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A berry, berry tasty season is finally upon us!

If you can ignore the clouds of yellow pollen -- or at least pretend they don't exist -- it's a great time of the year.

And that's especially true if you like to eat.

If you hadn't already noticed, strawberries are coming in -- and getting sweeter by the day -- and a lot of other early spring crops are becoming available.

Asparagus is here -- and while not everyone is a fan -- those of us who love it better start grabbing it because it doesn't last long. It's great steamed, sauted and even grilled, plus it's supposed to be healthy.

If you've been suffering a bad case of cabin fever, the best cure we've found is to find all the fresh vegetables you can in coming weeks and dine your way to a better attitude!

And, here's a suggestion: Avoid those California and Florida strawberries and grab some fresh off the vine from local growers who have been carefully tending the plants since last October.

All that attention -- plus a big dose of Carolina sunshine -- make for some really sweet, really tasty treats.

While you're at it, you might pencil in Friday, May 3. That's the date of the annual Strawberry Festival in Louisburg, a very brief little event that begins about 10:30 a.m. and is usually over by about noon.

It's held in the Shannon Village Shopping Center at the Franklin County Farmers Market and also includes a recipe competition for adults and youth. If you like to cook, the rules and entry forms for the recipe competition are available at the Cooperative Extension office in Louisburg or at their website, http://franklin.ces.ncsu.edu/

Even if you're not interested in the recipe contest, there will be fresh strawberries for sale as well as some free strawberry ice cream.

If you doubt my contention that local berries are far better than those that have been hauled for 3,000 miles, I dare you to stop by and test my theory. Your taste buds will thank you, I promise!

Time for a fix!

But as the weather and, potentially our diets, get better, I suspect many of you are as sick of what is going on in Washington as I am.

We can't fix all of it, certainly, but one simple, common sense change might go a long way toward eliminating such controversy in the future.

My first suggestion is another requirement for any person running for President of the United States. Currently, all we require is that they be a natural born citizen and of a certain age.

I propose making it absolutely mandatory that they release to the public at least the last five years of their federal income tax returns, in full, with no redactions.

The reason is simple. The person we choose will not only be the leader of the free world, he or she will also have the nuclear codes that can decide the fate of all mankind. That's a very big deal.

Look at it this way, if you try to borrow money at a bank these days, the bankers are not at all shy about demanding to see your tax returns -- and most of us comply without question.

In any race for president, the question is not about their financial net worth -- or how much they make -- but more about where the money comes from and who they may be beholden to through business interests, loans, mortgages and assorted other financial dealings that are today shrouded in mystery.

Look, this isn't new.

Maybe you remember reading about the Teapot Dome scandal from the 1920s which bears a resemblance to what we are seeing today.

And, of course, most of us have long heard the observation that "those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."

That quote is most likely from writer and philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952), and in its original form it read, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

It's reasonable to suggest that we have forgotten the past -- the Teapot Dome scandal -- and are dangerously close to repeating.

The Teapot Dome mess was a bribery scandal involving the administration of President Warren G. Harding and some of his top advisors who used their influence and positions to make huge amounts of money.

In their case, the issue was oil (isn't it often about oil?) and the special prosecutor (yes, there was one then, too) probed the case for years.

Eventually four criminal cases were filed and one of the results was that the Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall was found guilty of having accepted a bribe while acting in his official capacity. The prosecutors made a strong argument that the evidence showed "the criminal intent of Fall to make money out of his position of trust and honor," and the jury agreed.

Does this sound even remotely similar to what may be going on today?

Fall was sentenced to a year in jail and to pay a fine of $100,000. His appeal was denied on June 6, 1931, and he was sent to the New Mexico State Penitentiary.

Amazingly, although Fall was found guilty of accepting bribes, no one was ever convicted of paying those bribes.

The scandal further damaged the already sketchy reputation of the Harding administration, but it was action by the Congress that touches us even today.

Congress passed legislation, enduring to this day, giving subpoena power to the House and Senate for review of tax records of any U.S. citizen without regard to elected or appointed position, nor subject to White House interference.

That is part of the basis of efforts by Congress to get access to President Donald Trump's tax returns, an effort being strongly resisted by Trump and his attorneys, even though he pledged to release his tax returns while he was running for office.

The fact is that most, if not all, presidents since the 1920s scandals have released their tax returns as a matter of course -- and those help provide voters a better look at the candidate before casting their votes.

But if this is going to be a controversial issue again, perhaps we need new, much more forceful legislation requiring that those insightful tax returns be released at the time a candidate files to run for the nation's highest office.

That would provide us voters with important information about how a candidate behaves and who he might be beholden to -- and in this day of a global economy, knowing the answers to those questions could be vitally important.

Plus, it would avoid the controversy that we're all enduring over Trump's tax returns, a controversy that has been ongoing for more than two years and has diverted the attention of both the administration and the nation from far more pressing concerns.

I say we learn from history -- now that we've had at least two history lessons nearly 100 years apart -- and demand full financial disclosures from all candidates from all parties and political persuasions before we even consider them for the most important office in our nation -- and the world!

And by the way, if you think the investigation of Donald Trump has dragged on forever, consider that the special prosecutors appointed by President Calvin Coolidge spent more than six years working on the Teapot Dome scandal!

They're back

The hummingbirds have returned!

Our first sighting was around 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, in greater Metropolitan Mapleville.

It was a lone male, probably a "scout" who hit the feeder and refueled quickly.

Hopefully, there will be many behind him helping ensure a summer of entertainment in return for a few quarts of sugar water. That's a pretty good investment, in my book.

Hummers are fascinating little critters and their aerial antics are fun to watch as they flit from trees to feeders to flowers -- and wherever else they decide to go.
Their speed and agility are amazing.

If you've not tried to attract humming birds before, all you need is a simple feeder -- hint, glass bottles are usually easier than plastic to clean -- and a little sugar.

The recipe is one part sugar to four parts water -- and you may need to warm the mixture a little to get all the sugar to completely dissolve.

When the mixture is cool, fill the feeder, hang it in a visible place and sit back and wait. It usually doesn't take them long to find the feeders, especially if you have the kinds of flowers around your yard that they find to their liking.

Then, just keep the feeders well cleaned and filled all summer -- until at least mid-September or so -- and enjoy the show.

My late cohort Asher Johnson got us started feeding the little aerial acrobats many years ago and it has been become an annual rite of spring around our house.

Try it.

It's one of the joys of living in the country!

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April 20, 2019 at 11:05am
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