Monthly Archives: August 2020

Dandelions and Rhubarb

When I was a little girl, and always wanting something to do, sometimes on hot summer afternoons, My Sweet Mama would send me out to fetch a collection of dandelion stems.

“Get the longest ones you can find,” she would say, and away I would go to find the exact thing that she asked for. I suspect that she would “make hay while the sun shone” (as she sometimes put it) and got some short jobs tackled while I was out there pulling stems, but eventually I would return with some stems that she deemed good enough.

She would fill a short jar with cold water, and then she would select a sturdy stem and carefully make two half-inch slits in one end of it, making four little loose sections at what was now the bottom of the stem. She would blow into the other end to be sure that it was unobstructed, then she would put the cut end of the stem into the water and blow a steady breath into the other end, making a delightful noise as the bubbles rose to the surface around the stem.

It was so exciting, to see Mama start these little things for us. We would blow vigorously into the end of our very own miracle toy and watched the bubbles rise with fascination. As the bubbles rose, the small pieces of dandelion began to curl up and over themselves in the most satisfying fashion. It would form the most delicate curls that would hang in round perfection off the bottom of a common green stem. We could use up many a long, hot hour with our homemade diversion.

This week, my sister in law, Rose, gave me an armload of rhubarb. I brought it home and stuck it upright in a tall container overnight. Yesterday, I cleaned it and trimmed it and put it into my big sink in water, while I cut it up and got it ready for the freezer for pies and rhubarb sauce. It was magnificent!!!

We had just gotten home after 6 days away, and I kept getting diverted from my task by various “homecoming rituals.” Some of the stalks of rhubarb lay in the water longer than expected. I came back to the sink and found my rhubarb starting to curl in a very familiar way. I found myself suddenly transported to a cement porch step on a hot summer afternoon, and wondered at the lurch in my heart.

I tried to shake the tugging memory by wondering if Rhubarb and Dandelion are related somehow, and examined the stems of the rhubarb as I diced them into a measuring container for pies. My examination of the stems revealed the familiar looking curls, but a solid center. They really aren’t related, I decided, and finished the chopping and bagging and freezing.

The memory kept dogging me today, though, so I decided to go and try to find some dandelion stems and make some curls. It’s been years, but I haven’t forgotten how to do it. “I’ll just pick me a few stems, and see if the curls are as similar as I thought,” I said to myself after lunch was over, and headed out the back door.

I stopped just outside the garage in the hot summer sun. It felt oppressive, and I felt like I could hardly breathe. I took a quick look over our lawn, and not seeing a single speck of yellow, looked again. Not a single dandelion anywhere. We haven’t waged war against dandelions in our yard, but Certain Man’s careful manicuring has made them non-existent. I felt strangely disappointed that there were none to be had, but escaped back into the cool of my kitchen and got ready for my afternoon intermediates Sunday School class.

I’ve thought happily about my innocent, carefree, childhood and the path my life has taken and the curlicues of the side roads and detours. I thought about the memories that are so good and about a Mama who would stop her work to blow dandelion curls with her children. I thought about the world in which my grandchildren are growing up and I wished for them Rhubarb pies and Dandelion curls on hot summer evenings.

And then I know . . .

They will have their own recollections of childhood, and will trace those memories some day. They are growing up in a totally different time, to be sure, but this Grammy prays that when memories come crowding in on a random Sunday afternoon, they will be remembered with a gladsome and grateful heart. And I add another prayer that part of those memories will be of a Grammy that not only prayed for them, but also loved them fiercely.

My heart gives humble, grateful praise that I can call them “mine!”

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Certain Man-Deacon Dan

Certain Man has had quite a respite from stories being told about him and his escapades.  He has not had a lack of escapades, as you can probably guess, but the scribe in the family has had a great dearth of time over the last few years, notably since Certain Man retired some two and a half years ago.  This is not because he is demanding or any such thing, but rather that it’s a lot easier to concentrate when I am alone than when a man (that I have found interesting as well as powerfully attractive) is around.  “Time alone” has been in very short supply for Certain Man’s Wife!

However, the last week at Shady Acres has had some monumental happenings that have caused me to realize again that the possibilities of boredom are rather remote.  The days from August 1-4, 2020, held a whirlwind of activity that left me amused and pensive and astounded and very aware that “Shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain,”

A couple of weeks ago, when the Washington Yutzys came home for an extended period of time, Certain Man and I were astounded to hear that the mattress on the spare bed in the one room was not fit to sleep on, and that the one in the other room “left much to be desired!”  Certain Man and I have had a mattress in the master bedroom that was expensive, and had a ten year warranty – which expired earlier this year.  Certain Man has an inherited sleep disorder that seems to radically disturb his sleep with restless leg syndrome, sometimes some muscle cramps and a funny restless movements that affects his arms which, for want of something better, we just call “the Fidgets.”  Here of late, he’s also had some increasing back and shoulder pain, leading him to believe that our mattress must be the culprit.  Now I happen to like our mattress very much, but when it seemed like we should provide a different mattress for the one spare room, we discussed getting a better mattress for our bed and sending each mattress down a room, with the oldest finding a new home.

The ads for the Sleep Number beds had caught CM’s eye and given that he likes his mattress fairly firm and I prefer not to sleep on Gibraltar, there came a day when I found a sale and ordered a new Sleep Number bed for the Master Bedroom.  Certain Man was In agreement, and in fact, acted like he was relieved.  Then we gave the one set of mattress and box springs away, and moved the two other sets down one room, and the new bed came, was set up and we were ready to get a good night’s sleep.

Alas and alack!  Thursday night was the first night on the new mattress and we had not been given any instructions (save written) about this beast, and while I went to sleep and slept soundly, Certain Man tossed and turned, adjusted the number, tossed some more and finally moved to the spare room where the old mattress was calling his name.  Friday night I read some things, caught some adjustments that needed to be made to his side and he tried again.  The same thing happened.  I slept like a rock.  He tossed and turned and adjusted his number again, and finally gave up and moved to the spare room again.

This really bothered me because he had planned to help our Beloved Son in Law #1 move furniture into his parents newly renovated house on Saturday morning.  I was sure he would be exhausted with getting so little sleep.  On Saturday morning, I bestirred myself and was barely motoring when he came breezing in from doing chores and said that he was heading up to Bontragers. 

“I’m already late,” he said darkly when I asked him where he was heading so early on so little sleep.  “I said I’d be there by 8:15!”  I thought he should at least eat some breakfast, but when Eldest Daughter called and said they were getting a breakfast sandwich from Starbucks, I stopped interfering. 

A little over four hours later he came in, exhausted but triumphant.  “All done,” he announced, “at least for today.  It went really well!”  He told me about the morning, and then BSIL#1 came in with a ham and cheese sub for his lunch as a thank you for the morning.  There was one for me, too, and we sat on our chairs with a cool drink and thanked God for the job well done and a chance to rest a bit.  He took maybe three bites of his first half of sub when the phone rang.

It was April, and her voice was just a bit frantic.  “Is Daniel there?” She asked.  He was.  “Well, could he come down here to Mom and Dad’s and rescue us???  A pipe broke in the basement, and there is water pouring out, spraying all over the place down there!”

I looked over at my husband and felt sorry for him.  I wondered what he would do with his barely started sub, because, for pity sakes, you can’t let a friend’s basement fill up with water on a Saturday afternoon while you lounge around eating a sub!  But this man is a plumber from way back and he knew exactly what should be done.

“You are going to have to give me a few minutes,” he said with quiet authority.  “We are just eating lunch.  But go down and turn of the water main to the house!”  There was a short discussion about what else might need doing, and then he resumed eating his sub. 

I was worried.  Visions of water pouring into the basement, of the possibility that just maybe someone wouldn’t know how to turn off the main, and knowing that there was a house full of company and probably people were needing water for some reason kept flitting through my head.  Of course I had to say something about the possibilities.

Wrong thing to do.  “Hon,” he said a more irritated than I liked, “someone down there knows how to turn off the water main.  It’s not that hard.  If they don’t, it’s high time they learned.”  All righty, then.  I would not mention it again.  And eventually he went down, came back home to use some home tools on a stubborn fitting, went down again, went into ACE Hardware for supplies and by late afternoon, had the thing fixed and working again.

In between all of this activity, he was trying to find a lift chair for BSIL#1’s parents.  When helping to move furniture he had discovered that an old lift chair of theirs no longer worked, and wanted to see if he couldn’t procure another, more serviceable one.  He had several leads, made several calls, and by evening, had found one through another friend.  There were calls made to determine when the trip should be made to Lewes to pick the chair up.  BSIL#1’s Papa, James, was going to go along with him to fetch it home.  Certain Man wanted to go and get it Sunday afternoon.  James preferred Monday morning.  I kept wondering why, when Certain Man had so little sleep, he wanted to interrupt his Sunday afternoon nap for such an endeavor.  Finally I asked him.  He looked at me a little thoughtfully and then said, “Well, when I know I have to do something, I like to get it done!”  But he did decide to not go on Sunday, and he caught a nap in the afternoon, slept a little bit better on Sunday night, and set off on Monday morning with James, and together they loaded the chair, moved some furniture around for the lady from whom they got the chair, and brought it back to Milford.  They removed the broken one and situated the new one and Certain Man came home, thinking that he could work in his woodshop for a while.  That was a comforting, pleasant thought.

And then the phone rang again.  It was Elaine, sister of Friend Gary, who was in the hospital.  Elaine thought that he just be discharged today, and she had a problem.  There were severe storm warnings from the tropical storm, Isaias, and Gary’s car was parked in the driveway, under the carport, under a big tree.  She didn’t want it there in the storm, and she also wanted it moved so she could get out with her car if she needed to go fetch Gary home from the hospital.

“If you could just come and push it out into the yard,” she said, “and then I will call Minner’s Towing to come get it and take it to Kings.  It’s not been acting right, anyhow, so it needs a good goin’ over.  But for now, I just want it out of the carport.  All you need to do is push it into the yard.  I can steer it for you!”

I saw Certain Man look thoughtful, like he was hatching a plan of some sort.  “Why don’t I just bring my trailer up, and load it up and take it in to Walls Service Center and they can fix it,” he asked, “rather than just pushing it out into the yard.”

“No, it has to go to King’s,” said Elaine.  “That’s where Gary wants it.  That’s where he always takes it.  They do all our work, but that would be fine if you want to take it up there.”

“Alright,” said my spouse agreeably, “I can take it to Kings.  Just let me get my tractor loaded, and I’ll be up and maybe James can help me get it loaded and I’ll take it on up to Kings for you.”  The gratitude was effusive.  It was one less thing for Elaine to worry about in this already worrisome time.  CM called James, and James said that he would be glad to help, and so CM sallied forth to do the next thing on his list.

Monday was Eldest Daughter, Christina’s birthday and I was busy most of the day, making a birthday supper for her, so I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention as Certain Man flitted in and out, now getting this, now getting that, and conversation  was sparse.  I was busy doing my stuff, he was busy doing his.  We were on a tight schedule for supper because some friends were planning to come and do a birthday parade for Christina at 5:30.  We actually did really well at getting around and supper was fun and actually restful.

About halfway through the meal, Certain Man suddenly started talking about his trip to Kings with Gary’s car.  “James and I loaded it,” he said, “and that went pretty well.  He went back to his place, and I took the car on up to Kings.  When I got there, the guy told me to just put it out there behind another car that was there, waiting for repair, so I backed up ahead of that car and went to unload it.  Well, after we had loaded it, it had been put into park so it wouldn’t roll anywhere on the trip up to Kings.  However, I had a problem!  You can’t put Gary’s car out of park without putting your foot on the brake.  The fenders on the trailer make it impossible to get the doors open wide enough to get into the car.  I didn’t know what in the world I was going to do!”    Around the table, the rest of us, Jesse, Christina, Charis and I waited eagerly to hear how he managed to ever get this car off the trailer. 

“Well,” he said, smiling at the memory of it all, “I finally rolled down the window and climbed in through that, got it out of park and climbed back out again!”  For some reason, this struck us all as funny and we laughed heartily.

“I wonder,” I said, “if King’s has a surveillance camera.  That would be something to see!”

“I’ll bet,” said someone else, “that they were in there watching and getting a good laugh out of it all!”

“That’s not all, though,” said Certain Man.  “When I got the thing out of park and started pushing it off the trailer, suddenly it started rolling a lot faster than I expected and I saw that if I didn’t do something fast, it was going to hit the other car that was parked there.  I still couldn’t get into the door because of the fender of the trailer, so I dived in through the window again and hit the emergency brake and got it slowed down enough to stop it in time.”  He told the story with such a calm and humorous slant that it sounded like just another day in the life of Certain Man, Deacon Dan, Daniel Yutzy, and we all laughed with him. 

“What a blessing,” I thought.  “That he was able to get that car stopped in time.  He really didn’t need another thing to go wrong on these miserably hot days.”  And then it was time for the birthday parade and we all went out and enjoyed the noise and the faces of people we love and the many birthday wishes.  We came back in, cleaned up supper, had some Rhubarb Pie and Christina and Jesse went back to their house and I was ready to sit down and do nothing for a bit when Certain Man dropped a bombshell into the middle of my peace.

“Hon,” he said, rather hesitantly, “I didn’t want to say anything before supper, but I think I might have broken a rib when I dived back through that window to hit the emergency brake.  I heard something pop and it really hurt, but I might have just pulled a muscle or something . . .” His voice trailed off. 

Of course, I was immediately on alert.  “Sweetheart, let me see where it hurts!  Why didn’t you say something?  Shouldn’t you go and get it checked out?”  He obediently showed me where it hurt, and there was no bruising, but I thought it looked a little swollen, and he couldn’t bear to have me touch it except very lightly.  “I think you should go and get it checked, Daniel” I said, “just so you know what’s going on.”

“Ain’t gonna’ do it,” he said stubbornly, the pain lines around his eyes.  “They don’t do anything for broken ribs, and I’m not going to go down there and sit at the hospital when they aren’t going to do anything anyway!”  He settled back into his chair with a grimace and I got my cell phone and texted his nurse daughter, Deborah, who was working.  He will listen to his daughters better than he will his wife, and I needed reinforcement.  It didn’t take long for the phone to ring, and Deborah was insistent that he should go and get it checked.  He is better able to resist instruction when the daughter isn’t physically present, and he employed all his fatherly powers and still said he wasn’t going to go.  “At least not tonight,” he said with finality.  “Maybe I’ll go in the morning if it’s still hurting.”  I finally texted our family doctor and (wouldn’t you know?) he sided with Daniel.  “U can have it looked at in the morning.” He texted.  So that settled it.  I found a sort of binder that was around here, and CM slept better that night than he had any since the new mattress came.  He got up Tuesday morning, and thought that he must have just pulled a muscle, he felt so much better.

Then came noon time.  CM came in from whatever he was doing outside and washed up at the kitchen sink.  He turned to grab a hand towel and something reminded him, rather insistently, that something was not right!  The look on his face told it all, but he still managed to get out, “I don’t know, Hon.  Something happened with my side!”  He got himself over to his chair and this time it took very little persuasion to get him to go and get it checked out.

He came home several hours later with the diagnosis.  Sixth rib, on the right side.  Broken, but not displaced.  He was sent home with instructions to not overdue it, and to not lift anything “too heavy.”  No, they had not given him a rib binder.  (“It doesn’t help any when it is just one rib.”)  They sent him home with no pain medicine except to say, “See your family doctor.  Take ibuprofen until then,”

Tuesday was the day that Milford, DE was hit with the tropical storm, Isaias.  Shady Acres had been running on generator for several hours, but the electric was back on by the time that CM returned from the ER.  He had gotten into his recliner when the electricity went out again.  I heard the generator make its thunderous starting noise and went in to see if CM had noticed.  He was on his feet, clearly upset.

I said, “Well, we are back on generator!”

He looked at me with something akin to panic.  “Hon!  We don’t have power!”

“Yes, we do,” I counterclaimed.  “I heard the generator come on!”

He barely let me finish.  “We do NOT have lights, so we do NOT have electricity,” he stated with urgency, and headed for the door, with me right behind him.  Something was dreadfully wrong.  Our generator starts within 7 seconds of the power going off, but this time, it misfired.  It was hot.  Our chickens were due to go out in 10 days.  This was serious!  We got to the top of our ramp in the garage when the generator fired again, and this time, it caught and the current flowed.  But it had been off long enough to trigger all the alarms in the chicken house.  CM went down the ramp and out on to the asphalt.  I stopped at the alarm box and reset the alarms.  H-m-m-m-m.  They cleared and reset.  All was well.

“Daniel,” I said to my spouse who was heading for the chicken house, “you do not have to go right now.  The alarms all cleared, and you are supposed to be taking it easy.”  He set his jaw and acted like he had no intentions of listening.  “Really, Daniel,” I said, pressing my luck, “the alarm are all cleared and everything is fine.  You don’t need to go right now!”

He hesitated on the lane, then said resolutely, “Hon, I’m going to go check it out.  I know the alarm says it’s okay, but I need to put my eyes on it to be sure that everything is okay!” So while I grumbled to myself about stubborn men who had broken ribs and didn’t listen, he headed out to the chicken houses.  As I watched him go, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something amiss at the pasture fence.  Our six beef cows of varying sizes were happily chewing on the leaves of a hefty limb that had fallen on their fence and given the state of the fence, it wouldn’t be long until they would discover that freedom was within their reach.

“Look there,” I said, pointing at the congregation of bovines.  “That fence is going to need to be fixed or they are going to get out!” 

He never broke stride.  “It’s going to have to wait until after I get back in from the chicken house,” he stated firmly.

“But Daniel,” I protested to his departing back, “you aren’t supposed to lift heavy, and you are supposed to take it easy!  How are you ever going to get that big limb cut up and off the fence when you aren’t supposed to lift anything heavy?  I mean, a chain saw and—“  I should have saved my breath.  He was on his way to the chicken houses and there was no turning back!

It was a good thing he went.  Oh, the alarms were all okay, but something else was not.  It wasn’t long before he was back, visibly shaken and also upset.

“There is a huge flood in house #3,” he said as he gathered boots and changed into coveralls. “A ¾” water line, going to our cooling pads somehow came loose and it’s been running awhile and I’m going to need to get the tractor and start pushing the muck out of there.  With chickens going out next week, I need to really get things taken care of as soon as possible!”

Middle Daughter, Deborah, was with him.  “Mom,” she implored, “do something!  See if people can come help.  He has no business trying to do this with a broken rib!  I will get in there and help, and see what I can do, but that’s the biggest flood I’ve seen in Dad’s chicken house and it’s too big for just him and me!”

I was eager to comply, and with help from both Eldest and Middle Daughter, calls were made, and help came before we knew what was really happening.  Josh and Lawina came and with help from Granddaughter Charis, and her friend, Amanda, cut up the limb and got it off the fence, piling the wood into a nice stack, and fixed the fence.  BSIL#1 came with his brother Caleb, and they worked in the chicken house along with Middle Daughter and friend Ashley while Certain Man drove tractor, pushed out the biggest part of the liquid mess and orchestrated bringing in over 30 bales of straw to scatter about.  He also fixed the leak, helped pick up some of the dead chickens and oversaw the cleanup.  All the while, his broken rib was talking to him and it wasn’t saying anything nice to him at all.  It was a very tired man who went to bed that night in that bed that he hadn’t been able to get comfortable in for the any of the previous nights – and slept the best he had for quite a while.

And so we have muddled through.  The mortality numbers from the flood were not nearly as bad as anticipated (we had to open the end doors and that makes it difficult to cool a chicken house on a day as hot as that day) and the efforts made to cover the wet and keep the chickens out of the mud were also very successful as well.  Certain Man has been sneaky about doing things that are deemed risky by his wife and daughters, but it seems that the more we holler, the sneakier he gets.  However, there are some built in consequences and I would like to note that he is sitting on his chair a whole lot more than usual and he is walking a bit more gingerly than is normal for him.  Oldest Granddaughter and Middle Daughter have been helping to pick up dead chickens in the mornings and if it doesn’t absolutely have to be done, he is doing a fairly good job of “letting it slide.”  (There’s just so many things that won’t wait!0 

And that’s the news from Shady Acres, where CM is still my favorite, and I’m trying to determine if that particular rib that he broke has any connection to the rib that God used to make a “Help Suitable” for Adam all those years ago.  I must say that I am certainly attempting to be just that – a Suitable Help.  I’m not always sure I’m doing so well, beings I’m so unsuccessful in keeping him contained.  But I’m also counting my blessings that a generator “just happened” to misfire, at this particular time setting off all those alarms.  I’m also grateful that this man, who sometimes can frustrate me exceedingly when he won’t take my suggestions, decided (as usual) to go against what I thought was best for him and thus discovered that chicken house leak before it got any worse.  It would have been at least another two hours before someone was in it to check, and the damages would have been far worse. As it is, though it was bad enough, it’s had time to clear up fairly nicely before the chicken catchers need to be in there.

And so, once again for these blessings, and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise!

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