Hoeing Thistles

“Die when I may, I want it said by those who knew me best that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.”                               ~ Abraham Lincoln           

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Katherine with her granddaughter in the 1960’s

The Homesteading Act of 1862 is sometimes cited as the most important piece of legislation in the history of the United States of America. Under this act homesteaders could file an application and lay claim to a surveyed plot of government land. If the homesteaders were able to build a dwelling, make improvements to the land and produce crops for a five year period they could then file paperwork to have the land deeded to them free and clear. By 1934 over 1.6 million homestead applications had been processed and more than 270 million acres of land had passed into the hands of individuals.

Those Americans who were enticed west by the lure of free land faced a difficult journey across the plains and mountains to reach their destination. Those who made it all the way along the Oregon Trail to the fertile Willamette Valley found…my family already there. Yes, I am the daughter of pioneers who in the late 1840’s decided the East was growing too populated and struck out from Independence, Missouri in a covered wagon to a land where one could get some peace and quiet. Continue reading

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Giving Thanks

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“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold rather a large amount of Gratitude.” ~ A.A. Milne

My favourite American holiday has always been Thanksgiving. When I was a child I looked forward to the dining table groaning with roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie, as well as the fact that my birthday sometimes coincided with the fourth Thursday of November. When I became an adult and entered the workforce the four day weekend shone as a beacon in the midst of the short, dreary days of driving to and from work in the darkness of late autumn. As time marched on and I experienced my share of the griefs and joys that make up a life, the actual meaning of the day began to take on greater significance. It may be hokey, but I actually do like to take time to think about all I have to be thankful for on this day. Continue reading

Driving Miss Lizzie – Part II: Back in the Saddle Again

 

“Whoopi-ty-aye-yay

I go my way

Back in the saddle again”

DSC06945Last summer I gained some insight into the psyche of the British driver. I was standing on the main road that runs through our village waiting to catch the bus.  As I watched, a large articulated lorry (a semi, for my American readers) passed the bus stop, executed a U-turn at a mini-roundabout, returned to the bus stop – only now going the opposite direction – and proceeded to back into the narrow alley between the small grocery store and a stone house that sits flush with the pavement. With just inches to spare thanks to a Mercedes that was parked where it should not have been, the driver of the lorry had to reverse, then straighten out and go forward, then reverse some more as he tried to squeeze into the narrow space without causing any damage to Merc, store or house. I was impressed by the skill of the driver and his nerves of steel as a queue of cars formed in both directions, waiting for him to get out of the way and stop blocking traffic.

While all of this was going on my fellow bus shelter companions, two elderly gentlemen leaning on canes, had their heads together cracking jokes which were apparently too hilarious not to share, for when the man next to me caught my eye he leaned my direction. His eyes were twinkling and he could barely suppress his laughter, but then he hesitated for a moment and looked more closely at me.

“You’re not from Bulgaria, are you?” he asked. Continue reading

Driving Miss Lizzie – Part I

Driving Miss Lizzie, Part I

***

“Why has the car stopped?” 

“Ah!” I said with manly frankness that became me well. “There you have me.” 

You see, I’m one of those birds who drive a lot but don’t know the first thing about the works. The policy I pursue is to get aboard, prod the self-starter, and leave the rest to Nature.” ~ P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves!

***

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The type of road I learned to drive on.

 

“I bought a car.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but with those four little words my world tipped on its axis. It was just over a month until our wedding, and Mr. H was calling from England to let me know that after weeks of searching he had finally found a car he liked. After a decade of relying primarily on public transport he had once again taken the plunge into the expensive realm of car ownership. Since there would soon be two of us it was finally more cost-effective to own a car, and oh, such fun places we would travel to together. I could hardly wait. Continue reading

We Went to the Wilds

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

During my first winter here in the UK I had an interesting encounter with someone who had just returned after living in the United States for five years. She was having some difficulty readjusting to life in her native England, and a wistful expression clouded her features when she spoke of all the camping trips she and her husband had taken from their home base in Ohio, which had allowed them to experience up close many of the natural wonders in the US.

I felt a stirring of pride at hearing my homeland praised so highly, and in an effort to reciprocate and express my love for the UK I told her that my husband was planning to take me camping in the Lake District in August.

The woman’s wistful expression vanished in an instant to be replaced by one of disdain, and she shook her head in a sad, condoling manner. As gently as she could she leaned forward and confided,

“It isn’t the same.” Continue reading

It’s a Dog’s Life

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“If you eliminate smoking and gambling, you will be amazed to find that almost all an Englishman’s pleasures can be, and mostly are, shared by his dog.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

From time to time my friends and acquaintances have emailed me to ask questions about some of the differences I have found between life in the UK and life in the US. Since much of my blog-writing time is often spent dithering around trying to choose a topic to write about, I’ve decided to make life easier this time and address one of those questions, one which is near and dear to my heart.

Are there any differences in how pets are treated, and what species are treated as pets? Continue reading

Your Face Will Freeze Like That

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The back lanes of the Cotswolds.

When we were children we used to clamour for my grandmother to tell us tales of her childhood growing up in “the olden days” on the farm in Oklahoma. We were fascinated by a life so different from ours, in a time which seemed like something out of a history book rather than real life. My grandmother would oblige with stories about riding in Model T’s down irrigation ditches and sneaking watermelons by moonlight.  She also told us tales of that very peculiar creature known as the hoop snake. Continue reading