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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin

Eggshells...

Hi Folks!

We should all breathe a prayer or two of thanks that the rain of the past week or so was just that - rain - and not snow, or we’d be still shoveling at half past June! As it is, some of the northern reaches of TIMESland did have snow, and some of the rain that pelted other areas had some pretty solid centers. What with the howling winds, we had a 3-day blizzard of rain! A few degrees of temperature made a huge difference. Probably a foot or three of difference.

MAY DAYMost of us have heard the term “May Day,” which is widely recognized as a call for help. That term comes from the French, “venez m’aider,” which means, “come to my aid.”

However, since ancient times northern cultures have celebrated May Day in various ways as the start of the summer season. Until a few decades ago, it was a tradition in some climes to hang anonymous baskets of flowers on door knobs as a celebration of May Day.

Back in my grade school days we used to laugh about the notion of picking flowers from the garden on May 1, since lots of those gardens were barely uncovered from the winter snows. (Kind of like this year.) Last year, after an unusually warm spring, some lucky folks were able to pick flowers from their gardens on May 1.

But back to grade school, since real flowers were in short supply the teachers usually had us making paper baskets of paper flowers to either bring home to our mothers or hang on some lucky neighbor’s door knob.

The practice of giving May Day baskets, in this country at least, has pretty much gone the way of dances around the May Pole that were enjoyed in Merrie Olde England.

In Communist countries, and many non-communist ones, May 1 has been celebrated as a special workers holiday, and union strife was somewhat common on that date for some years.

WHAT HAPPENED ON MAY 1?

All that aside, some really significant events took place on May 1 in years gone by, some good and some not so good.

Among them:

* On May 1, 1328 the Wars of Scottish Independence ended with the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, in which the Kingdom of England recognized the Kingdom of Scotland as an independent state. Then the “Act of Union,” signed on May 1, 1707, joined the kingdoms of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain.

* In 1778, the American Revolution’s Battle of Crooked Billet began in Hatboro, Pennsylvania.

* During the American Civil War in 1862 the Union Army completed the Capture of New Orleans. Exactly a year later, the Battle of Chancellorsville began.

* In 1898, the United States Navy destroyed the Spanish Pacific fleet in the Battle of Manila Bay, first battle of the Spanish-American War.

* In 1915, the RMS Lusitania departed from New York City on her 202nd, and final, crossing of the North Atlantic. Six days later, the ship was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland with the loss of 1,198 lives, including 128 Americans, rousing American sentiment against Germany. But it wasn’t until 1917 that America officially entered World War I.

* In 1945, a German news reader officially announced that Adolf Hitler had “fallen at his command post in the Reich Chancellery fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism and for Germany”, marking what was to be the end of World War II. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, also died on that date.

* In 1956 the Saulk Polio Vaccine was made available to the public.

* In 1785, King Kamehameha I defeated Kalanikupule and established the Kingdom of Hawaii. Incidentally, King Kamehameha was born on May 1, 1738. He lived until 1819. Hawaii remained an independent kingdom only until Jan. 17, 1893, when Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown. After a short period as a republic, Hawaii was annexed by the United States on July 4, 1898 and became a territory. Following a referendum in June of 1959 Hawaii became the 50th state of the Union.

* In 1961 Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba, proclaimed Cuba a socialist nation and abolished elections.

* In the 2003 invasion of Iraq U.S. President George W. Bush, in what became known as the “mission accomplished” speech, declared that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”

Now we all have some conversation starters. If we want them. As we can all see, history does tend to repeat itself, especially when it comes to wars and such.

NO MORE TEARS

Money is tight these days, and lots of folks can no longer afford to pay for their prescription medications. One lady, so broke that she couldn’t buy her anti-depressants, took to drinking “No More Tears” shampoo instead. Got to thinking about that one. Maybe she should take regular bubble baths in “Joy” dishwashing detergent to complete the cure. Then she’d not only be happier, she’d be squeaky clean besides.

GOOD FISHING

Am told the walleye fishing has been particularly good this year. Of course, the limit is one walleye per day per fisherman, which can pose a moral problem when the fishing is good and the fisherman is enthusiastic.

A good friend, who isn’t really the Last of the Mohicans, claims a buddy fishing at the mouth of the river recently was having a really fine day.

Until the DNR Warden approached.

His creel bag was lying nearby, fish flopping inside.

“How’s fishing?” the Warden asked.

“Oh, really good,” said friend fisherman. “Got my one walleye and three nice suckers.”

“Guess maybe I should look at those suckers,” suggested the Warden.

“Well, sure,” said the fisherman, “but first, I need to tell you these are really unusual suckers. One looks just like a walleye, one looks like a lake trout, and one looks like a large mouth bass!”

He didn’t say how much the fine came to.

Reminds me of the time a grandson and his buddies were snagging salmon, illegally. I had just learned to make home canned salmon, and it was delicious.

Game Warden came along, fined him $330, and incredibly, left the illegal fish with the young fishermen.

He brought the fish home, and we got several nice jars of salmon. No sense letting them go to waste.

So we ate like real gourmands on a few occasions, what with enjoying the $300 main courses, you know.

Incidentally, the real fishing season opens on Saturday, May 1. Enjoy!

SAVE THE EGGSHELLS

It’s kind of sad that so much time and money goes into recycling that consists of just keeping things out of landfills, when at no cost and just a little effort we could be recycling in a way that counts - by putting nutrients back into the soil.

Grandma used to do it all the time, but she didn’t think of it as compost, she thought of it as building the worm bed, and it did a good job of that too.

Things like newspapers and cardboard can even go in the compost heap. So can coffee grounds, complete with filters, along with fruit and vegetable scraps of all kinds, yard rakings, and even egg shells.

Eggshells quickly decompose, and add valuable calcium and other minerals to the soil in the process. They keep the soil produced by the compost from turning acidy.

Those egg shells can be recycled in other ways, too, for example to control pests in your garden. Scatter crushed shells around your plants and flowers to help deter plant-eating slugs, snails, and cutworms without using pesticides. Deer hate the smell of eggs, so the shells, even shells from boiled eggs, also may help keep Bambi away from your shrubbery.

You may have already started your seedlings, in case summer ever gets here, but if you haven’t, you can use egg shell halves as mini seedling pots. Just set them in an egg carton, fill with potting soil and add seeds. Water until well moistened and shut the lid for about two days. Open the egg carton and set it in a sunny window. Little green seedlings should start sprouting soon. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

When the garden finally is ready - probably about mid-July at the rate we’re going - prepare the holes. At each plant site, gently crush the shell - enough to crack it, but not enough to disturb the baby plant - and set it gently in the hole that you have made to just fit it. Tamp soil firmly but gently to cover the shell and let the little seedling stand above the surface. The roots draw nutrition from the shell pretty much like a baby chick gets nutrition from the egg. We’ve had particularly good results starting broccoli this way, but have talked to others who say the shell halves are even good starter pots for tomatoes. They’d need to be really quick growing tomatoes, though, because any that were still small enough to fit in an egg shell when they went into the garden would never bear fruit before winter sets in.

BEAUTY TREATMENTS

Egg shells can also go on your medicine cabinet or on your cosmetic counter. For example, dissolve an eggshell in a small jar of apple cider vinegar (it takes about two days) and use the calcium-rich mixture to treat minor skin irritations and itches. This potion lasts a long time because of the vinegar, and works well on tick and mosquito bites, some bee stings, and sunburn.

To minimize wrinkles, they say you can make an egg shell mask. Haven’t tried this yet myself, or I’d probably look better. Pulverize well dried egg shells into a powder with a mortar and pestle, and then beat some of the powder with an egg white to use as a skin-tightening face mask. Apply generously, and allow it to dry before rinsing it off.

Tried pulverizing egg shells once with my mini food processor and it did really bad things to the blades. Won’t be doing that again soon. But will try beating some of the vinegar with dissolved egg shell into the egg white and see how that works.

Incidentally, friend says she was performing her evening beauty routine under the watchful eyes of a very young grandson recently.

“What’s that you’re putting on your face?” he asked.

“Wrinkle cream,” granny replied.

“Wow! That stuff really works! Can I try some?” the impressed youngster wanted to know.

GROWIN’ THINGS

The longer days and shorter nights of Spring stimulate houseplants to grow more rapidly again and your faithful flowering friends probably want some fertilizer. Use fertilizers at only half-strength and only every other watering.

Those lovely Easter Lilies that grace so many homes can flourish for years if we let them. They deserve a second chance. After the flower has died continue to grow the lily in the container it came in until after the last frost in your area. Then, transplant it into your flower garden. It prefers somewhat rich soil, fairly well drained, and full sun. It will continue to grow for a time, but like other spring bulbs, the plant will naturally die off as summer arrives. Just leave it there. It’s most likely not dead, just sleeping.

In the fall, apply bulb fertilizer or blood meal on top of the soil where your Easter Lily bulb is resting. Carefully work the fertilizer in without disturbing the bulbs.  In colder climates, add a layer of mulch on top of the soil to protect the bulb from freezing.

Your transplanted Easter Lily should awaken the following spring, and bloom later, though probably not in time for Easter, at least not in our part of the world. It may not bloom until the second year after transplanting, so don’t give up on it. Many bulbs that have been forced to bloom need a year to recover before they return to a normal cycle.

After a few years, once the plant has died back for the season, you can dig up the bulbs and separate the baby bulbs. Re-plant the bulbs in the fall 10 to 12 inches apart or together in small groups, but to achieve maximum of growth before blooming don’t overcrowd.

COOKIN’ TIME

Friend and co-worker Lynette is a really good cook with a talent for seeking out delicious and easy recipes. And she’s willing to share, which is a fine attribute. Actually, most of the people I’m fortunate enough to work with are marvelous sharers. They frequently even bring the finished products to share, as well as the recipes, so that’s a double bonus. Anyway, here are a few of the recipes Lynette shared:

MEATBALL STROGANOFF

Make meatballs from you own favorite recipe, or take the quick and easy route and use the frozen ones.

1 package frozen cooked meatballs, 12 to 16 ounces

1 cup lower sodium beef broth

1 can sliced mushrooms, drained, 4 ounces drained weight

1 carton dairy sour cream (8 ounces)

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

4 cups hot cooked wide egg noodles

Snipped fresh parsley, optional

In large skillet combine meatballs, broth and mushrooms. Bring to boiling, reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes, or until meatballs are heated through. In a small bowl, mix sour cream and flour. Whisk in milk and mustard. Stir sour cream mixture into skillet. cook and stir until thickened and bubbly, and then cook and stir for one minute more. Serve over hot cooked noodles. If desired, stir in snipped fresh parsley. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

CROCKPOT STROGANOFF

2 pounds round steak, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 small onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup celery, sliced

2 small cans mushrooms

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 beef bouillon cube

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

1 can cream of mushroom soup

8 ounces cream cheese

Brown meat in frying pan. Put all ingredients into crock pot except the cream cheese and cook until the meat is tender and done. Add cream cheese just before serving time, and serve over cooked egg noodles when the cream cheese is melted. Tip: Brown meat in a teaspoon or so of butter, and de-glaze the pan with the mushrooms, juice and all, before adding to the crock pot.

STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE SALAD

This is an Easter tradition at Lynette’s house, but is also perfect for spring showers or potlucks. Absolutely luscious!

12 ounces frozen whipped topping

1 small package cheesecake pudding (just the powder, don’t

add the milk)

3 strawberry yogurts (6 ounces each)

1 pound fresh strawberries (sliced)

Thaw whipped topping and in a large salad bowl stir it into the yogurts and pudding powder. Let this set up in the fridge for at least an hour. Stir in the sliced strawberries. The original recipe calls for adding three sliced bananas and a cup or so of miniature marshmallows just before serving. She doesn’t add either the marshmallows or the bananas.

FRUIT WHIP

This also makes a great potluck offering. You can make this with frozen whole berries, but slice them when they are still partly frozen. You don’t want the sugared kind. Use either vanilla or French vanilla pudding mix, but the French Vanilla gives a richer flavor. Use low fat whipped topping and yogurt, sugar free pudding and lite types of fruit for a lower calorie version. Leave the oranges out if you want to.

1 quart strawberries (well drained and sliced)

1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks (drained well)

1 carton frozen whipped topping (8-ounce size)

1 box French vanilla instant pudding mix (powder only)

1 container raspberry yogurt (6 ounces)

1 can Tropical Fruit cocktail (drained)

1 can Mandarin oranges (drained)

Mix whipped topping, dry pudding mix and yogurt. Blend in fruit and refrigerate. The recipe doubles well. (Lynette doesn’t use the oranges. I might try adding bananas to this.)

Thought for the Week: Do what you enjoy, as long as it’s a good thing. Stretch your wings. Try what you haven’t tried before. Don’t hold back because you won’t be perfect. As Henry Van Dyke once said, “Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those who sang best.”

(This column is written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by e-mail to shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

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