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Strange Holiday Traditions December 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 10:03 pm

Dear Neighbors,

The Holidays are here. Seems to happen every year about this time, like the winter flu – predictable, notable, and unavoidable.

Last Christmas was great; three little girls, a beautiful, sparkly tree, wonderful food and fun with friends. Pixie and I stayed up late on Christmas Eve, wrapping presents and reminiscing. We talked, among thousands of other things, about some holidays past. I always love to hear the details of people’s holiday traditions; there are so many similarities, but each family develops their own spin.

One of the most memorable Christmases I ever had was with my then-boyfriend and his parents in Rancho Mirage. They are Jewish, and knowing I was not, they provided their version of the holiday: I woke to a Santa Claus placemat upon which were some excellent bagels and lox. And who can forget the infamous Tex Marx party in NYC on a certain 80’s New Year’s Eve? (Yeah, not Tex Mex. We had Russian vodka and Texan chili. Posters of Karl Marx and John Wayne and… never mind.)

Another family that I spent several Midwestern winters amongst had Scandinavian origins. During a couple frigid holidays on a frozen lake, far north in Wisconsin, we made these little anise-flavored cookies that were a mandatory tradition. Making those cookies was as arduous as mixing cement and they baked up hard as a petrified dinosaur turd. “Dip them in coffee,” I was told. Neighbors, I swear you could soak that cookie for months and it would still break a tooth. I can only surmise that the Swedes are an inhospitable lot – what a rascally trick to play on your guests. If you are ever amongst the northern Europeans, especially if they sound anything like Sarah Palin or the lady cop in Fargo, and you are offered a small licorice smelling cookie, RUN AWAY. However, the same family also made chili rellenos for Christmas dinner (among about 20 other dishes)… those chilis were transcendent…

All this reminiscing made me wonder how other cultures celebrate our revered Trifecta of holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I did a little research online*, and what I found was fascinating.

In Russia, because of the privations of war and revolution and communism, many Russian families cannot afford turkeys or hams for their celebrations. Instead, in a tradition passed down since Tzar Ringo the Great, they lovingly craft the likeness of a roast bird or swine from mashed beets and turnips, which is glazed with vodka and baked at 350 for seven hours.

In Jamaica, the people eat charbroiled breadfruit and drink homemade beer brewed from seaweed, which makes them forget that breadfruit has the exact taste and texture of pizza boxes… at least they have Reggae.

In France, during the holidays guests are served many rich sauces and smelly cheeses, most of which are fed to the poodles on the sly, because the French are not allowed to gain weight. Anything over a 6 pound gain is punished by having to spend the next holiday exiled to Russia. It’s the law! Next door, in Spain, everyone feasts grandly then takes a siesta until March. In Switzerland the annual winter chocolate carving contest dates back to 2400 B.C. And in England, they dress for dinner, eat roast beef in pie crust and then don kilts, dance around, and tell Scottish jokes.

In Canada, they put gravy on everything, and wish it were Monday so they can go to the doctor for free. In Mexico, there are holiday donkey races where each burro is named for a saint. The owner of the winning donkey gets his prayers answered; the donkey gets tattooed like a zebra. In Iceland, on the New Year, the locals eat seal blubber shish-ka-bobs, jump naked into the hot springs, and try not to kill themselves because the days are 3 hours long.

The Greeks play music on lutes and accordians, have the least attractive persons in the village dance together, and feast on octopus, barbequed goat, and a seasonal salad gleaned from the dead sticks of the olive trees. They make a super strong drink (made from fermented fennel juice, olive pits and clams) to choke that mess down! Meanwhile, in South Africa, things get really wild. They have giant raves at the soccer field, and they enjoy not just shrimp on the barbie, but kangaroo, giant squid, monitor lizard, blowfish, python, dwarf Rhodesian monkey burgers and deep fried hibiscus flowers! Wow, not a breadfruit in sight for this bunch.

In Saudia Arabia and Kuwait, the men groom their camels in preparation for the winter’s solstice, while the women play bridge and shop on QVC. Later the entire family – which can number into the hundreds with all the wives, offspring and assorted in laws – gets together in the family vault and counts their gold bars. The annual tally is toasted with the milk of peacocks. Chinese holidays are celebrated by lots of tremendous fireworks. Whosoever gets his hand blown off is considered lucky. They get a complete government pension, free health care and all the noodles he can eat, for life.

In Japan, the racing with the dolphins is a winter tradition. The most fit young men and women water ski with the “People of the Sea” for days as the migrating dolphins pass the islands. Then they recite poetry, eat sushi and drink hot chocolate. Farther into the Pacific, on the remote island of Tuhunga, the natives have pizza delivered on Christmas Eve, and open every single present. Before Christmas Day! They don’t even save the stockings. They eat huge, extra large pizzas, with tons of extra cheese and toppings, then gorge on candy and oranges from their stockings, then open every gift, eat every cheese ball and drink every single bottle of Smart Water. Then they play Scrabble until dawn. The next morning they attend church, which luckily, is open to the sea breezes.

It certainly was fascinating researching the world’s holiday traditions. But I think I like the best of our American traditions the best. Like giving the gifts of time, listening, service, doing, caring. I also dig good Christmas cookies. As long as they don’t smell like licorice.

Happy Holidays

The Mountain Mouth

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2011 by Kate MacDonald

The content of this column and the opinions herein are the sole issue of the author and intended as entertainment only.The countries, nations, and governments and peoples listed above; the author, her relatives, friends, photographers and contributors; and all other humans no matter who they are will not be responsible for any use or misuse of any of the information or opinions contained herein. Always consult a doctor before adopting any new diet or exercise program.

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Random Play July 6, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 1:49 am

Reno the Keiger mustang toughs out the fire!  “Hey- I’m ok, are you??”

Dear Neighbors,

July already. And baby, it’s hot! – today the car thermometer said 106. This kind of hot is perfect for swimming in the lake or the river, driving with all the windows down and the hot breeze whipping your hair; shades, shorts and flip flops; laughs and music and beers in the shade of the patio as the day gives way to dark, the inevitable barbeques; a sweaty, slather-on-the-sunscreen horseback ride along the lake. I know I say it every year, but I love summer! I feel more myself without heavy boots, seven layers of clothing and frozen toes. I love the long days and the Yoo-Hoo bottle rolling on the floorboards.

Of course, summer equals fire season, and just a week after Rosie, Captain Call and Reno, plus the two roosters and six red hens moved to the Lane Ranch – fire!

Why is it, just when you think you finally have stuff all dialed in, chaos ensues? I had mistakenly assumed that by moving away from my on-the-edge, off-the-grid, challenging. exciting and dangerous mountain lifestyle, that Life would become more… well, normal? I suppose the answer to that is no matter where you go stuff happens. I heard about the fire on the radio – thanks, Scott, you radio legend – and the good part was I could get there so quickly.

The Cove Fire started at the lakeshore just one hill from the ranch and by the time I got there it was burning through. The wind was fierce, blasting sand and ash and spreading nasty little spotting fires everywhere. A bunch of volunteers and Nadia and Joe had to move all the horses into the safety of the arena from the back pastures as the fire began to burn the fences. That was somewhat hectic! – but afterwards we could only marvel how the fire burned right around the perimeter of the ranch but nothing was burned up except the pasture fences and some fence panels, and all horses were okay except one minor injury when a ranch horse (not even a mustang) ran into a post – and he’s healing fine now.

Fire burning right at ranch perimeter

So the Lanes could really use any donations of cash or materials to replace the pasture fences… railroad ties, no-climb wire, panels… http://www.hswhs.org

Then, a week ago, another surprise. This one a lot happier, though. A mare that had been returned to the ranch from training suddenly dropped a perfect filly. It was like the horse version of an episode from “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”.

    Surprise!!

Even with all this I have been riding Reno, the Keiger mustang ,quite a lot. The other day we rode with Nadia on Chaparro across the burned pasture to the lake, past the ranch and up and around. It was like crossing a moonscape. Hot and a little creepy, almost. Reno is taking stuff in stride: rabbits bursting out from underfoot, a scary gate with horse figures, dogs, sprinklers. We had a little rodeo the other day, but I stuck on, and he settled, and I walked him a little then rode home. Only one bruise! But it is a good one. Next I want to take him for a good gallop, then into the lake, and explore that big hill… and go to Rabbit Island…

I realized that having adventures on a mustang was something I forgot to add to the Bucket List. First I thought I would have those adventures with Jackson, the first mustang I adopted. Then it would be Captain Call, who is great but grew too damn huge. Now there is this horse, Reno, who seems to  want to go places with me. And how lucky am I to be able to ride, and in this cool place, on this beautiful little mustang?

Meanwhile, I am still looking for my Town home. Will it be the place on the lake with five acres, just minutes from work? Or the place on the creek, up the canyon, just a few minutes from the BF’s? Or someplace I haven’t conjured up yet? I have a hard time making big decisions, yet I know if I am too passive, something will be decided for me!

Maybe I’ll post photos on my FB and let all my friends vote… LOL!

Happy Fourth, and enjoy your Summer!

The Mountain Mouth

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2011 Kate MacDonald

*The content of this column and the opinions herein are the sole issue of the author and intended as entertainment only. The Fence Post, its affiliates and assigns, the Rankin Ranch, the Lane Ranch, the makers of sunglasses, patios, flip-flops, beer, and the inventors of the modern barbeque;  as well as the author, her relatives, friends, and contributors, and all other humans no matter who they are will not be responsible for any use or misuse of any of the information or opinions contained herein. Always consult a doctor before adopting any new diet or exercise program don’t forget the sunscreen. You too, Bucketmouth.

 

 

All New June 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 1:58 am

Dear Neighbors,

Before I forget, Happy Birthday to Carol, Mike and Rob, and… me! I’m grateful to turn 56 and have all my parts still working, sort of. A not-so-nice part of aging is that every year there are scary new things that happen. Which makes me think of a friend who is even younger than me who recently bemoaned: “I found wrinkles in my cleavage!” But I still manage to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. I did have a brush with mortality last month, even though it was mostly in my mind. I found a lump in a place that was previously lump-less and of course, I immediately assumed it was the big C. I wondered: if I was dying soon, what did I still want to accomplish? I realized I didn’t even have a Bucket List. I decided I want to go to Africa and visit the baby elephant sanctuary, camp in a super-sweet Out of Africa-like tent and wear white linen while eating a gourmet meal to the music of lions roaring and monkeys howling. I would love to see my books published …. and I would love to see some old friends again. And I wanted my sister around. And that was about all I could come up with. I have had an adventurous life, lived in many places, seen a bit of America and a handful of other countries; I’ve saddle-started a wild mustang and had a fun career in the movie biz; and I have been in love (still am!). Not having kids was a regret until I reconciled myself with it. And almost as soon as I did, I found myself with two girls to mother. After all that, the tests turned out to show I am completely ok. I couldn’t believe it. I kept saying, “Are you sure?”  Yes, they were sure. Whew! And time to work on that List, and start saving for Africa.

Last month I wrote about leaving the mountain. I knew the first step was moving the mustangs. Being without a truck or horse trailer, I was obliged to ask my friends for help. Nadia and Joe Lane from High Sierra Wild Horse Sanctuary in Southlake brought the trailer and wranglers, Rob Lambert and son Billy were there (Rob and Monica are adopting Rosie and Captain Call) and Tami Barkley, rancher and cool gal extrordinaire, who got those bad ponies loaded up in about ten minutes. Thank you to all! It was a heart wrenching moment watching the horses drive off, but the adventure wasn’t even over. As I cried up at Red Lodge, on the way down our treacherous road the trailer slid off the bank, the horses had to be unloaded and walked, the trailer unstuck, and horses loaded back. Happily, everyone survived without a scratch and the horses settled into their new digs in Southlake.

I rode Reno down there again today, with Nadia and another mustang along. It’s going to be fun exploring all the trails and it’s just gorgeous riding along the lake. Today Reno met the burros: he went “Huh!” What are those things?” But after he got over the shock there was some sweet nose kisses. Nadia and Joe have saved 150 horses from slaughter over the years, and I’m so grateful they have made a place for Reno until I find my new horse-friendly house.

I swear I feel like I just got dropped off from another planet. Everything’s different now that I am spending time In Town. When I get off work, the afternoon stretches before me like a big candy shop. Go check out the river? Read? A lovely, drooly afternoon snooze? Catch up on phone calls? Take Lily* for a hike? We explored the hill above the house which led to a dirt road which led to the serene top of a hill with views and waving grasses and butterflies and a perfect rock for sitting and thinking and praying. I am discovering Town is not bad. I even get to go places at night! I get to go to hear the band** play. I discovered I dig the coconut shrimp at Ewing’s. The chef salad, ham on the side, at Nelda’s. Tofu Kung Pao at Lok’s.

I have even watched some TV!***

When we experience major life changes it can be an opportunity to grow. I won’t be the same person here as I was on the mountain, but maybe I can strive to be a better person. A new job, a new relationship, a new problem, a new baby, a new horse, a new house… life is always giving us something new. Why should we stay the same?

Six of the Red Lodge chickens are in the backyard here; there are four dogs; there are often two girls, one boyfriend, his brother, next door best friends, friends from the mountain, band members past and present, and others. So I am still in many ways in the midst of a menagerie just like up at Red Lodge, but different. It’s all new, but it’s all good.

And I am still

the Mountain Mouth

* my Lab mix dog, a.k.a. The Wild One

** White Lightning

*** NOT on the Bucket List

The Mountain Mouth has a blog! https://themountainmouth.wordpress.com

Friend me, Neighbor: Kate MacDonald (Caliente, CA) on Facebook

Or E-mail the Mouth at mountainmustangs@gmail.com

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2011 Kate MacDonald

*The content of this column and the opinions herein are the sole issue of the author and intended as entertainment only. The Fence Post, its affiliates and assigns, the Rankin Ranch, the High Sierra Wild Horse Sanctuary, the cities of Bodfish, Lake Isabella, Havilah, and “Woffo”;  the author, her relatives, friends, and contributors, as well as anyone mentioned or not mentioned will not be responsible for any use, non-use, or mis-use of any of the information or opinions contained herein. Always consult a doctor before adopting any new diet or exercise program and eat least six servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day. This still means YOU, Carol!

 

 

Goodbye, my mountain May 27, 2011

Filed under: Blogging,Food,Gardening,Horses,Nature,Off the Grid,Outdoor Adventure,Wildlife,Writing — themountainmouth @ 4:16 am

                                                             Find my house in this picture!

Dear Neighbors,

Writing’s a tricky thing. Writing, especially about one’s life, becomes more challenging as Life itself becomes more challenging. I always want to report good news and fun times, and I even aspire to make you chuckle once in a while, if not LOL. But there are times I struggle with finding the humor, the message, the uplifting, and the significant in my daily grind. With amazing swiftness four weeks go by and it appears there is nothing to report but the latest Daily Disaster. We are talking failing equipment, falling fences and escaping equines, unexpected expenses, dangerous weather and yada yada. And so sometimes I feel “if you can’t say something nice, it is better to say nothing at all”.

But that’s not the real reason I didn’t write last month. It’s because I didn’t really want to tell you the news. Which is: I am leaving.

Yep, the Mountain Mouth is going to move to town. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you can bet your sweet corn it will be before next winter. I am feeling very good about this decision which will put me within reasonable distance from my job. And since cheese (that ever reliable economic indicator) has not been free in a while, I figure I better keep my job. Please don’t think I wimped out after only nine years off the grid. It’s not the effort required to make power. It’s not the lack of phone service – no cell, no land line. It’s not getting up in the dark and wiping a foot of snow off the car and getting  down in the mud messing with tire chains. It’s not even the road, which has deteriorated to the point of absurdity.

It’s none of these things. It’s just time to move on!

Things I am going to miss: the solitude, the silence. The incredible views. The chickens running to greet me, the horses lifting their heads and nickering when I come into view. Riding down the mountain road on my mustang. Letting the dogs have their run of wherever. The flawless night skies; the full moons rising over the mountain. Jumping into the pond at the end of a hot summer day. Red Lodge filled with friends, laughing, eating, loving life. The color of my walls.  My gardens. The smell of summer rain. The way the mountain critters and I have a perfect truce.

“It’s a magical place”, Rockford Jim said as he left a couple of weeks ago. He’s right. People are drawn here and there are few things I love more than making them feel at home. People who come here want to come back. We’ll all remember this place. Overrun with dogs cats chickens and horses, clean, messy, growing, beautiful.

It’s not easy to let go.

I have lived in many amazing places. I have lived at Muir Beach with gardens stretching to the Pacific, on a high hill in San Francisco, in a classic greystone building one block from Central Park in New York City. In a little hut on the beach on the Carribean Sea. In a quaint farmhouse in Ashland, Oregon and in an old schoolhouse in upstate New York. On a big old wooden boat in LA. In a strange, beautiful old house with lush gardens across from a river: where I grew up in Illinois. Of all these, and more, once I was someplace new I have never wished to go back. Fish don’t swim backward. Neither should humans. I soothe my soul with this mantra.

But letting go of a house, even one this amazing, is not really hard. It’s letting go of the lifestyle. Which, for me, has been one of such freedom. If you want to have a rock band in your yard, if you want to laugh loud into the night, if you want to run around in your birthday suit there is no one to object. I worry whether Lily the “Wild Girl” and I can adjust to the social confines of having neighbors that are closer than a couple of miles. But we will. Because to do so means we grow.

The hardest part of letting go is of course, the mustangs. The chickens can easily be sold and maybe my best girl Sookie will raise a few for FFA. The three remaining cats are all spayed and can come to town where they will be just as demanding as they are now. But the horses! Even thinking about it made me cry; it still makes me cry.

Mustangs leaving the mountain... forever

When I adopted my first mustang Jackson and brought him up here it just changed my life. What a great thing! The realization of a childhood dream, to have a horse in my front yard! And the years since, with five more mustangs and two mules, has been as tragic as it has been rewarding and ecstatic. Frankly I don’t know who I am if I don’t wake up and go outside and see my horses. It is exactly like having to give away your children. It does not even matter – well, yes it does, but it doesn’t help – that they are going to a good home. It is not my home. Our home. But I can feel ok about the horses I’ve adopted and saved and who have lived here. I took pretty good care of them, I think. And I’ll continue to be an advocate for horses and for mustangs. For all time.

Red Lodge, this mountain home, was not even my idea, but it has become part of me. It has shaped who I am. I have seen things I never expected and met people I never imagined. I have made so many absolutely angelic, outlandish friends (and you know who you are!).

I have even met a great man, who is my rock, and also my roll! So all I can say folks, is, it’s all good. Life goes on. As do we.

Meanwhile I am absolutely loving this well-deserved Spring on the mountain. It is simply breathtaking.

Always,

Your Mountain Mouth

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2010 Kate MacDonald

*The content of this column and the opinions herein are the sole issue of the author and intended as entertainment only. The Fence Post, its affiliates and assigns, the Rankin Ranch, the Ford Motor Corporation, the cities of Rockford, Illinois, New York, San Francisco, Puerto Viejo Costa Rica;  the author, her relatives, friends, and contributors, and anyone mentioned or not mentioned will not be responsible for any use, non-use, or mis-use of any of the information or opinions contained herein. Always consult a doctor before adopting any new diet or exercise program and eat least six servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day. This means YOU Carol!

 

 

Mamas. Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowgirls! March 7, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 4:06 am

Dear Neighbors,

As the mountains slowly don their glamorous spring wardrobe of wildflowers and vibrant verge, our eyes are daily treated to our neighborhood’s most gorgeous aspect. Teetering, adorable newborn calves and foals, songbirds soloing, ravens winging past with bits for their nests, and bunnies chasing other bunnies are some of springtime’s charming sights. If we’re lucky we might see a tumble of bob-kittens or even a real life teddy bear. Or, galloping – or trotting, or just ambling along, a girl on a horse. When this happens to me it’s usually someone I know. It might be Longrider who used to ride Justin the Unstoppable over some rugged country, way the hell up and back just for a hoot. Nowadays you might see her on Jesse, a beautiful bay Arab that looks just like the stallion in “King of the Wind”.

 


It could be Lindy G., on Sassy or Ariel, or Dusty or Noble or Sport, all decked out, color-coordinated, practicing barrels or poles or trail. She’s been going to gymkhana winning some ribbons and even a buckle.

Or it could be Tami, and her crew (varies) just back from chasing cattle way up on the Breckenridge. Horses wet and tired, Tami with a big weary smile, from her well worn boots to her battered hat, she’s the real deal, a ranch owning, horse training, cowpunching Boss Lady. Her kid Aubree is shadowing her boot steps, starting colts, rescuing horses, gymkhana.

Or it could be Nicky’s girl Brandi, who is home-schooled, hip, smart as a whip and a contender in gymkhana too, and Team Penning Princess, and I have no idea what else.

If you’re over near Rankin Ranch it might be Taira, raising not just three but now four boys with so much love and laughter, and all summer, herding a hundred ranch guests on trail rides.

Over in Twin Oaks it could be Wendy and Tracy, who breed and train champion cutting horses and whose ranch is a horsewoman’s dream. Or Jeannie, who has ridden from Mexico to San Francisco – the ultimate trail ride! – and who represents trail riders all over California in her work lobbying to open and maintain access to our state’s trails.


It might be Jill, who by now has rescued, I think, more mustangs than any one else on earth, and whose huge heart and successful non-profit organization are leading the way to protect wild mustangs in their habitat and all equines from slaughter.

When I began adopting mustangs up here it had been a long time since owning horses and not having a trailer, trainer, obedient equines or much horse sense myself, over the years there have been times when I needed some help with my herd. Emergency evacuation from the Piute Fire, moving them, burying them when they died, bringing them back when they ran away, hoof work, vet work and training. Almost every time I have a horse emergency it has been the gals that have jumped in their trucks, cowgirled up, and bounced up the road to give me a hand.

“Why is it the best cowboys are always cowgirls?” I found myself wondering last week when the runaway mustangs were brought home by Carol. Ok, she had guy help, and there are the farriers and Rankin cowboys and Marvin… sure we have some fine cowboys around. But the horse gals with the big hearts are the ones who always find the time no matter that their lives are crammed full to bursting. They never want anything in return except friendship. They are teaching the little cowgals and cowboys how to man up, clean up, fess up, and mount up, even when you get bucked off. Life and even a good horse can land you in the dust but my girls, all the cowgirls, will be there to dust off your britches and give you a hug. They will help you chase your problems away like running down a crazy heifer and whoop with laughter while doing it. A shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, a strong margarita or a spare halter; if they can do it for you, they will. That’s why I’m singing the praises of all the cowgirls.

Love you, my girls! Ride on!

The Mountain Mouth

Friend me, Neighbor: Kate MacDonald (Caliente, CA) on Facebook

Or E-mail the Mouth at mountainmustangs@gmail.com

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2011 Kate MacDonald

Originally Published in the Fence Post, Caliente CA March 2011

*The content of this column and the opinions herein are the sole issue of the author and intended as entertainment only. The Fence Post, its affiliates and assigns, the Rankin Ranch, the Ford Motor Corporation, the country of Scotland , the author, her relatives and contributors, and anyone mentioned or not mentioned will not be responsible for any use, non-use, or mis-use of any of the information or opinions contained herein. Always consult a doctor before adopting any new diet or exercise program.

 

Tough Times November 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 2:52 am

Dear Neighbors,

I hope everyone is looking forward to a Happy Thanksgiving. Up here I always try to invite whomever I think might be without plans, or alone, on that day. So if any of you don’t have anyone to spend Turkey Day with; E-mail me! (I’m serious). It should be a fun group this year and I know I can’t wait to spend three days cooking, one hour eating, and another three days cleaning up. Lovin’ it!

Or, if anyone will be in town, and hungry, there’s a free TG meal the day before at My Place Restaurant and I bet the Senior Center will also be putting out some grub. If you are running low on funds, why not avail yourselves of the local resources, I say. These days, more than ever before in my memory, there are people having some tough times. Mostly having to do with the economic climate, which is chilly indeed. Folks are losing their homes to foreclosure; and not all of them knowingly took a bad risk loan. Lots have lost jobs or had hours reduced or have been required to take a pay cut; for others, unemployment benefits are ending… the price of gas just hit $3.15 and a pound of cheese, that ever-dependable economic barometer, will cost you an hour of labor at minimum wage. Times are tougher than a cheap steak. So I thought I’d rustle up some suggestions, solutions, and maybe salvation in the form of things you can do to lessen your debt, save money, and have fun doing it!*

1. Look for a sale and stock up on duct tape – also known as “duck tape”. (Gee, people need to stay in school!!) Anyway, any color of duct tape is ok. It will save you all kinds of money. You can tape the soles back on your shoes and get another couple of months out of them. You can repair that ripped handbag, car headlight, reading glasses… well, practically anything can be fixed with this modern miracle adhesive. Call it duck or duct, this wonder tape will save you bundles of cash.

2. Don’t bathe. Ok, you gotta shower eventually, but instead of everyday, cut it down to once a week or so. You’ll save on soap, heating water, the water, shampoo, conditioner, and washing towels!

3. Since you are bathing less, a 99 cent can of air freshener from Home Mart can replace expensive perfume and cologne. Just be sure to choose an appropriate scent: Pine Forest for Him; Strawberry Glade for Her.

4. On the subject of washing; I am told washing clothes wears them out and should be avoided until absolutely necessary. Most clothes can be worn over and over without washing as long as you toss them over a chair back (you can even hang ‘em up if you are high-maintenance). Underwear, I am told, may be worn three times and then turned inside out for another three wearings. Cutting down on the number and frequency of laundry loads will save you a ton on laundry soap, fabric softener, stain pre-treatment sprays plus water and electricity. You could even sell your washer and dryer for extra cash now that you will be doing so little laundry. Maybe you can take your small and infrequent loads to a relative or friend’s house and throw them in with theirs.

5. Save on razors. You can re-use disposable razors by sharpening them on a sidewalk or your cement garage floor.

6. Never fill up your gas tank. What if you break down or total your ride in an accident? Your car gets hauled off to the junkyard with thirty bucks of gas in the tank – that’s what! What if you die, right after you fill up the tank? What a waste of money. You can’t take a full tank with you.

7. While on automotive subjects, forget those costly brake jobs. You can extend the life of your brakes using sandpaper and the aforementioned Miracle Tape.

8. Increase your gas mileage by coasting. We have hills, use them! Only use the gas pedal when going up; coast on the way down. Use gears to slow so you save on the brakes, too. I am going to try stopping atop Hooper Hill, attaching a used tire or two to the back bumper, and using them to slow me down for the descent. I could get miles of no gas, no brakes. Sweet!

9. Bald tires? Find a fresh-tarred road. Drive back and forth a few times. You’re good!

10. Bugs in your flour, sugar, rice, oatmeal… can we afford to be picky? Either screen them out with a sieve, or just bake away. It’s protein.

11. Can’t really afford that cable or satellite TV anymore? It’s cool. You can watch the same DVD over and over and over. The more you watch it, the more you’ll love it. When you finally wear it out, you will know it so well you can re-create whole scenes with you family and friends. This is even more fun than Charades, as long as there are no arguments over, say, who gets to be Danny in Grease. Then when you have replayed it, sung all the songs, perfected the dance moves, know every line by heart, you can fling open the garage doors and put on a show! Charge the neighbors a quarter or so. Sell popcorn and hot dogs. Just be sure to get everyone out of there before the sheriffs come looking to see if you have the right permits.

12. Waste not, want not. Eat all your leftovers, no matter what: remember, food poisoning is temporary. Never throw away or shred paper – burning it might just save you from freezing this winter. That used motor oil – screen it through an old T-shirt a few times and it’s probably ok to re-use. Never pass by anything free, be it a couch, a four-year-old chicken or even road kill. One day recently I was on my way to work when ahead I saw a neighbor, his truck was pulled over, and he was picking something up from the road. I stopped to see if he was ok. He held up two limp quail. The person ahead of him had driven into the quail bevy and kept going. Neighbor Guy said, “I couldn’t let them go to waste”. He said he’d be cooking them up for lunch. I say Amen to that.

13. And, finally, here’s the big money saver: quit paying your mortgage. I know, it sounds scary, but check it out. The banks have way more foreclosures than they can handle. You can probably squat in your crib for at least eight months – if not years – after you quit paying. When the lender finally does get around to selling your home, once the buyers take a look at the place, they’ll probably walk away if not run. Your place won’t be worth even the bargain basement price because you have not had the cash to repair or maintain a thing in years. The more you let the place go, the better off you will be. Let the paint peel, the weeds grow, the fences fall and the trash pile up!
In a few years, most Americans will be living for free in homes they once scraped and starved to pay for.

So, you see, dear Neighbors, there is hope on the horizon. All we have to do is tighten our belts and follow these few simple suggestions – and I’m sure you will come up with your own ingenious tips for saving, too. Please share them with me; I’d love to hear your ideas!

Seriously folks, this month we begin holiday shopping, and may I suggest practical gifts? And let’s make sure our nearest Neighbors have enough firewood and propane and food. Let’s make sure nobody falls through the cracks this winter. We have to look out for each other. That’s the real way we are going to get through these tough times.

Happy Belt-Tightening!
The Mountain Mouth

 

The Big One October 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — themountainmouth @ 11:34 pm

Dear Neighbors,

Today is hot and dry; the garden sucks down water like a big earth sponge. Snake tracks squiggle across the road; the chickens hang out under in the shade, panting. The mustangs stand close together, motionless for hours; only their tails move, swishing lazily across each other’s faces. The fifty tomato plants hang heavy with green and ripening fruit and the pepper plants are big and bushy, each loaded with enough heat to ignite the most jaded tastebud. It’s pleasant enough inside with the breeze as long as you are barefoot and not wearing much; and if it gets too hot to cool down even with a peach daiquiri, it is time to head to the pond for a dip. Nowadays there are minnows, frogs and koi sharing the water. One day Ted the mini dachshund begged to come along, promising to leave behind only pawprints. As soon as we got there, he became very excited and from a ledge of about a foot high, leapt a mighty leap and landed square on the boogie board, which floated off with Ted riding atop. “OMG, Ted’s surfing!” We laughed ourselves sick. Yip-yipping the entire time, he boogied the board, pushed by the breeze, all the way across the pond – which to a dog of his stature must seem huge. His low-slung center of gravity allowed perfect balance even when he began to race back and forth upon his tiny ship. Ted became One with the board.

“Ted became One with the board…”

I know how Ted feels. When I ride Reno, the mustang, sometimes it seems that we are melding together: his strength, his speed, his senses; my guidance, my plan and my brain. It is amazing to just think, let’s go a little faster, and abracadabra – we are trotting – or galloping – along. My smallish and no longer young body feels big and powerful as this sturdy, agile, intelligent and gorgeous horse carries me along as effortlessly as if I were a foxtail in his big shaggy mane. I have a fantasy that we actually become the same being: akin to the centaur of myths. We become One.

"effortlessly, as if I was a foxtail..."

Is this what drives all spiritual quests? To feel connected, part of, inseparable from everything and everyone else?

The worst legal punishment we Americans impose is death; after that, it is solitary confinement. Forced isolation is considered akin to torture. I have no doubt it is torturous. Connecting with others is where we come alive. It is as necessary as eating, sleeping and breathing. It is like water and oxygen, like sunlight. The moments of our lives that we really cherish are all probably shared with others. I love the little things people say that let you know them better. I love wandering, half philosophical, half profane conversations about stuff that matters. I love the warm delicious feeling of holding the man I love. I love a long ear-burning conversation with my best girlfriends. I love a late summer barbeque with a collection of neighbors and friends. I love when my dogs come over and kiss me for no reason. I love looking at the vast mountain night sky and feeling overwhelmed by the immensity; and inspecting a wildflower and being overwhelmed by tenderness.

It has been a challenging summer; all work and no play makes jack! In an interview, John Mellencamp said his father would ask him, what did you do today that was fun? An excellent question! When one is really, truly very busy with life/survival work and chores, it seems indulgent to take time to have fun. But pleasure, fun, and connection, isn’t that what makes all the rest make sense?

In other Red Lodge news, Millie the mule found a great new home, packing with nine other mules in the San Bernardino forests. And Lil’ Clay, the one legged rooster, just today, found a new home via Tradio. So now, Red Lodge is home to three mustangs, six chickens, one rooster named Hank; four lovely, naughty dogs, some cats and a toad. I have a new friend coming soon; he comes from my hometown into this unknown and will call it home – at least for awhile. We can’t wait to meet our new housemate and caretaker. Believe it or not, we became friends via Facebook – another way for us to connect. And I believe that is no less spiritual than any other chance, but karmic meeting.

Soon the dog days will turn cooler, and summer will begin to slip away. It will be time to put away the shorts and pull out the sweatshirts. And so the planet spins and the days sift through our fingers. And soon it will be fall. But tonight the mountain air is warm and the barbeque smells like summer. And I’m going to go eat, laugh, and listen to the many people gathered here tonight.

Happy September, my dear Neighbors!

The Mountain Mouth

“The Mountain Mouth” copyright 2010 Kate MacDonald