Thursday, August 11, 2016

Looking for Adventure

Last weekend, we went a little crazy and this happened.

We bought ourselves two kayaks.  We're ready for adventure.  Honestly, when I saw the kayaks strapped to the car, I could hear "Born to Be Wild" playing in my head.  I feel a little like a middle-aged cliche, driving a Subaru with kayaks on the roof, but it's going to be fun.  We took them out for their maiden voyage to Shabbona Lake State Park, about thirty minutes away.  It's a small lake, only 318 acres, and is used for fishing and float boats only, no speed boats. Perfect for getting the feel of our new kayaks.  And we weren't the only ones who thought so; we met another middle-aged couple, who had brought their new kayaks to Shabbona for their first trip too.

Hard to paddle in the lily pads, but I wanted a close look at the flowers.

We found an area covered with lily pads and water lilies.  We saw a couple of herons, lots of purple martins and dragonflies.  A lovely, peaceful time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sweet Corn

It's sweet corn time here in Illinois.  Every year, I tell myself I'll buy extra corn and freeze it, but I never do.  Only this year, I did!  Last week, I stopped by a local truck/farm stand and picked up four baker's dozen ears of bicolor sweet corn.

The counter became a shucking station.

When I was growing up, my family grew corn in their gardens, and I have lots of memories of my mother and aunt "putting up corn," which meant shucking, washing, cutting off the cob, partially cooking it, cooling it, and putting it in quart freezer boxes.  As I got old enough, I helped out.  First with shucking, but later with the whole job.

Washed and ready to cut off

My grandmother, then my mother and aunt, made what we always called "fried corn."  It is cut off the cob and placed in a non-stick skillet (although I'm sure my grandmother used cast iron as there was no non-stick in her time) with water, butter, salt and pepper.  It is simmered for thirty or more minutes, until it is cooked down and creamy.  No milk or cream is added, however, only the milk from the corn itself.  That dish really is my youth.  I love fried corn.  I even, or actually especially, like it when the corn is not tender and sweet.  Sometimes my parents bought a field corn, trucker's delight, which is not sweet and can be kind of tough.  It became something of a joke in the family because that was actually my favorite for fried corn.

Ready to cook and freeze
It's a fair bit of work, even with only four dozen ears, but it will be so worth it come winter when I can pull a taste of summer out of the freezer.

Ready for the compost pile

Monday, August 1, 2016

Saying Good-Bye

The last two months have been very hard.  The last two weeks even harder.  On July 15, I learned that my older brother, my only sibling, had passed away at age 59.  It was not unexpected.  He had battled stage four renal cancer (metastasized to the spine) for five years.  I remember so clearly the day I found out he had cancer.  It was like someone punched me in the gut.  I went out to the hammock, sat there alone and cried.  Your sibling is you, part of you -- your first friend, your childhood ally (and sometimes enemy), the one who has known you all your life.

In early June, we stopped by my brother's farmhouse in Tennessee.  He lived alone with his dog, Walter, and saw a hospice nurse once a week.  "I don't know if I'll make it until the Fourth of July," he said as we said good-bye at the door.  Three days later, I was on my way back to Tennessee.  He had woken up paralyzed from the chest down due to growth of the tumors.  Even after he was hospitalized in the palliative care unit, he continued to make plans -- I was instructed to bring in his coffee maker, a cart to put by his sink, his laptop, sugar packets, rubber bands, you name it. I was told what to get out of his house -- "You're in charge," he said, then questioned most of my decisions and instructed me in detail via cell phone what tools to pack up and take home to my son.  The big brother until the end.

After two weeks, I came back home.  I had planned to go back to Tennessee the last week of July.  I had the completed paperwork from the veterinarian which would allow Walter to visit him at the hospital already in my car glove compartment.  Then just after midnight on July 15, I got the call.  Even though I knew it would happen, I still felt that it was sudden, unexpected.  I wandered around the house, held Walter's face in my hands and told him how sorry I was that he was now an orphan.  I paid bills, I packed a bag, and I spent the next eight hours alone in the car driving back to Tennessee.  It was the worst drive I've ever had.  As the sun came up on an absolutely gorgeous day, all I could think about was that my brother would never see another sunrise.  That he wouldn't see the beauty of the world again. Even as I thought these things, I still couldn't really believe or understand that my brother was gone.

So good-bye to my brother, my first friend, my childhood co-adventurer and fellow explorer.

On a roadside, somewhere in Germany, around 1961.