Raking in Life's Lessons

By Keith Fisher

I hate leaves. Well, In the spring when they turn green. In the summer, when the heat is beating down, perhaps I do like them. In the fall, however, I have to rake them.

I served a mission where hardwoods grow like Quaking Aspens, and Pine trees grow in Utah. I helped many folks rake the leaves into piles and watched them burn as we warmed our hands by the flame.

Now I live in Utah where the leaves hang onto the trees like someone had glued them on for some cruel joke. When a few leaves start falling, you tell yourself, I’ll wait until they all come down, then I’ll rake them.

Good strategy except in Utah, we can’t burn the piles, and it usually takes a storm to get the leaves off the trees. By then, it’s too late. Remember the glue I mentioned above? When a storm knocks them down, the glue sticks the leaves to ground to the point where you almost need a power rake to get them off the grass. Then they go into the compost pile.

On my mission, I noticed the kids would come running to our piles and fall into them. Kind of like jumping on a mattress. It’s just something you have to do.

I noticed something while watching those kids. There were three kinds of piles, and three kinds of effects caused by jumping into those piles. First was the fluffy, just raked pile that provided the most joy to the jumper. This pile had cushion. The jumper had nothing to fear from the fall. You could almost hear the whoosh, as leaves flew into the air and floated down on top of the giggling jumper.

We would have to chase the jumper away and start again, raking the leaves back into a pile. The second kind of pile had new leaves on top of a previously started pile. The old leaves had time to settle into an almost solid mass. Especially if there was a storm before all the leaves fell. This pile was kind of fun, but landing was harder. Leaves would scatter, but the jumper didn’t need chasing after hitting the hard layer.

The third pile was kind of dangerous. It usually had sticks and branches mixed in with the fresh leaves. Sometimes a few rocks got picked up in the raking. If a jumper wasn’t careful, he/she’d land on one of the sharp ends of a stick and the fun ended abruptly.

Going through life is a lot like the leaves. We are all jumpers seeking fluffy piles of new leaves. When we see a pile, we know that if we don’t hurry, someone will beat us to the pile, and there is nothing worse than landing on other jumpers. Or worse, to catch the blame for jumping on the pile, after someone else messed it up.

So we run along, throwing caution to the wind, and we land on the second kind of pile. It almost knocks the wind out of us, but isn’t too bad. At least we got to see some leaves fly. We get back up, and go looking for another pile.

The game continues until we, inevitably, find the third kind of pile. A stick draws a little blood, and we don’t even notice if the leaves flew or not. We usually curse, and blame the person raking the leaves. It’s never our fault. After all, they made that pile look so good, just like a fluffy pile. Why wouldn’t we jump into it?

The secret to all this can be found in the way we go about out jumping. We could use a little caution and check out the pile before we jump, or we could offer to help rake the leaves. If we make our own piles, we can jump into them knowing exactly where the leaves came from. And the work gets done that much faster.

After the leaves are raked and the piles are burning, we can pat each other on the back for a job well done and remember the magical whoosh when we landed in that perfect pile, the one we made ourselves.

Don’t forget start something cooking in a Dutch oven before you get started. You can serve your helpers when it’s finished, and next time, it’ll be easier to get help. (If you cook, they will come).

Return to the Neighborhood.


Wonderful Winter

By Keith Fisher

I have a friend at work who loves the stormy weather of winter. He celebrates when it rains, and he’s ecstatic when it snows. He actually hates warm air and sunshine. I have another friend who thinks of sitting by a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate during stormy days.

We all take comfort in one way or other when winter weather sets in. Just think, we have only thirty-seven more shopping days till Christmas, and don’t forget the fun of shopping on the day after thanksgiving. I can take comfort in putting the lawn mower away, and pulling the snow shovels out. We had rain all day yesterday and I write this as I watch the clouds roll in for another storm. Perhaps we’ll get snow this time.

It was with this in mind that I thought of posting a recipe and calling it Winter Stew. With a wild hair I typed it into Google and guess what. I got 2,310,000 results. I went to the first one and found this great recipe. It originally called for cooking it in a crock-pot, but we cook outdoors, we don’t use crock-pots. I adapted it. Hope you like it.

Remember, no matter what the weather does, we can always learn to play board games with our family this winter. Better yet, teach them to cook in Dutch ovens. Then you can hold your own family cook off next summer.


1 lb. turkey kielbasa sliced into angled ½ inch pieces
1 cup celery chopped into ½ inch pieces(add celery leaves as well)
2 ½ cups all purpose potatoes chopped into ½ inch wedges
1 cup carrots chopped
½ cup green zucchini chopped
½ cup yellow squash chopped
½ cup chopped onion
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tapioca
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoons spicy mustard
1 tablespoon honey mustard
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon sweet basil
1 teaspoon minced onion
2 teaspoon ground pepper

Combine all ingredients into 12-inch Dutch oven and cook with 9 coals on the bottom and 12 on top until simmering. When coals are spent, add fresh ones continue the process for four hours or until done.

Originally submitted by: Tommy Lusignan

Return to the Neighborhood.