Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


Outside Looking Back In

I lived in Huntington for seven years; Graham for 20. We worked, raised my son Sam through middle and high school, and got involved in a number of places and groups where our interests and talents fit.  We planned Graham’s retirement and our move to Oregon to coincide with Sam heading out to college and we feel good with that decision. But it sure felt nice to visit Huntington this past weekend.blog-logo

One of the groups that we loved and shared our talents was The Wild Ramp. I visited food producers and wrote blogs, worked in the market each Wednesday morning, and helped on an array of other projects including sewing volunteer aprons and shopping totes, compiling the cookbook, and making presentations to other groups around West Virginia who were interested in emulating the market model. I did not serve on the Board of Directors because I knew I would be leaving Huntington for Oregon and I did not want to “leave a hole” when I left. Well, I carried the “hole” of missing The Wild Ramp with me.

DSCF5747As lifetime members I have stayed as closely connected as living on the west coast permits. I read the blog and Facebook pages. I’ve ordered a few items, including ramps, which Shelly Keeney graciously mailed. I planted those ramps in as close a setting as I could find…at high elevation in a stand of deciduous trees…on a farm about 15 miles from where I live. Next spring we will carefully harvest enough for one dish to share with the farmer. I have worked with a group that wants a year round indoor market, but the commitment needed to get it beyond the planning phase proved too much. I think they have a lot of places where they can buy organic food and do not fully understand the benefits of more greatly supporting local farmers.

Last Saturday I spent five hours back at The Wild Ramp. I got to poke my nose in just about every corner of the new market and greatly admire the new space. I noticed the new items offered for sale since I moved and also missed a few I hoped to find. I bought tee shirts and coffee mugs and more and I’m sure my purchases helped the cash register take that day!  DSCF6590

Most of all, the best part, was connecting with the people. I chatted with shoppers, asking all those “pesky” questions I always asked: How did you hear about The Wild Ramp? How often do you shop here? Why? How do you tell others about the market?  How much do you usually spend? The answers continue to be interesting.

  • Many people still believe that The Wild Ramp is an organic market. There is one certified organic farmer but overall, It is not. But we know our farmers and if you want food that is grown without chemicals, you can find it here.
  • There is a belief before entering the market that it is expensive, more expensive than local supermarkets. Overall, it is not. Or maybe, I should say, it depends.  If you buy prepared foods, buying whole foods and all the ingredients you need to prepare a meal can be higher. Once you have a pretty standard pantry of common ingredients, buying whole food tends to be less expensive. In addition, whole foods are not loaded with chemicals, so if anyone in the family has some allergies or arthritis or skin rashes or digestive problems, staying away from food additives can make a huge improvement in health. Periodic cost comparisons of prices at The Wild Ramp and local grocery stores show that costs are comparable.
  • The market’s items continue to be chosen as local gifts for people who live elsewhere. I know I used to…and once again….had gifts in mind with some of my purchases.

Of course, some of my friends knew I would be there. It was a great emotional rush of hugs and laughter, playing catch-op and extending invitations to come visit. For foodies, Oregon offers a continual feast. I noticed as I shared stories with some that we seemed to be local gluttons: fresh salmon and oysters, olive oil, wine, hazelnuts, and all local produce and protein sources we had found. (The Wild Ramp’s effort to help Huntington experience the 30-Mile Meal could be limited to 15 miles in the Willamette Valley.)DSCF6593

It was working with the farmers and other food producers for The Wild Ramp that my awareness of the importance of local food grew. In today’s world, where food is sourced or processed in counties that do not have the same compliance record with food safety, where produce prices in the supermarkets will be rising because of the drought in California, identifying and supporting local farmers who produce healthy food is even more important.

So, as I laughingly admitted to Gail Stoll Patton, even in Oregon I still talk about The Wild Ramp as “my” market. And Gail, in her wisdom, replied, “It IS “your” market. And it is “mine” and it belongs to each and everyone who helps it operate and shops there.” No truer words. Be proud, Huntington, you built it, and you support it.



The Life of a Pet….Owner

My pet ownership attitude falls between those who believe their animals belong outside and those who believe they belong in their bed.  I’m allergic, so there is no way I have ever encouraged them to sleep in my bed. Not saying it hasn’t happened, but not while I am at home/awake/unaware that the husband needs to be trained better to shut the bedroom door.

I tested positive to being allergic to dogs when I was 5 years old and supposedly informed my parents if the dog left, so would I. I have almost always had a dog since, sometimes two.

airplane_puppy_usI got my boxer Shelby soon after I moved from Nashville to Memphis in 1978. During that move I had herniated a disc and what with the pain and the puppy’s increasing size, I flew her to my mom in New Jersey for a few months. Mom had a marvelous way with dogs, training hers to be very obedient, knowing the boundaries of the property without straying, and they could do marvelous tricks including multiplication and division. (Although one of our dogs when I was young had such a high toned bark we kept her answers to 5 and under to keep our ears comfortable.)  Shelby flew back to me some months later, wonderfully compliant in all I needed and also very happy to be back with the more relaxed house rules.

That dog sat in the front seat of my car with me. When I got married, she moved to the back seat, and as the babies arrived, she moved to the back-back of the hatchback, always with us, always happy. But she lost status…..she was the dog.Dog-in-front-seat

The time inevitably came that she aged and started having problems.  She was unwilling to eat until we enticed her with all the loved forbidden foods: ice cream and bacon. She got some energy back but then, on Christmas Eve had a seizure. We took her to the emergency clinic and they did some tests. The news was not good. It was either this or that, wouldn’t know without exploratory surgery and no, there was no treatment nor cure whichever it turned out to be.   I made a difficult decision and petted her while they gave the injection. The song that was playing on the sound system, Against All Odds, will forever remind me of loss.dog in heaven

We added another dog to the family about a year later, an Australian shepherd and that dog was so amazing, we also bought a male and they had one litter. What happened next was also a hard decision. After Dave was diagnosed with a brain tumor and then had the equivalent of a stroke on the operating table, he had trouble walking. The dogs were then outside in the fenced yard for the day, coming in for the night. It was not my idea of how their lives should be so I was happy when my older kids’ grandparents in Maryland said they would take them. We made the transfer and at least I knew the dogs still were with their children.

But meanwhile, Sam was growing up and I perceived he needed a pet. Since I believed a puppy would cause problems getting in Dave’s way, we decided on a cat. My first cat.

Now, I tried to persuade the 5-year-old that we needed to adopt an adult cat, the better to see her personality, but oh no, it had to be a kitten. We played with all the kittens at the Nashville Humane Society and took home the one who seemed to be the most playful. It was a sham. She was, after all, a cat.

Cat and Dog portrait on a white backgroundAbout five years ago, having added two more puppies to our household, my allergies took a turn for the worst. Maybe the air in West Virginia is just that much dirtier, maybe menopause’s chemical changes in my body made the allergies worse, but I just couldn’t breathe.  Both my sinuses and my lungs were being assaulted in a horrible way. A friend helped me look at the solution I had not even conceptualized: the animals had to go if I expected not to be sick all the time.  The dogs, being young, were not difficult to place but boy oh boy did I hear how I was abandoning them, kicking out of what I had promised would be a forever home from some of my most radical pet loving friends. The fact I was sick because of them was meaningless. Just take an antihistamine was their answer. It HAD been that easy all my life, but this was new territory in allergy response. I HAD to eliminate the allergens I could in my environment.

The cat was another issue, though. She was, simply, difficult. She put up with the dogs but would attack any other cats. She was about 9 years old then and older cats just don’t adopt out easily.  So, we kept her. She’s 14 now. She will live to 105 to spite me. She’s a cat.cat in books

Here in Oregon my new allergy treatment plan is bringing great results but I recently had a setback, perhaps related to the harvesting of the grass seed in the area. The cat has been banished from the bedroom all along. Early this week I completely emptied my office, vacuumed and shampooed the carpet and now she is banned from that space as well. Today I (yes, the woman who wrote she is not a cleaning diva yesterday) removed the area rug in the living room to the back deck, vacuumed bottom and top sides and shampooed it. Then swept and scrubbed the wood laminate floor. Hopefully the cat dander was captured along with the dust bunnies.

For the moment.

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How to Be a Pin Cushion

I have no memory of the event but my mom said that when I was playing with my hula hoop, a popular craze in the late 1950s, she noticed I was having trouble breathing. Diagnosis: asthma. Protocol: allergy shots.   Family history has recorded me, at age 4, saying if they got rid of our boxer, I was leaving too, so the boxer stayed.Girl_twirling_Hula_Hoop,_1958

allergy-shot-doc-400x400So I started my first series of allergy shots then. I had a few years of reprieve but sometime in my teens I went through a shot series again. I had another series around age 30 after 2 pregnancies and then again around age 40 after a 3rd pregnancy. Finally, here I am again, in my graying years, enjoying being a pincushion again.

Part of the reason I have needed so many series is because I have moved and have been exposed to new regional allergens. Part of the reason is that, as a woman, my body chemistry has changed a bunch: puberty, childbirth, and menopause all do a number on hormones and other internal chemical interactions. One of the joys of being a woman.

Sitting the requisite half hour to make sure I don’t have a reaction (I never have and hopefully, never will other than minor itchiness at the shot site) I have had a chance to observe and interact with other patients. Most are adults, but there have been a few kids. One girl cried out once when she got her shot and I assured her that her arms will become numb after a while. Since then she has been more stoic even though I know it must still bother her.

allergy reactionAllergic reactions are caused by the body’s immune system recognizing an exposure to something as an attack. Sneezing, excess mucous flow and tissue swelling are all ways the body tries to expel or repel the offending allergen. Why I inherited this gift from my father and neither of my sisters did is one of the mysteries of hereditary influences.

indoor-allergensAnd environmentally I can reduce factors that can affect me. We sadly found new homes for our two young dogs several years ago. We kept the aging cat primarily because no one would take the little monster darling. She is now about 14 years old but I suspect she will live well into her 20s just to spite me. We bought an artificial Christmas tree. (My allergist was surprised I was having issues at age 50 with that. I told him I had recently married a nonJew and it was my first couple of years with a real Christmas tree that helped me correlate the issue with major sinus problems.) I had other family members do the lawn mowing and vacuuming.  Those were no-brainers.

food-allergies1_0A bigger step was to eliminate certain whole foods and all artificial foods from my diet. That meant no more packaged foods. This was about the time I started visiting farms in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio as part of marketing local foods.  I learned a lot about the food that is sold at the supermarket and how so much of it, even much of  the produce which looks so healthy, is full of chemicals. Those chemicals, dyes and the herbicide and pesticide residue that remains in the food and can not be washed off, can cause the body’s immune system to react. food al;lergies

If you are having allergy issues either as a continued lifelong event or as a new annoying event in your life, get to know your allergist to reduce your reaction to many of your allergens.  Read about the food-allergy connection and run a two-month trial, eliminating all chemicals from processed foods you eat. See how you feel after that amount of time. I hope you can feel better like I did.  Good luck!