Posted in Off the Farm, Raised by a village

Interplanet Janet and Jim at the Eclipse 2017

We helped chase the great frog away from eating the sun.  At least that’s how I understood the Cherokee legend of the eclipse.  

In May, we heard the first news reminder about the “Great Americian Eclipse 2017“. The last total solar eclipse was in February 1979. There was an annular eclipse in 1984. I remember teachers telling us, “the next great eclipse will be in the year 2017!” We all gasped at how  old we would be. 

With the childhood memory of not being allowed to go outside because of a fear of burning our retinas,  I bought eclipse glasses. Jim and I discussed the event and we studied the path. At the realization that the path of totality would be near St Louis,  Jim said, “Let’s go visit Jessie.” I jumped at the opportunity. My appreciation of being married to someone who embraces my nerdiness blossomed. 

We called my sister-in-law to exclaim,  “you’re just north of the path of totality of the eclipse! If we book our plane tickets,  can we come and visit?”  Jessie replied, “of course you can visit, there’s a what? Is this a joke?” 

We assured her that our quest to see the eclipse in totality was no joke. I booked the flights that night, requested a day off from work and my inner geek bubbled to the surface. I embraced my inner nerdy, little girl, excited to see the event we’ve anticipated for 38 years. The memory of Ray Bradbury’s short story, “All Summer in a Day” came to memory, and I cast away doubts of missing the spectacular event. 

I became practically giddy with anticipation of visiting family and such a momentous event. As others made plans to go to various points in South Carolina, we prepared to fly 600 miles to Saint Louis, Missouri. 

It was a weekend of silliness and catching-up. 

I wore my eclipse glasses to grill tilapia, and made references to songs like “Total Eclipse of the Heart“, “Here Comes the Sun“, And “Staring at the Sun

Carbondale, Illinois was our first choice, because Carbondale is the point where the eclipse will also be in 2024. Alas, travel to that location, combined with the throngs of people anticipated in that apex spurred us to St. Clair, Missouri.  

We arrived to find a town normally populated with 4,700 people overflowing with nearly 10,000 people. As we entered the town, undecided where to stop,  I said, “let me see if there’s a Methodist church nearby.” Sure enough, United Methodist Church of St. Clair was there on the right, complete with a tree in the back field. The perfect spot.  

We spread out our blankets under the tree, and decided to explore town before the eclipse started. 

Local t-shirt shops sold out of mugs and shirts. We spoke with a local screen printer who had shirts on the press and could not get merchandise out fast enough to meet demand. We met other Methodists from Texas, Chicago,  Indiana and Arkansas. We all had similar ideas: we didn’t know where exactly we would go, but figured that we would find sisters and brothers from the connectional table near the flame and cross.  

We chatted with strangers of all different faith walks, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch under the tree.  Folks played frisbee, talked about the educational experience, and one group used a mirror, binoculars and white board to project the eclipse in low-tech. It was brilliant. 

We laughed, and I danced in the shadows of the crescent-shaped leaves. At one point, my sister-in-law just shook her head when I ran bare-footed on the old basketball court singing, “St Clair is alive with the solar eclipse” to the tune of “The Sound of Music”.  

Then, the magic happened, after 38 years, we saw totality. For 2 minutes and 40 seconds, we saw the corona, solar flares and divine beauty. Photos on my phone could not capture the splendor of the moment. I decided that I wanted to bask in the moment, to see the stars, listen to the cicadas, and laugh at the street lights that glowed at 1:18 pm. The world went dark, and the area grew quiet. We all cheered. There was cheering among strangers! Not at a sporting event, but at the beauty and wonder of the universe. We cheered at the amazing gift of clear skies and low humidity. Suddenly, it was light again. The temperature rose, the cicadas stopped, and people began dispersing. We walked through town again, and mde our way into traffic. It snarled on the interstate, and we used google maps to find alternate routes to avoid accident. We made it to the airport in plenty of time. 

At the airport, we met others who flew in the previous day and went to various places like Festus, DeSoto and Herculeneum. 

I thanked my sister-in-law profusely for the hospitality. I thanked Lisa for dog-sitting Scooby, we thanked Cynthia, Erma Deen and my brother for taking care of the animals at home.  We thanked our bosses for the time off from work. It’s a group effort to fly 600 miles for a 2 minute event. 

I’ll be sending a donation to St Clair UMC tomorrow to thank them for their hospitality. 

We thanked the pilot and attendants for their efforts to get us home safely. The airport at Charlotte was a madhouse.

It was worth it. In fact, we’ve already started planning for the 2024 eclipse. 

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Posted in like-minded, Off the Farm, Uncategorized

I’m Here To Pick Up Chicks

We farm-chics stick together, because the things that happen to us are normal to those in our world, but completely foreign to  non-farm-folk. 

We all know that the post office handles lots of odd packages…including live baby chicks.  Baby chicks are shipped overnight and 2ND-day air around the country for small and large farmers to raise as organic meat-birds, game hens and egg-layers.  Hatcheries mail baby chicks in ventilated boxes with food in the bottom. These boxes are handled with extreme care and labeled “BABY CHICKS”. It’s when farmers like Audra show up at the post office after working in an office and tells the clerk, “I’m here to pick up the chicks” that it becomes a crap-shoot.  I thought it was hysterical and appropriate at the same time.

With quippy-farm-wit, we all expect our small-town postal clerk to say, “why certainly, I’ll get them from the back.” Instead, last week, Audra’s clerk asked, “do you have any identification?”  To which Audra replied, “my wallet is in the car. I didn’t really think you’d need my driver’s license to pick up my chicks. I know they’re in the back because I can hear them.” 
The clerk replied, “that package is for Ellis Farms. Did they send you?” 

Audra said, “I am Ellis Farms and the package is addressed to Rick, he’s my husband and he told me to stop and pick up the chicks on my way home.” 

The clerk countered, “We really need for you to provide your ID.” 

 Proudly, Audra did not lose her religion at this point, but asked the nice clerk, “Is there a chick-theft ring that I don’t know about in our town? How many people show up saying they’re here to pick up the chicks on the exact day and time that we received notification that OUR chicks arrived? I can hear them around that wall. Would you like to call the number listed on the parcel and speak with Rick about me picking up the chicks that he sent me to get?”

The clerk must have caved at some point. Because the clerk returned with a vented box of chicks, addressed to Ellis Farms and the clerk said, “We really need for you to bring your ID when you pick up packages.”

Oddly enough, I was in the same post office not 10 minutes later, to sign for a large envelope…and the clerk never asked me for identification. 

So my friends, remain vigilant against possible clandestine chick-theft rings. What strange things have you pick-up at the post office, and did you have to show your identification? 

Thank you Audra of Ellis Farms for sharing your story, allowing me to paraphrase when needed, and to share a glimpse into a seemingly simple pick-up that went sideways.  

Photos contribute by Audra Ellis. 

Posted in Off the Farm, Raised by a village

Random Acts of Waxing

I just wanted to wash the salt, slag, snow and road grime from my car. So, on Sunday, I drove to the nearest 4-bay do-it-yourself spray and wash where I found at least 7 other drivers feverishly scrubbing the previous week’s snow memories. Just as I finished vacuuming a month’s worth of dirt from my floorboards, a young guy in a pickup truck wheeled into the bay I faced and started spraying his truck.

I backed out and lined up behind a guy who I thought was drying his car. Nope, he was smoking a cigarette and slowly pulling dried wax from his car with the corner of a dish towel. He turned to chat with another guy leaning against the brick wall smoking a cigarette.  I had a choice. I could either be upset, sit in the car and make faces at the guys…or I could be me. 

I popped the trunk, pulled three mismatched socks from a bag intended for a donation bin and asked, “Hey, can I help you wax your car?” 

The waxing guy said, “uh if you want to, but that side is still drying.” I pulled the socks on each hand and started waxing circles, removing the dried wax from the shiny car. He asked, “What’s your name?” I replied, “Janet” as I continued my Karate Kid moves of wax-on-wax-off. By this time, I finished the driver’s door and was starting on the hood. 

He asked, “so, do you wax your car?” 

I said, “hardly ever! I’ve got farm chores and just want to get my car washed so I can go do other stuff. I’ve got work tomorrow.”  

He asked, “so you’re helping me wax my car? By the way, this is my brother.”

 I said, “great, here’s an extra sock, you wax that side and we’ll get this knocked out.” 

The other guy took the worn sock and dabbed at the mirror.  I said, “put the sock on your hand and rub in circles. Like this…”

The first guy said, “I work on bridge construction.  …I can’t believe you’re waxing my car. Some other guy just stopped here and was being a jerk about me waxing my car…but we’ve got another car in the garage at home so I can’t do it in there.” 

I asked, “wonder why he did that? You paid your quarters to wash…” 

He replied, “I don’t know. You know how guys are..always trying to see whose got a bigger hat.” 

I said, “oh I wouldn’t know anything about that.”

He said, “I feel like I should offer you a beer or something for helping me.” 

I replied, “Now you boys aren’t out here drinking and driving are you? You know that’s the quickest way to lose your ride.” 

He said, “No …no, we’re not drinking. We just live right over here.”  

By this time, I finished pulling the wax from the trunk and the hood. I peeled the socks from my hands. The brother asked, “you want your socks back?” I said, “nope, they’re trash now.” 

He exclaimed, “I thought you were taking them to Goodwill.” 

I replied, “you can’t take waxed socks to Goodwill! They’re rags now. Besides, they did good will. It’s clean.” 

Puzzled, he shook his head and extinguished his still-lit cigarette.  

I walked back to my car, and they drove out of the bay to finish detailing. I washed my car and finished my Sunday afternoon. 

Crazy? Probably. That guy will be telling a story of some older lady who helped wax his car after another guy was a jerk. 

At least now I know the reason for not dropping the bag of mismatched socks at the clothing dropbox…they worked great as wax rags. 

Posted in Off the Farm, Raised by a village

Internationally Inspired Birthday 

Celebrating a birthday in January is always a roulette game. Growing up, I had several parties cancelled because of icy weather, like my 6th and 9th birthday parties. 

This year, I braced myself for a low key birthday lunch that would happen sometime during the month. If we had good weather, it would be on my birthday. ..if not, we would wait. Just a week prior, we had single digit temperatures, and 8 inches of snow that stuck for 3 days. At midweek, the temperatures rose to 60 and the snow disappeared. By my birthday, it was a glorious 65 degrees and blue skies. 
Birthdays are generally typical days and include animal care, errands and even work. This year, my birthday fell of Saturday so I had time for a haircut, and to pick up goat food and chicken scratch before lunch. Ah birthday lunch….

I wanted German food for my birthday celebration. Jim researched a few places and decided that we would try a Russian place. He said that it’s all on the same continent, and the food is similar. I stopped trying to understand his logic and agreed to try new food; it’s better that way. We picked up some friends and drove to the restaurant, an authentic, family-owned, no frills place. The specials were pierogies and homemade kielbasa.  Jim wanted kraut and vegetables. I could tell this was going to be interesting: they were out of kraut. We ended up ordering 4 plates of food and splitting them. Jim had cabbage, pickled vegetables, mashed potatoes and carrots. I had kielbasa, cabbage and potatoes. Kelly finished my chicken cutlet, and his own kielbasa and potatoes.  It was like a food swap, and I just laughed. 

Jim said, “it’s good, but I really wanted the saurkraut.” Lisa replied, “if you wanted kraut we could’ve gone to the German place 2 miles south of here.” Jim looked astonished that such a place existed, and I just rolled my eyes. 

This is where you just shake your head and all agree that next time, Lisa is picking the restaurant. It’s never a dull moment. My birthday was filled with good food, good fellowship, great laughs and family. I can’t ask for more than that. As for cake, I had tres leches from the Cuban bakery where we skipped the candles in order to avoid calling the local fire department. I really did not want to have to get a burning permit just to light candles on the cake and explain to the forest rangers that it was just a birthday cake. 

Posted in Off the Farm

Oklahoma for Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving travel can be stressful. Years ago, I traveled on Thanksgiving through LAX to visit my brother Marty in California. I swore I’d never fly over Thanksgiving again; this is where you laugh and remind me never to say “Never”. 

In July of this year, Jim said that he’d like to visit his sister and niece in Oklahoma over Thanksgiving. I stared at him in shock. The last time we flew to Oklahoma (in 2010) he nearly had an anxiety attack watching the door close inside the plane.  Seating him near the window on the next leg of the trip seemed to help, but we ended that trip in 2010 with sentiment  of never flying again. He even flew in the Navy.  So, when he said he wanted to fly to Oklahoma, I was overjoyed! Let the planning begin. 

With tickets booked on non-stop flights, I sent emails to friends and family a week prior to our trip regarding the care of animals and the house.  To avoid nightmarish parking, we arranged for our friend Lisa to dogsit and to provide airport shuttle.  By the time I sat on the plane, my mind shut off.  Jim was just getting started.  He chatted, watched the baggage handlers, and once in the air, he actually napped. I knitted. I’d been up past midnight finishing my family’s  annual calendar, and I was beyond exhausted. 

We arrived safely at the Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City and were met by Jim’s niece and husband. We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with family. We laughed as their dog attempted turkey telekinesis and failed. 

That night, I slept for over 8 solid hours. Friday, after giving the English Butterfly Bunny a pedicure, we took a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Fort Worth, Texas to visit another niece whom Jim had not seen in 35 years. 

We stopped near Gene Autry, OK for pictures near the huge wind turbines.

 I slept most of the way back and vaguely remember stopping at McDonald’s where Jim bought an apple turnover for the first time in 25 years.  It felt more like an odd dream.

Some time after midnight, we drove through the city, already decorated with holiday lights, and we stopped at Oklahoma City National Memorial site. This national memorial stands where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building was bombed by a domestic terrorist in 1995.  We visited the memorial in 2010 during the day, and I was moved to tears. Now, after midnight six years later, I saw the Memorial in the stillness of the cold night air, where lighted bronze chairs symbolize each life lost on that tragic day. The pool of water reflects the times of 9:01 and 9:03 marking the moments when that rental truck exploded in April 1995 and sent shock waves through our nation. I felt the chilled night air and peace. Now, in the dark, standing at the reflecting pool, I heard and felt the laughter of children dancing on the water. Looking around, I was completely alone in the physical plane…yet, I felt the presence of others. I asked our niece about my experience Saturday morning and she said, “if you felt that, then the memorial did its job. You felt the people who lost their lives. They are not forgotten.” I had been standing near the spot where the daycare had been in the federal building. It’s one experience to stand where people worked and played in the daylight; it’s a completely different experience at night. I am in awe of this tribute to our fallen fellow Americans. Infants, children, mothers and fathers, family members who never made it home from work; they are not forgotten. 

My Ubuntu sister, Susan, drove down to meet us on Saturday. We traveled to Cambodia in 2015 and will forever have that bond.

We spent a few hours shopping at small businesses around the city like the Savory Spice Shop (where they grind fresh herbs and spices) and Ingrid’s Kitchen  (a German Restaurant) where I tasted Weiner Schnitzel . ..how have I missed out on my heritage’s food all these years? 

We are now planning birthday lunches to be at local German restaurants in North Carolina!

Spending time with Jim’s family is a special gift. We arrived home on a smooth flight,  checked animals and unpacked. We’re already thinking ahead to next year and getting  more of his family together in one spot for the holiday.