Sunday, October 30, 2011

P is for Pompeii

Mount Vesuvius right before 1906 eruption                           Image via Wikipedia     Pompeii existed over two thousand years ago as a prosperous town. People loved and fought, bought and bartered, reared their families and planned for the future. Until Mount Vesuvius had other things to say. Within twenty-four hours the angry volcano annihilated their world.
     Ash preserved the torment of the humans who had lived there. The ash shells were filled with plaster, and the exhibit made me cry as though this disaster just happened.
     The image to the left haunts me the most. The man looks as though he's crying and well he could be. In reality he's covering his face trying to protect it from the choking ash and noxious fumes.
     A world of sermons and lessons and contemplations exist in the exhibit I saw. However, one stands out the most:
     To get their clothes clean, these people used pee! Having no clorox or bubbling suds or whatever, they resorted to ammonia. Ammonia is a primary component of urine. Not only did people pee on their clothes, they collected it from total strangers.
     Large urns (old-fashioned urinals) lined the street. When the urge hit, the populace used it. These urns were brought to the laundromat and launderers stomped on the laundry in their bare feet!
     In case I haven't mentioned it: YUCK.
     Since then I've learned, from my pastor no less, that this is an age-old remedy for many things.
  1. Rome believed urine to be theraputic. Thus these troughs could be accessed by anyone to imbibe. Giant urine fountains for their health!
  2. Gypsies used cow urine to cure Bright's disease. Maybe that's why the Romanians aren't found of this ethnic group.
  3. Yogis and Lamas from Tibet extended their lives by drinking their own pee.
  4. A book titled One Thousand Notable Things describes the use of urine to cure scurvy, relieve skin itching, cleanse wounds, and many other treatments. 
  5. An 18th century French dentist praised urine as a valuable mouthwash.
  6. In England during the 1860-70s, the drinking of one's own urine was a common cure for jaundice.
  7. In more modern times, the Alaskan Eskimos have used urine as an antiseptic to treat wounds
     Say what you will about the lessons from Pompeii. This is one I don't want learned in the modern world.   
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Wolf Head Scandal

grey wolfImage via Wikipedia     Everyone loves a good scandal, so how do we create one? We are all familiar with Dutch Shultz, but gangsters like him are either in short supply or unwanted in our communities--unless we stuff them in the prisons that decorate our outskirts of our lovely villages.

     In 1815 we discovered a great scheme that perhaps we could turn to good use today--after all, our politicians believe the ends justify the means.

     Way back in Malone/Bangor/Chateaugay's beginnings, we turned quite a profit off the "noxious" wolves and this scandal made Franklin County notorious in New York State.
     Prior to 1815 the state paid us approximately $1,000 per year in bounty for wolves, all we had to supply were the heads. (What government office wants the whole carcass rotting in the file cabinets?) From 1815-1820 that sum jumped to $55,269. This solved our financial problems back then--perhaps we can resurrect one in the same spirit.

     How did our forefathers alchemize wolf heads?

     1. When out of wolves--they'd been known to substitute dog heads. Okay, I know this appalls many of my readers as we do not condone chopping up Fido. A deer head had been documented as a good substitute. Who knew: deer/dog/wolf--what's the difference?

     2. If they only have one wolf head, they passed it out the window to their buddy. While the clerk still filled in the document for that head, a buddy would carry it back in and voila, more cash for the coffers.

     3. Everyone kept quiet because no one had been prosecuted for the crimes.

Maybe this is a way to lower our taxes--after all: 1. we learn from experience  2. our legislatures aren't shamed by wrong doing.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

My Pear Butter is Equal to My Singing

A pear     Blessed with more pears than anyone has the right to own, I decided to make pear butter. Never having done something before has never been a deterrent to me. So I began:
  1. I ran off a recipe. Of course when googling information, the first item the search turns up is the most reliable, right? This one ran 36 pages. Unfortunately, I walked away from my computer after I hit print.
  2. It took me three hours to chop and seed all those pears, mash them down and food mill them into puree. I added spices and let it cook. My house smelled like heaven. Page thirteen had the details on about this portion--I should have taken the hint from the number of the page.
  3. I plopped the glop into my slow cooker. Page 24 said this process would take a long time and a slow cooker would guarantee my results. (They didn't tell me what the results would be--it might have been page 33 where my printer ran out of ink and I thought I'd wing it.)
  4. Two days later, the butter was burnt--inedible. It glued the removable pot of my slow cooker to the base. I attempted to pry it off and the base separated from the guts, all the wires fell out and my house didn't smell so hot.
     Hint: If a recipe is more than ten lines long, go to the store and buy it or go to search result # 2 on google. If you persevered to the end of this article, you know exactly how well I sing.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

The Underground Railroad: Malone

    Can you imagine living peacefully, running a successful business and having all of that ripped away simply because of your race?  The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, nicknamed the Bloodhound Law, did just that. This law deemed that even if people of color had escaped or had been born free, they could be sent South based solely on the claimant's word, whipped and enslaved. To force people to comply, stiff penalties and prison time were given to those who refused to turn in the so called runaways.
Luther Bradish
     Coupled with this, New York State said being in the state didn't mean you were free. Therefore, Southerners could vacation or work here for six months and their "property" could not be released.
     Franklin County and Malone played a part in fighting this law. First, Luther Bradish, our Lieutenant Governor--who lived in Moira and helped establish St. Mark's Episcopal Church, spoke out against this atrocity. (for more information see:  ).
     And of course, our own Congregational Church as a part of the Underground Railroad created a tunnel in its basement to hide fleeing slaves.

Note the bend at the far left
     I always pictured this tunnel as a subway tunnel traveling under the streets. However, it's a tiny little reinforced hole traveling from the west side of the church to the north. It turns, underground at a sharp sixty degree bend, and to hide in it, you'd have to be desperate.
Neil slipping into the tunnel

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

God’s Abundance: e.g. Mud baths

Callie's Corner

            We often miss God’s abundance, even if it’s as clear as mud between our toes. Take Carol, for example. The other day I was taking her for a walk when she stepped into a mud puddle. I could understand her revulsion had she been wearing shoes, but she wore her Tevas. She screamed, changed direction and made me take her back to the cabin. She missed God’s abundance in a free mud bath. Think about it:
  1. People pay a lot of money for this beauty treatment, and God gave it away.
  2. True to His nature He gave the best. The mud had been aged. Formed by tropical storms Irene and Lee, He added leaf and other plant matter and allowed it to age to a divine consistency.
  3. Carol pays money for perfume. This ripened debris was given with a profligate hand. To get an idea of its pleasant aroma, imagine the dozen roses your hubby gave you. Allow it to sit in a vase on the table for a week. Now empty it. The scent wafting from your sink? Heaven!
  4. She’s always pestering Neil for silky clothes—loves the sliding, slick texture against her skin. Yet with mud slathered liberally between her toes in the slickest of textures, all she did was squeal. (And not in delight I might add).Mud bath yogaImage by Rev Stan via Flickr

Next time you complain—think about it. It’s probably a blessing in disguise.
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Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Pumpkin Muffin Diet

Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese FillingImage by kmevans via Flickr            I discovered this fantastic diet quite by accident. Once more relying on my Garmin while visiting Paul’s Paradise near Albany, I got lost. A twenty minute drive took an hour and the grocery store I searched for had been washed away by Hurricane Irene. I ended up twenty minutes later in Cobleskill. My hunger threatened to kill me until I made an emergency stop at a Dunkin Donuts.
            I got a latte. Staring at me from the shelves of delicacies, white sugar glaze topped a burnt-orange offering and said, “You’re hungry, Carol, and look at me.”
(You should have heard the voice—you would have succumbed as well.)
            I bought it, and the pumpkin flavor of the moist cake exploded in my mouth. Each crumb satisfied in a way that a celery stalk could never. I nibbled. I licked my fingers and sucked every crumb from my finger and the napkin strewn across my lap as the lady inside my Garmin directed me home.
            Before I even finished my latte, my appetite vanished as though I left it in Cobleskill. No need to devour the half of sub sitting in the fridge once I got home. I didn’t even desire apples or cheese or veggies. My belly swelled in delight in a manner that no salad slathered with non-fat dressing on the side could do. One little muffin satisfied.
            So my advice to you—stock up at Dunkin Donuts (these muffins are seasonal after all), and eat one muffin for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner. You’ll be satisfied until your stash vanishes.
            Share your diet results here. I’d love to learn new techniques.

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