A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cedar Cutting Morning

The young Rio Grande turkeys with their 2 moms have spent most of the morning in the yard. They are kept company by two yearling does that spend a lot of time inside the fence. They’ve eaten all the bird seed on the ground by the water trough, had their morning drink, and are pecking around for grass seeds and insects. They stray further apart these days, sometimes splitting into 2 groups. 

One group, led by one of the moms, headed down the hill to check out the turkey feeder. One of the youngsters was trailing behind the group and spent a few minutes stressed as to how to get out of the fence. Of course, he could fly over, but for some reason they don’t always do that except as a last resort. The babies have been just walking through the spaces in the goat wire but they are now bordering on being too big for that. After much running back and forth and showing signs of panic, he squeezes through and takes off at a trot to catch his family. Which is good; I was starting to panic with him!

I’ve sat around drinking coffee and watching them for way too long now. It’s easy to get caught up in their daily lives. There is a rhythm to everyday life in the country. It causes you  to slow down and look around you. The seasons change, the harvest ripens, the deer lose their velvet, the baby turkeys grow up.

But I need to get going with one of my ongoing chores - cutting down little cedars with my Fiskars pruning stick lopper! (This is an awesome tool with a grip that slides and does the cutting.) It’s a constant battle to keep them from taking over the whole place. I love these cedars (technically, they are ashe junipers, not cedars). I love the smell of them, the way the temperature seems to drop 20 degrees when you get under them, and the beautiful blue berries they have. But they tend to want all the land and we have to share.

I like this chore. It takes me walking over the property to places I don’t normally go. There are so many beautiful spots; “the woods are lovely, dark and deep”. I see sheltered places, the ground covered with oak leaf mulch, a spot cleared and soft where a deer has been sleeping, and think if I was 10 years old, this would be my hideout! I find lace cactus and female Mexican persimmons, the ones with fruit that the wildlife love. And signs that men have left - fencing wire in the corners, a couple of pieces of tin roofing, faded beer cans with pop-tops, and Vienna Sausage cans. Some of the cans have bullet holes where some long ago youngster practiced his shots, getting ready for the “muy grande” buck to come into his sights later in the season. Or from some good ole boys just trying to see who’s the best shot.

I grab my cedar loppers and I’m off on my chore, wondering what I might run across out there today. Hopefully not the mountain lion that was at my neighbors the other night! And if I live to be so old I can’t walk I hope one of the memories I keep is walking this land that I love, with a cool breeze that promises fall drying the sweat from “honest” work, as my dad called it, following the trail home to the cabin.

(Photo - trail left by Woodrow, Gus, and the deer)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remembering Deb

9/11 is a day our nation pauses and remembers the lives lost 9 years ago when we were attacked by terrorists. For my family, it is the day we remember when we lost my sister Deb 15 years ago.

Deb was only here with us for 37 years. She was a sweet and gentle person and the world is not kind to gentle people. It’s not kind to tough people either, but it’s easier to survive if you are tough. Not easier to handle, just easier to survive. We learn coping skills and hope that the coping skills will not kill us.

Life did not turn Deb hard and bitter, like it does so many of us. Whatever came her way, she remained faithful in her belief that people were good and kind. The fact that she was betrayed in this belief many times did not deter her from believing. When the father of her oldest daughter died, when her lover beat her, when her dependence on the alcohol that comforted her and the cigarettes she chain-smoked caused her health to deteriorate, she kept her gentle nature.

She developed this dependence in her early teens as my dad’s own alcohol dependence took our family through bad times of constant moving, verbal fighting between my parents, and money problems. It was easy for a quiet, loving child to slip between the cracks. We were all busy trying to save ourselves in whatever way we could. Deb turned to alcohol. It was an addiction she could never overcome. Her liver eventually gave out on her and her weakened body because victim to tuberculosis.

Deb loved her kids and she loved our kids. She went swimming with me and my boys and she tie-dyed shirts and mailed them to my daughter. When my life was falling apart, she was the first person to come to me, give me a hug, and say simply “I’m sorry.” I never walked into a room she was in that her face did not light up and a smile appear when she saw me.

At some point my dad won his fight against the dependence he struggled with and things settled down for my family. My mom and dad supported Deb and her daughters financially and any other way they could. The natural disposition of my dad that refused to judge others and accepted shortcomings in people was passed on to my sister. I never heard her blame any of her problems or failures on anyone else.

I have a couple of letters that my sister sent me when we lived in different states. In one she states very matter-of-factly in one sentence that she had been having a hard time since she got laid off at work. To anyone that did not know her, most of her life would have appeared as a “hard time”. To Deb, her life was a complete success because the result of it was her two beautiful daughters. She would never consider a life that included them hard.

She taught us to love, to forgive, and to be kind. She showed us that while we can’t always control what life dishes out to us, we can control what it makes of us. She taught us that we can keep a kind heart and to remember that others can’t always help that they are the way they are either.

I miss my sister Deb and the beauty of her soft nature. I remember her beautiful smile and I remember how even when she was going through pain most of us will never experience, she took the time to comfort me.

Peace and love, Deb

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sue's Roasted Tomato Chicken Soup with Jalapeño Cornbread

Today was a perfect soup day - rainy and gloomy! This is an easy soup and is very good. Serve it with homemade jalapeño cornbread. Yummy! Recipes below.

Sue’s Roasted Tomato Chicken Soup

Cook 3 boneless chicken breasts in chicken broth with salt and pepper.
Cut up into bite size pieces, then shred the chicken and return to the broth.

1 can Muir Glen Organic fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes (you can get these at Wal-Mart or HEB)
Chopped cilantro
½ tsp. ground red chili pepper (taste after soup has cooked a while and add a little more to taste)
Garlic powder
1 small can tomato sauce

Drizzle olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat. Add fresh corn kernels (from 2 -3 ears) and 2 small bell peppers or poblanos, chopped, to skillet and cook for about 2 minutes. Add to soup.
Simmer until flavors blend.

Jalapeño Cornbread
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 chopped and deseeded jalapeño pepper
1/4 can white shoepeg corn

Heat 1/4 cup shortening in a small 8" black iron skillet in 400 degree oven. When shortening has melted and is hot pour the cornbread mixture in the skillet and cook approximately 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

Double recipe (except for egg - use only 1) if using large skillet.

You have to use an iron skillet for this to get the crispy bottom and sides of the cornbread and the oil needs to be hot when you pour the mixture into the pan.

Dancing Fawns

We have been watching several whitetail fawns at our place. There is a set of twins and some single fawns. They have grown rapidly over the summer and you can see the change in their behavior as they get older. They stray further from their moms and they are learning the cautious ways that they will need to survive.

In spite of this cautiousness they are acquiring, they seem very at home in the field near us and come to the water troughs to drink and to the longhorns' feed buckets to see if there are any tidbits left to nibble on. It has been a terribly dry August and there is not much for the deer to eat.

This picture was taken with a wildlife camera mounted near the deer feeders and shows two fawns that appear to be boxing. Or, as my sister Jackie says, maybe dancing! 

"There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good."  ~Edwin Denby