"Mom, I made lentil soup and it's pretty good," read the text message from my son. I smiled as I read the message from my formerly finicky 23-year-old son. "I made a ton by accident, though," he added. I chuckled as I visualized my tall son stirring a giant pot of soup with a huge spoon. Then I remembered he doesn't own an enormous soup kettle. "Freeze it," I texted back. "I saved out enough for a few days and froze the rest," he texted.
I can't handle hot weather. While some people are basking in the heat of summer days, my face turns bright red almost immediately. My kids pretend they don't know me. Then I wilt in the shade and retreat indoors. Recently, we had a heat wave in North Dakota that sent temperatures soaring near or above 100 F in some areas of the state. I happened to be on the road doing workshops, which involved loading and unloading hundreds of pounds of materials from my vehicle.
"The beans are cold!" my husband exclaimed. We were at a picnic with pork and beans as a side dish. I looked at him a little oddly. "Yes, they're cold," I said. "Haven't you ever had cold pork and beans?" He looked at me as though I had handed him a cup of dishwater to drink. We enjoy beans in lots of different recipes regularly. "Beans are supposed to be served hot," he remarked a little indignantly. "I can tell you didn't grow up here," I said. "We had cold pork and beans sometimes when I was a little kid.
Sometimes, I feel like a broken record, especially when we reach canning season. I keep repeating things year after year, hoping that more people will hear about the current rules. But wait: Some (younger) people don't know what a "record" is or how you might break one, other than in an athletic race. Maybe I feel like a scratched CD or a tangled cassette tape. Those analogies do not work, either. Cassettes are antiques and compact discs are getting harder to find in stores.
"Just get it started and it will practically roll out of its skin," the man doing the knife demonstration assured his audience. I was thinking about those knife ads from years ago. The knives cut through tin cans and shoe leather, then through ripe tomatoes, making slices so thin "your relatives will never come back" (or something like that). A cantaloupe wouldn't have given that TV chef with the super-sharp knife a problem.
I always looked forward to picnics when I was a child. We would visit friends who lived on lakes or, sometimes, we went to a state park. Getting ready for our picnic was quite a production because we had salads, fruit, meat, fresh buns, potatoes and dessert. Homemade lemonade was in a gallon-sized thermos container. We didn't have a grill in those days. The meat and potatoes were cooked in cast iron pans on a camp stove, with my dad as the chef.
"Mom, that's a female yellow pepper because it has four bumps," my 14-year-old daughter said as she pointed at the peppers on a cutting board. "It's sweeter." She was grinning sweetly and looking at me. I mean my daughter, not the yellow pepper. "That red pepper is a male pepper because it has three bumps," my daughter continued. I had rinsed the peppers and was preparing to cut a yellow, orange and red bell pepper into strips to saute for fajitas. I glanced at my daughter sideways as I cut. I could tell she was testing me or teasing me, or both.
My flowers and vegetables are growing nicely with the regular rain. The weeds are doing well, too, so I needed to clean up my gardens recently. I pulled weed after weed that had sprouted in my planters, raised garden beds and ground-level garden patch. These opportunistic green invaders were hiding under flowers and foliage and in the crevices by the raised beds. Why didn't all my plants grow as well as the weeds? I tried to make it fun by playing "name that weed." No, that wasn't a fun game at all. I needed a reference book or a weed scientist for consultation.
Like many people, I have been busy with yardwork lately. We have had a proliferation of miniature maple trees popping up all over our yard, thanks to hundreds (maybe thousands) of propellerlike seeds dropping from our tree. I wander around the yard every day, inspecting my pots and gardens for the telltale reddish stems and pointed leaves. Other than preventing a maple tree forest from sprouting in my yard, I really don't need to check my plants several times per day.
I thought back in time as I drove by the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center recently. I had reached the rolling hills near Washburn, N.D., on my way to the North Dakota 4-H Camp. Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark and their crew built Fort Mandan in the Washburn area in November 1804. The two-year Corps of Discovery Expedition had been commissioned by Thomas Jefferson to find a direct waterway to the Pacific Coast between 1804 and 1806.