Sunday, August 31, 2008


McCain and Palin are coming to Mississippi to check on our preparations. What on earth? I just can't see what contribution they can make other than to slow traffic. If they really wanted to help they could go heave-ho some sandbags further south than Jackson or even go to Louisiana where the storm is scheduled to have the greatest impact.

Haley invited him. Funny, he didn't look like he needed any help overseeing preparations, but let's face it a hurricane is a great photo op. McCain isn't even subtle.

My parents are on their way here. Traffic is snarled.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I just watched a live message from MEMA on my television. I must say I was impressed. Mississippi has reacted strongly and started evacuations earlier than most even though the hurricane is not yet targeting our coast.

Anyway, yesterday Haley Barbour, our governor, began his talk with "This is not a time to panic, but is a time to get prepared." I like that, though I'm not particularly enamored with the man. People panic all to easily. Today, he suggested inviting all old college acquaintances, old preachers, teachers, and others you may have met in passing to stay at your home during the storm because "no government can take care of every need of every family or every business all the time." That is an amazing thing to say. Our dependence on the government, whether local or national, is crazy. To think a government can turn a hurricane, or fix everything after it has arrived is not logical. Individuals should take action instead of waiting around for someone else to fix everything.

This time Mississippi is moving together to create calm in the face of a storm. Evacuation is mandatory. Why? A lot of people on the coast are still living in temporary cottages, and Katrina trailers. Though the storm is not aimed toward Mississippi, a mobile home or temporary cottage in a low lying area is destined for destruction even in a Cat 1 Hurricane. Shelters are open already. The National Guard is going door to door to assist in evacuation. Sure, as the governor said, the government can't take care of every need, but being prepared and being insistent in the face of danger is leadership in the right direction.

My parents and brother will be boarding up and closing down their properties on the Mississippi and Alabama coast tomorrow.

Better safe, than sorry.

I May Be Ready to Start a Full Scale Panic

Gustav is now a Cat 4. I've begun to think about the possibility of having a stretch of bad weather, though Mississippi probably won't have a direct hit. We will just get more rain, chance of tornadoes, and some wind. We are far enough away from the coast to feel safe unless there is a direct Mississippi hit.

Baton Rogue, Houma, and all the little towns on the coast of Louisiana look as if they will bear the brunt of this one if it doesn't dissipate. Unfortunately, I don't think there is even a possibility for it blow itself out before it hits Cuba.

Cuba will get a terrible, terrible, terrible storm. I feel just awful for them. A Cat 4 is devastating.

Yellow Dog Books

Do you remember last month when I posted about the providence of finding Yellow Dog Books? I was thrilled to "have to" go to Madison, rather than Jackson for ballet simply because I knew I could walk across the street to this wonderfully personal bookstore.

Mr. W even bought me a gift card for my birthday, so I could shop without guilt.

They are closing.

They just didn't have enough business to merit hiring help, and 70 to 80 hour weeks were draining the retirement age father and mother of two small children daughter. Barnes and Noble moved a few miles from them at the beginning of the summer. I don't know if sales dropped, but I do know it couldn't have helped.

I hate that. I hate that BN advertises discounts on bestsellers creating the illusion that all books are discounted when they aren't. I hate that the perception of quantity and discounts moves us to shop, rather than quality of service shown in carefully selected titles and personal greetings.

I am so disappointed that I can barely enter the store to shop their 20-60% off every book in the store closing sale. The closing is just too depressing.

Okay, perhaps I have been able to purchase a few books.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Reconnected (Part 2)

Ever so much happened while I was unable to write. In fact I may have to write a few times a day for a while just to keep you current.

One of the biggest things for our family is that we did connect. Let me explain.

When we first moved to the hill, we bought a television antenna, but were stymied about how and where to attach it to this old house. It just didn't seem to fit and so many other things needed doing that the antenna was hoisted to the rafters of the tractor shed (now, bio-diesel shed) and forgotten for three years while we repaired fences, the roof, and cleaned up after Katrina.

As the opening ceremonies for the Olympics were being telecast, my children were sullen. "The Olympics are every four years and everybody is watching." When we went to town people kept asking, "Did you watch the ceremonies?", "Have you seen the gymnastics?", and other choice questions. My lovely children, with pitiful faces, always said the same thing, "We don't have TV. Mom doesn't like it." At this point all eyes would turn toward me. True, I hadn't missed the television, but I had never banished it, or withheld defining moments from my children. In fact, we owned an antenna. All someone had to do was install it. Since no one made an effort and I was perfectly happy without television service, I was made into the fall guy.

Neither child noticed that there was another party involved. In fact, that other party frequently made me into the fall guy, while complaining about not being able to watch sports.


Since the Olympics seemed so important to everyone, I suggested that since we used to have satellite internet service (before the phone company convinced me I would have better service with them) and the cable was still running from that ugly pole, hidden from view by a tree, to the house, that someone could erect the antenna in that pole. K, the action man that he is, dragged down the antenna and began assembling the unwieldy contraption. Mr. W brought home an enormous iron pole, pushed the pole into place with the help of a neighbor, fastened some wires, and like magic . . . .

We were connected to the rest of the world.

The first thing we saw was Michael Phelps swim. Every night for the remaining week and a half, we turned on the television and watched, savoring that connection to others who might be sharing the moment.

This week we watched the Democratic Convention - savoring well-chosen words and energy.

I am reconnected

I've been in a period of annoyingly intermittent phone/internet service that made it difficult to post, respond, and talk on the phone. Technically, I had phone service, but the static on the line would get so bad I would temporarily hear a dial tone rather than the caller. If the caller didn't hang up, we would eventually reconnect. DSL internet relies on static-free lines, so surfing was out. Work was out. Posting was out.

Finally, the problem, deteriorating phone lines that have been patched and will continue to be patched until there is not enough cable to meet in the middle, has been found. My truly nice phone serviceman revealed that, according to the company, replacing my line is cost prohibitive and that once the line ceases to function properly they will encourage me to lose my land line and rely on cell service for both phone and internet.

Living at the end of the line has some serious down sides.Funny thing is, I'm not that far back in the country. I am on a paved road. I'm just the last phone on this line.

Mississippi is battening down the hatches in the face of Gustav, though he seems to be a non threat at this point. I think listening to the panic stricken commentators on the weather channel who want a catastrophic storm so they'll have something to report has seriously tampered with the sensibilities of normally calm people. Hotels are booked solid. No batteries remain on the shelves. Generators are being purchased. Gas is being horded. Panic is ensuing.

I'll probably lose my newly repaired phone service in the storm (gale force winds aren't necessary for that), but this is not a Katrina like storm. I'll move my car and secure my poultry when the Tropical Depression Gustave becomes a hurricane and is heading this way.

Do you capitalize internet? I'm not sure it is a proper noun anymore. Blogger spell-checker wants it capitalized, but how can you trust a spell-checker that doesn't use a dash or space between spell and checking when it says "Done spellchecking" once you are finished. Just asking.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whether the Weather

We are having unseasonably cool and wet weather this week. I suppose you could say it started last Friday with a high of 89° and a low of 66°, but I say that it started last Monday with a high of 95° with low humidity and a low of 70°. True, 95° is not cool, but lower humidity made it feel cool. Usually in mid-August we are in the broiler, so to speak, with temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s with no rain in sight, but with a stifling humidity that makes you feel as if you are breathing water. The pastures are toasted to a crisp brown and the water hoses are in place to keep the shrubs and garden from keeling over.

Not this August.

We have gotten an inch and a half of rain in the past 24 hours, and the 24 hours before that was about the same ( I know some places in Mississippi didn't get this much rain). Tomatoes are splitting and I've had to locate my mud shoes that have been hiding since early spring. I have donned my favorite raggedy sweatshirt.

Happy, I am, but what's with this? Could fall be in the air so soon? Or will the heat and humidity return to zap us again?

I'm waiting, but whether the weather says fall or summer we will start school next week and I am ready.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Catsup, Ketchup, or Catchup? What's in a name? And in the bottle?

I've been using tomatoes. This time making catsup, which is what one of my grandmothers used to call it, ketchup, which is what branded varieties are called, or Catchup, which I find is an older version. Making this condiment takes lots of tomatoes and it is so much better than the bottled versions that are laced with high fructose corn syrup and who knows what else. I think I'll start calling it Catchup since it enabled me to rid my table of tomatoes. Look here and here for more information.

To make Catchup, cut about 2 gallons of tomatoes (about 50). The recipe in the Ball Blue Book says to chop them, but I don't find all that chopping necessary. I do chop the onions and bell pepper. Onion and pepper take longer to soften so I don't skip that step.

Once you cook all this until soft you run it through a food mill to get all the skin, seeds and big hunks out. You really only want pulp.

Add a spice bag, some sugar, salt and paprika and cook until the flavors begin to meld together. Add the vinegar and cook until thick.

Here's the recipe before I steer you wrong.
Tomato Catsup
4 quarts chopped, peeled, cored tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tsp whole allspice
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 cups vinegar

Cook tomatoes, onion and pepper until soft. Press through a sieve or food mill. Cook pulp rapidly until thick and reduced by one-half, about 1 hour. Tie whole spices in a spice bag. Add spice bag, sugar, salt, and paprika to tomato mixture. Cook gently about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vinegar; cook until thick. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove spice bag. Ladle hot catsup into hot jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Yield: about 3 pints. Ball Blue Book

I doubled the recipe. I get a little freaky when my tomatoes go from 12 qts to 4 pints. Even after finishing it, I still have oodles and oodles of tomatoes.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

My Yin - Yang Cat is dead

Yesterday, while we were in Jackson, Tuxie, my most favorite cat, was hit by a car and died. I thought I was old enough to not get emotional over the loss of a pet, especially an inside/outside cat who really couldn't tolerate ownership, but I'm not.

We have lots more cats, but Tux can never be replaced. She epitomized cat - poised, graceful, well-groomed, and cuddly, yet intensely territorial and a fierce, efficient hunter.

In fact, she could switch from cool cat to predator instantly. The pictures at right were taken seconds apart, though since I lost control of the camera a couple of years ago, I have no idea what she saw or heard that caused the switch.

She chose me. In fact, I rarely got to sit on the porch swing without her in my lap. For getting the chance to nurture something so perfectly opposing, yet complementary, I am privileged.

Friday, August 08, 2008

An Accounting

I was responding to comments on my Adventure post and I realized I had more to say. I still commented so you can go read that. I'm not saying the same thing here.

First off. I don't know how she does it since she lives at least 800 miles away and we only email occasionally, but Zilla seems to know the rest of the story without me writing it. Yes, we were out searching for alligators for my son to photograph. We also had on our list a copperhead and a water moccasin, two snakes he hasn't been able to capture on our property. We saw none of the above. Dragging a kayak over downed trees is a bit noisy for snake observation. Plus, we left the river before we got to true alligator territory.

Our plan was to travel through alligator territory, but we didn't want to spend the night with alligators and the first part of the journey took way too long for us to make it to the next area with car access. We were lucky that the river was so clogged because the storms predicted for today happened yesterday afternoon. You don't want to be on the river when storms are raging and all streams are running your way. We'll go back next week.

The Accounting

River miles navigated: 4
Trees across the river that required lifting the kayak over and across: 30
Areas dammed by beavers that required lifting the kayak over and across: 3
Time on the water: 5 hours
Wildlife seen: Turtles sunning on logs, more water bugs than can be imagined, a few snakes (not the ones we were seeking), frogs, a beaver slide, dragonflies, yellow flies, thrashers, a kingfisher, and a turkey, but no ivory-billed woodpecker.
Items lost in the river: Sunglasses, two water bottles, a can of dolphin-safe, oil packed tuna which was going to be lunch, a Tab, the one my sister gave me for my birthday(I had already drunk the one my husband gave me.)
Number of times we tipped the kayak: 1
Items found: My son's respect and admiration, muscles I forgot I owned, my sense of my old self, a whole lot of laughs, some clothes that will never be the same unless my mother has mercy and works her magic.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


K and I had a small adventure this morning. I mean small in the smallest way. I think our total river mile tally came to four, yet quality should certainly count. I just had to get away from the tomatoes, the computer, and from stuff in general.

School started today in our area. We're counting this as PE, science, and let's see . . . What else? Not really. We are counting this as fun. I love having time in the outdoors with my children.

We traveled on the Pearl River from almost the headwaters to Highway 19. This is a section of the Pearl that few see though it is certainly beautiful. We saw almost no pollution and no people. We did see:

Calm waters in soft filtered light,

Cypress knees (Where is modesty, please?),

Towering ancient cypress, and

Woodpecker homes. Could it be the elusive, possibly extinct Ivory-Billed? Probably not.

Mostly, we saw downed trees across the river. Though we spent most of the morning hauling the kayak around and over these obstacles, we had a wonderful time visiting a place unsullied by people. When we pulled over for lunch and to decide whether we could make it to our destination before dark, we saw what an impact people can have in our wild spots.

This is brand new stuff. The wrapper is in the heap of junk where a giant fire was attempted. I suppose this is an example of our throw away economy and society. Use once and toss.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Mississippi summer found us! We have been enduring the typical heat of the season. Though the temperatures are not as high as some years, the humidity is producing enough stifling heat to steam some fish. Perhaps, I exaggerate, but not much. The heat index was 110° yesterday.

The heat arrived just in time for The Neshoba County Fair. We attended just to prove how tough we were and because seeing antique trucks, steers getting a bath, jockeys hanging onto rickety pieces of aluminum while being towed around a red clay track at alarming speeds, coveted, rickety-crickety cabins, and brightly colored carnival tents on the midway is excitement that just can't be missed. Ever!

The fair draws huge numbers of people despite typical hot, humid weather, raging thunderstorms, red clay dust infiltrating every pore and ruining clothes, or on those rainy days, mud slick enough to need ice skates. People come from all over the state - really, several states - and make a week of it.

We go, but we are not "fair people." We only attend a couple of days each year to let the children compete, eat, wrangle with carnies, and ride. Of course, I like to watch people and look at the brightly painted cabins. I think there is a competition to see who can push the limits of taste using the brightest paint colors available.

This year, I didn't eat a thing. It was just too hot to eat anything fried. I did drink some Lindsey's Lemonade. I also ordered a glass of tea, sweet tea. They only had sweet tea. I haven't drunk sweet tea in years and I suppose during that time I forgot what drinking sickeningly sweet syrup was like. I pitched the tea and risked dehydration and heat exhaustion.

I guess I'm not as southern as I thought I was.

But, I still enjoyed the fair. The children did, too. They hauled home blue ribbons and cash winnings for their projects, rode every ride except the ring of fire (the circle thing in the background), and wandered around the grounds with the confidence of regulars. I guess you get a taste of red clay at an early age and then you are willing to sacrifice comfort, tolerate heat, and cabins packed with relatives, while finding a sense of your childhood at The Neshoba County Fair.