Category Archives: humor

Another Day – Another – – –

Wendy is tied up preparing for her big annual medical conference, so Jack gets an extra turn –

I thought a description of a typical day in the Beck/Welch house might amuse y’all –

Wendy feeds the cats and the dog, including one cat recovering from surgery and another that intimidates all the rest. We have a discussion about how to handle the intimidatory one and decide she has to live outside and in our log cabin jail out back (the cat – not Wendy). That meant checking on possible heating and cat flap arrangements.

Then it was bringing all our instruments in from the car after our gig at the local bookstore last night.

IMG_8252

On with the first of three loads of washing in between cracking walnuts. (We don’t use a dryer so sunny days are prime time for laundry.) Five mature black walnut trees came with this house and while Wendy does the collecting and hulling, I do the cracking and meat extraction.

Wendy leaves for work – –

Our friend Randy who runs the aforementioned bookstore comes over to look at three of our walnut trees which will shortly be felled and agrees to take some of the wood.

I crack more walnuts, put on the second wash and start the dishwasher.

Time for my customary soft boiled egg for lunch and then a break for a smoke in the front porch (aka ‘the catio’). As I’m relaxing I hear an explosive BANG!  At the crossing just down from our house I see a white pick-up careening over the cross street on its side with smoke pouring out while a black SUV shudders to a halt behind it. The truck rights itself and stops off the street. Silence – then raised voices while the SUV driver starts picking up various pieces of his vehicle. After ten minutes the fire engine, ambulance and various police cars arrive. I wander down and see the ambulance folk walking two women from the truck into the ambulance. Another ten minutes and everything’s cleared and gone. Small town America – – –

I crack more walnuts.

Wendy gets home, empties the dishwasher and worries that the recovering cat may have leaked cat pee on a blanket. (I have no sense of smell). We do one unexpected load of laundry for the cats, because recovering kitty needs her blankie tonight.

I crack more walnuts.

The mailman arrives and we exchange pleasantries – he has brought a forwarded bank statement for the Big Stone Celtic festival. So I know what I’ll be doing this evening after we go out for supper.

More walnuts – – – –

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Filed under animal rescue, between books, Big Stone Gap, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Why I didn’t Dye my Shorts

Several of you have been following the Black Walnut saga. We have five trees dropping what might by now be a literal metric ton of walnuts onto our lawn and over our fence onto the garden of the polite but annoyed lady next door. (Jack spoke with her; we have a plan.)

Black walnuts are almost completely usable for good things (hulls: hog feed and herbicide on plants you don’t like; part between hulls and shells, a rich brown-to-purple dye; shells for abrasive cleaning of brass and other high-end products, also make great mulch; nuts for eating or making oil). How could we pass up this opportunity? So Jack and I gathered four great buckets of them, and I sat down last week to start the hulling.

Jack took one look at the maggots and cut a deal; I hull, he shells. He likes working with a hammer and a vise. Creepy white worms don’t bother me; I’ve picked my share out of cat wounds.

My friends Elissa and Kathy sent advice: wait for the hulls to dry and crack open on their own, and life got simpler. Yes, it did. So this weekend I did almost twice as many hulls just by leaving them out to dry. After the simple hulling, I had this huge pot of rich brown liquid….

IMG_8263… so I ran and grabbed some cotton and synthetic yarn, and did a little experimenting. It was fun. My friend Fiona gave me some pointers on how different yarns should be prepped, and that worked well.

IMG_8248The thing you have to know about black walnuts is, they’re mis-named. Everything they touch is going to turn brown: your fingers, your yarns, the storage baskets, the clothes you work in.

In fact, I was highly tempted to throw my white shorts in the pot along with the yarn, but….

…you know how sometimes people see religious figures in burn spots or fridge mold and such?

Well, how do you explain this? IMG_5722

That’s right, PUSHEEN himself!!!!

So I couldn’t throw my shorts in.  But I did grab a Sharpie, so all my doubting friends could share this special moment.

BEHOLD!

IMG_8267 You’re welcome.

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Filed under crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Great Walnut Massacre of 2019

When we moved to Wytheville, we inherited an inordinately large yard, raised garden beds and herbal paths and mature fruit tress and all. Everything looked really cool but we had no idea how to take care of them.

Jack and I like plants that have to be contained rather than cultivated, like mint; it beats up other sprouts and takes their lunch money. You don’t have to do anything except go out every six months after a hard rain and pull it up until you can find the wheelbarrow you left there last time.

My former student Erin agreed to give us her expertise (she is a gardening consultant) which resulted in a good news/bad news scenario.

“You have five black walnut trees in excellent condition. You won’t be able to grow tomatoes or peppers back there, but you will never lack for Christmas flavoring.” Erin also pointed out that black walnuts fetch a hefty price at farmer’s markets and sustainable living swaps – mostly because they’re such hard work.

IMG_8252“I’m not gonna lie to you; they stink while curing and they stain your hands, and the best way to crack them is to line your driveway and back an SUV over them. I’m not sure your Prius is heavy enough.”

Thank you, Erin. You had me at “hefty price.” Free money falling from trees sounded like “cat spays from heaven.” I duly read up (ok, watched several youtube videos) on how to harvest black walnuts.

The green-to-brown outer shell of the walnut is the easy part; you just rip it off, as much as you can, and then you wash the inner hard shell (very similar to what people see when they buy whole English walnuts) and hang them up to cure for a couple of weeks. Then you back the car over them and harvest the nutmeat.

Yesterday, armed with rubber gloves, a steel pot, three buckets of nuts, and six layers of bug spray, I initiated part one of Project Pioneer Woman Goes Nuts. IMG_8251

The websites suggested not getting too ambitious first time out. “This is a lot of work.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Twelve minutes in (equaling about four walnuts with their outer hulls removed) the fingertips of my gloves were gone, my nailbeds were a deep rich brown, and I had discovered the maggots.

Here’s the conundrum: if the outer nut is too green, it’s so hard to get into, you give up. After all, there are about 100 nuts per square foot in the yard; toss the troublesome ones “someplace where you don’t want plants to grow” advise the harvesting videos. Turns out, the stuff between the outer and inner shell is an excellent herbicide.

Pondering how a plant could produce a herbicide kept my mind occupied those first twelve minutes, but never mind. Making a midden pile of shells atop a troublesome Pokeweed patch made me feel bio-savvy. Kill two plants with one shell.

The brown hulls, the ones you can actually rip open with your fingers, are soft because of the maggots. They get between the two shells and go to town. Whole towns of them, all living together making roads and ditches and other maggot infrastructure. On the one hand, hulling their nut towns is easier, but on the other, you are literally brushing maggots off your fingers.

The videos of those nice green sustainable living people never showed maggots…

About an hour in, having made peace with the white crawly things and killed at least one pokeweed plant from the sheer weight of 40 walnut hulls, my left forefinger began to hurt. Badly. As though I had jammed a nail or something.

By then the gloves were a distant memory, so I soldiered on for a wee while before realizing something was seriously wrong. My finger was wafting waves of hot, sharp pain up my arm.

Imagination filled in: one of the smaller creepy white things had gotten up under the nailbed and was even now burrowing toward my heart. Death was imminent–and likely to be not only gross and painful, but the kind that gets written up at conferences in ways that make doctors laugh. “Here’s another Darwin award winner, this one with the old black walnut routine.”

Headed in to see if I could either flush out the creature, rip off my nail, or write a will before it got into the left ventricle, I informed Jack he was about to be a widower.

He looked at my finger. “Are you sure this isn’t a sting? Because, see that little thing there?”

Turns out, there are many critters that love walnuts. I am still alive, and can type. Jack has promised to process the rest of the nuts. He isn’t allergic to bee stings. I am sitting quietly, typing my will. The walnuts will be for sale in mid-October. IMG_8250

 

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Filed under crafting, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Running Amok is Underrated

new river gorgeMy friend Beth (no the other one) is having a birthday this weekend. Both husbands are busy with guy things, so she and I are taking off for a girl trip with great scenery.

Er, no, not that kind of scenery.

We are headed back to Fayetteville, scene of last year’s January-March writing residency for me. (It’s the place where I wrote the manuscript currently in the lap of the NYC publishing gurus; word is there are edits coming soon. Yes it’s Beth’s birthday, but I still get to be elated.)

Also coming soon: food and fun, although with any luck, no arrests. Both husbands have made clear that no bail money will be forthcoming. “Perhaps you should just walk amok,” as Jack put it.

Still, even within bounds, there’s boundless energy around two professional women who spend a lot of time NOT saying things going off into the woods and letting the trees hear it all. Knowing that a nice vegetarian pizza on cauliflower crust will follow.  Letting it all go, but not quite. We can break the rules without breaking our healthy regimens.pies and pints

We’re going to hike Endless Wall with Karen, which is fun for two reasons: I couldn’t do in residence because ice makes this gorge-hugging trail a bad idea; and Karen and Beth don’t know each other but are a lot alike. We’re going to drink craft cocktails at The Station with flat owners Shawn and Amy, and shop Maura’s camping store. We’re renting rooms in Lafayette Flats (not my beloved Eddy, but the bathtub-magnificent Nutall).

Beth isn’t the crafty type, but since it’s her 50th she wanted to try something new, so I am packing materials to make bath bombs. This is my idea of something new. She made reservations for us at the Bridge Walk, 700 feet in the air on a narrow plank with a safety harness inching (me) or running (go on Beth, see you later) across the infamous Gorge. This is her idea of something new.

We all move through the world at our own pace, and that’s just fine.

It’s good to have friends that broaden your horizons, even if one of them thinks 700 feet is too broad. Getting away from it all doesn’t HAVE to include one’s safety zone, but it might be more fun if it does.

Right….?

And there’s one more part to this weekend: since her hubster Jon was concerned I would be a bad influence on Beth, we had to convince him she was kidnapped. I think we did a very good job of it, per below. Don’t you?

KIDNAP NOTE:

70659619_2788439951167051_7588227276588711936_nDeer Mr Prawdlee

Yeer wif is goings 2 B kidnappered. Do not atemp 2 find her. She is ben taked by fairies so do not blaim the dog. He had nothing 2 do with it.

If U tri to reskew her I I meen we. Do not tri 2 reskew her. She will be reternered when we are done sellebracing her burtday. We can smell U from way far away so dunt try sneeking up on us. We will 2 B hidden far away in Wesver Ginia so U wont find us.

But sins this is a kidnappering, U need 2 giv us sumting in ret—back 4 her. Bonez is good. Lots of boneZ. Fairies luvs bonez.

Thank you.

Sinseerlee.

The Fairies.

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Filed under humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The more Empty it Got, the Smaller it Became

As most of you know, we closed our beloved bookstore for good in early July of this year. The last few days were a frantic “All books 50 cents, all proceeds to Appalachian Feline Friends” clean-out, and we had fun.

About 500 people came through, and almost every single one of them said some form of, “We really enjoyed having you here. You really added something nice to our lives.” Which is legacy enough for anybody. We feel full and loved and excited for our next adventure (which, yes, could possibly include a bookstore, but not this year).

empty bookstore 2Something weird started happening, though, as we emptied the shop slowly, removing things room by room and centering them up front. People bought books and shelves and said nice things and took free stuff we had lying around for the taking, and the walls began to appear. The more they appeared, the smaller the (former) bookstore got.

When we lived in the shop, there was room enough for us and two dogs and about 12 cats at one point (but don’t tell Jack because he doesn’t think there were ever more than 10) and 30,000 books. Plus all the detritus that a musician and a yarn-loving writer (yes, both senses of the word) would collect. Let’s not talk about my addiction to thrift store kitsch.

When we stripped the shop back to its bare walls, it began to look, well, tinyempty bookstore 1. Space that had held the ideas that launched a million ships, some for good, some for evil, shrank to the size of a human living room. The more we worked, the lesser the bookstore looked.

Friends who came to help commented, unprompted. I’d see them sit back on their heels over a box, or pause hefting a shelf to the porch, and stare at the walls (which now showed all the places we had drawn artwork around paint chips and cracks) and say, “Hunh. It’s getting, like, less instead of more.”

And it was. To us. To the nice couple with their daughter who bought the place, I am sure it will fill with their own happy home memories and fun, and be just the right amount of space. For Jack and me, we’re off to claim our new territory, when the time is right. God guides, and she has a great sense of humor sometimes. We are enjoying our year of resting undangerously in Wytheville (where friends tell us our house looks like a miniature version of the old bookshop) and then we’ll see what new walls unfold their spaces.

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Filed under between books, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

A Tale of Tails

Jack fails to make the deadline yet again – tsk, tsk!

Cats are weird!

We currently have five of them and most are FELV positive (which means that they could either live a long normal life – or not).

tooth and Bruce

Tooth arrived over our backyard fence when we were away in Scotland a few years ago. Named because she was a feral kitten that looked like a smaller version of another feral cat we fostered and named Fang, Tooth became the friendliest cat imaginable. She took on the job of looking after our aging lab Zora and then, after Zora died, she took on the same role with our terrier Bert.

After Bert passed poor Tooth hasn’t had much to do, so she was delighted when we got our new dog, Bruce. Luckily big bulldog Bruce is very used to cats and lets them all play around him perfectly happily.

Bruce is undergoing treatment for heart-worm and probably gives off some kind of ‘sickly’ vibes, because Tooth has gone back into full nursing mode. When he started limping on Sunday Tooth would have fetched a crutch!

As for the others –

Kira likes to intimidate everyone and everything. But she loves a shoulder scratch from me!

Molly likes to stay away from Kira – mostly either on top of cupboards or outside for a week.

Hannah is everyone’s buddy and isn’t afraid of Kira.

Lorelei is the newbie – just arrived and getting the lie of the land. Particularly ‘cute’!

Bruce just ignores it all – – –

 

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Filed under animal rescue, between books, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Podcast

conservative liberal bookstoreSorry, team, that the blog has been so lagging of late. I’m on a heavy crochet schedule, and have two book proposals in. (More on those later, no ink on signature lines yet.)

Meanwhile, because down time is precious, my reading has been confined to after I’m in bed, and more often than not the book hits me in the face to signal nighty-night.

While crocheting, however, there is only so many streamed TV shows and movies one can watch before one feels brain cells dying, so I turned in desperation to “Best Podcasts of 2019.” And found a gem.

EMBEDDED is in-depth reporting on specific issues of timeliness. Police shootings, Trump stories (some of which are hysterical – check out the one about his golf courses), and a five-part, amazingly even-keeled examination of Mitch McConnell’s political career. The dry humor, unwillingness to express opinions, and the timelag (they recorded some information as far back as 2012) make for great deep dives. Those who want to find bias probably can, but since it could cut in any direction, I’m thinking there’s not a lot of it.

Although individual programs can be as insightful as they are diverse (the one on Inuit suicide rates in Greenland, for example) EMBEDDED does its best work in serializing. Someone on that team is doing some great advising, because the sensitivity of the four-part series on Coal in Appalachia was amazingly accurate. I felt seen. That is very unusual for a network known for elitist urban attitudes. Their coverage of “Trump County” was also even-handed, in-depth, and devoid of cheap shots.

EMBEDDED makes me feel informed, and wiser, and it delivers both with a fair sense of humor. While it won’t take sides, it does deliver jokes. No small feat in a program working not to politicize its own programming.

Highly recommended, whether you think NPR is a liberal bastion of condescension or the last remaining news source of integrity in America. I never felt condescended to in their coverage of rural – and they actually covered rural blight with equal dignity to stories of urban school closures.

Two big crocheting thumbs up for EMBEDDED; I finished an entire afghan and am moving on to the Christmas snowflakes. Heh heh. No pun intended.

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Filed under between books, book reviews, crafting, humor, Life reflections, out of things to read, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch