.  Rifles and shotguns have been in my family for generations, so I was accustom to the men going hunting. When my uncles,cousins and brothers gathered at the farm it wasn't a big deal.  However, I do recall my grandmother giving the men strong warning about being careless with those guns before they set out. Now remember, some of these guys had been in World War II and the Korean War. I guess a mother never quits worrying about her kids. 

It was a different world then.  My brothers had pocket knives, hunting knives, rifles, shotguns, and BB guns. I'm sure someone taught them about safety, how to handle and clean their guns.  

The guys set out with their hunting license displayed on the middle of the back of their coats, rifles in hand, plenty of ammunition, hunting knives, and the trusted rabbit dog with them. Sometimes some of the others brought their dogs along. So, it was off to the grassy, brushy areas, fence rows, fields and thickets. It wasn't long until the beagle picked up a scent and we could hear him off in the distance trailing a rabbit.

 Rabbit hunting is an adventure in the woods, although I never thought of it that way. It wasn't until I started writing this article that I even wondered about how fast a rabbit can run. I've found several different answers to that question.  Twenty-five miles per hour seems pretty fast to me but then I guess they do have to out run those dogs.

My brother reported to me that he still has his 12 gauge, Mossberg shotgun as well as his Stevens .22 single shot rifle. He said he bought his .22 rifle from our local Firestone Store where he was able to make payments on it.

All my questions finally jogged his brain, so I was quite surprised when he proceeded to tell me a funny story. It seems that one of his teenage friends, named Paul, invited him to go coon hunting. His friend picked him up in a 1949 black Ford coupe.  They ended up driving down an old road that ran alongside the railroad tracks where open fields were. Sometimes the farmers planted corn in these fields. For some reason my brother's friend decided to turn the car around but he didn't want to drive on down the road where there was plenty of space to turn around. He backed the car over the railroad tracks where it got stuck, consequently there they sat not knowing what to do or how to budge the car off the tracks. I could picture them trying to push it over the tracks before they decided to go get help. Desperate to get the car moved off the tracks they ran to get help but when they arrived back to the car a train was fast approaching. My brother said they just got back in time to see the train hit the car, knocking it off the tracks, and totally destroying it. 

Then, there are always those stories of the dogs not coming back because they were off on the trail, running for miles, and getting lost in the big woods. All the stories I've been told had happy endings where the dogs came home or someone found them.

I never went hunting but I did target practice at the neighbor's place. I never did tell my mother or my grandmother about that. The words of my grandmother, "You better act like a lady."  

Monday, April 30, 2018

Writing for Children

When I write stories for children I like be silly. Being silly is what I like the most because the world is already much too serious. Children read for fun and so do I! Children like a fun filled, silly, good adventure with concise, clearly worded expressions and colorful but simple pictures. Children have big imaginations. You will have a great audience and be in good company when you read to children.

Sometimes I forget that I'm writing for children, thus I end up writing for the child I once was. Matching and keeping the story line as well as using age appropriate words for the targeted age group can sometimes get tricky. Does a five-year-old know what a jujitsu wrestler in a jumble, in a tumble really looks like?  Probably not, so I'll need an illustration of what this craziness looks like. Can a five-year-old visualize what dazzling, brightly-blinking lights on spaceships hovering in the sky looks like? I definitely need a colorful illustration! I want the story to be interesting, enchanting, happy, thrilling, and most of all...silly! More importantly...I love silly rhyming picture books! 

I think books for children should educate and teach lessons. Rhyming is important for early childhood literacy development. All of those verses from your childhood songs, poems, books, and nursery rhymes really did matter and was part of your education.

A Few Reasons Why Rhyming Words Are So Important

1. Rhyming is fun
2. Rhyming improves language skills
3. Helps children create mental pictures
4. Expands the imagination
5. Helps children understand words with common sounds and 
    common letters. Example: Cat and Hat
6. Rhyming adds joy to learning to read
7. You can read rhyming picture books over and over again

Children are the audience that cares enough to read it over and   
over again, so rhyming must be important!  How many times can you read a silly rhyming book? I don't know about you but I have read that book with the cat with the silly hat...hundreds of times. You know what book I'm talking about...not mentioning any names.

I love to write stories that rhyme using short rhyming verses that  tell a silly story. I freehand draw cartoons and folk art type illustrations so I can draw my own art with my own words. If the pictures don't turn out right the first time then I can fix it or just start over again. Either way, it all turns out to be good fun as well as therapy for me. I write and draw in my spare time. 

Don't worry I'm not giving up my day job! Well...maybe I'll give up my day job if one of my books becomes a movie??? After all, there are plenty of movies that started out as books for children.  There is a book about a rabbit named Peter, there is a book about Alice, who fell down a rabbit hole, and the list goes on and on. There must be more than fifty movies based on books that were written for children.

Look for my book which will be available in early September...The Adventures of Firecracker Andy, "The Spirit of Ohio."   Come fly with Firecracker Andy and his awesome dog, Airedale Archie as they fly around Ohio in a little red airplane. 

 Come meet Firecracker Andy and his awesome dog, Airedale Archie. They like to go flying in a little red airplane.

Always flying all around to see what they can see:

above rooftops, around apple trees, and dodging angry honeybees.

                                     See you soon!


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Words To Put On Paper

There are so many people writing today. There are millions of blogs out there. I'm sure there are millions of creative writers and authors as well. Why are so many people writing? Some people write because they want to become famous, they want to become rich, they want to be remembered or writing just makes them happy. People can write, create, and share it worldwide with just the click of a button. I don't think reading or writing is going away anytime soon. People are still searching for good reads.

Why Do I Write?

I didn't set out to write a book. I'm not from a family of writers. I set out to write the history of my great-grandfather but I didn't want to just record the facts from our family history. What I did want to do was transport people from the past and introduce them to you so they might be remembered. I wanted the reader to meet and get to know these people. Really get to know them.

When I was a child my grandmother shared her stories with me about her father as well as her own childhood stories. Unfortunately other family members didn't remember the stories she told. People can't live forever but if I write about them maybe they will be remembered. It's not just that I wanted to write but I needed to do it. I felt it was my duty. The thought came to me,"If you don't write this story who will?" God does have a purpose for us even though we don't know what it is at the time.

Not Everyone Was Supportive

There will be people who will  be out to reject you and your writing at anytime.  This will happen when you least expect it and it will come from those that you least expect it from. You might think it's because they don't know how much writing means to you or they're jealous and have a mean streak in them. Whatever the ready for it.

Writing Opened Up a Whole New World

I began to research the family history as well as historical events dating back to 1778 and moving forward to 1865. Over the three years that it took me to write this book the characters became a part of me and the story unfolded taking me to some amazing places and times. The story took me to places I never imagined going to. I was given a story to write about everyday, ordinary people who lived during a pivotal time in American History.

I finished writing the book with lots of encouragement and prayers from friends and family. I had no idea what to do next. I attended a reunion in my small hometown, where I met a man who was talking about having his book published. He was kind enough to give me the publisher's name and address so I could contact her. I scheduled an appointment with the publisher and a short time later everything fell into place. The door opened up to allow me to  meet so many creative people. All the people who played a part in the completion of this book lived  just about thirty minutes away. You could say they were right in my backyard and I never even knew they were there.

Why Do I Write?

I write because there are so many incredibly wonderful words to put on paper. Words are amazing. People are amazing because vibrant, amazing words can just pop right out of their mouth. It usually happens when you don't expect it to. 

I write because people are stories and there are so many stories to tell. I write because a voice in my head said, "If you don't do it,who will?"

No matter how old I get...I can still write. There are so many stories waiting to be told that I just might be writing on the day I die. I might not be remembered for anything that I write. I probably won't get rich or famous, but that's alright. 

I work in health care and I wish I had a quarter for every story I've heard. I have met so many people who think their story isn't important. I'm here to tell you that I've heard stories that could put some of the best Hollywood movies to shame.

Inspire and Encourage 

Inspire and encourage people to write. Write in a journal, write in a diary, write letters, send cards, tape notes around the house for your loved ones...start a blog. Encourage those around you to write. Encourage your family, your friends, your youth, your elderly. The written word has not lost its luster. Every word you think, speak, or write is important. Your story is important. 

Even if it's utter nonsense keep on writing because someone will love it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Raspberry Patch

We scurried off to the raspberry patch with pails in hand and a spring in our step. It was that time of year when those prickly plants with the slightly fuzzy leaves burst forth with the most delicious small, plump, red, juicy, berries. It wasn't just a patch of berries. It was a field of berries. Row after row of neatly planted red berry bushes or vines. Some people call them berry vines because the plants are usually supported by  trellises making them look like vines. My grandma planted those berries. I don't know who helped her plant all those berry bushes or how long it took to produce that delicious fruit. I do know my grandma put a lot of  hard work into maintaining that raspberry crop. I also know that when you're a child picking berries and filling up that small tin pail as well as eating almost as many as you put in the pail, is one of the best childhood experiences ever.

So off we went to pick berries, my big sister,  my brother, and myself with grandma leading the way. She always wore a dress, a homemade bib apron tied in the back  in a big bow, and wide heeled black shoes, scuffed, and worn over on the sides. Her light golden-yellow hair was pulled back in a bun with combs at the sides to hold it tightly in place.  She packed a hoe over her shoulder and extra containers for the berries. With clever looking blue eyes shining through her glasses she gave us plenty of warning to be on the lookout  for snakes which might be lurking in the berry patch. She often made humorous, witty remarks or made up little rhyming verses so I wasn't sure if this snake warning was real or not, nevertheless I kept a close eye out for anything slithering on the ground.

Once we got to the field we went about filling our pails with the ripe, red, berries as well as eating about as many as we picked. The sweat bees could be most pesky on a hot summer day, stinging me on the legs when I tried to swat them away. My brother was alone picking berries clear down at the end of the row when all of a sudden he started yelling. "It's a snake in the weeds! I think it went up my pant leg!" We watched from a far as he wildly shook his legs and danced up and down like a lunatic.

Calmly my grandma went to his rescue with the hoe in her hand. She raked the hoe through the weeds and checked out the situation with no sign of a snake being in sight. My brother often kept us entertained if not with his boyish antics then with his constant questions and teasing. My grandma often said he should become a lawyer because he was always asking questions or committing impromptu, mischievous, and laughable pranks.

And so we filled our containers with red, ripe, berries and went back to the house to get cooled off with drinks of iced tea or Kool aid.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Looking For Sputnik, Watching Westerns , and Family Time

We stood under the star filled night sky looking for Sputnik, the Russian earth-orbiting satellite. My mother said it would be circling the earth and to look for bright red blinking lights. I didn't know that we needed binoculars nor did I know that only amateur radio operators could pick up the radio signals. It was the fall of the year in 1957 and there I stood beside my mother looking up at the stars believing that I could see the bright red blinking lights on a Russian satellite.  In actuality it was the lights on an airplane passing over. So there I was a young child believing I saw the Russian space craft with a dog on board. My mother always was one to gaze into the starry night sky. She was filled with celestial wonderment, so much so that many years later she bought herself a telescope.

I complained that I was too cold to stand outside any longer. My mother grew weary of my whining therefore we hurried back to the house. We walked around to the back of the farm house to enter through the kitchen. We rarely used the front door. The screen door slammed shut upon our entering. The kitchen was empty now that supper was over. The dishes had been washed and put away.

The rest of the family sat in the living room watching the famous Marshal keep law and order in Dodge City in the television series that was on Saturday nights. My grandma was sitting in her bedroom in her platform rocking chair.  The floral pattern bedroom door curtains were drawn to one side so she could view the show. (It was common to use archway drapes or curtains in doorways to separate a room, keep out drafts or to keep heat confined to a room). My grandpa, Pop, was too ill to participate in watching the show. He had already retired for the evening. My sister, brother, uncle, mother, and myself sat in the living room watching the Marshal chase the bad guys out of Dodge. My oldest brother had gone off to college but sometimes came home on the weekends to be with the family.
I had an extended family somewhat like the "Waltons" television series that aired in the 1970's.

Cowboy shows were popular when I was growing up and my grandma never missed her favorite shows which of course became some of my favorite shows as well.  I can still hear those whips crack as the caravan of covered wagons headed out west not to mention being pleasantly entertained by another cowboy show with a handsome, suave, riverboat gambler/conman. There were plenty of cowboy shows.

Evenings were a time to rest and be with family because the next day we would start all over again from sunrise to sunset...that's life on a farm.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Back To "Nickle Plate Farm" or "My Garden of Eden"

Nickle Plate Farm

Hello and welcome back to Nickle Plate Farm Memories.  Sorry I took so long getting back with you.

Meet me at the pig pen.

The large pig pen was beyond the barnyard, just up the old road a ways.  Because of the wafting smells the pig pen location was pretty far from the house, however, that's not to say that on a hot summer day when a sudden gust of air blew in just the right direction, you could get a strong whiff that reached clear to the house.  My grandma would cut tall coarse weeds which she called pig weeds and filled the wheelbarrow full.  Full --- meaning the tall weeds hung over the sides of the wheelbarrow. She pushed the wheelbarrow to the pig pen and dumped the weeds inside.  Later on in the year when the pig nuts,(a species of hickory nuts), would fall to the ground she would gather the nuts in buckets to feed to the pigs. You could say we did organic farming. 

I followed my grandma everywhere. I followed her to the pig pen where I peeked through the fence to watch the large black and white spotted hogs eat as my grandma poured the wet sloppy mixture from buckets into the long narrow wooden trough.  The hogs had a keen sense of smell and so it wasn't long before a few more hogs came on the run to join in the evening meal.  They snorted, squealed, rooted, and slopped around in the wet mixture as well as bumped and pushed each other out of the way.  Isn't that just like a bunch of pigs?

Now a pig has a large snout which is made for specifically rooting. Pigs love to root in the dirt, in the mud, around old trees, tree roots, as well as under fences, which accounts for an occasional pig on the loose. The wooden boards along the bottom of the woven wire fence made the hog pen look more like a fort but then it takes a fortress to keep large two-hundred pound, mud-caked pigs confined. I never had to chase a pig. I missed out on that opportunity. My brother says he had the pleasure of chasing pigs back into the pen. He claims it wasn't too difficult. I raised my eyebrows at that as we talked on the phone, reminiscing about Nickle Plate Farm and those happy pigs.

I know it's needless to say but I'll say it anyway, we had plenty of bacon on our table.