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Archive for June, 2008

Our camping site had electricity and its own resident squirrel and a very handy port-a-potty.

The 180 degree view of the lake from our own personal peninsula was spectacular. We camped at the Army recreation area up at Thurmond Lake, about a 45 minute drive from here. By going during the week, there were few people there. We choose a camping area with electric outlets. Handy for the pump to inflate the air bed. Unhandy for a serene night view, we later discovered. The mercury lights were so bright we could read by them. Way too bright for a camping spot.

We had just set up camp, had lunch, watched a squirrel, who we named Fred, scamper around our picnic table. We were enjoying the clouds when they turned dark. We could see the storm on the other side of the lake, a nice distant sight — until we realized it was heading across the lake, straight towards us. We scrambled. The storm hit with such a strong wind it blew off the top cover from our tent. I bailed inside while outside Bruce battled the wind and rain to put the top back on, fastening the clips differently. Nine gallons of water later, the storm ended and I gathered up our soggy bedding and headed to the dryers at the laundromat. Fortunately, as dry as it’s been, the ground was not muddy. That was Day One.

Day Two we went for a drive, gone about an hour. We returned to find Fred the squirrel munching our loaf of bread — inside our covered plastic food box. Fred  was eating our bread! He had eaten his way through the heavy plastic lid! If I could have gotten my hands on his scrawny rodent neck, he would have been a dead Fred! Our food box went to live in the trunk of the car. I went to the local store for a new loaf of bread. Bruce stayed at the site, armed with pine cones to pelt old Fred.

Day Three was uneventful. We listened to a Braves game on the radio and watched the boaters on the lake. Binoculars are great for checking out the fishermen and jet skiers. Fred decided to befriend other campers after finding the Stephens had locked up his buffet.

Camping is wonderful fresh air lesson in self sufficiency. However, nothing beats air conditioning in Georgia in the summer. The next trip will be to the north Georgia mountains. Sometimes we just have to sacrifice.

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It started with an article in the newspaper. We had been discussing going camping for several months. But the article cinched it. It listed about 10 places, within one tank of gas distance from Augusta, that were interesting to visit. Every place from the mountains to the seashore — a distinct advantage to living in this part of the country. We had decided not to take a long vacation this year, but no one said anything about several short ones.

Several weeks ago we drove up to a spot up at Clarks Hill Lake where Fort Gordon’s Army recreation area is located. We had heard it was a nice place and wanted to have a weiner roast there for the end of the year awards for Bruce’s baseball team, the Indians. However, we needed to check it out. Pointes West has everything and we were impressed. We could reserve a nice picnic area for $10. However, it would cost only $7 a night to camp there. There was a port-a-potty at each camping area!  Yeah, leave it to the Army to remember the latrine situation.

We came home and started researching tents. If you’ve not looked lately, tents are ranked by how many people they can sleep — if you happen to be a sardine. The guide shows sleeping bags lined up sardine-fashion in whatever configuration they decree. Sorry folks, there’s only one person in the world I want to sleep that close to. So when I found a want ad selling a 6 person tent, used only once, for a mere $50, I called. That would suit us fine. However, it had no instructions. No problem, said the resident former soldier. He was right. It took us an hour, going slowly to sort out the poles and pieces, but we soon had it up in the backyard and looking good.

The next issue was sleeping. Sleeping bags or cots? We are too old and stiff to sleep on the ground anymore. Cots or air bed? We got an inexpensive air bed. It didn’t hold air overnight with no people on it. Back it went. Next came two extra heavy duty cots. One broke the instant Bruce sat on it. Back it went. Next was a queen size raised pillowtop air bed. Perfect. We gave the set-up the ultimate test. Sprayed the tent down with the hose, hurricane fashion, to check for leaks. Minor ones.  Quite repairable.   Like two ten year olds, we slept in the backyard — in a tent — all night. Slept like babies — or ten year olds. It was great, however, our dog, Ginger, looked at us strangely. (“You two want to sleep out there?”) She trotted off to her soft dog bed — in the air conditioned comfort of the bedroom.

So — we replaced the old Coleman stove, bought a battery powered fan, found an old radio, got the cooler out of the shed, drug out the big lantern and the cast iron skillet and the percolator and our green boxes (where we keep our travel supplies for the kitchen at the beach.) We did splurge on a very deep sheet to fit the air bed. However, all of it still doesn’t begin to add up to three days in a motel with gas and meals. We’re looking forward to Spam and eggs fried up in a skillet for breakfast and hamburgers on the grill. All in the great outdoors. Pack up the insect repellent. Bruce and Kathy’s Big Camping Adventure begins Monday.

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Vaughn

Although it was his last name, many people called him that. I’m not going to tell you how old I was before I realized the difference between his first and last name.

Verne Vaughn, the father of my dear childhood friend, Jurhee, died Saturday, the day before Father’s Day. Outside of my own family, her parents, Verne and Eunice Vaughn, guided and influenced me more than any other people during my childhood and adolescence. Because of them, I grew up to be a better woman than I would have otherwise. Reading his obituary, I remembered that he and my own father were born the same year. Dad died at 67; Verne was 92.

My favorite memory of Vaughn also taught me a lesson. Eunice and Verne were great with kids. One summer they loaded up a bunch of us, hooked the boat trailer to their station wagon and off we went to Tennessee from Southern Illinois. They had rented a cabin along a lake and we were going to boat and ski for several days. One afternoon, after lunch, Verne was in the cabin taking a nap on the sofa. Jurhee, bored and wanting some action, decided that it was time to wake up her daddy. I knew, even in my feeble 15 year old brain, that it was not a good idea. We snuck up on him. Jurhee tossed a cup of water on him while he was still asleep. Although I didn’t really do anything, I was certainly guilty by association. We took off running, prepared for him to retaliate. Nothing happened. He didn’t chase after us. Didn’t yell. Nothing. We were safe.

About an hour later while out on the dock, I heard a yell and a splash and turned around to see Jurhee coming up for air. Verne quickly cornered me too and into the lake I went, fully dressed. We got exactly what we deserved. That day I remembered that children do not run the world. Adults do.

However, children do need help. Eunice, Jurhee’s mother, helped me in ways she never knew. She once heard me make a snotty remark about my own mother. It was during a rough patch in my family’s life. We all lived in a small town. Everyone knew everyone’s business. So she sat me down at the kitchen table, where all important conversation takes place, and explained exactly what my mother was experiencing. I listened. And later I went home a much more compassionate 12 year old, at last, sympathetic to my mother’s struggle.

Years later while I was visiting Eunice, which I did whenever I returned to Fairfield for a visit, Verne, who called his wife “Shorty”, came in from working outside, hot and tired, heading for the shower. “Shorty,” he said, “I need a cold glass of tea.” “Sure,” she said, jumping up to get it. “Can’t he get it himself?” I asked. “Kathy, that’s not the point. He’s my husband, that’s my job. He wants a cold drink and I can get it for him.” Today, when I, too, lovingly bring my husband a drink, even though his limbs are not broken, I remember Eunice’s gesture. She taught me that true love means we selflessly serve, not because we have to, but because we want to.

Eunice died about 18 years ago. I miss her like I miss my mother and Grandma Hubble and Aunt Wanda and Grammy Slusher. However, the good news is — Shorty will be there, ready to bring Vaughn a cold glass of tea.

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How Peachy

Yesterday we had the first fruits — ah, vegetables — from the garden. Our salad at lunch had the first cucumber and the supper casserole contained the first zucchini. Both were delicious. The bees are busily pollinating the cucumber vines and the bean plants have lots of baby beans. Now — if it just weren’t so beastly hot. High 90 degree temperatures for the first two weeks of June is really more like August. And — I’m about ready to practice my rain dance. I got the car washed — that usually does the trick.

Bruce and I researched several recipes for pickled peaches and came up with one that seemed like “what Mama used to make.” He’s good, and fast, at peeling the fruit, so after a little experimentation, we had a system going. I got the jars and syrup ready while he peeled. We have to wait for six weeks until August to find out if they’re good.  So that was 40 plus pounds of Clingstone peaches. We have 13 big lovely jars. (By the way, have you priced whole cloves? Yikes! $10.34 for a 1.25 oz. jar. Folks — that’s over $132 a pound. And we thought gasoline was expensive!)

We also bought a basket of larger peaches just to slice and can. One of the advantages of living in peach growing country is that they are literally down the road. Curiously, Georgia is called the Peach State, but actually South Carolina grows more. Go figure. Our trip down Highway 25 in SC takes us past two nice stands that sell the local peaches. (This is very near Strom Thurmond’s hometown of Edgefield.)  We also brought home big red tomatoes and fragrant cantaloupes. Even though Publix sells good produce usually, those bought by the roadside are better. Maybe it’s because we were in our hunter-gatherer mode.

After MacKathy added up all the expenses I think our pickled peaches cost about half of what they’d be in the grocery store and, hopefully, will taste twice as good.  Watch for the Pickled Peach Report in August.

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In a Jam

No, I didn’t find any canning jars at the estate sale. However, I did find, for a mere 25 cents, a new lid for a favorite casserole dish. I dropped and broke the first lid and had hoped some day to find a replacement. I also ran into a former student and the mother of a former student, so I got caught up with their news. I also found two wooden crates for a good price. Two days before, I had lamented — wish we had a couple of wooden crates for the jars. . . . voila! There they were. The old lady, now in a nursing home, had a problem with hoarding. The 300+ coffee cups were a dead giveaway.

Anyway, after a stop at the downtown Saturday market I came home with strawberries and blueberries. This week we made jam. I say “we” because Bruce “The Crusher” Stephens mashed up the berries for me. Now we have 9 jars of sugar free homemade fruit jam.

We’re headed over to Edgefield County in South Carolina next week to get peaches for making spiced peaches. It’s about a 40 minute trip one way. Last Thanksgiving Bruce found a jar of spiced peaches in Publix. We didn’t fight over them — exactly — however, when there were only two peaches left, I’ll be honest, I didn’t offer to share them.

People — I’m getting the fever. Guess what you’re getting for Christmas.

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