Monday, July 30, 2012

What will Sunny do?

My daughter called me on her drive home from Ann Arbor over the weekend to tell me she was passing field after field of sunflowers, a beautiful sight.  We decided someone has to grow all those seeds we buy each winter for the birds.

I pass a small home garden each morning on my way to the post office and the whole west edge of the garden is several rows of sunflowers, greeting the sun.  I’ve never gone by in the afternoon; I don’t know if the flowers face west then.  There are two hives at the front of the garden, and I think they are the source of the bees I see working the flower beds at the town hall.

Sunny is soldiering on.  I think her head was permanently bowed down in those relentless days of hundred degree heat, but her stalk is firm.  A few more leaves are gone. We’ll see.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer—almost gone for another year

Summer used to last from early June to the Wednesday after Labor Day.  Ready for back to school was a brief interruption to be drug downtown by Mom for a fitting of school clothes.  Best case, she’d check underwear tags and bring home a size larger.

Here at Cousin Camp, summer is over.  The girls are registered for school; we have appointments with counselors next week.  The first week of August!  Emily was fitted for a band uniform and has been marching three hours each evening since last week. New student orientations are in two weeks.

Aunt Jan has been shopping with the girls for school clothing.  There’s some cute stuff out there for fifth graders!, and Laura really scored at the Old Navy clearance racks.  Ninth grade clothing needs to be cool.   Emily has come home with some pretty shirts and no jeans.  She did select two belts.  She’s three sizes down since coming, through sensible eating and activity.  Old jeans and shorts are regularly consigned to the Goodwill bag.  She thinks we shouldn’t go shopping for her until after band camp.

And, band camp started today.  We filled a basket at a drugstore with bug repellant, multiple tubes of sun screen, band aids, and more things I can’t remember from the band camp list of essentials to bring.  We sent her off into the crowd, to get on a bus and go to Meadville, Pennsylvania.  This band has almost three hundred people, she told us.  The old school band was one hundred sixty.  We watched her walk straight in, to meet her new friends.

Not many days left to sit in the warm morning sun to read a book and work on friendship bracelets.  School starts in three weeks, and we still need to buy school clothes for Emily.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

No fatal attraction

Our studio was added onto our house sometime in the sixties, and like the rest of the house, has plenty of windows.  The north facing windows are high above the ground and overlook our little ravine and stream.  The south window received that standard of mid-century modern, a picture window.  Flanked by two additional windows.

(Grass like shredded wheat this summer.)

All the years we were weavers there weren’t any bird vs. window incidents of note.  Perhaps because there were sunflowers and other goodies in the garden below the window birds stopped short of the big window.

But last summer, as Jan was quilting, she heard a major THUMP behind her, at the window.  She went out to look, and found a woodpecker on the ground.  Alive, but completely comatose.  She couldn’t leave him.  Purrl would have put some puncture wounds in the fellow, just to carry him to the door and let us know he’d moved up from dropping live chipmunks at our feet.

She was standing in the front yard, holding the poor fellow, when I came home and went straight for the camera.

She stood and held him for perhaps half an hour.  Woodie opened his eyes once, then settled snugly in to recover by hand.

There was nothing to be done that we knew of, bird concussions not in our repertoire. He needed to go somewhere to recover.

How to put him in a tree was a problem.  Woodpeckers cling to the sides of trees and don’t perch, as far as we know.

Jan put him first in the tulip tree.  It’s still a bush and dense, like a nest.  He seemed quite comfy, but it was not beyond Purrl height, so she took him out back to the cottonwood tree and put him in a comfy crook.  She went back to check in a quarter hour and he was gone.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunflower Volume1:Chapter8

Sunny’s eight weeks old.  That’s middle aged in sunflower years and powerful old in sunflower-growing-in-a-sidewalk-crack years.

The road super and I rolled up the door for my weekly assessment.  He thinks she’ll make it to seeds for the chickadees and finches.  So do I.  She still has a strong stem and leaves. 

He told me he has volunteer purple sunflowers at his house and he posted pictures on Facebook. I went over for a look, and just need to share it, too.  The best credit I can give is it was taken by the finest road super in the State of Ohio.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sparks was the Radio Officer

Sparks was a radio operator on Great Lakes freighters in the 1930’s.  He had been a radio operator and instructor in the Army, but was medically discharged in 1931, six years after he joined.  The diagnosis was chronic ulcers, treated by adhering to a bland diet.  He spent time in an army hospital bed, and developed special skills such as ear wiggling and eyebrow lifting, enormously useful to entertain his nieces and later his children.

The skinny young man worked his way north from Georgia to his sister’s home in Ohio.  He didn’t eat much that year, he claimed, but it was later noted he did accumulate a trunk full of tools.  His plan was to end up in Cleveland and find a job at a radio station.  He did go to Cleveland, but he didn’t find a job at a radio station.

Sparks did get a job as a Great Lakes freighter radio operator.  He stayed with the freighters on and off for the next nine years.  Mostly on, except the year he spent at TriState College in Angola, Indiana.  He had saved enough to spend a year at college and he got his money’s worth, completing two years courses in the year he spent there.

Out on the Great Lakes, Sparks’ freighter picked up wheat in Minnesota and generally took it to Chicago, through the great Soo Locks.  Fall and winter crossings of Lake Superior were the most treacherous.  Sparks walked ice covered decks and wrestled with ice covered hatch covers.  Once he saw waves breaking totally over an island at the height of a winter storm.

Sparks office was the radio shack, a “shack” added to the superstructure of a ship to house the radio equipment.  Sparks was the Radio Officer; he monitored ship to shore radio traffic to find a frequency he could use to send messages to shore, where they were relayed by phone to the shipping company.  Sparks was the main figure in keeping the Captain of the ship in touch with land.  If Sparks could not find a frequency or establish a connection, the Captain was on his own. 

A ship could not sail without a Radio Officer.  When Sparks was ashore he made it a point to be back aboard in good time.  Sparks knew eccentric Radio Officers on other ships.  Perhaps too many years of static, hissing and straining to hear the Morse code taps made them especial curmudgeons.  One Radio Officer he knew needed wheedled, cajoled and even bribed to go back on ship, which could not sail without him.  A moment of power.

Sparks saw one disastrous elevator explosion in his years on the Great Lakes.  The ship was docked in Chicago, and it was a day like any other when something set off the explosion.  The fire and sparks went up like the Fourth of July and went on for several days.  Sparks didn’t know if some stray spark ignited the wheat dust, but he hoped it wasn’t “some damn fool who disobeyed all regulations and lit a cigarette.”  Sparks ended the story there; he didn’t tell his audience how the affair ended.

Sparks was a loner, on the ships.  He spent his day in the radio shack, monitoring, keeping logs, sending messages.  He went down to the mess for coffee fairly often, and on a slow summer day might join seamen at the rail and watch some gull baiting.  Sailors put a chunk of bacon on a line and tossed it out for gulls to squabble over.  When one swallowed it, the bacon was reeled back up, to be tossed again.

Sparks was making his way down the deck one evening in a bad storm.  He was holding the guide cable when it snapped and coiled out of his hand.  The loose cable coiled about his ankle, simultaneously  snapping the bone and hurling him overboard.  He was rescued, of course, and put ashore as soon as practicable. 

Sparks made his way back to Cleveland and recovered at the home of friends.  The same who stood for him when he married two years later.  Sometimes Sparks used a spoon on our dining room table to tell us things in Morse code.

Sparks in 1942, when he married Mom

Friday, July 20, 2012

Junior Ranger graduates

The group I delivered to the counselors and Rangers Monday became Junior Rangers today. Their very difficult week of training included shelter building, camouflage, stream exploration, making a compass, forest and meadow exploration, countless miles of hiking and catered luncheons of varying degrees of palatability to Francis. 

Back from his hike each afternoon the first report I had from France was the lunch report.  They ranked from low (grilled cheese) through acceptable (pizza) to awesome (hotdogs).

Home base for Junior Ranger Camp is the Happy Days Lodge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There are miles of trails around Happy Days that are easy, and for those who picked hiking as the afternoon activity, the visits were more strenuous, to the Ledges and to Ice Box Cave.  But for the two girls the mile hike to The Octagon for lunch was adequate.

Today was graduation day. When a lot of parents had assembled, the unruly knot of children in the lodge, at one word from a Ranger, stopped milling around in front of the stage and assembled on the stage.  I’m sorry to say I missed the word.

With the counselors leading, the little band sang the Tarzan song and then the Funky Chicken song. I’m quite confident both were to the same tune, and I can’t recall any of the words.  I did ask Laura at supper, but all I came away with were the titles.

Then they raised their right hands and swore to protect nature and wildlife, and preserve and protect their national parks forever.  A ranger called each out by name, shook the child’s hand and presented a junior ranger badge.

France and Caroline’s dad slipped in during the ceremony. When they were dismissed his two jumped on him with their badges in hand.  “Was this the best camp this summer?” he asked.  He got a resounding YES from all three cousins.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Best demonstration award

The interests and abilities of all the grandchildren who spend summers at Cousin Camp change over the years.  The potholder craze was three years ago.

When Emily and Laura came for that summer we gave them a potholder loom apiece and provided  plenty of loopers to ply their craft.  It was summer and Jan took them to guild meetings or guild picnics, where two little girls sitting quietly and working on potholders for the duration was a novelty.  Of course potholders were sold on the spot, and soon Emily was brave enough to ask Aunt Janices’ quilting customers “Do you want to buy a potholder?”

One afternoon our friend Linda and her daughter Cara stopped on their way to a show, and potholders were quickly sold.  Cara immediately offered them a corner of the It’s a Linda booth at the ShakerWoods Festival a few weeks in the future, if Grandma would provide them transportation.

Oh, wow!

Not that long retired from the weaving business themselves, Grandma and Aunt Janice explained the seriousness of having enough stock to meet customer expectations, and suggested they devote two or three hours a day, apiece, to making potholders.  An hour in the morning, the afternoon and the evening would be good; if they wanted to go to a professional show and sell their product, they needed to give it serious preparation. 

Grandma and Aunt Janice keep them supplied with loopers and told them all the money they made would go straight into their bank accounts.  They were little troupers; heads bent over those looms most hot afternoons that summer.  They were so serious about making money that Grandma and Aunt Janice sometimes helped by finishing off the edges while little fingers started a new potholder.

I had them make signs to advertise.  Emily’s sign said Potholders for Sale.  All Cotton. $1.00.  Laura’s sign said Potholders for Sail.  $1.00.  Linda gave them a little table in front of the buggy wheel rug she was weaving for demonstration. 

The girls had a basket of finished potholders and a basket of loopers to demonstrate making potholders on their looms.  Demonstrating your craft is a requirement of the Shaker Woods Festival.

Laura was seven that summer and Emily ten.  I helped them set up their area and settle in making potholders before I went behind the booth where I could watch.  Linda’s booth is not close to the gate; it took the crowd a while to work back. 

 Emily made a few more potholders, but Laura sat frozen, loom on her lap, watching.  I wondered if she was too overwhelmed by the noise and motion of the crowd going by.  Then I heard her.

“These are potholders.”  “We made them.”  “They’re just a dollar.”  “Do you want to buy one?”  “We made them.”

They sold all their potholders by mid afternoon and came home tired, and with four hundred dollars for their bank accounts.  We went back the next day with the few more potholders they made before bedtime.  When those were gone, they put up a Sold Out sign on their table and wandered the fair to spend what they made that day. 

Linda called us the next day.  The booth had won the Best Demonstration award, a plaque and a hundred dollar prize.  The plaque is hanging in their room, and Aunt Linda gave them the prize money for their bank accounts.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Swallowtail and lilies

This fellow was busy with a cone flower recently.

And these lilies at the post office are ignoring the drought

Monday, July 16, 2012

Big sunflower Monday

Sunny is maturing.  Her scrawny, scrappy self probably will have seeds in a month.  I’m plotting how I can get a picture of chickadees hanging off the blossom, picking out seeds.

In news from Cousin Camp 61, there are four grandchildren here for the next two weeks.  Emily and Laura, who live here now, and Francis and Caroline.   I dropped off Laura, Francis and Caroline for Ranger Camp this morning. 

Upwards of a hundred boys and girls spilled from cars, and the counselors checked them in with equanimity.  Only my head was spinning as the efficient staff sorted them into groups.

I quizzed the day campers when I picked them up.  They hiked three to four miles today, and, according to Francis, had a very skimpy lunch of two grilled cheese sandwiches “and some other stuff.”  Tomorrow they are exploring a stream, and need to take their wellies.

Back at home I spent the rest of the day filling out the school registration packets for Emily and Laura, while Emily did all the trim work on her room.  I have one set of forms left to complete, but Emily finished, and clean up and move in can start tomorrow.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Girls at work

If I sit down early for the evening news I watch Home and Garden TV while I knit my sock and wait for the local news.  Young couples looking for homes and trendy apartments often remark disdainfully, “It’s so eighties!”  I smile.  That’s our house, it probably will stay that way.

Except Emily’s new room.  She picked the downstairs bedroom that she shared with Bekka when they lived here eleven years ago.  When Shelly and the children moved back to Lake County, it was a guest room for a while, but then storage snuck in.  Even the bed disappeared.  When the clear out started this week I idly slid a fingernail in a seam of the grass cloth that went up in 1988.  In total sheep as a lamb mode, I lifted a little more and stripped the entire sheet from floor to ceiling
Two girls spent much of the week scraping the grass cloth’s lining sheet off the walls.  That was the brutal task.  I woke up one morning at six, to the smell of eggs and scraping.  “Oh, Tom burned his eggs and is scraping the pan,” I told myself before going back to sleep.  Two hours later I really woke up; there were eggs for the early risers and Laura had been scraping walls since breakfast.  Laura has a vested interest in this room, too.  She and Emily currently share an upstairs bedroom.  When this room is done, they each will have a room.  As I heard her tell her friend, “We each will have our own closet!”

The old paper was scraped off the walls.

The paste was washed off.

Patched and sanded.

Finally.  This room will glow.  Yellow ceiling and two walls.  Two walls pumpkin.  Uncle Tom painted the ceiling and two walls; grandma painted two walls and Emily is doing all the cutting and trim.  Looking good.  I bet we’ll be shopping for new blinds tonight and moving her in tomorrow.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It lasted until last Saturday

My daughter Beth may be horrified by this math, but she’s driven a vehicle upwards of thirty years.  She’s owned Grumbelly, the VW bus, a little red Dodge Colt, a red pickup, a red Dodge Neon, and a Subaru wagon.  If you discount Grumbelly and the pickup, both of which she had for a couple of years, but for very different reasons, she’s pretty easy on cars.  Especially as none of these came to her new.  Excepting possibly the truck, which had to go.  When you are young and have a lot of friends, and own a truck, you too frequently are pressed into moving your friends from one housing situation to another.  

Grumbelly and the Subaru were not red.  All the cars had standard transmissions in common.    The little red Dodge Colt she learned on was a stick.  Mine.  She backed it right into a tree first time out.  In fact, I turned all driving lessons over to my brother.  When I finally got into a car with her, she was a good driver.  She gives me all the credit.

I believe the little red Neon gave way to the Subaru right around the new millennium.  Beth bought the restaurant/wine bar about then, and the Neon not only was past any legal limit of miles, its trunk was mighty inconvenient for loading and unloading cases of wine.

First came a growing restaurant and catering business, then love, then marriage, and then Beth and Bill with the baby carriage.  Dad’s Toyota looked really nice in the drive way, but Mom’s Subaru was the day-in, day-out go to.  Hauling restaurant supplies.  Taking kids to and from school every day.  Family vacations.  It was the epitome of the family car.  Crayon on the seats.  Drink stains on the floor.  Stickers on every square inch of the back seat windows.  Not “Baby on Board.”  We’re talking smiley faces, Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Square Bob.  All those gooberie little circles and squares that are distributed to children.  I confess to passing along a few myself, and am amazed at the forbearance of the parents.  I could not have tolerated that mess all over my back seat windows.

Beth failed her Subaru recently.  At its regular check up, her trusty mechanic said she was around 190,000 miles;  time for a new, preventative maintenance, timing belt.  OK, next oil change, said the busy mom, restaurant owner and caterer.  And on a lovely Saturday morning, loaded with a wedding reception in the next county, the Subaru died of terminal timing belt failure.  Fortunately the rest of her crew was following her, redistributed the contents, and pulled off the wedding reception without missing a beat, while her trusty mechanic sent a tow truck and took Subaru to the garage.

What to do?  A new standard transmission Subaru was out of the pricing question, and owners of older standard transmission Subaru’s don’t turn them in often.  Then she found one and sent me a link to the  picture at the dealer.  What did I think? 

 I advised her to go for it; there was just one sticker in the window. 

She told me Caroline was disappointed; she had wondered how long some of her favorite stickers would last.  “Until last Saturday, Caroline.”

Friday, July 6, 2012

Paint like Picasso,

Pollock, Esher, Monet, O’Keefe, Calder, Rousseau.  And more.  Actually, I don’t see a single Picasso.  I was skeptical, but look what ten year olds can do.

The model

The paintings:

This last O’Keefe is by my grandson, Francis.  He stuck it one more day, but when offered the chance to give up his paint brushes to Caroline, he headed for the exit.  He fiercely avows hating painting, but I bet he also dislikes being the only boy in a class of three. 

Caroline had a glorious two days, telling France he missed the splatter and the dribble day.  Without further ado, artists of renown, re-rendered by some enthusiastic little girls:

Oh, yes, they painted the picnic table, too.