Monday, August 27, 2007

WIDOMSV VI - Not with a Bang but a Whimper

The picture above was taken just down the hill from my folks' Pennsylvania house. I could see them from the front porch, and I drove by fields and fields of these piles while I was in Pennsylvania. For years, I'd thought they were hay, but they're actually bundles of oats. It rained briefly a number of times while we were up there, and I believe (my Somerset County reader can correct me if I'm wrong; also, drop me an e-mail; I promise not to stalk you: I outsource my stalking to India these days) the farmers are waiting for a few days of sun before they go rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. The bunches of oats always give me a peaceful feeling, probably because I don't watch people sweating to make them. Or maybe it's a marker of the turning of the seasons or a reminder of amber waves of grain. Anyway, I like them.

We left Pennsylvania on Saturday (nine days ago; yes, it has taken me six entries and more than a week to write about a vacation where mostly I sat around playing cards or reading the first volume of Kristin Lavransdatter) . The morning before, my father took me to the local wholesale produce auction. It's less than a mile from where they live, and I've been driving by the site for a few years, so I was curious. We ran into one of my father's cousins up there. Not the ones who live next door. My paternal grandmother was Amish as a child, but her family left the church. My paternal grandfather was originally Mennonite. In any case, I come from people who believed in having lots and lots of children, so you really can't swing a dead cat up there without hitting one of my cousins. That might be because the Mennonites are deeply opposed to animal cruelty, though.1

Anyway, the auction was kind of cool. Maybe more cool if you're in the market for eighty dozen ears of sweet corn, but cool to watch even if you don't run a farmstand or a restaurant. There were a few items sold in small lots.
But the smaller lots didn't get sold until the end of the auction, and we only stayed for half an hour or so. The auctioneer was amusing to listen to. Earlier in the morning, Mom had said she'd seen one of the local farmers headed to market with a wagonload of mums (they follow me everywhere!), and, sure enough, there they were.
I don't pretend to be an expert on the ways of the Amish. Mom knows a fair amount about them, and Dad knows a lot more. There was a large group of Amish men at the auction. I understand that some Amish are sensitive about having their pictures taken, so I didn't take it, but they mostly stood together as a group, not to close to where the bidding was happening. It occurs to me that most of them were probably sellers rather than buyers. They all have gardens, after all, so they probably don't need to buy large amounts of produce. And they apparently don't have a lot of cash on hand. Mom said that one of her neighbors wasn't making jam this year because she couldn't afford sugar. Mom was thinking about taking her a ten-pound bag. She was worried that doing so might give offense, but Dad thought it would be okay.

Mom also said that a lot of the local Amish had given up making desserts because of not having sugar. I wonder about that, but, frankly, it wouldn't be much of a loss. They're much better with potatoes.
I wonder how many miles an Amish farmer gets on a bushel of oats. There don't appear to be any EPA standards. There is a lot of horseshit on the local roads, but horseshit is kind of easy to avoid and generally less unpleasant than, say, cow manure.

Anyway, we left Pennsylvania Saturday afternoon. We drove home via the Hagerstown outlets, where I spent three hours buying EFU clothing and other supplies for college. I don't spend three hours a year buying my own clothing, but she was happy with her haul, so I guess that's good. YFU got a couple of items, too. She was still looking for a first day of school outfit. She had some nice clothes that my mother bought her earlier in the summer, but she said they were all better second day of school outfits. Apparently, none of them fully expressed who she was. Or so she said. I suppose that when you're going to middle school for the first time, you don't want any clothing-related faux pas. Otherwise, you might go three years before you get another chance to fully express yourself. I guess if I ever decide to start hitting the gay bars, I can hire her as a consultant. Today was her first day.

This Saturday, I'll be driving EFU to Vermont to begin her adventures in higher education. I think that if a child is leaving home, she shouldn't expect a ride, but apparently societal standards differ. Maybe I'll see the beginnings of some fall foliage. Tempus fugit.

1Dead cat swinging was originally slated to be an exhibition sport at the Beijing Olympics, but it has been dropped. The American Dead Cat Swinging Society (google them if you want their website, but be warned that it's NSFW) has gotten its back up and has gotten into a bit of a hissing match with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who were significantly less disappointed at the sport's exclusion. The ADCSS blames groups like the ASPCA and PETA (oddly, PETA has no official position on dead cat swinging) for the IOC's decision, but it is not clear that the animal rights movement is entirely responsible. The Egyptian Olympic Committee, for one, is known to have complained that dead cat swinging was insensitive to "countries with a tradition of feline-based polytheism. Additionally, there are reports that one or more confused translaters rendered "dead cat swinging" as "polyamorous bestial necrophilia," a practice that is, apparently, without an effective lobby.

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