What to do with all these photos…

Thinking back on the winter chores that I didn’t get done, one thing that is always on my list is ‘photos’.

I went through boxes of greeting cards, birthday cards and Christmas cards that seem to have accumulated in the desk.

Does anyone else save cards for thirty years or more? In a weak moment I discarded cards from people I don’t even remember, Christmas cards that go back to the time when people sent cards to everyone, even people you saw almost on a daily basis. That was when postage stamps were only a few cents. I did save those special cards that the kids made when they were little, the cards Gael made with the funny little poems in them, cards from the grandparents who are no longer with us. The kids will have to go through them next.

How about calendars. I saved calendars for thirty years or more. I’m not sure why, but there have been times when I couldn’t remember someone’s birth date and would look it up on a calendar in my stack.

family photos

But back to ‘photos’. If your house is like ours, you might have pictures from your grandparents, your parents, your in-law’s, not to mention all the photos of your immediate family, starting with your early days of marriage and then the kids, animals, etc.

Here, at our house, we have an additional category… old cars and equipment. These go back to the days of the Brownie camera with the film that would be taken to the store and a week later you would go back and pick up the photos.

Gael wasn’t too keen on having his picture taken, as many of you know, but he loved to take pictures of old stuff.

I came upon stacks of photos of trips to auto museums, automobile meets, various auto trips, Gael’s collection of things here at home, Stowe VAE shows, some having people from the club who have been gone a long time. Bob Jones, Peveril Peake to name a few.

My first trip to the Stowe Show was in 1960 when Mahlon, Gael and I took the speedster that they made from a fire truck in St. Albans.

I haven’t tackled the boxes of family photos that go back generations, I’m not sure what to do with them, so they will remain in their boxes another year. Throwing them out is not an option. At this point they are tucked away in safe places where I know they are.

Gael’s photos, on the other hand, are finally in a few shoe boxes, all in one location and sorted out as best I can. Is there anyone out there that would like to go through them with me and perhaps identify cars, equipment and people so they can go back in their boxes in some kind of order. Here, again, throwing them out is not an option. A little dust on the top of the boxes won’t hurt anyone.

I can talk to the people at the end of the road now

A few days ago when I turned the calendar to a new page, I noticed something that I haven’t seen in all my years of keeping a calendar. The page for May was blank. There was nothing written anywhere, with the one exception that there was a reminder to give my dog, Dixie, her heartworm and tick pills on the first of May. I promptly did this because the ticks are out in full force. 

There were no appointments, no reminders of meetings, dates to have my weekly and monthly breakfasts with friends, no community dinners at the church, not even a dental appointment. No Meals on Wheels transport, no Bone Builders classes, nothing. This is what my world is all about lately. I don’t have one of those phones, that everyone else has, where people text other people every five minutes. I’ve tried Zoom meetings without luck. Fortunately, most of my friends are older and we are still fine with e-mailing which has been happening a lot lately. Some include pictures which is great. 

Now that the weather has finally decided to show signs of spring, neighbors have been out walking and I can visit at a distance with them, find out what’s going on at their house, if anything. Someone rescued two miniature ponies, another spotted their first wildflower, someone else had her first encounter with a tick. The road crew working on the road and got the grader stuck, that was exciting!

When the snow is gone, I can use a back way (Class 4 road) to my house so now I can visit with neighbors on Lower English Settlement Road that I haven’t seen since last fall. This is always a sure sign of spring. I now can find out all the gossip on that end of the road. A few friends make a point of calling someone every day to check in and visit for a few minutes. My elderly friends have found someone to pick up a few groceries for them, take care of the trash and recycle bin for them, and just check on them once in a while. 

Once in a while someone sends me something in an e-mail that is timely…one such thing has several timely sentences. Here are a few that I found I could relate to and chuckled. Commercials in 2030 will be like… ”Were you or someone you know overly exposed to hand sanitizers, Lysol or bleach, during the 2020 Corvid 19 pandemic? If so, you may be entitled to compensation”. 

Not even a dental appointment

There were others like…. 

  • “If you thought toilet paper was crazy, wait until 300 million people all want a hair cut.”
  • “I’ve spent weeks hanging out with myself and I’m so sorry to every person I spend time with”
  • “After listening to Linda, his human, for 4 weeks while in quarantine as she complained for hours on end, Sparky realized he was not cut out to be an emotional support dog”
  • “Anyone else getting three weeks to a gallon?”
  • “My husband and I decided we don’t want to have children. We will be telling them tonight at dinner”.

I have more but I might save them for the next time it’s my turn to write the Softer Side, if things continue like this for three more months. Meanwhile, be lucky you live in such a great state, enjoy the spring, be thankful for good friends and neighbors and keep wearing your masks. They are colorful, aren’t they? 

I was in the car the other day…

I was in the car, the other day, running errands and having a conversation with myself (Dixie, my dog, was not with me that day). 

I was muttering about the depressing state of affairs in the nation and world, when I found myself singing a song that just popped into my little brain, “Keep On The Sunny Side”. I felt much better after a few minutes. 

Then I started to think about all the songs that were written about sun, and sunshine and in just a few minutes thought of quite a few. How about these: 

The Sunny Side of the Street, Here Comes the Sun ( Beatles), Good Day Sunshine (Beatles), Keep on the Sunny Side (Carter family), Sunshine on My Shoulder (John Denver), You Are My Sunshine. 

Years ago, when Joe Kaelin would call Gael, they would often start singing OLD songs on the telephone and that would last for hours, it seemed. Fred Cook was another one that knew all the OLD songs. Fred and Gael would, again, sing at length. I have fond memories of Fred starting to sing without any notice…..a good memory. 

One of my favorits is… Keep On The Sunny Side which played a part in the recent Ken Burns series about country music. Years ago, when we would sit around a camp fire with neighbors, we always started singing and one song that was sung was “You Are My Sunshine”. I wonder if kids these days know that song. Do people sit around camp fires and sing any more? Maybe, maybe not, but I will continue to sing these songs, especially in the months to come. Singing, and humming, is good for the soul and it makes me feel a little bit better, if only for a short time. 

Can you think of any more songs that you could add to my list? 

PS… There is a good video on You Tube about dogs at the beach with the song ”Walking in Sunshine”. I think that’s the name of it, another sunshine song. 

Father Spears’ St. Christopher

In 1991 I bought a new car, a brand new car, all by myself. I was driving a 1986 VW Golf, but Gael needed a car to drive, so I decided to give him mine and buy a new one. For some reason I wanted a car with a diesel engine and it had to be a VW, so I found a Jetta in Augusta, Maine and we went to get it. I loved it. 

We had a neighbor who was a retired priest and he and his elderly housekeeper and their cats were great neighbors. They also had a barn that Gael used occasionally. Father Spears was a farm boy from Enosburg and he loved to garden. He had about 100 acres which he kept up well. Gael used to like to visit with Fr. Spears and Alice and spent many happy hours “visiting”. 

One day Gael was there and asked Fr. Spears if he blessed cars. Yes, he did. So, a date was picked for me (us) to take my new car there, to be blessed. It was one of those warm, sunny spring days, a Saturday. I got up early, gave the Jetta a good wash, and at the appropriate time, we drove a mile down the road to Fr. Spears’ house. He was quite elderly and had trouble going up and down his porch steps, so we drove the car over the lawn and got as close to the porch as we could. 

Alice had picked a bouquet of wild flowers and placed it on the hood of my sparkling car. Fr. Spears came out onto the porch with his prayer book and some holy water, and proceeded to bless the Jetta. He handed Gael the small bottle of holy water and Gael sprinkled it on my new car. Alice, then, invited us into their kitchen and got out a small bottle of brandy which they kept for medicinal purposes. We then toasted the Jetta. But what was most meaningful to me, was the small statue of St. Christopher that Fr. Spears gave to me. It was in the car that he drove for many years, a huge white four door sedan, that navigated our road well, winter and summer. I proudly put it in the glove box of the Jetta and we went home. 

I drove the car for years until Gael needed a replacement for the 1986 Golf that he had been driving. I passed the Jetta on to Gael and got a replacement car for me…another VW Golf. For anyone who has been at our house in recent years, you probably passed the black Jetta that was parked next to the military truck in the barn yard. Gael couldn’t let it go. Well, this fall, after looking around the yard at all the stuff??, I decided that it was time to call a salvage yard and have them take the Jetta away. The day the truck was due to come, I went down to the Jetta to say goodbye. I removed the floor mats (you can always use them in some car) and I removed the St. Christopher statue that Fr. Spears gave me so many years ago. 

It now sits in my everyday car, another VW Golf, where I see it every time I go anywhere. Thank you Father Spears. God Bless You. 

Father Spears’ St. Christopher from Judy 

Saint Christopher’s most famous legend tells that he carried a child, who was unknown to him, across a river before the child revealed himself as Christ. Therefore, he is the patron saint of travelers, and small images of him are often worn around the neck, on a bracelet, carried in a pocket, or placed in vehicles by Christians. 

Don’t put off………

The phrase “Don’t put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today” keeps going through my head lately. 

Gael and I talked about becoming plus members of the 251 Club for years. We joined in the early 60’s, so it’s been over fifty years. Well, this sum-mer we were going to do it. Fred Gonet got the Locomobile in good running order last summer, Brian Aros (a new VAE member) gave Gael two new knees and we were going to tour this summer. Well, it was not to be. I could do it by myself, but I don’t want to do it alone, and I couldn’t use the Locomobile because I haven’t a clue about how to drive the thing and it’s way too big for me….out of the question. Who would I go with if I went “modern”. 

Chainsaws! I’ve been thinking about getting a small battery operated chainsaw to trim some branches that I run into when mowing the lawn. Gael would always tell me he would do it the next time he had his chainsaw out (which is ancient and weighs a ton). It never was done. Well, a few weeks ago, I bought a small battery operated chainsaw and finally cut down those branches, that I kept hitting my head and ripping my shirt on when mowing the lawn. 

As always, we had a little water in the cellar a few weeks ago and I sucked it up with our ancient shop vac. I finally got all the water gone, then went and bought a new, small, shop vac. Wow, is it nice. 

One thing I’m not going to do today is to drive the VW Thing. It’s needed some attention for a few years and taking a closer look at it the other day, I think I’ll find somebody to do some work on it, work that should have been done a few years ago but we put it off. The kids and I drove the Thing off and on for a number of years, and we all have good stories to tell (the day I hit a bear) that I’m just hearing about now, so it’s a keeper. It’s just beat up enough that I don’t have to worry about dents and scratches. My kind of car. 

There are definitely some things that shouldn’t be put off…that trip to the dentist office, the annual visit to the doctor for a physical, changing the oil in the car and getting a new inspection sticker for the cars. That one, the inspections, could cover a whole Softer Side article. Mowing the lawn before the grass gets so high it clogs the mower. Sharpening the blade on the brush cutter before you start cutting. I’m sure you can think of a few things to add to the list. 

So, the next time you wake up during the night and think of things that need to be done, get up the next morning and do them, please…..don’t put off….well, you know what I am talking about. 

Some Serious Cleaning!

Circumstances, here at home, have forced me to do some serious cleaning. I always said that Gael was the hoarder, but I have added my name to that list. When you live in a house for fifty years, things accumulate, especially if you have room in closets and spare rooms. 

That’s the case here. I think of friends that have neat homes with no clutter and wonder where all the stuff is. I guess it isn’t, it gets tossed. I just made two trips to the recycle place in Jericho and took a car load of things (I won’t call it junk yet) to the church Clutter Barn. I saw Gary Irish there helping! 

We have had to eliminate two closets where the overflow from the kitchen went. Those things that were on sale at the grocery store and it was too good a deal not to purchase. I often wondered, on my rare trips to Costco, where people store those 48 rolls of toilet paper or paper towels. Under a bed? Not at my house. The places under the beds are already filled. 

I think it all started when we purchased our first home in Underhill. It was partially furnished with a lot of things that belonged to Gael’s grandparents. Along the way we added things from my parents house and Gael’s mother’s house. Toss in three kids and their things and, presto, you have stuff everywhere. 

I’ve discovered a number of things that I have forgotten about, so it is also a trip down memory lane, if you will. I found the first issue of Wheel Tracks with a lengthy article that Pev Peake wrote, about one of his famous trips with a friend in an old car. Very funny!! Lots of photos of old cars and car parts taken over the years. They are being kept. How about calendars going back twenty years. They are going in the recycle bin next. Twenty five years of tax returns. I’ll just save the last seven and the rest goes in the wood stove, which is still being used. Then there are the buckets of pens and pencils that haven’t been touched in years. They are going out too. Nobody wants textbooks any more, so they are going. That free up a book shelf. Christmas wrapping paper, boxes and ribbons. Knitting needles, old thread, sewing supplies, parts to a sewing machine that’s been gone for years. Most of that went too. Gael’s electric typewriter is staying and I found a few new typewriter ribbons that are still good. It’s a daunting task but needs to be done, so I’d best get back to it. Would anyone like to buy a great old pine corner cupboard? 

I do what they call a rolling stop…

vt dirt road

It must have something to do with the fact that I’m getting old, or am already old, but I find more and more things really irritate me. The first thing that comes to mind is road rage. I think I’d go mad if I had to drive in a metropolitan area on a regular basis. I find it difficult enough to drive in Burlington. All the lights, whether they are on cars or streets, are bad enough, but then you have people walking everywhere and bicycles everywhere, and cars darting in and out of strange places. Add darkness and rain to the mix and it’s not very good. 

I don’t know about you, but I find more and more cars blatantly going through red lights and ignoring stop signs. I’ve even seen school busses doing this. It’s not just young people either! It seems like it is parents of these young folks. Not using directional signals is another problem. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t even trust cars that have their directional signals on. 

I won’t even mention driving on the Interstate, where everyone is going about 80 mph. It’s almost unsafe to be going the speed limit. I guess I’ve been driving on dirt roads long enough where you can drive down the middle of the road, or even on the wrong side of the road, depending on the road conditions, without worrying about other cars. One needs to concentrate because of pot holes, ruts in mud season, or slippery conditions. After dark, you have very few headlights to contend with. Just an occasional deer or two. More often than not, there is more than one deer so you just have to look carefully. I’ve never hit a deer, but it seems like everyone else I know has, with minor or major damage to the vehicle. (I did hit a bear once, or I should say the bear hit me). It wasn’t hurt and I was driving the VW Thing which sustained just minor damage. 

I do admit to not coming, to a complete stop, when there is a stop sign on some dirt roads. I do what they call a rolling stop, which seems good enough to me. Why there are even stop signs in some places is beyond me. Speed limit signs, too. The speed limit might be 35 MPH when you drive through a town, but then on a dirt road, some where there is a 25 MPH sign for no apparent reason. How about following a car down a road that is going ten miles below the speed limit? It usually is some older person that can barely see over the steering wheel. This might be all right on a back road but can be dangerous on a paved road with a fair amount of traffic. It seems like everyone is impatient and needs to pass these slow moving cars, usually on dangerous stretches of road. 

Then there are the people who still use their phones and swerve all over the place and sometimes pull to the side of the road in weird places. 

I think I’d best stop before I move on to another pet peeve. There seems to be no shortage of them these days. 

Winter Tires

From Judy………By the time you read this, everyone’s fall chores should be done. Wouldn’t that be nice….with one exception. Winter tires.

Gael likes to set a date in November to do this, often Thanksgiving weekend. I like to be ready for that first snow/freezing rain event. We seem to have had this same discussion for 50 years.

My biggest chore is putting on the storm windows. We have the old wooden ones, take them off in the spring, putting them on in the fall. The trouble with this fall chore, all the windows have to be washed, both sides of the storm windows and the outside of the house windows, and then while I’m at it, the inside of the house windows, all 21 of them. Getting them squeaky clean with no streaks is another problem. I’ve spent years cleaning windows many different ways, only to find smudges on them when looking through them in winter, when it’s too cold to do anything about it. Sharon Fiske put me onto a good cleaning product last year and I love it. It works! A few years ago, we installed those little number button things on the windows and corresponding window sills, which make another problem much easier.

Now that the storm windows are on, I move on to the flower beds. Because of the HOT/DRY summer we’ve had, I was ready to cut the flower beds back weeks ago but it was still too hot for me. If it doesn’t get done this fall, I’ll deal with it in the spring. I do have a list of gardening reminders going for next year because I can’t seem to remember much from year to year.

Then we move on to the wood pile! Our son, Owen, has been a great help this year and had most of it cut and split before black fly season arrived. Now it’s time to move the wood to the porch, but we can’t do it until the porch furniture gets moved to the upstairs of the barn, which we need help doing. Seems to me we need more and more help doing stuff lately! Now it will be time to rake leaves, not my favorite chore. A few years ago, our daughter, Susan, gave Gael a leaf blower for Christmas. It sat around for a while, but Gael got it out one year to see how it works and it does! It takes hours and in the end, you have several huge piles of leaves. Now it’s time to move the great piles of leaves. We used a huge king-size sheet that came from somewhere and that works great, and when done, folds up into a small pile to be put away until next year. Getting the leaves into the truck, driving down the road and depositing the leaves in a meadow is the next step, but an easy one. What to do with the geraniums that are still in bloom!! I usually bring them inside (something in past years I said I wouldn’t ever do again) and water them until they die in March. Some people have good luck keeping them over, but we don’t have a good place to put them, either, it’s too hot, there isn’t any sun or something. Then, come spring of next year, I’ll go to the local greenhouse and I’ll buy new ones in full bloom already.

Lastly, getting out the snow scraper from the back of the car, placing it close to the driver’s seat and making sure the tow rope that I got for Christmas a few years ago is in the car. This was a wonderful gift and I was glad to have it on more than one occasion. I do have a good story about my tow rope that I’ll share with you if you are interested. As of now, none of the above have been done. It’s still too early. But when the weather is right, the big rush is on.

Preserving

globe ball jarsRhubarb!! We are overwhelmed with it. There is just so much you can eat.Friends either really like it or really don’t like it, so I can only give away so much. I would love to freeze some, but the freezer is full. We just have the freezer that is with the refrigerator…no large separate one. We use to have a big freezer, back when I had a big vegetable garden and froze produce along with pigs, beef cows, etc. We even had someone from somewhere in Canada come to the house once a week to deliver bread, English muffins, etc. That was great, but there were always loaves of bread that ended up in the bottom of the freezer, to be found a year later and tossed to the pigs.

ball jar logo dating chartSo, back to my little freezer, which seems to be filled with blueberries, blackberries and raspberries from last summer. It’s so nice to be able to freeze surplus fruit, but I have a problem with using it all. I want to save it for something, I’m not sure what, so now I have to quickly use it all, to be able to put more in the freezer shortly. Unfortunately, there is no room for rhubarb. I must get this feeling of having to save stuff from Gael who saves everything!!! So, it’s rhubarb pies, muffins, coffeecakes and bags of rhubarb left off a friend’s houses. Then, we’ll move on to blueberry pies, muffins, coffeecakes, along with blackberry pies, muffins, coffeecakes, not to mention raspberry pies, muffins and coffeecakes. I did find a bag of currants in the bottom of the freezer that someone gave me a few years ago. They got tossed. I guess it may be time to start making jams again. It’s been a while, but if I remember correctly, I had the same problem with jams and jellies. I would save them for some reason and then end up giving a lot of the jars away. Pickles! Another thing I would save and then throw away the contents a few years later so I could use the jars to make more pickles.

Right now, I’m not even going to think about pickled beets or green beans. We’ll wait and see how many empty jars I have, come August, and worry about it then.

Editor’s notes….. I have the answer Judy, or at least an answer from a guy’s point of view. Just one of those Globe canning jars in the picture above is worth $100 to $200. You can buy a lot of canned goods at Hannafords for $100.

Ball jars, in the common green shade, a wire bale 1910 is worth $400. A cobalt blue model fetches $10,000 or more.

Mason, Kerr, Hero, Atlas, Columbia, Bartow and Willoughby Stopple are names of others. Is there a VAE member out there who collects canning jars? How about giving us more information.

Winter Driving

On my way home from a friend’s house last night, in the dark, I happened upon a car that was stuck on a hill with a person behind the steering wheel and one person behind the car pushing it. There wasn’t much I could do, so I continued on my way. This got me thinking about past situations that involved having trouble getting home on bad roads in winter. All before cell phones! I think our town does a good job maintaining our roads in winter and in mud season and in recent years we have had fairly good snow tires, but there have been times in the past when our cars haven’t been the greatest and our tires just OK. This is just the way it was back then.

Our road has a nice hill just after a sharp curve and it is tricky on occasions not being able to get enough momentum to get up the hill. Fortunately, a neighbor built a house about half way up the hill with a driveway that has come in handy on more than one occasion. When, after trying to get up the hill two or three times and finally knowing you aren’t going to make it, you can either pull into the driveway and use their phone or leave your car there and walk home (2 miles). The other option was to drive around to the other end of the road which is closer to our house, go as far as you can, leave your car there and walk home which includes a stretch of road that isn’t plowed in winter. There were times when our son would have to stand on the rear bumper of the car for weight to get the car up the hill. This usually worked. We often drove Volkswagens that did amazingly well under bad conditions. I remember making it up the hill, only to find out that the road was so drifted I couldn’t tell where it was. I would be pushing snow with the front bumper so visibility was 0, having to roll down the driver’s window, look out the side and figure out where the road was by the trees alongside the road. One time Gael couldn’t make it home, and the next morning we walked down the road only to find the car completely covered by a snow drift. There was a time when we drove a VW pickup truck and in the middle of a bad storm, Gael drove over to a neighbor’s house with a long driveway that was unplowed. The neighbor was so impressed with the truck, he went out and bought one himself. There was one VW that we drove briefly (a Joe Kaelin car) that was so rusty we often had more snow in the car than was on the road. When the school bus started coming up our road, the road conditions got a little better, although we lived about a mile from the bus stop.

By the time our kids were old enough to drive, they had seen almost every kind of road and winter car problem and, surprisingly, managed quite well under bad conditions. They couldn’t call home quickly, no cell phone or AAA back then. Now, as adults, they can handle most situations very well, although they all have their phones and AAA now. Hopefully, they have passed some of their experiences along to their kids.