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My Mother’s Old Sewing Machine

Another Way October, 2021

My Mother’s Old Sewing Machine

Mother’s old sewing machine cabinet and bench.

I have a new/old companion in the room where I usually write these columns. It makes me feel like Mom is with me right here. I wish she was.

She used to come here and use this bedroom/office as often as once a year or at least every other year. She travelled by car or plane or train—and to Florida to visit my brother by bus or air—many adventures I’ve shared here.

Mom had a fall in February breaking her shoulder (yes, she also had one last February, 2020, breaking her femur just before the world first closed down, so to speak). This May, we had to help her move out of her independent apartment after her fall, which she loved so much, where she lived for the last 17 years. Actually, it wasn’t the apartment, it was the people she loved so much, who also lived in the complex, many of whom she counted as dear friends and conversation partners. I have not shared many details of her journey this year to protect at least some of her privacy!

But back to the sewing machine. The reason it is so reminiscent of mom is that for the last 17 years it sat in the guest bedroom in her apartment, and so it always welcomed us when we got there after driving 625 miles—sometimes taking 11 hours, and in recent years, usually stopping overnight to visit our daughter’s family in Ohio.

The machine is electric, built about 1945 or so. My grandmother Ruth had a treadle sewing machine which I got a kick out of trying to use. But Mom’s machine saw me all the way through high school and college and even my first year working in terms of my sewing many of my own clothes. I’m ashamed to say I don’t do much sewing anymore—and actually don’t buy that many clothes either. At this age, we wear what we have in our closets, right?

Mom and Miss Hooley at Middlebury Junior High school (Indiana) taught me to sew and it’s kind of fun to see how old skills—such as how threading up the sewing machine with all its little crevices, hooks, and openings—come back to you.

Sewing seemed to experience a revival of sorts last year as people, men and women, took to sewing cloth masks when factory-made masks were in short supply. Unfortunately, I lost two lovely homemade ones—made by a daughter and a neighbor of my brother-in-law. I was quite upset over both losses, but things happen.

There were many sewing “notions” as they are called in that tip out drawer and bench. Mom didn’t like us messing with that stuff until we were much older.

But back to the sewing machine: my mother used that machine to make us countless dresses, skirts and blouses. She did not make a lot of slacks or shorts for us, because we weren’t permitted to wear them for many years. One summer she made matching shirts for our whole family to wear once a week or so when we traveled out west for six weeks. We made quite a picture—I wish I had the picture. Some of us were somewhat embarrassed when we wore them, but it certainly made spotting your whole family easier in a store, crowd, or national park!

Epilogue to this post:

This blog post/newspaper column is particularly poignant now for me. Many of you know my mother died on October 11. I actually wrote this particular column over a number of weeks, before she left us. Her obituary is here. I will likely be sharing many other thoughts and stories and memories in the days ahead.

***

What objects, clothing, or memories does this bring to mind for you? We can have too many heirlooms but we can’t have too many cherished memories.

Send your stories, comments or condolences to me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Getting in Touch with Ourselves

Another Way for week of October 1, 2021

Getting in Touch with Ourselves

A writer friend of mine, Shawn Smucker, said this recently at the start of one of his email newsletters: “Whenever we take time to write out the things that have happened to us, we approach a kind of wholeness that, for most people, remains out of arm’s reach. But telling our stories puts us in better touch with who we are.”

Smucker writes mostly fiction with a bit of fantasy, but also has written numerous books telling the true stories of others—helping them preserve their stories. I’ve read at least four of his books, Light from Distant Stars, These Nameless Things, The Day the Angels Fell, and Break Away Amish, a true story he wrote with Johnny Mast.

But now I’m pondering this idea from Smucker about “telling our stories puts us in better touch with who we are.” Have you found that to be true? Or is writing too frustrating?

I am not a great conversationalist—sometimes it is hard for me to verbally put my thoughts into words and sentences, especially if I am speaking on the fly. As I get older, the word I’m looking for is so often hiding in my brain. I’m also on the introverted side, and while in this column I often write rather personal stuff, that works for me because my brain has time to process and rewrite. With the help of my trusty computer, I edit and rewrite until I get it right. Or at least, right enough.

In recent months as my sisters and I have met with some of the folks taking care of my mother in nursing care, I’ve learned I’m not very good at sharing verbally what we heard or talked about with someone else, such as my husband.

As another example, if I go to visit the doctor and come home and try to tell my husband what the doctor said, it’s rather fuzzy in my head—unless I take notes. I often take notes if I go with my husband to his doctors, and that helps us both. But in general, he is more of a talker, not a writer or note taker!

A few years ago, one of my sisters got our Mom a journal with writing prompts. Things like “what was your first job” or “what do you remember about your grandfather” and the like. Mom has written many things in it that I am anxious to read—but she has said she doesn’t want us reading those things until she is gone. So we’ve basically honored that, but with sneak peeks now and then. I am so glad my sister discovered this kind of journal for Mom.

Mom doing some writing back in August.

For 34 years now I have written a weekly column. It is a kind of journal. Recently, I was happy to go to my 50th class reunion, a year late (yeah, do the math, you know how old I’m getting). I was especially happy to hear from different classmates that they enjoy reading my columns. In Indiana it is published in their local paper, The Goshen News. A couple of honest ones said “I don’t always read it” but they claimed to appreciate it when they do. (Thanks, Gene, Galen, Jane and Jane!)

But my point here is to encourage either the writing or telling of our stories to a loved one (maybe a grandchild or friend’s child who needs writing/English practice). There are many journals to choose from. A writer friend, Trisha Faye, published one called My Family Heirloom Journal. This particular journal helps you keep notes on objects that have been in the family and passed down to other family members—a nice way to organize all those scraps of paper that your mother or father or grandparent may have jotted down and placed inside heirloom teapots or mugs. Even a gratitude journal will keep, in one place, your thoughts and feelings over months and years.

I would love to hear what this inspires you to do, or what you’ve done to keep family and personal memories.

Or perhaps you’re just not a keeper of old things, history, and memories? I welcome that feedback too!

***

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

The Growing Gambling Issues Our Culture Faces

Another Way for week of September 24, 2021

The Growing Gambling Issues Our Culture Faces

Ever since the ads started on TV about the sports gambling options you can play from your smart phone, I’ve been wary and worried. It seems that the ads encourage you to bet to your hearts content by even “giving” you some money to get you started.

The state I live in and the states which carry this column all have jumped into making legal sports gambling available by phone using apps. I think it is a dumb move—sure to cause much anguish in families or marriages or relationships where one party thinks they can gamble responsibly, and the other party sees things differently. I’m heart sick for families where money is tight and a husband or wife—does not follow the suggestions stated in fine print, “Please gamble responsibly.”

I really don’t know much about legal gambling online or elsewhere. In the past, we have had friends who said they enjoyed gambling in a place like Las Vegas purely for entertainment, and said their approach was to set a serious limit on their gambling efforts. Like allowing themselves only $50 or $75 for an evening’s entertainment betting on some machines. And they don’t go further.

But … with money so difficult to come by for so many people, I can see how there is a temptation to try an easy way out through betting or playing poker or buying lottery tickets.

The big thing now in this season is betting on pro football—which of course has been going on ever since football started, I’m guessing. The ads on TV or elsewhere make it look so easy and so tempting—they even give you money for your first bet—and not just a dollar but maybe 100 bucks or more. Which can lead to gambling becoming yet another addiction like smoking or drinking or meth—and a huge sinkhole for the already small paycheck.

The worst of the ads showed a violent football player (a person of color) coming into a (white) man’s home tearing through a wall. It was sickening. I haven’t seen that one lately but a whole new crop of ads for new betting apps have taken its place.

Now, in one sense, I’m an addict too. Not gambling, but you may recall me admitting that I’m addicted to things like red licorice, coffee (even decaf), and donuts. If these things are around, I’ll consume them. I don’t plan on giving up my decaf coffee. But I can’t keep red licorice in the house and so almost weekly I look longingly in the grocery store at the bright red candy, and talk myself out of buying it. So I can identify with those who have compulsions to place a bet, pick up endless lottery tickets, smoke, or drink. Or perhaps we could extend the problem to those of us who may spend too much time online, on Facebook, Tic Tok or even just reading. Even though all these things can be entertaining and a not-evil pastime, when it takes over our lives or just our free time, that’s where we need to draw a line or some boundaries.

Compulsive gamblers (or those with a substance abuse problem) often develop a tolerance and need or want higher and higher stakes (or drugs/alcohol) to reach the thrill or satisfaction that can come with these habits. It can be an emotional problem—with severe financial consequences and even ruination. Most will deny they have any problem. Ultimately, if your loved one is addicted to gambling, you need to protect your accounts or credit cards. And convince your partner to get help. That’s a big big ticket, I know.

I’m thankful I am not in a situation like this but the ease of gambling today—online and with “free money” with funky names makes today’s scenario especially dangerous for loved ones. I hope and pray you or your family member can avoid the ruination of deep money/gambling problems.

Free booklet as long as they last, 7 pages.

***

Comments or questions or stories? Have you noticed the ads on TV or elsewhere pushing the sports betting apps?

You may request a small free booklet called “When Someone You Love Has a Gambling Problem.” Send your mailing address to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Ramblings on Salt

Another Way for week of September 17, 2021

Ramblings on Salt

So sooo happy to have summer canning done. The morning is cool and we had a beautiful 1.5 inches of rain yesterday. The leaves are beginning to come down, just a few.

Some West Virginia color.

I know others still “put up” and preserve foods like grape juice, pears, applesauce, and even meats long into fall and even winter. Such as my friend Lovina Eicher, whose column appears in many more newspapers than mine! And I just realized how much my first paragraph reads like many of her columns.

I was marveling about some of my older canned goods. I recently used a can of tomatoes that we canned in 2018. Yes, that’s getting on the old side, but the color of the tomatoes still looked good and after adding it to my chili soup and letting it boil for a bit, I tasted it and it was fine.

So, how much salt did it take to preserve those tomatoes over three years? About a half teaspoon is what I use—I don’t want to over-salt. My small amount of research on this topic says that salt preserves food by “inhibiting microbial [bacterial] growth. Salt acts by drawing water out of the cells of foods and bacteria through a process known as osmosis. Reducing the amount of water available to bacteria inhibits or slows bacterial growth and reproduction” (from https://www.acsedu.co.uk).

This educational website goes on to say that Kosher salt is best to use because ordinary table salt may have iodine added and that is not ideal, The use of salt to preserve foods dates back to ancient times (Roman empire) when salt was even used as a currency or form of money.

I didn’t know that kosher salt was better for canning. I’m sure I’ve used salt with iodine because that’s usually in my cupboard. And of course we all know that too much salt is bad for health, especially blood pressure. We need to watch the amount of sodium in prepared foods that we buy. Sometimes packaged foods (which I enjoy sometimes) have sodium levels amounting to 45 percent of your daily allowance (or more), and ends up leaving a salty taste in your mouth.

Here in Virginia, we love our country hams, which are preserved with salt and other seasonings and left to hang in a special shed used for the purpose of curing hams. They are sometimes smoked. They do not need to be frozen or kept in the refrigerator, and you always soak some of the salt out of the ham before cooking or eating it.

Country ham is also like the delicacy prosciutto (which means ham in Italian) and is often used as an appetizer or in a sandwich. I remember when I was just 12 or 13 and our family traveled through Virginia and stopped in a restaurant for lunch or dinner. My dad was perplexed by the two types of ham on the menu, Virginia ham or Country ham. He must have ordered country ham because I remember him talking about how salty it was.

The Bible itself has references to salt: “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5:13). In the Old Testament salt is listed as a possible offering to God, and also used in a contract. Land was also described as worthless if it was filled with salt.

I’ve heard pastors preach sermons talking about the value of being salty: usually it is someone who helps preserve and make better those around him or her. I like that definition.

And I also have new respect for the salt in my canned green beans, tomatoes, and tomato juice!

***

Thoughts or experiences? Share here or contact me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Rhapsody on Porches

Another Way for week of September 10, 2021

Rhapsody on Porches

We have a long porch running the length of our house. This summer, my husband and I used it snapping beans for canning. I confess we use it less than we should. When the grandsons come, they run races on it, blow bubbles from the sides, and practice casting fishing rods. And of course, they love the porch swing, which still fits all five. I fancy some of the grandsons someday having slumber parties out there, once they get old enough.  

Porch swing at our home, 2020.

On vacation together this summer, the final morning of our stay at a cabin near a lake, all five of them plopped themselves on the cabin’s porch swing. The grown-ups all grabbed for their phones. I know the porch and swing at our house will figure strong in their grandma and grandpa memories.

Porch swing at Deer Creek Lake, Maryland, 2021. The boys posed themselves for this picture.

I grew up with a porch on our farm in Indiana and loved everything about it except for cleaning it each summer: the banisters, the white siding behind our swing, the windows. On the porch swing we’d wait for the bus to appear before heading 25 feet to the road. Before my next oldest sister went to school, she sat on that swing desperately trying to pronounce her middle name, Marie, thinking she would have to give her full name to the teachers, or someone. She cried because she simply couldn’t quite say it right.

On another morning when we were waiting on the bus, I was late coming out the door, down the steps, and up the steps of Bus #3. (If you rode a bus, do you remember the number of the bus and driver?) Tobe was our driver. I stumbled on my way up the bus steps that day and fell hard, chipping a front tooth. A forever souvenir from Bus 3 and a frequent reminder not to rush going up steps.

When our cousins came to visit us, we would play “Seven Steps Around the House” after dark—frightening each other silly—and used the porch as home base.

Painting by Florence Yoder, my aunt/mother’s sister. You can’t see the porch swing here, we maybe took it down for winter.

On rainy evenings my husband and I love to sit on the porch and listen to the rain pour down, something we didn’t hear a lot of this summer until hurricane season in late August and September.   

I got the idea to write about this from a blogger friend and former president of Goshen College, Indiana, Shirley Showalter. In her blog post “Porch Culture,” she sings the praises of a wonderful new or old porch (shirleyshowalter.com).

Not long after I read Shirley’s rhapsody on front porches, I was walking in a neighborhood near our church where a friend and I exercise frequently. A woman was sitting on her porch, mid-morning on a fairly warm day. When I later circled back by the same house, I saw an older woman getting out of her car there and I fancied that they were having a little morning get together. Porches are good for things like that, especially amidst this pandemic that seems to be making another unwelcome push through our cities and countrysides.

A lifelong friend and work colleague, James Krabill, shared this gem recently on Facebook: “A family visit to Maplewood, New Jersey, introduced us to the “Porch Fest” –an annual Labor Day Weekend celebration during which dozens of musicians from all over town set up shop on their own front porches and perform. Residents roam the streets, popping in on their favorite music venues. This is a super cool idea that needs to be tried in a few other locations I can think of.” James is an amazing musician himself and I have no doubt he’ll get it going in his community. Some have observed “International Play Music on the Porch Day,” on the last Saturday in August since 2017.

Start practicing for next year!

***

Share your porch stories and memories here! Or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Aside

First Day of School: Welcoming Them Back

Another Way for week of Sept. 3 2021

First Day of School: Welcoming Them Back

The highschoolers spilled out of their buses and sped steadily toward their destination, the right side door of our local high school, where our own daughters once headed. Just one front door unlocked for them in a whole set of doors, and we all know why that is, right?

A few of the community citizens welcoming the high schoolers back.

It was the first day of school for these kids. A string of community leaders and well-wishers had lined up outside the doorway to greet the teenagers enthusiastically with words of welcome, best wishes, you are awesome, you can do it—along with a few printed signs with lines of encouragement. My husband and I were there through our Lions Club connections along with masked Rotary members, police officers, a state legislator, teachers and retired leaders of organizations. This kind of “welcome back” is a tradition in some communities.

The faces of the teens—behind their masks—wore expressions everywhere from resignation to excitement to boredom to glee. As a former band parent, I made sure any kids carrying band instruments got a “Yay band!” from me. Others I simply saluted with “Welcome back” and “Have a good year.”

Sample sign.

They wore torn jeans (of course) that showed parts of entire legs (except for underwear), baggy t-shirts with kosher messages. Some eyes reflected fear, dread, happiness and surely anticipation of hanging out with old friends. The freshmen among them had to be a bit scared: would they find their classrooms, would they like their teachers, would their schedules work out, would this school year work out for Pete’s sake, after the dizzying year they had lived through the year before? Last year was made up of some days at school, some at home, cancelled events and sports, rerouted buses, and parents chauffeuring many.

How did we get here? What have we been through? What else will we have to go through? Will they have to go back to two days in class, two days at home schedules?

My own toughest school experience was long ago as a new girl at a new school in the deep south for my senior year. I rode a bus for an hour each way. That year I found myself scared and bewildered at some of the name calling. I was frequently lonely, but finally made some good friends. 

As we greeted the students, I began to tear up and had trouble keeping my composure as I pondered the last 18 months—for the kids, for ourselves, for my own grandkids heading back to school, some for the first time. One was off to kindergarten in this brave new world, following slowly behind his very eager older brother. What would Henry find in a formal school setting? I remember him, at the age of four, telling his mother one day when they rode in their van in the early days of the pandemic: “Mommy, we need some masks.”

Henry following his big brother on his first day of school.

“I know,” his seamstress mommy responded. “That’s why I’m picking up some fabric today.”

Masks??? For a four-year-old? For the two-year-old? These children have learned to always play with masks on when out and about. The parents yearn for the day when their children will be able to step up for their very own shots.

The assistant principal told us later that one high schooler was asking why people were lining up to greet them as they came into school. When she understood what we were doing, she thought it was a great idea. The mother of a 14-year-old freshman responded: “Yeah, they’re [trying to act] cool, but they noticed [the community greetings].”

Later, I also learned our kindergarten grandson, Henry, was happy when the principal (it’s a nice small school) recognized who he was because he looked like his brother. “I think it made him feel like he already belonged and wasn’t a stranger,” his mother texted.

That made ME feel very good for Henry’s first day of school. May the educational adventures continue!

***

What was your most memorable first day of school? Good or bad?

Comment here or send stories to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

I Need to Go Watch a Flower Open

Another Way for week of August 27, 2021

Throwback Column: I Need to Go Watch a Flower Open

[Columnist’s note: I’m on vacation this week but sharing a column from 27 years ago, when my Dad was still living. Originally written in 1994.]

Since my father retired from farming, he takes great joy in raising all sorts of flowers, shrubs, vines, and fruit trees on his little acre of Eden.

This past summer, I think my parents’ greatest fun was watching an evening primrose open up each evening. Dad phoned me one night and said, “I just wish you could be here to watch our show. Do you remember Aunt Arlene’s primrose?”

Daughter Tanya at Niagara Falls flower bed.

Well, I didn’t really, but he launched into the whole story of how he had gotten her flower bush after she died and that it was bursting forth into glorious yellow flowers each evening about 8:45 during the long days of summer. Kind of like Old Faithful.

If you know as little about evening primroses as I did before Daddy got hooked, each blossom opens up like a slow motion shot on TV. You can watch it bloom before your eyes. On a big plant, that means a hundred or more surprises, one right after another. And each blossom only lasts one night. By morning, the blossoms start to droop. By noon, they are shriveled up. But the next evening another bunch of blossoms open up.

Mom and Dad invited everyone they know over to watch the show over the summer. The TV was forgotten.

I was afraid I would have to wait another summer to see their spectacle. Luckily, though, it was still putting on its nightly show when I got to visit my parents in late summer as part of a quick business trip.

My parents came to meet me and pick up the two children who had traveled with me, so that I could get to a meeting at the workaholic time of 5-7 p.m. on a Saturday evening. My father said, “Try to get home by 7:40 and you can see the primrose blossom!”

The meeting droned on and on. Seven o’clock came and went. It was a 20-minute drive to my folks’ place in the country. Would I make it? I started purposefully gathering up my things. My boss looked like he was going to call an after-meeting meeting. How could I possibly tell him I couldn’t stay, that I had to go watch a flower open?

Not to fear. The meeting ended at last. I beat a hasty retreat and rushed to my parents’ home. I remembered my Mom saying earlier the primrose had caused some thoughtful discussions among the people who had come to watch it bloom, and how life was like the primrose. Life is short; in the space of eternity, all of us bloom for only an instant, an eyeblink of time. Those who knew my Aunt Arlene remembered her and how she had died too young. People talked about how important it is to watch the flowers bloom, whatever they are –including excusing ourselves from meetings and appointments at times to take care of the things that matter.

Evening Primrose at our house, circa 1996, with apologies for the poor photo.

I flew into their driveway. It was 7:45 p.m. Had I missed the show?

As usual when we keep our priorities in line, the good Lord sees to it that there is time enough to attend to work, to family, and to smell the flowers.

One of my daughters ran to me from their garage. “Mommy, they’re starting! They’re starting!” We oohed and awed and took pictures and ate Dad’s good grapes in the gathering coolness. The show went on for another good half hour, so I needn’t have worried.

Beautiful irises in spring, one of my favorite flowers now.

***

What flowers have you enjoyed this summer? I’ve enjoyed my husband’s cousin sharing his love of many flowers in their yard and on their deck via Facebook. I never would have expected him to be a flower guy. 🙂

You can still request some helpful, stress relieving bookmarks titled “101 Ways to Manage Stress.” Send requests to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

It Was That Kind of Day

Another Way for week of August 20, 2021

It Was That Kind of Day

It was our third day without a TV, waiting for the new box for our satellite hook-up to arrive, after several phone calls to service technicians failed to make things work. We’re not sure if lightning hit it or if it is just old. I don’t mind being without TV—I watch very little other than news and Jeopardy. (And of course I’m especially missing Jeopardy these days with Matt Amodio’s winning streak.)

So I’m canning tomato juice and oh no, one of the smoke detectors starts chirping every minute or so. That gets the dog upset right away and she wants to hang close to me with every move I make in the kitchen. She gets extremely nervous with the annoying chirps because one time when we were gone, she was stuck in the house with that annoying and nerve-wracking beep. My husband tries to track down the problem alone because I’m feverishly trying to get the tomato juice in the canner before it rains. We use an outside portable propane tank and burner to keep the heat of canning out of the house.

Rain!! We’re elated that it finally decided to rain here—after about a month of very little rain. I want to dance, we’re so so thankful, grateful, awash in heavy rain drops and almost tears. So that makes it a good day in spite of the minor first-world problems I describe above.

Husband gets on the phone with a technician from the smoke alarm people. He tries to be very polite but it soon escalates into her (the technician) yelling into the phone and him yelling back. For a half hour or more she gives him instructions and finally, finally, they trace down which detector it is and she gives her word that they will send a replacement detector because it had a ten-year warranty and we’ve only had it seven years. Finally, there is peace in the house for the dog and us.

I pull some corn for supper. How easy summer meals are for me these days: settle on a meat, pick some sweet corn from the garden, slice some tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers and that’s dinner. Almost every night, unless I get tired of it. My husband rarely tires of summer suppers. I pull some extra corn and ‘maters and cukes to share with our neighbors, who are happy for the fresh goodies.

Meanwhile, around the world, Afghanistan is falling apart, people in Haiti are not only recovering from another earthquake, but (on the day I’m describing) a possible hurricane was heading their way. Droughts continue unabated in hot spots the world over and I feel more kinship for their dead, dried fields and baked earth. Elsewhere, floods in Europe that are receding leave wet, muggy, dirty homes and basements that must be dried out and clean water found. People the world over are trying to live within the confines of the pandemic, with new surges and patient counts and bickering and exhausted loved ones dealing with masks and covid tests and shots.

After supper I head out to the garden—before it happily starts raining again. My goal is to pick the dreaded nuisance bean beetles we’re assaulted with every stinkin’ summer. I could do without them. But somehow it is peaceful in the rows of pole beans and I’m thrilled to see ripe beans and new fresh leaves sprouting from all the rain.

By the end of the day, the tomato jars have all pinged their joyful news that yes, they sealed just fine. My husband will have plenty of home canned juice to enjoy all winter.

I don’t mind a quiet evening at home—no TV—and we spend it together in the living room: me typing on my laptop and him entertaining himself with YouTubes and news reports on his laptop.

How is or was your day here in late August?

This morning this is how our corn looks ….

***

Request free helpful bookmarks titled “101 Ways to Manage Stress.” I can send you up to five, to share. Comment here or send requests to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

August Bounty: Peaches at $12.50 a Bushel?

Another Way for week of August 12, 2021

August Bounty: Peaches at $12.50 a Bushel?

What memories do home-canned peaches conjure up for you? Assuming you are, like me, of a certain age.

Store-bought canned peaches, in my book and family history, don’t count. Oh, they may taste OK in the dead of winter when you can’t get fresh peaches. And I do like canned store-bought peaches just fine served with a nice dollop of cottage cheese.

But store-bought canned peaches are nothing like their fresh sister, or home canned cousins.

So, I had not canned peaches in years. Decades even.

But there was a deal on local peaches that both my husband and I simply could not pass up. Two bushels of peaches for a total of $25. That’s a really good price, isn’t it? And they were huge and beautiful and lush with flavor even in this dry year. Or especially in our dry year in these parts. I was told that if peaches get too much rain, they lose flavor because they have more water in them. Correct me if that’s wrong—or if our deal wasn’t as good as some in your area. We have a plan to eat more peaches and less ice cream for dessert next winter. Sounds like a good plan in early August, eh?

Anyway, we were getting ready to go on a trip, again, to be with my Mom. So it was hurry hurry to get the peaches canned and some tomatoes canned.

Backing up, canning the peaches was almost fun because we do love peaches and my husband said he would help skin them. Low and behold we canned 28 quarts in two days, took care of a nephew overnight, packed, and tried to keep the pitifully dry garden half-way watered, and the bean beetles at bay.

I had to refresh my knowledge about how to can peaches, and I couldn’t call Mom. So I turned to Esther H. Shank’s fine, almost 700-page cookbook, Mennonite Country-Style Recipes and Kitchen Secrets. Shank lives here in the Shenandoah Valley and her book is renowned in these parts. It is full of information passed down from one generation to the next so that such info doesn’t get lost forever.

Shank has a whole section on canning, freezing, and preserving which is worth the price of the book, in my opinion. She reveals her own methods—such as telling us that if peaches are evenly ripened, you may find it easiest to blanche them (dip wire basket of your peaches in boiling water for 1 brief minute and then dunk in cold water immediately). Then drain and cut the peach in half to remove the seed. She says peelings should slip off easily but “if this method causes peaches to become ragged [or I might say too soft and not holding shape], peel thinly with knife instead.” She then lets it be known that her own favorite approach for peeling them is to just use a knife and forget the boiling and dunking. Saves a step. She also tells you, in a separate entry, not to can strawberries because they do not turn out well. Good to know.

My husband and I had a discussion and he recalled his mother using wide mouth jars for canned peaches. I have many more regular jar than wide mouthed, so I wanted to try the smaller openings. Meh… that didn’t go so hot so the next batch we switched to wide mouthed. And of course, putting the pitted side down in the jar. The end result of peach halves stacked upside down on each other is almost artistic, right?

Now I’ll leave this on the short side because I’m sure many readers also have things to can or freeze or harvest. Bon Appetit!

My own notes for future reference, using Esther Shanks instructions:

How much sugar to use to make syrup per quart for thin syrup:

1 1/2 cup sugar with 4 cups water

or: 3 cups sugar with 8 cups water

Making syrup: Bring water and sugar to boil. Pour over peaches in cans. Process 25 minutes by open water boil method (not pressure canner).

Also note: Each half bushel of peaches had approximately 50 Large peaches in it, about 200 peaches all together. Resulted in 28 canned quarts, and many others given away to friends or enjoyed fresh. The fresh peaches lasted over a week under refrigeration. The orchard dubbed them overripe.

I’d love to hear your peach canning memories/canning hints/disaster stories. Pile them on here!

Or share how much fresh peaches cost in your area of the world this year!

Comment here or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

Vaccines: A Current Lesson from an Old Favorite Show

Another Way for week of August 6, 2021

A Current Lesson from an Old Favorite Show

There’s an old Andy Griffith TV show where the county public nurse is trying to get a local farmer, Rafe Hollister, to get a vaccine for tetanus.

Hello? What a great advertisement for today’s current push to get more people vaccinated—some of whom resist as hotly as the farmer in the 1960s era program.

Earlier this year a woman who I know only casually was telling me why she was distrustful of getting a covid shot. I had just received my first shot at that point (early March) but am now fully vaccinated. She is a Christian who feels that the shots are unnecessary and the push to vaccinate as many as possible is somewhat a response to the assault of our senses from the media. Then she asked me why, also as a person of faith, I was getting the shots. (And this is not directed to those who have health issues that would make getting the shots ill-advised or dangerous for them.)

I was not able to verbalize my “why get the shot?” at that point but I have done a lot of thinking since. I don’t like writing about controversial issues but if this saves one life, it will be worth it.

  • To help other people. My upbringing and training in faith has always emphasized doing our best to help others. If my getting a vaccine helps to protect not only myself but others around me or who I come in contact with, then I want to help.
  • Our children live in or near cities with more chances of infection and they’re super cautious. They wouldn’t allow us to be with or visit our grandchildren if we didn’t have the shots. I wouldn’t want shots to tear our family apart.
  • We know that in past pandemics, achieving herd immunity by means of vaccines has helped the whole world.
  • The vaccines have been well tested, especially at this point.
  • I am also returning to wearing masks in stores even though double vaccinated. That makes it look like I’m not double vaccinated but if it protects others and myself in any way, it will be worth the inconvenience or judge-y thoughts of others.
  • Yes, we could still become ill. We know when we drive on our highways that we could be in a serious accident, yet we get on roads and do our best to stay safe and pray for safekeeping for all.

Back to the Andy Griffith show, in case you don’t watch MeTV reruns. The stubborn and determined farmer Rafe comes dangerously close to shooting Barney, the young nurse, and Andy with his shotgun as they all try to convince him to get his tetanus shot.

How does Sheriff Andy Taylor work his magic? When Rafe is jailed for one night for firing at his three farm visitors, Andy serenades him with an old timey ballad about death and how everyone will be so sorry when Rafe’s gone and will look at him in the casket and say what a famous person he was (even though a bit cantankerous). They’ll put up a statue in the town square celebrating his life, and they’ll remember how Rafe’s death inspired everyone else to get a tetanus shot. Rafe tears up and finally consents to the vaccination. Not only that, he’ll talk his neighbors into getting jabbed too.

I was not able to convince my acquaintance to get vaccinated as I listened to her impassioned reasons for not getting the shots. I just wish I had done my homework and would have been able to better explain why I feel it is important.

I wrote earlier about my aunt (long before my time) dying in the flu epidemics of 1918-1919. And now we’re thinking of how the current malady is resurging, just like the pandemic did over 100 years ago. I hope and pray that all of us will do our best to protect other people to help bring the current pandemic under control.  

***

Here’s the Andy Griffith episode: https://trakt.tv/shows/the-andy-griffith-show/seasons/2/episodes/24

***

Thoughts or stories? Share them here! Or send to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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