Friday's Weekend Column
Mother Nature Can Be One Mean Woman

by James Glaser
April 18, 2003

Yesterday Charmaine and I went to Bemidji for our monthly shopping for what they don't sell in Northome. Not that we couldn't live without some of these things, but we are spoiled and want coffee you have to grind. You would think it would be cheaper because they don't have to do all the grinding at the coffee roasters. The plant would be cleaner, less equipment, less labor. Plus they would be able to sell the home grinders. Still it costs more. That is kind of like when they still had unleaded gas. They didn't have to add the lead, but they still charged more.

Back to Mother Nature. We came home about two in the afternoon and Charmaine said lucky we made it home before the snow. I said no way! I had put the snow shovel away the day before and I just knew that we were going to have rain. We bought a whole mess of flowers to plant and picked up some seed too. Well this morning I would guess 5 ½ inches of wet snow. I went to town and for sure everyone is in a mean mood.

Yes, the snow will be gone in a day or two. It is just that everyone is sick of white and we are all looking for little green shoots to be coming up. All I hear is talk of gardens and planting. This week the ice on the lake started to look so black that no one has been fishing. Summer residents are opening their cabins and you now see boats on the trailers of pickups heading north.

Melvin Boquist said that this year is the heaviest sap run he has ever seen and his maple syrup came out a perfect light amber color. Melvin does the best maple syrup and also finishes wild rice to perfection. You just boil the water, add the rice, cover, turn off the heat, and in a little while you have great cooked rice. Some of the "wild" rice you buy in the store you have to soak all night. Charmaine's brother Duze, will take wild rice that he hand parches and pops it into a cereal like Rice Krispies.

Now that the Snowbirds are back from down south our roads are a little busier and old friends you haven't seen since last fall are stopping to talk. I have to chuckle a little with this snow as their timing was a little off on their return this year.

I stopped over to see if Robert Reitan had returned from Texas yet. Robert is like Mr. Production for the small size home vegetable gardener. He is the man that I got my Green House idea from. He also does lots of raised beds and has light portable green houses that he starts his plants with and in the fall brings them back out to extend the growing season.

Last year Robert was growing sixteen potato plants in a four foot square box with sides he kept adding as the plants grew. He didn't add more soil, but poplar saw dust and those plants kept sending out runners producing more potatoes. He just let the tops of the plant stick out. I am going to try the same this year. Robert got the idea from Keith Eggert, who used tires and added another tire as the plant grew.

One would think a potato is a potato, but just like everything you grow in your garden, it tastes better cause you grew it. Here is a prime example. Sweet corn starts to change its sugar content to starch about an hour after picking. If you go out and pick your own corn just before you shuck and cook it, you will find that it is such a treat. Also you will eat way more corn and lots of butter too. Good corn is worth fighting for and that is just what you have to do up here after the Raccoons find your patch.

Our 5 ½ inches of snow is now down to three and we have a flock of Red Winged Black Birds at the feeder. Usually you see them perched on cattails along the road. These birds are real shy and if we speak in a loud tone here in the house they all fly off to the trees, wait a little while and then come back to the feeder. So it is kind of like a wild life TV program, where the guide is whispering about the bird and telling you what their habitat is like, only I am whispering to Charmaine, what are we having for dinner?

With all of this new fresh snow the lake is a pure white again and with the sun hitting it, you can look and see the silhouette of all the birds and branches of the trees perfectly. It is nice to look at all the patterns you can see so clearly now.

Here is my furniture refinishing Tip of the week. This will most likely be a one time tip as I don't have that many. We had a family in the community that lost almost everything due to a house fire. There was one corner of one room that made it through and they asked me if I could save three items, a small dresser, a small wood hanging wall cabinet, and an old commode. I have never seen smoke this thick on a piece of furniture, they were all just black.

I started looking at that commode and thought it was made with different woods inlaid, but then figured that all the decoration was painted. So there was no way I could use a stripper. Well here is what I did. I took real fine steel wool and GOjO hand cleaner and started rubbing one side. It took a while but soon I could wipe all of the smoke and dirt away and all the color and patina remained. GOjO is made in the USA. Every mechanic uses it to clean their hands at the end of a shift and it smells nice. It does have methylchloroisothiazolinone in it and I thought I might wait until I was all done before I looked that up.

The top of the commode must have been the hottest as the GOjO also took away any varnish, so I might have to wipe the top with Mineral Spirits before I varnish again as this hand cleaner has lanolin in it and the varnish might not adhere. I have used this GOjO for years to clean dirty pieces of furniture and paste wax goes on just fine.

I was reading the ingredients list on the GOjO label and told Charmaine I should get that Methylchloroisothiazolinone into my column and now I did, twice.

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