Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Town Hounds Go Camping

This was a weekend of new shared experiences. My Farmer-Architect and I each had a lot of camping experience, but not with each other, or as we refer to those years before we met, B.G Before Gary or B.M. Before Mickie. More importantly - it was the first time the bassets went camping.

My camping experience is almost exclusively backpacking in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. And my Farmer-Architect? Mainly car camping on fishing and hunting trips in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Canada.

Now - I know how to prepare for backpacking. In fact I was surprised how quickly all the planning and organizing skills came back to me even though I haven’t done serious backpacking in almost 15 years.

But a weekend of camping with a cabin and a car? And a husband? And two hounds? How do you do that? Since the cabin was equipped with electricity, I decided to go ahead and take a few extras like the coffee maker, the computer (for inspired writing in the woods), and other necessities associated with my comparatively urban lifestyle.

So I can’t say I was surprised by all the head shaking and eye-rolling on the part of my Farmer-Architect as we pulled out of the drive late Friday afternoon. The Jeep was packed to the hilt leaving just about 2 square foot of space for the bassets. But even with all that stuff, I forgot the sleeping bag, the box of tissues (and this is the high point of my allergy season), the cork puller, and the nice tablecloth. Our friends Dan and Lynn were joining us for dinner on Saturday night and I expected to entertain with some style. But in the true spirit of backpacking I improvised in an inspired way. An extra bed sheet became the tablecloth. Coffee filters make great tissues. It was pretty hot so we didn’t need a sleeping bag.

We arrived at Lake Herman State Park and checked out the cabin while Hank & Maggie gave our spot the sniff-over test. Wow – squirrels, rabbits, and at least 15 other camp sites with dogs. Labs, retrievers, Pomeranians, wiemaraners, bulldogs, and schnauzers. Best of all Lynn and Dan were there with Pixie and Micro the chihuahas, Tinkerbelle the Yorkie, and Max the black lab.

Hank & Maggie insisted on sleeping with us. We designated the extra bed in the cabin the Basset Bunk. No they had to cram in with us in the already cramped double bed. I don’t know what the problem was. Maybe they missed the streetlights or the sound of the bug zapper that’s outside our bedroom window at home or the occasional sound of a passing car. It took them forever to settle down.

My Farmer-Architect had to leave early Saturday morning to help with the Habitat House. This is the third house being painted this summer in the New Brush With Kindness program. Hank was bereft, whimpering and whining, and just not settling into the routine of doing absolutely nothing - a prime requirement of any camping weekend. As for me, I sat for a good long stretch that morning. How long? I don’t know. The battery on my cell phone died. Who knows? Who cares? The point is I sat with my brain completely devoid of any thought, meaningful or otherwise. Well – not exactly true. I did give a passing thought as to how two dogs and two leashes can get so incredibly tangled. But I didn’t make move to do anything about it. That’s the beauty of a camping weekend.

The hounds have their routines and much like babies, they’re happier when the routines proceed according to plan. Usually they get a walk first thing in the morning about 6 a.m., and then sleep for the next three or four hours. So about mid-morning when I was finally done doing absolutely nothing, I decided to read a book. At which point, the bassets decided it was their duty to entice the interest of every dog in the campground and in the process managed to get the leashes looped around the campfire grate, the porch rails and two folding chairs.

Finally I gave up and took them for a walk, and when we got back to the cabin, exhausted, they finally fell into a deep sleep, comatose and snoring. In the cabin. On the bed. Like they never left home. I can only conclude it was the rumble of the air conditioner and the smell of fresh brewed coffee that made them feel at home.

If I get to go backpacking again someday, I really wouldn’t miss things like computers, coffee makers, and air conditioning. But I surely would never go without my hounds because for sheer entertainment nothing beats a basset.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Coffee Mourning

It's been a tough summer in the kitchen. First it was the total collapse of the trusty salad spinner. Last week it was the fatal plug on the coffee grinder.

I've had that coffee grinder longer than my current husband. Longer than the divorce of my first husband. Longer than I've been a Mom. Although I have to credit my first husband, or rather his grandmother, or rather more precisely his grandmother's funeral, that led me to be a coffee drinker in the first place.

Now - you need to know that I came to coffee drinking comparatively late in life. My parents were die hard coffee drinkers. Coffee was a featured beverage at every family get together and neighborhood party. No matter the temperature, it could be 90 degrees in the shade in mid-July, if company came and the coffee pot was put on. Refreshments were defined as 'something to go with coffee.'

Bonding closely to my maternal English heritage, I was a dedicated tea drinker. Throughout my my high school years, my mother would inquire from time to time, "Would you like a cup of coffee?" Then on trips home from college, she would ask in puzzlement, "Aren't you drinking coffee yet?" Clearly she thought I missed an important developmental milestone. I continued determinedly drinking tea.

But it was bound to happen. The critical moment when I needed a hot beverage and there was no tea to be had. That moment for me was early December 1977 in Ligonier, PA. My husband's grandmother has passed away. The funeral was at St. John the Baptist Russion Orthodox Church. It was one of those wet and cloudy December days where the damp cold penetrates every bone no matter how many layers you have on. When the service was finished at the graveside, the whole family had just one thought in mind, get inside where it's warm and hope they serve hot soup at the funeral lunch.

I opened the door into the fellowship hall in the church basement and immeduately an intoxicating aroma of hot coffee hit me full frontal. I was never opposed to the aroma of coffee, just the taste. In fact, I really liked the aroma of coffee. And today the velvety brown aroma of hot, fresh-brewed coffee wrapped me in a warm embrace that made that cold, damp December drizzle a distant memory. It was fated. One of the church ladies serving the lunch asked what she could get for me. What else could I say? "Can I have cup of tea?" Her pleasant, sympathtic smile faded, "Oh I'm so sorry. We ran out of tea bags."

Horrors! There was nothing left for it - I needed a hot beverage and if coffee had to be it - I'd drink it! My first tentative sip - and my next thought - "What was I missing all these years?"

Going back home to West Virginia, I was a coffee drinker. Only a week after the funeral we went out and purchased a Mr. Coffee and a bean grinder - a Braun. I've been grinding and brewing for the past 33 years. That first Mr. Coffee has been long gone, but faithful Braun the Grinder has soldiered on until last week when I pulled the plug and one of the prongs stayed in the wall socket. I should call my ex-husband and share this story (he's a good friend but not a blog follower yet!). My Farmer-Architect said he's pretty sure he can fix the plug. In the meantime, a friend has come to the rescue and lent me her Krups. It's OK - but it's not my Braun.

I know we're not supposed to get attached to material things, but honestly, Braun the Grinder has been with me in New Jersey, West Virginia, Ohio, and now South Dakota. I'm glad to honor it with this blog post.

And now if you're ready for a really good cup of coffee - check out Cherrybean Coffee Company, superior roasts from certified organic, fairtrade growers. Cherrybean is located in Parker,SD but you can buy online. Enjoy a virtual cup with me!