Monday, September 30, 2013

Pros and Cons

The Senate, the House, the Senate, the House.  All we hear about tonight is the passing (or lack thereof) of the federal budget.  It affects us all.  Come midnight, it might affect us Armstrongs more personally than others.  That Spouse o' Mine is a federal employee.  If the House and Senate do not get their acts together before midnight, then that Spouse o' Mine will go to work tomorrow for four hours (unpaid), to shut down all the USDA offices and labs.  And research.  (How does one shut down research on tse tse flies?)

For the scientists who work alongside him in his department, this is...not good.  Time is money, and time is what makes research flow.

If he is home tomorrow/this week/whatever, it means we can get some home work done: Let's finish up the house painting!  (That's a pro-)  Let's take a day trip!  (That's a pro-)  Let's get some other tasks done around the property! (That's a pro-)  Let's take some bike rides!  (That's a pro-)

But...wait a minute.

You mean, all the senators and all the representatives are getting paid tomorrow/this week/whatever, despite their inability to knuckle down and put partisan blinders on, and solve the problem at hand?  They're getting paid?  For what?  My husband is doing his job, and doing it well.  He works long hours, and sometimes even on weekends and in the wee hours of the mornings and way late at night, if the research calls for it.  And this "time off" this week?  No, it's not paid time off.  It's just time off.

I am disappointed with those folks we voted to go to Washington.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Daughter Gillian now lives on Cape Cod. 
 A year ago she spent the summer in China, and in part, taught English to children at a Tibetan monastery.  I am sharing daughter Gillian's blog today:

Answers, Anyone?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I have two drafts saved on this blog - two things I have written about in the past few days but still want to "tweak" them.  They have to do with corn, and soybeans, and tse tse flies, and sterilizing the tse tse flies.  And Dengue Fever.  And Sleeping Sickness.  Maybe mosquitos, as well?  Hmmm...

Ha!  Stay tuned, I guess.

For this evening, I will simply describe the day of a homeowner of a 120-year old farmhouse, and its surrounding acreage.

The Paint the House saga continues.  We began painting the exterior of our house back in unseasonably-cool June, and we continued on into July.  We hit a wall, however, in August, and add to that my Cape Cod Runaway, and suffice to say, we still have some scraping and painting to get done.  My goal is to have it done before the leaves fall (and they are beginning to!), so that the neighbors might ooh and ah over our new house colors.  (From cream and burgundy trim, to Atlantic blue with white trim.  And yes - the burgundy-to-white is taking up a lot of time and attention, thank you very much.)  One can't really see our house in the summer because of all our trees.  But in autumn, all privacy is lost!  I sure don't want to have a bi-colored house popping into the midst.   I want this HUGE task completed.

It was so nice and cool last night and again this morning, I hauled out a ladder and scampered up to paint the windows on the west side of our house.  Window trim, window trim...such a delicate nonsense.  This morning I had started on yet another window, when all of the 120-year old glazing began falling to the ground.  What the heck?!!

One step forward, two steps back.

I called that Spouse o' Mine:  "What is that stuff called that holds the window pane in the frame?!"  "Window glazing."  And our conversation proceeded, where I go to purchase, how I apply, how long, blah-de-blah-de-blah.

My attention span, that of a gnat's, immediate went from the phone call to him, to that ridiculous mountain of cedar tree remnants out in the pasture.  Ughhhhhhh.  This is such a long diatribe.

I hate cedar trees.  They stink, they make me sneeze and make my throat itch, my hands break out in itchy bumps if I touch them, they attract (so I've read) over-wintering ticks, and apple blights, and so on and so on...

We have too many on our property.  This weekend I was out attempting to mend some fence line, but there was a huge cedar blocking my attempts.  Cedars either A) Grow where planted (this is a problem, in that that Spouse o' Mine planted a windbreak of them a few years back, or B) Grow where birds sit on fence lines and poop whatever cedar things they have ingested, and UP! there grows a cedar tree.  Both A and B are lose/lose in my books.

That Spouse o' Mine wandered out to my meager attempts to mend fence, and we agreed: the cedar had to go.  Yippee!  And double yippee!  He was happy to do it.  Saints be praised.

But wait.  Not so fast.  Let me backtrack, to  three weeks ago.  I had asked a neighbor of ours, an older, semi-retired farmer type, if the next time he had his plow hooked up to his tractor, (meaning anytime in the next twelve months), would he mind plowing me a swath of land on our small acreage?  (I'm talking 50 yards - maybe two laps with the tractor.)  And true to his kindness, our neighbor was out only a few days later, plowing up the strip of land.  So kind!  And he took no money: "We're neighbors.  That's what neighbors do," he stated VERY matter-of-factly.  (So fast-forward to this week, when we cut down a century-old elm, and he asked for the wood for winter: YES!  Please take it. That's what neighbors do.  {Even though I had pegged those logs for seating around a future fire pit.  Oh, well.})

Leap forward again to the cedar felling.  Where did the limbs and trimming go?  No, no.  Not onto the flatbed trailer which would then be driven to the far end of the property, near the creek, where we have already established a "burn pile".  The cedar tree and all its itchiness landed right onto the strip of freshly-plowed earth.  Where I intend to plant my two-year old lavender plants.

Sheesh.  Sometimes in marriage, it's easier and better just to LET IT GO.

So this morning, after my window glazing postponement, I hitched up the flatbed, and spent three hours picking up and hauling, and dumping cedar remnants.

By 12:00 noon, I had done my house painting and my cedar transport, and was back indoors, calling the rancher neighbors and researching fence: welded fence, woven wire, and all things in-between.

That's next on the agenda.


Friday, September 20, 2013


Here's a video that shows us what we've all imagined:

Click here!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Well, sort of wordless; a little caption, perhaps?
This is daughter Gillian with her Uncle Bob, in the Aircam:

The Aircam:

Saturday, September 14, 2013


I am not a football fan.  I don't know the rules.  That Spouse o' Mine does not enjoy my watching games with him.  "Ooh!"  "WOWEEEE!"  "Ouch! Why do they DO that?!" and so on.  It's best I go in the other room and read a book, or pick up some stitching and ignore the TV.

But I do LOVE halftime.

Give me a marching band and I am a happy girl.  Halftimes and parades...I love them both!  Yesterday I stopped by the K-State marching band's Friday rehearsal - their last before today's game.  I climbed up to the top of the bleachers and sat in the afternoon sun, watching and listening. Although I was in marching band in high school, it was never a passion.  That I don't know right from left was problematic.  The camaraderie was fun, but that's about it.  Now, my father was a band director for many years.  (He became high school principal and later, assistant superintendent of the school system, and so I never got to enjoy him as a teacher, although three of my siblings did.)  It was those years when I accompanied his bands to football games and parades, that I really learned to appreciate good marching bands.

A good marching band comes about by practice, practice, practice.  Repetition, repetition, repetition.  And that's what the K-State band did yesterday.  But, they are good!  There was one incident, involving a sousaphone player.  I didn't catch the actual happening, but I saw him walking to the sidelines holding his nose with one hand, and his broken sousaphone in the other.  A few moments later, the K-State director announced into his speaker thing (in my day, a few decades ago, it was a megaphone, but now it is very small and not handheld, and there were four people wearing these things, so I had a difficult time comprehending who was talking at any given time - the director down on the field, the assistant director up top with me, or one of the drum majors?) , that "PERCUSSION AND SOUSAPHONES HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY!!  NO ONE STEPS IN FRONT OF THE PERCUSSION OR SOUSAPHONES!  WE HAVE A PLAYER WITH A BROKEN NOSE AND A BROKEN SOUSAPHONE BECAUSE SOMEONE RAN ITO HIM!!!"

And sure enough, there were students on the sidelines trying to rig up the sousaphone with zip ties and white athletic tape.  (It did not work.)

Today is Band Day, which means K-State hosts high school bands from around the state, and this means that all the bands perform in a pregame parade, and again at halftime.  College Boy Graham and I went to view the parade.  I love a parade!

There were large marching bands, and small bands.  Smallest: a seven-man marching band from out in western Kansas.  And there was also a nine-man marching band in the parade.  I really appreciate the effort that their band director and school system put forth to make this day happen for those kids.  How exciting to be able to play with all those marching bands, AND the university marching band, both in a parade and during halftime at a college game!

At some point during the parade I looked up to the sky and exclaimed to Graham, "Lookie there!  A drone!"  And it was!  Graham explained to me that K-State has a drone program, and one of the people he worked with in his internship this summer is part of the drone program as well.  Interesting!  This drone was photographing the parade.  It did give me pause for just one brief moment, how it might feel to see a drone when one is NOT watching a happy parade, but involved in some military skirmish somewhere mid-east of us.  Shudder.

The K-State band marched by, and they are terrific!  Purple twirlers, flags, and poms, and then the woodwinds, rows and rows of brass: trumpets and trombones, and then the sousaphones.  All the brass are silver!  That is, one sousaphone on the end of the last row, which was white.  Heh heh: the guy with the broken sousaphone and broken nose: he got a rookie substitute for the day.

A very good parade!  And I leave you with this quick view of a marching band - I don't know whose, but I appreciate all the steps the players must have made to make this scene possible.  (They would have flunked me in a blink of an eye.)


Thursday, September 12, 2013


That Spouse o' Mine presented me with an interesting task this week, which I have yet to complete.  "Go out and count all the trees and shrubs on our property.  Make a list of each type and variety."  You may think this sounds like a cowman giving his hyperactive Aussie Shepherd a job just because it always "needs" a job, or it finds trouble, but I think this sounds like terrific fun!  (Ok, ok, maybe that Spouse o' Mine sees a major project (i.e., trouble) being mulled over in my mind...and he doesn't want to have any part in it; who knows?)  In any event, we have 15 acres of all sorts of flora and fauna, and so I have me a project to complete before autumn when all my horticultural clues will fall to the ground.

The last time I undertook a task such as this (of my own accord, about five years ago), I counted all the trees that we had planted since our move here to rural Kansas.  In that the Spouse o' mine was born in South Dakota (read: flat and ...tree-less?) and was then raised in Australia (read: tropical rain forest?), he had a drive to plant and plant and plant trees, just as his father did some fifty years ago, to make his property better for us, and really, REALLY better for the next generations.  (By the way: tree-count then: 63.)

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."  ~Martin Luther

Conditions for survival of any kind here in rural Kansas call for tough-a-bility.  Horrid wind, triple-digit heat, double-digit sub-zeros, grasshoppers, tornadoes, hail, floods, fires.  It's like a natural disaster free-for-all of Biblical proportions, some years.

One fun activity I have taken up, and I have written about this before, is my acorn collection.  I don't think people realize how easy it is to plant an acorn and acquire an oak tree by means of a little water and diligence.  I have Capitol Hill oak trees.  On my last visit to daughter Gillian's on Cape Cod, she handed over a treasure: Central Park (Manhattan) acorns!  I am very excited to plant those guys.  I will have my own Central Park lane, right here in the Tall Grass Prairie of Kansas!  And also, when we went to do our Ocean Spray visit, what did they have lining their long drive to corporate headquarters?  Oak trees!  And what did Gillian do?  Quietly swoop down and grab some acorns on our walk out to the cranberry bogs.

Oh, and by the way...I pronounce them a-kerns.  Like they were meant to be called.

This week the cicadas have been positively deafening in the evenings.  For me, it's a love-hate aural sensation.  Somewhere in my head it signals deep, deep summer, with its dinners on the grill, and bike ridesand gorgeous pre-dawn walks.  But as soon as I walk indoors, my mind thinks, "My gosh!!!  That was a lot of racket, hey?!"

Speaking of trees, (we were), tonight I made an apple cake with apples from our orchard, with a salted caramel frosting.  We have too many apples.  Back when we had horses, that was never a problem...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Time. Again.

I have a new wristwatch.  I lost my other one weeks and weeks ago, and have been drifting...

But now!  It is so exciting; I am once again in analog time!

I can hardly contain myself.

Tick tock, tick tock...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's Time

Here it is, a week after Labor Day.  White pants and white shoes packed away, school buses seen driving down the lane in meager sunrise shadows, the universities have begun their fall semesters. was 103ยบ yesterday.  What the heck?!  Where's autumn?  I spent the day watering every crispy-looking plant outdoors this morning.  25 mph winds in this temperature have a way of browning the edges of everything in one measly afternoon.

After weeks of looking at our bedroom, thinking, "This isn't working for us.", I attacked every nook and cranny of our not-palatial master bedroom, and threw everything but the four pieces of furniture out into the living room or mudroom.  And I started with a tabula rasa: a blank slate.

I collected too many little-worn pairs of shoes to mention, which are now bound for Goodwill.  (This, after my epiphany this spring that my feet are much more comfortable in size 8 than size 7.5.  Too bad, because I love my shoes!)  I am sick and tired of summer, and summer duds, and so most of them, too, have been sent away, upstairs to the art room closet.  (Which IS palatial.)  I polished my leather winter boots (because I can feel it!  Snow is just around the corner!).  I still have some bits and pieces to deal with in the bedroom, but I feel like I did a lion's share of home improvement in there today.

Several people have asked me recently when College Boy Graham was heading back to school.  In that Western Washington does not start until Sep 25th, I replied, "Oh, in about two weeks, I think."  Tonight when he came home from work I asked him.

"I think I will leave on Monday."

"Monday?  In 6 days?"

"Yes.  The 16th."

"But...I'm not mentally prepared.  I'm not sure I can be in 6 days."


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Duckling Chronicles, cont'd: The Runt

I went outdoors this afternoon to take photos of the ducklings, who are about three weeks old now.  But as I stepped outside, a plane flew overhead.  Several ducks looked up to view, and I caught a photo of the large "Mama" duck doing just that:
She is the only duck that is not an Indian Runner.  She is much larger and looks much fatter, and only waddles, like normal ducks do.  (Indian Runners do just that: run like crazy, in a tight group, like a school of crazed fish.)  If you were to pick up the "Mama" duck, you would think she was made purely of down - she is as light as a feather!

OK - on to the ducklings.  There are twelve, and they are growing every day.  All...but one: the little runt.  As College Boy Graham described the little guy - "He's painfully cute - he is so small."  The other eleven ducklings hatched of their own accord, and two days later, there were three unhatched eggs left in our incubator. Two were deemed nonviable (i.e., dead ducks), but one had chipped a bit of his shell open, but the progression had stopped.  I finally decided to do some hatching of my own that afternoon, and lo & behold, out came a teeny, tiny little duckling, much weaker than his incubator mates.  After 48 hours or so, I put him in with his by-now larger and very active teammates.  And ever since, this little guy has lagged behind in development and behavior.

 Here he is lined up to take a drink in the water pan.  The other ducklings have learned to hop in for a little swim.  Little guy can't jump in on his own, he is too small.
I think there are some developmental delays in this little guy's thinking, too.  He cannot keep up with the other ducklings as they run around the yard in a tight group.  He is most often left behind, and resorts to "peep-peep-peeping" in a distress call out to his teammates.  Part of this is a physical problem - he simple cannot run as fast as them.  But also, I often see him running the opposite direction from his gang.  Maybe isolating him for two days made his imprinting skills null and void?  I do not know.  I figured it was either isolate him, or let the bigger ducklings trample him.

Notice, the little guy wandering off from the fold.  He has already begun his distress peeping when I took this photo:

 Sigh.  You just have to love the underdog...

Monday, September 02, 2013

Cranberry Biz

This was one facet of my travel to Massachusetts: 
Ocean Spray has cranberry bogs.  (You know: Craisins?)  We have fruit-testing instruments that the cranberry folk are curious about.  So I packed three instruments into the car and off we went: to the Ocean Spray cranberry headquarters.  Interesting, and fun!

It was a rainy day...very appropriate for bog investigation: 
(That Spouse o' Mine and daughter Gillian)
The cranberries are just beginning to turn their seasonal red color.  In about three weeks, the cranberry season (harvest) begins.  This bog is one of many in the acreage surrounding the Ocean Spray headquarters.  The ground on the bog (across the ditch, here) is really quite spongey.  It is decades-old, built-up peat.   I did not take a photo, but the cranberries are thick - about 1-3 every square inch of the peat bog.
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