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Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 and all is as it should be ...

I'm sorry to have been away from the blog for so long. I've missed it and I feel a bit guilty whenever I'm chastised for not posting in such a long while.

Those who are not in steady contact with us are probably wondering how Mo's recovery has progressed. Well, worry not... champion that he is, he has healed beautifully and with the return of the geese last spring, Moses was back to 100 percent of his former strength and agility. Of course, we still gasp when he dives off a hillside or charges off across a field with his BFF, Mimi, the wild-standard-poodle-girl. But, true to their promise, the vets were right; Mo was repaired as good as new. Nay, better than new! He now listens when he's on a leash, something he never did before. He spent months during his recovery tethered to us on the other end of that leash and now it's become second nature to him. Never believe that you can't teach an old dog a new trick!

Above is Moses at 9+ years of age, already 10 months after his surgery. See those 100 geese out there in the middle of the lake? He herded them out there and he has them all under control.

After imagining the unknown possibilities of what life would be like after the dire Mayan predictions of the end of 2012, we've had a rather quiet, kind of homey 2013... no vacation trips, not many visitors, no wild parties, no weddings and thankfully no funerals. I would say we've had a good year so far. Sometimes unexciting and uneventful is simply wonderful.

Art turned 70 this past May and we celebrated life with renewed fervor. I turned 66 in July and got an iPhone5 with which I took these pictures. Happiness comes in small doses which yield big rewards.

This spring we replaced our aging air conditioning system. We chose a heat pump which cools in hot weather and will heat the house when it's moderately cold outside. The best part of this energy efficient system is that we can make almost all of the power it uses with our solar panels. Our electric bills so far this summer have been ZERO! We're looking forward to seeing it perform during the upcoming heating season.


Brother Hank and Cathy were with us in early August at our neighbor's annual summer picnic.  
Cold weather this spring froze our pear blossoms so we had no fruit this summer. However, the peaches from Chambersburg have been the best we've eaten in years. There were new varieties at our local market, which kept us supplied with a steady stream of succulent peaches from early July to late September.

This year's garden was also prolific, yielding a bountiful supply of potatoes, beets, kale, carrots, onions, garlic, chard, squash, herbs, eggplant, cucumbers and, until the blight got them, tomatoes. Unfortunately the whole tomato crop was lost and we had none that were edible and no juice to put up.

On the other hand, our giant elephant ear plant, now in its third year, has grown beyond all expectations, even big enough to completely cover Mimi's mom, Muff!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Flying Mo and his TPLO



The Flying Mo

Moses has been a hard charging dog all his life. When he was seven weeks old we brought him home to live with us at Jolico Farm. We took him to the top of the highest hill on the farm and told him that the entire world that he could see from that lofty vantage point belonged to him. He took us literally, as German Shepherds do, and he took charge of his world. Every hill, every valley and all that the farm contained, he became master thereof.

And so he came to know every rock, every blade of grass, every smell, every bush and tree, every groundhog hole, all the geese who stopped by on their yearly migrations, all the muskrats and fish in the lake, as well as the mail lady, the UPS and Fed Ex drivers and the neighbor farmers who work our fields.

Mo has put a lot of miles on his body in his 8-1/2 years at Jolico Farm. Most of those miles were racked up at warp speed and many of the distances he traversed were taken in great leaps and bounds while patrolling his territory. 

When he was seven weeks old he obsessively picked up bits of gravel in his mouth. We retrained him to carry sticks in order to keep him away from the gravel, so he developed an obsession with carrying around wooden sticks. At eight months of age Mo lost a tooth when he ran through a tight space between the barn wall and the post and rail fence while carrying a long stick in his mouth. The stick got jammed between the barn and the fence as he was charging through and out popped a molar which never grew back.

Mo the corn-dog!
At three years of age, while galloping through a snow-covered, harvested cornfield, Mo came down on a sharp piece of corn stubble which sliced into his carpal pad and led to a bloody ride to the vet to be repaired.

At five years of age Mo broke his left rear 5th toenail and wrenched his right knee hurtling himself off a high bank and across a small stream. This time he required surgery to extract the broken nail. His knee was never the same after this happenstance and has caused him painful episodes of lameness over the past three years.

This year in early November we came to that place where the rubber meets the road. After a painful summer, Mo's right knee was frequently limiting his activities of daily living and we knew we had to do something to help him. Our local veterinarians knocked him out and got some stress x-rays of his knees, confirming what we already suspected. Mo had torn his right cruciate ligament and he needed major surgery.

We were referred to Dr. Jon Anderson, a specialist orthopedic veterinarian at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center, who recommended a TPLO procedure. The description of a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy would make you squirm if you heard all the tortuous details about how they cut the dog’s lower leg bone in half and re-angle it, securing it with a plate and six screws in order to eliminate the dog’s need for the stabilizing cranial cruciate ligament, and about how they remove the torn knee cartilage. They told us the new angle of the tibia would stabilize the knee joint and in several months, when recovery was complete, Moses could return to full athletic ability.

We were of mixed minds -- obsessively sick with worry over the consequences and ramifications of a major leg procedure. Would it work? Would there be complications? What about infection? What about him surviving the operation? But life was not joyful for him in his present condition so we knew we had to take the chance. Three weeks later, on Nov. 19th,  we delivered up our precious Moses for surgery.

Moses at home after surgery with Louie the cat keeping him company.
Dr. Anderson's initial impression was that Mo had a partial tear of his cruciate ligament. But post-operatively, he told us that when he got into the knee, he found that, unbelievably, Moses' cruciate ligament had been completely torn, and it had already been re-absorbed by his body.There was no sign that there had ever been a ligament present. Moses had been doing a great job of hiding his pain and disability from us. We knew then that we had made the right decision for him. Without this surgery, he would have developed progressively painful degenerative arthritis in the knee joint and decreasing ability to use his leg. He would eventually have been reduced to living his life as a 3-legged dog.

Our world has drastically changed over the intervening month since Mo had his surgery. He has had many restrictions placed on his days, as have we. No running, no stairs, no outdoors except for potty trips, no walking, no slippery floors, confinement to a 10 x 10 space or locked in a crate when not supervised. For a month we could not leave him alone lest he chew at his incision and create a deadly wound infection. We moved downstairs to the living room to sleep on our two couches so that he would not be alone. The cats, not to be left out, moved to the living room with us. We could not leave the house together for the first month; always ensuring that at least one of us was present for our boy. 

His first week or two were spent in a pain-killer haze, but slowly his incision began to heal and the hair has begun to grow back on his shaved leg. He has become perky again, even wanting to chase the cats. It's now difficult to keep his exuberance for life in check.

We are now in the middle of week #5. At this point and until he gets his 8-week x-rays in mid-January, he is allowed to walk slowly on a leash the length of one to two blocks a day. We all still sleep in the living room but we are breathing a bit easier knowing that the leg is healing and gaining strength, and he continues to make small daily improvements.

Now, if we can just keep it all together until we get our collective freedom back, we'll be home free. We'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Weed on the water ...

We have a weed problem on our lake ... a growing problem.

Due to an early spring and recurrent heat waves resulting in warmer water temperatures this year, there are weeds growing up from the bottom of our lake, overspreading the surface. In a matter of a couple of weeks' time the problem grew (no pun intended) out of control.

Art's fertile and inventive brain came up with the idea of raking the lake surface with a tool of his own invention ... a rake that we could pull across the water that would collect the green tendrils and draw them to the shore where we could pull them out with hand tools. It's always best to start with a simple plan and ramp up from there. That's how we roll.

The prototype rake was constructed of lightweight PVC pipe that would float on the water surface, with fiberglass pointed 'tines' driven through it that could snag the ropey weeds. This worked to some extent but it also revealed the evil lurking below ... these weeds were not just floating. They were arising from roots anchored in primordial depths.


Wow, how did this happen? Google says that overly warm water plus lots of  fish poop will grow all sorts of weeds. Who knew?

Rake #1 quickly fell apart under the weight of the weed matting. Disappointed but undeterred, we headed back to the drawing board. Obviously the situation called for a second generation rake constructed with more oomph!

Version #2 is the original rake reinforced with steel pipe and stranded aircraft cable. Our motto has always been, 'What's worth building is worth overbuilding.' We thought, "Boy, this baby will pull up anything that isn't nailed down." When launched, it immediately sank under the surface of the water but when we hauled it out at the other end of the lake, the rake and cable both were covered with a mother lode of weed, waaaay too heavy for a couple of mere old mortals to manage handling.

Then the secret weapon arrived -- our brother Hank. He quite literally got right into the project, tackling the weeds with energy, strength, imagination and originality.

I'll let the pictures tell the story from here:


Hank hauls on the rope to help the tractor haul out the submerged rake. But the load is too heavy and the rake snaps, breaking in several places and dumping the load into the water near the shore.



 This requires a push from behind to assist in the removal process ... 


 
 ... Art rakes more and more of the gelatinous strands out of the water ...


 
 ... but there seems to be a never-ending supply ...


 
 ... and soon the Green Monster of the Lake emerges ...


 
 ... and even Maximus is enveloped in weedy slime ...

 
 Playtime is over. It's time to get out the serious equipment
 and clean up this mess!

 Finally, our energy spent, we head for home. We'll have to rebuild the rake and try again. 

Tomorrow is another day ...




Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day Trippin'

Our good friend Jack invited us to attend the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy's 2012 member's day and annual meeting last Saturday. It was held at the barn on the conservancy's grounds at Fallingwater, the landmark vacation house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 for the Edgar J. Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh.

The meeting was interesting with info sessions held in the upper barn every 20 minutes or so on various ecological subjects with reports on stream health, local species, trees, butterflies, flora and fauna. We listened for a while to the presentations but we soon grew restless. The outdoors was calling and we were anxious to stretch our legs and get out there in nature.

We found a trail map, got our bearings and set off from the barn, crossing Route 381 and entering the beautiful woods on Tissue Trail. Downhill through the towering hardwood forest, the trail ultimately opened out into the valley at a wooden bridge over tumbling Bear Run on the grounds of what had once been the gardener's cottage. As advised by our trail map, we stopped to listen to Bear Run and feel its breeze. Native brook trout thrive in the cool, clear and aerated stream. Acid mine drainage from small coal mines once threatened this watershed. Once hunting grounds, this land later supported the village of Bear Run, producing timber for railroad ties and mine posts. As resources were used up, the community declined. Today, Bear Run is an Exceptional Value stream, Pennsylvania's highest designation for healthy waterways.

Bear Run later became a summer camp for Kaufmann's Department Store, with a clubhouse, dance hall, rustic cottages, and a streamside pool. It was a two-hour train ride from Pittsburgh. In 1933 the camp became the Kaufmann family's private country retreat. Their greenhouse once stood between the apple orchard and the gardener's cottage.

We stopped at a rock outcrop that began 600 million years ago as sand at the bottom of a vast inland sea. The compressed sand became hard sedimentary sandstone. Rain and flowing water slowly washed away the softer layers and exposed the hardest stone. These earth patterns inspired Frank Lloyd Wright. Bear Run cascades swiftly west from Laurel Ridge to the Youghiogheny River along a rocky path begun millions of years ago. Its waters carved out this valley, forming a moist microclimate where native rhododendron thrives. Their white blossoms dot the landscape in midsummer.

We felt lost in time. The air was cool and humid and the mid-morning light was misty due to the persistent cloud cover. We could feel droplets of water at times and thought it might be threatening to rain, but it was only the dew falling from the newly-leafed tree canopy. As we walked along to the accompaniment of birdsong and the rush of the great stream, we were both energized and nourished by the fresh, oxygenated air. All at once we emerged from the green forest to view, across a driveway bridge that spans Bear Run, the spectacular house where water and building unite.

Our map tells us that Fallingwater is a house dedicated to outdoor living - a retreat from the hectic lifestyle that the Kaufmanns led in Pittsburgh. Local laborers built the main and guest houses between 1936 and 1939 under the direction of a self-taught builder and three of Wright's apprentices. Immediately hailed as a modern masterpiece, its reinforced concrete cantilevers extending out from a masonry core expressed a new freedom in structure. The family used Fallingwater until 1963, when Edgar Kaufmann Jr. entrusted it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

We had come to the end of the trail and enjoyed the spectacular scenery from the overlook where my pictures were taken. Our trail map tells us that in 1952, Frank Lloyd Wright commented, "If you look at the design, you can hear the waterfall." Can you?

We made our way back from fairyland toward civilization, passing through the pavilion that houses the gift shop, cafe and restrooms. We paused to hug a couple of trees along the trail ... after all, we're tree-huggers, aren't we? We arrived back at the barn just in time for lunch, our first outdoor picnic of the year, complete with fried chicken, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, veggie wraps and trays of homemade cookies for dessert.

While dining alfresco, we met some of the other conservancy members, exchanging pleasantries about the surroundings, concerns over issues impacting the work of the conservancy and its accomplishments over the past year, as well as the value of each member's support of such a worthy organization. A grand time was had by us all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Time to retire . . . again!

The sky is definitely moving faster today. As I study the clouds of change, my thoughts race to keep pace. All of a sudden, though not at all unexpectedly, life has sped up and we are now on the far side of Thanksgiving. This year the clock has been ticking down to Art's third retirement and I wonder what this one holds in store for us?

He retired in 1973 from the menswear industry and we moved to the farm where he started his electrical parts rebuilding company. He retired from that business after 16 years in 1989 to become a judge in 1994. He might have remained on the bench for a fourth term but for the mandatory retirement age thing, for this was the job he really loved.


But really, you ask, what will he do? What will you both do? What will you EACH do? What will be different? What will remain the same? How will you spend your time? Will you tackle new projects, take up new interests, travel, move away? So many questions. It is hard to imagine the future. But life speeds along a linear timeline and forces us to watch the road ahead and try to straddle the potholes.

We have always lived our lives without plans. We mainly go with the Cosmic Flow. That way things feel right, and we have made our life choices based on feeling and intuition. So, I expect that nothing will change. I expect that everything will change. I expect, too, that we will embrace whatever does change as we have always done.

Retirement - he has no wonderment about this subject. He has done this twice before. He is excited! gleeful! playful, SURE, willing, and oh.so.ready! Speak to him about his plans and his face lights up. Ask him what he will do every day when he no longer has his career-burden to carry and he will reply, "everything... and nothing!" You just know that whatever it is, he will enjoy every minute.

But that's the way he has always lived - in the moment, in the present and in full, glorious gratitude for a God-granted wondrous life to live on Earth, in freedom, with humor, spirit and exuberance, with love and in friendship, with respect and in abundant good health. What more could anyone wish for? Not another blessed thing!

I doubt we will travel. I doubt we will alter our lifestyle. Maybe we will write a book... if so, it will be a funny one! And I know what his comment will be should you ask him for one. He will tell you, "Have no expectations and you will never be disappointed."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Soup Season.....

The first fire of fall is always a noteworthy event for us. The warmth from the woodstove on a chilly, blustery day marks the change of seasons as surely as the colorful falling leaves, acorns under foot, skeins of migrating geese, and the dog finally ceasing to shed as he begins to grow his new winter coat. We fired up our new Avalon woodstove for the first time ever on October 1st. It was installed back in May and we were instructed to light several small fires initially to 'season' the new stove, after which we could use it unrestrainedly as we wished. The stove is a dream to light; it takes right off into a roaring fire... no smoking, no fanning to create a flame. The chimney was built correctly too. What a relief! I now have my Girl Scout fireplace - no electronic controls, no fans needed; just a basic heat source that will warm the house during emergencies or very cold weather without electricity or other extraneous technological contraptions.

Art is away at continuing education school this week and I've been home with just the animals for company. Mo and I took a long, exhilarating hike along the lake, stopping to feed the fish, then up through the harvested fields to the high spot on the farm from which you can see clear to Heaven! Most of the leaves have already fallen, helped by the strong winds and torrential rains over the past week. But some of the trees have yet to give up their bounty. All of the oaks lining the back field are still holding onto their leaves and their acorns; many maples along the way are still resplendent in their red and gold mantles. The air smells earthy and musty and crisp all at the same time. Gone are the swarms of gnats and other flying bugs though the occasional lazy bee can still be seen gathering the last of the season's pollen from some sheltered wildflowers.

I didn't light a fire in the woodstove today as it really wasn't cold enough for one, but the cooler weather and approaching cold front did give me the urge to make a stockpot of soup for the freezer. I have been craving my favorite, Chicken Chowder with Chipotle (Chupe de Pollo con Chipotle). I took some pictures of the preparation. I thought I'd share the recipe as there are some friends here who are sure to ask for it! I usually double this recipe as it's just as easy to make twice as much and I always regret not having made more...

You will need the following for a Dutch oven, but if you have a large stockpot, double this recipe to make 1-1/2 gallons:
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
Olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
6 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast
2 medium red potatoes (about 12 ounces) cut into half-inch pieces
1/2 pound fresh slender green beans or use a 15 ounce can, whichever is easier
1 (15.5-ounce) can white or golden hominy, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup whipping cream (or half and half to lighten the fat)
Salt to taste

1. Remove 1 chile and 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce from the can; reserve the remaining chiles and sauce for another use. (I freeze them in little baggies so I always have them on hand.) Finely chop the chile and set the chile and the sauce aside separately. (Hint: wear rubber gloves when handling chiles and remove all the seeds and veins inside as that is where the heat is stored!)

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven (or stockpot if doubling the recipe) over medium heat. Add chopped chile, onion, carrots, celery, cumin, oregano, thyme and garlic; cook 7 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Add chicken, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken and cool slightly. Shred the chicken with 2 forks, cover and keep warm.

Remove the pan from heat and let stand 5 minutes. If you are using a blender or food processor, puree the broth mixture, a third at a time, until all of the broth is pureed. (I use an immersion blender so I can puree the broth right in the pot.) Return the pureed broth mixture to the pot. Stir in the potatoes, green beans and hominy. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Stir in the chicken and the cream and simmer 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved adobo sauce and salt to taste. ENJOY!

Yield: 8 servings (about 1-1/3 cups).
Calories: 246. Fat: 6.2 grams. Protein: 24.5 grams. Carb: 21.8 grams. Fiber: 3.5 grams.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

5773 ... a New Year

My fervent prayer for the New Year - that these negative human traits and acts be abolished from our lives and our hearts, our minds and our planet .....  fear, pollution of any kind, religious dogmas, violence, capital punishment and prisons, male superiority, social caste systems, cruelty to any life form, poverty, mind control and closed minds, greed, jealousy, envy, cheating, prejudice, corruption, harmful chemicals and drugs, political haranguing and bureaucratic red tape, wanton destruction, health afflictions, anger, ruthlessness, divisiveness, self-centeredness and egotism, dishonesty, military mentality, weaponry, addictions, pornography, homelessness, slave trade, media control, corporate monopolies ... God bless us, every one!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Serendipitous September ...

My emails this morning brought a delightful surprise from one of my most talented friends of the blogosphere. Patsye, to whose charming blog "Whimseytopia" http://whimseytopia.wordpress.com/ I subscribe, awarded me an honor (pictured at the right, and now ensconced on my blog with my other 'gadgets'), along with the following deeply moving words:

 " ... Of all the blogs I follow - and there are not that many - you were one of the first. And if I recall, you taught me how to link to you. That was a big step for me. I was such a neophyte. I still am. But in these 9-10 months I've learned much about the world of blogging, life on Jolico Farm, fracking, and how to make the blogosphere a better place - I hope. You're the best Max. I think of you every day - especially when I see one of those horrifying commercials about gas deposits in western Pa. It must be driving you mad.

I made this award and hope you'll accept it and use it on your blog. And share it. There's nothing required. No lists. No secrets to divulge. Just a huge thank you for all your posts, and your friendship. I would be singing like this crow if I stumbled upon this image, given to someone I don't know by someone else I don't know - all because we're kindred spirits."

I am smiling, my heart is full of the warmth of Patsye's kindness; I am very touched. To learn one has made a difference in the life of another person is a great honor in itself. To unexpectedly receive an award and the beautifully heartfelt words that accompany it, well, that just totally made my September!!! Thanks Patsye, you are such a special soul; you shine!

Among other serendipitous things that have occurred this month - I took on a part-time job! Yes, I have returned to the ranks of the employed as an editorial assistant at the Somerset Daily American newspaper. http://www.dailyamerican.com/ I work from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, with an occasional Saturday thrown in when I'm needed. My duties are varied but I feel like an integral part of the team that publishes Somerset's daily morning newspaper. Those who know me and my love of words (and newspapers) will understand why this type of work is so enjoyable to me. I have a large group of very kind, very capable co-workers who are eager to be helpful to a newspaper neophyte. New opportunities for learning await me every day I step into the newsroom. We use Macintosh computers and software programs with which I was totally unfamiliar but have come to like. While I've been typing and editing obituaries, announcements, school menus, letters to the editor and other items of interest, interspersed with lots of proofreading, I look forward to learning how to enhance photos in Photoshop and work with In-Design, both programs I've used before but never worked with in their Mac versions. I'm sure there will be other interesting responsibilities that will come my way in time.

Just about the time I started my new job, I received another serendipitous honor from my friends at Sipesville VFD. In 2009 I had written a FEMA grant for a new tanker. The estimated cost for the truck proved to be too expensive and the grant was not awarded. So in 2010, we sharpened our pencils and re-submitted that grant for a 3000 gallon tanker with a more economical price tag. We were notified at the beginning of 2011 that the grant had been awarded. The truck was ordered up, built in Missouri and was finally delivered at the end of August. I was invited to share in the delivery celebration at the fire hall on the evening the truck arrived. Imagine my surprise as Mandy Shroyer led me over to show me some of the details on the truck and she pointed out two small but very important emblems. On both sides of the truck, just behind the cab doors, emblazoned in gold for all the world to see was the prettiest, wholehearted 'Thank-you' a grant writer was ever rewarded with! I am blessed to continue to be a part of this wonderful group of volunteers since writing my first grant for them in 2003. In turn, they have honored me in the most rewarding way with their deepest gratitude.

Beyond all of the excitement of the world at the end of the lane, life at Jolico Farm follows its familiar patterns. Through a wetter than normal early and late summer with a very dry mid-summer, we have had an abundant harvest and squirreled away lots of tomato products, peppers, pesto, potatoes, pickles onions, garlic, carrots and pears. Our flowers were spectacular this year! Our woodstove and chimney installation earlier this spring and our gazebo rebuild were our two major projects of 2011. An early August trip to Washington D.C. to see our nephew Sgt. Michael Blank off to his new posting in Germany was another highlight for us. Now, as we put another summer behind us, we are left with these beautiful memories:


Art, Mike and Hank in D.C.

Wonderful veggies!
Early morning wonders...

Spectacular colors and scents.


Huge elephant ear plant!

Woof!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our 15 Minutes of Fame ... this article about us appeared in The Somerset Daily American on our 42nd wedding anniversary!


VICKI ROCK Daily American Staff Writer
SOMERSET PA, August 25, 2011 —

Arthur and Maxine Cook, Jolico Farm, Somerset, have been gardeners for 42 years. Like many gardeners, they are often faced with what to do with their excess produce after eating and preserving much of it.

A writer on a gardening blog that Maxine was reading mentioned the Ample Harvest.org website. She visited the website and clicked on the link for people who have excess produce to find a food pantry that would accept it. The nearest food pantries listed were in Ligonier, Acme and Latrobe.

“This is a great idea — gardeners with excess produce to give it to food pantries — that’s fabulous,” she said. “But none in Somerset County were listed.”

Jeffrey Masterson, executive director of the Community Action Partnership for Somerset County Tableland Services, said food pantries in Somerset County do accept fresh produce as long as people call the food pantries first.

“With the cutbacks in federal and state funding, we appreciate fresh produce people are offering,” he said.

Arthur Cook pointed out that some people may not be aware of how to prepare fresh produce. Masterson agreed and said the younger families especially may not know how to use everything. If people could provide written directions as to how to use various items, that would be helpful.

“The elderly do know how to prepare the vegetables, and how to preserve them,” Maxine Cook said. “Friends don’t like to see me coming in the summer because they know that I’m bringing them vegetables — I print out recipes and leave them with the bags of zucchini. Wasting food bothers me terribly. It breaks my heart to throw out produce, but I can only use, can and freeze so much. Most people who produce food work hard.”

Arthur Cook said their zucchini plants produce 30 pounds a day during the peak season and he ends up composting 98 percent of it.

If the food pantries aren’t willing to accept all the excess produce, the Cooks think it would be nice if a local church or other organization would offer space in a building. Gardeners could bring in their extra produce and anyone who wants it — not just people eligible to use food pantries — could go and pick it up.

“I just think with the cost of food — think of how much it has gone up in the past three months, six months, one year — people would be happy to get it,” Maxine Cook said. “If you don’t garden, take the food. There could be one in each community. A committee could get together to organize it. This could become a movement, or a new practice.”

Her husband agreed.

“You can’t stay healthy without fresh food,” he said.

A similar project is being planned. The Rev. Barry Ritenour, pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church, said a Produce to People group is being started in Somerset. A monthly distribution of fresh produce will be available for residents of Somerset County. This produce will be excess from local farms. Details of the first distribution will be announced soon.

“The farmers who are willing to donate will have a contact person and we will send in gleaners to pick the produce,” Ritenour said. Gleaners are people who go into a field and pick up produce left behind by machinery.

Produce to People in Somerset County is being sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Feeding America, Somerset County Farmers’ Market, Somerset County Community Action Partnership, Somerset Area Ministries and St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.
Copyright © 2011, Daily American

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Second Mother's First Wedding Ring ...

She passed away in 2000. While cleaning out her dresser drawer I found a slim platinum band engraved with the initials "IMT to FK 3/10/46". The sight of it stopped me in my tracks and I sat on the edge of her bed marveling at its simple beauty. Engraved on all of it's surfaces with a delicate herringbone pattern, it sparkled as if it were studded with a million brilliant lights. It looked as if it had never been worn, and indeed it had not in more than 50 years. I knew about this ring but I had not seen it before. I didn't realize she might have kept it all these years. She divorced her first husband within a year of their marriage. She once told me he reneged on his promise to have children with her and she, an only child, could not imagine living a lifetime without children.

My second mother is how I refer to this woman who married my father two years after my birth mother's death. 'Stepmother' would never do justice to this mother who scooped me up at the age of 2-1/2 and called me her very own forever afterwards. She met my father on a blind date, fixed up by mutual friends. She said she fell in love with him after he introduced her to me. I guess we made a complete and compelling package, my dad and me, and we three became an instant family.

I slipped the ring onto my finger that day in her bedroom. It was as light as air and as lovely as my memories of her. I wore the ring for the next ten years, and each time I looked at it I was reminded of her.

Last week, after tossing a stick into the lake for my dog Moses to retrieve, I realized that the ring was gone. It had simply vanished. In that moment of loss I imagined that when I had flung the stick far out into the deep water for the dog, I had cast the ring from my finger as well. I felt an immediate and profound sense that I had lost a physical connection with my mother. My brain told me that it was futile to think I could find the ring under the water, and I sat by the shore thinking fanciful thoughts to comfort myself ... maybe a fish will swallow the ring and one day I will catch the fish and the ring will come back to me; if it is meant to be mine, the ring will return; maybe I am no longer needy of physical reminders of my mother....

My finger was naked for a week and many times each day I missed the physical presence of the ring. I still felt it's ethereal energy circling my finger and I mourned its absence. Many times I told myself that I was experiencing loss and that I must learn some constructive ways to deal with this. After all, it was just a ring. Yes, but also on some level, I was experiencing anew the loss of my mother. Ah, the old familiar feelings of loss and having to let go. I do not handle loss well, it having been a recurring theme throughout my life.

Then yesterday in the bedroom, something small and shiny caught my eye just before I swept it up into the vacuum cleaner. There, wedged in the thick carpet at the side of the bed was the ring!! It had indeed come back to me. I was flushed with relief, delight! I found myself again sitting on the edge of a bed marveling at the appearance of the ring. It must have slipped from my finger while I was tucking in the sheets but I didn't miss it until I whipped that stick into the lake. So strange... but I am comforted by the fact that sometimes what seems lost is merely misplaced. Sometimes loss is temporary, not permanent. Sometimes the sadness of loss turns into the joy of reunion. I think Eckhart Tolle is telling us that there is no loss... "When life takes away the forms that you thought were the foundation of your life, what's left? The life that needs no foundation; that is the foundation. The formless. The essence."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The First Ever Wedding Held At Jolico Farm...

The wedding of Ellen Yun-ju Jeon and Nick Mazerov went off without a hitch on June 4th at Jolico Farm. It was a beautiful wedding, as beautiful as the couple who were married here that day. Much preparation and attention to detail went into this international event - the marriage of a Korean Beauty to an All-American Guy!

They met in Korea where Nick went to teach English to Korean students a couple of years ago. They fell in love.....what more is there to tell? They decided to marry and did so, first in Korea and then here in the USA. When Nick's parents, Mike and Connie called to ask Art to perform the ceremony, we were delighted to oblige and offered Jolico Farm as the setting for the wedding. We've known Nick since he was born (30+ years) and it was an honor and a pleasure to host his wedding at our home. It was indeed an honor for Art to preside over the ceremony, as he prides himself in performing marriages that "stick".

Enjoy some pictures of the event while reading excerpts from the Judge's words of wisdom to the couple.

We are gathered here today in the sight of God and in the presence of this company to join together Nick and Ellen in holy matrimony. Marriage involves more than the joining of two hearts. It is the joining of two families.
The key to true happiness and harmony in marriage involves patience, consideration, tolerance and giving. Learn to be each other’s best friend. Work together as a team. Find what each of you does best and make that your major responsibility. Never forget to express your love for one another, not just with words but with actions. Love is the language of the heart and it is often non-verbal. May your love for one another radiate out in all directions and touch all.

Life is not easy. There are many challenges ahead of you. Learn to find strength in each other. Respect each other’s space and permit each other room to grow. Remember, you are sharing your lives here on Earth but each of you is an individual. You are not the property of one another but free spirits, children of our Divine Father. Do not place your happiness in the acquisition of material wealth for this is an empty hole that will not ever be filled. Our Divine Father always gives us what we need. Rather, make kindness and sharing your goals in life. Help those who are less fortunate. Be of service to all.

 Do you Nick, take Ellen to be your wife, to love her with all your heart and soul, to forsake all others, to love her in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, to put her needs before your own, to be kind and gentle to her for as long as you both shall live? If so, say "I do".


Do you Ellen take Nick to be your husband, to love him with all your heart and soul, to forsake all others, to love him in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, to put his needs before your own, to be kind and gentle to him for as long as you both shall live? If so, say "I do".

Then, so as Nick and Ellen have pledged these sacred vows of marriage, one to the other, in the presence of God and this company, by the powers granted me by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I declare you are, this day, husband and wife. What God has joined together, let no one put asunder.
  
LET'S PARTY!!!!

hors d'oeuvres

.... Champagne Punch & Cocktails for all!

A brief rain shower refreshed the crowd, which sheltered under the porches.

...until dinner was served on the patio!

The gorgeous flowers!!

....the lovely setting.

The Chef du Village - (the village headman!)

....the honored guests.

The happy couple!!

More honored guests!

Happy parents of the bride.

Cutting the cake ....... yum!!

...and they lived happily ever after!