Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

  The clock has moved forward an hour and I expect to catch up next month.  The moon has reached its lowest point on the meridian. St. Patrick's day when all is painted green has been celebrated with enthusiasm and passed away.
   The season after a very mild winter with little snow in our part of the world surprised us with a cold snap burning many early blooming trees making us wonder how much damage the summer fruit crop sustained. Today it's bright and sunny with spots of bright yellow dotting the landscape from hardy daffodils and yellow forsythia that bear tinges of scald in their blooms.
   The first day of spring officially arrived in the Central Time Zone  on March 20th at 5:36 am when night and day were of equal length. Both scientists and soothsayers proclaim to be knowledgeable as to what the future portends. I find looking out the window works most of the time.
   We live in an ever changing cycle of seasons that have more relation to the sun, jet stream, and prevailing winds than they do to artificial calendars devised by human beings. Year after year it's a hit and miss, but though we complain we choose not to live where there are few seasons.
   Our ancestors didn't need a billboard reminding them to eat their vegetables especially the green leafy kind. One of the first signs of spring was when the woman of the family  began to haunt fields, ditches, and hollows bearing a sharp paring knife to harvest the emerging spring greens.
   I'm not sure what food value, if any, remained after being simmered with a piece of side meat all day on the back of the range. What emerged was a shinny dark soggy glob that was carefully parceled out so each family member would have a small taste of spring. The best part was the pot liqueur that was served in a small pitcher to be poured over a slab of hot buttered cornbread like syrup.
   This was not my mother's style of cooking, but my father's mother who was born in 1883. I learned to cook from both of them. There are many foods they created with ease that I've tried to duplicate my entire adult life and have yet to managed a reasonable facsimile. With Nash it's the same thing - his father made mush that was sliced and fried crisp. I can't count the times he has tried to recreate the procedure and failed.
   Once my sister tried to prepare Gran's green. She went out in the yard and pulled handfuls of what she could find. Plopped her bounty in a skillet to char and fill the house with smoke. Mother rescued her egg skillet and banished her from the kitchen until she could see above the burners without standing on a chair.
   My own search in our early spring woods, at the farm, was for fiddle head ferns. I'd take a small basket lined with a damp towel and the trusty paring knife. Very carefully, I'd harvest a few shoots no bigger than the my little finger from each clump so as not to destroy the plant.
   I'd leave the basket outside until time to prepare this early spring delicacy. They don't last in the refrigerator and one picking per year was all I could manage before they became too well developed.
   A fast dunking in cool water to dislodge any insects that had found a home in the furry stems. Gently pat them dry. Coat a skillet with butter and give them a fast saute. Just get them hot and serve immediately. The taste is light, fresh, and similar to very young asparagus.
   For several years I've transplanted clumps of ferns to shady spots around our yard. Hoping someday to harvest a crop of the spring treat I first learned about when reading a mystery novel set in New England.
   I make no claim to being a woods woman and do my infrequent hunting for fresh greens in the grocery sticking to kale and spinach which have a decent shelf life. We most certainly do not cook vegetables as our grand-mothers or mothers did. At times their methods could be described as 'cooking them to death', but certain foods like spring greens bring memories of a past that wasn't that long ago.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Gusty Winds of March

   March blew in with tornado warnings all over the map. We got our share of high winds through not as bad as other areas and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when this one missed us.
   Like everyone else we stayed tuned to the Weather Channel as it tracked the storms and kept our ears glued to the radio for local warnings plus got prepared to head for the basement  or any other point of safety.
   Violent storms are a part of March weather as seasonal patterns change. Tornadoes form when cold air from the north fueled by strong winds from the west meets a layer of warm air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico. We've grown to expect to tornadoes in March.
   Surprisingly according to the National Weather Service November holds the record for the month of the most frequent tornadoes. The weather conditions at that time are about the same as they are in March.
   A Tornado Outbreak is a designation given when a group of confirmed tornadoes are formed from the same system. The number varies from 6 to 10 plus. The record outbreak occurred in late April of 2011, which covered a three day period.
  There were tornadoes in 21 states for a total spawn of 358 confirmed. This one period accounted for over 20% of the total tornadoes in the United States for that given year. 300 lives were lost and there was over eleven billion dollars in damages.
  The year of the Super Tornadoes were 1974, which many of us remember. Friends lost loved ones as the storms cut through the county. Nation wide tornadoes developed that night from Louisiana to Michigan as the storms roared east.
   Many years ago we stood in our garden and watched a miniature tornado (called dust devils out west) come up our driveway. The sound of a freight train where there was no train alerted us. The whirling wind came up from the gorge, jumped from one side of the drive to the other laying our hay fields flat in swirled patterns. It finally died out when it struck a pile of sticks and brush we'd cleared from a fence row throwing debris high into the air.
  The photo is from Google (NWS origin) is a clear illustration of a tornado. They are a part of our national weather patterns and there is nothing we can do to prevent them.
   For safety heed the warnings, know the best places in your home and workplace to take shelter, stock some food and water there, and stay tuned to you local station for up-to-date reports on approaching storms. 




Friday, March 3, 2017

Fishing From the Bank

 March is the month in Kentucky you must have a new fishing license tucked in your wallet or else on your person to legally cast a line in the water. High hopes ride when the fever strikes to go fishin'. We dream all winter of catching that really big one. The one you have your picture taken with holding it high. The one you show off to all your friends and strangers too, if they'll listen. The one that will make the record book, where others will grind their teeth in envy of your skill, luck, and ability to tell a good yarn.
   People have been writing about the joys of fishing since the 1600s, when the early Bible for fishermen, The Complete Angler by Izaak Walton was written in 1653. This classic is available on Amazon in book form or as an e-book on Kindle. Its wisdom and lore has never gone out of style in nearly 400 years.
   Since Izaak's time thousands of books, entire monthly magazines, bodies of folklore saying have multiplied to tempt and entice fishermen to try their theory, style, products, or methods of catching fish.
   I'm not going to get into gender related issues and will continue through out this article to refer to the persons who cast their line upon the waters as fishermen. There have been and are many ladies who know the ways of fish. I take my hat off to them.
   Sad to say my wife isn't one of them. I have her permission to continue to use the term fisherman since she can read a book and ignore the sinking bober on her on her line. I can say with pride that I taught her to bait her own hook and remove little sunfish that get attracted to her offerings. She draws the line at cleaning, filleting, and cooking fish. Her favorite way to eat fish is on a sandwich from Frisch's and sees this as the proper way to consume a time honored menu item.

   We have a boat and enjoy fishing from it during the week when many weekenders are not out churning the lake waters and disturbing the fish. I'll admit fishing from a boat does not hold for me the pleasure of sitting or standing on a bank with the wind in my face casting a line.
   There's method in my madness as I consider myself a scientific fisherman. When the wind is coming toward you all kinds of insects fall in the water and fish rise to feed on this new source of food, I have every hope they'll mistake my lure for a free meal.
  If you find me on the Internet, read my contribution to the lore of fishing and know any old saying about fishing. Slip me a note and I'll collect them for next year. If you put your handle to the note I'll give you credit for expanding my knowledge of fishing quips.

   Here's an example of what I mean:
Before a rain the fishes rise and nimbly catch incautious flies.
 
People complain about aching corns, old scars that throb, and other affictions before a rain. My wife gets headaches across the bridge of her nose when a storm is approaching and our dogs head for spots as close to us as they can get. Weather people tell us these odd pains and weird behaviors are triggered by falling barometric pressure. Fish respond to the same weather conditions with greater activity thus eating more to provide fuel for the increased movement.
   Grab a rod and head for your favorite spot when the signs and the weather person call for rain. It's a profitable time to catch a fish though any time is a good time to 'go fishing'.'


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Best Foot Forward

   There are many phrases in our language that refer to our feet like: step into the light, dance to a different tune, and put your best foot forward.
   You are issued two per life time. Medical science has made marvelous advances with other parts of the human body replacements, but those for feet have yet to reach the level of the originals.
   Each day we live we move, exercise, walk, run, or dance our feet take a pounding. They respond to our instant commands. Serving us faithfully day after day.
   Many must live and work on concrete floors which have no give or cushioning when we stand for long periods of time or walk on them. Our feet get little rest as they hold up the weight we ask them to bear.
   When I was teaching I needed a new pair of shoes. I asked the clerk for something that didn't look like a pair of combat boots. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him. He looked down at my shoes and said, "Go buy another pair of combat boots." It was the best advice I've ever gotten from a sales person.
   The structure of our feet is extremely complex. We have 26 bones linked by 33 joints (20 of which are active articulated), means they are connected by flexible joints. These bones are bound together by over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. So when we walk or just wiggle our toes after a long day they work in a fantastic syncopation much like a well scored piece of music.
   Like most people I didn't think much about my feet until several years ago when I was watching Dancing With the Stars on TV. It was a brief clip. One of the dancers was having problems with her feet. They showed them - they were covered with large lumps of dead skin cells or calluses. It was painful to see and I can only imagine how it felt dancing for hours each day as they prepared a routine.
   Many little girls dream of wearing a beautiful white dress and floating across a stage as a ballet dancer. The professionals who follow a lifetime career suffer in the later years from deformed feet that met the demands of toe shoes.
   When we have problems with out feet many times the cause is rooted in ill fitting shoes. This is true for both men and women. Women especially like me who want to be stylish follow the dictates of current fashions.
   Remember as you age your feet grown. It is a good idea to check your shoe size. We don't see bunions as often as we once did, but studies indicate they have a direct relation to wearing shoes that are too short.
   We neglect our feet, not intentionally but it's much easier to scrub them when taking a bath than it is to bend over in a shower. There we simply forget.
   Two home treatments for tired feet are: 1.) Soak them in a solution of warm water and Epson Salts then give them a good buffing with a rough towel and 2). Take a bottle or small balls and roll your feet back and forth as you watch TV.
  For runners to help prevent blisters a roll of paper like surgical tape is a cheap solution to an age old problem.
   Any person who has ever been in the military will tell you care of your feet and frequent changes for clean socks is one of the first things they learn to endure long marches bearing heavy packs.
Nash Black, author of Sandprints of Death, the beginning of the Jim Young series.