Bloggin’ and Boggin’, It’s Cranberry Time!

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As a kid in Iowa, New England might as well have been a different country. My school wasn’t down with geography but as I’ve learned, that’s a trait shared by many land-locked education systems. (I think it’s jealousy.) Everything I knew about New England could be boiled down to four things:

  1. Pilgrims landed there.
  2. Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party happened there.
  3. Everyone hated their football team.
  4. Cranberries came from there.

The latter was something I knew because even as a kid I loved cranberries. My mouth watered when Mom opened the can and jiggled out the gel every Thanksgiving. (Shut up, that was classy in the 70s!) When most of the family turned up their noses, I scarfed down the extra tart cranberry relish made by Grandma Pete every Christmas. And thanks to an unsubstantiated claim by a small-town doctor regarding my mild kidney issue, my mother poured bottles of cranberry juice down my gullet for the first ten years of life to my joy.

As a kid, I’d seen photos in magazines of people standing in the water, scooping up cranberries and found it fascinating. My dad and uncle harvested corn and soybeans every fall with huge combines, filling truck after truck but that wasn’t fascinating. It was boring old farming. Maybe if the corn was the perfect shade of red and Dad scooped the corn out of a pool my interest would’ve been piqued but otherwise – meh.

When my husband The Turk told me our new home in Massachusetts was in cranberry country, I was pretty psyched. I wasn’t sure what cranberry country would look like but I was ready for the adventure. As I’ve discussed earlier (here it is in case you missed it) the downside of cranberry country is the plethora of snakes (The little bastards love the bogs but sometimes take a wrong turn to my front steps.) and the sand – sand that is enough to drive a mother crazy. Otherwise cranberry country is beautiful, consisting of lots of low-lying bogs filled with little bushes about 8 inches high everywhere you turn.

From the moment we landed in cranberry country this summer, I’ve waited for harvest season. I wanted to see if the images on TV and in those magazines were legit and more importantly, I wanted to see cranberries harvested for real. I asked everyone I met if they knew a cranberry farmer but came up empty. I considered putting out a call on the local Facebook page but that seemed a bit psycho and as we’re new in this little town, I’m trying to keep my crazy on the down low.

September came and went and I didn’t see a single bog harvest. The bogs were turning that beautiful shade of red but not a single one was flooded and filled with people in waders. Every errand I’d run would turn into a bog-stalking mission and every trip came up empty, until yesterday.

I’d just dropped Number 1 Son off at school following a doctor’s appointment and was cruising home when I spied it, a flooded bog! I slowed just in time to see the tell-tale floating crimson circle. PAYDIRT! I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by even if it was on a major thoroughfare. I whipped a quick U-ie and headed back with the lone intention of snapping a few photos. My scientific nerdom has long filled me with fascination about these berries and this coupled with my dangerous level of curiosity led to what happened next.

I couldn’t get a good photo and besides, was a photo really enough? I saw an open driveway and skidded in. I tried to look sane but when the woman standing there shoved her small son protectively behind her I realized I’d failed. The day-long drizzle had my hair frizzing like a cartoon crazy and thanks to the damp cold, I had on so many layers my ensemble was only missing a shopping cart.

From the men knee deep in water to the woman loading the truck, their expressions were universal – What the hell is this nut job doing and is she packin’ heat? Immediately I tried to prove my harmlessness.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve never seen a cranberry harvest before. We just moved from Indiana.” (I think I was better before I offered up the Indiana reference but I kept going.) “Can I just take some photos to show my kids?” When you throw in a reference to motherhood you’re always legit.

The farmers were more than amenable to my request causing me to think back to my own dad and what he might have done if some crazy New Englander stopped off in his cornfield and asked to take photos because she’d never seen corn harvested before. I knew what Dad would’ve done and that’s what led me to my next action – “So, how does this whole thing work?”

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Public interest is something that a farmer cannot resist. Farming is a thankless job so even if some lunatic woman shows interest, a good farmer will take the PR opportunity. He and his partner (a bad-ass female in chest-high waders) explained the entire process.

They use a machine to knock the berries off the bush to the ground.

-They then flood the blog with knee-deep water and the berries float on top for harvest.

-Berries are corralled with a black rubber barrier about 6” wide and dragged to shore.

-A huge pump pulls the berries out and dumps them into a truck.

-The truck takes the berries to the Ocean Spray plant on the other side of town and then returns over and over until the bog is empty.

It’s not all that different than harvesting corn but when you add the colors and the whole flooding process and even the word “bog” it just seems cooler. As the farmers in the bog pointed out, you don’t realize how cool it is until some crazy woman recently relocated from Indiana whips her car off the road to take photos and ask a gazillion questions.

I told them about growing up on a corn farm and we soon found that though the crops and processes are vastly different, the rest is basically the same right down to the cranberry farmer’s wife and young son bringing him lunch like my mom and we kids once did.

The Turk didn’t share my excitement, nor did my boys but that’s ok. If my dad were still alive he would’ve loved it and that was enough. My nerd bucket is filled and the farmers even told me Ocean Spray was hiring this week if I was interested in getting in on the packaging end of things. I’m giving it some thought. I do look fabulous in a hairnet.

So this Thanksgiving buy an extra bag or a couple more cans of cranberry goodness. I gotta keep my new found people in business. We have to support our farmers be they in a field or a bog because without farmers we’re all screwed.

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Hells Yeah, It’s Thanksgiving Gurl!

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The time is upon us again and my heart, with her arteries prepared to clog within days, is all a twitter. Why? Because, my friends, it is nearly Thanksgiving the most wonderful time of the year.

I’ve always had a solid love of Thanksgiving (not really that odd for a fat kid) and that love has only grown stronger with age. During our years living in Turkey, I deemed November the “Month of Which We Do Not Speak” and would refer to the month only by it’s Turkish name, Kasim, so I would not be reminded of what I’d lost. (On more than one occasion post-repatriation, I have legitimately been asked how the Turks celebrate Thanksgiving so I feel like I should issue a little reminder that while there is a Thanksgiving turkey, there is no Thanksgiving in Turkey. I’ll just leave that there. No need to admit if you had to think about it. I judge silently.)

While many people get the tingles at the mere mention of Christmas, I do not. I’m not a fan of the Holly Jolly. Christmas is hectic and expensive. There is always high drama and high expectations and quite frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that. The Turkish version of Christmas happens on December 31st and includes a skinny dude with a ‘stache called Baba Noel delivering, one – just one- gift to ring in the new year. None of this 3-month lead up, no stores blaring Christmas music from the first of October and they give you a whole extra prep week. I’ve lobbied for this approach in America with no takers. (America, considering our current plague of obesity, would it be so bad to have a chain-smoking, trim Santa as a role model?)

No, Thanksgiving is my jam. Last year Thanksgiving came after a dismal autumn that included Nugget’s kidney reconstruction, copious visits to get his hearing aid fitted, his Apraxia diagnosis and our introduction to learning ASL. Mama was playing stay-at-home mom so funds were tight and I was weighing my options for pole-dancing as a means to provide Christmas. It was not our finest November and even Thanksgiving couldn’t bring me around.

But this year…this family is in fighting form! Mama’s back to work in a job that does not include dancing or poles, (Yes society, your collective sigh of relief is audible.) Nugget’s kidney is pumping like new. And though he has a love/hate relationship with it, his hearing aid has been a game changer for his speech and while he still uses ASL to communicate on the reg, he also never shuts up. (Though I can only decipher about 50%, in his mind he’s fluent and has gone so far as to begin adding in some Turkish which isn’t all that helpful but amazing all the same.) This year Thanksgiving, it is GAME ON.

I made my menu last Friday and had 90% of my food shopping done by Saturday morning (and booze…of course I already bought the booze.) On Sunday, I began the great turkey thaw of ’16 so I can brine that bird on Tuesday. Monday I sent the Turk (who took the week off to use up some vacation time with the intention of winterizing our world, but instead became my Girl Friday…or I guess that would be my Turk Friday.) all over the city in search of missing ingredients. Before you feel too bad for the Turk, know that while he’s relatively new to this whole Thanksgiving thing, he is a Black Friday junkie and he spent much of Sunday laying out his own plan of attack for the wee hours of Friday morning.

Tuesday as I lovingly rub Lonna, (That’s this year’s bird. I find I put in more effort if I name them. Don’t judge me.) and whisper sweet nothings into that little slot where her head used to be, I will cover her in brine and await the glory of what she will become. Tuesday evening I will return home after a hard day at school, elated to begin Thanksgiving break. As I turn Lonna in her brine, in a celebratory gesture, I’ll grab her by the wings and turn my kitchen into a dance floor as Lonna and I execute a quality Argentinian Tango. (I get all my moves from Dancing With the Stars. So does Nugget.)

Wednesday is what I like to call the pregame. Pies, cake, relishes, rolls and anything else I can chop, dice or shred. Don’t expect meals, children, Mama’s got cooking to do. Number One Son will be whipping up piecrusts while Nugget proofs the yeast…ok more like Number One will whine about going to play outside while Nugget rubs roasted pumpkin into the cat’s fur.

And Thursday when my alarm goes off at it’s usual ungodly hour I will rise without once even considering snooze, pull on my fatigues,(or yoga pants, whichever is clean) paint my face with camo (or moisturizer as camo make-up makes my glasses slide down my nose) and take my place at the kitchen counter, prepared for greatness.

It’s been a crap year. 2016 has held maximum suckage. We’ve lost greats, lived on edge for an entire year, been bombarded with stupidity on so, so many fronts, face great uncertainty about our future and elected a moron. But even amid all that, my family has so much to be thankful for and what better way to celebrate than by stuffing ourselves into obesity with high quality edibles made with love by a surly mother. (I’m pretty sure that’s how the first Thanksgiving got started too.)

So do as I’ve been doing since about November 9th, turn off the television (except for football or Dancing With The Stars) unplug from the stress of social media (love you all but the break has done me good) explore new wines, play obscene amounts of Uno with the kids and enjoy this fine, fine holiday.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING From the Turks!!!!

I’m Too Tired For Turkey

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Here we are on the eve of Turkey Day – the day in which we Americans suck down pounds of fowl and carbohydrates in an attempt to remember all those things for which we are grateful. Thanksgiving has long been my number one as far as holidays go.(I venture to guess most of those with a fondness for food feel the same.) What’s not to love? It’s the gateway to the holiday baking season. Usually, Thanksgiving revs me up and I cannot wait to get my Martha on. But this year, I’m just not feeling it. My Martha hand is limp.

Why? Though we’re currently in a giant medical wait-and-see zone with the Nugget and I have a gazillion things to be thankful for in regards to getting us to this point, I’m not sure why the Turkey Day love isn’t spewing out of me. Maybe because it’s been a rough few months and though I’ve roasted my pie pumpkins (Damn right I make those pies from scratch- crust and all.) and my rolls are rising (Yes, I make those too. Nothing tastes as good as handmade artistry –according to Martha.) I still can’t get into the turkey spirit. Ultimately, I think I’m just too damn tired. In the interest of trying to get to the root of the issue, I decided to make a list and put my finger on why I was so tired but my list just kept growing.

I’m tired of hearing tests. (He can’t hear the beep. He’s got one ear and he’s 2. Let it go lady!)

I’m tired of having our days dictated by therapies and doctor appointments.

I’m tired of pouring my energy into therapies and seeing no results.

I’m tired of diagnosises.

I’m tired of worrying.

I’m tired of my football team sucking. (I’m looking at you Eagles. You’re always hard to love but this is ridiculous.)

I’m tired of snot flowing freely in my home. (For real, someone always has a cold lately.) 

I’m tired of my weird neighbor doing things in the middle of the night- and by doing things I mean I’m pretty sure he’s hiding bodies. (Ok, maybe I’m just tired on this one because I’m up in the night spying out the window on my weird neighbor -but it’s my civic duty thought right? You’re right. I need a job.)

I’m tired of living in a home with three languages and yet still, no one listens to me. (I scream in Turkish, I yell in English, I sign. Nothing. Nada.)

I’m tired of chasing a two-foot graffiti artist with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.(I’ve yet to identify a surface that he has not tagged. PS – Magic Eraser doesn’t work on white carpet.)

I’m tired of temper tantrums. (And no, I’m not going to disclose if those are mine or the Nuggets.)

I’m tired of stupid people. (Why are they everywhere and who gave them all such free reign on the interweb? I feel like their numbers are growing exponentially lately. Perhaps Donald Trump can create a registry for them. )

I’m tired of politics. (Your hate filled rhetoric is destroying us, you morons. Grow up.)

I’m tired of the hate that is taking over this world.(Suck it up and get along. I blame the push to remove Coke from our diets. Back in the 70’s we had a Coke, we taught the world to sing. It was all good.)

I’m tired of religion. More specifically, I’m tired of people being asshats in the name of religion. (If you’re going to be an asshat, be an asshat. You don’t need any help from God. And P.S., he knows when you’re being an asshat, did you ever think about that?)

Yes, I’m tired but I’ve got hope because I believe in Turkey Day Miracles. See, I know myself well enough to know that a day or two in the kitchen, dusted in flour (gluten free now as we had to add that to our list of issues – nothing’s easy) and glowing with turkey juice, I’ll feel better.Thanksgiving-Chef-VintageGraphicsFairy1 (1)

Later in the day after I’ve added a pound of pie and a gallon of wine to my short frame, I’ll feel awash in happiness and my tiredness will subside.

By Friday I will deck my halls to the musical stylings of Big Bird singing Frosty while Charlie Brown plays on the T.V. (We’ve been learning to sign Christmas carols too so Nugget won’t be left out. When you sign a carol it’s like instant choreography and who doesn’t love choreography?)

Saturday I will brave the stupid people and venture out shopping, only to return home to the welcoming arms of leftover turkey and Amazon.com where I will buy the things I wanted to buy but was deterred from by the stupid people. By Sunday, I will nap in the recliner while watching crappy football (Safe from disappointment after having watched the Eagles lose on Thanksgiving) warm under the weight of a napping Nugget and a snuggling Midget as a fire glows and my newly decked halls twinkle.

I’m tired but I will be better after these four days off because as my new patron saint Wendy Williams says, “The ocean, after all, is not about stability but about change. Change is normal. Everything changes all the time.And of course, she’s right. I might be tired now but things will change. Things will even out and the worries will fade (or change). I don’t have much hope for that whole stupid people thing  though, but then again, you never know.

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