Ugly Day, Great Day!

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerWhat a crappy day it was in the Frankfort area today . Nevertheless, for every negative there is a positive. This morning, I started by going on a brisk forty-five minute walk. It was windy and chilly, but I got over it. I spoke to Barb as I always do on my walks. She doesn’t answer. Breakfast was a special concoction of oat meal with chopped almonds and some sugarless maple syrup. Peggy distracted me during the manufacture, and I doubled up on the syrup, UGH!

I brought my bike up from the basement. Now it resides in the space my car formerly owned. I had to take the Avalon in for an oil change in Bourbonais so we decided to make a trip out of it. Peggy and I went shopping for flowers at the Sunrise Nursery in Grant Park, IL. It rained and the temp was at forty-five degrees. We toured the greenhouses in record time. All the while we heard the constant drumming of rain drops on the plastic roofing. We still managed to fill the trunk with several flats of annuals, and some more perennials.  Shopping on a forty-five degree day when it is raining is the positive thing we did.

We chugged to the dealer for the oil change. While that was being done we spoke to Dave Sosnowski, the salesman who sold us the car. Dave is a nice young man who I recommend to anyone wantiing to buy a Toyota, Cadillac, Pontiac, or Jeep. The dealer, DAVID Bruce sells them all. I get a one hundred dollar referral fee for anyone who buys a car from him and tells him I sent them. The time went by quickly. Peggy and I proceeded to Country Buffet to have a late lunch. Of course we pigged out. From there we stopped at Farm and Fleet to buy fertilizers and odds for the garden. All in all we spent the day shopping and driving in the cold and wet. Just before we turned into our sub-division I asked Peg if she would mind if we went to the library. We went. I picked up two foreign films and a book to read.

Ugly day, great day.

Not a Grass Farm Anymore

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerSo many things to write about so little time or desire to do it. Memorial Day was spent quietly. A walk in the early hours, followed by breakfast then a trip to the Breidert Green for the VFW Program. I’ve lived in Frankfort for seventeen years, but this is the first Memorial Day Service I attended. I was drawn to the program to hear my two beautiful grand daughters play in the band. The flag was lowered to half mast followed by the invocation. The Hickory Creek Tiger Band played three numbers, The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and a third number that I don’t recall. The mayor read the names of all known service people currently serving. After, a Veteran read the names of all the deceased vets from Frankfort. The VFW color guard gave a twenty-one gun salute. Three members of the Tiger Band trumpet section played taps in echo fashion. It brought tears to my eyes. Even though I avoided serving, I grew up with WW-II, Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq. In between those there was the Bay of Pigs, Lebanon, Grenada, and some that I’m sure I have forgotten.

I drove the girls home and chastised my son for not being at the service. He was busy painting his garage door.  

The rest of the afternoon, I spent trying to barbeque some chicken breasts. I say tried, because I ran out of gas on my grill. I had to use a roaster oven to finish. Thank God I paid the electric bill. Peggy and I ate a late lunch. We cleaned up then sat on the patio.  We listened to the sound of the waterfall. A pair of mallards waddled through the yard trying to find a path around us to the bird seed. Finally, we went in to let them enjoy the seed. I’m hoping they are in a family way and will bring their young to the pond. Wouldn’t that be a joy!

This evening, I re-boxed some golf balls for shipment to Iraq. After that I took a baby step to sort through Barb’s favorite poetry and prayers for the legacy scrapbook I am assembling. Another baby step went toward getting my bike ready for the road. In years past, I would have had fifteen hundred miles logged by now. This year I’m struggling to get started. I figure a baby step toward making the bike ready will get me to take the next step, i.e. bring it up from the basement.

Wow its warm. It is our first warm day, and I have every window open and all the fans running to stay cool. Even this laptop is adding heat to my discomfort.

Tomorrow, I will bring the bike up after breakfast. In the afternoon we will shop for more flowers. With all of the trees, shrubs, and perennials we planted around the pond last week, the yard is beginning to look like a real garden again. Goodbye grass farm.

Eat Greasy Food Off Dirty Dishes

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerMy grandfather knew how to live. Granted, he was a hermit, but he knew how to manage on a very small pension. My recollection of him dates back to when I was ten, he was seventy-two. He was living on a small farm in southwest Michigan. His house was small and without plumbing. It did have electricity and hand pumped water in the kitchen. Gramp’s pension came from working in a coal mine when he was younger. The pension wasn’t very much, perhaps thirty dollars a month. Somehow he managed to live on that amount. He smoked Camels, and drank an occassional bottle of beer. I never knew him to work. My earliest recollection of him does not include work at a job. He was already sixty-two when I was born, so he was near retirement then. When he did retire, there was no social security, only his meager pension from the mine.

Gramps lived on a farm, but I never saw him plant anything. My mother always planted the garden. She also raised the chickens, pigs, cow, and a horse. Gramps just supervised.

Grampa Jim got the Hungarian language newspaper in the mail every week. His job was to read every issue of the paper from cover to cover. Most of the news in his paper was old, but it didn’t matter, he read the paper faithfully. He was a great socializer. Once or twice a week his friend John picked him up in a model T, around three o’clock in the afternoon. Together they rode a quarter mile to the corner store. This store was special. The store sold gasoline, kerosene, groceries, and had a beer hall too.  Come to think of it, it wasn’t much different from today’s gas stations. Only the beer hall is different. Gramp’s buddy parked at the pump and self served himself a gallon or two of 15 cent gas. Then they went in to pay and to have beer. The two of them sat in the beer hall talking over events. Nine times out of ten, Gramps outlasted his buddy.  Gramps had more than a half bottle of beer remaining when his buddy went dry. John had a wife so he beat it back home before she missed him. That left Gramps alone with his beer.  He wasn’t alone for long, because more customers came to the store, they checked to see if anyone was sitting in the beer hall. Soon, gramps had another party to chat with. He had company non-stop throughout the time he sat in the beer hall. Every one knew him, and loved to talk to him. Meanwhile his beer got flatter and flatter and flatter. Eventually, the bottle was empty.

On many days, gramps didn’t get home until after nine o’clock. By that time we were all in bed, and the house was dark except for the kitchen. Mom was still up doing chores while she waited for him.

When summer ended we returned to the city to start school.  Gramps was free again living his simple life on the farm. He did have to cook for himself after Mom left. I don’t think he ever washed a dish, only rinsed them off. He had a single change of clothes which he wore until even he couldn’t stand it anymore.

Gramps loved the solitary life, but was always happy to see us come for a visit. He was equally glad to see us go home. When he got older, Mom convinced him to come into the city for the winter. He did, but by March he disappeared back to the farm where everyone in the township knew him, yet he could be alone when he wanted to. He could wear the same clothes for as long as he wanted, and eat greasy foods off of dirty  dishes. He enjoyed the sights, sounds, and scents of his farm and nature.

Propogate in Abundance

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerToday’s excitement came with the UPS truck. My mini-forest arrived in a box. In the Monet vision of the garden there is a miniature forest of Eastern White Pine trees. The forest covers a corner of the yard. Right now the trees are three years old, and 9 inches tall. In fifteen years they will be twenty-something feet tall and spread across the corner. The long pale green needles will give us color in the winter. The trees will provide the birds and animals some shelter. Hopefully, they will also give us a break from the north winds. The baby step, today is to plant these bare root specimens before they dehydrate. The next step is to protect them from the evil cutter, the rabbit. Last week, I planted several baby Rose of Sharon only to find them nipped in two within two days. Rabbits have a nasty habit of tasting eveything they come across. After they do the damage, they spit out the un-tasty morsels. The plant may recover, but it may have two new stems growing from the cut.

Learn from nature, propogate in abundance, and just maybe one or two specimens will survive. 

“Eat Dessert First”

Stargazer LillyThe last two days have been spent traveling. Peggy and I were touring the West Michigan shoreline. Our destination town was Holland, Michigan. We wanted to see the tulips in bloom. I love to stop in the small towns and explore the shops, and the beaches. We pick up real estate magazines and look at what kind of homes are available in the towns. Most are resort towns with a huge summer time population that are near deserted in the winter.

Our first stop was in South Haven. We lunched at Clementine’s. The lunch rush hour was over, so we had great service. I always give Clementine’s four stars****. I pointed out to Peggy that South Haven has a wonderful ice cream parlor that serves Sherman’s Ice Cream. Our waitress, Janet, told us that we had to go to the dairy just outside of town to experience the “real thing.” To work off lunch,  we walked the business area browsing the shops. Peggy searched the shops for a summer wreath to hang on our front door. We did find one that we liked, but it was the wrong color. We wanted a blue, rose, or lavender color. This one was pale green.

Driving out of town, I looked for Sherman’s, but could not find it. We proceeded toward the town of  Saugatauk. Instead, I decided to show Peggy the town of Douglas. Douglas is adjacent to Saugatauk. As it turned out, they were paving the main street of Douglas and the entire business area of two blocks was shut down. We kept going to Saugatauk.

In Saugatauk, I made my regular visit to the drug-store and souvenir shop.  I have been there several times. On more than one occasion, The druggist was being hollered at by his gay lover. It was funny, but embarrassing too. It didn’t happen this time. Maybe they broke up. We walked shop to shop looking for a wreath. We have a very specific vision for what it should be. We kept asking at the shops if anyone in town carried such a wreath. Each time they sent us to another shop. No luck, none of them had what we were looking for. It was becomming more and more apparent that the wreath we turned down in South Haven was the one we wanted. Peggy and I agreed that we would venture back to South Haven if we struck out in Holland.  Our biggest treat was a stop at the fudge shop.  We bought two kinds of fudge before leaving town.

We arrived in Holland by six o’clock and checked in at the Holiday Inn Express. Instead of going out to eat, we snacked in the room, and watched tv. The next morning we toured Windmill Island. We were hoping to see buches of tulips in bloom. There were indeed many tulips, but most were spent, and the colors faded. We climbed the four stories of the De Swaan windmill, now 257 years old. “The Swan” came to Holland, Michigan from the Netherlands. The town purchased it in the ninteen sixties from the country of Holland. It is the  only one imported from the Netherlands. Our tour leader, who was much older than us, climbed the stairs without getting winded. Peggy and I puffed at each level. After the windmill we visited the caliope. What a wondeful instrument this is. Another, younger lady gave the history of the caliope. She showed us the player book, a series of cards with holes punched in. These cards fed into the machine and played the pipes and the drums. The music was great.

We left Windmill Island and drove the two shores of Lake Macatawa. This lake extends for several miles and opens into Lake Michigan. The result is a great harbor for Holland. The homes along both shorlines are magnificent. Obviously they are not occupied by the middle class of Holland, rather the very wealthy. My guess is that these properties are in the one million to three million dollar range.

We left Holland for lunch at the “Golden Arches.” We tried the new southern chicken sandwich. I gave it one star.* From there, we ventured north to the Veldmeer Tulip Farm. Luckily, there were still acres of tulips in bloom. The colors were absolutely brilliant. The trip became a “baby step,” for my new garden. We selected several colors of tulips and purchased them for fall planting. This purchase now solidifies my vision to add a few more flower beds into the yard. More grass to take out, more soil amendment, more compost, and lots of mulch. 

Having spent a ton of money on the tulips, we headed back on the scenic Blue Star Highway to South Haven. I gave up a stop to the Fenn Valley winery to get to my son Steve’s in time for dinner. We found the wreath at the ‘Rambling Rose’ in South Haven. The lovely proprietress gave us directions to Sheman’s along with another fantastic recommendation. On the way out of town we “ate dessert first. *****”  Sherman’s dairy, established in 1906, has had alot of practice making ice cream.  We jumped onto I-196 South to get to Steve’s farm. Twenty minutes later, I pulled into his yard.  Steve was waiting for us. We drove to Saint Joseph’s for supper.

We ate dinner at the ‘Pump House Grill.’  This restaurant is in the heart of the historic Saint Joseph’s business district at the top of the bluff.   The menu has a nice variety of foods. The wine list features wines from Australia. Our server Andrew took good care of us throughout the evening. He incurred my sacasm when he confessed, after a very long wait, that a printer mal-function in the kitchen prevented our order from being placed. He apologized and promised to discount the meal to appease us. He did as promised. All in all, we had a nice visit with Steve while we waited, ate soup, bread, salad and the table cloth. The food was tasty. I had lake perch, Peggy had a t-bone with too much sauce, and Steve had a Thai Salad with chicken.  The portions were hefty. Even with the screw up, I give the place three stars ***. 

On the drive home we were treated to a fabulous sunset. The clouds covered the sun but produced ribbons of lavender, taupe, and rose with tinges of yellow that merged into the grey lake.

Peggy and I arrived home in Frankfort, exhausted by 9:30 p.m. We pretended to watch T.V. until finally retiring after mid-night. Not long after we had both fallen into that deep sleep the phone woke us up. It was 1:00 a.m. I answered, “Where the heck are you Dad?” the caller asked. The voice was not that my sons or my son-in-law.

“I think you have the wrong number,” I replied.  

“No I don’t, I have been at Mc Donald’s waiting for you to pick me up. Where are you?”

Again, I tried to explain, “I think you…” He interrupted again.

“I’m sitting here lookiing forward to getting home and having a drink and a smoke.”

“Oh,” I answered, “I’ll be there to pick you up in ten minutes.” click

I went back to bed to resume that deep deep sleep.