Not since 1814.

It was supposed to be a procedure, a formality, verifying the electoral votes that confirmed the November presidential election. Chuck and I listened to the beginning of the process on the radio on our way home from an appointment. As I headed out the door for a half day of work, he asked, “Should I keep you informed?” I said, “Well, I’ll be in class from 1:00 to 2:30, so only text me if something big happens.”

Little did I know.

I finished my classes, stood up and stretched, and took my phone off its charger. And reacted with uncharacteristic vocabulary. OMG! WTF! Holy C***!

I texted Chuck and asked if he was joking, even as I pulled up online news, Social studies indeed – history, a frightening incident, was unfolding on the monitor that had just shown fifth grade language arts and social studies.

The wheels of democracy sometimes turn slowly, but they do turn. Mr. 45 was wrong to incite violence and invite mobs to Washington today. Those who followed in his dirty footprints (Senator RJ, I’m looking at you) share responsibility for the first breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812.

After working on the Constitution, Ben Franklin was asked, “Well, sir, what kind of government do we now have?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Our democracy, after all the mobs and rioting, is once again up and running. It’s up to all of us – Congress, Senate, and voters – to respect the process, to participate in the process and and maintain and keep our republic.

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Touch Typing while Distracted

It started well. I had good intentions, really. A Power Point presentation (I make loads of them for online lessons), with the script in the notes. The “script” gets long at times because I’m working on a lengthy series of reading intervention lessons, and they’re heavily scripted. Rather than read the manual and handle the power point at the same time, transcribing the notes now saves time later.

So imagine this: I’m speeding along, typing a long batch of script, looking at the manual. I finish the paragraph, and turn to look at the slide to find — this.

mocprm/ Imocprms are ,usteropis amd ,agoca; amo,a;s tjat upi read abpit om faoru ta;es/ A imocprm ;ppls ;ole a jprse wotj pme jprm pm ots jead/ Sap;a ;ove om kimg;es amd are extre,e;u rare/ Tjeu arem T rea;;u imocprms. Bit tjeu are ca;;ed Asoam imocprms because tjeu are veru sju/ Frp, the sode. Tjeu ;ppl ;ole tjeu jave pme jprm/ {ep[;e dp

Yep. You guessed it, readers. One hand moved over a key. One hand. A few of the words may be right (are, a, rare), but not enough. If you try hard enough, you might be able to decode parts of the sample. Maybe.

And yes, I hit delete and typed it correctly — after resisting temptation to bang my head on the desk. So readers, what kind of time-wasting mistakes have you made lately? No, on second thought, you don’t have to reminisce and remember those moments. I have enough of my own.

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And then, bananas.

Remember the baked oatmeal with apples? I needed a banana for that recipe – one, count ’em, one banana. While the boys (Chuck and Amigo) were out running other errands, I stopped at the convenience store for a few bananas. As often happens, I found myself at the back of the store mixing up a strawberry lemonade, too, because – why not? Stay hydrated, support local business, and so on. And I had my banana.

When Chuck and Amigo came home from the grocery store, Chuck handed me a bunch of rather-ripe bananas and said, “There’s a story here.” It seems the bananas at the store were “so green they should have still been on the tree.” He’d grabbed a bunch that was mostly yellow, knowing I needed one for my recipe. Well, oops. I already had the necessary banana.

We spent the next few days enjoying bananas. Half a banana with lunch, sliced banana on cereal for breakfast, and eventually banana bread made an appearance. But this weekend, we didn’t buy bananas. Not at the convenience store, not at the grocery. I think we’ll wait a little bit before we dive into bananas again.

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Apples, Apples, everywhere

Subtitle could be Urban Foraging or Scavenger Skills or even Free Food. When my online school moved into a new office, we discovered an apple tree in the front yard. No one seemed to be actively picking the apples, so Chuck and I decided to dive in, er, climb on. We brought big buckets and a stepladder and gathered seven or eight buckets of ripe apples.

The first season, I made applesauce and apple butter and apple pie filling and even apple jelly. Then Chuck got to thinking and bought the me (well, the family) a cider press. We pressed a batch or two of cider and filled the freezer. We took the cider production angle seriously after buying a quart from a farmers’ market and realizing that hey, ours was better.

This year was typical. We picked a little early, so not all the apples were fully ripe, but they were tasty enough for cider. I took to keeping a small box in my car and picking up the windfalls as I left work for the day. These windfall apples added up, and we had apple bread pudding, apple crisp, a Russion apple cake, and even baked oatmeal with apples. We scavenged another bucket of apples in early November, but then I got sick (not Covid!), so the apple pie filling and the strained jelly I’d hoped to make were not likely. After I regained my health and energy, I took the easy way out and made more applesauce.

If I ever retire, will I still have access to that tree and its apples? Technically, it’s on a public school’s property, so anyone could pick. Just to be sure, though, I should stay on good terms with my boss. That’s not a problem. In fact, I could even bribe her with fresh cider. Mmm, cider. From free apples. Works for me!

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TP, Compost Bins; try Canning Lids

The search for a new compost bin was successful in an unexpected way. Instead of spending lots of money to replace my broken tumbler, I got a stationary bin for — free. Free, free, free. Yes, you heard me, free. I was driving home from buying tomatoes for salsa, and I saw a big hulking black thing on curbside. I couldn’t stop then, but I made mental note of the location. The next day, Chuck and I drove the van over to that spot, and found the big hulking black plastic object with a new sign on it: FREE COMPOSTER. I looked it over. It was dirty (um, no problem), but all the parts were there, so we loaded it up in the minivan and brought it home. I’ve hosed it out a few times, and it will replace the collapsing composter of doom. What a deal!

Last time Chuck and Amigo went grocery shopping, I put canning lids, regular size on the list. They came home with two boxes of exactly what I needed. Good thing, too, because now – less than two weeks later – the store shelves are empty of canning lids. Friends elsewhere in the state have complained that they can’t even find jars to buy. I’m lucky; I have a very good supply of jars, and a fair amount of lids. I hope to buy more lids as I dive into the Tomato Crazy and Applesauce Season. I’ll keep my eyes wide open for unusual sources of lids for my canning jars. So far, my online searches have suggested a few I hadn’t considered.

So, readers, if you’re running low on lids for canning, either regular or wide mouth size, where do you go? Brick and mortar or online, I’ll take your suggestions.

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Reminders of Buttercup

I pulled up a dandelion the other day, and I immediately thought of Buttercup the bunny. She loved dandelion greens. When she was younger and more sprightly, she’d meet me at the door when I came inside, hoping I was carrying her favorite fresh treat. More often than not, I was.

I still pull up the dandelions, but they either go in the compost or get diced into a pesto or seasoning of some sort.

I get the same thoughts whenever Amigo is done with a page of Braille – for example, his rehearsal schedules from Tuesday nights’ Zoom chorus gathering. He used to hand the Braille paper, a little stiffer than printer paper but not as thick as cardboard, straight to Buttercup. She would nibble around the edges until we had an odd piece of leftover Braille, and then we’d add it to the compost or recycling.

Today, I harvested kale, Dear darling husband Chuck doesn’t like kale, but it’s so easy to grow! Buttercup liked it, so I planted at least a little kale every year. She died in late May, so there’s no bunny in the house to eat the kale that’s coming up. I picked as much as I could today and dried it in the oven for kale powder. All the nutritional value and none of the taste, as my dear darling sister-in-law would say.

Maybe I could add dandelion greens to the kale powder? Now that’s a thought.

Readers, do you like kale or not? There seems to be no in between on this question.

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(Farm) Market Day?

One loss I’m feeling deeply is the lack of local farm markets. My downtown farm market usually starts at the end of June on Saturdays. The main street of our fair city closes, and the vendors fill several blocks. It’s a wonderful atmosphere; live music, the smell of egg rolls cooking and corn roasting, and all the produce that’s in season. Not this year, thanks to Covid19.

Thanks to Covid19, our downtown farm market will start two weeks later than usual and support about one third of the usual vendors. Live music will not be allowed, and prepared foods will no longer be available. I’ll go, and I’ll buy veggies and fruits to freeze and to can for the winter, but it won’t be the same. Not by a long shot.

Today I drove past Festival Foods, the store that hosts my favorite midweek market in their parking lot on Wednesday mornings. As I got closer, I saw – could it be – a tent! A white canvas top with a point in the middle! Maybe the market was back! Maybe…maybe…nope. Just a fireworks stand. Sigh.

Fortunately, Chuck’s mother, Robin, called and told us of a farmer selling fresh strawberries from the back of his truck. She’d bought some herself, and said they were delicious. I didn’t drive there immediately (it was noon), but I may try tomorrow. Maybe the strawberries will be there again, ready for me. That may be the solution this year: without the usual market, I need to find the independent sellers. It’ll be a little more work, but I can still fill our freezer for the winter.

Readers, is your local farmers’ market still going on this year? If not, what are you doing to get fresh produce for your family?

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Writer’s Block?

Amigo keeps asking me if I’ve blogged recently. It’s not that there’s nothing going on; it’s more like there’s too much going on. Focusing in on one topic seems overwhelming.

George Floyd. The protests he inspired; the riots and vandals that tagged along.

Buttercup. Our sweet bunny, about 14 years old (ancient!), passed on last week. I still expect her to meet me at the bottom of the stairs every morning when I get up.

Covid19. Again. Still. Pandemic hasn’t let up, despite its being relegated to smaller status in the evening news stories.

School. Work from home. How it’s different, both better and not so good.

The ever present garden! Some of the peas haven’t come up; there are blank spots in the lettuce patch. I blame the chipmunk who has taken up residence under one of the boards in the raised bed. Dang pest.

Sports. Amigo and I really, really miss sports. Baseball now, football in the fall – we’re left at loose ends.

Local protests vs. nearby cities vs. larger cities – compare, contrast, consider.

Barbershop chorus! They keep rehearsing in Zoom, but their two biggest fundraisers for the year have been cancelled. What does the future hold?

Meanwhile, I’m watching the world spinning around me and wondering when it will slow down and maybe even stop.

Where to go next? Too many directions, too many important topics in our lives, here at the O.K. Chorale.

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Memorial Day Memories

When we moved into our home 22 years ago, we gained a front row seat on our new home town’s Memorial Day parade. The parade marched past the end of our block on its way to the nearby cemetery.

We developed our routines, one of which was Amigo riding his recumbent three wheeler to the end of the block and sitting in its comfortable seat, standing only when the honor guards walked by.

There were special years, like the time that the only teenagers awake at 10:00 AM were La Petite and her friends in the band. Then there was the year that La Petite slept in and her friends all looked over at us, wondering where she was. We got small finger waves from a piccolo player, among others. I hope the director didn’t notice!

Speaking of band, there was the year that Amigo cheered as his high school band marched by, catching the attention of the director, who was also his Music Appreciation teacher. She ran over to the side of the road and hugged him!

The same director and Amigo’s high school band missed the local Memorial Day parade in favor of marching in Washington, D.C. one year. The high school sent their orchestra instead – “marching” on the flatbed trailer of a semi-truck.

One year I volunteered to shuttle some of the local Democrats from the end of the parade (not far from our home) back to their cars at the beginning. I ended up “marching” along with the unit for the last bit, and then gave the college Democrats a ride back – to my own college alma mater.

There were somber moments, too. Last year the fire department had a huge unit marching in their dress uniforms, looking straight ahead, giving tribute to one of their own who had been shot in the line of duty only two weeks earlier. Neighboring departments worked shifts so that any firefighter who wanted to march could do so. The department got a standing ovation along the entire parade route from start to finish.

And that’s what Memorial Day is all about: the bands, the floats, the people, all playing and marching and walking in honor of those who gave their lives, the ultimate sacrifice. Covid19 took that event off the calendar this year; next year, we’ll appreciate it even more.

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The Garden Begins – again

Around 2008, I wrote about the Recession Garden trend. I’d been gardening a long time before it became trendy, so my backyard just looked the same as it always did.

Now the Covid19 pandemic is inspiring people to dig up their lawns and plant vegetables or place large containers full of potting soil and tomato plants on their apartment balconies. I heard from at least two seed catalogs that they were running low on basics (like tomatoes) and encouraging their regular customers to order ASAP.

Frankly, I bought seeds in advance. That’s my routine. When it’s time to start my seedlings in February or March, I have what I need. Despite that time being super busy for teachers, I know I’ll be able to take breaks from grading and planning and get my hands dirty.

This year was one of the best for starting plants from seed. My tomatoes needed supports (chopsticks!) before the soil was ready and the weather was ready to transplant them into the garden plot. Were the plants growing well because the sun was strong? I didn’t use grow lights – or the small greenhouse covers from IKEA, either. Did the seedlings do well because I took care of them? It’s hard to neglect these seedlings when they sat next to my “quarantine office” in the corner of the main room.

Whatever the reason, I’m planting outside now. I’m not planting a garden because of the pandemic or the economic results from the spread of Covid19. I’m planting because it’s what I do. I’m looking forward to the results – the fresh tomatoes, beans, peas, spinach, lettuce – all of the above.

Readers, I know many of you are kindred spirits in the gardening way. Has your garden changed this season? If so, how? Let us know.

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