Midwestern Musings

In a tribute to those musicians and storytellers, both current and nearly forgotten, I’ll provide a folk music lyric to begin my musings.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Squashed! Another One Bites the Dust!

Another one bites the dust,
And another one gone, and another one gone,
Another one bites the dust,
Hey, I'm going to get you, too,
Another one bites the dust. *

All the squash are gone. And the cucumbers. All felt victim to the dreaded squash bug. They came in numbers and with a vengence. I chose to spray the pumpkins, because I didn't want to lose any, and we don't eat them. I hesitated to use pesticides on the veggies we eat. I was wrong. I lost 8 squash plants and 4 cucumbers within a week. I haven't lost one pumpkin plant yet. *sigh* I wonder if the pioneers would have used chemicals if they would have had them?
At least I don't have to eat Zucchini any more....


Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Slug by Slug,
Weed by Weed,
My garden's really got me teed" *

When it rains, it pours, and apparently it doesn't stop. We have had a record rainfall amount, and the garden loves it. (It has also been paired with record heat.) Unfortunately, the weeds are growing, like, well...a weed. They have overtaken most of the garden. I have tried to put down slate stepping stones, but I have had to use them to cover the weeds. It's not really working.

The good news is that the squash family members love the weather. Zuchinni, crooked neck squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins are all going well. We have had basket after basket of yellow crooked neck squash. Grilled, steamed, fried...we've had it. If you have a new recipe for using squash, please send me one. I'm running out of options, and I don't even like squash.

Speaking of squash, I'm alittle worried about the zuchinni. It was going great guns, but now a few leaves are beginning to wilt. If it's squash vine borers, or squash bugs, all my squash family is in peril. Maybe they're just over-heated. :-)

I now have 3 baby pumpkins. Yay! The biggest is roughly 3 inches tall. (See picture.) I hope we can keep them all healthy until fall!

* Eric Kilborn


Friday, June 11, 2010

New Garden Part II

It's been three weeks and we have baby squashes, onions, radishes. Of course we also have rabbits and weeds. We're trying a new type of veggie, called the duck weed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garden Song

"Inch by inch, row by row.
Gonna make this garden grow.
All it takes is a rake and hoe,
And a piece of fertile ground."*

For those who have read me before, you know I love Thoreau, and his premises in Walden that we should live by: Simplicity of life, kinship with nature, self-reliance. So, I have embraced all three and I have joined the ranks of the green movement by starting my garden. It's 14 ft by 21 ft which seems tiny in a 4.5 acre yard, but it's my first attempt. I'm going with a non-conventional, European design. I'm mixing flowers, herbs and vegetables all together. No rows, just stuff. If it grows on a vine, we're going vertical. I hope to keep you all posted on the progress.

* Written by Dave Mallett, performed by John Denver, Peter Paul and Mary, John McCutcheon, and of course, the Muppets, among others.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Lefty's Hokey Pokey Blues

“I only need one sock,
I only need one shoe.
I’ve got the one-legged
Hokey Pokey blues”

It’s been a year now. I think it’s time to say goodbye. But first, I need to tell the story.

I was managing a small garden shop and needed a cat to keep the mice away and to provide some company during the slow winter months. I decided to go to the local humane society and see what I could find.

I entered the adoptable feline room and began to peer into the cages, sizing up each kitten and cat as a potential mouse killer. A little girl and her mother were also in the room, determining which small handful of kitten fur was the most suitable. I was half-way through the perusal when I heard the girl say “Who would want a cat with only three legs?” in a voice that relayed her disgust with a life form that was less than perfect.

“I would” I heard myself say as I walked to the cage that held the undesirable feline. I peeked around the child and saw a most unsettling sight. A shaved, dehydrated Franken-cat came to the door of the cage and began to purr. He was a young adult, and weighed a little more than 4 pounds. He had 25 or 30 stitches on his shoulder where his right arm should be and his mouth was swollen and he was drooling blood. The shock of seeing how damaged he was churned my stomach. I thought I might faint, and I had spent years as an EMT and had seen much worse damage inflicted on human bodies, but as I stared, I realized this cat was still purring. He rubbed up against the cage and opened his mouth but no sound came out.

“He can’t meow”, the society worker who just entered the room told me. “He was caught in a fox trap and was apparently there for weeks. During the time he was trapped, he tried to chew through the trap, and ended up breaking his teeth. He must have meowed so long he lost his voice, too. They brought a vet with them when they went to get him out of the trap, ‘cause they were going to put him down, ‘cause cats never learn to walk on a stump and he was bad, real bad, but the vet said the cat started to purr when they got him out of the trap, and he just couldn’t put that cat down. So the vet did the surgery, and they brought him here.”

“Can I have him?” I heard myself say, and so began my journey with Lefty. As it turned out, some of Lefty’s surgery bills were paid for by an injured animal charity that I had helped raise money for the year before. After a few weeks, the stitches came out and he began to travel with me to work in the garden shop. He would greet the customers, and even trot awkwardly out to greet some of them, spiraling around their feet. As the weeks dragged into months, Lefty began to develop quite a following. Many customers would make special trips into the store to see the cat, and he began to acquire a handsome treasure of cat treats and toys. During the Mother’s Day weekend, a traditionally busy time of year for garden shops, the store was packed with customers. An elderly woman in a wheel chair from a local nursing home was being pushed around the store by her family. Lefty saw the woman in the wheel chair, hopped over to her, and jumped in the woman’s lap. She continued to pet him as they shopped around the grounds. Some time later, they came back near the cash register and I heard the male traveling with them say, “Mom, you haven’t picked out a Mother’s Day present yet.”

She replied, “I already have it,” as she leaned down and nuzzled Lefty. “I so missed my kitty and this little cat just knew it. You don’t have to buy me a thing, I just got the best present in the world.” More than one customer wiped away a tear that Mother’s Day.

Lefty was great with the customers, and continued to develop a following. During the filming of a Wednesday morning TV spot about wildlife friendly plantings, Lefty jumped up in the middle of the plantings, and began rubbing up against the plant pots. The cameraman began to focus on the cat, and not the plants, and soon the newscaster was asking questions about Lefty, and not the plants. He made such an impression on the TV crew that they filmed a segment about him for the evening news!

After his television debut, the human society asked if Lefty could help with a interview about the charity that helped him. It was a radio interview, but I agreed to take my mute cat with me for the radio announcer to see. During the interview, Lefty sat on my lap and purred, and for the finale, the announcer asked Lefty if he had anything to add. Lefty reached up to the microphone, pulled it down to his level and meowed raspily. We couldn’t have asked for a better response.

Lefty also visited the local veteran’s home. On one occasion, an amputee held Lefty in his lap and said, “You give me hope buddy, you’re a gimp with a job.” After that visit, Lefty and I retreated to the car, where I sat and sobbed like a baby. He touched so many people.

Lefty was great with children as well as adults. He visited the preschool program a number of times at the museum where I later worked. I would bring Lefty out into the room where the kids were sitting, and he would bound up to them and tolerate all their not so gentle patting. Once, I asked the kids what made Lefty different from other cats, and they announced in unison, “HE’S YELLOW!” Lefty made all of us forget that he was different.

Through the years, Lefty made quite a name for himself. He has been on television, radio, done promotional advertising, and even had a song written on his behalf. He’s done museum work, 4-H meetings and charity work. Most humans don’t have that kind of resume!

About a year and half ago, Lefty began to lose weight and breathing was harder for him. We visited our local vet who recommended a specialist. During the visits at the MedVet hospital, Lefty would always purr and be friendly, no matter what procedure was being performed on him. Even as his health declined, he faced it with a feline smile. The assistants would smile when he came in, and they would ask if he could stay with them, instead of the waiting room. The vet even remarked, “I’ve known thousands of cats in my practice, and he might just be my favorite. He is one of the best cats ever.”

The vets initially said that he might last a week, or even a month, but Lefty improved and surprised all of us for many months. One day last October, I sat down with Lefty and told him that it was okay for him to go, that he didn’t need to hold on for us any longer. I told him to look for my grandmother, that she would provide a great lap for him, and that she loved cats. He purred as I petted him, and I cried and he nudged me as if to say that he understood. I went to work, and rec’d a call a few hours later that he had passed. Lefty entered and left my life with a purr and a nudge, and I am thankful for the many years we were together. He will be missed by many. When we all get to heaven, we’ll be looking for the ginger colored tom cat with three legs. If he’s not there, I don’t want to go.

* Lefty's Hokey Pokey Blues, written by yours truly and available on Itunes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Times They Are a Changin'

"For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'." *

Yup, the times are changin' and the bus is leavin' and I'm on it. Ohio didn't so much work out for me. Part of me enjoyed the last few weeks, with nothing to do, and plenty of time to do it. A pity, all the things I didn't get done. I have, however, found myself. I didn't actually know I was lost, but when you're surrounded by negativity, you either shroud yourself in a peril protective shield, or you become part of it. (The Blob, anyone?) I'm glad to say that I survived. A little more bitter, and a whole lot less trusting, but smarter in the long run. (Someday soon I will write about the experience of being unemployed. Psychologically interesting? We'll see.)

We're packing up (yuck) and heading west. Just like in the Oldey Timey Times. Thankfully, we'll have a moving van and not a Conestoga. To those few who have kept in contact, I will miss you. To those who forgot about me the moment I walked out the door, I will haunt you. To my peeps back in the Hoosier State, look out for the truck, we're coming home.

* Please look it up and commit it to memory if you don't know who popularized this song.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Place in the Choir

"All God's critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher,
Some sing out loud on the telephone wires,
And some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got now."

Yup, everybody’s got a place. Right now, in the midst of unemployment, mine is in the yard. Not a bad place to be if you like to commune with nature. I have lots to commune with. Birds of all kinds, chipmunks, squirrels, etc ., all make up the choir in our yard. This morning, I filled the feeder and put the extra whole peanuts out on the stump for the little rodents. By the time I was back to the door, the sentinels had alerted the crowds, and the birds were happily eating again. I will miss this when I go back to work. I’ve taken to sitting outside and watching them, and they don’t seem to be phased by me anymore. I have become the “Pasty Large Figure Who Brings Peanuts and Stares at Us, But Seems Harmless”. I used to be the “Strange Beast Who Thinks We’ll Eat Stale Bread and Could Potentially Kill Us”. Just for the record, the raccoons seem to like stale bread, but not so much the birds. Or at least the raccoons like to play with it. They take it and put pieces in the bird bath. On the other hand, maybe they don’t like the bird bath. It’s bright blue. Maybe they would prefer a pastel or more muted color? Do raccoons watch HGTV? I hope not.
Raccoon design preference aside, the fauna seems happy. I have watched for days as the little creatures come in and munch on the vittles. They all have their unique habits. I’ve noticed the bluejay watches from afar , and slowly creeps closer. Then, he springs into action, flies in, picks up a peanut and flies off. He's a thief and the little birds hate him. The small sparrows and starlings have no fear of me whatsoever. They will dash in the moment there is new seed in the feeder and only flee if I make sudden movements. (So, I've abandoned my Fosse interpretive dance training.) The cardinals (state bird of every state except possibly Alaska) have nested in a large bush that I was planning on removing in the yard. The babies are now coming to feeder as well. Ugly birds with bad hairdos. I stopped the plans for bush demolition as I couldn’t bear the thought of homeless birds, suitcases by their side, weeping and mourning as I chopped down their home, and pointing me out to their children as a home wrecker. Maybe next year.
All I know is that in the midst of what could be a horribly depressing summer, I’ve found my Walden, and with it, a sense a peace that had been lacking. Being employed is over-rated, if you overlook the basic need to provide essentials like say, food and shelter. Maybe soon. I have to pay for the bird seed.

* (Bill Staines)