LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Gratitude, Rachel And Harvest

Sunday morning I was listening to the “Ted Radio Hour” on Prairie Public Radio. The subject of the interview was talking about physics and the universe, and he said, “We should be grateful for what we know and humbled by what we don’t know.”  Amen, say I.

I have so much to be grateful for in my life. This weekend, I was especially grateful in my North Dakota life for a place like Elks Camp Grassick and the programs that allow my daughter, Rachel, to attend summer camp, on the shores of Lake Isabel. She has attended Technocamp, facilitated by the Anne Carlson Center of Jamestown, N.D., many times, but it has been some years since she was able to attend as she had “aged out.”

We were delighted to hear that it would again be a place she could go to enrich her life and make new friends. I first heard about Camp Grassick from a fellow parent of a special needs child when I was picking Chelsea up from the International Music Camp.

Our twin daughters had rather a rough start to life, born three months prematurely and each at just a little over 2 pounds. They received good medical care in Bismarck and are tenacious souls, and we were surrounded by the love and support of family and community. Somehow we got through the worst of the years of medical crisis, but Rachel lives with developmental delays and cerebral palsy.  She has a smile that lights up a room and takes great joy in many facets of her life.

Back to Camp Grassick. Jim and I drove out to pick up Rachel on Saturday, and he said it makes him so happy to go there. I asked Dan, the director, how many years he has been doing this, and he said 44! Now that is real dedication. Thank you to everyone in the Elks who support this special place and the lives that are enriched there.

Camp Grassick is just south of the tidy village of Dawson, N.D.

Rachel was filled with stories of riding the pontoon, catching fish and earning this award at the banquet. She spent the afternoon playing the board game Sorry! with me and her Aunt Beckie.

Rachel lives in a minimally supported living arrangement apartment in Dickinson, N.D.

One of her staff came to Bismarck to eat supper with us and take her back. She has to get back to her job at Able Inc. on Monday! She is one very busy young lady and so lucky to be able to live as independently as possible, thanks to the programs that make this possible.

Other things I have to be grateful for:

  • We got some rain this week.
  • The gardens are beautiful and our harvest bountiful.
  • I turn on my faucet and clean Missouri River water comes out.
  • We eat BLTs just about every day this time of year.
  • The hot weather has abated.
  • We get to see my elderly parents frequently, and they are very interesting people.
  • I can buy Washington peaches from Royce’s Market on the Strip in Mandan, N.D.
  • The goldfinches come to my backyard feeder.

I’m grateful that we have the best dog ever, a springer spaniel.

Oh, and Jim and I both got to take a swing through the Capitol grounds to take in the annual arts and crafts fest. Time for some kettle corn! We live in a wonderful city in North Dakota.

Harvest continues here, stocking the freezers and shelves with vegetables.Today was “putting up” corn day. The Mandan Graner corn, we learned on social media, was ready to be bought at the Cenex station. We’ve agreed that this corn is so good we don’t need to waste space in our garden (plus the squirrels raid it).

Jim’s job was to get there and buy eight dozen ears of this wonderful sweet corn, and then he sat on the patio, on this nice cool day, and shucked it.

My job was to cut it off the cob — we froze a dozen ears whole — in the Southern manner that my Alabama Aunt Fran has taught me, for Southern creamed corn. I followed her handwritten instructions, and while I stood for hours in the kitchen carefully scraping the cobs, I thought about all of the years my Mama Crook put up corn in her sunny Mississippi kitchen. In her later years, Mama Crook lived in a mobile home on Aunt Fran’s property, near to Memphis, Tenn.

Fran had a huge corn patch, and she’d come home from her job, drive her mower and trailer down to the patch and load it up with cobs. Mama Crook would see her coming from her window, and she’d come out and say, “Get me the sharp knife,” and they’d go to work. A sharp knife is as essential to this process as was the original seed and sunshine that grew this yellow delicacy.

My mother gave us this ‘Ball Blue Book, a Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration,’ and it gets heavy use this time of year.

This is all hard and messy work, but it is made more pleasant by thinking about these memories I have of my kin doing the same thing I’m doing, for many decades. And then there is all that delicious creamed corn we will cook up all winter when we make soul food!

The last task for today was to make tomato and herb phyllo pizza. Tomorrow’s menu will be risotto stuffed tomatoes. Oh, and Jim will make his first batch of tomato juice to go with his dill pickles in Bloody Marys.

Yup, we are foodies.

Twenty-two bags and a spoon I’ve had all of my adult years.

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