Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Tell-Tale Heart

Here's one last Halloween tale. I can remember reading this Edgar Allan Poe story as a child and having nightmares over it. So, proceed with caution!
TRUE!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly—very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked)—I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights—every night just at midnight—but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers—of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back—but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out—"Who's there?"

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening;—just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh, no!—it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself—"It is nothing but the wind in the chimney—it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel—although he neither saw nor heard—to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open—wide, wide open—and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense?—now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!—do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once—once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye—not even his—could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all—ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock—still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart,—for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled,—for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search—search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct:—It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness—until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale;—but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men—but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed—I raved—I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder—louder—louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!—no, no! They heard!—they suspected!—they knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now—again!—hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks! here, here!—It is the beating of his hideous heart!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Of Frogs and Lizards

I finally snapped a picture of the wood lizards that love to 'sun' themselves on my porch. I thought I'd post a link about to some wonderful site about them, but I really couldn't find anything. Maybe these little fellows aren't supposed to be in Tennessee!
Maybe I'll start a new blog - Things that live on my porch! Here's another tree frog. This one was on the storm door, so I was able to take a picture from both sides. He looks big in the picture, but this frog is actually only about an inch long.

The other evening, I passed by the window and my yard was full of wild turkeys. I grabbed my camera, but by the time I was ready to take a picture something spooked them. And, I was too spooked by giant turkeys in flight to snap a picture! Sounds like a fishing should have seen the one that got away....Speaking of fish...can you spot them in this photo?

Don't you just love turtles!

I wish this majestic bald eagle had turned and taken a pose for the camera. I would have loved to see him in flight.

Take time today to notice the wildlife around you, no matter how big or small!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall in the Hollow

Fall is my favorite time of the year. This year we seem to have an abundance of yellow and gold leaves.

After so many days of rain, it's nice to finally see the sun filtering through the trees.

Don't you feel happy just looking at these pictures?

I was so happy to find the next tree that I almost cried. Back in the hollow, pear trees were scattered around abandoned properties. I don't know who planted them, but they brought us a lot of joy. There's nothing like biting into a fresh, juicy pear straight from the tree. I had assumed most of them had died off, but I spotted this one. The picture isn't too good because I was trying to get a close up of the fruit. This was once a huge tree, but most of the higher limbs have been broken in storms. But, it's still bearing fruit. Wonder why no one has picked it? For one thing, this fruit is a good 20 feet off the ground.
In honor of pear trees gone by, here's another vintage recipe...
Pear Pudding
1 quart slicd pears
2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
juice of 1/2 lemon
teaspoon of grated lemon rind
1/2 cup hot water
Mix crumbs and butter together. Mix lemon juice, water, and lemon rind. Layer bottom of baking dish with crumbs, cover with half of the pears, sprinkle with half of the sugar, nutmeg, and half of the lemon juice mixture. Repeat layers. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bak another 20 minutes being careful not to burn the crumbs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Homemade Swings

I didn't have a tire swing growing up in the Hollow, but I did have a wooden swing hanging from an old Elm tree. That swing was there long before I came along, but it still provided me with years of enjoyment.

I can just picture little ones fighting over the next turn in this swing. Is it any wonder we love trees? Take time today to notice one and let it spread some joy in your heart.
Here's a tree inspired recipe from a vintage 1832 cookbook:
Bird's Next Pudding
If you wish to make what is called 'bird's nest puddings', prepare your custard, take either or 10 pleasant apples, pare them, and dig out the core, but leave them whole. Set them in a pudding dish, pour your custard over them, and bake them about thirty minutes.
Custard Puddings
Custard puddings sufficiently good for common use can be made with five eggs to a quart of milk, sweetened with brown sugar, and spiced with cinnamon, or nutmeg, and very little salt. It is well to boil your milk, and set it away till it gets cold. Boiling milk enriches it so much, that boiled skim-milk is about as good as new milk. A little cinnamon, or lemon peel, or peach leaves, if you do not dislike the taste, boiled in the milk, and afterwards strained from it, give a peasant flavor. Bake fifteen or twenty minutes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tennessee Ghost Stories - Part 3

I can almost see the moonlight when I read this story....
Three and One are One
by Ambrose Bierce
In the year 1861 Barr Lassiter, a young man of twenty-two, lived with his parents and an elder sister near Carthage, Tennessee. The family were in somewhat humble circumstances, subsisting by cultivation of a small and not very fertile plantation. Owning no slaves, they were not rated among “the best people” of their neighborhood; but they were honest persons of good education, fairly well mannered and as respectable as any family could be if uncredentialed by personal dominion over the sons and daughters of Ham. The elder Lassiter had that severity of manner that so frequently affirms an uncompromising devotion to duty, and conceals a warm and affectionate disposition. He was of the iron of which martyrs are made, but in the heart of the matrix had lurked a nobler metal, fusible at a milder heat, yet never coloring nor softening the hard exterior. By both heredity and environment something of the man’s inflexible character had touched the other members of the family; the Lassiter home, though not devoid of domestic affection, was a veritable citadel of duty, and duty - ah, duty is as cruel as death!

When the war came on it found in the family, as in so many others in that State, a divided sentiment; the young man was loyal to the Union, the others savagely hostile. This unhappy division begot an insupportable domestic bitterness, and when the offending son and brother left home with the avowed purpose of joining the Federal army not a hand was laid in his, not a word of farewell was spoken, not a good wish followed him out into the world whither he went to meet with such spirit as he might whatever fate awaited him.

Making his way to Nashville, already occupied by the Army of General Buell, he enlisted in the first organization that he found, a Kentucky regiment of cavalry, and in due time passed through all the stages of military evolution from raw recruit to experienced trooper. A right good trooper he was, too, although in his oral narrative from which this tale is made there was no mention of that; the fact was learned from his surviving comrades. For Barr Lassiter has answered “Here” to the sergeant whose name is Death.

Two years after he had joined it his regiment passed through the region whence he had come. The country thereabout had suffered severely from the ravages of war, having been occupied alternately (and simultaneously) by the belligerent forces, and a sanguinary struggle had occurred in the immediate vicinity of the Lassiter homestead. But of this the young trooper was not aware.

Finding himself in camp near his home, he felt a natural longing to see his parents and sister, hoping that in them, as in him, the unnatural animosities of the period had been softened by time and separation. Obtaining a leave of absence, he set foot in the late summer afternoon, and soon after the rising of the full moon was walking up the gravel path leading to the dwelling in which he had been born.

Soldiers in war age rapidly, and in youth two years are a long time. Barr Lassiter felt himself an old man, and had almost expected to find the place a ruin and a desolation. Nothing, apparently, was changed. At the sight of each dear and familiar object he was profoundly affected. His heart beat audibly, his emotion nearly suffocated him; an ache was in his throat. Unconsciously he quickened his pace until he almost ran, his long shadow making grotesque efforts to keep its place beside him.

The house was unlighted, the door open. As he approached and paused to recover control of himself his father came out and stood bare-headed in the moonlight.

“Father!” cried the young man, springing forward with outstretched hand - “Father!”

The elder man looked him sternly in the face, stood a moment motionless and without a word withdrew into the house. Bitterly disappointed, humiliated, inexpressibly hurt and altogether unnerved, the soldier dropped upon a rustic seat in deep dejection, supporting his head upon his trembling hand. But he would not have it so: he was too good a soldier to accept repulse as defeat. He rose and entered the house, passing directly to the “sitting-room.”

It was dimly lighted by an uncurtained east window. On a low stool by the hearthside, the only article of furniture in the place, sat his mother, staring into a fireplace strewn with blackened embers and cold ashes. He spoke to her - tenderly, interrogatively, and with hesitation, but she neither answered, nor moved, nor seemed in any way surprised. True, there had been time for her husband to apprise her of their guilty son’s return. He moved nearer and was about to lay his hand upon her arm, when his sister entered from an adjoining room, looked him full in the face, passed him without a sign of recognition and left the room by a door that was partly behind him. He had turned his head to watch her, but when she was gone his eyes again sought his mother. She too had left the place.

Barr Lassiter strode to the door by which he had entered. The moonlight on the lawn was tremulous, as if the sward were a rippling sea. The trees and their black shadows shook as in a breeze. Blended with its borders, the gravel walk seemed unsteady and insecure to step on. This young soldier knew the optical illusions produced by tears. He felt them on his cheek, and saw them sparkle on the breast of his trooper’s jacket. He left the house and made his way back to camp.

The next day, with no very definite intention, with no dominant feeling that he could rightly have named, he again sought the spot. Within a half-mile of it he met Bushrod Albro, a former playfellow and schoolmate, who greeted him warmly.

“I am going to visit my home,” said the soldier.

The other looked at him rather sharply, but said nothing.

“I know,” continued Lassiter, “that my folks have not changed, but - ”

“There have been changes,” Albro interrupted - “everything changes. I’ll go with you if you don’t mind. We can talk as we go.”

But Albro did not talk.

Instead of a house they found only fire-blackened foundations of stone, enclosing an area of compact ashes pitted by rains.

Lassiter’s astonishment was extreme.

“I could not find the right way to tell you,” said Albro. “In the fight a year ago your house was burned by a Federal shell.”

“And my family - where are they?”

“In Heaven, I hope. All were killed by the shell.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Old Schoolhouses

This picture was taken in 1922 and is of the old Antioch School in Bumpus Mills. I came across it in some of my Grandmother's pictures. This picture includes my grandparents and their siblings. My Mother also attended this same little schoolhouse. By the time I came along, nothing was left of it but the front steps and the old well. A couple of years ago, someone even removed that and built a house there. I wonder if they can hear the noise of all those children playing in the schoolyard after all these years.

This is the Old Bumpus Mills Schoolhouse. We always refer to it as that, though there isn't a 'new' schoolhouse. The gym was torn down years ago when the schoolhouse was turned into apartments. You can still see the foundation of it though. The apartments never really took and it has been empty for years. The building that loomed so large in my memory seems small today. Trees are growing where the gym once stood. But, I can still see my friends playing in the schoolyard and hear the lingering laughter.
Here's vintage recipe from an 1832 cookbook:
Fried Salt Pork & Apples
Fried salt pork and apples is a favorite dish in the country; but it is seldom seen in the city. After the pork is fried, some of the fat should be taken out, lest the apples should be oily. Acid apples should be chosen, because they cook more easily; they should be cut in slices, across the whole apple, about twice or three times as thick as a new dollar. Fried till tender, and brown on both sides - laid around the pork. If you have cold potatoes, slice them and brown them in the same way.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tennessee Ghost Stories - Part 2

Fair warning....this one is a little spookier

by Ambrose Beirce
Connecting Readyville and Woodbury was a good, hard turnpike nine or ten miles long. Readyville was an outpost of the Federal army at Murfreesboro; Woodbury had the same relation to the Confederate army at Tullahoma. For months after the big battle at Stone River these outposts were in constant quarrel, most of the trouble occurring, naturally, on the turnpike mentioned, between detachments of cavalry. Sometimes the infantry and artillery took a hand in the game by way of showing their good-will.

One night a squadron of Federal horse commanded by Major Seidel, a gallant and skillful officer, moved out from Readyville on an uncommonly hazardous enterprise requiring secrecy, caution and silence.

Passing the infantry pickets, the detachment soon afterward approached two cavalry videttes staring hard into the darkness ahead. There should have been three.

“Where is your other man?” said the major. “I ordered Dunning to be here to-night.”

“He rode forward, sir,” the man replied. “There was a little firing afterward, but it was a long way to the front.”

“It was against orders and against sense for Dunning to do that,” said the officer, obviously vexed. “Why did he ride forward?”

“Don’t know, sir; he seemed mighty restless. Guess he was skeered.”

When this remarkable reasoner and his companion had been absorbed20into the expeditionary force, it resumed its advance. Conversation was forbidden; arms and accouterments were denied the right to rattle. The horses’ tramping was all that could be heard and the movement was slow in order to have as little as possible of that. It was after midnight and pretty dark, although there was a bit of moon somewhere behind the masses of cloud.

Two or three miles along, the head of the column approached a dense forest of cedars bordering the road on both sides. The major commanded a halt by merely halting, and, evidently himself a bit “skeered,” rode on alone to reconnoiter. He was followed, however, by his adjutant and three troopers, who remained a little distance behind and, unseen by him, saw all that occurred.

After riding about a hundred yards toward the forest, the major suddenly and sharply reined in his horse and sat motionless in the saddle. Near the side of the road, in a little open space and hardly ten paces away, stood the figure of a man, dimly visible and as motionless as he. The major’s first feeling was that of satisfaction in having left his cavalcade behind; if this were an enemy and should escape he would have little to report. The expedition was as yet undetected.

Some dark object was dimly discernible at the man’s feet; the officer could not make it out. With the instinct of the true cavalryman and a particular indisposition to the discharge of firearms , he drew his saber. The man on foot made no movement in answer to the challenge. The situation was tense and a bit dramatic. Suddenly the moon burst through a rift in the clouds and, himself in the shadow of a group of great oaks, the horseman saw the footman clearly, in a patch of white light. It was Trooper Dunning, unarmed and bareheaded. The object at his feet resolved itself into a dead horse, and at a right angle across the animal’s neck lay a dead man, face upward in the moonlight.

“Dunning has had the fight of his life,” thought the major, and was about to ride forward. Dunning raised his hand, motioning him back with a gesture of warning; then, lowering the arm, he pointed to the place where the road lost itself in the blackness of the cedar forest.

The major understood, and turning his horse rode back to the little group that had followed him and was already moving to the rear in fear of his displeasure, and so returned to the head of his command.

“Dunning is just ahead there,” he said to the captain of his leading company. “He has killed his man and will have something to report.”

Right patiently they waited, sabers drawn, but Dunning did not come. In an hour the day broke and the whole force moved cautiously forward, its commander not altogether satisfied with his faith in Private Dunning. The expedition had failed, but something remained to be done.

In the little open space off the road they found the fallen horse. At a right angle across the animal’s neck face upward, a bullet in the brain, lay the body of Trooper Dunning, stiff as a statue, hours dead.

Examination disclosed abundant evidence that within a half-hour the cedar forest had been occupied by a strong force of Confederate infantry - an ambuscade

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Old Barns & Houses

Do you know how you can tell an 'old-timer' from someone new to the area? Ask directions. The 'old-timer' will tell you to take a turn where 'Ole Mr. Smith' used to live. They won't tell you who lives there now if there is still a house even standing. While I definitely do not consider myself old, I end up doing the same thing. A friend asked me recently if I knew where a certain road was located. She had never heard of it and I immediately knew why. The road was renamed when our county established the 911 emergency system years ago. I don't think it ever had a name before, probably just a county road number. But, we always referred to it as 'the road to Miss Hattie's house.' We called it that years after Miss Hattie had passed on to Heaven.
Maybe it's a way of hanging on to the past and keeping those friends and neighbors alive in our memories. I have no idea who lived in the old house above, but I used to sit in front of it waiting while Mom stripped tobacco in a nearby barn. Almost every evening, I would have my school work finished by the time she was finished stripping tobacco. Then we'd head home, dropping off neighbor ladies along the way. Back in the Hollow, stripping tobacco was something usually done by older women as a way to earn spending money or even provide for themselves in hard times. While social security was around, for most of these women, they received very little income if any at all. I had an Aunt who actually drew $98 a month. Even years ago it was a shameful amount.

As things continue to change around me on an almost daily basis, I really do long for those days in the Hollow. They were hard times, but we had ways of providing for ourselves. As more and more of those ways fade into the past, I wonder what will become of us all and who will be around to teach the next generation.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Land Between The Lakes

In my opinion, one of the 'good' things that came from the creation of Land Between The Lakes was a permanent home for a herd of these majestic animals. I never get tired of watching the 'Buffalo' and often stop to see them.
To get this picture, I had to belly crawl through the tall prairie grass until I was almost close enough to touch them. Just kidding! This was snapped very quietly from the safety of my car because there are NO FENCES once you are in the Elk/Bison range. I wonder if they ever charge at cars?

This old fellow was in a pen all by himself and the first one we saw today. For a while I thought he was the 'token' buffalo on the buffalo tour. Do you ever get the feeling you're the one being watched???

So if you are looking for something inexpensive to do this Fall, take a drive through Land Between The Lakes. Bring some picnic food and enjoy the outdoors. While you're driving through, think about the fact that you are seeing your decades old tax dollars at work and the results of Eminent Domain in action. While I do love the buffalo, I can't help but think about the people that lived and worked the land for generations. As you drive through Land Between The Lakes, you will notice numerous cemetery signs. That, in itself, will give you an idea of the population. Their history is unrecognized in the materials and information you will receive in any of the welcome stations. But, you can read about it here, Land Between The Lakes: A Story of Colonialism in Kentucky. It's a true tale that should make us all question Eminent Domain and what it can do to the heart of America.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Miracle Ball Method

I have talked about The Miracle Ball Method to many of my friends and also promised to write about it. Lower back pain is something almost all of us have experienced. There is absolutely nothing worse than being in constant pain. After a while it takes over and controls every thinking moment. I can understand how easily people become addicted to pain killers and, unfortunately, overdose. The pills only help for a little while and you constantly need more to help block out the pain. I say block it out, because nothing I took helped for any length of time.
I tried medical doctors and chiropractors. Medical doctors prescribed pain pills and muscle relaxers. Chiropractors were more expensive and at a loss when the treatment plan ended without my being well again. I tried ice, heat, massage and injections. In the end, I lost faith in ever feeling better. I think I read somewhere that after six weeks of pain, it is considered chronic pain. Like we need anyone to tell us that!
So, there I was, taking pills that didn't help, trying everything I could think of and feeling pretty desperate. I decided to crawl to the computer, fire up the Internet and search for answers. I found out a lot of helpful information. Some of it I had tried. But, I also found out that there is a group of muscles in your back that run from your femur to your spine. Collectively, they are referred to as The Iliopsoas Muscle. When this muscle spasms, it can mimic a slipped disc and the pain is beyond belief. My next step was to search out treatments. Trigger Point therapy by a massage therapist came up as the most suggested treatment. Sounds easy, right? Well, not if you live in a rural area and find it difficult to drive due to, let's say, a back spasm.
If you can find a massage therapist trained in trigger point therapy, then I would give it a try. It is something I still want to do. In any case, I searched for self-applied trigger point methods. There are a lot of products out there and it surprised me. They range from hard metal thingys to little triangles. All looked painful to me. Above all else, I did not want to inflict more pain on myself or do any damage. During all of this time, I carried a little hard rubber ball (about the size of an orange) with me. I used it in the car and in the office chair. I found that it helped bring relief if I placed it in certain areas around my back and leaned on it. So, when I came across information on The Miracle Ball Method, I was very intrigued.
The Miracle Ball Method was developed by a young dancer named Elaine Petrone who suffered an injury to her back and leg. Basically they are two grapefruit-sized balls that you rest your back on for relief. The balls are soft and squish down to about half their size when you lie on them. Through breathing exercises and relaxing onto the balls, the method promises stress and pain relief. For me, they had two things going for them. One, they were relatively inexpensive compared to other products. Two, I didn't see how I could harm myself with the balls. They were soft, and I was already using a much harder one without any instruction.
I couldn't wait to try them when I received my order. My only hesitation was whether I would be able to get back up off the floor! So, it sounds easy. All you have to do is breath and relax. Easier said than done when you are in pain. But, I did it. And, honest truth, when I got up off the floor, I felt like I had just had a full-body massage. Every muscle seemed to be relaxed and I felt wonderful. I had no idea how tense I had been everywhere. I continued to improve over the next couple of weeks.
The Miracle Ball Method has a whole range of exercises for different areas of the body. I've only concentrated on my neck and back. It might not work for you, but it definitely worked for me. Well, that's two-cents worth. Do your own research and find a product that is right for you. Just remember, you don't have to live with the pain. Keep looking until you find the problem and solution. Life is too short to live in pain.

(Note: The opinions in this blog are my own and you should seek the advise of your medical doctor before making any changes to your exercise or diet routine.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Signs of Fall

Somehow October arrived without my thinking too much about it. It seems like the last few months have flown by and it's too early to be Fall. The weather turning cooler so quickly didn't help much either. Have you noticed how differently you look at the thermometer at different times of the year? In February, we'll say it got 'up' to 40 degrees today. But, in October, we'll say it got 'down' to 40 degrees last night. One seems cold while the other seems warmer. But, they are the same.
There's just a crispness in the air on a Fall morning. Maybe it's knowing that in a few weeks Winter will be knocking on our door. I heard we might actually get our first frost this weekend and that is entirely too soon for me! It is one of the signs of Fall though. For me, one of the fondest memories is passing a barn with tobacco curing inside. The faint smell of smoke, mingled with the beautiful colors of the leaves always mean Fall to me. Those barns are fewer and far between these days.
In the hollow, Fall was always a time to prepare for Winter. We would gather ears of corn left over from harvested corn fields. It would be stored up in the corn crib. Later on we would shell it for the chickens or sometimes the bird feeders. Potatoes and onions would be dug up and spread in the smoke house for storage. It was also a time to order a load of 'slabs' from the sawmill. Hours would be spent cutting the slabs and stacking the wood. Later on, any fallen trees would be cut up. I don't miss the chores, but I do miss the warmth of a wood stove. I still love the smell of chainsaw smoke! Of course, another sign of Fall is a raking up a huge pile of leaves and jumping into it. When was the last time you did that? Nothing makes you feel more like a kid again! Find your own special memory this Fall and relive it. Hurry though, Winter is right on your heels!
Here's a recipe for the kind of Hot Cocoa that doesn't come in a packet!
Old Fashioned Hot Cocoa
Mix in a saucepan or top of a double boiler:
5 to 6 tablespoons cocoa
5 to 6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Blend in slowly,
1 cup water
Boil gently 2 minutes over direct heat, stirring until slightly thickened. Reduce heat and stir in:
3 cups milk
Heat slowly over direct heat or simmering water until scalding hot; stir occasionally. Remove from heat. Cover and keep hot, if necessary, over hot water. Just before serving, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat with rotary beater until foamy. Serve steaming hot, plain or with whipped cream, marshmallow cream or marshmallows. Serves 6.

Like this recipe? Check out more at this weeks Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Home-made Salad Dressing

I know you have heard me say this before, but here I go again. The absolute best way to save money on your grocery bill is to stop wasting food. It takes forethought and planning. It takes time and budgeting. But, in the end it does work. Think about the food you throw out when you clean out your refrigerator or freezer. How much of that could have been used for a quick lunch or dinner. How much money and time would you have saved by not wasting it?
I'll say something about food to a friend sometimes that will result in a conversation about why I do it a particular way. One of those 'ways' is rinsing jars and containers. I think it comes from being raised by parents and grandparents that lived through the great depression. Everything was used and nothing wasted. I carried those habits into my own household. Take a bottle of ranch dressing for instance. How much dressing is left in the bottle when you think it's empty? Before you throw it out next time, add a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and shake the bottle. Chances are you'll not only find enough dressing for another salad or two, but a healthier version. That bottle of ketchup? Add some water, shake it up and add it to your next pot of soup. There's always a little oil left in the bottle. I like to take the olive oil bottle and add some vinegar and spices. You end up with a wonderful oil and vinegar dressing. Try it next time before you throw out that bottle.
Speaking of grocery bills, have you noticed how expensive salad dressings and steak sauces are these days? You can make your own and save quite a bit of money in addition to being able to control the sodium and sugar. Mom would make her own Thousand Island dressing by combining Kraft Miracle Whip, ketchup, chili sauce, and pickle relish. Here are a few vintage recipes that you can update to suit your own taste and grocery budget. You start with one basic recipe and add other ingredients to make different dressings.
French Dressing
Combine in a 1-pint screw-top jar the following:
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
Cover jar tightly and shake vigorously. Store covered in refrigerator. Shake well before using. Makes 1 cup of dressing.
Garlic French Dressing
Follow recipe for French Dressing above. Mince 1 clove garlic and add to completed dressing. To season well, chill dressing about 12 hours before using.

Honey French Dressing
Follow recipe for French Dressing above. Blend in 1/2 cup honey, 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel and 1/4 teaspoon celery seed.
Blue Cheese Dressing
Follow recipe for French Dressing above. Add 1/2 cup of Blue cheese.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tennessee Ghost Stories - Part 1

Since it's October, now is the perfect time for a little ghost story. It's not bloody, just spooky. This one appeals to me because it involves some gentlemen from Tennessee, though the story takes place in San Francisco. This is an expert of Ambrose Bierce's collection of stories from the turn of the century.
A Cold Greeting
By Ambrose Bierce
This is a story told by the late Benson Foley of San Francisco:

“In the summer of 1881 I met a man named James H. Conway, a resident of Franklin, Tennessee. He was visiting San Francisco for his health, deluded man, and brought me a note of introduction from Mr. Lawrence Barting. I had known Barting as a captain in the Federal army during the civil war. At its close he had settled in Franklin, and in time became, I had reason to think, somewhat prominent as a lawyer. Barting had always seemed to me an honorable and truthful man, and the warm friendship which he expressed in his note for Mr. Conway was to me sufficient evidence that the latter was in every way worthy of my confidence and esteem. At dinner one day Conway told me that it had been solemnly agreed between him and Barting that the one who died first should, if possible, communicate with the other from beyond the grave, in some unmistakable way - just how, they had left (wisely, it seemed to me) to be decided by the deceased, according to the opportunities that his altered circumstances might present.

“A few weeks after the conversation in which Mr. Conway spoke of this agreement, I met him one day, walking slowly down Montgomery street, apparently, from his abstracted air, in deep thought. He greeted me coldly with merely a movement of the head and passed on, leaving me standing on the walk, with half-proffered hand, surprised and naturally somewhat piqued. The next day I met him again in the office of the Palace Hotel, and seeing him about to repeat the disagreeable performance of the day before, intercepted him in a doorway, with a friendly salutation, and bluntly requested an explanation of his altered manner. He hesitated a moment; then, looking me frankly in the eyes, said:

“‘I do not think, Mr. Foley, that I have any longer a claim to your friendship, since Mr. Barting appears to have withdrawn his own from me - for what reason, I protest I do not know. If he has not already informed you he probably will do so.’

“‘But,’ I replied, ‘I have not heard from Mr. Barting.’

“‘Heard from him!’ he repeated, with apparent surprise. ‘Why, he is here. I met him yesterday ten minutes before meeting you. I gave you exactly the same greeting that he gave me. I met him again not a quarter of an hour ago, and his manner was precisely the same: he merely bowed and passed on. I shall not soon forget your civility to me. Good morning, or - as it may please you - farewell.’

“All this seemed to me singularly considerate and delicate behavior on the part of Mr. Conway.

“As dramatic situations and literary effects are foreign to my purpose I will explain at once that Mr. Barting was dead. He had died in Nashville four days before this conversation. Calling on Mr. Conway, I apprised him of our friend’s death, showing him the letters announcing it. He was visibly affected in a way that forbade me to entertain a doubt of his sincerity.

“‘It seems incredible,’ he said, after a period of reflection. ‘I suppose I must have mistaken another man for Barting, and that man’s cold greeting was merely a stranger’s civil acknowledgment of my own. I remember, indeed, that he lacked Barting’s mustache.’

“‘Doubtless it was another man,’ I assented; and the subject was never afterward mentioned between us. But I had in my pocket a photograph of Barting, which had been enclosed in the letter from his widow. It had been taken a week before his death, and was without a mustache.”