Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I was sitting outside just now, awaiting the moonrise.  I am learning all about my new camera and its possibilities and limitations.  The nice thing about digital cameras?  Instant gratification.  The GREAT thing about digital cameras?  You get "lesson learned", immediately.  The lens, the focus, the settings, blah blah blah.

Anyway - I am having a fun independent study in photography.  I did not wait for the moonrise, because I was hoping it would do so simultaneously with the glorious sunset and all-over sky hues: certainly a watercolorist's thrill.  It did not, and so I did not.

Here's what I enjoyed, however:

 Yep, Happy Halloween from Wabaunsee County, Kansas.

Here's a GREAT photo from the Lawrence (KS) Library:
And so, there we have it; Halloween.  Yippee!  Hoo-hah!

I have really nice memories of Halloween with our kids.  Funny costumes and whatnot.  The one year that stands out in my mind?  I wasn't even there.  That Spouse o' Mine and I took a business trip to Germany, and my parents took over in our absence. 

When we returned, son Graham, about five,  pulled me aside and whispered, "Mom.  I can read!"

And he could!!!  In the short time I was gone, my mother had taught that kid how to decipher letters, phonemes, and whatever it takes.   The boy was READING!!!

We were thrilled He was thrilled. 
Ah!  Life with family.  Life with generations...SUCH a blessing.

Just now?  On my porch?  A small bird flew in and perched not too far from me.  That's unusual.  But then: I heard the call:

An owl is hunting this early evening.  Hoo-hoo-hoo-hooo-oooh. Unmistakeable.  And he is in our yard.  No doubt looking for field mice or pack rats.  Nevertheless, I will haul in our three cats.

Nature.  Love it.  Hate it.. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mother Nature

An earthquake, a full moon, a hurricane, rain, wind, snow, drought.

It's been a full week and it's only Monday.

Daughter Claire and huz Rich are safe, albeit wet, in Richmond.  Making pizza, even.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


It is past nine o'clock in the evening, and I just asked that Spouse o' Mine if the dogs were in the yard - which they should not be - they should be in the Dog Yard.  He asked why I thought they were "out".  I replied that I heard a large noise outside, as if something approximately 120 lbs were standing on the cellar door just outside my study window.  He likes to do that, the Bloodhound.  He likes to step onto the cellar door and peer in to see me at the computer.  He knows, just knows, that I am at my desk here in the early morning hours, and so I assume that he must check the late evening hours as well, when he is AWOL from his Dog Yard.  Bad, curious dog.

But then, the noisy noise which I thought was emanating from the cellar door kept coming.  And coming.  And coming.  Pound!  Boom!  Pound!  Boom!

Finally, I called to that Spouse o' Mine and said, "Never mind.  It's Fort Riley."

"Ah." he replied.  He is so calm, under siege.

And that's been our story for ten years now.  Bombing day, I call it.  (Or bombing night.)  I think the correct lingo is Artillery Practice.  I am not sure what all the word ARTILLERY entails.  I just know that our house is 28 miles from Ft. Riley proper, and the bombing days sometimes sound like we are under siege in our pasture.  Just now!  My study windows shook from the bombing noise.

 This is not upsetting to me at all, except for the misconception that the Bloodhound is out and standing, looking in on me from the cellar door.  Yes, when we first moved here to rural Kansas, the first afternoon, I heard thunder and kept looking into the clear blue, cloudless sky, to see just WHERE the storm was appearing.

No storm.

Only bombing day.

I have learned.

But still, every once in a while I pause and think about those humans who hear this and know that it is life or death.  For them, it's not a Bloodhound on the cellar door.

And that makes me sad.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday: Still Life?

This morning, 26º outside, that Spouse o' Mine and I walked down our road to the neighbors', as did other neighbors along the way.  We were there to help them pack to "move house".  (Isn't that how they say it somewhere other than here, in the U.S.A.?)

Pack house we did.  Sad to see these good neighbors go; good neighbors are so comfortable. One can call them in a twit.  I once walked down the road a piece to a rural neighbor, and sat on her porch a spell, all alone, unbeknownst to her, (I told her later), because I needed some breathing room from some houseguests.  (You "houseguests" that read this blog?  It's none of you.  So there - come back and visit some more.)  I felt comfortable enough to sit and ponder sanity on her porch.  That's a good neighbor.

After the morning's packing, the sun was out and it was a vibrant 41º.  That Spouse o' Mine headed out for a group ride (cycling) after lunch, and I headed out for a 5-mile walk around our section.  (Most country sections are 4 miles, but somehow the survey made ours into 5 miles.)

I came home, rested a bit, and then took our two pups down for a romp to our creek - about 45 minutes of canine adventuring.  Upon our return I picked  - yes!  more tomatoes! - and came indoors for the evening.

And now, I am EXHAUSTED.

It feels great.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Inner Fires

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. ~ Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965)

I recall my third grade teacher, Mrs. Haught, taught us about Albert Schweizer.  Mrs. Haught also taught us about Mahatma Ghandi.  She had us memorize Luke 2:1-14.  We prayed every morning, we saluted the American flag and said the Pledge of Allegiance. 

I'm not sure I even had an inner fire until I was in Mrs. Haught's class.

I know each and every one of us has experienced the acquaintances that have ignited flames in our lives.  How eloquent, Mr. Schweitzer.   

Someone who helped me in college, in newlywed life, young motherhood...empty-nesthood...

Someone who, by my casual observation, jump-started my religious life.  My creative life.  My  athletic life.

 Flames, flames...

Today I received word that one of my favorite teachers, appropriately nicknamed Happy, has passed away.  She was someone who ignited my inner fire.  She was so positive, so happy.  (But note: to me, she was never anything but Mrs. Davenport.  Not Lovis, not "Happy".  Always Mrs. Davenport.)

So let me back up a bit:

Have I ever been one of those encounters which kindled a burst of flames in another's inner spirit, someone's inner fire?

I don't know.

Maybe I should dwell on this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Autumn Bottom

This evening I picked around 50 red tomatoes in the Darwinian Garden.  And tonight's helping of collard greens.  Last night's green was kale; it's been an every-other-night affair w/ our garden greens, and we have been LOVING it!  (I tell people: think of kale and collard greens as the bottle brushes of your innards.)

This whole week I have been venturing out every-other-evening and picking ~ 72 red tomatoes.  (I know this, because my African woven basket holds ~ 72 large tomatoes.)  I have been freezing most of them whole, but today I made some more tomato sauce for winter's whatever.  I called a few neighbors to share our wealth.  One tried to barter OFF her peppers, but I declined.  We still have oodles of peppers, and I have made a mental note:  Garden 2013: ONE zucchini, and TWO pepper plants.  I eat about two fresh tomatoes every afternoon, because, let me tell you, there is nothing better than a garden-fresh tomato, minutes from the vine and still warm from the sun.  One of our neighbors was down the other day, and I handed her one, and she rightly bit into it just like an apple.  These garden treats are what I miss in the coming dark months! 

Today's high was mid-80s.  Such an anomaly for a Kansan October.  Yet: in two days, the low is forecast to be 26º.   Now, that's more like it!  Note to self: Must groom the XC Ski Pasture this week...

Our church is having an Autumnal Potluck this weekend.  I am planning to take fresh (red) tomatoes and mozzarella slices, and a green tomato/feta salad I discovered this summer, which, believe it or not, it is quite yummy.  

Wabaunsee Book Club is tomorrow night.  I have not attended in eleven months.  I was the person who instigated this rural book club ten years ago, upon my arrival in this neighborhood.  I think I shall go tomorrow.  Probably half the members will have no clue who I am...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Break!

We had another of my nieces come to visit this past weekend.  Jenny was on her Fall Break from school, where she teaches Kindergarten.  Jenny lives in Oklahoma, and was so wonderful to drive the ~5 hours up here to rural Kansas to visit us.

(Doesn't she look like a young Meryl Streep?  We shouldn't mention, but that duck shat upon her just as this photo was taken.  I think Meryl Streep would have been JUST as photogenic in such a situation.)

We enjoyed Kansas City, lunching and shopping with Gillian, and Ethiopian cuisine.  A walk down to the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church (Google it).  Bike riding to the local cemetery where the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic victims were first laid.  (Google it.), feeding (and holding) ducks.  A Saturday night Lutheran church service for the Methodist girl.  And sh was game for a 4:30 am reveille to go outside and watch the meteor shower in the rural night sky.  (This was really pretty!)   Discussing politics and history and books and painting and quilting and...the list goes on and on.

Thank you, Niece Jenny, for spending your Fall Break in Wabaunsee County!

~ Auntie Tricia  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FOX News and Idiots

Let's vote already, OK?

I am so tired of the insipid press.  The media. The twists and turns and posturing and the lack of integrity that the press has burrowed into.

Paul Ryan showed up at a soup kitchen to do dishes with his family.  Yay, Paul Ryan!

Wait: the pots and pans were already clean.  He was washing clean pots and pans.  FOUL!

After the VP debate last week, a couple of female FOX news employees (do I call them newscasters? journalists?  Idiots?)  were quoted (by me, after watching them in their glory) ranting about the debate, and specifically (and not politically, mind you), about Joe Biden:

"I think it was a HUGE Turn-off..."

"Say that you're in your're thinking you'd like to date again, if you wanna know exactly how to turn off a woman, watch that debate last night and follow Biden's lead."

OK, I am thinking politically these weeks, not lookin' for a mate or a date. (I have a pretty good one.)  Why would FOX News put these women employees up to chat like this?   And, MORE IMPORTANTLY, why would those so-hungry-for-air-time women allow themselves to stoop SO LOW as to do this air time?  Honestly, women!  Listen to your ignorant television moment, and imagine Walter Cronkite uttering the same inane paragraphs about a female candidate.        

It would sound like this (in a bass voice):

"I think it was a HUGE Turn-off..."

"Say that you're in your're thinking you'd like to date again, if you wanna know exactly how to turn off a man, watch that debate last night and follow this woman's lead."

Yes.  Get it? 

I get it. I hope you do.

I am reading the records of the men in this race.  Their past.  Their education.  Their "resumes", so to speak.  Isn't that how one employs an employee?

But the press and how these guys try to play it?  

There are so many ways I would change the rules & regulations of an American Presidential election:

I'd start by disallowing campaigning ~ 18 months in advance.  
I would disallow corporate sponsors of Presidential debates.   
I would limit the amount of money used in a campaign.  (Personally?  I'd throw in the balance, a candidate's ability to campaign on less money than more.  But, this would weigh less than the candidate's REAL Presidential potential.) 

I am sure I could add more, and I probably will in the next four weeks.

Call me vexed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Grab My Brush!

This morning I drove down seven miles of country road.  I was listening to someone's piano sonata on the radio -I do not know whose, but it was nice and light.  I pulled over to watch two hawks doing a mating dance in the sky, and I marveled - absolutely marveled, at the autumn countryside.

Just what happened between yesterday and today?

Before I climbed into my car this morning, I got a phone call from that Spouse o' Mine, who was driving his 15 miles in to work.  He just called me to remark on how pretty the countryside was this morning.  

He got that right (AND: he's colorblind!)

The yellows are lemon and banana, and egg-yolk.  The orangey-reds are persimmon and cherry.  The leaves on the trees are amazing.  No one around here was optimistic about fall foliage, given the months of heat and drought we experienced this spring and summer.  We all just wanted to cry, "Uncle!"

As I crested one of the Flint Hills, the color of the south morning horizon was a tremendous purple, which suddenly met with a happy sky-blue.

Certainly: a watercolor morning.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Autumn Evening

It's overcast, 
feeling coolish outdoors, 
and the dark is coming early tonight.  

Here's our autumn menu this evening:

grilled lamb chops
roast beets
 onions roasted in balsamic sauce
roast garlic potatoes
bread pudding

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Tonight is daughter Gillian's last night here.  She is cooking Japanese for us! 

A quick recap:  Gillian finished her MA in Curatorial Studies in May.  In June, she left for parts Far East, to travel and teach in the Tibetan area of China.  From there, she headed back to Seattle, Breckenridge, and Richmond (VA), and then, in August, rural Kansas. 

(Whoop tie-doo.  Welcome back to rural Kansas, dearie.)

Through all this, she has sent out many a job application, and a job offer appeared not two weeks ago!

She swooped on the job offer, found an apartment, and tomorrow morning, she is headed to Kansas City for her first day at her "career" job, and moving into her apartment.  Yay, Gillian!

Gillian will have her own space - a great improvement, so she says, over her college years of living and dealing with roommates.  (Hmmm...maybe... - OK - I will not go there.  Just know that Gillian is an immaculate housekeeper, and I am not?)   

While Gillian was patiently awaiting her time in the kitchen this evening, the dishwasher repairman was visiting us for the third time in as many weeks, to repair my dishwasher.

I LOVE my dishwasher.  It is really, really quiet.  It cleans dishes CLEAN.  (I should send this blog to the Bosch people.) Such a conundrum, our repairman was frazzled.  But TONIGHT!!  He found the problem, and Bosch dishwasher is repaired, and that makes my kitchen livelihood appear SO MUCH ROSIER.

Sayanora, repairman.

Sayanora, my daughter.  Here's looking at a tremendous career.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Media Trending

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal recently which discussed the cost of "smart phones" (am I supposed to put that in quotation marks, or is it just: smart phones?)  It describes how families are having to cut back on other areas of their lives in order to afford their smart phones and the monthly service.  One woman who was interviewed told how she and her husband had cut out going to restaurants and evening entertainment in order to budget for their smart phone plans. She said that she watched two television shows each day on her smart phone, and that was costly.

That's where the whole article lost me.

The whole aspect of budgeting, smart phones (we have none), and whatever else this WSJ writer was writing on: lost.  I got stuck on this lady watching television on her phone.

A two-inch screen?

Wasn't it just a few years ago (greater than two, less than ten) that EVERYONE who had any finger on the pulse of trends and technology purchased at least one big-screen TV?  (Once again, we Armstrongs missed that trend.) 

So, I am wondering: if one has a big-screen, and a two-inch screen...

It doesn't even merit the question.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Playing Possum

In addition to the coyotes circling our pasture every pre-dawn morning, this weekend's cold snap has made an impetus for bringing outdoor cats indoors at bedtime.  Last night before bed, I headed out the back door, into the dark, into our grotto, to fetch one of the errant kitties.

I spied him scuttling across the mulched garden and under one of the Adirondacks.  I stepped off the porch towards him, to scoop him up in my arms and to bring him into the house for nighttime safety.

I stopped short.

Just barely short enough:

It was a little possum. 
Scared to death at the human calling, "MacArthur!  Come here!" at him.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


Egon Schiele was a protégé of Gustav Klimt.  
I like Klimt's works.  
I like this painting by Herr Schiele:  

Four Trees

Friday, October 05, 2012

Friday: Outdoor Day

The weather folk are forecasting 31º tonight, and 25º tomorrow night.  Yikes!  I mean, Yippee!  This means summer is over.  Officially, no more uncomfortable sweat, dried up gardens, grasshoppers the size of a giant chili pepper, and such.  It was a pretty miserable summer.

So what does the forecast mean?  Well, to our farming neighbors, it means harvest is at hand: soybeans.  To our ranching neighbors, it means calves are being birthed.  To our North Dakota friends, it means harvesting sugar beets to the beat of the falling snow.  REALLY?!  To me, it means cover up the geraniums and bring the in bananas and bromeliads.  And the orchids.  Ok, ok, haul in the passion fruit, the bougainvillaeas, the amaryllis, and the peace lilies.  Oh!  I discovered four hyacynth which are shooting up shoots again.  What's that about?  I thought "forced" bulbs were tantamount to duds the following year.  But here they are...sprouting as if it were March all over again.  Stay tuned a few months on this story...

I took old sheets out to the Darwinian Garden this evening.  Darwinism would say that the tomato season is over.  But, I contend, there are still hundreds of pretty good-sized tomatoes out there, and yes, I have a dandy green tomato recipe, but if I could eek out just a few more days or a week's worth of sunshine, we could still be hauling in the red things.

I covered my second round of pumpkins: yes! I planted pumpkin seeds in August, and the blooms are there: if they don't freeze, we may STILL have pumpkin pie for T'giving instead of pumpkin ice cream in July.  (After all: these ARE New England Pie Pumpkins!)

Gillian & I had a delicious and garden-fresh lunch this afternoon:
Salad of you-name-it greens out of the garden, not ten minutes beforehand: lettuce, collard, kale, horseradish, and nasturtiums. And a nice butternut squash ravioli.  And kalamata olive bread.

That Spouse o' Mine is out of town.  Tonight I cautioned him that our household will be in disarray upon his return.  (but...when is it not?)   Gillian is gainfully employed at a museum, having completed her Masters and scooted off to China for the summer, and now she has been back home (to our house) briefly, and BAM!  She has a job, and an apartment, and all things Gillian are now front and center in the household, awaiting the week of moving, just a few days from now.

Exciting time for her.  I remember those days in my own youth!

Thursday, October 04, 2012


I got a phone call from the College Boy yesterday.

I miss his reflections on all things political, athletic, religious, and fun.

This summer we (he & I ) would discuss news and politics and sports and arts and books and nature and environment and...and...and...

I miss my son.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

News of the Day

Last week I heard that there would be a significant shortage of bacon in the coming year.  I find it fascinating that there are people out there who are gauging the supply and demand of bacon.

This morning, I listened to a piece on NPR about apple harvest in the Pacific Northwest.  This is interesting to me, because we know people in the apple business out in Washington.  This year is slated to be a banner year in apple production in Washington.  Not in other "apple" regions of our nation.  Michigan's fruit growers took a major hit this year in all things fruit, because there was a very mild winter in Michigan last year.  It was so mild that the apple trees and cherry trees blossomed early.  And after the blossoming, came as many as 27 frosts and freezes, which effectively froze the fragile blossoms.  If you recall your high school biology, the blossoms are where the fruit develops:  No blossoms, no fruit.  

The problem the apple growers are experiencing in Washington this month is that they do not have nearly enough apple pickers to harvest their banner crop.  There is a brief window of time during which apples can be picked during apple season.  It's much like any fruit season - get the fruit picked and sent in to the packing houses before the fruit is over-ripe, before it falls off the trees, while it's still in its "crisp" stage, etc.  And apple picking is very difficult manual labor: climbing ladders while balancing and filling an apple sack (which can weigh ~ 40 lbs).  Injuries occur every apple and cherry season.  For decades, apple picking has been a job which few (if any) Americans are willing to apply for.  The job has traditionally (again, for DECADES), gone to our neighbors to the south: the Mexican migrant workers.  I have visited apple and cherry orchards during their seasons, and the language spoken out in the trees is Spanish.  Not English.  This year, the need is for more apple pickers than in past years, and the migrant workers are just not there.  So the apple growers are looking at a hardship: any apples which are not harvested in a timely manner go on to become applesauce and apple juice - not as much return in those two.

Anyway, heed my warning: get ready to substitute your bacon craving for...applesauce?

And here is an interesting note about that Spouse o' Mine, that few people outside of my parents know: two decades ago he developed an "instrumented sphere", or IS, which, as the name suggests, is a sphere (read: ball) which can be made the size of an egg, an apple, a kid's brain, or whatever.  This IS can be used in such practices as harvest and post-harvest handling of fruit, e.g., apples.  This IS would be dropped from an apple tree, such as an apple would be, into the picker's sack, and then poured from the picker's sack into the bushel basket, and from there, the truck, and from there, to the packing line at the packing house (look up Stemilt for a really BIG packing house in Washington).  After all this travelling, one could retrieve the IS, which really is a teeny, tiny computer, and plug it in to a larger computer, and it would give the grower all the harvest/post-harvest information regarding where the IS (or apple) received its worst damage.  In this way, the orchard growers could/can improve their practices and operations to get a better yield of healthy fruit.  His IS has also been used by folks such as Dole (pineapple) and helmet manufacturers.  The helmet people used an IS inside a model of a skull to show how/where the greater impact(s) on a brain could be in a cycling accident.

Huh.  Some folk think he is just an expert on NIR spectroscopy.

The other news which has caught my attention today is the Presidential debate this evening. The debate will consist of questions for which the candidates have two minutes to reply.  Two minutes is not much, and yet what I was reading was saying that the average American will not have the attention span to assimilate the discussions.


I admit, I will have a difficult time assessing what information the candidates give is REALLY information (none?), and which is, as one reporter termed, "Dodgeball".  But the suggestion that the average American will not have the attention span to assimilate the discussions...that got MY ATTENTION!!.  Immediately, I thought of Sesame Street, some 30+ years ago, and how they constructed their kiddy show to have only 2-3 minute blurbs, because they felt that it was the amount of time kids have to process material.

So, I ask: now that the Sesame Street generation has come full circle: can we not focus on something more than soundbites?  Is this as well as the Sesame Street generation can cope?

By the way: I am not political, in any way, shape or form.  I have thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, to be sure.  But I hate politics.  I will end this by saying that I think the real problem is not our President Obama, but the bi-partisan Congress.  If they can't get together for our good, then we should vote each and every one of them OUT.

And that is all the news I have to discuss today.
~ T.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Hu-aaah! (That's What the Soldiers Say)

Today I went to listen to a lecture given by General Martin Dempsey, who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: our nation's highest-ranking military officer.

 It was an hour well-spent.  There were parts of the lecture which I did not understand, military lingo and such, (and this is why I go to these lectures at K-State: I come back home and research that about which I am not well-read or well-versed.  This lecture was no different.)  I did enjoy listening to him.  He has spent ~ 38 years in the military.  He is married to his high school sweetheart, who has followed him around the world on his military tours: years living abroad, and I doubt that the Rive Gauche was included in those tours.

After his lecture, he had a Q & A session.  I always love listening to these, because I know I am not at all capable of quick-thinking-all-verbal-hands-on-deck.  (I am not a Bill Clinton fan, but I was AMAZED at his ability to parry any and all questions thrown at him when he came to K-State a few years ago.  That man is intelligent.)  General Dempsey was wise and funny.  And he was very compassionate when the widow of one young war veteran came forward to ask how the military was addressing the sad fact of post-tramatic stress disorder, and its sometime result of suicide.

There were hundreds of military in our midst this morning, and they received three standing ovations from the audience present to listen to Gen. Dempsey.  K-State is smack-dab in-between Ft. Leavenworth and Ft. Riley, and we here witness and personally appreciate the good and the difficult of military life.  Sometimes the press seems to gloss over what our military's lives are like.  Let me introduce a great Facebook link to the 1st Infantry Division: The Big Red One .  This link shows the day-to-day activities of Ft. Riley's Big Red One.

Ok.  Enough about Kansas' military.

It is autumn.  The leaves are changing and falling, and there are fruit flies hovering my wine glass.    
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