Friday, November 29, 2013


It's that sound, that anticipation, that one feels on a roller coaster: the roller coaster clickety-climbs,...and climbs...and climbs...

The anticipation: "Omigosh, when will we go?  When will it go down?  When will it speed around the corner and fly out of control?"

And before we know it - off we go!  Into an amazing launch (for some) of hilarious ups, downs, fores, afts, leans, to and fro.   And for some, an amazing launch of stomach-queezing, long-enduring, brain-squeezing hours and days.

Hooray!  (for the former folk, anyway...)

Holiday season!

And for the latter?

So sorry.  The New Year is just around the corner, though.  Peace be with you.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Early this morning I headed outdoors to do what needed doing: hauling water to animals in the 11º temperature.  Feeding same.  Admiring the frost on the hayfield, and the pastels in the predawn sky.    

I heard a strange commotion across the way, in the direction of the river.  The Kansas River flows just north of us, not even a mile away.  This morning it sounded like traffic was flowing across the water.


Ah!  It's that time of year!  The geese migration!  From a distance, all you hear is cacophony.  Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of geese.

And add to this, the crème  on top of my aural pâte:  a big old bald eagle, circling above and then beyond me.

I love this time of year.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

19th, 20th and the New Millenium

I have a flashlight tucked into the back pocket of my cords.  Outside, it's an ice storm of sorts.  Our electricity has gone off twice this evening.

The first time, I was on the phone to daughter Gillian on Cape Cod.  (She may soon experience Cape Cod winter outages; take note, Dearie.)  The power went off, I bid adieu to Gillian so that I could scrounge around for some candles and a flashlight or two.  (And save my cell phone in the event of a prolonged-outage.)  Funny, in the Spring time (i.e., tornado season), I always had two flashlights hanging on the basement doorknobs.  And these two are dandy: they are wind-up flashlights.  So (in theory, I know, especially since they are MADE IN CHINA), these bode well for horrific, catastrophic tornado problems.  But for some reason, they are missing from the basement doorknobs tonight.

Must make a note to self.

That Spouse o' Mine asked me from the darkness of the living room, "Where are those candles we used this summer?!"  I thought he meant a bundle of new and unused candles I had purchased and had tucked away somewhere.  Where, now, I had now clue, no clue at all.  What HE meant, apparently, was this: where were the candles we used all summer when we opted to dine al fresco out on the front patio, at the wrought iron table, with the delightful windbreak of the new addition to shield us from the summer tempest?

I went through the house looking for the bag of new, unused candles.  (I finally found them in our bedroom. Why there, I haven't a clue.)  He finally found his idea of candles - guess where? - at the wrought iron table, with the delightful windbreak of the new addition to shield us from the summer tempest.  I hadn't moved them.  I guess I just thought we might have a mild day in November and need some outdoor evening atmosphere.

Or, we two are slackers in the household management biz.

I think it's the latter.

Nevertheless, by Round Two of no electricity this evening, I had rounded up beautiful candelabra and also some stumpy scented candles (which, really, I do not like, they make me wheeze...), and we had candlelight in every room and bathroom downstairs.

It really was pretty.

Round One of no power saw me thinking...thinking...thinking... (because it was already dark at 6:00-ish.)...What will we do this evening?  (I had already opted out of my book club meeting, due to ice, although the topic was Alice Munro, this year's Nobel Prize winner in literature.  And let me tell you, I have SOoo enjoyed her short stories.)

A dark house and candles were remindful of anything I have read about Abraham Lincoln.  Dearie me: we shall have to read by candle light.  And then I moved on to games.  Card games?  Chess?  Backgammon?  (That Spouse o' Mine and I, back in Newlywed Days living in Egypt, used to play amazing hours of backgammon.  I think it was an escape, looking back...)

One of the first episodes in Season One of Downton Abbey shows one of the housemaids building a morning fire in the dark.  She complains about the brightness of the new electric lights in the house - she won't turn them on.  

Well.  Here I am now, in the new millenium complete with electrical power, and dinner is on the stove.  A propane stove.  A funny thing, this: the stove has an electric ignition to start the-then propane power source. What the heck?!

I am going to cut this to the chase:

I have computer capabilities this evening.
I have a functioning stove: propane, albeit, needing electricity.
The propane heat (two separate entities) is on.
Our cell phones are charged.

OK: That's the New Millenium.

Candle light, (pre-ca 1900)
Darkness fun & games, (pre-ca 1900)
Flashlights, (ca 1900)
Electricity, (1900s)

And so we have it.  We, as a family, still require the 1900s non-technology to get through an evening.

And you know what?

I love the candelabra in the living room.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Brain! My Brain!

I regularly read Louis Plummer's blog The Chattering Crow.  Recently she wrote about Luminosity, the website which touts games to retain one's brain life as one ages.  I had visited the site once, and after reading her blog entry, I was reminded about the site.  (OK, it already does not bode well for my brain, if I have already visited a "brain" site, but don't recall it until I read another blog about said site.)

Here's what I wrote in a comment to Louis Plummer's blog entry:

"I am 53 and in serious trouble.  I went to Luminosity this morning.  I have only been to this site one other time.  I forgot my login email, and my password.  Luminosity cheered me on:  'You're doing great!  Almost there!'

I played a Find the Grackle and Remember the Number game.  I earned four cards, to make a heron.  Then I wondered if I needed to remember that it was a heron that I earned?  Was this a trap?  As I was musing this possibility, I missed the next two turns.  And then i earned a card with 1/4 of a white bird's head.  What kind of bird is that, I wondered.  Oops.  Missed another turn.  Earned a card on next turn.  Was that a goose?  A bald eagle?  I successfully earned all four cards to reveal an albatross.  That made my mine go to Samuel Coleridge... "

So, today.  I did a 7.5 mile walk/run.  (I walk till I feel like running, and then run till I feel like walking.)  As I was out on this jaunt, I noticed, most of all, the clouds.  So pretty!  The sky was the blue that makes one want to see the Mediterranean.

And the mackerel-sky clouds were layered, perhaps every 3000'.  I went to a church ladies' meeting this afternoon (Lydia Circle) during which we went around discussing blessings of the day.  I described the clouds on my extended walk, and finished by saying that people on LSD probably enjoy that same view.  I am not sure how that came into my head, but I opened my mouth and out popped the words.

After Lydia Circle I headed back home to rural Kansas to finish out my day.  Nearly home, along our rural highway, I spied two large-ish bovine (bull or steer, I don't know which, but surely large) out on the highway.  Seconds before, an on-coming semi had braked to a halt.  No one wants to hit a cow.  I knew who to call (I have all our surrounding ranchers on speed dial on my cell phone.)

Ring, ring.  "Hi, Trish."  "Hi, Joe.  How are you?"  "I am fine.  How are you?"  "I am just fine, thank you very much.  You have two cows out ...blahblahblah", as I gave the precise directions.

Here's the funny.  I spent part of my morning yesterday determining in my memory where the !&*#@! grackles were in the Luminosity game, and here I am, a day later, playing "Where Exactly are the Bulls?" with a rancher neighbor.

He asked, "Are they in the grass?"  I thought.  And thought.  "Well, they WERE on the highway." (What grass?!)  "Now they're in the ditch.  Is there anything I can do?  But I don't want to get out of my car.  They are kicking their heels up and feeling frisky."

I heard him sigh.  No, he'd be down in a few minutes.  At this point, the semi had passed, the bovine were in the ditch, and I was headed back home.

Rural Kansas.  Luminosity.

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Millennium Population

I looked at a photo of a teeny, tiny newborn today - the son of an acquaintance, born across yonder Big Pond just this week.  The photo is exquisite.  No silly frou frou or bows or backdrops or anything.  Just a great photo of this babe's face.  I was mesmerized.  I could look at this photo for hours and hours, pondering his baby-ness, and his wise elder-hood, some many decades from now.  What will he learn in Third Grade? And as a Senior in High School, what will he know about technology?  And history?  About friendship and trust? And religion?

This kid is indeed a tabula rasa (blank slate).  What his parents and elders lay upon him is great.  I hope they fulfill him with Nature.  Humor.  Creativity.  My plan would be lots of Christianity.

His tiny closed eyes: I hope they open wide to the nature around him, and he holds that dear and close.  I hope he looks behind him for lessons, and forward to improvement of his life and of this world.  I hope this little tyke embraces all the changes that, perhaps, I will not ever know.  In 1903, the Wright Brother made their first "powered' flight .  (They had gliders going way earlier than the "powered" airplane.)  And fast-forward into our new millennium, there are reaches to Mars.  Imagine that.  My childhood embraced the Moon Walk.

And so, I look at this babe, this photo, and think: "I will never know."

Such a great thing, babes.


A serviceman from our area was killed in Afghanistan last week.  Three hundred people put up 1600 flags in his honor yesterday, for his funeral.  Sgt. 1st Class Forrest Robertson was 35.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Own Harvest

The forecast is a low of 15º tonight, and more of the same tomorrow night.  Time to address the autumn garden.  This morning I went out and picked the bok choy, the butter lettuce, collard greens, and half of the French radishes.  Boy, I hope we really, REALLY like French radishes, because we have enough to keep us going though Thanksgiving and Christmas, and well into the New Year.

I kept the fennel, cilantro, and dill in place.  Someday I'd like to have a huge cold frame, but in the meantime, I will utilize sheets and plastic, and see how far I can extend their season.  

 Volunteer birdhouse gourds.  Beau the Bloodhound picks one off daily to play with.

This is not a game of Peekaboo, but rather a moment of "Who Trusts Whom".

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Have Mercy: Adjectives Needed

So, we have been painting This Old House for several months now.  There was a hiatus in August for travel and summer heat hoo-hah.  Really, we are pretty-much done.  What's left is the tippy-top dormer, and for that, we (That Spouse o' Mine and I) will don mountain climbing harnesses, attached to the stairwell indoors.  (Snicker if you must.  This plan was mine approximately eight months ago, and it was, too, met with snickers, if not outright guffaws.  And we are...donning our gay apparel) and finish off the fun, fun task of old house husbandry.

Yesterday, Friday, I awoke with a bundle of energy and transported it to the outbuilding we affectionately refer to as the Bike Barn. The Bike Barn houses bicycles.  It was perhaps once the 1887 tiny cabin used by the Civil War soldier who was deeded this plot of land, while he built his actual's a guess.  (The outbuilding is better than a smokehouse, better than a chicken house, and better than anything else we can come up with.)   Enough said. I thought to myself: I can knock this one off on my own, in a day or two!  (Yay for mental cheerleading.)  I proceeded to paint the west side and the north side of this outbuilding.  I even managed some artfully-applied trim work.  Yay for me.  Right?

And yesterday evening, that Spouse o' Mine came home from work, poured himself a glass of wine, and headed out to the Bike Barn to do whatever needs doing in a Bike Barn before a weekend of cycling.  I had cleaned up and had started dinner.  He came in later.

I asked, "So, what do you think?"

"About what?"

"The bike barn?"

"What about it?"

"The color?"

OK, this went on a few more queries until I told him I had painted the Bike Barn - from cream with burgundy trim, to faint blue with white trim.  The guy saw nothing.  NOTHING at all.

Please note: house, and left of house (south, actually), the bike barn in cream and burgundy.
OK.  I am sort of in awe, sort of smug.  Kind of worried.

But then, let's fast-forward to this morning, Saturday morning.  I am showered and getting dressed for a meeting. I grab some socks (I think) and my black loafers.  On the living room sofa, talking to that Spouse o' Mine as I pull on  a sock and a shoe, I remark, "Where's my other sock?"  I thrash around the sofa, looking for the other mate.  What the heck?!  I walk back into our bedroom, and trace my movement from the bedroom through the bathroom and into the living room.  No sock.  What a conundrum.  Finally, and let me tell you how embarrassing this is...

The other sock, I had already put on my other foot.  You guys are ready to commit me now, aren't you?

Sad, sad state of affairs.  I can't believe I am admitting this tale.

He is colorblind and clueless, and I am simply clueless.  No excuses on my part.

So sad, so sad.

So glad we love each other.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Look Deeper.

In my last post I alluded to the use of science and math in agricultural and horticultural practices.  What's involved, you may ask?  Well, lots more than what we, as consumers, ponder in the produce aisle looking at the apple bin.

We live in rural Kansas, and we are surrounded by farms and ranches.  Lots of corn and wheat and soybean.  Sorghum, too.  (Although around here, they say milo.  Potato, potahto.)  Science, science, science.  County extension people keep abreast of what's going on in fields, and work with farmers to anticipate the good and the hardships.  Then, there are topics such as breeds of grain.  Timing of fertilizing.  Spraying of pesticides.  Blister beetles and grasshoppers.  Say, what makes a good soybean?

Our neighbors AI (artificially inseminate) some of their herds of cattle, and they ultrasound their cows.  Science technology!  And there is a whole science to which most people are not privy: grasses, legumes, what to bale, when and how large?  Silage?  Anyone have a recipe for that?

Crop rotations: Corn, then soybeans and wheat, then sugarbeets.  Why does a rotation of wheat and sugarbeets produce better yields than, say, soybeans and sugar beets?  Science will tell you.  And the matters of seeding row width and rates certainly are subjects for your favorite word problems.  

Cranberry season is in full swing in New England and the Pacific Northwest, as I write.  Orchard growers in the Southern Hemisphere are gearing up for their cherry season in the next month.

Apple season is nearing its end up in the Pacific Northwest.  Apple pickers, most often migrant workers, have made their way from south to north, and will continue on up through part of Canada, picking apples.  The apples are gently dropped into canvas bags slung over their shoulders.  From there, the apples go to baskets, which are then deposited into trucks.  The apple trucks take the harvest to packing houses which dot the orchard-filled landscape.  And then what?  Well, there is a huge industry of quality control.  Science and math, math and science.  Apples are sorted and graded.  They are shipped all over the United States, and all over the world.  Apples that don't make the cut applesauce.  How do they keep the apples fresh?  Controlled atmosphere: (CA).  CA is a process which controls the oxygen level, the temperature, and humidity in huge packing-houses filled with thousands of boxes of apples.  Math and science, science and math.  How do they keep all those apples from bruising?  Research in postharvest handling, again: science and math, math and science.  Things like sending an instrumented sphere (a round ball with a computer in it), through the entire trip along with apples being picked and packed and stored, from the tree, into the migrant worker's bag, into the basket, then the truck, and into the packing house.  Then someone can take the IS (instrumented sphere) and hook it up to a desktop, and see the results: at what point in harvest does the fruit suffer the most damage?   Then they can improve whatever needs improving in their practice.

So you see, there is so much to think about the next time you grab that bag of potatoes, or that 100% cotton shirt.  It's a fun thing to look into, science and math and horticulture and agriculture.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

In the 'hood:

This afternoon's activity across the road:
Folks, this is a really huge combine, cutting the corn.  (The machine on the left.)  I wish I could tell you the hocus-pocus of what goes on with the combine, but I might be inaccurate.  Ah, well, here's what I THINK goes on.  (Disclaimer: I am not a farmer.)  I think the header of the combine takes the stalks and cuts them, and the cobs of corn are taken in.  I think the leftover cornstalks are used as forage for cows in the winter. That's a win-win.  From there, it is more hocus-pocus as to how the corn kernels are separated from the cobs.  And what happens to the cobs??  Happily, corn is filling the grain bin on the combine (the machine on the left.)  After two laps (my vocabulary; I am sure farmers use a different lingo) in the cornfield, there is a tractor pulling a grain cart which pulls up in front of the really huge combine.  They work alongside each other briefly, the combine harvesting and the tractor hauling:

Eventually the tractor's grain bin is full, the combine's bin is ready to re-fill.  And so the tractor takes its grain over to one of two semi trailer trucks, and augers the grain into their containers.

When the semi trailers are full of corn kernels, they can either make their way slowly down the road, approximately  six miles, to the local grain elevator.  There, the semi is weighed, with the corn in the back.  And then the semi driver dumps the corn, and the semi is re-weighed.  That's how the elevators gauge the corn amount.   Or, the semi trailers can make their way slowly to the farmer's own grain bins ("on-farm storage"), and then the farmer can decide the whats and whens and wheres with the grain.

It is always mesmerizing to watch the farming activity here in rural Kansas.  Season-to-season, we witness a business of which other folk may have no clue.  Disking, (or plowing and then disking), fertilizing, planting, spraying, and then harvest.  Prayers for rain or for no rain, or maybe a smidge of rain. Hoping for snow, hoping for no snow, worrying about hail, and drought, and omigoodness.  Farmers are closer to nature than anyone could claim to be.  Plus, they embrace science and technology.

So!  These are the people in my neighborhood...(Mr. Rogers...yes?)

And our cats?  Yes!  They are harvesting as well.  It is kind of unsettling to see how many field mice are being "harvested", now that their food source has been removed.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Naggy-Nag I am a Nagger

Honestly.  Has anyone out there in blogland actively supported this (in my opinion) God-forsaken TIME CHANGE?!  Really?

I have never, EVER heard one person exclaim the virtues of moving the clock one hour earlier or one hour later.  It just messes us all up.  EVERY SIX MONTHS, IT MESSES US ALL UP.

Every six months, we all complain and grind our teeth and go through the cyclical motions.  And yet, as lemmings, we do it.  Well, most of us do it.  Hawaii does not observe the time changes.  (Bravo!!)  Arizona, save for the Navajo Nation, does not observe the time changes.  (Bravo!!)  But the rest of us in these united states do.

If I could, I would instigate the change of two things post-haste:


Oops.  And now I am on another tangent.  From time changes to the National Anthem.  How does my mind work???

2) Say, how about we change the National Anthem to something more peaceful.  
Instead of :
Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

How about we change it to:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

And that's all I have this evening.  Except this evening's dinner menu.  Think Southern:  Grits, collard greens, and fried eggs.

Saturday, November 02, 2013


I got a call from my mother this morning.  She wanted to know where I was.  Not in the physical sense - she wanted to know why I had not been writing on this blog.  (I could ask her the same thing: she used to write, and now she does not.  But that mother doesn't necessarily listen to this daughter when it comes to her writing and her painting...)

But I listen to her, and so I am back at the desk, writing as I begin dinner preparations, as has been my practice for many, many evenings.

I am happy to report that the leaves have begun to fall, and the exterior house painting is being seen to completion.  My goal at the beginning of this exercise in home husbandry was to have the painting DONE by the time the leaves fell.  And, we only have the final dormer to finish.  As soon as the rain stops long enough to let the roof shingles dry, we two (that Spouse o' Mine and I) can don our mountain climbing harnesses (last used when that Spouse o' Mine and College Boy Graham summited Mt. Rainier) and climb out on the roof (are you reading this, Mom?) and finish.  He, on the final wood dormers, and me, completing the artfully-applied trim work.  So happy to see this months-long task in the rear view mirror.

But now, ah!  We seem to have begun another fun chapter in House Husbandry.  Mind you, painting the exterior of this old house was not on my 2013TheBigYear list I wrote this list somewhere on this blog last year.  (And now I cannot find it.)  Suffice to say, I told that Spouse o' Mine last December that this old house was in dire need of attention (built back in the 1880's).  And my theory was, twelve months ago, that if we accomplished one measly thing each week this year, well, then, we were on the merry road to this wife being happy.  Something like that...

We're so far off course now, I suppose anything goes.  Apparently we are tackling windows and storm windows and repairs and replacements.  Yes, yes, this is good.  But it's not on my 2013TheBigYear list! We're supposed to be installing porch handrails and railings.   Addressing the front walk.  Putting a new light fixture upstairs in the Commons.  French doors in the old living room...

Well.  We have done lots to the interior.  Pretty glass doorknobs all around.

This was/is my project: first, acquiring antique glass doorknobs and locksets and plates.  And then, installing them.  I have most of them in, but there are a couple that still do not function as well as I would like.  (I was explaining to my Dad the other day how I had managed to shut myself up in an upstairs bedroom multiple times one afternoon, each time necessitating completely disassembling the doorknobs and lockset.  Ugh.)

There are many, many, MANY things yet to do to see 2013TheBigYear to completion.  Honestly, it's going to be a sequel: 2013/2014/201?  TheBigYear   But we have begun.

And so, yes:  I am here, we are hale and hearty, and we are having tilapia and baked potatoes for dinner.

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