Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Blog Turns Personal

Okay, the whole "work blog" thing is so unbelievably boring that I decided to switch this over to a strictly personal blog. I will no longer bore people to death talking about Radmind, image building, Dreamweaver, or what new thing went wrong. This is a spot for me and the real people I know (or read). I may talk about family, and life, and you will still probably be bored out of your wits and move on to another blog.

That's okay, I've done that myself.

Seriously, though, I am tired of having a web presence that is pretty much completely anonymous and can't be shared with family and real friends. Those of you who may know me by my other name, please be considerate in keeping it private. Not everything I say on the other blog is meant for all readers (sorry Mom!). I will continue to post on the hidden blog, so as to not disappoint all 3 of my readers. Okay, maybe I have 5, or 6, if I can recall from comments. Most of you long time friends know my real name, and will have received an email telling you about this new blog. This should be pretty fun, and a bit of an experiment...

And I'm all about the fun :)

Okay, I'm off to pick out a movie to watch tonight. My son picked out Karate Kid II at the library, and it may be time to pop that in and sit back and relax... I used to have such a crush on Ralph Macchio... but then again, who didn't. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fall has OFFICIALLY arrived...

Every year, my mother and I can vegetable soup starter, with tomatoes from either my parents' garden, or my grandpa Pat's garden. Last summer, my grandpa died from cancer, and it was the first fall in a long time that I did not have time to help my mother can soup. She ended up not making any at all.

Two weeks ago, I went back to Manson to help her can soup, and incidentally, to celebrate my dad's 30th anniversary on the Manson Volunteer Fire Department. Actually, canning was just an excuse to explain why I was in Manson. The fire department was giving my dad a surprise party.

That afternoon, my dad showed me his garden. I had heard him talk about how big the tomato plants were getting, but the reality was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

In order to understand this story, I need to tell you a bit of family history.

For decades, my grandpa Pat, my dad's father, had the most amazing garden. Beautiful cabbages, onions, turnips, cantaloupe, strawberries, sweet corn, and above all, tomatoes. Just amazing. Not a weed dared poke up between the neat rows of fruits and vegetables. Every year, he shared this bounty with his children's families, and their extended circle of friends. We froze sweet corn and rhubarb, canned tomato juice, soup starter, salsa, and rhubarb jam to bring a taste of summer to our family throughout the harsh Iowa winters.

February of 2004, my grandpa started his seedlings for his garden, setting up grow-lights in his basement, tending them carefully until he planted them once the danger of frost had passed. We could not believe that he had done it himself.

All through that spring, the cancer and the chemo were weakening him. One lovely evening in early May, my birthday actually, I sat on my deck transplanting petunias of the most beautiful shade of pink I had ever seen. I remember the night like it was yesterday. The air was warm with just a hint of summer, and it was so peaceful to sit there with my hands in the warm dirt, pulling apart the roots, and pushing them into their new home. The only sounds were of the birds, and the traffic that occasionally passed. I was sad, because I knew that my grandpa was not doing very well. But, at the same, I felt so much at peace that I hoped the evening could go on forever.

The next day, my mom called to tell me that my grandpa had decided not to continue with his cancer treatments.

He grew weaker and weaker, finally unable to walk very far. During the last weeks, my dad and the rest of his siblings, worked on building a ramp in order to be able to take my grandpa out to see his garden. Finally, they were able to take him out to see it. A few days later, he lapsed into his final coma. By early Friday morning, he was gone.

The rest of the summer, my dad and his brother and sisters, worked to keep the garden going. Every time we ate something from that garden, it was like having a part of my grandpa with us, another memory would come rushing back. When the end of the summer came, I think it was like losing a final part of him.

This year, my uncle took over my grandpa's garden, but it wasn't the same.

My dad's garden, however...

I was stunned as I looked up at a cherry tomato plant the size of a tree. Eight feet tall. My dad had to stand two, three and a half foot high wire fence sections around it to help support it. The other cherry tomato plants were only six to seven feet tall... In the center of the garden stood four tomato plants that were also near eight feet tall. Dad had doubled up fencing around them, and placed metal rods between the plants, which branched out over them. The cucumber plants were vertical, also supported by fencing, the cucumbers hanging from the vines perfectly shaped. The green pepper plants were bushes, and had reproduced crazy amounts of peppers. The onions had not done very well, because of animals, but the rest of the tomato plants were also much bigger than normal, and bore gorgeous tomatoes, some massive, and others the size of large apples.

My jaw gaped the more I looked at how wonderfully everything had grown. My dad was so proud of his garden this year...

Sunday, my mom and I worked like crazy to cut up veggies, blanch the tomatoes, and finally cook the soup starter until all of the vegetables were done. We put a tablespoon of canning salt into each quart jar, and filled 18 jars with the soup. 45 minutes in a hot water bath to seal the jars, and after eight hours, we were done. If it didn't taste so good, we both agreed, we'd never even consider going to that much effort.

Before I left to go home, she gave me eight quarts of the old soup to take home (it's good for 3 years). This is the soup that we made two summers ago, when grandpa had recovered from his surgery, when my sister Kim and her husband had just gotten married, after my uncle Doug had just died from his cancer. These were made with tomatoes from my grandpa's and my dad's gardens. It was the best soup starter we had ever made (until this year, of course :).

Today, I made vegetable beef soup using one of those jars.

Friday, September 16, 2005


As a follow up on last week's post about the severe weather:

We had a tornado touch down on campus! A small one, yes, but an actual tornado (and I thought I was just being paranoid about the fact that the radar showed a hook echo right over us, and that debris was hitting our fourth floor lab windows...).

(hmm... can't find the link to the news story that explained it all...)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Interesting Day in the Neighborhood...

Severe weather causes some damage on ISU campus