Monday, October 31, 2011

Something New: Week #4

Last week was Week # 4 of my Something New- ness. What did I pick? A couple of weeks ago I mentioned having seen the new Movie The Big Year. I really liked it. It's about birding. Birdwatching. Ornithological capers.

I think know I have always watched birds. In the air, on the ground, on the water, wherever. But I have never taken the time to write down a list of "seen" birds. So, here's this weekend's beginning list:

  • duck(s): Indian Runner
  • peacock(s): Black-shouldered
  • cattle egret
  • sparrow
  • hawk (with over 250 species included in the hawk family, I can only tell you it was not a red-tailed hawk.) This one was swooping onto a fieldmouse.
  • pigeon
  • cardinal
  • crow
  • turkey
  • mourning dove
  • killdeer
  • blue jay
  • downy or hairy woodpecker:

And I have already noted a date in April for hunting (with camera) for the rare sighting of whooping cranes only just down the road from us. No kidding!

I am excited.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Poem

A Dream of Autumn
by James Whitcomb Riley

Mellow hazes, lowly trailing
Over wood and meadow, veiling
Somber skies, with wildfowl sailing
Sailor-like to foreign lands;
And the north-wind overleaping
Summer's brink, and floodlike sweeping
Wrecks of roses where the weeping
Willows wring their helpless hands.

Flared, like Titan torches flinging
Flakes of flame and embers, springing
From the vale the trees stand swinging
In the moaning atmosphere;
While in dead'ning-lands the lowing
Of the cattle, sadder growing,
Fills the sense to overflowing
With the sorrow of the year.

Sorrowfully, yet the sweeter
Sings the brook in rippled meter
Under boughs that lithely teeter
Lorn birds, answering from the shores
Through the viny, shady-shiny
Interspaces, shot with tiny
Flying motes that fleck the winy
Wave-engraven sycamores.

Fields of ragged stubble, wrangled
With rank weeds, and shocks of tangled
Corn, with crests like rent plumes dangled
Over Harvest's battle-piain;
And the sudden whir and whistle
Of the quail that, like a missile,
Whizzes over thorn and thistle,
And, a missile, drops again.

Muffled voices, hid in thickets
Where the redbird stops to stick its
Ruddy beak betwixt the pickets
Of the truant's rustic trap;
And the sound of laughter ringing
Where, within the wild-vine swinging,
Climb Bacchante's schoolmates, flinging
Purple clusters in her lap.

Rich as wine, the sunset flashes
Round the tilted world, and dashes
Up the sloping west and splashes
Red foam over sky and sea--
Till my dream of Autumn, paling
In the splendor all-prevailing,
Like a sallow leaf goes sailing
Down the silence solemnly.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Great White Pumpkin

Back in May, my family began its most recent competition:
The Great White Pumpkin Contest.

I sent out an email this morning to the competitors,
and here are a few replies I have received so far:

We have a slight problem...
There is technically enough time to grow one batch, extract new seeds, and grow a second batch. Granted, they would be small... but we're after quantity right? Since these technically come from the same 10 seeds, I might be able to make a thousand pumpkins or more.
Do we need an extra rule?

I, and my class, have successfully kept ALL the seeds in the cup you gave them to me in….does that count?

I harvested and destroyed (trying to get more seeds) about 14 pumpkins (see attached).
However, I refused to shade my patch and relied on water instead (this killed the pumpkins).
I did have one plant revive itself from a root, but it has not produced any pumpkins and has also died (due to a freeze)
Unfortunately, I do not believe I am in the running, although I had a great time tracking my progress on the pumpkin blog (well, until the plants all died!)

That's nothing! I had squash bugs bigger than that.

I tied Brian.

I think my seeds got mixed up with Brian's. Brian, yours died.

I did witness several small, cute little pumkins on Brian's one remaining plant immediately after the freeze. I'm sure this would earn him extra credit.

Melinda, You have some great gardening skills.

She gets that from me.

Some of these are close enough to count as pumpkins, right??

I placed my pumpkin seeds underneath my pillow while I slept every night for months, and yet no pumpkins. This whole gardening thing is beyond me.

And there we have it: a season of family fun & games.
The Great White Valenciano Pumpkin Award will be announced Monday, October 31.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Places I Have Been:

I was reading a blog this afternoon about someone who might not be so thrilled about her family's move to Arizona. That got me to thinking about all my moves. I have lots of them!

Pryor, Oklahoma to Oklahoma State = good move

Oklahoma State to University of Connecticut = good move

Connecticut to Central Coast, California = trying move

Central Coast, California to Connecticut = good move

Connecticut to Cairo, Egypt = VERY trying, yet good move

Cairo, Egypt to East Lansing, Michigan = good move

East Lansing, Michigan to Oklahoma State University = GREAT MOVE!!!

Oklahoma State University to Kansas State University = meh

Sorry, Kansas folks. My heart bleeds orange. I really miss Orange Power and University Avenue. And I miss fresh the Connecticut autumn and seafood from both coasts and Egyptian foul and tameya and great MSU Friday Marching Band rehearsals. (the whole community comes out for these!)

As for rural Kansas? I love my neighbors, my Lutheran friends, our rural life. I miss my family tremendously. Who wants to drive 5 hours to nowhere? (Apparently, not many.) I hate the wind, I hate the dust, I hate the bugs. I love that our kids loved their late teen years here in rural Kansas. I love that our College Boy prefers to run on our country roads over the "city". I love that cyclists know where we live, and stop by for chats. I love (sort of) that everyone knows our comings and goings. That's good out here in the middle of nowhere. I love knowing the seasons of the farms and ranches. I know what's being planted in the field across the road, and I know what's being harvested as well. I know when the heifers south of us are calving, and when the ewes west of us are welcoming their little lambs. On any given night or early morn, I know the moon's position in the sky, any given week. I love that I can see the stars - I can see the stars and know exactly what time it is according to the stars. I know sunrise, and sunset.

And finally, after all my moves and all my observances: Home is where you hang your hat. Mine is hung here, and I have found the good in all things rural Kansas.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Yesterday morning, I set out on my run about an hour and a half after sunrise. The temperature was cold, and I felt good! I ran down the first road, turned east and ran further, first up a hill, then down into a shady draw, surrounded by trees. Suddenly a coyote ran out into the road, in front of me. It startled me. I startled it. I like to think I was scarier. Just to make sure, I started yelling at it as it ran across the road.

This morning at 6:30, it was still pitch dark outside. The river and creek coyotes began their yip-yip-howling. I stepped out onto the front porch, in the dark, and I felt like they had surrounded the house: the singing stretched from the creek east of our house, up north, and back behind the house, west. Three coyotes can sound like 300, so try to imagine the cacophony of joyful wild canines greeting the yet-to-rise sun.

On our drive home from church this morning, an animal could be seen up ahead, crossing the road. I slowed down, thinking it was either A) a very small deer B) a coyote C) a grounded pterodactyl.

It was none of the above. It was a large bobcat! That was a pretty fun sighting.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

12 Weeks of New: Week #3

Three weeks ago I wrote a post called 12 Weeks of New. I have completed my third week of learning or trying something new. In addition to running in new places (and you know what? Those 7.5 miles this morning weren't as difficult as they were last week, and especially five weeks ago. I am making progress...), and learning to cook a few Vietnamese dishes (just last night that Spouse o' Mine asked where the Vietnamese cuisine went...I think it was a success that will be revisited soon.), I have learned some horticultural doings this week, Week #3 in my departure from Rutsville.

Now that our pasture is horseless, I thought it might be fun to plant some lavender out there. Not over the whole area, although wowee - wouldn't that be beautiful? I ran my idea by that Spouse o' Mine, who has a PhD in Biosystems Engineering. He liked the idea, but suggested I start with a test plot. Good idea! (I am not great in the manual labor area, so maybe he is merely trying to placate me till I come up with another outstanding idea.)

Now, it would be very expensive to buy ~ 100 lavender plants next spring. I went online and studied several sites that discussed lavender propagation. They made it sound pretty simple. I called one of our local greenhouses, and spoke to a lady there who is in charge of
their lavender propagation. She was very kind to explain her procedures and experience. Hmmm...30% success rate? No wonder the plants cost so much.

I purchased some rooting powder (a rooting hormone), snipped a bunch of lavender stems off our existing plants, dipped them in rooting powder, and now, we wait.

In addition to the lavender, I have decided to try to propagate some roses and some salvia. It would be nice to have fourteen rose bushes instead of seven, and a perennially, salvia-lined front walk would be a dandy addition to the place. I have more lavender to work with at the moment. I am not sure if this group will take root, and I know I am supposed to keep the soil temperature at 70º. That's a difficult one: I don't even keep the house at 70º, much less some test twigs' soil!

In other gardening news, I planted 150 iris and daffodil bulbs out in my cutting garden last night. I am eager to see what it looks like next spring. That is in addition to the 40-odd iris bulbs I already have planted out there ( and the 7 rose bushes), and the 80 or so tulip bulbs I have planted out on the front walk.

In pastoralist news (new word in my vocabulary today, thank you, Gillian: must insert it here.), two of our young Indian Runners have begun laying eggs. In a few weeks, we should be collecting a baker's dozen each morning. I can perfect my

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Raven

I was reading this to my parents yesterday.
It's a LONG poem.
But good, nevertheless.

The Raven
by Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Gardenias: check!

Bougainvillea: check!

Jasmine: check!

Papyrus: check!

Oleander: check!

Passion flower: check!

Begonias: check!

Poinsettias: check!

Banana trees: check!

Pond fish: check!

OK, frost warning: I am ready.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Big Year

Yesterday I went to see The Big Year. It's a new movie starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Anjelica Huston, among others.

The story is about birders - those people who go out bird-watching with notebooks and binoculars. It has a very simple story line, and even shared some bird knowledge along the way. I enjoyed the movie! It received so-so ratings from the "film critics", but I rarely see eye-to-eye with them. Movie critics seem to throng to violence and loud noises and special effects. I lean more toward a happy story line and nobody getting bloodied. The Big Year is rated PG, and that was another good thing about it!

An interesting aside to this is that I can predict a rise in the birder interest after this movie has been out a few weeks. The actors make it seem pretty fun to travel hither & thither across the United States looking for bird species.

American Golden Plover

Pink-footed Goose

Bald Eagles

Saturday, October 15, 2011

12 Weeks of New: Week#2

This past week was the second in my 12 Weeks of New, in which I will try something new each week, from now till the end of the year. Instead of living in Rutsville, I will have learned or experienced something new each week. Week #1 saw me running in new places every day. That was fun and beneficial to the task at hand.

Week #2: Vietnamese Cuisine. This summer on my San Diego jaunt, I sampled Vietnamese food for the first time. I liked it! This week, I bought a Vietnamese cookbook and studied it. On Monday, Grad Student Gillian took me to one of her favorite haunts in Kansas City, an Asian grocery store in the depths of downtown. Now, I have shopped in Asian/International/Ethnic grocery stores since my days long ago in Egypt, and by my standards, this grocery was extensive. We spent a lot of time in there, perusing aisle-after-aisle of interesting foods and very interesting fresh produce. After I returned home to rural Kansas, I began practicing the Vietnamese cuisine in earnest. Some of the dishes I knocked out this week:

Pho Bo (probably the most common and popular soup: noodle soup with beef)

Hu tieu do bien (Rice noodle soup w/ shrimp & cuttlefish. This was a hit.)

Cha ca (Rice noodles w/ fish, peanuts & herbs)

Choa ga (Spicy chicken & rice porridge w/ lemongrass. Also good!)

Goim cai (Sweet & sour cabbage)

Goi du du (Green papaya salad) I wasn't taken by this, but others were. The fun thing is that I saved the papaya seeds. Maybe I will grow papayas in my grotto alongside the banana trees.

Tonight we are having more Hu tieu do bien, without the cuttlefish, but with little pork dumplings.

And so Vietnamese Cuisine has capped my Week #2 of 12 Weeks of New.

Stay tuned...

Friday, October 14, 2011


This evening we went to Yamato: the Drummer of Japan performance. What fun! It is a contemporary Japanese drum corps (I guess you would call them a drum corps.) I thoroughly enjoyed myself! If you have a chance to attend one of their performances, I certainly would try.

We asked Grad Student Gillian to order the tickets for us, and she got us seats in the 2nd row: perfect! We could see the up-close movement of each drummer, the dancing, the sweat, the eye contact between the group. It was so much fun to be this close.

The first thing I noticed when these 20-somethings bounded onto stage was how buff they all were - the men and the women. At intermission I read about their daily routine. They start their day with a 10K run (6.4 miles), and spend the rest of the morning in weightlifting and other conditioning. Afternoons are spent in rehearsal, and evenings are individual drum practices.

All the exercise is a small wonder, in that these performers are all over the stage, hauling their drums and dancing and coordinating everything in precision. Their drumsticks were not the traditional American sticks, but rather something akin to anything between a rolling pin and a baseball bat. The drums are as small as a snare drum, and as large as maybe twice the size of a bass drum. And the performers use small cymbals and a couple of stringed instruments for which I have not yet discovered the names. That's on tomorrow's to-do list.

I am amazed that these drummers could remember what to do and when to do it - switching drums, calling out (calling out what, I don't know - they're Japanese and I am not.) In music, one has measures and phrases and key signatures and more to give a musician cues as to where they are and to where they are going. Percussionists must have a different brain , because I could not perceive how this group could A) communicate, B) follow the lengthy and changing beats, and C) coordinate all the dance, the beats, the lugging of drums (allthewhile making it look totally effortless).

A good time was had by us all!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream...

Today was Cinnamon Roll Day!
Some went to our neighbors,
to thank them for the jars they supplied last week
for my plum sauce canning extravaganza.
(Sort of)

Ignore the dead bananas,
the persimmon,
and the lemon grass.
They will make a post, later on...
But, today was Cinnamon Roll Day!
(And I think they were good.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Art Clokey

Today's Google homepage (if you read this after Wed, Oct 12th, you will not see the link) was an animated tribute to Art Clokey on what would have been his 90th birthday (he died a year or so ago.) Who was Art Clokey?

Did anyone else spend hours playing with Gumby and Pokey? OK, OK, this was the 60s, and I had, as my mother has told me numerous times, a very active imagination, so when Santa (and yes, I truly imagined Santa and his sleigh. Yessirree. But I digress...) when Santa delivered me up a Gumby and a Pokey one Christmas, there were lots of adventures for this green Gumby and his orange pony, in my mind's eye. Which sort of takes me further back to a coloring book I got one Christmas, a Cowboy and Cowgirl coloring book. I spent so much time on each page: wondering what the cowboy was doing that day, where the cowgirl was riding that morning.


I guess if you give your kid a weird green figure and a weird orange pony and a coloring book, well, then, that kid is bound for amazing imagination and mind games. (My kids marvel that I can drive 20+ miles out of the way, completely lost in my thoughts. Well, maybe it was all because of Gumby & Pokey!)

So this Art Clokey? Kind of a sad upbringing. But he was successful in his art and creations, including Gumby and Pokey, art claymations, and films with such.

Just a part of my childhood.

Thanks, Santa.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Something New: Week 1

Last week commenced my 12 Weeks of New, in which I will try something new each week, from now till the end of the year. Instead of living in Ruttsville, I will have learned or experienced something new each week.

What new thing did I do last week? I had been running the two weeks prior to last. In that I wanted to keep my momentum going in the running world, last week I decided that each day I went running, I would pick a new route. I ran on the Konza Prairie, on the K-State campus, in Manhattan neighborhoods, and at the Wamego sport complex (different town). All the runs were fun! The Konza was beautiful, and other than two people perhaps a mile behind me, I had the prairie pretty much to myself. Running on campus and in town allowed me to see trees and falling leaves we don't have out here in the country.* The sport complex run was fun because there were lots of walkers and runners out there with me.

(*We did have a falling tree this week, though. Stories of the Kansas wind are not exaggerated.)
Woodpecker holes.
And,unfortunately, this tree-falling incident rendered the woodpecker homeless;
we discovered its nest in the crook of the fallen timber.

And so I awoke this morning, and I am ready to embark on 12 Weeks of New: Week Two...

Saturday, October 08, 2011


"I have to be alone very often. I'd be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That's how I refuel."
Audrey Hepburn

"I miss Saturday morning, rolling out of bed, not shaving, getting into my car with my girls, driving to the supermarket, squeezing the fruit, getting my car washed, taking walks."
Barack Obama

Later, in the early teens, I used to ride my bike every Saturday morning to the nearest airport, ten miles away, push airplanes in and out of the hangars, and clean up the hangars."
Alan Shepard

"On Saturday, I was a surgeon in South Africa, very little known. On Monday, I was world renowned."
Christiaan Barnard

"Saturday night is your big night. Everybody used to fry up fish and have one hell of a time. Find me playing till sunrise for 50 cents and a sandwich. And be glad of it. And they really liked the low-down blues."
Muddy Waters

Saturday nights! My Saturday nights are akin to a box of assorted chocolates: each one is great, each one is different from the last, and each one is temporarily satisfying.

This evening? I have lamb curry (Gulai Kambling) on the stove, for the 2nd night in a row; Grad Student Gillian came home for Fall Break, and thought it sounded GREAT! - Which, last night, it was, and so we will have an encore dinner tonight! Who doesn't love curry? And so I am concocting a 2nd serving of the good food.

Saturday for us usually include the morning cycling Pancake Ride. But this morning was windy and blah-de-blah-de-blah, and so that Spouse o' Mine and I opted out.

I spent my morning on the internet (because I was still hopped up on two - READ: TWO Benadryl tablets from the night before - one at dinnertime, and one at midnight...) and wasn't too clear about what I should be doing on this glorious autumn Saturday morning. Honestly, every year at this time I think, Gracious me, what is happening to my body?!!! The allergies I experience this month are, to me, horrendous. I want to take a bottle-brush and move it through from ear to ear, the allergy itching is so bad. And I am, this weekend, in horrendous mode. If I am taking TWO Benadryls in an evening, then I know my system is in disorder.

And here we are Saturday evening, Gulai Kambling, green beans, basmati rice, served. Football: on.
Me: in another room.
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