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September 15 2016The Last Wolverine In Michigan
This occurred 24 years ago when Mitchell was age one. Mitch had just learned to walk. He lived in the little town of Ada, Michigan, which is near the big town of Grand Rapids. He lived in a little house (much expanded now) with his Mom and Dad (Viki and Dan) who still live there. So does Mitch along with his brothers Brent and Casey.
The house sits on a big lot, over three acres in size. There’s a large lawn which includes a garden that Dan tends. At the far edge of the lawn is a woods where deer come out at dawn to feast in the garden. They especially like the sweet corn. So does Dan.
There’s also a big meadow with oak and maple and pine trees and bushes and wild flowers. The man who sold the house and lot to Mitch’s parents said there was some kind of varmint living out there but he didn’t know what.
After his family moved in, Mitch walked along the edge of the meadow with Brandy and Elbo. Brandy was his dog, a yellow lab. Elbo was his grandfather a pink drudge.
These three were walking along the edge of the meadow one bright summer day in Michigan when Brandy began to sniff at something underneath a pine tree. Mitchell and Elbo walked over to see what it was. An animal was lying on its back, its front paws frozen in the air. The animal was very still and quiet. It was very dead.
The varmint looked like it could have been very mean when it was alive. It had sharp pointed teeth and long sharp claws. Its coat was light blue fur. Around its tail were three yellow stripes. The bushy tail looked quite pretty.
Elbo said they had better bury the critter. So Mitch and Elbo and Brandy walked to the garage and got a long-handled shovel. Elbo dug a trench and pushed the critter into it. Then he shoveled dirt on top and smacked the dirt hard with the bottom of the shovel. Brandy sniffed at the grave. Mitchell watched gravely.
Elbo cleaned the shovel and put it back in the garage. Then he strapped Mitch in his car seat and drove to the clinic where Dan was physical therapist. Elbo told Dan he didn’t know what the critter was.
“It couldn’t have been a wolverine, could it?” asked Dan.
“That’s it” said Elbo. “Its tail had the same colors of the Michigan football uniform. The blue helmet with the yellow stripes. It must have been a Wolverine .”
When Elbo returned home to Normal, he went to the library and looked up “Wolverine” in the encyclopedia. It described exactly the varmint that had been buried, or at least one of its varieties.
Dan told Michiganders about the wolverine. They laughed and laughed and laughed and said that wolverines had been extinct a long time. There hadn’t been a wolverine around for many many years, they claimed.
So the critter that Mitchell, Brandy and Elbo buried could have been the last wolverine in Michigan.
September 15 2015
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Putting the garden to bed for the winter
It is time to start putting the garden to bed for the winter. Some people prefer to remove all of the old plants and leave the soil open. Some grow a ground cover over the winter and then work it into the soil in the spring.
One thing you should always do, is remove any diseased plants and destroy them. Do not put them into the compost pile, because the disease could spread. Also remove as many of the weed seeds as you can to prevent them from growing next year.
If there are any flowers with seeds, leave those for the birds to eat during the winter and it will also give the birds some cover. Leave the leaves that blow up around the perennials to protect their roots during the winter.
I like to leave the asparagus for the birds to eat the seeds and have shelter during the winter.
You can pick the green tomatoes and place them in a flat box in the basement. Don’t wrap them. Just check them often and remove any spoiled or ripe tomatoes. You could have fresh tomatoes for Thanksgiving.
After you have pulled the tomato plants, leave the cages standing. After you rake the fallen leaves, dump them into the tomato cages and wet them down. You could add some coffee grounds to speed up the break down, continue until the cage is full. The leaves will break down faster if you run the mower over them to break them into smaller pieces.
Next spring, remove the cages and spread the mulch over the garden before you work it up for some good rich soil.
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by Jim Bennett • firstname.lastname@example.org
October 6 2015
Let’s Dump Columbus Day
IN HIS DIARY, Bartolome De Las Casas wrote, “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel. My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.”
Was he talking about the Islamic State? He could have been, but no; he wrote these words some 500 years ago in the Caribbean, upon watching Christopher Columbus and his men perpetrating acts of unspeakable barbarity upon a peaceful race of “Indian” natives on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
According to Eric Kasum, founder and CEO of the Imagine Institute, a think tank for peace, in an article from October 2014, De Las Casas had much more to write about: “He described how the Spaniards under Columbus’ command cut off the legs of children who ran from them, to test the sharpness of their blades.
“The men made bets as to who, with one sweep of his sword, could cut a person in half. He says that Columbus’ men poured people into vats full of boiling soap. In a single day, De Las Casas was an eye witness as Spanish soldiers dismembered, beheaded, or raped 3,000 native people.”
These native peoples were primarily members of three tribes: Arawaks, Tainos, and Lucayans—all friendly according to Columbus’ earliest Caribbean diaries. Columbus rewarded their “friendliness and gentleness” by forcing them into slavery and committing widespread genocide.
In fact, so brutal were the atrocities perpetrated on these native peoples that “After a multitude of complaints against Columbus about his brutal mismanagement of the island of Hispaniola, a royal commissioner arrested Columbus in 1500 and brought him back to Spain in chains,” according to Vincent Schilling, writing for Today Media Network. Columbus was subsequently pardoned by the Spanish crown because he brought gold and slaves home.
THIS IS the man we will honor on Monday’s federal holiday. This is the man we will lift up in our schools and community organizations as the hero who discovered America.
Except not everybody will. Not any more.
In recent decades, as the reality of Columbus’ cruel atrocities has become more widely known, many cities and states have found alternative recognitions, many of them celebrating the rich history of Native American tribes.
In 2014, Seattle’s City Council “voted to approve an official renaming of Columbus Day as ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day,’” according to a Jake Flanagin article in the New York Times. Flanigan also reported that Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, have done the same.
“Back in 1992,” he reports, “500 years after Columbus’ fateful landing in the Caribbean, Berkeley, California, was the first American city to repurpose the day in honor of Native America. City Council members officially instated Indigenous Peoples’ Day in lieu of Columbus by a unanimous vote.”
In some cases, entire states have made similar changes. According to The Huffington Post, “South Dakota officially replaced Columbus Day with Native American’s Day in 1989. Other states—California, Minnesota, Tennessee and Washington—proclaimed their own official observances that take place before and after Columbus Day.”
On two of the calendars hanging in our house, October 10 is highlighted as Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
NONE OF THIS has happened without major pushback by Italian-Americans. If we look at the history of this holiday we can see why. According to Time Magazine writer Dan Fletcher, “The Knights of Columbus, an organization with a largely Italian, Roman Catholic membership, lobbied heavily for states and the Federal Government to make Columbus Day official.
“Franklin Roosevelt created the first federal observance of Columbus Day in 1937; Richard Nixon established the modern holiday by presidential proclamation in 1972.”
But here’s a better idea: If the nation needs a “day” to celebrate Italian-American heritage, why not choose a figure worthy of respect and admiration? How about Mother Cabrini Day? For starters, she’s a Roman Catholic saint who was born in Italy but lived in New York and Chicago, working tirelessly to help the poorest of the poor among Italian immigrants.
“In 1880, Frances Cabrini, with seven young women, founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” as the Missionary Sisters official Web site reports. “In 1889 [at age 39], she arrived in New York, where she found a city filled with chaos and poverty.
“Mother Frances Cabrini and her sister companions organized catechism and education classes for the Italian immigrants and provided for the needs of the many orphans. She established schools and orphanages despite tremendous odds. She established 67 institutions: Schools, hospitals, and orphanages. Her activity was relentless until her death on December 22, 1917, in Chicago.
“In 1946, she was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XII in recognition of her holiness and service to mankind and was named Patroness of Immigrants in 1950.”
Her legacy, of course, of caring for the sick and the poor, is still highly visible in schools and hospitals in many U.S. locations. A day of recognition for this remarkable woman would make some sense, not just for Italian-American pride but for all Americans. Maybe the K of C could get behind an idea like this?
Christopher Columbus? No pun intended, but that ship should have sailed by now
The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington
October 6 2016
Pumpkin is not a favorite food of mine. As a matter of fact if I was stranded on a desert island and all that was available to eat was pumpkin, I would probably starve. Add in cottage cheese and tuna fish and the result would be the same. Those are the only three foods that I have tried and have no desire to ever eat again. Cottage cheese is nothing more than curdled milk and the smell alone of tuna fish turns my stomach.
Pumpkin comes in a can and my mother and many others prepare this annual treat at Thanksgiving and top each slice with a dollop of Cool Whip and family and friends just loved it. Except me. I don’t think you can add a ground mixture of cinnamon, ginger and cloves to a can or two of pumpkin pie filling to entice me to try it again.
First Monday, Pumpkin Monday, inspirational Monday or meatless Monday seems to be the unofficial announcement of the beginning of fall. What month---I don’t know and frankly haven’t given it a lot of thought. There are literally hundreds of recipes stemming from this “cultivar” of a squash plant. Other such “cultivars” are surprisingly familiar plants such as roses, daffodils, rhododendrons, and azaleas and I don’t eat any of those. Therefore, why should I try something that is widely known as “winter squash?”
Therefore I must confess to being somewhat ignorant of those round deep yellow or orange melons. My education of the pumpkin actually began while carving a rather large slightly ribbed orange pumpkin. I seem to remember that we harvested it along with a number of others from a field destined for Libby’s in Morton, Illinois. Not really, but it adds a little local flavor into the story. There are a number of farmers in the Goodfield, Congerville and Eureka area that planted, grew and harvested acres and acres of pumpkins and often have spoken to me of the nearly 5000 acres of rich farmland that was devoted to producing pumpkins for the plant, and more than 80 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin is supplied by the plant, making Morton, Illinois, the world’s top producer of pumpkin products. Celebrating this distinction during the annual Pumpkin Festival, Morton can certainly be proud to be called the “Pumpkin Capital of the World.”
It was during such a teachable moment of carving a pumpkin that I learned that upon opening up the top of the pumpkin and peering in, found it to be empty! There was no pie filling to be found, just seeds and stringy gunk. As the years passed, I learned that the seeds could be roasted and actually were very good. I also became very fond of pumpkin blossoms, later in life of course, and are similar in taste to morals or mushrooms. But as for me, I would just as soon have a slice of pecan pie than pumpkin at Thanksgiving, thank you.
Till next time…john
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