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Stink Bugs Do Have A Natural Enemy!

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  ~John Muir

Stink bug close up Aunt Heather PiperI’m no expert on stink bugs, but I’m certainly no stranger to them either.  The weather in western Pennsylvania has been fluctuating lately, from snowy cold days, which is normal for January, to sunny abnormally warm days reaching the 60s.  Sometimes this temperature range happens within 24-hours.

Besides unfavorable road conditions, the up and down weather is tricking the stink bugs into an early spring.  The warmth draws them out to make their appearance in droves.

Annoyed with these stinkers, literally, I was curious about them, since I don’t remember the critters from my childhood.  Evidently, the stink bug were accidentally introduced into Pennsylvania, Allentown to be exact, in the mid-1990s.  They’re native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Presently, the stink bug can be found in most states and are now posing a real problem with the fruit and vegetable farms.  The stink bugs feed on these plants as well as weeds and tree leaves.  Okay, now we’ve gone from annoying to a true issue.  Stink bugs don’t scare me as per say, but the thought of their ultimate damage doesn’t settle well with me.

Now some fun facts.  Stink bugs can lay 20 to 30 eggs, leading to developed adults within 35 to 45 days, in optimal conditions.  In the lifespan of a female stink bug, she can lay four hundred eggs.  That explains a lot.

From what I’ve read, these pests are impervious to insecticides.  Although, I’m not a fan of toxic remedies, especially when pesticides are harming the bee population.  I’m also not a fan of distributing the ecological structure of an area to deal with a single pest.  Sure, there’s more natural solutions such as soapy water, however, I don’t think that’s a reasonable solution for large farms.  What to do with the stink bugs?  I guess that’s the ultimate question.

Stinks bugs in mason jar Aunt Heather PiperI read an article on the consideration of introducing a parasitoid wasp, which is a primary predator to the stink bug, to solve the problem.  NO!  That’s not a solution.  That’s a recipe for an even bigger problem.  Instead, I have an idea.

Chickens!  Really?  Yes.  Since you can’t squash, frighten or even disturb a stink bug without it secreting its foul-smelling order, which seriously turns my stomach, I started collecting them.  Well, not in the collectible coin fashion, but rather for a food supply for my feathery friends.

Idiotic solution?  No more than using toxic chemicals and infesting the area with wasps.

Sure, stink bugs have always been a nuisance, but when they started flying into me while I slept, disrupting my sleep and freaking me out when I felt them walk across my skin, I had enough.  Using basic common sense,  I began capturing the smelly buzzing bugs in a pint size mason jar with a lid.  Originally, I started trapping them with the intent to kill the bugs behind glass doors, so to speak.  However, I realized they served a better purpose.  The chickens LOVE the stink bugs.

They do!  The chickens are now accustomed to the jar and flock toward the little protein crunchies.  It almost makes me want to find more stink bugs to deliver.

I’ve never read about chickens as a solution to stink bugs, but why not?  Now’s the time to get creative, through natural means.  Perhaps find safe traps for the stink bugs and deliver the tasty meal to some farm animal.   There could be other stink bug predators that are native to each area to use.  I don’t know if chickens could be the ultimate solution for farmers, but it might be a nice try.  This would also ensure we no longer have an egg shortage like we did a couple years ago.  Now that’s solving two problems at once, productive.

Anyone have a better solution?

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Busy Little Bees

Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist.  ~Anthony Burgess

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A little bee humor at our beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

I love our bees!  I simply find them fascinating!  What’s been going on with my newest hobby?  A lot!

At the end of July, Dad and I added the super to our bee hive.  What does that mean?  Ultimately, it means honey for us!

Our hive is two boxes high.  Those boxes contain honey strictly for the bees to keep the hive going and healthy, especially since winter is right around the corner.  Dad and I added a smaller box, called the super or sometimes the medium, to the hive, since our bottom boxes were nearly full.  Plus, let’s get real, we couldn’t wait any longer.  Before adding this addition to the hive, we placed the queen bee blocker between the boxes, so the queen can’t enter the top box and lay eggs.  She’s confined to the rest of the hive, while the worker bees, who are a lot smaller in size, can enter the top domain to make honey for our consumption.  The Piper’s honey and not the bees.  Pretty simple.

Adding the super to the bee hive 7-26-15 Aunt Heather PiperPrior to adding the super to the hive, we had to do a mite treatment.  Evidently, there are different methods for destroying the mites in the hives.  Mites, really?  Yes!  It’s a huge problem, one that is unavoidable, yet maintained.

To do this, we have a contraption that contains a metal plate and two electrical cords.  I added two scoops (one for each box) of this fine powder material to the metal plate.  This treatment is actually wood bleach, better known as oxalic acid.  Seriously?  Yep.  Then, we took the plate and hooked it up to a car battery to give it a charge.  Really?  True!  The plate heats up and creates a smoke that’s not toxic to the bees but kills the mites.  The procedure only takes about two minutes for the actual smoking process, and about fifteen minutes to allow the smoke to settle.  This process is repeated a few days later, about a week before a super is added to the hive.  Do the bees like it?  Not at all!

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Beekeepers come in all sizes, even young. Great beekeepers picnic & meeting. 8/9/15

The first time we treated the bees for mites, Kyle assisted.  We waited till nightfall, to ensure the bees were snug in their beds.  Dad and I dressed in full suit, while Kyle argued and said, he wasn’t entering the hive area, and that he’ll be fine.  We needed him to help time the process.  However, what Kyle didn’t realize, was bees don’t stay in a certain area, they’ll fly ten feet from the hive and certainly the five foot distance from were Kyle was standing.

On a side note, it’s pretty difficult moving around in the pitch black, wearing bee suits with a black mess intercepting our vision and leather gloves.  I’m just saying.

As with everything in life, we learn valuable lessons through experience, some faster lessons than others.  Dad and I didn’t smoke the bees first to calm them down, assuming the treatment wouldn’t be so negatively received.  Well it was!  As Dad and I stood there, the bees were actually hitting us, bouncing their bodies off of ours.  We didn’t get stung, but it felt like someone was throwing tiny rocks at us.  This chest bumping is a warning from the bees saying “I’m going to sting you if you don’t back off, I’m not happy.”  Next thing I heard was Kyle screaming, “Ooouch!”  and he took of running down the hill.  He even dropped his precious iPhone 6 were he once stood.  I’ve never seen that kid move so fast, not that I was able to really see him, but I can only imagine.  Dad and I thought he was being attached by a herd of bees.  Was he?  No!

Bee mite Treatment 7-17-15 Aunt Heather Piper

After things settled down and we completed our mission, we returned to the house.  I asked Kyle if he was alright and how bad was the attack.  Kyle pointed to a single spot on his arm.  I about died laughing.  Not because he was stung, I agree that hurts and that doesn’t make for a good day, but because he sounded like he was being mulled by our flying friends.  Even Dad joined in on the humor and all that fuss for a single sting.  Of course, if I was in his shoes, the fear of not being able to see and not knowing what to expect, would have been the worst part.  Then, naturally we added, “Why didn’t you wear the extra bee suit?” and “I guess you wished you were wearing the bee suit.”  Kyle simply snickered and ignored our teasing of the truth.  Originally Kyle argued and claimed he’d be fine without the suit.  I guess he was wrong.  I did tease him and mention, “Is that what it takes to get you off of your phone?”  Kyle only responded with a grunt.

Beekeeper Meeting Twitter feed 8-9-15 Aunt Heather Piper

What really happened, was Kyle freaked out over a single bee that landed on his arm and he swotted at it, resulting in a sting.  I’m guessing the bees weren’t even concerned with him in the slightest.  I told Kyle, “You shouldn’t have swotted at the bee.  Leave them alone and they won’t hurt you.”  Granted, that’s a general rule, but truly one worth trying.  The honey bees are pretty docile and don’t go attacking for no reason.  Again, this isn’t a one-hundred percent guarantee.

Do we have honey yet?  Alas, no.  We just checked recently, but they’re beginning to make the honey combs!

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At the beekeepers picnic / meeting in Stahlstown. To the left with her back towards us is my cousin Pat Piper. 8/9/15

Last weekend, I was able to discuss our bee experiences with others of like interest.  I was able to attend my first bee keepers meeting. This one happened to also be a picnic on the president of our organization’s farm.  What a great day!  They taught us about all things bees, the topic of this meeting was harvesting queen bees.  A subject I have no interest in, at least not at this stage of my beekeeping experience, but information worth noting.  They also gave a few life hacks and supplied information on wild flowers.  Dad was right when he said, “They’re all above our level of understanding and experience.”  However, everyone is really great and helpful.  These group of people are a wonderful resource.  Thanks to my cousin Pete (David) Piper, who got us into bees and supplied us with our first hive, we’re able to hang with him and his wife Pat at the meetings and discuss bees alongside others.

Kyle joined us at the picnic, but I don’t think he has an interest in bees.  Maybe later in life, or when his iPhone dies.

As you might imagine, the bee community is close-knit.  Recently, we received an email stating a bee keeper from Stahlstown was getting out of the bee business and was selling all his equipment and supplies.  Naturally, every bee keeper in the area swarmed to his house and raided his stock.  Dad and I were no exception.  Why not?  It’s a way to build a back log of needed material at a low investment.  We scored an electric bee extractor and bunch of boxes and inserts and even some plastic containers to bottle the honey.  Not only is obtaining these pieces valuable because they’re at a great price, but talking to an expert helps us learn.  He was a great guy who offered us a lot of advice.

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Wild flowers that bees LOVE! It’s good know this stuff! Beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

While speaking to this gentleman, who I know will miss his bees, I made him do a double take.  We were talking about wearing our bee suits, (he only ever wore his mask) and the number of times he was stung.  I mentioned that I’m allergic to bees so I always wear my bee suit.  He almost fell over with surprise.  Relax, I have yet to go into anaphylactic shock!

I know my garden is really flourishing and our fruit trees are producing so well because of our bees.  They’re a much needed asset to our existence, and they’re a truly interesting hobby.  I can’t wait till we get our very own swarm!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Turkey On The Run

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

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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

Getting A Handle On the Teenage Years

I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.  ~J.D. Salinger

Uncle-George-Gram-1980s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Uncle George, Gram & (not sure) 1980s

Evey time I catch myself huffing and puffing over Kyle’s behavior, or worse his attitude, everyone tells me he’s a typical teenager.  I guess so, but does that mean I have to tolerate it?  Perhaps I expect too much from him, maybe more than I should.  I just want Kyle to be a respectful, hardworking (non-lazy) young man who’s moral compass points North.  I’m not asking a lot.  (I’m quietly laughing to myself.)

Monday was a bit of a rough day with the focus being Gram’s funeral.  It’s true, Kyle didn’t fight me on his attire.  He wore dress slacks, nice brown shoes and his navy woven top with clusters of anchors.  The very same outfit he sported on his cruise.  He looked nice and appropriate, and he didn’t argue when it was time to get ready.  He was off to a good start.

However, during the visitation, Kyle sat in a corner and wouldn’t get up to acknowledged the visitors and accept condolences.  Okay, maybe that was asking way too much from a thirteen year old, soon to be fourteen.  Personally, I found it rude, especially when others made it a point to talk to Kyle and include him in the conversation.  Kyle’s response?  He did smile occasionally but barely look up from his seat.  I addressed that immediately.  “Get your butt up when someone is talking to you and shake his or her hand.”  I guess that’s also a maturity thing, as well as learned behavior.  Everything considered, Kyle was pretty good.

On a side note, there was no casket, which I didn’t understand.  I asked Kyle to walk around and find Gram because “The guest of honor has to be here somewhere.” as I so plainly stated.  Kyle snickered at first, and then gave me a horrifying look.  Feeling a bit awkward with my request, Kyle tried to ignore me and continued starring at the floor while sitting in his seat, playing his video game periodically.  Letting Kyle off the hook for my unusual request, I went seeking the answer myself.   What I didn’t know, was Gram chose to be cremated and then buried by my Pap.  A bit of information that would have gone a long way with me before walking into the funeral home.  That took me completely off guard, and the fact that we weren’t going to the cemetery, which is very unlike Piper funerals, really threw me for a loop.

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Dad & Uncle Sonny building Gram & Pap’s house on the ridge. c. 1953

Then, while at the brunch after the funeral services, Kyle sat on his iPhone and played video games.  At one point he left the American Legion, which is where we met in Latrobe, to sit on the Legion’s front steps to either text, play video games or whatever he was doing on his iPhone.  I was so embarrassed.  Seriously?  Good friend’s of the family, and relatives wanted to talk to Kyle and try and get to know this mystery man they never get to see.  Kyle was quiet and almost distant.  What was his problem?  Again, I knew it was a rough day of funeral services, but still.

On Saturday, two days before the funeral, I stopped down to mom and dad’s house.  I pulled in the driveway to find my dad, who is in his sixties, outside in the dead of the heat, splitting and stacking wood, by himself.  Upon entering the house, I found my sister and nephew playing a board game sitting in the air-conditioning.  I think it was great Kyle was off his video games and spending time with my sister, but come on, help an old man out!  Naturally, my sister yelled at me and very tactfully stated they were playing a game and I was to “Shut Up!” as my sister so respectfully demands.  Now that doesn’t help Kyle’s attitude or his unwillingness to do actual work and get off his phone.  I was floored.  That’s no way to teach a young man to respect his family, very poor example, but moving on.

This past Tuesday, Kyle actually agreed to help me and dad build the chicken run.  Really?  He did!  He was almost enthused about it.  That is until we started working.

We needed an area for the chickens to run around outside, while being safely enclosed, so critters don’t have an opportunity to eat chicken for dinner.  Sure, it wasn’t easy digging holes to set the posts, hammering boards together for the door, and tacking the chicken wire fence in place, etc.  It was a beautiful day, but very sunny and HOT.  We worked from 9:30 am till about 7:00 pm.

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Gram, Aunt Kaye, her husband John, Uncle George, his wife Rhea. 1990s

I’ll give Kyle kudos, he was trying, but I could also tell he’s out of shape and was having a tough time.  Then, the attitude made its appearance.  What’s better is when dad or myself calls Kyle out on it.  Kyle will actually challenge us with a stare down and blatantly deny his attitude and insists, “What?  What did I do?  I didn’t do anything!” (And repeat that over and over again even after we told him what he did)  When we all know, including Kyle about his attitude.  He wasn’t terrible on Tuesday, but that snotty behavior is working my nerves big time.  He treats me like I’m his parent, which is funny because I’ve always played that role with him.  Maybe I should take it as a compliment.

About midway during the day, when we were about halfway done with the project, we decided to stop and refuel before continuing.  While eating lunch, I heard the shower running.  What?

Me:  “Kyle, why do I hear the shower?”
Kyle:  “Because I’m going to take a shower and go home.”
Me:  “What?  No you’re not.  You purposely work as slowly as you could this morning, to stretch out the work, and you think you’re going to abandon us?  Without saying a word?  Then, you think I’m going to stop what I’m doing to take you to your mom’s house?  Seriously?”
Kyle:  crickets…
Me:  “No, you said you’d help.  You need to finish what you started.”
Kyle:  Huffs as he walks away and turns off the shower.

He did help us, and as soon as we gave him an easy project, tacking the wire fence to the door, Kyle’s mood changed.  I could tell he was proud of the work he put into the chicken run and felt a sense of accomplishment.  Granted, Kyle didn’t stick around to help clean up, but I did ask him to pick up two quarts jars and a pint jar (used for drinking water) laying in the grass.  What did Kyle grab?  One quart jar and one pint jar.  Did I let him get away with that?  Nope!  This kid needs to be held accountable for his behavior and learn to follow direction, even for something as simple as collecting the jars.  Again, I addressed this with Kyle and he headed back up to the yard to retrieve the other jar, while rolling his eyes slightly and pouting along the way.

Please note, it’s not like we ask Kyle to do much.  In fact, he does very little around the house.  We’re always offering to take him fishing, and we build fires and make mountain pies and s’mores.  Supposedly, we’re going fishing this weekend, I hope Kyle doesn’t blow us off again.  It really upsets my dad, and after loosing his mother last week, dad needs a good day of fishing without an attitude.

On another side note, the quote above cracked me up, thinking about the Catcher In the Rye!  I loved that book!

Below is a screen shot from Gram’s obituary.

Grams Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Video Games & Games 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.

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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

Cheyenne-Piper-&-Kyle-at-Bethel-Church-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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:

Aunt-Heather-Piper-baking-in-Pittsburgh-Apartment-1995

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.)

Dad-U-Sonny-Jeremy-Nicole-92-Christmas-Party-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

Who Am I?

Before I begin, I’d like to preface this blog with a few details, not to steer you in one direction or another, or prematurely give away the subject matter.  Typically, the focus of this blog is referred to in the feminine form, and it’s been portrayed as a villain in comics and movies.  Now let’s begin.

I can be found in North America and Asia but I’m not fond of the desert or arid areas, or ones of high altitude.  I’m all in favor of higher carbon dioxide levels and over the years my population has increased, doubling since the 1960’s.

I really have no boundaries.  Sometimes I can be found in the suburbs in your backyards or rural and remote areas.  I’m subtle in my appearance, no flashy colors to signify my potential wrath.  In fact, I blend in quite nicely in my surroundings and I can change colors, again to blend into my background, disguising me even more.

I don’t discriminate, my reach can effect the old and young, male or female.  All are equal in my eyes.

Normally, when playing such a game, the guesser, gets to ask if it’s a person, place, or thing.
Hint:  It’s a thing.  I hope that doesn’t spoil the fun too much.  Moving on.

I’m somewhat shade tolerant but prefer the sunlight.  I’m recognized more when I choose the company of trees, as opposed to my other forms.  I’m smooth and shiny on the surface with a woody stem, void of any thorns or indicators of what I can do.

Hint:  Yes, I am a plant!

Unbeknownst to some, I don’t have a defensive mechanism.  What is assumed as me fighting back, is really a means to help me retain water.  I don’t intentionally try to be mean, it’s simply nature.

Besides some insects, birds, deer and bear, who eat my seeds and berries, I’m very unwelcome.  Although there is a rare, and very lucky fifteen to thirty percent of the human population who doesn’t have an issue with me, nor I them.  However, that can change over time, as one ages or changes environments.

Any ideas?

I leave my invisible presence, urushiol, on everything I come in contact with and it can remain for several years, reintroducing my legacy, even in the winter.

Now one of the biggest clues …

I’m recognized by my leaves of three.  I have a couple names, one being oxicodendron radicans, but I’m commonly know by another.  And despite my widely used name, I’m not a hedera.

I think those clues are substantial enough for an educated guess.  And those who have come in contact with this subject matter might have a few more choice words for this plant.

Who am I?

Yes, poison ivy!  With my recent run-ins with this silent irritant, I’m trying to make light of it.  Although, with every exposure, my allergic reaction is getting worse.  This time, I have blisters on top of blisters, on top of blisters, between my fingers, down to the webbing.  My hands are so swollen and irritated, it’s hard to bend my fingers.  I have Mickey Mouse hands!  Naturally, that’s not the only place the reaction has appeared, although I can handle it on my arms, neck, legs and stomach, even in my belly button!  A small amount made its appearance on my left eye and eyebrow, nose, ears, and upper lip.  I can even handle the skin irritation behind my knees, but my hands actually hurt from the pressure and every time I bump my hand against a corner, pain.

Where did I get it?  No clue, at least not this time.  My first run-in with my nemeses of the season was basically intentional.  I knew fully well of my actions.  You see, I wanted to plant an asparagus garden at my parent’s house.  The best plot of land was among a group of locus trees, covered in … poison ivy.  Dad killed most of the poison ivy on the trees, but to be sure, I wanted to get this plant at its heart, or more accurately it roots.

Protecting myself in clothing from head to toe, I ripped up the poison ivy from the roots.  Yes, I made sure to prewash in cold water and shower in cold water, with harsh soap, and I scrubbed my skin till it was raw.  I washed my cloths several times.  I even began taking a liquid poison ivy to build my immune system.  You name it, I took precaution.  Did I get it?  Of course, but not terribly bad.  Manageable.

This time, I have no clue of my encounter with the poison ivy.  To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t been around the nasty plant.  I haven’t even been in my asparagus garden!  It seems like all I simply need to be, is within feet from the silent creeper to find its affects a few days later.

Hopefully, this cycle will not continue all summer long.  But I guess there’s worse things in life, and I’ve yet to go into anaphylaxis.  Although I just got word that we are in deed getting honey bees.  My cousin Pete is getting a hive ready.  Did I mention I’m allergic to yellow jackets?  I guess I’ll find out if it’s the same with honey bees.

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

Alert! A Turkey Escaped!

I have failed at many things, but I have never been afraid.  ~Nadine Gordimer

Kyle-&-Aunt-Nikki-on-Ducky-Tour-Washington-DC-6-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & Aunt Nikki on the Ducky Tour of Washington D.C. 6/2010

Lately, our turkeys have become the topic of conversation.  Rightfully so.  It’s not every day someone decides to purchase peeps, build a substantial turkey coop, and raise their very own Thanksgiving meal.  Well, the Piper household took on the challenge.

How are the turkeys?  They’re doing great!  They love their new home, at least that’s what I thought, but perhaps one bird wasn’t so happy.  On Sunday, Kyle checked in on our feathery friends.  I watched him from a distance feed and water the mid-sized creatures.  It happened so quickly, it took my mind a minute to comprehend.  Somehow a turkey got past Kyle and made a break for it.  Considering there’s a single door leading in and exciting the turkey coop, how did a bird get past Kyle who happened to be in the doorway?  Watching the scene with my own two eyes, I still have no clue.  Only Kyle!

So it went something like this.  A bird darted out the front door, even though it was more like a stroll, but I’ll give Kyle the benefit of the doubt since I wasn’t in the coop at the time of the incidence, and I didn’t see if the bird actually sprinted or walked.  Kyle turned around to hear us announce a bird got loose.  The feathery animal trotted around the turkey coop, not running, not flying, not hiding, but simply strutted.

I’ll give Kyle credit, the first thing he did was close the door and lock it, so our now free range turkey wouldn’t get any visitors or spark a riot.  But what Kyle did next just amazed me.  He took a couple of steps toward the wondering bird, stopped, turned around and moved in the opposite direction.  Why?  He wanted to put his gloves on.  Why?  I have no clue, it’s not like the turkey was made of barbed wire or anything.  It’s not even a fully grown turkey!

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Scooby & Seven running around my Uncle Walter’s field. 2013

Okay, now that Kyle’s hands were protected from the killer animal covered in white soft fluffy features, my thinking was that he could scoop up the bird and return him to his home, right?  Nope!  Kyle swiftly walked up behind the strutting bird, bent down in a motion to pick it up, then threw up his hands and stopped dead in his tracks.  Was there a force field protecting the bird?  Did God just speak to Kyle?  I was sitting about a hundred yards from the live action, on the swing on my parent’s deck wondering what just happened.  I couldn’t believe it!  Kyle could have very simply captured the turkey and put this to rest, but he didn’t!  He wouldn’t touch it, even with gloves on!  I was stunned!  Well, after that close encounter, the bird took off running realizing the danger in the form of a thirteen year old boy.  Now the chase was on.

After coming to terms with reality and realizing the type of turkey wrangler, or lack there of, I was dealing with, I got off my butt to do the job myself.  I get it, accidents happen, but geez all it took was Kyle to wrap his glove covered hands around the small creature, picked it up, and walked it four or five feet to the doorstep and push it back in.  No major weight lifting required, no rabbit animal, and no special tools or skills needed.  Now we had a scared bird on the loose that was trying to fly and hide.

The turkey coop sits at the edge of the woods, perfect camouflage.  By the time I ran up the hill, that’s exactly where the turkey was headed.  Perhaps he wanted to be like his ancestors and run wild and free among the trees, or he did indeed have an escape plan.  Well, to add another challenge to the scenario, our beloved and not so obedient dogs tagged along by my side.   Seven and Avery listened pretty well, but not Scooby!  He nipped at the flying features and drove the bird deeper into the woods, ending up in a serious pile of jagged brush.  What now?

Keep in mind, Kyle was wearing jeans, a tee shirt and flip flops.  I on the other hand was wearing shorts, a tee shirt, flip flops and my body (mostly my upper legs, forearms and little bits of my back and stomach) was covered in poison ivy.  Not exactly attire appropriate for trucking through the woods in a hostile environment.  Regardless, I knew I was willing to risk bodily injury to bring the bird home.  Well, that was my thinking for that brief moment.

Kyle-&-Avery-watching-TV-4-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & Avery watching TV … cuddling. 4/2015

I tramped down my obstacles and moved my way closer to the escapee.  Although, the turkey also kept moving forward, just out of arms reach.  Finally, I trapped the bird deeper in the huge pile of brush, which was seriously entangled with pointy projectiles.  Thinking I outsmarted the turkey, I recovered a long branch to nudge it along.  The plan?  To poke the bird and keep it moving in one direction, toward Kyle and my mom who were waiting on the opposite side out in the open.  Keep in mind, my mom was armed with a long handled fishing net, also wearing flip flops.  Seriously?  Oh, YES!  What a sight!

Did it work?  NO!  The bird laid down and remained so, even with me poking at its side.  Stubborn bird!  I did what I could until my poison ivy was ripped open so much that my legs and arms felt like they were on fire.  I even asked Kyle to put on a pair of boots and come and get the bird.  He refused!  After realizing dad was sitting on the swing, not helping in any way, I gave up.  I was the only one really doing anything and I was the one cut up and bleeding.

What next?  I told Kyle to get the bird as I walked away from the action.  What did my dad have to say?  He yelled at me!  Really?  Oh YES!  He accused me of not doing anything and letting the bird get away.  Seriously?  YES!  I was beyond mad.  I was the only one doing anything.  Before the argument heated up to match the ripped open poison ivy and scratches all over my legs,  I left the scene.  What did Kyle do?  He also retreated and sat and played video games on his phone.  Not cool.  That’s a problem.  He was the cause of this situation.  Granted, it was truly an accident, but it alarmed me to see that he so very easily dismissed it, and now it became someone else’s problem.  I’m going to have to work with him on that.

Well, the bird worked its way deeper into the brush until we couldn’t see it anymore.  We waited around for it to make its appearance, but alas it remained transfixed.

Thinking the bird wouldn’t survive the night, and it would become a turkey dinner for the local coyotes or another wild creature, I accepted its fate.  Now, fast forward to this past Tuesday, two days later.  We got a call in the middle of the day from the neighbor.  They had our turkey!  Are you kidding me?  Nope!  Apparently, the bird wondered across the street, survived the local dogs and our dogs, and all wildlife to make it into their hands.  That’s impressive!

I’m happy to say the turkey was returned safe and sound, and will be until Thanksgiving.  What an adventure!

Does Kyle know?  I texted him.  His response?  Nothing.  He probably forgot all about it, or dismissed it as it wasn’t his problem, even though I know he felt bad about the escapee.  I guess there are worse things in life.  But I did make a note to give Kyle a lesson on picking up a turkey, naturally in a controlled environment, to get a feel for it and to not be afraid.

P.S. It’s ironic I used to call Kyle my turkey and sometimes turkey jerky.

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

Moving Day, the Turkeys Have a New Home!

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it.  ~Edith Wharton

Start-of-Turkey-Coop-with-dogs-4-11-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Let the construction of the turkey coop begin! Dad was consulting with Avery, Scooby & Seven.  They were excited!   4/11/15

Since we decided to raise chickens and turkeys this year, we needed a place to house the birds.  My dad had a smoke shed, which we converted into a chicken coop, easy.  However, the turkeys needed a place to call their own, equals building of a turkey coop, and fast to accommodate the rapidly growing birds.  Needless to say, the big project of this spring was the construction of the turkey coop.

Did we go to the store to purchase wood?  Not the Piper’s!  Dad utilized the few trees that previously fell in the woods near his house, and sharpened the chainsaw blades to take down a few more trees.  We called on my cousin Mikey to drag the logs out, and Mikey and his dad cut the boards for us.

Now building time!  Dad and I didn’t start construction right away.  We waited for Kyle to assist, knowing he’d enjoy the activity and wanted to participate in the building process.  Except, every time we planned on working on the building, Kyle made other plans or the weather didn’t cooperate.  Feeling pressured from the turkeys, dad and I began the project without our number one handyman.

Before-Turkey-Coop-4-11-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

The planning stage of the turkey coop. Dad was ready! 4/11/15

Personally, it broke my heart to work on the turkey coop without Kyle.  I knew he would’ve loved building it, and it would’ve been a great experience for him to spend quality time with his pap, not to mention the learning value.  But I guess Kyle’s priorities are not with us at this time.  So it was just dad and myself, the dynamic duo.

For the most part the erection of the structure went smoothly, no major incidences and no injuries, always a plus.  Dad had it in his head before starting the project that it could be completed in a single day.  Really?  That’s what he said, but dad didn’t take into consideration his age and endurance, or lack there of.  When we worked on the building, it was only for a few hours at a clip, not from morning till night like I would have preferred.  No biggie, it simply took us a few days to finish as opposed to a single day.

Turkey-Coop-Floor-Underway-&-Avery-4-11-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

The turkey coop floor. 8′ x 10′ building. 4/11/15

Kyle did help with the roof.  It took some coaxing to get him off his phone and off the couch, and let’s not discuss the argument about wearing a shirt and shoes.  Once he surrounded himself in the construction materials, with a hammer in hand, and instructions given, Kyle became genuinely enthused.  Truly!  He even got up on the ladder to nail in a few boards.  Reluctantly, I might I add, he climbed onto the roof and helped me nail a few boards in place so we had a small platform to work from.  He was a little weak at the knees being up high, only about eight feet from the ground, but he braved his environment.  Granted, it was a new experience for Kyle, for he’s never done anything like this before.  Regardless, Kyle overcame his uneasiness and helped me hammer the boards until it started raining.

Before the rain hit, I stopped production to measure the void in the roof, to know exactly how much was needed to complete the area.  I measured about forty-seven inches (nearly four feet).  I handed Kyle a pencil, hinting to write that number down and to start subtracting till we had a pile of boards to fill the gap.  I measured the boards on the ground to ensure the length was appropriate, about twelve feet long, before spouting out widths for Kyle to subtract.  At first, Kyle gave me an inquisitive look and then starred at the pencil in confusion.  If it was me, I would have used the pencil and a board to do my calculations.  I guess that method is too old fashioned for my teenager.  Once Kyle realized what I was trying to accomplish, he enthusiastically pulled out his iPhone and used the calculator function.  Brilliant!  Even though it’s good practice to maintain those basic math skills, but I wasn’t arguing.  I wanted to put this project to rest.

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Dad taking a break after we finished the floor and the corners of the turkey coop. 4/11/15

It’s a guarantee that any story involving Kyle and myself contains a comical aspect or two, especially if you add my dad to the mix.  We’re like the perfect Piper storm.  I can’t do this story justice without addressing Kyle’s working attire.  He did manage to cover his bare chest with a tee shirt.  However, the rest of his outfit wasn’t exactly conducive to construction work, especially on a roof with rough wood.  Instead of wearing his boots, he chose my mom’s winter booties.  No joke!  Why?  If I had to take a guess, it was because they were slip on boots with no laces.  Of course, why should that matter when he was wearing shiny basketball shorts.  I bet his bare knees felt good dragging across the wood boards.  Either way, Kyle helped with enthusiasm and no whining.  That’s a big plus!

Now the true funny, and slightly frustrating part of the adventure.  Once I got a few boards stabilized, I showed Kyle were to nail, to follow the seams to the opposite end.  Not paying attention while I was adding boards and nailing them into place, Kyle was hammering like a made man.  His hammering technique went something like this, a hit to the nail head, then followed by a few misses, to be proceeded by a hit.  This rhythm continued for the duration of his labors.  Although, I did appreciate his efforts, but what I mostly enjoyed was spending constructive time with my nephew.

At one point, Kyle freaked out, “Aunt Heather!  I saw a spark!”  Laughing, I responded, “What do you think happens when metal hits metal?  You must’ve been swinging hard to create sparks!”  Kyle smiled and seemed pleased with himself and continued pounding even harder, that is until dad halted production.

Finished-Turkey-Coop-4-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

That’s a wrap! turkey coop construction is completed! Turkeys have a new home. 4/2015

“Look at all the nails sticking out!”  What?  Dad was inside the turkey coop looking up at our handy work.  Before I understood what he was talking about, dad began counting, “One, two, three, FOUR!  FIVE! SIX! SEVEN!  Heather!  There’s SEVEN, EIGHT nails sticking out.  Who’s missing the two by fours?”  It took me a few minutes to realize what he was talking about.  Evidently, the nails weren’t making contact with the rafters, resulting in unsecured boards on the roof and nails sticking out of the ceiling like a torture chamber.  The light bulb suddenly came on as I looked in Kyle’s direction.  My brain was able to put two and two together.  Kyle was working hard, no doubt, however, he wasn’t accomplishing anything.  He started off good, but grew sloppy.  Instead of following the seam and making a straight line with his nails to adhere to the two by fours under the boards, he was simply hammering, sporadically.  What started out as a straight line took a hard right curve to practically end up between two, two by fours.

Almost frustrated, yet finding humor in my little man, I showed him how he strayed.  Dad yelled up to Kyle, “Buddy, if it’s not hard to drive the nail all the way in, then you’re probably not hitting the two by four and you need to move your nail over slightly.”  Kyle’s response, which almost made me fall off the roof laughing, “I thought it was all hard hammering.”  He said those words with complete sincerity.  My little gamer was experience manual labor and physically feeling it.

Did dad really care about the missed nails?  Not in the slightest, he very much enjoyed doing something with Kyle that didn’t involve electronics and his participation as a family member.

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Turkeys have a new home! 4/2015

Once I got Kyle straightened out, pun intended, I heard him comment, “Boy Aunt Heather this is hard work.  I don’t think I’d make a good construction worker.”  Yes, it is hard work but one I’m very thankful that Kyle has the opportunity to experience.  He’s right though, I don’t think construction work is his calling!  At least Kyle’s a realist, like his Aunt Heather.

Not a lot of people know how to begin to build such a structure, let alone could tackle the job.  I hope Kyle learned something from working with us.  That valuable knowledge will be forever engrained in him, like the roots he was born into.

One more funny.  While I was hammering in the floor, I hit and nail and bent it.  Naturally, I continued hamming it into the floor to get it as flush as possible.  That was the only nail I bent during the entire project.  Did you know, dad kept commenting on that one single nail?  Our of nowhere, he’d say, “These turkeys are going to have to be careful not to trip on that nail.” and “I hope our turkeys don’t get snagged on your nail” and “You already put a place for them to roost.”  It was never ending!  But pretty funny.

I’m happy to announce the turkey coop is finished and is still standing.  During construction, I kept teasing dad about his fine craftsmanship (sarcasm) and he kept reminding me that I was the one who measured everything.  To be honest, when we started out, the foundation was perfectly squared and leveled, thanks to yours truly.  But something did go awry during the building process.  It all worked out in the end.   Our eight foot, by ten foot, by eight foot height structure welcomed its new residences about two weeks ago.  To counter act the cold nights, we placed a few heat lamps and straw inside.  The turkeys seemed pretty happy.

Okay, another funny.  While I was pounding nails to build up the walls, dad was showing me how to draw the boards in tight.  He said, “Here, use my hammer, it’s better.”  You know what?  It was better!  It had a good weight and really drove those nails into the wood.  So every time dad asked for HIS hammer, I would hold onto it and point the hammer toward the sky and yell, “The Hammer!”, like I was Thor.  It cracked me up.  Dad…not so much.

While working with dad, he began to reminiscence occasionally, mostly about Ryan.  Personally, I love hearing the stories that I wasn’t aware of or I’ve forgotten.  It feels good to talk about Ryan.  We all miss him terribly.  Dad commented that he built the smoke shed in about a day or two all by himself.  He said, “Ryan wouldn’t help me build it.  He was mad at me for some reason, I don’t remember for what.”  That was so sad, but it’s called life.  It also shows how tight we really are, that dad didn’t remember the argument, only fondly remembers Ryan.  And Ryan would have been the first person in line to help dad out, for those two were buds.

Take my advice to reconnect with the family and do a major project together.  It is really worth the time and energy!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing 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

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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

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)

Nicole-Chad-Jeremy-Tim-Aunt-Heather-Piper 1976

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

Patron the Local Business & Show Appreciation

Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere.  ~Paul Ryan

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Me & Kyle at the Latrobe Banana Split Festival … showing our local support! Thrill of the Hunt 8/24/13

I’m a pretty practical chick.  Truly, I appreciate the area I live in and frequenting the local businesses.  When it comes down to it, I am a small town gal.  Bricks 4 Kidz, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise, Perfect Gift – The Ugly Quilt  With that comes a pride for my area, including the small businesses.  This is something we are now trying to teach Kyle.  Why?  To always ensure our favorite stores are going to be around for years to come and to support our area.  Granted, this is not a guarantee due to other circumstances, but it’s a start.

No matter what, let me state I do believe in patronizing local stores and keeping mom and pop shops in business.  Granted, sometimes that means slightly higher prices but not always.  Everyone always complains about the cost of things, rightfully so in our economical rough times, but it’s not always the case.  I agree, paying outrages prices for the same item that could be shipped directly to your house is insane.  But a few extra bucks for the store down the street, I don’t really make a big deal about.  And believe it or not, sometimes the local stores have cheaper prices and usually better quality.

I too have been guilty of going online or making my purchases at the big old corporations, which there is nothing wrong with.  I mean, in most cases, those large corporations started out as something small, the local start-up company.  That is the joy of living in a republic, we have options and are free to choose.

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Colleen at the Seton Hill University Decoding the Past Scavenger Hunt. Thrill of the Hunt was part of the Alumni Weekend 6/8/14

What started this dissertation on small businesses?  The comic book store Kyle frequents, Westmoreland Gaming, Sportscards & Comics. Yes, his new hang out to play Warmachine.  Kyle, being a child of our century, is no stranger to going online to looking things up and to making online purchases.  So when he started to get into Warmachine, naturally the kid went to the virtual stores to compare prices with those of the comic book store, especially since he was spending his own money.  What did he find?  Some prices where a couple bucks cheaper online, nothing drastic.

Nicole had a great idea with respect to this issue.  To help the comic book store and Kyle, she actually gives Kyle the difference, so he would continue to patron the comic book store.  After all, it’s only right considering he practically lives there now, playing Warmachine with others and getting advice on the game and just plain taking up space.  This is our way of showing our appreciation.

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Kyle hanging with Mr. Rogers statue in Pittsburgh, Pa. Setting up the Class of 1984 Scavenger Hunt Fundraiser by Thrill of the Hunt. 4/26/14

Please keep in mind the guys that work at the comic book store, as well as the customers, are so very nice.  Truly, going above and beyond helping Kyle out and being very welcoming of our little teenager.  Warmachine Tournament They don’t stop there, they are really friendly with mom, Nicole and me too!  Mom told me while she was sitting there patiently waiting on Kyle to wrap up his battle the one day, Cody, the store manager offered mom something to drink.  Again, well above and beyond, hence the reason for our support.  They order items they don’t have stocked, which usually arive within a week, they are friendly and courteous to EVERYONE who walks in the door and it’s a true family establishment.  Westmoreland Gaming, Sportscards & Comics tolerate no riff raff or anyone acting in a way that is not conducive to family values and an environment for children.

Appreciation doesn’t always come in the form of money.  It can be done in many different ways.

Example, every year mom and I stock up on flowers and plants to decorate the headstones and to plant the garden, respectively. We frequent a small nursery in Derry, Pennsylvania, Orazios.  They are a wonderful family business, who are so very nice, not to mention their prices can’t be beat.  They also have such great quality plants, flowers and veggies, it would be stupid on our behalf not to purchase from them.

How do we show appreciation for their lower prices, good quality plants and excellent customer service, ultimately their family business?  We obviously shop there, but we also simply don’t take anything for granted.  To further demonstrate my point, after mom and I go around and plant the headstones, we don’t discard the plastic containers.  Yes, those thin plastic containers that hold either four or six plants, plus the plastic flats that hold all the plants.  Nope, we don’t like to waste anything.  Those items cost money and the more a business has to replace, the more it costs.  Like it or not, costs are always turned around to be picked up by the patron, basic business.  I believe in thinking ahead, going out of my way to stop waste by returning such items to be reused.

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Me at the POP TRiViA Scavenger Hunt by Thrill of the Hunt, for ECHO Real Estate Services company outing. 6/25/14

Think about it.  If everyone thought to do such an action, then the savings would add up.  In an ideal world, the decreased overhead would be passed along to the customer.  Seriously, if not, I’m fine with the local business making more profit.  That means they will be in business for years to come.  Putting aside extenuating circumstances, that’s probably the number one reason businesses go out of business, lack of profits.  After all that’s why they are in business in the first place, among other reasons I’m sure.  So if they make more profits and yet still sell great quality products at lower prices, win win for everyone.

Just thinking outside the box, maybe if it’s a local coffee shop, (I know I don’t drink coffee but work with me)  bringing in your travel mug when getting a coffee to go.  Or bringing your own bag instead of taking the store plastic bag.  I guess, these are just good practices anyway to eliminate waste and excess.

Please also keep in mind, large name brands could fall into this category.  Example, franchises are sometimes owned by local patrons.  They are also the ones who sponsor events like little leagues and they give back to the community and supply jobs to the area.  Just because they have a big name associated to a business, behind the curtain could be your neighbor.

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Thrill of the Hunt in Annapolis, MD for the Heart & Soul Scavenger Hunt, Davita’s company outing 3/18/14

Thrill of the Hunt
Yes, I too am a small business owner, a local Latrobe, Pennsylvanian homegrown company.  Being the co-owner of Thrill of the Hunt, a division of The Piper Corporation, we develop and administer to theme scavenger hunts for business functions, fundraisers, events and all sorts of parties, you get the point.  We also host public scavenger hunt events, our more popular being our dog scavenger hunts.  I could go on about our company so if anyone is interested, I can be reached at heather@PiperCorporation.com or visit our website Thrill of the Hunt.

Granted, I don’t have a retail store, but it is nice to see the local people wanting us to succeed. There is nothing better than positive vibes!  How do they do that?  Sometimes the best support is speaking honestly over my company, either good or bad.  I appreciate the feedback, ultimately helping to make my product and services better.

Also, the best support comes in the form of word-of-mouth.  When I hear others telling their friends and family about Thrill of the Hunt, I really get excited and it helps to recharge my battery.  Not to mention, those who have participated in one of my scavenger hunts are excited about them.  It’s even better when the scavenger hunt is still being talked about long after the event.  I love to hear that!  That’s exactly what I want, others to enjoy themselves and just plain have a great time!

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Jenny Singer with Thrill of the Hunt at Steelerfest in Latrobe, PA. 8/2/13

Believe it or not, just because I am a Latrobe based business, I also help the areas I attend in many different ways.  With our public scavenger hunts, I try and incorporate the small local businesses, adding them as part of the scavenger hunt, driving traffic directly to their doorstep.  I also train Thrill Leaders to work my scavenger hunts, providing experience and employment in those particular areas.

Now don’t get me wrong, if a company has poor quality or horrible service then they are on their own as far as I’m concerned.  If you take those negative aspects and add in no selection or terrible hours, then they need to reconsider their business and either make adjustments or part ways.  Just because they are local, doesn’t mean I, as a customer have to be treated as an after thought.  Nope!

So what is the point of this?  Simply patronize local businesses and home grown companies.  Take the few extra minutes to think like a business owner with respect to recycling or saving them costs or offering them constructive feedback.  It could mean saving you money in the long run or having a local business that will go above and beyond for you, which might come in handy one day.  There are many ways to show appreciation, even by writing a blog entry, reading it and passing it along!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Video Games & Games 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
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