“Mnemonic”

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I remember being taught to play the piano and being supplied with two mnemonic devices. The lines on the staff for the right hand could be remembered by Every Good Boy Does Fine(e,g,b,d,f). The white spaces spelled out FACE(f,a,c,e). I still call that tip to mind when I look at a new hymn on Sunday. Mnemonics exist to help our struggling memories over commonly forgotten facts.

A couple of tips in school have stayed with me for sixty years. The difference between principle and principal is that the principal can be your PAL. Desert and dessert have different numbers of the letter “s” because you only want to cross a desert once but you will always want two desserts. Most repeated, despite the handy feature of spell check, is “i before e except after c or sounded like a in neighbor or weigh.”

Theoretically names can be brought to mind more easily by inventing a personalized mnemonic. The idea is to take a person’s characteristic and link it to the person’s name. This has never worked for me, probably because I start laughing thinking up the trick. Let’s see: “he is a real pill and his name is Bill.” Not a good plan. However I am able to remember a man’s name I see every Sunday although I always start down the wrong path with it. His name is Angelo, but I keep thinking it is Anthony. A nearby restaurant is called Angelo’s, and now I struggle to think of the name of the place and then can think of his. Not a very quick trick for sure.

I would love to know any other mnemonics that my readers learned or still use. Until then, “a pint’s a pound the whole world round.”

“Berry Delicious”


As you can see in this photo of me in 1949, I have always loved raspberries. We have a thicket of raspberry plants next to the garage, and the photo on the right shows the most recent picking of ripe berries. Our vines produce two crops each summer, and the crops are bigger every other year. This year is a bountiful one. The early summer taste good, these late ones taste even better.

Raspberries don’t ship very well. They are fragile, spoil quickly, and yield their juice at the slightest pressure. The ones sold in grocery stores must be a special variety, bred for their ability to stand travel, so they are firmer and much less sweet. Even ours will begin to go bad by the next day, providing an ready excuse to devour them quickly. They are excellent stirred into a batch of Greek yogurt with a little granola thrown in if desired.

I have written before about how lovely it was to walk around my old neighborhood in what had been an Italian part of Portland, Oregon. My daughter and I would pick figs, pears, apples, plums and blackberries which were abundant in the area. I haven’t seen any local figs here, so they probably need a warmer climate. As you can tell from my posts, I am loving the height of summer and the abundance of fruit. Soon apples will fill the farm stands, a clear sign that autumn has begun in New England.

“Just Lookin’ For a Home”

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Well equipped to protect himself from the skunk, my husband crept up on the trap, threw a sheet over it, and opened the latch. Then he waited. And waited. And waited. Tired of waiting, he propped open the trap door with several (salvaged) bricks and called it a night. Apparently the skunk had become used to his new quarters and was in no hurry to leave.

By the next morning the skunk had wandered off, having determined that no more broccoli was going to magically appear in the strange wire home he had so recently discovered. And so another wildlife saga comes to a denouement on Broad Street. Guess my husband will get to return to one of his favorite August pastimes–eating the peach crisp I just made him.

Speaking of peach crisps, I recently spent some time with my New England baking cookbook and found that in addition to peach crisp I could also make peach buckle, peach slump, peach cobbler and peach grunt. Apparently those cooks had to keep coming up with various ways to deal with the surplus of peaches that arrive at the end of summer. But I am sticking with the famous peach blueberry pie I mentioned earlier and the very simple peach crisp currently sitting on the kitchen counter.

I hope the woodchuck relocates himself. I hesitate to find out “what evil lurks in the heart” of my back yard waiting to walk into that trap.

“A Woodchuck With Stripes?”

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Well the Hav-a-Heart trap, baited with broccoli, failed to catch the wily woodchuck. Instead, a skunk wandered in for the food and is now pacing back and forth. My husband, who once before released a skunk from the same trap, is trying to remember exactly how he did it without getting sprayed. Somewhere close by I assume a woodchuck is having a good laugh. (I would call it a chuckle if that wasn’t so corny.)

It’s beginning to look like we live in a dangerous place: spiders, tornadoes and now skunks. So much for my attempt to paint our backyard as a quiet retreat!

“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

A few days ago my husband came into the living room to startle my grandkids and me with a terrifying tale. He had been out moving some bricks along the walkway(he the champion of salvaged bricks!) and after turning one over confronted the largest spider he had ever seen. Putting the brick back down, he went on gardening. Suddenly the spider leaped(literally) onto his hand, ran(literally) up his arm and around to the back of his neck. He was able to shake it off before it could think about biting him.

Listening to his account, my grandkids immediately yelled in unison WOLF SPIDER and began to squeal, shriek and generally show their terror/delight at the encounter. They had spoken about wolf spiders to me before, but I had dismissed the discussion as exaggeration on their part. After a family search of Google, we determined that it was indeed a wolf spider. They don’t spin but catch their prey by running and jumping onto it. The sting apparently is dangerous only to the elderly and children(thus a threat to all of us reading the information.)

These creatures have eight eyes, hairy skins, two extra legs in from by their mouth and a face that does indeed resemble a wolf. The kids really wanted to see one and really didn’t want to see one, proving more ambivalent than I am. I had no idea that such menaces lived in our back yard and have no desire to encounter one myself. I had lived blissfully ignorant that running, jumping spiders lived in Connecticut. It will be hard to return to my happy oblivion!

“Tornado!!??”

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Sitting down to dinner last night after an afternoon of intense thunderstorms, lightning and pouring rain, we noticed that things seemed to be getting even worse. My husband thought we should turn on the weather news, and at that moment his phone alerted him that the weather was about to be more severe. As we left our food on the table, went into the living room, and turned on the television, we were startled to see that the prediction was for a tornado basically just a few hundred yards away from our home and coming our way. We hurried to the basement and sat there listening to the news give way to the dreaded blaring warning system without the accompanying “this is only a test.”

Although we heard two loud groaning noises, unlike any we had ever encountered before, the storm passed overhead and went on to threaten the neighboring towns to the east. We emerged from the basement, surveyed the yard, and went back to our meal. Save for many cardinal flowers now lying prone, we escaped any real damage. Fortunately, though they appeared on radar, no tornadoes actually touched ground in any Connecticut towns last night.

I had always thought tornadoes were storms of the American Midwest, such as the one in the Wizard of Oz in Kansas. But it turns out that very localized tornadoes do hit New England from time to time, doing intense damage but in very limited areas. I am grateful that the alert system now sends messages to cell phones as well as televisions. We were informed, safe and dry for a tense few minutes. Fortunately only our heart rate and blood pressure showed any effects!

 

“Return of the Woodchuck”

 

The photo on the left is our Hav-a-Heart trapped baited with broccoli, the image on the left a fat woodchuck in Massachusetts. I am hopeful that the fat brown rear end of a woodchuck we saw scurrying across our driveway on Sunday night didn’t move down here from Massachusetts. I also hope that the creature didn’t successfully swim over from the meadows across the Connecticut River where we relocated one a while back. I suspect, rather, that this is a literate woodchuck who, reading my most recent posts, realized the eatings were good in our yard and has moved in.

Because the previous animal ate all of my sunflowers, my husband bought two potted sunflowers and transplanted them in the empty spot in the garden. Figuring that the word had gotten out to the local woodchucks that there were new sunflowers to eat, the trap is sitting next to the new sunflowers. We should soon learn if sunflowers or broccoli appeal more to this new invader.

I have been surprised by the variety of wild animals in our neighborhood, including skunks, possums, deer, foxes, rabbits and, or course, woodchucks. Almost no new development has occurred here, so the neighboring woods and wetlands have stayed pretty intact for many years, allowing the animals to successfully survive.  Birds abound here too, with eagles nesting along the river and many smaller birds nesting in the trees. This year woodpeckers have been particularly abundant with more young ones  surviving than I have seen in the past. On balance the joys of living among all these creatures almost compensates for the ravenous woodchuck. Almost!