Corny

When your childhood bedroom overlooks acres of corn, it stays with you. You can grow up, leave the farm, move to the city and put 31 years between you and the corn fields, but you can't entirely leave them. Corn, it turns out, stays in your blood.

Such are my thoughts this morning as I just finished blanching 14 ears of sweet, sweet Pennsylvania corn, cutting the kernels off the ears, and packaging it for the freezer. Soup season is not far off, and I'll need the corn for chicken corn soup. Oh, you can try using the frozen stuff from the grocery store. It's passable in a pinch. If you use canned corn (home-canned is OK, I'm referring to the grocery store stuff), I'm sorry, but we can't be friends. No – you need sweet corn, and it has to be fresh when you cut it off the ears. Trust me on this.

Here's the link to my "recipe" for chicken corn soup

I've written about corn before, a hundred years ago on my old blog. When you do many dozens of ears, as we did back in the day, it takes a whole squad of good country folk. But this morning, I was only doing a few. I started with this 

IMG_8581

And ended up with this

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I think about my wonderful grandmas all the time, but never more than when I'm sitting in the kitchen, cutting corn off the ear. One of my fondest memories of my Grandma Losch is of her sitting in my childhood kitchen with a big bowl on her lap, slicing corn off of blanched ears with unrivaled precision and speed.  I don't remember anyone else doing this job. But I paid attention, because I knew one day I would get to cut my own corn.

See those intact chunks of kernels? We would try to sneak our hands into that sticky bowl to grab those because they tasted so delicious. Some kids stick their fingers in the cake batter (ok, fine, we did that too), but we wanted corn.

Alas, August is almost over and school starts next week. Summer is winding down. I'm happy to have tucked a bit of golden summer goodness away for later, when the days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orion is a-Risin’

Tonight, on a cold February night, Peezer had to work on part of his multi-day assignment on a president of his choice. For reasons too numerous to list here, I just was not up to helping him. Fortunately, his Dad was. And in exchange, I happily donned coat and hat and gloves to walk Mac – usually Curt's job, typically something I avoid, but I was eager for the trade tonight.

So the dog and I are walking up the road to the clearing where the power lines run through. I looked up and I saw A SHOOTING STAR! – and also Orion. And I can never see Orion in the winter sky without remembering 5th/6th grade in Mrs. Cameron's class in "the Annex" at Millerstown Elementary School – we had what seemed like lots and lots of time (which I anticipated and loved) devoted to music education – and when she would take requests, the song "Orion" was in heavy rotation. (And so were "Lemon Tree" and "There's a Hole In My Bucket" – both of which make me want to gouge out my eardrums to this day. But ORION!) She was an excellent pianist (I'm sure she still is), and we gathered 'round the piano a couple times a week and sang: 

        Orion is a-Risin' 

You can see his stars a-blazin' in the middle of the clear-eyed country sky

And it's never too surprisin'

That the sky is still amazin' way out here where nothin' hides it from my eyes

CHORUS

Sleepin' outside in a bag as a kid seems like the best thing that I ever did

Ohhhhh

Chasin' the shadows and the tracks in the snow, don't ya know…..

The day is gettin' colder

And I really start to wonder why they're cloudin' all the country skies to gray

The world is gettin' older

You can hear it in the thunder and the rain might come and chase us all away

CHORUS

Ohhhh

The moon is on the wane

And it looks like it might rain or maybe snow

How are we to stay here

If there's no room left to play here or to grow

Don't ya know, don't ya know

I didn't appreciate the lyrics then, though they have stuck in my brain as a perpetual earworm since the early 1980s, but I see now that they were about growing up in the country, which I did, and appreciating the wide open spaces we were fortunate to have – spaces that enabled us to see the night sky in all its expansive vibrance.

God, I was so blessed.

So I'm here in the suburbs and I'm walking the dog, looking up at the stars and humming my 35+ year earworm, relishing in the shooting star that was surely placed there JUST FOR ME, and I start thinking about Peezer, at home working on some poster about President Kennedy, and how last night he was tooting his clarinet at his school's winter concert:

  Band concert 2-9-15
And you know what? That group of fourth graders, who began playing those instruments just four months ago, who get about 30 minutes A WEEK in instrumental music instruction (seriously, how can anyone possibly think that's enough??) – they played several recognizable melodies. As a group. TOGETHER. And whenever a group of ANY AGE HUMANS performs any kind of music together – even if it's a bunch of out-of-tune woodwinds – IT'S MAGICAL.

MUSIC. What a blessing. 

Whether it's "Hot Cross Buns" on the (flat) Clarinet (I guess they tune in middle school?), or "Orion" in my head by a bunch of farm kids in the 1980s, or The Steel Wheels in 2015 (Roots / bluegrass by this band of guys that just has my heart lately), music is a universal language… and so are the stars, and maybe presidential homework isn't, or maybe it is, but February, which I really have come to dread in the past decade – maybe February is not actually the worst month after all. All things considered.

 

Hide and Seek

LAST WEEKEND, I dragged took my neighbor Stephanie up to my old stompin' grounds. My aunt and uncle built a sweet cabin on the ridge above what used to be my grandmother's (her mother's) farm, and they kindly allowed us to invade for a girls' weekend. Steph's sister Dory and Dory's friend Diane met us there. Our mission: A whole bunch of geocaching, a ride on the Millersburg Ferry and a visit to the Ned Smith Nature and Art festival.

I provided nonstop running commentary and shared interesting facts spouted minutiae about my hometown. I pointed out where my relatives live. (Which was, like, every third house.) I told stories from back in the day.  I wouldn't shut up was probably pretty unbearable, but I was their chauffer, so they were my captive audience.

For the uninitiated, geocaching is a worldwide game of hide and seek. You can find lists of "caches" on the website, enter the coordinates into your handheld GPS, then use that to guide you to the exact location of the cache. Along the way you can get sunburned hike, learn local history, and you get to see things that are miles from all civilization off the beaten path. My companions are all quite experienced geocachers, but they were patient and willing to train their chauffer.

But enough of my prattling on and on and on. I'll let the photos do (most of) the talking.

Dory fishes a microcache out of its hiding place while Steph logs our find.

Caching

One of the caches we found was hidden in state gamelands, high above the Susquehanna River… 

Susquehanna river valley, looking north 
…and Routes 11/15. This was just north of Liverpool, PA. 
High above 11-15 along the Susquehanna 
We found caches at two covered bridges - 
Aline covered bridge sign 
 
…the Aline Bridge, just up Route 104 on the way to Middleburg, and…

Red Bridge Liverpool PA
 
…Red Bridge, outside of Liverpool. Please don't tell anyone that I grew up maybe 4 miles from this bridge but never knew it was there.  Adjacent to this site were an old outhouse–

Outhouse next to Red Bridge Liverpool
 
—and a long-abandoned house:

House next to Red Bridge Liverpool PA
 

There were also cemeteries (which, I just learned, is from the Greek word that means "sleeping place"). There was the one out by Barners Church –

Barners Church
 
…where there are, in fact, many tombstones bearing the name "Barner."

Barners Cemetery 
(…even though this photo features a "Meiser" grave marker. You'll have to take my word for it.) 

Then there was the cemetery at the site of the former St. Michael's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pfoutz Valley. It's an equally peaceful "sleeping place":

JewishCatching July 2011 118
 

 This cemetery used to be adjacent to a church, which has long since been razed:

St Michaels Church monument 
St. Michael's is next to the farm that was my aunt & uncle's, and the next farm after that one was was my grandmother's – where my dad grew up. So you see, I can't even count how many times I've driven by this place. And yet, I can remember only stopping and visiting it a few times. It's so peaceful and quiet there, and as I surveyed the plot's location amid corn and soybean fields, I got to thinking how this would be such a nice place to spend my eternal rest, because the chances are next to zero that they would pave over this particular slice of paradise… but then I remembered the other cemetery we visited earlier in the day –

Sarah Catharine Shuman's gravestone
 
The cache was nestled next to Sarah Catharine Shuman's grave. She died when she was only ten. And that was next to these —

Grave stones at Tombstone cache
 
–which were sequestered way up on top of a slab of earth that was flanked by a highway on-ramp and an off-ramp – the Millerstown exit of Routes 22/322. The highway was built in the '60s, and my cousin Julie tells me that her dad protested the original plan to relocate those graves. The highway was redesigned to leave this small family plot intact. And I am sure that when Catharine's grieving parents buried their precious daughter there, they couldn't have imagined that her resting place would end up overgrown and inaccessible to all but the hardiest, most adventurous hikers. I mean, you really have to wanna get up there.

Now, this cache –

Nekoda Cache
 
…was called Nekoda. The cache was hidden in an overgrown area across the road from an old structure that once housed a general store and a post office. Until recently, it still showed up on maps of Pennsylvania, even though the post office has been defunct for decades. The building sat abandoned for many years. I could see it from my bedroom window. I spent 16 years looking across the corn fields at it, wondering if it really was haunted, as was the rumor.  A family has since bought it and fixed it up and I'd love to see what it looks like inside – I bet it's great fun to ramble around in there. We, however, were focused on navigating 'round needle-sharp bramble bushes to locate the cache that was tucked into the overgrowth near an old stone wall that may have once been the foundation for a barn or other outbuilding.

Geocachers at St Michaels
 
My fellow seekers – Steph, Dory and Diane. And yes, that's a Busch Pounder in Dory's hand. This was our 15th and final cache of the day, and we decided to linger 'neath the evergreens and enjoy a refreshing cold beverage to celebrate our finds. What a fun day – I enjoyed showing my friends around my hometown and surrounding area, and really liked learning some new things, too.

I have more to share, including the Millersburg Ferry photos – but those will have to wait for another day. Until next time –