‘In like a lion’ and other weather sayings

One of the problems of writing a week before publication is that it’s hard to be very topical. For example, I’m writing this on March 1, and you’re reading it on March 8.

See what I mean? Anything I write is on a seven-day delay.

So, anyway, March is coming in like a lion. It’s snowing big time outside. Quarter-sized flakes have been piling up since before dawn. Winter has returned. But if the old adage is to be believed, March should go out like a lamb, meaning that spring is in sight.

We thought it was in sight a couple of weeks ago when some of my friends were out playing golf and one of my neighbors was raking his lawn in the 60-degree weather.

I’m not much of a believer in the old-time weather adages – or are they superstitions? You know, like the groundhog sees his shadow so we’ll have six more weeks of winter. But which groundhog do we want to believe: Jimmie in Sun Prairie, or Phil in Punxsutawney?


Good neighbors and the Golden Rule

My cousin Wayne Konitzer died a few years ago from a very nasty melanoma. Wayne was enough younger than I am that I didn’t “know” him very well, but my mom and dad knew him and loved him, and that’s enough evidence for me that he was a good guy and a good neighbor.

After I finished my column about neighbors last week, I went back into my “archives” because I remembered that I’d written about Wayne’s neighbors and the way some of his friends and neighbors came out to help him.


Farmers work to be good neighbors

Fred Rogers used to start his kids’ program with an invitation for us to join his neighborhood. Remember?

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,

“A beautiful day for a neighbor.

“Would you be mine?

“Could you be mine?

“Won’t you be my neighbor?”

We recently moved into a new neighborhood and were immediately welcomed by our neighbors. There were two parties to “meet and greet” with food and drinks. Neighbors have helped by blowing our snow and mowing our lawn. It has been great.

We had great neighbors in our old neighborhood, too. People were willing to help each other out whenever help was needed.


Revisiting the world of penny candies

I recently bought Marilyn a treat, a bagful of those little heart-shaped candies with the sayings printed on them. It always used to be fun to take a handful and make up some romantic sentence, but these were different. Instead of sweet nothings, they had things like “text me” and sayings in the cryptic language of the texting generation, most of which I couldn’t decipher. But it got me thinking about candies from my kidhood.

When I was a little kid (a phase that for me lasted into high school!), my sister, Joyce, and I and all our neighborhood friends used to walk home from school every day. We lived on a farm about 3 miles from St. Anthony’s School in Oconto Falls. Almost everyone in our neighborhood was Catholic, and we all went to St. Anthony’s.


Comment about Social Security draws response

To the editor:

Several weeks back, in the community feedback portion of the Times Herald, someone expressed a desire to see an increase in their Social Security check. That person might not have intended it, but their comment, in essence, reflected no more than a desire to see an increase in everyday expenses such as food and gasoline.

Although I understand that Social Security income provides limited economic security, annual increases in the monthly check are not similar to “merit pay” increases from an employer. Social Security increases are determined by a cost of living allowance, intended to guarantee people receiving checks have the same purchasing power each year.

It might not seem like it, but for the past several years, we have been living in rather stable economic times; $2 gasoline is one example. All this stability means that the average retiree’s check will increase by only $4 in 2017.


Dad’s sacred lily was unforgettable

Marilyn’s dad loved flowers, and when the awful Parkinson’s disease that afflicted him became so bad that he could no longer plant and care for his flower beds, I volunteered (with his supervision) to tend to his garden.

So every spring, after what he called “Icemen Days” were past, I’d go to the nursery and get the plants he wanted and put them in the ground. He loved those flowers.

But he had another “flower,” too. And eventually that came to me also. Let me give you a little parallel info first.

Have you read about the famous “corpse flower” at the University of Wisconsin botany labs? The botanists there say the rare and stinky Indonesian plant, whose real name is Amorphophallus Titanum (sometimes called “Titan Arum”), is a rare species from the rain forest of Sumatra, and it boasts the largest unbranched inflorescence in the plant kingdom.


An eclectic list of New Year’s resolutions

One of my favorite comic strips is “Pearls Before Swine” by Stephan Pastis.

I like it because it frequently involves word plays and puns, but not always. And I like word plays and puns. But on Dec. 29, one of the regular characters, Pig, is writing his “Goals for the coming year: Sleep in more. Remain fat.” In the fourth panel, he explains to another character, Goat, “It’s important to set realistic goals.”

I’m with him. Realistic goals are important when we go about setting our resolutions for the new year. If we set unrealistic goals, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.


Christmas cookie tradition took years in the making

Three weeks before Christmas, Marilyn and I spent all afternoon one day and all morning the next baking and icing 40 dozen Christmas cookies. I confess that Marilyn did the yeoman’s share of the baking part. She did the prep work and the cutting out; I just moved the cookie sheets to the oven and then to the table for cooling. But I did all the icing while she put on the sprinkles.

Did it ever occur to you to question why we eat cookies for Christmas? For many families, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas cookies. Why do kids leave cookies out for Santa? There are always plates of Christmas cookies at any holiday party. But why is it that cookies have come to be such an important symbol of Christmas?


Wonderful random, maybe goofy, thoughts

Are birds multi-lingual? Do chickadees speak junco? Do goldfinches speak sparrow? Do cardinals speak blue jay?

I was just wondering because what started out as a single chickadee on our bird feeder a couple of weeks ago has grown to a United Nations of chickadees, woodpeckers, finches (gold and purple), sparrows, mourning doves, cardinals, juncos and flickers. Do they communicate with each other? Do they spread the word that VanHarens have some good stuff out in the feeders, so you better get over there before it’s all gone? Just wondering.

Another thing. I’ve read that birds do not have taste receptors, so that if you want to keep the squirrels out of your feeders, all you have to do is add cayenne pepper to the birdseed. The squirrels don’t like pepper, so they’ll stay away. You can even buy peppered seed at some stores.


New home, new feathered friends

We’ve recently moved to a new home in a neighborhood completely across the city from where we’ve lived for the last 18 years. At our previous house, I fed the birds on a bunch of feeders suspended from the branches of the trees in our enclosed patio. I think the birds liked it there because it was protected from the cold north and west winds. We had many birds who visited the feeders every day, not to mention the squirrels and chipmunks who fed there everyday as well.

But then I had a little health situation that made it difficult for me to keep the feeders filled, so we lost our little feathered friends, and eventually we sold all the feeders at a series of garage sales in preparation for our move to the new house.


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