At Home with Tom and Hen Turkey

Thanksgiving Freedom

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The Catskill Mountains are not mountains. The Catskills started as a high plateau. Over eons, before the first humans, water, the sun, and wind carved high steep peaks: rounded, forested and teeming with life.
 
October 2008, on a return trip from my Mother’s house on Long Island, we traveled the winding road called “Route 17”, through the high autumn hillsides, one of our last trips to see her.  She broke her hip on New Year’s and lived with me and my sisters until her 2013 passing. 
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Route 17_FishsEddy_throughTheWindshield– CLICK ME!!!!

Fishs Eddy

We left Long Island early afternoon, as the sun passed over the western hills we stopped to explore a place called “Fishs Eddy”, a town on the banks of the Delaware River.

Delaware River at Fishes Eddy– CLICK ME!!!!

 
On the east side, facing sunset is a formation that would be a cliff if it was not for the hardwood trees growing from every available nook, crevice.  Everywhere a root could be sunk, roots fed trees that, one late October afternoon, made a hill bright with autumn.

Turkey Habitat

Turkeys live in this type of habitat. We took a trail, barely a road that climbed past failed farms and hunting shacks.

Catskill Hillside– CLICK ME!!!!

The Hens Flee

On a level place, in front of a ruined home, we came upon a Tom (male) turkey and his four hens. The hens fled at the sight of us.
 
With barely time to raise the camera I caught Tom and the last hen as she fled into the bushes.

Tom and Hen Turkey Flee the Scene– CLICK ME!!!!

Tom Turkey Defiant

I say she, because Tom stayed behind. He stood erect, all three feet of him, defiant and strutting in a direction opposite from the hens.

 

This is the bird Benjamin Franklin proposed as the national emblem of the new United State of America (the bald eagle won that competition).
Hunted into almost oblivion, across the United States the wild turkey is making a dramatic come back in many places, including the forests and farmland of rural New York State.

A Defiant Tom Turkey– CLICK ME!!!!

This fellow made no noise. His strutting posture and head bobbing said it all.
We left Tom Turkey in peace to his domain and hens.

Tom Turkey Stalks the Ruin– CLICK ME!!!!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, my friends.
Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

 

Pam’s Holiday Cranberry Pecan Salad

Our holiday tradition

You will be well-remembered for years when Pam’s salad is part of your holiday celebration. We hosted 2017 Thanksgiving and Pam’s salad was requested by her son and daughter’s families. When we went around the table to give thanks, our six year old grandson offered, “I am thankful for the jello”, meaning Pam’s salad.

My wife, Pamela Wills, perfected this recipe over the years as a nutritious and tasty dish she could make in advance.

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or Anytime

Holiday Cranberry-Pecan Salad travels well and is a visually appealing dish to share at parties.

Holiday Cranberry-Pecan Salad

Ingredients:

1 12 oz. bag of raw cranberries

1 6 oz. box of raspberry gelatin

1 6 oz. box of orange gelatin

3 cups orange juice

3 cups boiling water

1 large orange

2 large apples of your choice (I use sweet/tart/firm apples)

1 tablespoon orange rind

½ cup chopped pecans

Curly leaf parsley

3-4 small bunches of green grapes. I dip the grapes in water, then in sugar and let dry. Or you can use raw cranberries.

Directions:

  1. Boil water. In large mixing bowl pour water over raspberry and orange gelatin and stir until dissolved. Wait a few minutes until the gelatin cools down (keep stirring). Add orange juice and stir again. Place in refrigerator until gelatin is the consistency of raw egg whites. This is tricky step since, if you don’t let it set up enough, the fruit will sink to the bottom.  When set too much the fruit mixture won’t blend with the gelatin.
  2. In food processor finely chopped cranberries. By hand cut orange and apples into small bit-size pieces. Combine chopped cranberries, apples and orange. Fold in grated orange rind and pecans. Set this aside while waiting for the gelatin (see above).
  3. Fold fruit mixture into the gelatin. With a large spoon scoop up mixture and transfer it to a Bundt pan. Cover with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator for several hours or until set.

To serve:

Dip bottom of mold into a sink of a few inches of luke warm water (not too warm or the gelatin will melt). Turn upside down on a large round platter or plate and garnish around the edges with parsley and the sugar-coated grapes or raw cranberries.

This is a great dish to share at a holiday party since you can make it in advance. My family prefers it over cooked cranberry relish and it is even good enough to serve as a dessert. It is easy to make, it’s festive and has always been a big hit. Enjoy!

Note: EAT the parsley garnish. Parsely is packed with vitamins and minerals.  Just 7.5 grams (a fraction of an ounce) contains 150+% of most people’s Vitamin K requirement and about 15% for Vitamin A and C.

Birthday Card

capturing a personality

Last year, you read about our grandson’s 6th birthday celebration in “Volcano Cake.”

 A year has passed and we were amused at the changes and what did not. He makes his own clothing choices and the shark shirt reappeared, surprisingly it still fits. GMa combed his hair and he refashioned it, messy and spikey is the look as in these photographs of opening the furry birthday card (“The Grinch” was the cake theme).

I used a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens, tilted the flash to bounce off the ceiling to gently brighten his face. For the memories we left the kitchen “as is” in the midst of cake baking, decoration.

View a larger version of each photograph by clicking twice. First to open a page, a second click on the image will yield the larger version.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Halloween Invasion

friendly ghouls

Wednesday, we were invaded by a team of Halloween spooks.

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Lead by this crafty cat

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the well armed ninja kept us at bay

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this is NOT the happy cow

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Bat-GIRL (not Bat-woman)

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We staved off the tricks with dinner and treats, then sent them on their way to terrorize the neighborhood.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

 

A Visit to Proleek Dolmen

Romance of Ruins

I have an update to my post “Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home” where we explored the site of the boyhood home of my grandfather, Peter McCardle, on great grandfather James McCardle’s Proleek farm. Last April an email arrived from the brother of the owner of the house across the road.  He recognized the property from the blog photography and reached out to introduce himself and share information. His own genealogical research suggested we shared a great aunt.  We now work together to define this connection.

Our tour of Ireland was bookended by a visit to the farm site and, located little more than a kilometer away, a 5,000+ year old portal tomb, the last site Pam and I visited. We parked at the hotel / golf course built around the monuments.  There is no fee to visit the site, number 476 on the list of Republic of Ireland National Monuments (Irish: Séadchomhartha Náisiúnta), protected at the level of guardianship by the National Monuments Act of 1930.  The dolmen is named after the townland Proleek.  

Click photograph to view my Ireland gallery

Ballymascanlon House Hotel is on the R173, on the left heading from the M1 towards Jenkinstown.  Path to the monument is marked here and there and requires attention.  It helps to understand the general location of the monument on the property.  The parking lot and hotel are on the southern end, the monument is on the north end.

The path leads through the hotel grounds….

….and golf course…

…and you first encounter the megalithic Gallery Grave of a type named “wedge shaped.”

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The 22 foot long tomb gallery supported stories of a giant burial. Pam poses for a sense of scale.

These are the only ancient monuments in Ireland were a stray golf ball may be encountered.

A short way ahead is the dolmen, or portal tomb. The informational placard is in English and Gaelic.  There is an illustration of the stones covered with earth with a stone façade.

Some describe the formation as a giant mushroom with warts. The posting feature image is of the same aspect as the next photograph, with me for scale.

Click any of the following photographs to view my Ireland gallery

We are surrounded on three sides by the golf course.  The “entrance” to the tomb, through the two upright portal stones, faces northwest toward Slieve Gullion, a mountain with its own Neolithic burial site next to a lake on the summit.  The mountain and the flat land, such as Proleek township, feature in the story of how the Irish hero Cú Chulainn came by his name.  To learn more, click this link for “On the Tain Way” the first of my posting that includes some stories of the hero.

The fifth hole.

We had a beautiful day, so I took time to capture all aspects.  The hedge is the northern property border.

The “warts” are stones. There is a local saying that success in placing three stones on top will give a wish or lead to marriage within the year.

Click for more Ireland stories.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Leprechaun Home Invasion

Saint Patrick Day Family Humor

In a previous posting we hiked through the only European Union Leprechaun Preserve on Slieve Foy above Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

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This home was lower on the mountain, on the way to town.

Entrance with Calla Lilies, Carlingford
Caring touches to a well tended home entrance along the Tain Way, Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland.

You will not find Calla Lilies thriving in front yards here in Ithaca, New York (43 degrees north latitude) as they do in the Temperate Oceanic Climate of Ireland, pictured in Carlingford on a June day.  At 54 degrees these Calla Lilies are growing at a latitude 800 miles north of Ithaca, in the middle of Quebec Province, Canada.

In spite of this, here in Ithaca we keep March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day, warm.  In the home of our three grandchildren (3, 4 and 6 years old) who live in Ithaca they celebrate by playing tricks on Leprechauns.

This year, we visited Saint Patrick’s Day eve and reviewed their bag of tricks with the Leprechaun in Chief, their Mom.  In response, the Leprechauns leave them letters to make it clear the tricks did not work.  On top of this, the children have big laughs on the tricks played in return.  A favorite is finding their socks taped all over the mirror.

Mom pulled out a few of the Leprechaun letters and we read them for the children to great laughter as they remembered tricks of previous years.  Afterwards, when alone with Mom, Pam and I recalled the tradition in Chicago, to color the river green (a well as green milkshakes, etc), and suggested to the Leprechaun in Chief to put green food color in the toilet.  It was a winning idea.

The next morning Mom, on hearing the toilet flushed repeatedly, found her 4 year old daughter totally appalled.  “The Leprechauns used our toilet (and did not flush).  YUUUUKKKK.”  She then ran upstairs hoping for a “clean” bathroom up there.  Well, green milkshakes are off the menu.

Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Me and the War on Christmas

Flourishing after 2017 Years

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
― Charles Bukowski

It is necessary to find insights in unpleasant places. Take this quote from Bukowski, a reprehensible individual in that following in the totality of his actions will lead to bad results.  What can you say about a guy who believed his downtown Los Angeles neighborhood was ruined after the the pimps and whores were forced out?  Still, Bukowski wrote well about the personal truth of his self-made environment, one he drank, whored and wrote his way to become a present-day saint of atheists.

With Trump and his “War on Christmas” is analogous.  Trump does the magician’s, the practiced thief’s, slight of hand, distracting us while pocketing the coin, picking the pocket.  His use of this slight of hand is effective in so far the premise is true.  Sure, there is a War on Christmas.  It started 2017 years ago when Herod ordered the innocents slaughtered to destroy the rumored Messiah.  Then, as now, Herod was defeated by dreams and determined action.  This is a link to my take on the story, ““Christmas Angels”.

A return to Christmas Past brings us to the “Me” of the title and how Amol K. shared in our 2002 celebration.  Amol had arrived from India as a new hire for our team.  That fall I searched for a roommate to share in household expenses.  Human resources brought Amol and I together.  He required temporary lodging until his marriage planned for 2003.

A single parent who raised a son alone, my Christmas preparations started immediately after Thankgiving with boxes of materials and decorations organized over fourteen years into beginning, middle and end boxes.  In this way, day by day, I gradually transformed our home for Christmas.  Workday evenings, unpacking a box at a time and laying out the contents.

The changes caught the attention of Amol.  Raise in a middle class family of Bombay, India, Amol, a practicing Hindu, asked questions about the objects and images slowing building with the month, the sun drawing down lower and lower on the horizon, darkness now falling soon after 4 pm.  Amol was curious to understand these new experiences.

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Amol saw correlations with his own belief systems and stories and enjoyed helping decorate the tree on Christmas Eve.

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We attended Christmas night mass together, shared presents Christmas morning.  It was not a question of Amol becoming a Roman Catholic proselyte, he enjoyed experiencing the stories, practices and celebrations of Christmas.
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Beliefs and religious practices are like a sky scraper.  A push against natural law, constantly under pressure from gravity, wind, frost/thaw cycles and human fanatics who must see them come down by whatever means necessary.  “You must break eggs to make an omelet.”  This is a photograph taken on the returning training ship Empire State July 2001, less than two months before a fanatical suicide attack brought the Twin Towers down.
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Happy New Year, remember to love your neighbor as yourself in 2018.

Click for the first post in this series, “Christmas Tableau”.

Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved