1 of 3.5%

Have you ever gotten a questioneer from a funeral home regarding preplanning your own funeral? A better question would be ” Have you ever filled out and returned said questioneer?”  Of 1,000 questioneers sent out, 900 will hit the trash without ever being opened. Of the 100 left, 50 will be trashed after being opened but not read and the other 50 laid  to the side for later reading. Of those 50, 35 will be filled out and returned. That makes me  one of 3.5 percent. What got me to return said questioneer was one question. Are you an honorably discharged U.S. Veteran and if so would you like to save up to $10,000 on your funeral expenses? Besides the stats on questioneers returned, we found out that any honorably discharged veteran (not just combat veterans) and their spouse are elgible for burial in a national cemetery with 2 burial sites, 2 concrete vaults, 2 grave markers, 2 grave openings and 2 grave closings. The veteran is also eligible for a U.S. flag and a bronze medallion even if not buried in a national cemetery. I knew about the flag but all the other “benefits” were news to me. ‘Houda thunk’ you’d learn all this from a 10 minute meeting that lasted an hour and a half? The fun has begun.


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What is this world coming to? We’ve all heard this question asked many times and have perhaps asked it ourselves. I asked it again this past week. All summer long you’d fight your way past hundreds of riding lawnmowers and garden tillers to get through the doors at Home Cheapo, Lowe’s, or Maynards. All summer long you’d fight your way around garden seeds, garden plants, and watering cans at Wally’s World. Let the poor smuck who wants or needs one of those things now find one. Walk into almost any store today and you’ll find not only Halloween merchandise on display but Heaven forbid, Christmas stuff. What happened to Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and St. Olaf’s Birthday? How are we to decorate and celebrate all these special occasions? And now, all the Norwegians out here are talking about yet another upcoming holiday. Nor-Easter!! You can bet that the four above mentioned stores will start stocking Nor-Easter merchandise as well. Shame on them.

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Catfish and Gator Babe returned yesterday to the Massanutten after having been back home for the last few weeks. We went over to their cabin “neighboring” last night to welcome them back and bring them a few things we picked up on our trip to the flat lands of South Dakota. Catfish retired awhile back and he spends his time doing what he said he intended to do when he punched out on his last day of work. When asked what he was going to do in retirement, he said that he was going to name every fish in the Shenandoah River. In fact, when the meteorologists on the Weather Channel heard what Catfish intended to do, they decided that they would do the same thing for winter storms, hurricanes, etc. But to outdo this retired fisherman they decided they would come up with a list of names first just to look like it was their idea. So, when you think back to the likes of Katrina, Sandy, Ivan, Rita, Fabian, and Ike you have Catfish to thank.

Four out of the five of us up here in our little settlement are John Deere People. I’ll give you one guess as to who has the most. Shout out “Bingo” if you guessed Catfish. He has three  JD lawnmowers and a 6 wheeled Gator in his collection. In fact, he built a small museum in which to display them. He calls it a shop with an attached pavilion, but we know better. Mrs. C (Gator Babe) can be seen riding with him if he hasn’t managed to sneak away from her to drown a worm or a mad tom. He hasn’t named all the fish in the river yet, but to listen to him, there are only a very few nameless fish still out there. Lucky thing for the fish is that he practices catch and release. He says he hasn’t caught and named the same one twice. If you belive that, I have a bridge to sell you. Welcome back friends!

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Turning the chickens

Disclaimer: Some people believe that I do not know when reality ends and fiction begins. I do not hear voices in my head talking to me so I don’t really care what other people believe. I’ve had a third grade teacher shake her head at me when we walked in for a parent-teacher conference many years ago. The stories I tell are mine and I’m sticking to them. With that said, you may want to take this disclaimer into account as you continue to read my posts.

The Massanutten is divided into two ridges with a valley separating them. It has been said that this valley was to be the last stand for George Washington and his forces during the Revolutionary War if need be. Today we went over to King’s Crossing at the base of the westerly ridge and started up this ridge. We venture over yonder every so often to fetch water from a spring part way to the top. The well water on our place is suitable for drinking, bathing, washing clothes, etc. but because of the calcium deposits in the water it raises holy heck on the Keurig coffee pot. Heaven forbid should we use the glass percolator and make a whole pot at a time. No, we have to buy those expensive single cup pods! But I digress.

Fetching the water today reminded me of one of my tasks as a boy back in Iowa. It was my duty to turn the chickens each evening. On the farm where I grew up we had three water supplies. There was both a well and a cistern that were used to supply the house and another well that was used for livestock water. The water from this deep well was to hard for household use and was used strictly for the farm animals. We had a hand pump on a concrete slab on the shallower house well where we would first have to “prime the pump” before we could pump the handle to fill the water pail. We would then lug the full pail into the kitchen and carefully put the dipper into the pail. The cistern did not have a cover as the down spouts from the house would deposit the rain that fell on the roof along with what rain would fall into the opening into the cistern for supplemental use.

It is a known fact that some species of poultry, such as quail and chickens, will “covey up” in evenings for safety during the night. By “covey up” I mean that they will sit in a circle with their tail ends toward the center of the circle and their head ends pointing out. If danger approaches they can explode in all directions to flee said danger and some of their flock will live another day. We had free range eggs before free range eggs were in vogue. Our chickens had the run of the farm-yard and each evening would roost on the rim of the cistern. It was my duty after supper each evening to sneak out the living room door, carefully creep up on the laying hens trying not to make any noise what so ever. I would slip my left hand under the hen while my right hand covered its little beak, and gently lift and turn each hen 180 degree. If I did my job right, I wouldn’t have to wait another half an hour for them to covey back up and we were assured of a clean water supply.

Oh, the memories I have.

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The Meaning of Life

Three and a quarter inches of rain last night and this morning and where was I during the heaviest of downpours? Out on a ladder fishing the leaves out of the eave troughs so that the water would drain out the down spouts and not run over the edge and soak through the basement wall! Soaking wet, trying to catch my death by cold – all of this before nine o’clock this morning. What a way to start the day. After a change of clothes and a long nap, the pickle queen had a salad ready for lunch.  Got to eat healthy you know.

The weather started to clear along about 2 so I decided that I would go down and initiate my tree stand. After locating most of my hunting gear that was so well stowed away after hunting season last year, I donned my camo and strapped on my safety harness. After clipping in I settled back to wait for the big buck to walk in front of me and to contemplate the meaning of life.

Yesterday, while cutting wood, I noticed four or five tree stands spread throughout the forest. Did I have my stand in the right location? Why was there a gallon milk jug hanging from most of those stands? Had I put on weight over the summer months as the camo pants were awfully tight on me? How had my arms grown three inches since last year? How were the leg straps on my safety harness and boys getting along? Had the pickle queen put the venison roast and squash in the over for supper yet? Was the river coming up fast? Would I have to take one of the vehicles out and park it on the hill so we could get out if the river was over the road in the morning? Was that turkey I just heard gobble close to where I usually have my ground blind set up? Were two cups of coffee before heading to the tree stand too many? On and on all the important questions in life came up. After about an hour and a half I realized what the milk jugs were for. After climbing down and getting back to the house, I went to check the river. Don’t have to worry too much. Lucky the river was as low as what it was. Oh, by the way, when hanging up the camo I realized that I hadn’t put on weight or that my arms hadn’t grown three inches. I had put on the queen’s camo. And yes, two turkeys were by the ground blind. The queen had nice pictures of them on the camera. Another typical day on the Massanutten.

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Shagging Wood

Around here the weather is either too hot, too cold, too wet or too good to last. So when Finley called on Sunday evening and asked if I wanted to go cut fire wood on Tuesday morning I jumped at the chance as Tuesday’s weather was forecast to be at least one of those.

Finley grew up in Northern Vermont knowing full well what he would be doing almost every day of the summer. It was his job to select, cut, and season good firewood  that would eventually stoke the fire under his dad’s copper maple sugar pot. Perhaps that is why he knows the location of every downed oak tree on our part of the Massanutten. He knows if we have to use his tractor and loader to snag the trees or if we can get close enough to cut and load the chunks using a pickup and trailer. Today we checked out a couple of trees felled by the power company before we pulled up beside the tree that in 3 hours would be on the trailer. We unloaded and pretty well topped off the woodshed at my place with the smaller pieces. We unloaded the big chunks next to Finley’s log splitter where he will split and stack the firewood for winter use. We decided that we had earned our keep for the day and we’d enjoy each other’s companionship one day next week.

Here’s a little diddy to help you select good trees for firewood.

Beech wood fires are bright and clear

If the logs are kept a year.

Chestnut’s only good, they say,

If for long it’s laid away.

Birch and fir logs burn too fast,

Blaze up bright and do not last.

Elm wood burns like a churchyard mould,

E’en the very flames are cold.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,

Fills your eyes and makes you choke.

Apple wood will scent your room

With an incense like perfume.

Oak and maple, if dry and old,

Keep away the winter cold.

But ash wood wet and ash wood dry,

A king shall warm his slippers by.



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Road Kill?

It’s the time of year when people here on the Massanutten are putting finishing touches on their “puttin’ away” for the winter months. Hunting season for deer, turkey, bear, and many species of small game is or will soon be here. One species of small game some mountain folk feast on is commonly called the bushy tail, better known as the squirrel. There is an abundance of acorns this fall, but the squirrels are few and far between. No one seems to be able to tell us why. What there is an abundance of, as usual, is another animal that science classifies as a squirrel. Call it a whistle pig, ground hog, woodchuck, or any other name you may have heard it called. Feast on this animal ( especially in small and medium sizes)  that only eats clean, green vegetation and you’ll soon regret seeing them as road kill. Don’t have a recipe? You’re in luck. Here’s a good one.

Woodchuck Cacciatore

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 or 2 small ‘chucks, cut in serving pieces

1  16-oz. can tomatoes

1   8-oz. can tomato sauce

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. basil

1/4 tsp. celery seed

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup dry red wine

Place sliced onions on the bottom of a slow-cooking pot. Add ‘chuck pieces, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, herbs, and red wine. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours. Serve ‘chuck pieces with sauce over hot pasta.

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