Archive for the 'Cooking with Kyle' Category

A Thanksgiving Blessing

To be a baby elephant must be wonderful. Surrounded by a loving family 24 hours a day…. I think it must be how it ought to be, in a perfect world.  ~Daphne Sheldrick

Boy, how quickly the present turns into the past.  Of course, tis the season of mad rushes, Holiday parties, and cheer in all forms.  After writing my post yesterday A Christmas Tree Adventure, it made me thing about this past Thanksgiving.

While hunting with Dad over the last couple weeks, I heard him say, “Thanksgiving is the best Holiday.”  Too true old man, too true!  That is, when it refers to food and family mealtime.  Thanksgiving is the time to stop, if only for a moment, and give thanks and share in good grub.  In fact, each Holiday has a particular essence that makes each one truly special.  The best for the soul is Easter, the best  for thrill and uneasiness is Halloween, the best for outdoor cooking and celebration is the Fourth of July and the best for giving and showing kindness is Christmas.  Not to say good intentions and kindness should be eliminated the rest of the year, but it’s nice to see good aspects heightened during Holidays.

Kyle at daycare 7-28-2010 Aunt Heather Piper

I surprised Kyle for his birthday at daycare. It’s this look of love and happiness that I adore. 7/28/10

 

I can honestly say this past Thanksgiving was one of the best.  Not because of work or the food or anything so trivial, nope, it was because of Kyle.  I’ve said it when he was little, and it still holds true today, that little boy has permanently changed my life and my way of thinking about what is really important.  His presence alone brings such comfort and love it’s almost intoxicating.
Being a teenager, sixteen to be exact, he doesn’t take much time for us and certainly not me.  Those days of us hanging out and having fun, and being an important influence in his life seem to be a memory, or at least that’s what I thought.
Dad and I got back from deer hunting in New York on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.  Kyle graced us with his presence Wednesday night all the way into Thursday midday, when he was instructed to leave (not by me) to continue Thanksgiving celebrations elsewhere.  That’s been the split for the last couple of years.  Not much excitement during that time, but I loved every minute of it.  Kyle helped set the table, he made the traditional punch and sorted through the burnt dinner rolls.  (He actually gave the burnt tops to the dogs and eat the edible bottoms.)  That was all him.  I’ll give him kudos for creativity and not wasting.
As always, I use the time to open up the conversation to make plans for the near future.  I try to guarantee me some Kyle time.  Usually when I suggest anything, Kyle shrugs his shoulders and politely brushes me off.  That’s okay, I’m always going to ask and show Kyle he’s important to me.
This time was different.  When I asked Kyle about going snowboarding, he actually seemed, interested. He did chuckle and comment, “We need snow first.”  Very true buddy!  I told him if he wants, we can invite his friend Duncan to join us.  Kyle’s response?  “Okay.”  That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but on the contrary, it was a huge breakthrough.  It was a sign my old Kyle was coming back to me.  I was told it was going to happen, but I didn’t really believe it until that moment.
To get a little greedy and to push my luck further, I asked Kyle if he had plans Thanksgiving weekend and if he wanted to go to the movies.  He said, “Umm, okay.”  I was floored!  I asked him if he got to see Thor: Ragnarok, assuming he did, to find out he did not.  Hot dog!  I really miss being the one to share those movie experiences with Kyle.  That used to be our thing, among other things.
During dinner, Nicole, Kyle and myself discussed general plans for the weekend.  While I wanted Kyle to follow through with the tentative outline, I had been down that path before when he changed his mind and blow me off.  I almost didn’t want to get my hopes up, yet I was excited.
To my surprise, Kyle went shopping with Nicole on Friday and was at my parent’s house Friday night.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t want to hold my breath thinking he was going to ask to return home early the next day.   Still I was ecstatic.
Aunt Heather Piper Birthday with Kyle

Since my birthday was on Tuesday, I thought I’d share a birthday favorite of mine. We do love our movies.. that was a perfect birthday… 12/12/14

God does answer prayers.  Ultimately, Kyle stayed until Sunday late day.  Can you believe it?  We had Kyle of his own free will from Friday late afternoon until Sunday late afternoon, like old times.

Saturday, Nicole, Kyle and myself went to the movies to watch Thor: Ragnarok and then right after we stayed to watch Justice League.  It was a Marvel DC adventure.  We had a truly wonderful time.  So much so, that our time together has stayed with me and sparked an interest for me to write about.  Besides loving Thor, which so did Kyle and Nicole, we really enjoyed each other’s company without incidence.  It was one of the best day’s ever and unbeknownst to me, it was about to get better.
Kyle showed us his mad driving skills by taking over the wheel every time we got into Nicole’s beast.  He’s definitely getting the hang of driving around other drivers.
It was about 6:30 pm on Saturday by the time we got back to my parent’s house.  As soon as we walked in the door, Kyle decided he wanted to play board games.  Really?  He hasn’t played us board games in years, let alone being the one to suggest them.  He didn’t retreat to his room, or get sucked into his phone.  He wanted to engage with us.  Bonus!  Kyle played me a game of chess waiting for Nicole to play a board game.  Naturally, Kyle won.  It was a good game, even though he totally crushed me.  I definitely need practice.  This Christmas it’s on like Donkey Kong.
After the game playing, we watched some television with the old folks before retiring for the evening.  As always, I asked Kyle to join me for church and he again politely declined.  One day, I’ll get him back without it being a Holiday.
Kyle was really good all weekend and a true delight to have around.  I miss my little man, who is slightly taller than me now.  Like I said, it was a Thanksgiving blessing, one that wasn’t planned but was appreciated immensely.  That boy really surprises me, in a good way.
On a side note, one day I hope to be about to freely take pictures without Kyle spazzing.
posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Cooking with Kyle,Family,Milestone,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Pumpkin Guts, No Thanks

Tis “the witching time of night”, / Orbed is the moon and bright, / And the stars they glisten, glisten, / Seeming with bright eyes to listen  ~John Keats

Happy Halloween or technically All Hallows’ Eve!

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, courtesy of Aunt Nikki at Gigi & Pappy’s house 10/2004

Did you know the root word of Halloween is ”hallow,” meaning ”holy?”  The suffix “een” is an abbreviation of “evening.” Halloween refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before All Saints’ Day, the Catholic Holy day that honors saints of the past and a time to pray for those in purgatory.  Note, anyone can pray for anyone, living or deceased at any time.

Just for a reference, All Saints’ Day is November 1st, followed by All Souls’ day on November 2nd.

It’s always this time of year, when I see the pumpkin patches full of kids and Jack-O-Lanterns light up doorsteps and windows that I can’t help but chuckling.  Why?  Kyle of course.

When Kyle was a little tyke, and into the recent few years before he gave up on the trick-or-treating tradition, pumpkin carving was always an issue.  Really?  You bet!

Kyle loved searching the pumpkin patches for the perfect pumpkin.  He loved selecting the largest pumpkin imaginable, even when he couldn’t pick it up.  Kyle truly loved the idea of Halloween and the activities that went with the holiday, event pumpkin carving.  However, Kyle never liked the actual carving of a pumpkin, not in the slightest.  Don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating?  Not even close.

Halloween activities were never the same since the first time Kyle tried carving his pumpkin.  The moments leading up to this point where exciting and eventful.  It was all good and dandy until Kyle actually put his hand in the pumpkin.  As standard protocol dictates, I cut the top off of our pumpkins, Kyle wanted me to have a pumpkin too, and I showed him how to pull the guts out.  Kyle looked down into the center of his pumpkin, sniffed it, and hesitantly reached in.  What happened next took me by surprise and honestly baffled me a bit.

Kyle proclaimed he didn’t like the feeling of the guts on his hand and he wouldn’t continue.  Instead, he looked toward me to do his dirty work for him, literally.  At first, I thought he was being silly, but he was serious.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Karen’s house 10/2004

After my shock wore off, I tried to work with Kyle and his pumpkin gut issue.  I gave him a long handled metal serving spoon to scrap the guts.  I thought this would get him past the beginning stages of the pumpkin carving activity and move him toward the actual carving fun.  Something I thought Kyle would enjoy.  Wrong.

Eventually, after I gutted my pumpkin, Kyle abandoned his and took ownership of my project.  He had a good time carving, but certainly not complete excitement like I was expecting.

Every year since, Kyle remembered that faithful day, and reiterated his disgust for pumpkin guts.  It really left an impression on him.  Kyle would prompt our pumpkin patch activity by telling me I had to gut his pumpkin.  Seriously!  Yes.  While walking through the pumpkin patch and making his selection, which always had to be bigger than mine, Kyle would state I was gutting his pumpkin for him.

Trying to get creative, I even had Kyle wear gloves one year, which worked out fine until his bare arms hit the side of the inner pumpkin wall and that ended that.  I should also add, Kyle never liked long sleeves, or cloths for that matter.

I even tried bribing him, yet he would not budge.

Another tradition is taking the seeds and roasting them with a little salt.  Kyle would not even entertain the idea of sorting through the pumpkin guts to retrieve the seeds.  He did eat the roasted pumpkin seeds, but that was about it.

Eventually, we would purchase pumpkins and Kyle would draw faces on them, and watch me carve my pumpkin.  Although, that didn’t really keep his interest for too long.  But I will say, Kyle loved watching the lit pumpkins sit on the porch banister at night.  Standing outside at night, staring upon the flicker light in the shape of a face would creep him out, but he loved it  That is, as long as someone stood with him.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane. 10/2004

This time of year makes me laugh out loud, every time I think of Kyle carving a pumpkin, or more accurately passing the carving buck.  Kyle was never shy about telling others about his pumpkin gut aversion.  Too funny!

As for the rest of the commercially celebrated Halloween celebration, Kyle adored.  The selecting a costume, getting dressed and receiving bag fulls of candy he could handle.

I say that, but there was a year that wasn’t exactly true.  The year when Kyle was Jay Jay the Jet Plane.  Would you believe Kyle wouldn’t put his costume on?  Why?  He thought he was going to take flight.  Seriously?  I’m not making this up.

My sister bought him that costume and it took a few attempts before he would put it on.  The first few Halloween activities we did that year, I had to walk around holding Kyle’s hand on my one side, while I carried his costume in the other hand.  That was one of those situations when I couldn’t stop laughing.  Eventually, he did wear the colorful costume, but it took a while, and I think it was after Halloween pasted.

My little guy, he has his quarks, which makes life interesting and fun.

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posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Dad! – 65 Years Strong

Years fly by, but the heart stays in the same place.  ~Harlan Coben

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny 10-1956 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny, I think on a school field trip. 10/1956

I’m well aware Dad despises me talking about him online, not that he ever reads anything I write.  Why?  Because the old man’s never touched a computer in his life, let alone knows how to use a search engine. (He’s never even used an ATM machine.)  So how does he know I talk about him online?  I’m usually ratted out by people who read my blog and follow my social media sites, usually my Mom.  However, since Dad’s getting up there in years, he needs to have each and every year recognized and recorded, at the very least for Kyle to remember his dear old Pap.  My rule when reading my blog: read it to enjoy but never tell Dad where you heard the stories about him, or even those of Kyle.

Anyway, Dad added another year to his resume.  What’s been going on with my retiree?  Not much, he’s loving his simple life on the ridge.  His typical day consists of hanging with the dogs, Seven and Scooby, sneaking in a nap or two, sometimes cutting firewood or doing yard work, and visiting his ladies at least four times a day.

Ladies?  Who are the ladies?  That’s what Dad calls his chickens, which totally cracks me up!  He loves those birds.  Recently, they started laying eggs, which has now become the big excitement of each day.  No joke!

Sure, I still help Dad with our hobbies.  We have our honey bees, and up until this past fall, we were raising turkeys, who are now tucked away in the freezer.  Summer always brings a renewed interest in fishing and trapping snapping turtle, too.

Is Dad still hunting?  You bet!  In fact, he took the muzzle-loader out this year, and he participated in the senior citizen season.  Time for a true funny story.  Late October is the youth hunt or mentor hunting, coincidentally it’s also senior citizen hunting, prior to the standard deer season.  Every time I heard Dad recount this past hunting season with anyone, he talked about the youth hunt.  He always called it the youth hunt, not the senior citizen hunt.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, gave Dad a very inquisitive confused look when Dad, an old man, talked about hunting during the “youth hunt”.  In Dad’s head he knew he was legal, but most people were taken back by the term “youth hunt” in reference to Dad hunting.

Nowadays, Dad’s interested in purchasing a crossbow for archery season.  I’m okay with that!  Seriously, whatever keeps him active and happy.  He was even trying to nudge Mom (Gigi) back into hunting, to get her moving around since she too is retired as of the first of the year.  Personally, I think Dad has a better chance of shooting a 24 point, with an arrow that ricocheted off of a tree trunk, and a large rock before hitting the buck directly in the lungs, dropping it immediately.  Could happen, but highly unlikely.

What did we do today?  We butchered a 620 pound pig.  Seriously?  Yes!  Only in the Piper household.  Dad should have been a butcher for he loves harvesting his own meat.  Kyle even came over early to spend the weekend, although he passed on helping with the pig.  Instead, Kyle assisted me in making his pappy a pound cake.  We spent the day together, and had a really nice time.

Happy birthday old man!  I hope you keep going for another 60 years.

posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Pets and have No Comments

Turkey On The Run

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.  ~Jack Kerouac

Dad-Kyle-in-Boat-8-20-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad & Kyle in the fishing boat, getting ready to fish! 8/20/10

It’s no surprise, I totally get a kick out of our chickens and turkeys.  Truly!  So when a story as amazing as this one presents itself, I feel obligated to share the experience.

We need to step back about two and half weeks.  Dad just mowed the lawn, which was pretty high from the continuous rainfall for the last two months, and he asked me to rake up some of the bigger piles of grass to feed to the chickens and turkeys.  Great idea!  They love fresh grass and it’s healthier for them and us too.  I raked the chlorophyll strands into a five gallon bucket, and headed to the turkey coop first, since it’s further away.

Please note, normally our turkeys are very docile upon entering their domain.  They either huddle together opposite to the door, or they remain steadfast on their roosts.  So you can imagine, any other behavior would take me completely off guard.

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The escapee… this turkey is a survivor! 7/14/15

From the minute I opened the door, the story began.  I entered the turkey coop with my bucket of fresh cut grass and simply turned the container upside down to release the contents.  Well, the turkeys didn’t welcome such actions, and all eleven, yes there were (keyword here is were) eleven turkeys, each weighing about ten pounds or so, nearly fully grown, flapped their wings.  They flew in all directions and quite frankly freaked out!  Can you picture it?  Me standing in the middle of a feathery wind tunnel with large projectiles flying at and around me.  Just then, I saw two turkeys heading for the opened door, mid-air.  I leaned back, pretty gracefully I might add, and swatted the one bird back in the pen.  However, the second frantic bird made a break for it and succeed.  Oh crap!

My dad was still on the lawn mower doing the upper part of the yard.  I immediately, jumped out of the crazy hen house (pun intended), closed and locked the door behind me, and ran to the house to get the large fishing net.  While I was running around like a chicken myself (pun also intended)  I stopped dad to explain the situation.  Thinking he was going to be really made at me, he rolled his eyes, sighed, and got off the lawn mower to assist in rounding up the bird.

Dad and I cornered the escapee in the woods in the brush.  Yes, I was running around the woods with a long handled fishing pole while my dad was trying to work the bird in my direction.  At one point, we swopped and dad had the pole.  Did we capture the turkey?  Nope.  Of course that wouldn’t make much of a story.  The bird took cover under some very thick brush, and we couldn’t find it, even though we heard it calling.

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Gram & Kyle for Gram’s birthday at her apartment. 7/24/10

That happened about midday, so we had no choice but to return to our chores.  That night, as dad I were sitting on my parent’s deck, I looked up the hill.  Low and behold the turkey was strutting around the turkey coop.  It was too comical.  This time, I had the big guns with me, Kyle!  We each grabbed a long handled fishing pole, and we went turkey hunting.  We were doing pretty good too, keeping the chase out of the thick brush, at least for a while.  I got the turkey by its back once, but it slipped out.  Kyle did the same.  To be honest, I actually had a fun time running around the woods, chasing the turkey with Kyle.  It’s been too long since Kyle and I have been involved in a silly situation like this one.  My little man did a great job assisting me, but alas the bird eluded us and we lost it in really thick brush.  I didn’t want to keep pushing the bird in the opposite direction toward my cousin’s fields.  I wanted to keep it close, so we gave up for the night.  We came back to the house empty handed, and decided to make mountain pies and s’mores on the fire.

That night, the following day and into Sunday it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained hard!  To me that was a good thing considering most animals hunker down in storms, meaning they wouldn’t be out hunting.  Not to mention, the rain helps to wash away any turkey scent.  On Sunday, Kyle and I went back into the woods, yes with our fishing poles, to look for our runaway.  Did we see her?  Sadly, no, but I also didn’t see a crime scene either.  Good sign. (Imagine what we looked like walking through the woods with long handled fishing poles!)

Upon exiting the woods, I decided to throw some feed alongside the turkey coop in case it would come back.

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Gram & Pap. 1986

This brings us to Tuesday, of the following week!  The turkey lived for over a week in the wild.  Every once in a while we’d see it prancing around but couldn’t catch it.  It was too big, too fast and now it was flying.  Keep in mind, a couple hours earlier that day, I was informed my Gram passed away.  I happened to be at my parent’s house getting work down, since it was a really nice day.  I got a text from my cousin Mikey saying, he just saw a strange looking turkey on the road near my mom and dad’s house.  That’s our turkey!  She’s still alive!

Excited over the good news, I put Gram’s death aside, and ran out of the house to be struck down.  As I slammed the front door and walked down the porch steps, something came up from behind me, landed on my neck right behind my jaw and stung me!  Can you believe it?  I was stung in the neck!  Joking, I said that was Gram fighting one last time.

I ran back in the house holding my neck panting, “Oh crap!  Oh crap!  Oh crap!  It got me dad!  It got me in the neck!”

Dad:  “What happened?”
Me:  “I got stung in the neck!”
Dad:  Calmly.  Snickering at my drama.  “Ya, they hurt, especially there.”
Me:  “Oh crap dad!  It really hurts!”
Dad:  “Ya, I can imagine.  It’s not so funny now that YOU got stung.  You laughed at me when those bees chased me out of the turkey coop and stung me.”
Me:  Snickering to myself.  “No I didn’t laugh about that.  I said, I’m glad it was you and not me.  I laughed at you last summer when we were eating on the deck and the bee stung you in the lip and your lip swelled.”
Dad:  Chuckled
Me:  “Wow!  It really hurts!”
Dad:  “Maybe you still have the stinger in.  Come here and let me look.”  Dad looked, without putting on glasses and proclaimed.  “Nope, no stinger.”  Like he could see it!
Me:  “What if I have an allergic reaction?”
Dad:  Calmly.  “Well, then me and the boys (our dogs) will take you to the hospital.”
Me:   “No dad I don’t want the dogs to go along.”
Dad:  “Why?  They’d like to take a ride.  Seven (my dog) would hold your hand.”
Me:  “Dad!  I don’t want the dogs to ride along to the hospital!”
Dad:  “Oh, they’d be good.  Everyone should have a Lab doggie by their side.”  Our dogs are Labs but not my sister’s dog, even though Dad refers to her as a Lab.

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Dad & Kyle fishing on Kyle’s birthday. The entire family joined in on the fun! 7/30/05

Luckily, the only reaction I got was really bad soreness in my neck and down into my shoulder, no major swelling, and no trip to the hospital with the dogs.

Dad and I armed ourselves with our fishing poles, and continued where we left off, chasing the turkey in the woods till we gave up.  Best way to spend the day after the loss of a family member!

Two days later, that Thursday, my sister came home for the funeral.  Nicole joined in on the hunt and we gave it the old college try when we saw the turkey strutting around the coop, begging us to chase it.  This time Nicole added a new element of surprise or challenge?  You decide.  Instead of using the long handled fishing poles, she decided to grab an old sheet.  Yes, a flat sheet, like the kind that goes on a bed.  A sheet! This just keeps getting better and better.  I think, she was expecting to gracefully throw the sheet on the turkey, and have the sheet perfectly spread out and land naturally onto of our bird, and then she’d tackle the lump in the sheet.  I’m guessing that was her reasoning.  What really happened was very different.

Nicole walked around the woods holding up this sheet, while I was opposite to her with my fishing pole.  (I wish I had a video of that!  It was as funny as you can imagine.)  If anything, I think Nicole gave that turkey a good laugh, or the runaway thought a ghost was following her around.  So far Piper 0, turkey 5.  All along, I’d throw turkey feed around the coop to keep our turkey in the area.  It worked!

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Turkey’s on their roost 7/14/15

That following week, me, dad and Kyle finished building the chicken run on Tuesday, the day after Gram’s funeral.  We enclosed the area so nothing could get in or out.  That Wednesday, the chickens were running around in their playground, and who decided to join the fun?  Our turkey.  She came down to hang out by the chickens.  Dad had a great idea.  He instructed me to throw feed outside the chicken coop, prop the door open to their enclosure, and throw more feed inside, thinking we’d lure the turkey in.

That evening, when I went to set Dad’s trap, I came face to face with the turkey.  It was roosting on the post.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Thinking I could capture the bird myself, like a ninja I crabbed my trusty fishing net and threw the net up over the turkey.  Did I get it?  Nope.  It flew up in a nearby tree.

The next morning dad said he went out to check on the chickens.  Guess who was waiting for him in the chicken run, eating the feed I spread?  Our wild turkey!  Dad said, he simply stepped in the fenced in area with a net, shut the door, and caught the turkey!

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Chickens walking around their pen 7/14/15

We’re now back up to eleven turkeys, happily roosting in their coop, until this fall.  That turkey had no idea how close I came to pulling out the shotgun and taking care of this problem once and for all before another wild animal feasted on our bird.  To be honest, I’m surprised our dogs, especially my sister’s dog didn’t get the turkey.  At one point the neighbors Saint Bernard ran across the road and chased the bird, but I intercepted him before he had a turkey dinner.

I’m sure the refugee told the others about her adventures in the wild.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

What’s All the Buzz?

Okay, I’ll admit it, I totally cracked myself up with this headline!  If you didn’t get it, read on.

First-Day-of-our-Bees-Aunt-Heather-Piper-6-1-15

This is my first look at our bees, they’re buzzing around, even though it’s a bit chilly (high of 50’s, low 60’s) 6/1/15

On Monday, my new hobby arrived.  It’s no secret I keep myself pretty busy with my eclectic interests and hobbies.  Such as what?  I love to read and I really love to write.  In addition to my blog and my freelance work, I’ve also written a book for Kyle (I thought it’d be neat to write a book for him that includes his interests, minus the video games.  Perhaps one day I’ll give it to him) and began a few others, but that’s not the big news.  Unbeknownst to some, I’m an outdoorsy person.  I spend a great deal of my summer mornings and evenings in the garden, and tending to the fruit and nut trees, and raising our chickens and turkeys, but that’s not the big news.  I enjoy fishing and during the winter months, I snowboard and hunt.  With all this rugged activity, I do have an artsy side to me.  I enjoy photography, mostly shooting nature and documenting family traditions through imagery.  In my past life, high school and college, I used to express myself through pottery, throwing on the wheel was my favorite, but that’s not the big news.  I do try and be active, either going to the gym, running, or hiking with the dogs, but that’s nothing new.  And everyone knows all these activities are usually spent with Kyle and my family, except the exercising part.  So what else could I possibly add to my hobby portfolio?  Bees!

Yes, honey bees!  I’m a beekeeper!  How on earth did I get into bees?  Along with my dad, I’ve always had an interest in bees, being a huge fan of honey, especially honey on the comb.  I LOVE honey!  Maybe not as much as Kyle, but regardless, it’s a staple in our household.  Ironically, I wrote a blog post about these buzzing pollinating creatures in 2013 Random Fun Facts:  Bees.

How does one become a beekeeper?  Well, I’m very blessed to have my cousin Pete, who is a beekeeper, who tends to about eight hives of his own.  Not only did he give us our first hive from a swam he gathered locally, but he’s been teaching dad and myself everything he knows about bees.  He even introduced us to an organization of beekeepers that he belongs to, in this area.  They hold monthly meetings to inform and educate local beekeepers on bees and everything associated with this activity.  There’s an organization dedicated to beekeepers?  In the Latrobe area?  Oh, YES!  Unfortunately, I missed the first meeting this year, but I’ll bee (pun intended) sure to attend the next one, which is around the corner.

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The bees arrived Monday thanks to my cousin Pete. Even though the bees were slightly ticked off from the car ride there, I just had to lift the lid to the bee box and look inside… 6/1/15

How much is there to learn about bee keeping?  A lot!  First and foremost, bees are very delicate creatures.  We can’t use anything unnatural on the garden or fruit tress for fear of killing them.  Mites are also a very real danger.  Believe it or not, they can wipe out an entire hive!  Dad’s been doing a lot of reading on bees and our new hobby.  He found a natural remedy for the mite problem, dust the bees with powered sugar.  Seriously?  Yes!  Well, the bee knowledge list goes on and on.  Similar topics are addressed and discussed at the bee meetings, to learn from the experienced beekeepers.  Very exciting if you ask me!

Did you know consuming local honey actually helps the body build up an immunity to local allergens?  That’s the word on the street.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but ingesting honey over long periods of time, will decrease allergies.  At least that’s what I read in an article.  In a way, I wish our bees would hang around the poison ivy, to build up my immunity.  Regardless, how can anyone go wrong with such a natural sweet treat.  It’s great for all meals in just about anything.

On a side note, did I mention I’m allergic to yellow jackets?  Not terribly, I’ve never gone into anaphylaxis, but I guess there’s always a chance.  I do swell considerably and get huge, I mean huge, three inch diameter hives, all over my body.  I know it sounds silly for me to be a beekeeper, but bees are so very interesting, and nothing beats fresh honey.  I’ll just have to be cautious.  Who knows, I might not even have a reaction to the bee sting.  After all, bee stings are said to be good for arthritis and those suffering with multiple sclerosis.

Bee (again pun intended) prepared for more bee talk in the near future.  I have a feeling this is going to be quite the adventure!

Happy Beekeeping!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

What’s For Dinner?

The proof of the pudding is the eating.  ~Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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Kyle & his cousin Cheyenne Piper at Bethel Lutheran Church. 2005

Ever since Kyle was a little tyke, he’s been very structured, eventually including his eating habits.  Truly.  It could be ten o’clock at night and he’d sit back in retrospect asking, “What was for dinner?”  Usually I ask, “Are you hungry?”  With Kyle’s response of, “No, but I wanted to know what was for dinner?”  Seriously?  Oh, yes!  Like he’s taking a tally or checking of his daily list.  He’ll even reiterate what he ate and what category it was considered, either breakfast, dinner, supper, or snack.  Kyle can’t simply eat when he’s hungry and leave it at that, he has to place it in a mental check box.

On a side note, in our household, we call “lunch”, dinner.  So what do we call dinner or the last meal of the day?  Supper.  Yes, dinner is our midday meal, or commonly called lunch, and supper is our later day meal, or sometimes called dinner.

Anyway, when conversing with Kyle over his meals for the day, a big WARNING needs to accompany this discussion.  If you try and assist Kyle recollect his food consumption for that particular day, and you categorize a food item as part of the wrong meal, or worse, call out an item eaten from the previous day, he’ll call you out on it and make a big deal about his supposedly missed meal, even when he’s not hungry.

Example time.  Now I can’t exactly recall a specific conversation between us, but they basically go like this:

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Me making cupcakes in my apartment in Pittsburgh (Beechview on Broadway Street) 1995

Stage:  (It’s 10:00 pm on a Saturday night and Kyle is laying on the couch watching television, winding down before bed.)
Kyle:  Aunt Heather what was for dinner?
Me:  (Not thinking to hard on the question)  I don’t know, are you hungry?
Kyle:  No, I just wanted to know what we had for dinner.
Me:  I don’t know, steak and eggs.
Kyle:  No that was breakfast.
Me:  Oh, we had grilled chicken and potatoes.
Kyle:  No, that was for supper.
Me: (Getting frustrated over a pointless conversation.)  I don’t know!  Are you hungry?
Kyle:  No, I just wanted to know.
Me:  If you’re not hungry does it matter?
Kyle:  No
Me:  (LIGHT BULB!)  Oh, we had sandwiches!  (Now feeling pleased with myself for finally remembering.)
Kyle:  Oh, yeah that’s right!
Me:  Now do you want me to review all your snacks including the quart of chocolate milk you drank in one gulp?  (Sarcasm and silliness, for I truly don’t care what Kyle eats or how much, as long as the majority of his consumption is healthy, and in moderation for the not-so-nutritious food items.  Please note, the remark about the chocolate milk was not an exaggeration.  He really does fill up a quart jar with milk and chocolate syrup, and gulp it down instantly.  I guess he’s a growing boy.)
Kyle:  (snickering) No.  But what was for dessert?
Me:  I saw you eating Oreos earlier.
Kyle:  Yeah, but that wasn’t dessert for supper.
Me:  You don’t have to have a dessert for every meal.  Desserts are only for special occasions, or as a rare treat, not for everyday.
Kyle:  Why not?  I like desserts!
Me:  I do too buddy, but it’s not good to have all that sugar and fat.
Kyle:  I like sugar.
Me:  I know!  Same as your dad!
Kyle:  (Snicker, before he heads off to bed, satisfied that his checklist is completed.)

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In the back row: Dad, Uncle Sonny & Jeremy. Uncle Denny’s back is on the left & Nicole on the right. Christmas Party 1992

Perhaps this strange and sporadic phenomenon is partially my fault.  When Kyle was little, I became aware that when he wasn’t with my family, he’d miss meals or the sustenance eaten was less than par, not healthy in the slightest.  So I began to teach Kyle to eat at least three meals a day, and snack healthy in between.  That’s about the time I taught him about nutrition.  I especially stressed the importance of breakfast, which was completely omitted from his diet before school.  Or worse, he’d eat his jelly sandwich and crackers on the bus headed to school because he was hungry, and then have to go without for the entire day.  It broke my heart to think of Kyle sitting in the cafeteria with his friends, watching them eat their lunches, while he was hungry.  I’m not saying a jelly sandwich (at the time he hated peanut butter, so that was his PB&J minus the P) is the most nutritious for breakfast, but it’s something.

Naturally, there’s always an excuse, but with a five, six, seven, eight, nine and even a ten year old, there doesn’t need to be an excuse, simply doing what’s right for his well-being.  This is paramount during a child’s developmental stages.  Plus, it’s good habit forming.  Granted, to counter act this, over the years, I began my mission to teach Kyle to make himself some simple and quick dishes to equip him to fend for himself.  Like what?  Oatmeal in the microwave  or eggs. (Yes, Kyle has always known how to make eggs and to properly and safely use the stove and oven since he was probably two or so.)  Grabbing a banana or apple isn’t too taxing and is an acceptable breakfast or snack, both of which Kyle loves.  Even toast would be better than nothing.

On another side note, I also gave Kyle money to buy a hot lunch, not saying the cafeteria meals were any healthier, but at least it was food for his empty stomach and a warm meal.

Well, enough heavy.  Kyle is now a healthy teenager, one who still confirms his three meals of the day.  Maybe something really did sink in when I was teaching him about healthy eating habits.  I hope so.  I only want Kyle to have every opportunity in life, and that includes eating healthy and staying that way for a long time.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Resemblance of Past Ryan & Present Kyle

The belly is an ungrateful wretch, it never remembers past favors, it always wants more tomorrow.  ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Baby-Kyle-2001-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our little man … Kyle as a 3 month old baby. 2001

In keeping with one of my goals for this blog, recording stories about Ryan as they come to mind so Kyle has the opportunity to read them later in life and get to know his dad, I have a very sweet story to share.

A few weeks ago, Kyle mentioned he was hungry, and was going to make himself cinnamon toast.  You know, toasted bread, spread with butter, and sprinkled with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  Great, whatever buddy!  That’s what I thought until I saw what he did.

Kyle took that comment as a full time job.  As I rounded the corner, I saw Kyle perched in front of the television with a stack of cinnamon toast, and I mean a STACK.  I didn’t count the slices, but I bet there was nearly a loaf of bread there!  The best?  He meticulously stacked the bread onto a small plate.  It was almost comical.  The base of this structure was less than half of the height.

On a side note, I did sneak a few slices of cinnamon toast for myself.  However, Kyle didn’t go without, he added more bread to the toaster to replace the casualties.  Of course, when he gave me a look, I said, “Go make more then.”  For once Kyle listened to me.

Sometime, after I satisfied my immediate craving, and the humor of Kyle’s actions subsided, something else came to light.  Kyle’s resemblance to his dad!  No joke!  Not only did Kyle look like Ryan physically, at least at first glance, sitting on the couch wearing jeans and a tee shirt with sandy blonde hair, sitting in my parents living room, but the entire scene took me back a few years.  Ryan used to do the exact same thing, literally.

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Ryan with his godparents, Paula & Joe. To the right is my Grandpap Chester’s checker table he made. 1977

Similar to Ryan, Kyle’s dad, Kyle also has a sweet tooth, especially for cinnamon toast!  Ryan used to make an entire loaf of bread, and I mean THE ENTIRE LOAF, (including the ends) dripping with butter and a heavy hand sprinkling of cinnamon sugar to each slice, covering the very corners.  With the stack nearly reaching the ceiling, Ryan would plop himself in front the television to chow down and watching cartoons.  Sometimes, Ryan would make himself a cup of hot chocolate to dip the bread.  The hot chocolate was a condiment for the cinnamon toast.  It was truly an amazing sight!  This activity didn’t last all day.  Oh, no!  It only took Ryan a few minutes to ingest the contents of his plate, and sometimes work on round two.  Seriously?  No exaggeration!  I don’t know how mom and dad kept us in stock of food.  This incidence didn’t just occur once a month or once every few months.  Nope!  It was more like twice a week, mostly in the winter.  The summer was reserved for indulging in fruits and vegetables. Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?  No matter how many times I witnessed this phenomenon, it always captured my attention.

Naturally, I did the same thing with Ryan as I did with Kyle, steal a slice or two from the bread tower.  However, Ryan never really cared, he’d simply go make more if the contents in his stomach didn’t reach the brim.  This is one of those stories that seeing is believing.

So here we are, over two decades later, and Ryan’s eating habits have come full circle, without his influence.  Unbeknownst to Kyle, he was reenacting the same scenario his dad participated in.  Kind of weird, yet heart warming.  It’s those little moments that comfort me with the loss of Ryan.  It also brings  me joy to see the similarities between Ryan and Kyle.  It’s almost refreshing when Kyle isn’t acting like his Aunt Nikki or his Gigi or others, simply like his dad.

How did Kyle learn this behavior?  On a very rare occasion we make cinnamon toast, but it’s certainly not a staple in the household.  That’s how Kyle learned about cinnamon toast, but choosing to make a truckload at a time and ingesting it within minutes must be all genetics, I guess.  Perhaps Kyle is gaining Ryan’s metabolism and hunger.  Yikes, I can only imagine if Ryan and Kyle were alive at that same time, the world would be wiped out of food, especially bread!  Add me to the mix and it would be a world deprived of all sustenance.

Kyle you are your daddy’s son, in more ways than you can imagine!

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Kyle trout fishing with me & his pap at off of Route 30, Causeway at Loyalhanna Creek 4/24/15

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Fishing Derby Pride

There is no secret to success except hard work and getting something indefinable which we call ‘the breaks’.  ~Countee Cullen

Thanks to everyone for making this event happen, especially Cindy and Dave Planinsek!  I know it’s a lot of work, but one worth it.  Like everyone else, my family looks forward to the Fishing Derby every year!

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26th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby! 5/9/15

This past weekend was the twenty-sixth Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby.  As always it was great time, and we were blessed with perfect weather!  No rain, no snow, simply a lot of sun, blue skies, white fluffy clouds, good conversation and the fish were biting, giving the kids and adults another memorable experience.

Similar to last year, Kyle didn’t want to camp out from Friday night to Saturday.  I offered with all sincerity, but he had no desire to rough it.  Instead, we stopped up at the pavilion Friday night to hang out, eat, socialize, eat and eat.  That’s one constant that I participated in on Friday and continued throughout the day on Saturday, eating!  Friday night, Kyle basically disappeared, for he was running around playing with all the kids.  I love seeing him have good old-fashioned fun of playing tag, exploring and climbing on the swing set and slides.  I too enjoyed myself, catching up with those I run into maybe once a year, and touching base with others I see more frequently.

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Kyle made the leader board with his 19.25″ trout at the Fishing Derby. Not the winner of the day, but started it off right! First time making the leader board! Way to go buddy! 5/9/15

The next morning, as tradition dictates, breakfast was served at 7:00 am, or there about.  Unlike years past, Kyle didn’t want to get up early, my little man must have been running hard and needed his beauty rest.  Once he cracked his eyelids enough to let the light in, we packed the car with his fishing gear, and he was ready to join the festivities.

After the announcements were made, rules outlined, prayer said and the bugle called, all fishing lines were cast.  Who started off the leader board?  You guessed it, Kyle!  I was thrilled for him!  In all the years we’ve been coming, he’s never once made the leader board, let alone be the first kid to catch a fish.  He was so excited, he was jumping around more than the trout in the net.  I know he was even happier his Gigi and Pappy (and possibly me) was there to witness his victory, and yet disappointed his Aunt Nikki was on the road, not there yet.  His trout measured nineteen and a quarter inches.  That’s a big fish!

Did he take home the trophy for the largest trout?  Nope.  He was twice kicked out of the top spot with Jacob Singer taking home the gold with a twenty-three and a quarter inch trout.  Congrats buddy!  Was Kyle upset?  No, he really wasn’t.  In years past I could’ve seen him devastated over the loss, but he’s maturing and was truly happy for Jacob.  Now that’s sportsmanship and that made me proud.  However, that wasn’t the proudest moment of the day.  It was what happened before the fishing derby that touched me.

As tradition dictates, about a week or so before the fishing derby, everyone, mostly the Planinsek family, gets together to clean up the pavilion, split firewood, lay gravel or mulch or whatever is needed and stock the pond with fish.  Believe it or not, it might seem like a laborious day, but it’s a fun one with everyone working together.  I wasn’t able to help this year, but Kyle did, all day!  So back to my initial thought.  What made me so proud of Kyle?  His work ethic!

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Me & Kyle at the Fishing Derby after his big catch of the day. 5/9/15

Between Friday night and all day Saturday during the derby, at least a dozen people independently came up to me with complete sincerity, and informed me of how hard Kyle worked that Saturday, in preparation for the Fishing Derby.  It wasn’t simply a blanketed statement either.  I was told when one task was completed, Kyle would ask what else needed done.  According to eye witness accounts, he worked really hard and afterwords played hard with the kids.  Now that made me very proud!  I guess Kyle is a true Piper, even though he hides it when asked to do work around the house!  I’ll take it though, Kyle being well-behaved and hard working with others, yep those are qualities worth mentioning.  That’s my not-so-little man of thirteen years.  And you know what?  He never said anything, but I know he too was proud of his efforts he put into the Fishing Derby and the bond that was forged from such hard work.  I wish more kids would have such opportunities to feel a sense of accomplishment and teamwork with such a great family.

A special thanks to my cousin Casey Olczak and Boo Planinsek.  They offered to clean Kyle’s trout for him.  I was going to, but they were on a roll, so who am I to stop them?  They also gave us a few extra unclaimed fish for Sunday breakfast.

See you next year!

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Casey & Owen at the Fishing Derby. 5/9/15

On a side note, Kyle made it very clear this year that he doesn’t like his picture being taken.  Can you tell, I cared?  (sarcasm)  However, Kyle barely got his fish out of the pond before he was reaching for his phone to get a picture of his trout!  I guess, we are a lot alike, whether he’ll admit it or not.

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Planinsek Fishing Derby breakfast. Fueling up for the fishing adventure! 5/9/15

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Kyle made the Fishing Derby Leader Board with his 19.25″ trout! 5/9/15

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Kyle at the Planinsek Fishing Derby. Mom, Dad and Roger Parks watch our young participants. 5/9/15

posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Chickens & Turkeys Oh My!

No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.  ~L. Frank Baum

Chicken-Peeps-3-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Chicken peeps, getting settled in the Piper household. Kyle was already growing attached to them… 3/2015

Believe it or not it’s that time of year again to begin preparing for summer, even though it was snowing on Wednesday and I awoke today to a thirty-two degree morning.  Still, summer is around the corner.  How much planning and preparing is there you may ask?  Plenty.

Let’s begin with the garden.  Sometime in February we ordered seeds.  About a month ago Kyle and I planted the seeds into small containers, to later be transferred to the garden.  Besides some flowers, Kyle and I started the tomatoes, broccoli and squash.  Once the garden is prepped, meaning the peat moss, manure and sand is added and plowed,  we’ll plant the cucumbers, pole beans, peas, sunflowers, watermelon, pumpkins, cantaloup and lettuce.  This year I decided to plant asparagus, which is a perennial and will come up year after year.  I can’t wait!  That’s another item on my spring list, to prepare a section of the yard specifically for the asparagus.  YIKES!

Last week dad got a dump truck of cow manure from a friend of his.  Yep, it was juicy and pretty ripe.  Guess who had to shovel it on the section of the garden we’re expanding to accommodate my extra interests?  That’s right, yours truly.  Do I mind?  Not really, it’s not the best job, but once it’s done, it’s done.  Although, I almost had another story to tell.  While slopping around getting the cow dung off the truck, I nearly slipped and face planted right in the middle of the smelly action.  That would have been a bad day.  My catlike reflexes saved me in a big way.

Now let’s discuss the big topics of the Piper household, the peeps!  We’re coming full circle from when I was little, with chickens and turkeys!  Yep.  I’m helping dad raise chickens for the fresh eggs, and then later for the meat, as well as turkeys for the meat.

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Kyle back at the Live Auction in Maryland…he always gravitates towards the goats. This time dad bought another pig to butcher. 3/2015

On a side note, I don’t know if it’s out of interest or the idea of making money, but Kyle decided he wanted to continue to raise chickens and turkeys to sell year-over-year.  That’s what he said.  Since that topic came up, and of course we like to encourage Kyle with projects such as this one, to be responsible and to learn to be self-sufficient, Dad added to the list, quail.  Dad’s logic?  He said, “I like to hear them talking in the morning and if you see one, you can shoot it for dinner.”  Yep, that’s my dad!  We’ll see if Kyle’s desire to put forth actual work is still present after taking care of the turkeys and chickens all summer.  Personally, I hoping so, but not putting money on it.

With our first batch of chickens, we lost one.  Naturally, we went back to the store to replace the one, with three more.  Why three?  Dad wanted to replace our down peep that didn’t make it, understood.  On the other hand, Kyle decided he wanted to get a few yellow peeps.  Dad originally purchased some sort of black and brown peeps that both produce brown eggs.  Does it seriously matter?  To dad it does!  According to Dad, the brown eggs taste better.  Upon hearing that, Kyle gave me an inquisitive look, and all I could do was shrug my shoulders.  Personally, brown, green (yes there are green eggs) or white, they’re all the same to me.  Kyle concurred, but made sure he didn’t diminish his pap’s excitement over his choice of eggs.

After getting the chickens situated in their box, Kyle said, “Hey Aunt Heather, wouldn’t be funny if we got all roasters!”  That was kind of funny and his pappy simply smiled.

During this second trip to the Tractor Supply store for peeps, Kyle almost made me fall over a display when I heard him speaking to the peep wrangler.  Luckily, I nipped the fiasco before it happened.  What could he possibly have done?  Kyle ordered another dozen peeps!  What were we going to do with two dozen chickens? (A dozen the first trip and then Kyle’s second order)  We wouldn’t even have room for them once they grew.  I explained to Kyle that we’d have to eat chicken day and night to consume that much poultry (a little exaggerated but it got my point across).  As fast as my feet would carry me, I stepped in, stopped the transaction and gave Kyle his pick of two.  I picked an Asian peep (I thought dad picked previously but didn’t) that produced brown eggs for dad, to fill the void.  Begrudgingly, Kyle, who wanted to get another dozen, chose two fluffy little yellow peeps that everyone’s accustomed to seeing in advertisements around Easter.

Both trips with the peeps, Kyle insisted on holding the box of peeps, but would never stick his hand in the box for fear of being pecked.  Only Kyle!

Okay, now funny story.  As Kyle and I were checking out, Kyle asked me,

Kyle:  “Why can’t we just get all  yellow ones?  Why do we have to get ones that make brown eggs?”
Me:  “I don’t know, that’s what your pap likes, so don’t burst his bubble.  He’s excited about raising chickens again.”
Kyle:  “Why did you get an Asian peep?”
Me:  “So we can make General Tso’s chicken .”
Kyle:  His eyes rolled, not sure if he got my joke or not.
Check out girl:  Bouts of giggles.
Me:  Totally cracking up, finding complete humor in my own wit!

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Turkeys in their new home… they’re about a month old 4/2015

It’s always been extremely important to dad, to ensure he raises the next couple generations of self sufficient, independent individuals, a.k.a. me and Kyle (dad doesn’t have patience for Nicole, nor does she care about such things).  That’s why we butcher our own cows, pigs, deer, chickens and turkeys.  He wants us to know how to raise them and harvest the meat, as well as build needed structures to house the animals.  Good thinking Dad!  That’s great information to be passing down through the generations.  I appreciate it big time!  One never knows when a crisis will happen to force our softened society to revert back to the days of survival and basic harvesting of food.  I’m ready!  Soon I’ll be feasting on farm fresh turkeys and chickens to accompany my home grown vegetables.  It’s a lot of hard work, but worth it.

It’s always nice to know exactly what’s in the meat you’re eating and how it was treated and handled, same goes for the vegetables.  No hormone raised anything in our household.

On another side note, dad saw on the news how we’re going to be having a shortage of chickens and turkeys.  They’re being destroyed due to an illness.  I guess even China has closed their doors to the United States poultry trade.  I didn’t hear that information for myself, but that’s the word on the street.  For once, we’re ahead of the game and the Piper’s won’t be affected by the news.  Dad’s already thinking about giving a turkey to close family and friends for Thanksgiving.  He sayings, “It’ll be so expensive to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving or worse, you won’t be able to get one.  That would be a shame if someone couldn’t have turkey for Thanksgiving.”  I agree!  I hope if someone we know needs help, we can assist.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets and have No Comments

Fiber One Memories

In a way, looking back, it seemed a long, long time since she had been eighteen, but in another way her memories were so clear and vivid that it seemed like yesterday.  ~Helen Hooven Santmyer

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Planinsek Fishing Derby. Kyle hanging with is pap, probably tying another hook that he yanked off. I’m in the background talking to Ryan’s friend Jesse Planinsek & his dad, Fred. 5/10/14

I’m not sure what made me think of this story, but here it is.  I was probably rehashing recent events involving Kyle, and it came to me.

Regardless, a few years ago, I recalled Kyle’s first Fiber One experience.  Fiber One Discovery  Yes, that single moment in history, which changed Kyle’s life forever, and started his short term obsession with the quasi healthy snack bar.  True Story!  Kyle LOVED those General Mills Fiber One bars, not to be confused with the Kellogg’s Fiber Plus bars.  Branding the Next Generation  He tried both, only because I wasn’t paying attention when making my selection.  After sampling each and making very valid comparisons, Kyle proudly announced that he preferred the first rather than the later.  He spoke of those Fiber One bars fondly and often, with an almost reverence.   From that accidental chance in history, Kyle had a favorite snack.  It only increased in popularity, when he found out that the product line expanded to include Pop Tarts.  Love at first bite.  This was such a hot topic, it became a big joke among family and friends, Kyle and his fiber passion.  How could it not?

In recent times, Kyle hasn’t really requested those trusty fiber snacks.  Perhaps, they did a number on him, and the number I’m referring to is TWO (pun totally intended).  Maybe it’s because I haven’t purchased the Fiber One bars for him, or he wasn’t exposed to the brand every time we ran through the grocery store (my money is on Kyle paying too much attention to his video games and not his surroundings) and it’s now become a thing of the past.  No clue.  Unbeknownst to me, we would come full circle with his fiber talk.

About two weekends ago, we found ourselves back in WalMart grabbing a few grocery items.  Yes, back to where it all began, about six years later!  Again, normally, I don’t shop at that constantly crowded, patience required store, especially in the middle of the day, at the height of craziness, but there I was, with Kyle at my side.  While rushing past the isles, we were halted by a sight in the near distance, no more than four feet from us.  Equipped with bright lights, and a familiarity to stop the heart and cause an uncontrollable smile to surface, was a vision of the past.  Almost dreamlike, the way it flooded me with memories, stood the Fiber One sample cart!

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Casey, Kyle & me in a cave while visiting Casey in West Virginia for a snowboarding trip. I know we brought Fiber One bars to snack on! c. 2007

Immediately, the sign caught my eyes, and my mind recalled conversations upon conversations of my little man talking about fiber and the Fiber One bars, way before becoming a teenager.  I know what made me put on the breaks, but I thought Kyle was simply following my lead, for he too stopped.  Instinctively, I turned toward Kyle, ready to make a comment and see if he remembered his Fiber One infatuation, when he did the same, giving me this expression to steal my words.  His look said,  “The Fiber One display!”  He didn’t need to say a word, for we had a universal understanding between us.  After the initial shock, we did a double take toward the display, watching the worker for only seconds that seemed like an hour, while she prepared her samples for a busy Saturday.  Our eyes paused momentarily, lost in the past, before we looked back at each other and busted out laughing.  Kyle did remember his love of Fiber One!

I was cracking up!  I don’t know why Kyle’s realization of his past love meant something to me, probably because it was a memory that began with the two of us.  Then, Kyle flashed me that ornery grin, pointed, and said, “Hey Aunt Heather!”  Too funny!  All I could muster was, “Yes buddy, I see.”  He never did ask me for a sample, or if we could buy a box.  I don’t know if he wasn’t hungry, because usually that’s when all the snack foods seem to jump into the cart, even the little red plastic basket hanging from my arm, or I was moving so fast, Kyle thought we’d wreck if he’d speak up.  Looking back on it now, I should have grabbed a box for old time sake.  That would have made his day, but as usual I was in a hurry.

It may seem silly, but it was one of those precious, although a little odd, moments that can never be planned.  A funny memory that brought with it many, many humorous stories and conversations about all things fiber.  Kyle is the coolest ever!

 

 

 

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Singing to Kenny Rogers

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Aunt-Heather-Piper-singing-Pittsburgh-1994

Yes I was singing with deodorant … back in the days when I wore a watch… this was my first apartment in Pittsburgh after graduating. 1994

Silly story time!  Last week, while leaving the gym with my friend Holly, I heard Juice Newton sing Queen Of Hearts.  She was shocked to find out that I liked country music.  (I’m not sure if Queen Of Hearts constitutes country music but for this conversation, it does)  I stand corrected, when I was a kid, I liked THAT country music, from THAT time.  The Charlie Daniels Band, Crystal Gayle, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Pardon, Johnny Horton, and Willie Nelson were among some of my favorites.  Yes, when I was young some of the artists were already dead or pretty old themselves, regardless, that’s were my interest rested.  Keep in mind, I also loved Boy George and the Culture Club, the Go-Go’s and the Bangles.  I even enjoyed listening to country gospel tunes.  My music interests were certainly eclectic.  Presently, I’m not a country music fan, nor was I even in high school.

So it’s really no surprise that I’m a fan of Kenny Rogers, or I was.  I loved Kenny Rogers!  The movie The Gambler was one of my favorites.  (That reminds me, I need to introduce Kyle to that one!)  It ranked up there with Mary Poppins, Sound of Music and Singin’ in the Rain.  (Every once in a while, I also bust into one of those show tunes.  My family appreciates those moments. sarcasm)

So, it’s not so far fetched that when the Geico commercial came on, and Kenny Rogers began singing, I joined in, and then some.  Yep, I know all the words, forwards and back!  I couldn’t help myself.  While Making Deer Bologna & Deer Jerky on Saturday with Kyle and mom, I busted into song.

Admittedly, I went on for hours singing, the same song, over and over and over again.  Please note, I can’t sing, which made it even better!  At times I started at the chorus, sometimes at the beginning, and others I sang the last part and stomped my feet like the original song.  And somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even, and in his final words I found an ace that I could keep…

At first Kyle ignored me, then he started protesting with his usual, “STOP!”  “STOP!”  “STOP!”  I can’t believe he thought that would really make be cease and desist.  After about an hour or so, (it truly did go on for a while) he found me a tiny bit humorous, even though he wouldn’t admit it.  Kyle, trying to be good humored about my stage act, started to tease me with a chorus of “Boo”, accompanied with silly smirks and motions of a thumbs down.  Now he found himself funny.  Kyle giggled and made sure I didn’t miss his gesture of thumbs down.  No worries, I know artists are sometimes misunderstood.  I held my ground, and continued singing the song of my soul.  Seven, my Black Labrador, even joined in by jumping around barking.  He was my back up singer, a supporter of the arts.  It was a fun family time in the kitchen!

What made the situation even better?  Every time that commercial came on the rest of the weekend, before Kenny Rogers was spotted on the television screen, I’d turn my heard toward Kyle, shoot him an ornery look, and sing.  As if on cue, Kyle would chuckle, roll his eyes and do his best to ignore me, which provoked me even more.   He continued giving me his standard thumbs down.  I love getting a rise out of that kid!  It makes life entertaining and keeps him on his toes.  We all know he LOVES it!

It was all in good fun, typical Aunt Heather style.  I bet I got that song stuck in Kyle’s head!

 

 

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Making Deer Bologna & Deer Jerky

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.  ~Julia Child

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Close-up of the deer bologna, made with cheddar cheese. 1/24/15

On Saturday, we finally had the chance to make deer bologna and deer jerky.  Is it hard?  Nope, not even close.  The hardest part is monitoring the cooking, or in the case of the jerky, the dehydration machine.  As long as you keep a close eye on the meat, perfection!  A healthy snack!

Way back in December, during hunting season, which seems like a lifetime ago now, we ground up the deer meet into hamburger.  Yes, we have a grinder to grind our own meat.  Believe it or not, we use it during the winter months, not only for deer, but also if we’re butchering a cow (ground chuck) or pig (sausage).  By next year, I’m going to raise my own turkeys, and make ground turkey meat. (I love turkey burgers!) We weighed the meat, sealed it in plastic wrap, wrapped it in freezer paper, labeled it, and froze until ready to use.  We use the ground deer meat for burgers, taco meat, and meatloaf, among other recipes.  This year, we set some aside specifically for the bologna and jerky.

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Deer Bologna ready to be snacked on … made with cheddar cheese! 1/24/15

Before beginning, the weighed meat needs to be removed from the freezer, at least a day or two in advance to slowly defrost.  I wouldn’t suggest using a microwave to assist with this process, because even though the microwave “defrosts” the meat, it still cooks the edges slightly, and that’s no good.  Do yourself a favor, and take the time to let the meat thaw naturally.

In the past, we’ve made deer Salomi, but from what my parents said, they didn’t care for it as much as the bologna.  So bologna it is!

We purchase our bologna mix at Gander Mountain, and sometimes Cabela’s.  There’s a certain brand my parents like, although I can’t remember the name (It’s in an orangeish bag).  You can purchase bologna kits, that contain the pertinent spices, as well as the casings.  We prefer the fat casings, as opposed to the thinner ones.  The thinner ones tend to dry out fast, especially when cooked alongside the fat ones.  So cook them separately, if you choose to use a combination of fat and thin casings.

Starting with the bologna, since it takes a while to cook, we dropped the thawed weighed ground deer meat in our hand crank mixer.  Using dad’s homemade red wine instead of water, we diluted the spices in the liquid.  Simply follow the directions on the package for exact measurements.  Now, it’s really as easy as adding the diluted spice mixture to the meat, mixing, and then stuffing.  Make sure you soak the casings in warm water prior to stuffing.

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Close-up or our deer bologna, made with cheddar cheese. Perfect snacking goodness! 1/24/15

To assist us a step further, we added the meat mixture to our hand crank stuffer, typically used to stuff sausage.  It works wonderfully with the bologna casings, as long as you use the smallest tube and keep the air out by holding the end into the meat.  Simply, crank the mixture into the casing, leave a little room at the open end to twist, and seal.  Lay the long cylinders together ready for baking.  I wouldn’t recommend adding the bologna rods in the oven one at a time.  Save yourself some frustration, and confusion and add them all together, on the same rack.   Again, use the cooking directions on the package.

On a side note, during the mixing stage, we added chunks of cheddar cheese to the meat.  My family is partial to the meat and cheese mixture, but you can add, jalapeno peppers, spicy cheese, or garlic pieces.  Experiment to find out what your family likes best.  Keep in mind, when another ingredient is added to the meat mixture, it will increase the amount of bologna, in turn increasing the number of casings used.  So, have an extra casing or two handy, you’ll need it!

I do want to call out, during this process, Kyle would not touch the raw meat with his hands.  That cracks us all up!  He simply just can’t do it.  Knowing this, I couldn’t help but smear a little meat on his cheek or hand.  Kyle snickered and played along for a while, until he had enough.  He’s not the adventurous or traditional type of cook.  He’s more the, stand-on-the-sidelines and dictate direction.  I love that kid!

Nicoles-Ramen-Noodles-Stockpile-2014-Aunt-Heather-Piper

This picture is just hilarious…as I opened my sister’s hallway closet, I saw these Ramen Noodles. Apparently, she purchased them as part of her doomsday prep!  Gross!  The best part?  She bought them on Craig’s List! I was dying! 2014

Okay, funny story, yes besides me grossing Kyle out.  It’s always an adventure in the Piper household, especially when Kyle and I are involved.  While Kyle was cranking the meat mixture into the casing, he was struggling a bit.  Toward the bottom of the metal container, it does get tough to crank.  Smarty pants me, told Kyle to step aside, thinking he was being dramatic.  When I began cranking, Kyle sarcastically commented, “It’s not that easy is it Aunt Heather?”  In a way, he sounded just like his dad, Ryan, when he was trying to prove a point.  While I was flexing my muscles, literally, I too wanted to prove a point.  My point?  That there was still plenty of cranking room.  While doing so, we heard a huge BOOM noise.  Everyone looked at me, like I had a clue what that noise was.  I back peddled the crank to find that I was pressing the mixture so hard, it created a vacuum and blew the cheese cubes flat to the bottom of the metal container.  Keep in mind, there was still meet mixture in the tube leading to the casing.  During the back peddling process, the space beneath my sealed top, where there was a void of air, it pulled the meat mixture back into the container.  It was amazing, it happened so fast we just stood dumfounded.  The force was so great, the meat gathered in a large single mass in the center of the container.  Science, too cool!  It’s little moments like that, that make this so much fun!  We were giggling, and having a good time.

While the bologna cooked, we started the deer jerky.  Same process really, take the thawed weighed ground deer meat, and the spices diluted in dad’s wine, and mix well.  Instead of using the stuffer, we added the meat mixture to a press, which resembles a cookie press, or an odd looking firearm. (fitting)  Anyway, we used the thin narrow tip to squeeze the meat directly onto our plastic dehydration racks.  Since the racks are circular in shape, we lined up the meat strips from outer ring to the center, giving it a wheel appearance, leaving space between strips for air circulation.  Then, on the next row, I staggered the meat strips, compared to the rack below.  This continued until all the meat was used.  One batch filled our machine, almost perfectly (I believe we have extra trays).  We placed a timer on the machine, and let modern technology do the rest.

With each, the deer bologna and deer jerky, it’s prudent to constantly check the progress, and not let the oven or the timer on the dehydrator dictate when the meat is done.  Nope, you be the judge.  Check the temperature of the bologna, and check the texture of the jerky.  Also, keep in mind with the dehydrator, some trays will finish sooner than others.  Don’t over do it.

Once you’re done, sit back, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  It’s totally worth it!  Gathering as a family, and passing along cooking traditions such as this one with Kyle, makes it a truly memorable experience.  Kyle loves his deer meat, and he enjoys cooking, but he loves being a part of the family the most.  Even at his thirteen years, I could tell he likes to be included in our traditions, as much as we adore including him.  Happy snacking!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Hunting: Why I Hunt

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  ~Maimonides

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Kyle hamming it up on dad’s trail cam. 1/9/11

Recently, I saw a Facebook entry questioning the practice of hunting, especially posting pictures of the harvested deer.  I take that back, I’ve seen many posts praising hunting and many opposing the practice.  I wanted to respond, but I know I couldn’t justify my actions in a few words, however, hopefully I could get my point across to naysayers through a few more words, actually many many more.  I don’t’ want to single anyone out because this is not about bashing, but simply informing and educating.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can about my family, some of my friends, and me personally.  Sure, there are those who don’t hold the same opinions as I do with respect to hunting, and there are those who give the practice a bad connotation.  Again, I can only outline what I know and hopefully teach through my experiences.

Before I go into detail, I would rather see a picture of a deer harvested from the woods and prepared for dinner, than see it splattered all over the highway.  Over population of deer is very dangerous and a real problem.  That’s why hunting is regulated by the Game Commission and is a legal practice.  Some remote parts of the world only survive on hunting and wild game.  Would you rather a family starve to death, instead of consuming the wild beasts God provided?  Would anyone deny hunting to those tiny communities in Alaska whereas a bear or a moose feeds an entire village?  Guess what?  It takes generations of teaching this skill and a lot of practice to accomplish said goal.  A person can’t just wake up one day and know what to do and the ethical practices with respect to hunting.

FB-entry-Aunt-Heather-PiperIdea of Hunting
Hunting is not about the kill, sure that is in deed what happens, but that is not the true end result.  The absolute result is about providing food for the family; good quality, natural deer meat, which is the healthiest meat to consume and not prepackaged prepared stuff sold in the grocery stores, loaded with preservatives and toxic junk.

My family not only harvests the deer, but we butcher our own meat.  The entire process straight from the woods to the skillet.  Some of the deer meat is canned, (yes it’s very tasty) some made into jerky and bologna and most of it is cut up into steaks and roasts and ground meat to be wrapped and frozen for later consumption.

I don’t judge those who take their meat to another facility to have it butchered.  Some may not know how to cut up a deer, for they were never taught.  Or they don’t have the space and equipment to do so.  The materials for this process alone are expensive and time consuming.  I am blessed because I do know how to cut up a deer and prepare it for storage, and I have the material to do so.  In fact, dad and I are pretty quick at gutting and skinning the deer in the woods and when needed, sectioning it up, especially if it’s freezing cold outside!

From there, my parents have the all the equipment to cut up the meat into steaks, roasts, ground meat, bologna etc, nothing gets wasted.  Growing up, my parents didn’t have much.  No exaggeration.  For my mom to buy box cereal was a luxury item.  However, we never went hungry and my family never asked for a hand out, and no one ever paid our way, not even the government.  Nope, instead we relied on hard work with our garden and hunting to provide food for the table.  Hunting was a means for survival, like it was designed to be.  It was never about the kill but about providing for the table.  Sure it’s also a favorite pastime and hobby, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with combining necessity and fun.

Benny-Chad-Jimmy-Scanlon-Hunting-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Cousins Benny, Chad & Jimmy Scanlon. Chad passed away from a brain tumor 9/4/94 – 5/25/07. They captured every moment they could before his passing.

Picture Taking
Getting back to the idea of taking a picture with the trophy of the hunt.  Taking a picture not only records the actions at that present, but it also captures memories and the reality of survival.  So when I post a picture of me or my nephew or whoever, with a freshly harvested deer, it’s not about showing off death and killing, but pride for being able to be a part of providing for the family.  That is a true honor, which I wish more people would be able to experience.  For if they did, others would learn to respect firearms and their food source more.  Same with gardening.  If more people solely, or mostly lived off of their hard word with gardening, there would be a greater respect for fresh food and healthy eating.

Granted, when my dad was young, picture taking was a rarity (not only because dad didn’t and still doesn’t’ know how to work a camera or phone) because of the generation.  They didn’t have social media, but they did share stories and passing around the horns of the kill instead of taking pictures.  That’s how to teach younger generations to learn what to do and what to expect, through visuals.

Did you know some kids truly don’t know where meat come from?  In some ways, we as a society are becoming to removed from reality.  It’s not healthy and damaging.

I cherish every picture I have of my brother, especially those with my dad and him in the woods, doing what they both loved, hunting.

Above is a picture of my cousins (Benny and Jimmy’s mother was Helen Piper).  The youngest in the picture is Chad Scanlon, my thirteen year old cousin who passed away from a brain tumor.  The Chad Delier Scanlon Story They tried to capture every moment of his short life.  Can you blame them?  Life happens quickly, I wish I would have captured more pictures of Ryan in the woods hunting, with or without the harvested animals.

Keeping Traditions
Hunting is a tradition, a long honored tradition in the Piper family, regardless of gender.  Everyone is treated the same, no one is snubbed in our family when it comes to hunting.  It was always a family activity, my mom, sister, brother, dad, cousins, aunts, uncles and now my nephew.  All aspects of hunting have been learned from generations before.  In fact, my one rifle was handed down from my pap, to my brother, and after his passing, to me.  Eventually, the rifle will end up in Kyle’s hands, Ryan’s son.

There is more to hunting than going out with a rifle, and plugging a deer.  Nope, first is starts with learning to load the shells, shoot, and clean and maintain the firearms.

Loading
All summer long we load our own shells with the exception of .22 bullets, and target shoot at the range.  Loading our own rifle shells is a science and is becoming a lost art.  Recently, I was made aware that not a lot of people know this practice.  Well, I do!  And Kyle does.  Dad has made it a point to pass down his knowledge of loading to us, like he did with Ryan.  It’s really important to dad to keep this tradition alive, and for that I am very grateful.  The more I learn, the more hunting means to me and I appreciate.

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Kyle at the shooting range practicing with bowling pins. 11/10/13

Learning to Shoot
Even target shooting is a real skill.  Sure, it sounds easy going out in the woods and pulling the trigger.  That’s the basis of the action, but there is so much more to it than that.  First, learning to shoot at various distances is a practiced skill.  And learning to shoot through a scope is a big difference between shooting with open sights.

Sometimes the rifle isn’t shooting straight and learning to shoot in a gun to line up the sights properly is another skill.  Yes, there are methods such as taking the rifle to get it boresighted, but that’s not always a guarantee for shooting dead on.

Then, there’s different ways to shoot, off of a guide like a bi-pod or tri-pod, or free standing.  There’s a difference between fifty yards and two hundred yards.  I myself am pretty good up to two hundred yards, at the target range.  There’s a big difference between shooting at a piece of paper with a cross-hair marked in red, and a moving one in the woods.

The woods contain a ton of obstacles including brush and weather conditions and time.  That’s the hardest part for me, waiting, quietly.  Sometimes it takes hours and hours before a deers makes its appearance, if at all.  The deer don’t just show up at a convenient location and wait around for someone to shoot either.  Nope.  They could be running, walking, either head on, walking away or moving side to side, which is ideal to shooting the deer in the front shoulder.  My dad has taught me to drop a deer with one shot, and you know what?  Every time I’ve shot a deer, I dropped it with one bullet, within a minute from the bullet exiting the barrel of my gun.  (please note, I’ve only ever shot three deer to date, and there were misses in there too).  However, it doesn’t always work out that way, even with a seasoned professional like my dad.

Sometimes bullets will ricochet off of brush or trees and cause the bullet to miss it’s intended target spot, or the target wasn’t standing in the ideal angle for a perfect kill. With every bullet fired, dad investigates the potential death of the deer, especially if it’s wounded.  Dad has always, and even in his older age, continues to track EVERY wounded deer, even if it results in miles and miles of tracking.  Dad doesn’t believe in shooting an animal to let it suffer or waste the meat.

Tacking
Even learning to track a deer can be a challenge.  Sure, it’s not so bad when it’s snowing and there is a lot of blood loss, but try it when there’s no mud trail or blood trail and possibly a lot of brush to tackle.

Respecting the Rules
Then, there’s knowing what you are shooting within seconds before pulling the trigger.  Sometimes it’s only buck season, or the rules dictate a certain number of points on the horns.   Rules?  Yes, there are formal rules maintained by the Game Commission and there are unspoken rules, ones that aren’t necessarily illegal, just respectful.  Like what?  Shooting a deer that is bedded down is not very sporting. Shooting a very young deer is not very sporting.  Leaving an animal to waste is not very sporting.  Leaving an animal to suffer on purpose is not very sporting.

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Kyle & Scooby playing on the trail cam. 1/9/11

Learning the Deer Habits
Even before a shot is fired, learning the habits of the deer should be addressed.  Usually we go hiking through the woods in the summer and or fall, preparing for hunting season, following tracks, taking note of rub marks on trees, looking for bedded down grass or weeds where they hunker down, so on and so forth.  Even when sitting during hunting season, deer don’t just jump out waving a flag.

Many times, the hunter needs to have a three hundred sixty degree awareness for all moving animals in the area.  Sometimes looking a couple hundred yards, through crooked trees and brush and branches over rocks into valleys or up hillsides, for an animal that might be creeping like a ninja.  Did I mention sometimes it’s snowing or raining or the sun is shinning in the eyes, not always perfect conditions?

Tree Stands
Tree stands are a relatively new tool used by hunters.  They were more common during archery season, but have been adapted to rifle season as well.  When I was a youngster learning to hunt in the woods, I would sit on a log or a rock.  I was also taught to hunt while walking through the woods, like my dad did for many years.  Or course, it’s a harder on my sixty-some-year-old dad to do that nowadays.  Sure, being in a tree stand does have its advantages, but not always.

Cleaning the Rifles
Throughout the year, the rifles are cleaned and maintained.  Dad has taught us all the proper way to clean and oil our guns, in a safe manner. Usually this is done late summer before hunting season, depending on how much the firearm was shot.

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Dad & Kyle at target range, shooting in rifles. 8/25/13

Family Bonding
Like dad, I too love being out in the woods, sitting in nature.  It’s very peaceful and serene.  That I chalk up to being a Piper.

Some of my favorite memories with the entire family include hunting.  Even to this day, every time we head to the woods, whether hunting or not, dad always seems to reminiscence about Ryan and their time together in the woods.  Those memories are priceless.  Even my First Day of Hunting – My Story was an adventure that still cracks me up to this day.  Not to mention all the stories I can tell about Kyle and his own hunting adventures with us.

Hunting isn’t something that started with my dad’s generation, or my pap’s generation, but generations upon generations before.  This is the means people have practiced for survival since the beginning of time. It saddens me to see these true traditions are slipping away to the unknown or criticized when they are a part of everyone’s roots, like it or not.  My dad is a true hunter, even in his older age.  He has this sense about him that can’t be taught, but is either innately built in or has been engrained over the years.  Something I haven’t seen a lot of, something I wish I possessed.

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A portion of the woods in Cortland, New York for deer season. 11/15/14

Granted, I didn’t address everything including safety, pushing deer, and all about sportsmanship.  But after going through all this, I believe taking a picture of my hard work is justifiable.  Perhaps, many people don’t like to view these images and prefer to live in ignorance with blinders on.  If the pictures are offensive, hiding the posts are in everyone’s right.  But remember, it’s all about the intent of the action, not the perceived intent, but the actual intent.  I don’t believe the pictures I’ve seen are malicious in any way, simply a picture of accomplishment.

I would never choke my way of life down anyone’s throat, never.  But I also would never speak out against something I don’t understand or have never experienced.  God made us all different so we would rely on each other and learn from one another.  (As long as what we’re doing it morally responsible)  Personally, I invite anyone that criticizes or speaks ill of hunting, that has not experience the tradition, to join me for one hunting season.  Not to shoot, but to assist me in most aspects that I’ve discussed, at least before speaking out negatively with the time honored practice.

Sure not a lot of hunters know what I have been taught, and there are a lot of hunters who give hunting a bad reputation, but the only way to change that is to maintain the true way of hunting, and to pass along the respect I have been taught to the young generations.  Happy Hunting!

On a side note, Hunting-of-a-Lifetime does a lot with kids dealing with terminal diseases.  The Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Fund sponsors a youngster every year who always wanted to hunt.  I believe the families of these kids cherish the pictures of their child with the harvested animal.

 

This is a great article with respect to hunting.

www.fox23.com_f90cd3f076f74cdb89dfb24d35c86acd

 

 

*Look for another post telling about my adventures hunting with dad in New York this past weekend.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Closing Down the Garden

We are stardust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.  ~Joni Mitchell

Dad Uncle Sonny as kids Aunt Heather Piper

Uncle Sonny & dad as kids. c. 1950s

This past weekend, among all the activities with the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt for Thrill of the Hunt and Kyle’s homework, building a fort for history class, we also managed to address the garden.

When I was younger, my parents had a huge garden.  Mom canned, A LOT, to stock up for the winter, and naturally all of us had to help out with the chore.  Did I like it?  Nope!  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I loved picking the fresh vegetables and of course eating the goodies.  I hated picking the rocks, HATED IT.  It was the most dreadful activity I had to do, besides the dishes.  I didn’t mind planting seeds or the plants.  I never minded weeding either, although I don’t remember doing much of that as a kid.  When the tomato worms made their appearance, those bulbous shaped green gross tomato killers, and they would try and devour our tomato plants, I rather enjoyed smashing them with rocks to help keep them at bay.  I guess like anything, there’s things we like and others we don’t.

Do I enjoy gardening now?  I do!  I don’t mind preparing the ground for planting, although shamefully, I make Kyle pick any rocks.  Still by far my favorite part of the garden is plucking the suckers off of the tomato plants.  You know the extra stem growing between two.  Love that job!  Then, afterwards, my fingers smell like fresh tomatoes.  LOVE IT!

We had a great run this season, God blessed us with a healthy harvest.  We had an abundance of tomatoes, which we were able to can a dozen quarts or so.  Early on in the season, I couldn’t keep up with the cucumbers and lettuce. Usually, no matter what, our squash is overwhelming, but not this year.  We did have some, mostly patty pan squash, but not like in years past.  Apparently, some sort of critter attacked the squash plants at the root, somewhat killing off the plant.  Others I talked to had the same issue.  I guess it happens.  Our giant pumpkins started to form, but died off early.  Dad’s peppers did finally take off, only producing a couple peppers the size of a half dollar.  Overall, a good harvest.

Surprising me this year, we feasted on a bunch of cantaloupe and watermelon.  Funny thing?  I didn’t plant any.  It was only later that I found out Kyle added his own touches to the garden.  That made sense since they were all planted together.  Regardless, good job buddy!

I also had Kyle and the neighbor kids plant giant sunflower seeds.  They grew!  Big!

I kept the garden going until there was a threat of frost, all the way up until this weekend I was picking tomatoes.  To not take any chances, I picked the rest of the green tomatoes on Sunday before tearing down the garden.

What are we going to do with the nearly four large bags of the green tomatoes?  I sorted some to be cut up for fried green tomatoes, the smaller ones we are going to pickle and can, and the nicer, unblemished ones are going to be placed in brown paper bags and stored in a cool dry place to ripen.  By Thanksgiving, we should have a few garden ripened tomatoes.  Not all will survive  but we should have some to join our bountiful spread.

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dad, Uncle Sonny, Jeremy & Nicole & Uncle Denny’s back. Christmas 1992

Hopefully in the next couple of weeks before deer season starts in New York, we will be proactive and prep the ground for next season.

What do we do when getting the land ready for winter?  On Sunday, we pulled up the tomato stakes, lifted the plastic (we use garden plastic to help control the weeds) and we folded up our make shift fence.  To get the garden ready for next summer, we’ll spread peat moss, sand and a big old pile of manure on the ground.  It’s better to let it set all winter.  We get my cousin Jim to plow for us if he has time before the seasons change, then disk and level the ground in the spring, but if not, he’ll do it all in the spring when he has the plow hooked up to the tracker.

Kyle was a huge help!  Seriously, a major three-hundred sixty degree change from last weekend.  Yes, he was screwing around and playing with the dogs as he worked, but he did a spectacular job!  Minimal to no complaining and he was in a good mood, no doubt the effects of the brisk sunny air and little bit of exercise.  He was a happy kid, the way I truly enjoy seeing him.  Not to mention it helped the dogs were cracking us up and running around like wild animals who were finally released from prison.

It was a good day!  Poor dad was really sick with a sinus infection, but we got the job done.  Gardening doesn’t just fill the tummy, but the soul too.  Next year I’m planning on expanding my product selection.  I have all winter to decide what additional crop we are going to enjoy next year.  Can’t wait.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Milestone,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Autumn’s Sights, Sounds & Smells

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.’ The mere imitation, however accurate of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of ‘Artist.’ ~Edgar Allan Poe

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Our ridge in the Autumn … love this drive no mater the season. 2013

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved this time of  year.  ALWAYS.  Something about the cooler, yet usually sunny weather that makes me want to move around and be active.  Even on cold dreary rainy days, I must admit, I still find it refreshing and appealing.  To me, Autumn is simply a season to fill all my senses.

Sights/Touch

The fall colors always mesmerize and draw me into their paintings.  They create an almost surreal world where mystical meets reality.

The other day I was walking through Latrobe and the wind kicked in, releasing colorful dead leaves from the branches as I was under the tree.  It was amazing!  All the leaves gently fell all around me and gathered at my feet.  Like a little kid, I did a small twirl with my face turned toward the bright blue sky with my arms stretched wide, feeling the sun and the wind.  It was a small moment, but a huge one in terms for thankfulness of experiencing such beauty.

The Laurel Highlands are so very pretty on a macro and micro level.  Whether you’re looking at the ridges from a distance with all the clumps of different bright fall colors, or starring directly into a pile of raked leaves, visually it’s intoxicating, in a good way.

Yes, the leaves and bare trees scream of death, letting us know winter is around the corner, which I’m happy about for that’s my second favorite season.  But you have to admit, the process to get us to the next cycle of life is well worth it.

Besides the leaves turning, partaking in the creepy Halloween decorations are exciting.  The ghost and ghouls and witches and bats line yard after yard, ready to creep out a kid or two is entertaining.  Again, bringing me back to my youth.

Fall festivals like Fort Ligonier Days Fort Ligonier Days Parade – Marching Down Memory Lane and pumpkin patches also scream fall and the arrival of Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Like most kids, I too carved up a pumpkin or two in my day.  In fact, that was one tradition I kept going for most of my life, expecting Kyle to take the reins.  Well, when Kyle was about three years old or so, I found out that wasn’t going to happen.

True story.  My parents and I took Kyle to the pumpkin patch to pick out, none other than pumpkins.  Kyle chose the biggest one for himself and smaller, less appealing orange squashes for me and my parents.  He’s always been a stinker like that!

I got everything ready for the carving adventure to begin, which Kyle was still on board and excited to help hack away at his very own pumpkin, that is until we began.  After I cut the top off for Kyle, I instructed him to scoop out the guts before cutting the face.  That kid sniffed the inside and took a good long look down into the innards.  Turning his nose up, he instructed me to scoop out his guts.  No way, I was working on my own pumpkin.  I did get him started before he reluctantly joined in.  Bravely following my lead he stuck his bare hand inside, to quickly remove it announcing he doesn’t like the feel of the seeds on his skin.  Are you kidding me?  Nope.  That’s our Kyle.  For a couple of years after that we got him latex gloves, yes like he was doing surgery, but if the wall of the pumpkin grazed his arm he would freak out.  Eventually, Kyle would sit while I carved the pumpkins for him, all while he dictated what I was suppose to be doing and telling me how to do it.  This proves my love for that kid!

Soon that even got old and our pumpkin carving days pretty much came to an end, something Kyle could care less about.  At one point, I had Kyle paint his pumpkin, but again that didn’t keep his interest.  So now we just decorate with plain old pumpkins.

Sounds

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Kyle picking grapes to make grape juice & grape jelly. 9/2/13

In addition to enjoying the mosaic colors of God’s impressionistic landscapes and human imagination of Halloween decorations and pumpkin carvings, I like the sounds of autumn.

Fall seems to bring with it a unique sound.  Sure the crunching of leaves under my feet certainly sets the stage for winter.  Granted, it’s not very helpful when hunting, but there’s something so therapeutic about stomping on dried up leaves.  To me it’s the same effect that bubble wrap has, it’s just fun to hear the sound of popping and the anticipation before the “explosion”.  Of course no matter what season, perhaps not a hot humid summer day, hiking through the forest is the best medicine for any ailment.  Walking in the woods is like being in my own personal telephone booth and answering a direct call from God, very spiritual when your heart and mind are open to listen.

During the fall season, even the wind vibrates differently, like it’s sounding an alarm for the coming of snow and winter.  I know the geese hear it for they too blast their own siren announcing their travels to the south.

Besides the peaceful sounds of nature, there’s the Halloween screams and horror that fill the air.  The creaky floorboards, the terror of young ones being frightened, the maneuvering through corn mazes and the sounds of tractors driving around a wagon full of hay and spectators who are also enjoying the fall season.  Exhilarating!

Smells/Tastes

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A perfect fall day on my Uncle Walter’s farm. 2013

But the best part of autumn are the smells and the foods that hold those scents!  Spices!  I’m not talking about Cajun seasonings or hot sauce.  No.  I’m talking about ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Each is a unique and wonderful aroma, but put them together you get autumn in every bite.  Naturally, I’m talking about deliciousness such as pumpkin pie, mom’s absolute favorite; spice cake, hot apple cider, sunflower seeds, mostly the action of harvesting the seeds and baking them; and apple butter.

The other day mom got a jar of apple butter and slathered it on a piece of bread.  As a youngster, I helped mom can food all the time in preparation for the long winter months.  What did we can?  Just about everything from the garden, tomatoes, beans, beets, (we do can deer meat too, and sometimes we find the deer in the garden) cucumbers for pickles, and corn.  I also helped my mom and grandma make apple butter.

Yes, I was part of the entire process from picking the apples, which I never cared for due to the bees buzzing around the rotten apples on the ground, to grinding the fruit and boiling the jars for canning.  Over the years, I’ve even enjoyed opening a fresh jar of apple butter to accompany my toast.  My brother, Ryan, LOVED apple butter.  Sometimes I would catch him eating it straight from the jar.  Forget waiting for the toaster to make toast, Ryan would sit in front of the television with a loaf of bread, not slices, an entire fresh loaf of bread and a pint size jar of apple butter.  In a matter of minutes he would fill his craving and empty stomach and polish off all the bread and the apple butter.

Apple butter is good, but nothing gets my mouth watering like homemade grape juice!  We’ve always had a grape arbor and sometimes dad would make wine out of it, now recently my cousin Mikey harvests the grapes for his wine, but when I was little we picked the grapes strictly for grape jelly and grape juice.  Making grape juice is really easy, too easy.  The hard part is the time it takes waiting for the juice to ripen for consumption.  I used to suck down juice like it was water.  (Later on did I find out that juices were my number one trigger for my serve attacks with mouth ulcers, no more juice for me)  Making grape juice was really a lot of fun, so much so I even had Kyle join in on the tradition. Smallest Moments, Mean the Most Kyle’s not really a juice type of guy, but he’ll drink the sweetness especially if he invested time in preparing it.  He also really likes our homemade grape juice.

No matter what your favorite season is, you have to admit, autumn has a little bit of something for everyone.  Our family has a lot of traditions that accompany this time of year, which makes it even more meaningful.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Truly Homemade

Only someone who is well prepared has the opportunity to improvise.  ~Ingmar Bergman

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Mom as a young’in, probably about Kyle’s age during the cracker cereal incidence. c.1950s

I think it’s safe to say, most people like homemade meals.  At least I do.  If you compare homemade to the prepackaged boxed up junk you buy in the grocery store full of preservatives, homemade is gourmet all the way.  Even some of the “homemade” items at the deli counter and on display by the bakery section doesn’t have that delicious homemade quality.  It still tastes cheap and “store bought”.  But not always.  Depending where you get your meals and depending on the item, sometimes they taste like they came straight from your mom’s kitchen.

Of course, this all is dependent on what type of meals you grew up with as a child.  If your mom or the “chef” of the household was a terrible cook or believed homemade was heating up a prepacked meal, then, you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Me?  I am very fortunate, for my mom knows her way around the kitchen.  Granted, she’s not a delicate cook with petite serving sizes nor did she ever care about visual presentation.  Nope.  Mom’s an old fashioned gal who cooks with her pallet, usually no recipes necessary.

On a side note, it baffles me with those who don’t cook, even when there’s no reason for it.  Example:  Those who purchase precooked chicken and throw it on the grill.  Why?  Raw chicken doesn’t take that much longer and it’s not hard.  You get my point.  I’m all for simplicity and for some assistance, but really?

What’s really interesting about mom, is her talent to cook for the masses.  It’s true, mom has a talent for cooking large amounts of food for any occasion.  Not everyone can handle such a challenge.

When I was in elementary school at Sacred Heart, we always had our annual booth at the Fourth of July Celebration at Legion Keener in Latrobe.  Mom was always one of the parents who made large amounts of Italian roast beef for the roast beef sandwiches we sold.  That’s just one simple example.  She doesn’t stop there, mom made all the food for each of our graduation parties, each attendance of nearly two hundred hungry celebration gatherers.  I’m not talking about purchasing food or having it catered.  Nope.  Mom made all the grub from scratch and it was awesome!  No bland generic food when mom’s in charge.

In addition to cooking for large groups, mom is a genius with making due.  I mean, not having certain ingredients to complete a dish or making it up as she goes.  Mom rocks at it!  Although, fair warning, sometimes this isn’t for the faint of heart, watching her and actually knowing what she is mixing together.  The end result is great, but getting there looks a bit sketchy.

Ok, now for the truly funny part of this story.  Last night mom and I were talking about cracker cereal.  What is cracker cereal?  Simply, it’s when you crush up Saltine crackers into milk and sometimes add a little sugar.  Yes, those crackers that are white and square and comes in a sleeve.  They usually make their appearance when someone has the stomach flu, except in our house.  We get in our kicks for the slightly salty treats every now-and-again.  My pappy LOVED Saltine crackers.  He used to pack a sleeve of them in his lunchbox everyday.  (I know because when I was staying with him, I’d wake up at 5:00 am and help him pack his lunch since my gram wouldn’t)

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Nicole eating with our cousins. Nicole front left, behind her is Tim, across from Tim is Jeremy & in front is Jeremy’s brother Chad. c.1976

To some, cracker cereal might sound gross and to others it might be a step back in time.  Either way, mom ate it as a kid and in turn as did Nicole, Ryan and myself.  Not a lot, but it was usually consumed when the shelves were bare and no other cereal was on hand.

Did the tradition of the cracker cereal continue on with Kyle?  Nope!  First I’ll admit, we are not a big cereal eating family, never really was.  I personally am not a fan of milk, therefore cereal was never my choice of breakfast.  In fact, I’d sooner eat dinner or lunch dishes for breakfast any day, and I do.  Even salads, chili and sandwiches have been consumed by me in the early morning hours, without issue.

How did this tradition die?  Mom, a.k.a. Gigi didn’t introduce it early enough with Kyle.

As mom and I reminisced yesterday, we laughed about the day cracker cereal was presented to Kyle for the first time.  As with most milestones, I was there, including this one.

Kyle was laying on the couch watching his Saturday morning cartoons, probably George Shrinks or Thomas the Tank Engine or Jakers!  The Adventures of Piggley Winks (which it wasn’t because I LOVED that cartoon and I’d remember)  Anyway, Kyle was about six years old or so.  He asked his Gigi for breakfast, which we’ve always made him his morning meal, to make sure he got a home cooked healthy breakfast.  This particular morning Kyle requested cereal.  I thought mom was going to make him eggs or something along those lines to feed the kid, since I knew there wasn’t a box of cereal in mom and dad’s house in close to a year if not longer.

Next thing I knew, here comes mom with a bowl of what looked like cereal?  That was strange, but then again, perhaps mom purchased the disguised box of pure sugar and garbage for Kyle who might have requested it on the grocery list.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some cereals I LOVE like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but there’s no real nutritional value.  As mom helped Kyle get situated to eat and watch television, I saw the contents of the bowl.  It was cracker cereal!  No sooner after I realized this, did Kyle question the white monotone material floating in the milk.  His face turned up and I started to die inside, trying not to laugh myself off of the couch.  He ask, “Gigi, Gigi, what is this?”  I’m still trying to hold back the laughter.  Mom responds with a very straight face, as if the kid is uncultured and unsophisticated for never having this type of breakfast.  The conversation went something like this:

Mom:  “It’s cracker cereal.”
Kyle:  Still making this face.  “What’s cracker cereal?”
Mom:  Still holding a straight face.  “It’s crackers smashed up in milk.  It’s good.”
Kyle:  Still making this face grabs the spoon to push around the contents of the bowl.
Me:  Dying inside!
Mom:  Trying to sweeten the deal.  “Try it, I even put some sugar on top.”
Kyle:  Intrigued by the idea of sugar, which I never allowed him to have too much of.  He sniffs the soggy crackers and proceeds to taste it, ever so gently.
Mom:  Knowing this was going to end badly, gave it another effort to convince the kid to eat it.  “It’s good.  I used to eat it all the time as a kid.”
Kyle:  Making an even worse face.  “Umm Gigi, I don’t really like it.”
Me:  Now the bouts of giggles are erupting out my throat.
Mom:  Now is excusing Kyle from having to eat the contents, yet tries reverse psychology.  “Here, give it to me.  I’ll eat it, it’s good.”
Kyle:  Never fell for the trick and gladly handed over the bowl to see if mom was indeed going to eat it.
Mom:  Not wanting to back down and to prove her point, shovels in large bites.
Me:  Gagging
Kyle:  Watched mom, didn’t care and proceeded to ask what else is there to eat.
Me:  Completely lost it and started laughing uncontrollably.  Even mom joined in on the humor.  Kyle didn’t get it.

It was seriously one of those funny moments that can never be recreated, but will be and have been talked about since.  Last night, mom and I were still cracking up hysterically over that story.  While the interaction between mom and Kyle was unfolding, I felt like the reader of a book, knowing the outcome of the story and past chapters leading up until this point and knowing what the main character (Kyle) didn’t, and that’s cracker cereal wasn’t really cereal.  It was great!

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This is a rare photo I’ve never personally witnessed, pap with hair, walking with both of his real legs (no prosthetics) without canes. Miss you pap! 11/1959

Mom still shamefully admits she introduced cracker cereal to Kyle too late in life.  She says, “If I would have had him eating it when he was really little like you kids, then he wouldn’t know no better and wouldn’t put his nose up to it.”  Believe it or not, I think that’s mom’s greatest regret, not giving Kyle cracker cereal young enough.  I’m dying!

As we were talking last night, I also brought up the salad dressing.  You see I’ve always loved salads, yes even when I was younger, especially with the vegetables fresh out of the garden.  One summer day, unbeknownst to me, salad dressings where going to change forever.

You see, we were all out of, you guessed it, salad dressing.  So mom suggested making our own.  Most people would assume making your own would involve olive oil and spices and such, nope!  Mom had me mix, ketchup, squeeze ripe tomatoes, mixed with a little salt and pepper and a dash of vinegar together.  Yep!  That was mom’s version of salad dressing with the items we had on hand.

As we talked about this, we both were cracking up, yet I can’t deny it was pretty tasty.  My version was mostly made with the freshly squeezed tomato juice, which I still do to this day.

Gigi’s a crafty one.  They don’t make ’em like her anymore, although when cooking I do find myself exuding some of her same characteristics, as does Kyle.  Look out next generation, Kyle and I are going Gigi style with cooking!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Gathering of the Olczak Family

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.  ~Leo Tolstoy

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Kyle (Katie’s dog), Katie, her mom Irene & Katie’s hubby Ryan. Lisa front & center with her son Dominic. Olczak Reunion 8/23/14

This past Saturday was the very first (at least in many, many years) Olczak family reunion.  For some, it was the highlight of the year. (My mom being one of them.)

I always talk about the Piper reunion 65 Annual Piper Reunion, now I have another family function to attend, straight from my mom’s side.  Granted, this reunion was much smaller in size compared to the Piper get togethers, but there was no shortage of GREAT food and good conversation.

This gathering was in the planning stages for quite some time now.  Between my mom, my cousin Paula and my cousin John, they’ve been organizing and charting and listing all preparations to make the day a success, and it most certainly was!  They got the ball rolling and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.  Of course, with such a great family how can you not?

This year it was held at the Planinsek Pavilion, the exact same place of the annual Fishing Derby Story & 25 Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby  We had the comforts of the pavilion as well as a bonfire.  Did I mention there was a ton of delicious food?  Yep!  Without short siding anyone, I would like to call out a few dishes.  My cousin Joe butchered one of his cows just for our fresh burgers and someone brought garden ripened tomatoes to accompany the fresh meat.  Mom made her haluski, Cooking with Kyle – Gigi’s Haluski the noodles were done from scratch.  She probably made too much, but nothing new there with Gigi.  My cousin Paula (Ryan’s godmother) made my Aunt Mary’s (her mother’s) apple strudel, which was AWESOME!

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Cousin John Klotz, his dad Pete & my mom, Elizabeth in background. Olczak Reunion 8/23/14

On a side note, once mom and I tried to duplicate the recipe and more importantly the technique, without much luck.  We did manage to stretch the dough over the edges of the kitchen table, but also manged to tear large holes throughout.  Perhaps that was the reason for our lumpy and a-symmetrical rolling results.  Granted, with anything that involves cinnamon, sugar, butter and flour, how can you ever go wrong?  It just wasn’t the same but I must say, the experience was worth it.

While talking to Paula in regards to the apple strudel, she mentioned that she added a secret ingredient, one her mother never used.  This mystery factor helps to make the dough more pliable, especially in the humidity, which it was.  Paula never divulge this information, instead she said if we wanted to learn all the variables in her recipe, then we are come to her house and help her make the apple strudel.  Good plan!  I’m in!

During the reunion I learned a lot about the unknown Olczak side of the family.  Yes, there is no denying we are indeed Polish, which was no secret, but I didn’t know grandpap Olczak (my great grandpap) had a first wife who died before marring my great grandmother.  Therefore, I have distant half cousins I never knew was family.  The same situation happened in the Piper family tree.  I have half cousins on both sides of the family.

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Closest, Linda (Joe’s wife), Jim Olczak, back his brother Joe Olczak, their sister Paula Klotz & their brother Bill Olczak. Olczak Reunion 8/23/14

John also mentioned about our cousin Jean-Luke Olczak from France.  Apparently, after one of the World Wars, his family migrated to France and there he remained.  Although his last name is now spelled differently, he traced his family back to ours and we are related.  John keeps in touch with him every once in a while and mentioned about inviting him to the reunion, but he guessed he wouldn’t have made it.  That would have been really cool!

So did anyone speak Polish?  A little.  Mom was impressing our small crowd with her Polish counting abilities as was Jim.  Although, there were some discrepancies.  I’m guessing everyone who knew Polish as youngsters is now a bit out of practice.  From what mom told me, all the kids meaning my grandpap Chester, Uncle Walter, Uncle Tex, Aunt Helen, Aunt Emily etc didn’t learn English till they went to school.  Imagine that, your first language was truly Polish!  The next generation down, my mom, my cousin Jim and Paula etc knew some Polish words to speak but could understand the elders speaking in some conversations.  Alas those days are no longer.  I wish I was taught Polish growing up, but along with the elders it too died in the family.

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Cousins playing at the Olczak Reunion. On the bike is Hailey, Giana is pushing her, to the left Kellia & Maddox & Lila.  Ryan is standing facing us. 8/23/14

I will admit, I tease about these family functions, but I do love my family, both sides.  I am one lucky gal to have great cousins and uncles and aunts.  It’s nice to sit around and shoot the breeze with family and tell stories or listen to stories either forgotten about or never heard.  Marybeth was there with Mikey (Yes, Karen’s crew is related on both sides, Jim and mom are cousins and Karen and my dad are cousins.  Piper’s are everywhere!) and she said it best.  You never need friends when you have such a large family, friends are already built in.  We all agreed!  Don’t get me wrong friends are wonderful and needed, but family is the best, especially with our group.

I look forward to hanging with the Olczak’s next year.  Maybe we can get Maryanne and her crew to come down from Seattle for the occasion.  Perhaps Nicole, Casey and Christina will break away from their busy lives and make their appearance.  John already mentioned about uncovering the Olczak family crest and getting Polish beer.  Paula was talking about raffling off a piece of Polish china.  This year mom purchased a clock with the numbers written in Polish for the door prize.  Yep, I’m guessing it’s going to get more intense year-over-year.  Cześć (Bye)

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Family,Farming & Planting,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Dog’s Perspective vs. Reality

All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love.  ~Johnny Cash

Joel,-Jill-Aunt-Heather-Piper-1980s

Me & Joel with my dog Jill. We were on the swings in our front yard. 1980s

There’s always moments in life that just plain work your nerves.  Sometimes it’s Kyle, my family, work, a trip to the grocery store etc.  This time?  The dogs!

I mostly consider myself a cat person, even though I’ve always had dogs my whole life.  I appreciate those friendly barking beings and I most certainly love our dogs, Scooby and Seven, but they can sometimes be a pain in my bottom.  Both are Labradors, Scooby blond and Seven noir.  In truth, they are a couple of good dogs and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but it would be nice to have a babysitter on speed dial, especially when their corks are heightened.

There are so many good things I can say about them and really mean it, like they are friendly (at least Scooby is with us), somewhat well-behaved (at least Seven is with me) and they are full of love (only Scooby with us, Seven loves playing with the neighbor dogs and kids).  But then they have their hiccups too, so let me vent for a moment or two or three.

I’m sure my perspective is off slightly, since I’ve also been watching Nicole’s dog, Avery.  I’ve had her for two weeks now and I still have another week to go.  At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.  I just found out Nicole may need to go out of town for work again, then after that out of the country for a month.  Guess where that leaves me?  Yep with a third dog.  When did I become the dog whisperer?  I’m going to have to add dog wrangler to my resume.

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My pap with his dog Pudge. 1970s

Avery’s a Rottweiler, pit bull, Doberman mix. (Something like that).  She’s a little over a year old, so she’s still a puppy.  A very vocal annoying puppy.  Nicole took her to be professionally trained by those who actually train dogs for the CIA and such.  Acorn (as I like to call her) knows how to listen and be good, but like all puppies (or kids) they know how to push major buttons.  Avery’s major malfunction?  She is constantly barking and whining, for no apparent reason and she chases my cat.  Major no!

I’m sure having Avery here with Seven and Scooby has caused everyone to be off his or her game.  Regardless, I’m going to speak freely about those actions that irritate me the most, mostly about Scooby and Seven.

There is the obvious, every time I go to lace up my shoes I get bombarded.  Both dogs instantly jump up, start panting and breathing heavy in my face, with their noses not even two inches from mine.  I can’t even get through their bodies to put my shoes on.  They believe every time, and I mean EVERY time I put on a pair of shoes, it’s so I can take them for a walk or a hike in the woods.  No!  I am not your personal walker!

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Seven & Storm (a.k.a. Lady Fluffington) Storm loves Seven! Seven could care less. Picking grapes…. 2013

They used to only do this when I would put on a specific pair of tennis shoes, the ones I walk them in, but somewhere they decided any shoe will do.  Then, they  jump around barking and crying in excitement, LOUDLY.  I can almost handle that, ALMOST.  Until they start knocking things over and jumping on my feet.  Let’s face it, a couple of nearly ninety pound Labs jumping in a small space leads to disaster, whether they are happy or not.  Unfortunately now-a-days, they get in my face even if I’m putting on a pair of stiletto heels.  Come on guys, I’ll let you know when it’s walk time!  Sad part?  They taught Avery to do the same!

Then, when I try to build the trust and give them some freedom to roam around outside in the yard, they all of a sudden disappear.  Even if I’m watching and simply take my eyes off of the hounds for a moment.  A SPIT SECOND!  They take off for the woods for a four or five hour plus, walkabout.  Forget it if they are spotted making their great escape.  Once they’re at a certain distance away, I swear they give me the middle finger and continue on their journey, only to find them on the porch hours later, totally muddy, panting and exhausted.

I will admit, I am relieved when they return, I’ve been through Dog Gone and Dog Gone Irony!  It’s also a great outcome upon closer inspection and they return with no signs of porcupine quills stuck in their noses or obvious injuries.  But seriously, what is wrong with them?  It’s not like they don’t get walks.  Does it have to be when they decide they want exercise?  Frustrating!

Moving on to the next pet peeve.  I like how every time I don’t have the door to the bathroom shut completely, they feel it’s their right to barge in, leaving the door hanging wide open!  Naturally, you are not able to get up and shut it at that particular moment.  So you sit there, with the door flapping in the breeze and a dog starring you squarely in the eyes and breathing in your face.  Love that!

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Scooby (blond), Seven (black) & Avery (annoying) out for a walk. The boys are old hands at it, so no need for a lease when running through the woods. 2013

While we’re on the topic of bathrooms, let’s continue.  Our dogs believe the rug in the bathroom is another bed for them to hang out on, again while you are doing your business.  Now since that is their self proclaimed, temporary bedding area, it’s always covered in dog hair, ALL THE TIME.  Then, every time I get out of the shower and my wet feet hit the area of cushion, I look down to find hairy hobbit feet where mine used to be.  Gross!  It’s not like I leave the rugs go for a month to be washed.  In fact, before I wash the hair catchers, I have to take them outside to give them a good shake first.  YIKES!

That’s the one time I can get a break from the dogs, when I’m in the shower.  They are terrified of water.  Funny, right?  Labradors who are afraid of water.  Yep, they hate baths!  They don’t even really enjoy doing their business in the rain.   Scooby will hold it until he’s ready to burst like a rain cloud, which is ironic, because my cat loves to hang out while I’m showering.  She’ll sit on the toilet (with the lid down) and stare in my direction.  She’s also the one who will go outside and walk around in the rain.  Comical!

Usually our Labradors are pretty good when it comes to their own bathroom time.  Usually, they try and go in the weeds or closer to the woods, keeping their piles of business out of direct line of my foot when I’m walking in the yard.  However, when we have to babysit my sister’s dog, who thinks it’s her right to crap next to the deck or by the front steps, things start to change.  The other day, I was getting the boat ready to go fishing Catfish Hunter and low and behold what did I step in?  Avery crap!  Which is not petite in the slightest.  I was beyond livid.  That’s the one thing that totally grosses me out and I can’t stand.

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Seven riding along in a car, he always gets the back seat, when Scooby gets the front. 2013

It’s very true I can do what every other American does and go out and clean up the crap to avoid such matters.  But then again, that’s the perk about living in the country.  We have the woods for them to do their business without clean up time and I don’t have to leash the dogs to take them for walks.  They are able to run free in the woods, which makes everyone very happy.

Going back to my previous thought, why is it when dogs actually have a good habit, it’s automatically turned to the dark side when the bad example is set by another dog?  Couldn’t the dog with the bad habit learn good?  Nope!  I guess the force is strong with Avery because when she visits, our dogs find it a need to crap closer to the house, apparently to show who has the bigger pile.

On a side note, I noticed my cat has been meowing to go outside, and now sometimes she uses the restroom near the dogs’ areas.  Nice!  I’m liking that Storm! a.k.a. Lady Fluffington.

Next item up for discussion, the kitchen.  I don’t particularly like cooking with dogs in the kitchen, not only because they always get in my way and are constantly begging, but because … well that’s usually it.  And the fact that their hair just flies through the air with the greatest of ease.  I can’t control where it lands.  Another gross!

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Scooby always takes shotgun, sometimes when someone else is in the car. 2013

How is it, when you say ‘Move!  Get out of my way?’ they instantly align perfectly centered with your body and stay a half a paw in front of you, so you’re walking on their heels?  This talent is particularly evident when I have a hot pan in my hand walking away from the oven.  Same goes for a pot that is too full and I’m rushing to the counter to only have a dog or two, instantly appear out of nowhere to trip me up.  Dangerous for all parties involved!  Stop that!

On the opposite note, my dogs insist on walking on my heels, literally.  When I’m wearing flip flops, that’s when I notice it the most.  Of course, there have been several occasions when I nearly shot myself forward due to a paw tramping down at the back of my shoe.

Personally, I never said it was acceptable to walk past me while I’m wearing shorts and lick my leg either!  Or when I’m lying on the couch and the tongue drags (usually Avery) across the bottom of my foot. Double gross!  This ambush is effective when I’m carrying groceries and I don’t have a hand to push them away, or worse wipe the spit from my leg, allowing it to just dry there as a reminder I need to jump in the shower and scrub.

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Me & Kyle washing Avery.. no this was not pre-approved by Aunt Nikki! 6/28/14

Again, I do like dogs, but I’ve never been a fan of dog kisses, licks or slobber, whatever you want to call it.  My old dog Jill, who was part Colly and part Coonhound, was the best!  Instead of lapping up my face with her tongue, she would do the gesture without ever making contact.  It was the thought that counted and I appreciated her for that.

However, when the dogs are fast asleep, they are pretty peaceful and worth it.  Especially when I’m having a bad day.  Even worth the effort to coddle Scooby when it’s storming out.  He is frightened of thunder and lighting (which is funny because that’s Scooby and Seven’s nicknames respectively) and he’s too fat to fit under the bed.  It is worth it when Seven cuddle’s up to me at night and it’s definitely worth it when I bring my sidekicks along for hikes.  Yep, I guess the dogs are alright, even Avery.  Well, Avery in small does.  They are apart of the family.

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Hard Work in Strawberry Fields

If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.  ~Conan O’Brien

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Kyle’s not smiling because of all the delicious fresh sweet strawberries we get to eat. Nope! He’s happy he’s done picking! Pollock’s Strawberry Farm Bush Valley 6/28/14

Saturday morning, we got up early to head out to Pollock’s family farm in Brush Valley to pick, none other than fresh strawberries!  It was about a half an hour to forty-five minute journey to our sun ripened destination.

Why?  Well, besides having seriously fresh strawberries, it was a unique activity for Kyle to partake in.  Not many kids ever get to see strawberry fields, let alone sit among the rows of sweet goodness to pick them ripe off of the vine.  It was a good experience.

At first it was fun and exciting.  We got up there early to avoid sitting in the hot sun, which none of us are fans.  Then, the merriment really began when we got our baskets and were led to a strawberry row, followed by instructions.  What kind of instructions?  We were to start at the top of the row, work our way down and pick half of the row on either side.  When finished, no matter if the entire line was harvested or not, we were to move our flag to the completion of our efforts.  Pretty easy.  Kyle looked on with anticipation, at least at first.

Kyle was sandwiched between mom and me.  Naturally, he was in the row beside me, while Mike was on my other side, surrounding me by those I knew.  Even better!

I’m guessing about five small strawberry plants down, Kyle informs me that I needed to pick his entire row because he was focusing on one.  The one him and his Gigi shared.  Ok buddy, whatever works for you.  This I was expecting to be honest.  No worries, I still picked half of my row by Mike and the entire row closest to Kyle.  Sitting on my knees, I scooted down with every pass getting into a rhythm.

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Mom & Kyle picking fresh strawberries at Pollock’s Strawberry Farm. Mom gave up early…I made Kyle help me. 6/28/14

Before long, my basket was full and I had Kyle run to get me another so I could finish my section.  By then, mom had long since ditched us.  Her knees were bothering her and I’m sure the direct sun overhead didn’t help my sun sensitive mother either.

By the time I was on my second basket, Kyle was simply going through the motions, not really working.  In fact, I watched him as he picked a berry or two, waited for me to push my basket down the row, then followed suit.  He was keeping up with me, just not the way I expected him to.  I can’t really tell you how many times I heard, “Aunt Heather, it’s really hot out here.” or “Aunt Heather, I’m sweating.  I don’t like to sweat.”  Anyone who knows me, knows I too am not a fan of direct sunlight, nor heat and humidity, which all accompanied us on our trip.  I shared my logic with Kyle and that was ‘The faster we work, the quicker we’ll be done and leave.’  Kyle still didn’t hold that goal near and dear to his heart, he was just plain done.

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The beginning of fresh strawberry snacks… Pollock’s Strawberry Farm, Bush Valley, Pa. 6/28/14

Soon I told Kyle, once he filled up his basket, he was done.  I even started to throw some of the red berries I picked into his basket to help him out.  What did Kyle do?  Well, he certainly didn’t step it up.  O NO!  He started to look into my basket and criticize the berries I picked, mentioning if they weren’t fully ripe or too small etc.  Yep, it took everything I had not to loose it on this pre-teen who should be able to match my energy and work efforts second for second.  At the very least strawberry pound for strawberry pound.

Once we were done, we weighed our strawberries, paid and left.  As we were standing at the car talking, down in the lower field was a coyote running at full speed.  Then, it got me thinking, I wondered how the farmers were able to keep rabbits, deer and such out of the strawberry fields?  I didn’t see any fence or natural obstruction.  I never did ask, but now I’m even more curious than ever.

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We took a detour after picking strawberries to stop at Riddle’s Bait Shop. Stocking up for fishing on Sunday on the Loyalhanna Lake. 6/28/14

We did manage to take a detour to the local bait shop before going home, to pick up some bait for a Sunday fishing expedition on Loyalhanna Lake.  It’s never a full weekend without the fishing poles making their appearance.

On a side note, while fishing on Sunday, dad snapped his fishing pole.  He purchased it with his own hard earned money at nine years old.  It was heartbreaking to see this fifty-five year old pole in pieces.  It held a lot of memories and experience.

After we came home and settled in to our cozy air-conditioned environment, mom brought up a good point.  She mentioned to Kyle how some people earn their living by doing the very same thing we did for forty-five minutes, all day long at least five to six times a week, for months at a time.  They don’t pick for the luxury of fresh strawberries, but for minimum wage, to simply provide for their families.  That’s hard work.  Those are the people who appreciate their efforts the most.

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Pollock’s Strawberry Farm in Brush Valley, Pa. Picking our own fresh sweet goodness! 6/28/14

I don’t believe anyone really knows what others go through unless the path is walked for them.  I knew Kyle didn’t quite get the point, but then again there was a small part of me that knew he did.  It’s not only good to have an appreciation for where your food source comes from, but also how it’s awarded.  Buying groceries in the store certainly looses the origin and the hard effort it takes to deliver food to the table.  Yes, it’s nice, but every once in a while, getting back to our roots is the way to maintain a sense of reality and appreciation for God’s land and people.  At least that’s what I hope Kyle gained from this experience.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Catfish Hunter

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.  ~Henry David Thoreau
Kyle LOVES to fish!  I mean that, he truly looks forward to the beginning of fishing season every year.  It starts with The Fishing Derby Story, 25th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby and then goes throughout the summer.  In all sincerity he would choose fishing over hunting any day.
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Dad fishing. Looks like it was a successful day! 1984

The funny thing is, Kyle doesn’t like and simply won’t bait his own hook, at least not with maggots, mealworms, red worms, butterworms, or chicken livers.  I have seen him hook his own line with some sort of prepackaged bait, salmon eggs and he’s a big fan of the spinner when fishing for trout.  Aside from that, he leans on me or dad to hook him up, so to speak.

Kyle also won’t unhook a freshly reeled fish.  He doesn’t like touching the slimy, slippery skin and its pointy scales and teeth.  Forget ever asking Kyle to help scale and gut the fish.  NOPE!  I’ve tried having him help me once, and I thought he was going to puke.  He did a halfway job and I had to finish thoroughly cleaning his fish for him.  He told dad next time he’ll try and help us.  I’m not holding my breath.

Kyle does enjoy the thrill a fish nibbling on the hook and the tugging of the line ever so slightly; the feeling of knowing there is a fish interested in his bait; and the possibility of a huge catch.  Everyone loves that!  He gets so excited with the exhilaration of fighting the mystery fish and then finding out the species, and of course, the size of the catch.  This information is only used for later story telling on Kyle’s behalf.  He could careless about the meat he’s bringing to the table.

Kyle also eats fish, which I am so glad!  This past weekend, my sister was home, so mom fried us up the freshly caught catfish from Saturday.   Total, we probably caught about twenty small to medium sized catfish, mixture of bullhead and channel cats.  None of them were the size you see on television, whereas they needed to be picked up by two or three people.  Nope, these were pretty manageable for a single person.  Enough for a good meal.

On Saturday morning, we got up early.  How early?  I was up around 5:30 am and I woke sleeping beauty around 6:30 am, dad was up well before me, 4:00 am.  We packed the boat and headed out to Loyalhanna Lake, getting on the water by 8:00 am.  We wanted to get out earlier and be at our spot by then, but it was raining pretty good and it took us longer to get situated.  Dad’s not as fast in his later years, not like when I was a kid.

Yes, it was raining and we still wanted to go fishing.  Dad is no stranger to fishing in any sort of weather, even if it’s a cold, bone chilling rain.  Dad is, or I used to say was, as die hard about fishing as he is hunting.  It did drizzle on us a little, but no monsoon was in the forecast.  Personally, I was fine with that, it wasn’t too cold, it was cloudy so the sun wasn’t directly hitting me and making me sick, and the bugs were kept at bay from the rain.  Win, win all around!  Like I said, perfect day to go fishing!

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Nicole’s First Holy Communion. All cousins: Front row – Casey Olczak, Ryan, Me. Back Row – Timmy Bobinchek, Jeremy Piper, Chad Piper & Nicole. Yes, that’s the tree that held my fishing pole after I was practicing how to cast. c. 1981

I’ve been fishing since I was little.  All of us fished except surprisingly, mom.  Ryan loved to fish too, often going by himself when friends and family where working or busy.

As we were casting our lines, I noticed how controlled Kyle was at the action.  I was the only one who caught a tree, but it didn’t result in a loss of hook or bait!  So no worries.

While we were sitting there fishing up a storm, I told Kyle how I used to practice casting my line all the time when I was little.  He looked at me in amazement.  It’s true, I did!  Not in water, but in the front yard.  I really enjoyed standing there and practicing the action of throwing out the line and reeling it in.  Of course, back then, mom had a white birch tree in the middle of the yard.  Somehow, I caught the tree, a few times. (sarcasm)  Yes, instead of casting away from the tree, I would stand directly in front of it and cast my line.  One time in particular, I was not able to pull my fishing pole out of the branches, so I reeled in the line and let the pole hang there, waiting for dad to get home from work.  Dad rolled his eyes resulting in the pole hanging there for quite some time. I didn’t care, I was enjoying myself.

Naturally, the first person who caught anything was dad, a nice sized catfish.  Then, Kyle and I started to get into the rhythm.  At one point, all three of us were pulling in catfish at the same time!  That made it so exciting and really a lot of fun.  We moved to a few different locations when the biting stopped, to try our chances elsewhere, before calling it a day at 2:00 pm.

While patrolling back down the tributary, dad decided he had to relieve his bladder.  I know I probably shouldn’t be talking about his but it was so funny!  Earlier, we made Kyle do so off the side of the boat, while dad and I looked the other way.  It wasn’t that easy for dad, since he’s so big and the boat is so small.  Instead, dad decided to pull up to a rock cliff and have us hold onto saplings to keep the boat parallel with the side of the hill, while he stepped out and climbed up the bank.  At first Kyle wasn’t holding onto anything while dad was stepping out.  Dad had one leg on the rocks and one in the boat, as the boat slowly started to separate from the side of the hill.  Kyle looked at me, without trying to help, like he was accepting his next statement and said, “I think this is going to end badly.”  Yes!  I started to laugh because it was kind of humorous, but then I yelled at him to grab a hold of a branch to pull the boat closer to help his pappy out.  It was quite comical!  Doring this adventure, I was hoping no one would go past, and no one did.

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Legofest 2012… I decided to be a pirate. Kyle was cracking up, yet was rolling his eyes at my silliness. Pittsburgh, Pa 2012

After putting away the bait and poles, Dad explored the other side of the lake that we never ventured down.  Let me explain, he recently got back his boat engine that was in for repairs.  Basically, dad was a boy who got back his toy.  He opened it up, let her rip, making wakes!  We felt the spray of water in our faces.  Keep in mind we were on a little fishing boat that resembled the one used from Grumpy Old Men, nothing extravagantKyle and I were giggling and hanging on the entire time, not that dad was going mock speeds, but it was just the kid in us, well maybe me and dad, since Kyle is still a kid.

It was pretty uneventful getting the boat in and out of the lake.  Except, when I went to drive the boat up on the trailer, I accidentally hit the gas pretty hard and scared myself, driving it at full speed toward the truck.  Dad must have saw the freight in my eyes and started to laugh while sitting in the driver’s seat.

While I was out on the boat, I yelled to Kyle to assist me getting the boat on the trailer straight.
Me:  Kyle direct me in.
Kyle:  What?
Me: Kyle direct me in!
Kyle:  What?
Me:  Kyle!  Tell me if I’m straight!
Kyle:  (Stood there like a statue and pointed his index finger ever so slightly in one direction)
Me: (Thinking, Whatever!)

Once the boat was safe and secure, dad commented, “I thought you were going to drive the boat into the bed of the truck.”  We got a good laugh.  You should have seen the look on Kyle’s face when I revved up the engine too hard, he gave a reaction like I was going to drive into him.   Keep in mind, he was a good yard and a half away from the action, in no immediate danger.  Afterwords, Kyle stood alongside his pap and got a good chuckle.

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Planinsek Fishing Derby, the long awaited for PRIZES! 2012

Before we left I instructed Kyle to leave his phone and his iPod behind.  You see, Kyle finds it a need to take a picture of EVERY fish he catches.  He was devastated when I told him all electronics are getting left behind.  He actually got into a slight state of panic when he realized, I meant my phone too.  He argued, “But Aunt Heather what if we have an emergency and need to call someone?  Then we are out in a boat in the middle of the water.  What do we do?”  I told him, “Believe it or not buddy, people have been fishing on water for centuries without a phone, we’ll be alright, besides we’re not out in the middle of the ocean.”  He didn’t particularity care for my comment but reluctantly went along with my logic.

Nope, no phone and I wouldn’t let Kyle take his either.  Not because I thought he was going to be sitting there talking.  Actually, on the contrary I wanted him to call his Aunt Nikki to see where she was in route, but simply because it was raining off and on and I didn’t want any phone to be ruined.  Unbeknownst to me, halfway through our fishing, I realized dad has is phone on him anyway.  Personally, it was great not checking emails, answering the phone or responding to text messages.  Just fishing.

What great quality time with the family.  Collectively, we all had fun.  Dad and I kept calling Kyle Catfish Hunter!  It was so peaceful and relaxing.  A nice lazy day in the boat with fish as my only focus.  Can’t wait to do it again!

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments
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