Wednesday, February 21, 2018

THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS GRANDMA LAVANN

It is high time that I set down all that I knew or ever learned from having met my first husband's grandmother Margaret Fashauer, Hagemann, Lavann. Quite a lady. I can safely claim that I had never met anyone as strong minded as she. She put the Boss in Bossy. In a group setting, such as with family, she reigned supreme. She told everyone how it was going to go and God Help you if it went different because you were surely going to do what ever it was over until it was right. In one on one situations she was a sweet as pie.

I met my first husband at my first job working at Fairchild Semiconductor. I was working on an assembly line putting together electronic components and he was a general fix it guy. His mother worked in another department. He started there because he had just returned from serving in Viet Nam and needed employment. His mother suggested he apply at her place of work and there you have it.

Eventually we drove to Grandma Lavann's ranch for a visit. Her ranch is located in Northern California one valley north of Ukiah. She owned about 500 acres of mostly timberland that had formerly been small Italian vineyards prior to prohibition. Anyway I learned bits and pieces of her history over the years and here is most of what I learned.

Margaret Fashauer was born about 1900 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father was a postmaster. She was the youngest of five children, she had all older brothers; Louie, Joseph, Anthony, Frances. Her father decided that St. Louis was not far west enough. They moved to Los Angeles.

Margaret remembers riding on a trolley car out into the country and the gentleman took pot shots ta rabbits off the back of the car. The family did not stay there long. Her father purchased land in Mendocino County. The roads were too rough and nearly impassable so they took a ship up the California coast and off loaded their possessions on the coast a few miles from their land. Her mother truly thought she had been dropped off in the worst wilderness. Eventually the ranch grew into a compound of houses for all of the boys. They stayed bachelors for a great deal of their lives. I have visited that ranch compound a few times. I went there once with Margaret to gather up fallen walnuts. There was a lovely grove of black walnuts growing there. Stomp on the fallen walnuts to break off the husk and wear gloves to pick them up unless you want permanently stained black fingers. Margaret grew up on the ranch doing for the boys. Her life was a bit like “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” only there were only four brothers and her parents.

She met Charles Hagemann when he and his father came to the compound to purchase a pig. He liked what he saw and began courting Margaret and they married and moved to a small farm about 20 miles further east of the main compound. He was a Navy veteran having served as a cook on a ship in the Philippines during the Spanish American war. She still had his favorite rolling pin when I was there. I was a long slender dowel with tapered ends. I loved that thing. I have seen similarly shaped dowels used on The Cooking Channel.

They had three children; Stanley, Phillip and Helen. Helen was my mother-in-law. Very tall lady whereas Margaret could look me straight in the eye. The ranch where they lived was located in what was then known as “Little Italy”. They were surrounded by four or five small farms/vineyards all owned by Italian families. I only remember a couple names; Fratti barn and Geovanetti.

They owned property on both sides of the county road and the property north of the road had an open area used as a dance hall Margaret would sit inside a large hollowed out redwood tree stump and collect admission and sold sausages. There was also a set up for an archery range for bow and arrow for those who wished to try their hand. This concern brought in a little extra money. She told me that she had her babies in Willits at a lying in hospital. The length of stay was about ten days. One of her confinements involved her taking the stage from her home to Willits, the journey took several hours. They stopped for lunch. She was in labor at the time and did not let out a peep.

Her people were German Catholic. I have seen the book entitled, “Father Knieppe's Water Cure”. He was very famous in Europe for this book. I know for a fact that Margaret used the water cure on herself. She also used it on Helen when she contracted pneumonia as a young girl. Remember, this was before antibiotics. The Water Cure consisted of wrapping oneself in wet flannels or towels, then wrapping the whole body in a large rubber sheet and staying in that all night long to sweat out the poisons. This was quite effective for fevers.

The local farms produced a lot of red wine. During prohibition, the local Italian farmers sold them off and Charlie bought them up as well as the left over wine. At one point the 500 gallon redwood vat now used for well water was full of wine. Charlie drank most of it. He also drank himself into kidney failure. Margaret took care of him until he died.

This left Margaret a widow with three young children. One of the neighbor, Victor Geovanetti began courting her and they eventually married. He proposed but she told him she would never marry a Geovanetti. So they changed his name to LaVann and they married. They kept sheep and had a large orchard below the house. The barn was large and when I visited it there was a small tear drop shaped trailer house used for over flow guests. The house itself had two bedrooms downstairs and a full attic upstairs with a couple full sized beds. That is where everyone slept during hunting season.

Yep, I had married into a hunting family. There was a fall dear season that I usually participated in. I was mostly along for the extra deer tags, but I was given a rifle, showed which end was the pointy end and sent off uphill to a feral orchard. Sure enough, a lovely coastal buck wandered into view and I shot and he dashed off. I walked down hill to check and found blood. Dammit! Now I had to track the deer. I kept walking to the bottom of the draw and found the buck resting there and I carefully finished him off through the neck, as I had been shown. I trudged back to the ranch to tell the boys of my kill. They hiked back with me and I learned how to field dress a deer. First thing I learned was that all the ticks on the deer start fleeing as the body temperature drops and there were hundreds of the disgusting thing. So they got the deer dragged back to the ranch. Margaret gave a lesson on how to properly skin a deer after it had hung a couple days. She had a method for carefully sectioning out the scent glands and the anus and wrapping all that business in some newspaper. The carcass was butchered. The heart and liver went into the house for cooking. There really is absolutely nothing better for breakfast than fresh fried venison liver in bacon grease. Seared very quickly and not cooked until dead, dead, DEAD. Yummy. I never did come to care for venison unless it was ground up and mixed with either pork or beef for burgers but the family loved cooking the damn thing up into steaks.

Margaret kept a small herd of sheep, about 20 or 30. She kept the hay in the barn and she had them fooled into thinking they would get a wonderful meal when she called. She would go out into the main parking area, close all the gates, open the field gate and called in a loud voice, “Come sheep! Come sheep!” and by God within 15 minutes the woolies would come trotting in to nibble on a very thin handful of the baled hay. She would count them and then when they were finished they went back out to pasture to other older barns and what not on the property.

She also sheared the sheep. She kept a very large bag of wool,the kind that farms routinely fill from a much larger herd. She hired some people to shear the sheep and got that bag full finally. Once it was full, she loaded it up into her pickup truck and took it to the sale barn in Ukiah.

She owned a Caterpillar tractor left over from her younger farming days. She had to hire a lowboy to haul it off to be serviced and tuned up. It came into use when she decided to log some timber. Now, logging in California required rather expensive environmental impact studies unless the logging operation is less than seven acres, I think. So Margaret selected seven acres worth of timber very carefully to be harvested. This helped pay the tax bill. She showed me the bill one time, it was about 50k for her 500 acre ranch. At one point she and Victor had set up a series of funds that paid interest every six months once they matured. This gave a set bit of money on the books at a time when Social Security had not even been thought of. I would see her get her notifications in the mail and she would dutifully enter it all into a lovely big accounting book.

One time we picked apples from a very large tree on one of the little Italian farms, the tree was what she called a Cooks Seedling. The apples made the most amazing apple sauce. Another fun fruit tree growing near the house was a couple fig trees. I had never tasted ripe figs. They are quite wonderful with cream on them. Also the fallen figs get ripe and fermented. Bees get drunk on ripe figs and cannot fly, just buzz drunkenly in circles on the ground.

The property had huckleberry bushes growing on it. We would go pick huckleberry's and keep an eye out for black bear who like the ripe fruit very much. A hand picked huckleberry pie is pretty darn good.

Margaret was more or less the entire Altar Society at the little Catholic Church in Philo. I attended many times with her. First thing I learned is that there is no such thing as Sunday School for kids, the kids attend the service with the adults and it got noisy. I tried to sit in the back row so I could take Charlie outside for a breather. I remember one Christmas, she cut several fir trees to decorate the altar. One time we went in and she was completely surprised to see the little church decorated for a Quincereana, uh if I got the spelling correct. It was a Mexican tradition to celebrate the 15 year old girls womanhood, the place was decorated for a wedding and the girls all wore what looked like wedding gowns It was very colorful. The priest was very busy, he had three parishes all total to cover for services.

One time, the services were being provided by a Priest who was on sabattical from seminary and he was spending the summer and living in a little cabin on the Navarro river. Father Kevin, told Margaret and I to come by, he had a small plastic wading pool that we could use for Charlie. So, we dropped by on a lovely sunny day. Called out at the house, no answer. We walked around back and spotted a couple people sitting by the river a few hundred yards away. We hollared and waved. Pretty soon Father Kevin started walking back. As we stood there watching, Margaret asked me what kind of swimming suit he was wearing. I peered and suggested that it might be a string and bag kind of thing. She suddenly gasped, grabbed my hand and hauled me back around to the front of he cabin, “He's naked! He is not wearing anything!”. We heard him call up if it was okay for him to come up as is, “No Father Kevin it is not!”, he laughed and said he would dress and be up in a minute. We managed to get the wading pool in the back of the truck and Margaret managed to drive us home laughing her head off.

When any grandchild visited her they would be routinely assigned chores.  One time, Pat was tasked with taking her gigantic cat food bag full of empty cans to the particular little farm where she dumped her garbage down the well.  Pat came back and announced proudly that he had dumped the cans down the well.  "Where is my cat food bag?", "Down the well" said Pat. "Go get my bag, I did not say to throw it away".  So Pat had to go back, get down into the well, not to far down fortunately and retrieve the empty cat food bag.  Yeah that happened 

She stayed as independent as long as possible. The last time I saw her was at Charlies wedding in Sonoma. She had gotten a little stringier looking and she told me that I had gotten fatter and younger. She told it like she saw it. She remained on the ranch and eventually had live in care and lived into her 90's.
God Bless Her.

Monday, February 19, 2018

GRANDMA HORNS KITCHEN

I wanted to describe my Grandma Horn's farm kitchen.  She had all of the mod/con's that a farm wife needed to feed her family and I enjoyed the benefit of her talents.

She baked all of the bread. Whenever I was there visiting my job was to help baste the loaves of bread once they had cooled a bit.  She kept the left over bacon grease for this task   I wielded my brush proudly.

There were two cupboards under the sink. They each hda a half round metal bin attached to the door that held 100 lb bags of flour and sugar.  There was just enough room for a small kid to hide behind them when the doors were closed.  Hide and seek was very fun.  All the giggles were a dead give-a-way. 

Grandma cooked on a wood stove most of her adult life.  The last new stove they owned in Colorado was a brand new Home Comfort Range.  It came with a small recipe book and from that book we gained the family recipe for pumpkin pie.  My sister Carla has that recipe book and there are some lovely recipes for pies in there.  The peach cream one is delicious.  

Pumpkin pie
1 cup pumpkin
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tbsp. melted butter
mix well, bake in medium oven until toothpick comes out clean.
Recipe can be tripled nicely.

Since Grandma grew a truck garden, it was many times that I got to help snap beans and shell peas.  The corn was always obtained from the end rows of the field corn. Tomatoes grew like weeks.  Grandma had a wonderful wide brimmed hat that she wore to work in the garden.  

Her pie crust was a thing of beauty.  I tried to get amounts of ingredients from her once but she said she didn't measure, she did it by feel.  Pie crust was simply flour, lard, a bit of water and the trick was to blend this together quickly, do not work it to death and you would have wonderful pie crust every time without fail.

Grandma had zig zag fingers from a high fever when she was a girl, surprisingly these finger were very helpful in skimming cream and other items. 

Her best meat dish was fried chicken.  I got to help make mashed potatoes and the gravy.....Oh god, so good. 

She did a lot of canning mostly fruit and veggies.  She had an old treadle Singer sewing machine that she let me play around on but I do not actually remember ever seeing her use the thing, probably too busy with other stuff.

The washing machine was on the porch.  It was a standard three tub wringer washer. one tub for hot soapy water, one tub with clear rinse water and one tub to hold the wrung out clothes.  This was fascinating.  I was cautioned many times to keep my fingers away from the wringer. The clothes then went onto the clothes line with wooden clothes pins. We grandkids were NOT allowed to run around under the drying clothes. 

I know she ironed because I was fascinated with the black and red checked box that the electric iron was stored in.  I did learn how to iron a shirt properly growing up, so in a pinch, yeah I can take out your shameful wrinkles.

She did some hand work by which I mean some crochet and she did quilting and had a fine hand for seams.  She did some embroidery but that was usually confined to pillow cases. 

There was not much time to grow flowers. If I remember correctly I think there were lilac bushes around the yard.  I love lilac.  She did have a few plants in the house.  She loved fuschia but every plant she ever got for a birthday promptly died of aphid infestation.  They started out pretty though.  She gave me an Angle Wing Begonia and it took me FOREVER to kill.  There were always some red gardenia type flowers that smeller very stringent, probably kept insect life down in the house. 

Oh one last thing, in the summer she would prepare the ice cream machine.  Someone got the job of stirring the thing for about 30 minutes.  I remember a particular batch of strawberry that was fabulous. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

FARMIN'

A few farmers were standing around the Feed store waiting for their orders to be filled.  The topic of winning the lottery came up One man allowed as how he would fix up the house, get a new tractor, take a world cruise.  He asked a second farmer what he would do and his answer was about the same plus he had kids to get through college.  They finally turned to the third man who had been listening and asked him what he would do if he won the lottery, he shrugged and said, "I guess I'd keep farmin' until it's gone."

A small farm is usually a closed ecological system. My Grandma Horn's farm was fairly simple.  They had a hen house for egg production for the house and excess to be sold to the store.  Kids were not allowed to play in the chicken shed. There was usually chicken feed to be distributed for them to peck at. Grandma used to tell of baking corn meal into bricks to be used as chickenfeed, usually in the winter. 

Grandfather had a couple dozen milk cows.  They had a new cement block dairy barn that they kept sparkling clean.  The milk was collected in 25 gallon cans after the milk was separated; cream from milk.  They usually got four or five cans from each milking and the milk was taken to the tank full of water that the cans rested in until the Dairy Coop truck came to pick them up.

Grandma would take her half gallon of milk and skim the cream from it until it was blue.  She did make butter from time to time but she preferred to cook with lard. And it was good.

As the seasons turned they planted early hay or alfalfa and then corn.  They didn't have the big combines for the corn so they got on a list of at the Coop for when they got to use the harvesters.

Grandma kept a smallish garden for the house. There were all the usual vegetables and she always grew tomatoes.  At the end of the season she would use the green tomatoes to make green tomato pickles.  It is a crisp sweet pickle.  I have been hoarding my last jar for a few years now.  The worlds best way to eat the pickle is Grandma Horn's way.  She would fry up some hamburger patties and when they were almost done the buns would go into the pan until nicely fried up.  A little mayo, couple slices of green tomato pickle and CHOMP!  Still one of my very favorite burgers.  

These grandparents baled their hay because it was easier to feed cattle that way.  So we kids would climb the haystacks and play fort all day long.  There were farm cats all around but were much to fast to be captured by a little Farm Princess who wanted to dress them up as a dollie.  Nuh uh, not gonna happen. 

We did get to see the gritty bits of farm life.  When fried chicken was requested that usually meant that Grandpa would go catch a chicken and dispatch it by stepping on the head and yanking the feet.  Yep, chickens do run around without a head. 

It was heart breaking to go to the calf barn, the were all bawling for their ma-ma's and the cows were all bawling for the calves.  But they were cute.

They kept a couple horses to go irrigating.  Just a matter of saddle up, grab the shovel and walk about the farm, opening and closing drain ditches.  

Monday, February 12, 2018

NEW WORDS

Each year The Oxford Dictionary announces the new word for the year.  The new word for 2017 is youthquake.
Noun; youthquake, a significant social, societal event caused by young people.  
That is quite wonderful.

So, I also Googled a list of other new words and slang for 2017, there are several most of which I shall not list here because of my extreme removal from the young people who have actually used these words or abbreviations for their Iphones.  I did see one that I disagreed with, it was word salad. I am not sure what the two word phrase was defined as by the youth of America but I can tell you that the phrase word salad is a well established phrase used by physicians to describe a patient who has suffered an acute brain event and their language comes out scrambled.

Having said that I wish to nominate a new word.  I first saw it used in a book review on Amazon. The reviewer was describing the effect of sleight-of-hand and used the word handwavium.  All it takes is for the word to be adopted in casual usage.  Come on everyone it will be tedious at best but good new words always strike me as presumptuous yet inevitable.  I think handwavium meets that personal definition.  I shall continue to try to use the word in a sentence on a more or less daily basis.  Most of the time the sentence will not make any kind of sense.  Usage feedback is always appreciated.  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Ice skating

Every four years, it never fails. The Winter Olympics come along and I enjoy the ice skating.  There is a very long history of limited tricks that the skaters are allowed to perform.  The men have evolved to perform quad jumps routinely.  They rotate so fast I cannot count much beyond twice.  The pairs are a little more acrobatic.  The man throws the woman high up for triple flips and the jumps.  However anything new is very difficult to introduce into competition.  The lovely black ice skater Ms Bonaly used a one footed back flip and while it was an illegal move she used it any way.  All of the spectacular moves are dangerous to begin with but the athletes get better.  I have often wondered why more adventurous moves have not been sanctioned.  Why not allow teams skating, allow a team to consist of at least three skaters.  That would allow for two partners to throw the third much higher.  And why not allow the skaters to use modified blades on their hands so that a true cartwheel could be performed.  Short of looking like Cirque du Soleil on Ice I think such a competition would be fabulous.  I am also thinking that teams would allow all men, women and mixed.  And if little green men ever show up it will be Aliens marching in the opening ceremonies.

Waiting for stories

I regularly follow three or four authors and purchase their stories as soon as they are released.

My most regular lady writes a wonderful variety of short novellas mostly about snarky women set in shape shifter universes, universes based on an earth where aliens come to interview humans who might like to go into space. The author suffers from some sort of manic depressive diagnosis.  When she is manic the stories come and she has gradually cut back to a less insane schedule and has had periods where she is nearly incapacitated when she cycles depressive and she is on medication.

Another lady has rather crippling rheumatoid arthritis.  She has written about a future where a very isolated world has requested a language teacher.  The military industrial complex compels a young language teacher to go.  The story follow over three books of the years of the relationship between the teacher and the leader of the world.  Think of The King and I on Mars.  

A third woman seems to just be slow as her day job is as a nurse and that takes up gobs of her time.  She writes about a magical world where the Fae are the government and humans are servants.  One of the high Fae traveled about his lands administering to his lands and meets a human who has been turned out from her job.  She has a talent for reading books and she looks Fae, very white hair and is beautiful but has no magic.  She is hired by the Fae and becomes his librarian.  There is no High King in the land and there are plots by other Fae to usurp the crown.  The second book is set in the same story only some spell has been set that has destroyed a weather icon and it is raining, the world seems to be drowning, a human helps a high Fae with the evacuation and they discover that she has magic unlike anyone has ever seen.  I am waiting for a third book and the author has said that the editor has it.  Argggghhhhh!

A fourth author has been extremely prolific in the past, however she seems to be stuck getting to the third book of a projected trilogy the third one is due out in March.  we shall see.  This is the one who wrote about women kidnapped from a CIA base in Afghanistan.  The third book is about the CIA girl assassin who will most likely kick butt. However the author has blogged that she has been ill so......I have been blogging various scenarios and I will be very curious to see how close my "stories" come to her.  Drums fingers impatiently. 

In the meantime I troll Kindle Unlimited for free books and have a read a variety and then there are always contents of my Kindle library.  


SCI FI CLASSIC

Way WAY back in the mid to late 50's, I first read "Red Planet" by Robert A. Heinlein.  He and Isaac Asimov put the hard science into speculative fiction.  I remember reading a story by Asimov and he very carefully inserted pages of diagrams and mathematics to illustrate what ever science fact he was illustrating. Heinlein wrote extensively of the hard science.  He was particularly interested in the complicated math it would take to rotate a rocket ship to oriented to the planets surface.  In the interest of appreciation of the story, lack of interest in the hard science part, my mind edited all of that out.

I purchased a copy of Red Planet for my Kindle a few weeks ago (thank you scalable font) and re-read the thing.

Last night I re-read it and mentally stumbled across a couple of things in the story. 

At one point, Jim glances up to appreciate the view of Earth, the globe is clearly visible and the moon can been seen as a sparkling diamond as it orbits earth.  Um, I am virtually certain that RAH was exercising artistic license regarding the view.  Logic would have told him that since Mars looked like a star from Earth, a similar view would be the same from Mars. As a matter of fact the first picture of Earth from Mars was taken on 2014 and looks like a star twinkling away.

Later on Jim glanced up at dawn to appreciate the aurora.  Um a magnetic field was only detected in 1997, so again RAH was exercising artistic license and the field is so weak that no aurora would be forthcoming at any rate. 

The rest of the story was delightful with very large Martians, a small critter named Willis and a struggle between the Mars corporation and the people who were dealing with dangerous cutbacks to their safety.  And the bad guys were disappeared as is appropriate. If you have never read Red Planet, give it a try, it has held up very well over the decades.  Enjoy!