Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winter Solstice

Today the temperature never got above the teens.  The wind was busy out of the north, as evidenced by my round, "bass" wind gong.  It's not a chime - when we moved to Kansas, I brought along my wind chimes, and soon thereafter, threw them away.  Too much chiming wind makes one irritable, I found.  My wind gong, a deep single tone, is something I found in San Diego when out visiting daughter Gillian a few years ago.  My San Diego souvenir.  It has been gonging all day in slow, steady tones.  I can handle the wind out of the north now.

Late this afternoon I went out to take care of the animals.  A dog, some cats, some ducks, some fish.  The fish are fairly easy keepers in this season.  Since they are in a fairly torpid state, I just glance at the grotto pond pump occasionally to see if it is still pumping.  The theory is, if there is a bit of thawed ice (thanks to the pump), the fish receive oxygen, even if they are inactive, not eating, and lying on the bottom of the pond.

I made sure our dog had her heated water bucket and a deep layer of fresh hay in the barn stall.  The ducks got a thick layer of shavings to burrow into, plus a heated water bowl.  The kitty cats get to come in on nights like this: forecast to be -2*. MacArthur, our semi-wildcat, refuses to come in until late at night.  He is NOT a housecat by any stretch of the imagination.  I can lure him in, late at night, with a can of food.  Yes, I could leave him out, but on nights like this I feel like he is more vulnerable to the hungry coyotes lying in wait in the pasture.  (How do I know there are hungry coyotes lying in wait?  I can go on a morning/afternoon/evening walk in the pasture and find fresh coyote scat along the boundaries of the fenceline.   And, happily, we have a large dog who barks into the night at these wild canines.)

The birdfeeders are full, and the birdbaths were tipped of ice and replaced with water for the late-searching birds who needed the sustenance.  I am always amazed at how many birds flock to the baths.

Overhead, there were Vs and more Vs of geese, flying to find their shelter for this cold night.

And so the animals are tucked in to the warmth of their hay, and shavings, and human household.  The faucets outdoors are wrapped with old rags and have buckets hung on them.  (Something I learned from a 92-year old woman, years ago.  It works.)  I hear our dog, already barking into the dark, along the pasture fenceline.  There are fresh croissants on the stove, and soon I will start dinner for that Spouse o' Mine and I.

It's a nice winter season. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Two Lambs and a Pig

The holidays, for me, are still at full-tilt as I continue to enjoy my Christmas music, recipes, and visits to friends and family.  Why stop at December 25th?  Let's keep the momentum going, I say!  There are a lot more songs to be sung.

I had a fun thing occur this past week.  I had contacted two of our local farmer-rancher neighbors, and ordered some meat from them.  In the form of...two lambs, and a half-hog.  So the farmer-rancher men took my paid-for animals to the processor to be...butchered, and I got the call this week that my meat had been processed.  And THAT is to say, I now have cuts of meat that I personally requested from the meat processors.  I have ground lamb, legs of lamb, lamb chops, shoulders and shanks.  I have pork chops and bacon, ham roasts and pork ribs.  There are sausages and bratwursts.  Suet for the birds, too!  The chops were personally ordered to a specific width.  And all meats packaged to a specific amount in each package.  Ditto the ribs.  I asked for the lamb shanks to be cracked: they only fit in my pot if they are cut in half.  I am not a chef, but I do love to cook.  And I do love to get my meat from local friends.  Give them our business, know what kind of environment in which the animals were raised, and be able to special-order exactly what and how I want the meat to be processed.

Our hog was an organic-raised hog.  We, that Spouse o' Mine and I, went to the hog farm today to pay up for the pork.  We got to visit the pigs and piggies in their domicile.  It was so interesting.  I was of the assumption that all pigs are mean and vicious.  (If you ever watched Wizard of Oz, you might think the same.  Or if you read anything about modern agribusiness pig farming, you might catch glimpses of pigs in restrictive farrowing crates and such.  And often the pig raisers explain that they are necessary because pigs are vicious.)  Mr. Parks ambled over to the field where pigs and piggies could be seen, and motioned me over the electrical fence.  "It's hot." he explained.  I asked if the sows were mean, and he said "Generally not."  Hmmm...

Omigoodness!  Many baby piglets, not a week old!  Unafraid.  Mama sow could not have cared less if we were there or on Mars.  Little, clean, Wilbur-looking piggies!  None of the 40+ sows showed any interest in us.  At one point, a mama sow ambled over toward me.  I kept my gimlet eye on her. I didn't want to be taken out of this world on Christmas Week by a sow.  As it turns out, the farm cat who followed us around on our tour was the object of curiosity.   The speckled sow followed the black cat around, until the black cat realized it was being followed by a 300-lb mama pig.  The cat made an exit underneath the hotwire.

Ok, here are the organic pig facts as I learned them this afternoon: 
  • Organic pigs are fed organic corn, wheat, and such.  Such is raised by Mr. Parks himself, and if he runs low of a season, he searches out other organic farmers in the state of Kansas.  (They are not just next door...)
  • Sows farrow year-round, when bred. (I always thought them to have spring babies only). 
  • Sows can farrow ~ 16 piglets. 
  • 90% of piglet deaths are in the first 24 hours, from inability to thrive, inattentiveness from mother, etc.
  • Our farmer, Mr. Parks, showed us his insulated farrowing sheds, which he built.  He has fashioned a shelf alongside both sides of each mini-"roundtop", maybe 12" high, which allows the piglets to be birthed and fed by mama sow without being squished by mama sow.  Restrictive farrowing crates do the same job, but perhaps with not as much comfort and well-being and happiness to the mama sow. In my opinion.  
  • Pigs go to market ("To market, to market to buy a fat pig..") at about six months.
  • Mr. Parks has about 3-4 sows farrowing baby piglets every month. That's a whole lot of cuteness.
His organic farm is a anomaly here in rural Kansas.  When I asked him about the organic biz, he explained that it started years ago with an interest his wife took in organic farming. The more they learned, the more they worked to achieve organic farming.  What many people do not realize, especially non-agriculture types, is that organic farming takes a lot of work AND cooperation from the traditional farms surrounding one's property.  The farming neighbors must be considerate of his practices VS their own.  E.G., if the surrounding farms utilize herbicides and pesticides, there is a possibility that those chemicals could, through wind or other, infiltrate the organic farmer's crops.  Mr. Parks explained that he has a strip of border land crops near the neighbor's land, which he farms organically, yet sells as standard crops.  It's his buffer to maintain his organic crops.  I suspect, although Mr. Parks did not allude to such, that it must sometimes be a challenge to maintain his organic certification.     

Tonight, to celebrate a thanksgiving of our full larder, I am making a smoked ham roast, along with a pumpkin puree from our summer garden, in addition to some collard greens from my Autumnal Garden (nobody believes I can grow a garden after October!), and some Christmas chocolate. 

No: I did not grow the cocoa beans.

Happy Holidays, still!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

This is Christmas!

Here it is, Christmas Eve.  For lots of people.  We Armstrongs celebrated Christmas on Sunday, December 21st. Jolly Santa arrived with stockings filled with fun about, say...4:00am Mountain Time?  I thought I heard a tussle the size of a moose out on the new-laden snow (24+ inches!), and supposed in my mid-night stupor that it must surely be St. Nick.  I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Sure enough, that jolly old elf made his way down the chimney and delivered six stockings for six adult children slumbering away up and down the stairs.  There were kites, and balls - the ones that you blow up BIG and then bounce back and forth on your wrist?  What are those called??!, and music for yodeling cowboys, as well as sea chantey music.  And Elvis CDs, as well as Broadway's Best.

After Christmas presents, we headed to church at a local chapel up in the mountains of Breckenridge -  the same chapel where our daughter Claire and our son-in-law Rich were married two years ago.  This Sunday, the church choir and children's choir were singing their Christmas Cantata.  It was very nice.   And the kids did a really nice job - not to mention the Christmas cows (two of them) were really adorable in their Holstein black & white costumes.  ADORABLE.

For many, many, many years, my family back in Oklahoma - Mom, Dad, us five kids, and then us and our spouses, and then us, the spouses, and OUR kids, and so on...would sing our own Christmas Story.  Each year my Dad would pick out the scripture, assign the readings to whoever could read, and interspersed with the scripture, we would all sing various selected hymns.  This has gone on for years and years.  It is like a rite of passage, a badge of honor, once a kid or grandkid or, now, GREAT grandkid can read, or at least recite, the scripture.

This year, we Armstrongs took a meander from family tradition.  Since our three kids and their  - I hate this term: "significant other" - I also hate "partner" - but the girlfriend and the boyfriend of two adult kids, plus the third adult kid and her husband, are on both the West Coast, the East Coast, and in Colorado...we decided to celebrate our own small family Christmas.

Yes: I missed singing The Messiah in its entirety, another Oklahoma Webster family tradition that has been going on for years and years.  Yes: We missed going to Big Family Christmas. (At least 38 of us?  I have lost count.)

The Breckenridge Christmas Cantata on Sunday morning was nice, as it told the Christmas Story just as we Oklahoma Websters do: scripture, and Christmas hymns interspersed. 

And this was a good - no, a really great thing.  Why? Well, to backtrack just a wee bit, let me tell you that I headed for the hills ( the Rocky ones) a day before that Spouse o' Mine and daughter Claire and SIL Rich.  When I got to Breckenridge, I realized that I had not brought a hymnal for the family Christmas Story (to be done just as the Oklahoma Webster Family one.)  I called Claire and told her to run upstairs and grab the hymnal on the coffee table.  And so, she did.

Sort of.

When that trio arrived in Breckenridge, Claire unpacked, and handed me...

The "B" volume of the 1985 World Book Encyclopedia.  Which was also lying on the coffee table.

B.  Not as in Bible, or hymnal.

Old World Book encyclopedia.  Back from their childhood!

We had a good laugh - probably one of a million we had this week. 

Another funny, which I can't post because of technology and family sensitivity, is a video of us Armstrongs plus some Webster kin, all playing children's rhythm instruments and singing "Sleigh Ride!".  I have to say, I don't think I have laughed SO HARD any time this year as I did during this video.   If you are intrigued, go to YouTube and see one of Jimmy Fallon and the Roots and one of their guest stars.  We rivaled them, hand-down.

And so, you who are still lying in wait of Christmas,
Happy Holidays.

And those of you in Australia (Armstrongs) and New Zealand (Websters), let's move on to:
Happy New Year!

~ Tricia, et al.



  
 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fa La? Hmmm....

After all the Fa La La of yesterday's post, here I am, overnighting at a Comfort Inn in western Kansas: Goodland.

Sometimes, when my Dad was very vexed, he would utter "Goodland!" and we knew he was very mad and we should not comment.  At all.  Silence all around.


About two hours' drive before Goodland, I noticed a very sudden change of  landscape.  That which had been mediocre in its winter browns and ochres suddenly was vibrant with winter whites of frosted tumbleweeds and wheat stubble.  So pretty: a powdered-sugar world of nature.  And soon thereafter, the cedars began looking ...beautiful!  Who would have guessed?

And then, just as suddenly, the visibility went to 1/4-mile.

How do I know what 1/4 mile is?  Well, we can backtrack thirty-three years, back to when I was a flight attendant for a small commuter airline in central-coast California, where it always seems to be foggy.  The FAA rule back then was that if visibility was less than 1/4-mile  (which is pronounced "quarter-mile visibility"), the flight did not take off.  There was a small mountain/large hill exactly 1/4-mile from the runway.  If we could see it, the flight was a go.  No hill?  No takeoff.  

Fast-forward to my life in rural Kansas, and I have a bridge exactly 1/4 mile ("quarter-mile") from our house.  Most days I can see the bridge, and also the curve down the way which is 1/2-mile.  So I can gauge 1/4 and 1/2 from  our home.  But some days render our visibility somewhat.  And it doesn't affect driving so much, but I always remember VFR on those foggy, grey days.

And so here I sit, in Goodland, Kansas.  The hotel is fully-booked.  About ten miles before this exit, six cars had slid off the road in vicarious configurations, not to mention two semis who had pulled off onto the shoulder.  And so, I opted out at 3:00 pm this afternoon, turning in to Goodland ("Goodland!")  I hope to be out soon in the morning, but who knows what tomorrow brings. 

Fa La la.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Week in the Life of Me

I am bound for Colorado tomorrow, to begin a week's worth of holiday hi-jinks with family and friends, up in the snowy Rocky Mountains.

That Spouse o' Mine will follow a day later: he is thumbing a ride with daughter Claire and her huz, Rich, who are driving from Virginia.  (I know: they have airplanes in VA, right?)  But those two are married adults, and so I will keep silent about their travel choosings, since they are young and adventurous, except to roll my eyes on my own blogpost. hehehe...

I have offered up our home as an "overflow" for rancher friends down the road.  They are expecting large family from Chicago this week, and we have a vacant home... Please! Use our home, inhabit with lights and cars and humans!  With our neighbors using our home, the theft chance lessens.  (Although, with our good neighbors and our dogs, the theft thing almost goes out the window on any given day anyway.)

Our son and his girlfriend arrive into Denver and then Breckenridge on Thursday, as does daughter Gillian's new guy.  We have a nephew and his wife coming up this weekend as well.  Meeting us all at the Breck house is my sister's husband (my sister is deceased) and his second wife, whom we have all known for decades, and that seems quite nice and cozy.

All-in-all, a great time will be had for all, this week before Christmas.

I am excited.  I have Reindeer Games to coordinate.  I have delegated cooking to the younger generation. I love to cook!  But this is their chance to shine and enjoy, as it should be.  That Spouse o' Mine  and I are in charge of Breakfasts.  I am a protein breakfast gal (bacon, grits, & eggs,) and he is superlative in waffle and pancakes. 

We have Reindeer Games, Dirty Santa, The Christmas Story, Family Christmas, and Church all scheduled this week.  Also, the jigsaw puzzle, a Scrabble Tournament, and a Chess Tournament (all part of the Reindeer Games, I suppose.)

And where are those dominoes, by the way...?

Fa la la! ~

Thursday, December 11, 2014

These are a Few of my Favorite Things...



The kids have all fledged. 
College: check! 
Beyond: check!
 
Happily, this season allows us to revisit some of the Christmas fun from the past years.  Who doesn't love a snowman made from a paint-stirrer, or a reindeer (sans antlers, some 20 years later) made from an aluminum can?   A terrific project one pastor requested: could the youth please design the covers of the Advent bulletins?  Jigsaw pieces and popsicle sticks, geometry lessons, and more.   A cardinal perches on a branch containing this poem:
 
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
'We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,"
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
 
We place three foil-covered stars at the top of our Christmas tree, every year.  Three little kids, three stars, after all. What one might not be able to discern in the last photograph, that of our whole Christmas tree this year:  A small bouquet of Lily-of-the-Valley, encircled by lace.  Plastic.  It's thirty, and nearly thirty-one years old.  It is the ornamentation from my bridal bouquet, many long (and happy) years ago.  
















Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Mastering

Five years ago, I took up the cello.  I had stared at daughter Claire's instrument in the Old Living Room for quite some time.  She had graduated from high school and college, had moved to Virginia, had gotten married, and yet, her cello was still occupying real estate in our tiny Old Living Room.  (I should explain that our Old Living Room is the size of a tiny 1887 parlor, which it is; our New Living Room was added in the  New Millennium; the size of which encourages ballroom dancing.)

 Something, sometime, must have niggled my brain, because I finally called the local music store that caters to high school and university needs.  I enrolled in cello lessons, and for the next four years, I schlepped that  cello up a flight of stairs once a week, each week, in snow and rain and summer heat.  I practiced notes, scales, bowing, fingerings, and more.  I loved playing the cello.  I still do!  But sometime in the summer of the fourth year of lessons, I became disenchanted with driving 25 miles, in the triple digits, schlepping the cello, sitting outside the practice rooms with other students who were maybe 45 years younger than I was... at some point, I opted out of any more lessons.

I still play the cello.  I have not made any progress beyond where I was at my last few lessons.

Tonight that Spouse o' Mine and I went to hear my hero, Yo Yo Ma, play HIS cello.  Such a grand evening.  As I told that Spouse o' Mine (who did not react negatively), I did not spare any expense for the tickets to this performance: I intended to study this man's performance up close and personally: 3rd Row seats.



Omigoodness.  There is something to be said for starting one's cello lessons in childhood and not in one's fiftieth decade.  Yo Yo Ma displays an absolute grace for cello music.  I stared at how he held his bow:  as my instructor has described to me a multitude of times:  relaxed, as if dangling one's fingertips.  His bowing technique: I cannot even describe.  No rock stop attached to his chair?  The angle of his cello (which, by the way, is 300 years old).  How is it that he can smile and glide through the music?  When I play a piece, my heels hike nervously up the chair legs (a no-no, according to my former instructor), my knees seem to grip the instrument for no rational reason ( a no-no, according to my former instructor),  I nervously forget to swallow and then choke on the saliva pooling in my throat (SERIOUSLY: I AM NOT A NERVOUS PERSON!)  There's never a comment about this from my instructor - I think she is too amazed.

And back to Yo Yo Ma:  He performs for about an hour and a half, using no music - all by memory.

What does this say to me?  

Perhaps I should hop back on the cello parade wagon and head further down the road just a wee bit more.

Stay tuned...   

Westward, Ho! Return

Months ago, back in springtime, the Spring Chickens (aka: my parents) asked me if I would like to accompany them out west.  West: points beyond Oklahoma City - although that was one of our planned stopping points.

You see, the Rooster of the pair needed to take new sculpture out to his art galleries, and the Hen of the pair thought I should come along.  And I concurred.  But there was never a time when the Spring Chickens and I could coordinate what I thought would be a leisurely trip along the Santa Fe Trail together, sight-seeing and such.  (So, so much more on this, later.)  In the springtime, I was busy with seasonal cherry harvest, and then came summer - who know what happened there, but THANK GOODNESS we did not go during the hot months.  I would surely have melted.  And when I called the Spring Chickens in September, telling them that October was THE optimal month for travel, the Rooster (my Dad) explained that he could not get away because he was training for a 5K that month.

The Spring Chickens are 80+ years old.  They do not act their age.

Finally, we three threw a dart and landed on traveling mid-November, but alack and alas, with the snow forecast, we three huddled over the phone and opted to wait "one more week".

Fast-forward to this week, and you might envision us: FINALLY! Westward-Ho!  We three met up in Oklahoma City for our first stop:  The Howell Gallery of Fine Art.  That gallery is exquisite; so much fine art right smack in middle America:

Howell Gallery of Fine Art

From Oklahoma City, we jaunted-loped-galloped to Amarillo, Texas.  This was such a fun stop, to a gallery in a WHOLE MALL of art.  Mall, as in your local "Dillard's-Sears-JC Penny" place.  Except, those retail haunts are just that: haunts.  Ann Crouch purchased this mall and converted it into a tremendous enclave of art and artists.  The mall includes over fifty art galleries, an art school for the Amarillo public, an art library (this Dillards-sized), and all totaled, ~ 120 art-related spaces, all for the Amarillo public to embrace:

http://www.sunsetartgalleryofamarillo.com/

Ann Crouch, owner of the Sunset Gallery, is so very interesting and fun to talk with.  She is native to Tennessee, and her accent is wonderful.  She was married to a Texas oilman.  He had her get her pilot's license so that she could fly the oil workers back and forth from their jobs.  She had always had an inclination for art, and she says she always wanted to open an art gallery, but her husband did not support that. In her words: "He passed before I did, and so I got my gallery."  I thoroughly enjoyed my hour talking with Ann.

Did you notice that I said "hour" with Ann?  Because that is what it was (actually, a bit more than an hour), but nevertheless, the Spring Chickens and I were keen on getting back in the van to head further west.  Next Stop : Santa Fe, New Mexico!!

The Spring Chickens have done this whole trek several times a year, for, maybe thirty years?  They have a routine.  They are like homing pigeons in the art world.  They land, they schmooze briefly, they drop off some art, and they flit off for the next destination. 

I, on the other hand, new to Art Land, want to sightsee, embrace the locale and the culture, visit with the locals, and so on.  Well!  That was not going to happen on this trip unless I sighted and saw and sighted some more, on this whirlwind, whistle-stop, We're Gonna Get There and Back trip with the Spring Chickens.  We arrived in Santa Fe in the morning just before any art gallery would be open.  My Dad and I took a lap around the Plaza and headed back to Mom, who was standing guard over sculpture in the car. ((I should note here that Dad and I went into the Basilica, which was very pretty.  One will have to Google it to see photos, because heaven knows there was no time for me to take my camera around.)  The three of us headed into the Joe Wade Fine Art Gallery, met with the owner, dropped off a few pieces of sculpture, and then: BOOM!  we three were off for parts east again: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig.

What did I see along the way?  Pretty mesas.  Colors in nature that I do not see in rural Kansas.  I saw fields of cotton!  And, of course, some really nice works of art - paintings, sculpture, textiles, and more.

What in the world did we do during all that driving?  We sure did laugh a lot.  We discussed politics.  We mused about Wagner's brain, and what Beethoven must have been thinking and hearing in his head.  All that art in so little time gave us pause for all sorts of thoughts and opinions. 

I had a ball on this trip.  I am thankful for a lot of things: We got there safely, and back. The Spring Chickens are still happy, ready, and willing to take these jaunts.  I am thankful that they invite me along.  I sure do enjoy our time together, be it in hilarious discussion of where our next meal will be, or in serious discussion of politics, religion, or family bonds.

I wish every family could enjoy trips like this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Westward-Ho!

I am heading out west tomorrow. 

My perpetually-packed bag is ready to go.  Why do I keep a perpetually-packed bag?  It just makes life easier.  In it, I have any toiletries, aspirin, socks & undies, jammies, sunscreen and hat, a small pillow, a great hairbrush, a swimsuit, a couple of small books, my small King James Version Bible, my "hotel slippers", some chocolate, miso soup, and other sundry items.  Into this perpetually-packed bag, I throw whatever clothes will fit the bill of the clime to which I am travelling. 

Heck, though: what do I throw in tonight?  This morning it was 7*.  Coat, hat, mittens, turtleneck, snowboots, for tomorrow's Ccccold sunrise.  And then, lighter, yet-still wintery apparel.  And finally?  I don't know.  A t-shirt?

Well, whatever.  As that Spouse o' Mine once said, "There's a Wal Mart in every city."

So, stay tuned.  It's going to be a whirlwind of a trip, I kid you not.

Monday, November 17, 2014

We Love the Animalia

Out here in rural Kansas a few years ago, after some sad feline losses, there seemed a need to fill those losses - both with happy kitty acquisitions, and some "we-need-some-serious-mousers".

I perused the Petfinder Ads: https://www.petfinder.com/ 

Loads, LOADS of animals.  (Note: we have acquired many GREAT pets from this site.  Do yourself a favor and check it out before you look for the perfect purebred puppy mill.) 

And so, I saw an ad for a kitty cat not too far from our home.  She was needing a new home soon.  Her owner was in hospice care, and was searching for new homes for her multitude of cats.

Online, the owner told me she was an outdoor cat, and online, I responded that I would take her.

Sight unseen.  Thinking: Mouser

I went and collected said kitty-cat.  She was so old, even back then.  She walks like an Egyptian.  (Sorry: only 90s Steve Martin fans will enjoy.)  But we love her.  We did not love her name, Squeaker, and we did not love her never-ending Squeak about food or water or PET ME!!!

Now, Poor old Squeaker has no lower teeth.  She still walks like an Egyptian.  She wants to play, and play, we do.  She drools a lot.  Is this from lack of teeth??  She sleeps a lot. 

We love old Squeaker.  What is her history?  Who knows. 

If you have time in your life, think about your access, your wants and needs.   Elder animals are THE BEST.  And they deserve it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween and Major Freeze Warning...

Halloween night!  We have nighttime forecasts of 21*, and so Old Man Winter must be trick or treating tonight with all the kids.  Yikes!  The last two hours of daylight this evening saw me hauling in plants I might like to over-winter: bougainvillea, heliotrope, and more.

Last week I planted fifteen new lavender plants out in the Lavender Patch.  Tonight, I covered them w/ jars (a la bell jars/cloche jars), and then went into overdrive and covered THOSE with Styrofoam cups topped with inverted terra cotta pots.  This, after I watered them all this afternoon to prevent root freeze.

I have never been a worrier until I began this lavender thing.

Halloween: the past couple of years we have not even turned our porch lights on (Bah~! Halloween Bug!) because there really have not been any kids in this neck of the Thousand Acre Wood.  (Winnie the Pooh fan, anyone?)  But this week I was given the heads-up that we might be having FIVE Trick or Treaters on our porch tonight.  I ventured out this morning and got a few bags of piddly candy, but I also got five boxes of Swedish Fish.  Ha ha ha ha!!  My kids used to LOVE Swedish Fish!

Here it is, soon to be 8:00 pm, and nary a trickster nor a treater.  (SPOILER ALERT: If you are one of my adult kids and you are reading this, you might want to stop reading NOW.)

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!  I bought large boxes of Swedish Fish (the movie size) because I know my kids love them.  ha ha!  Since I am not seeing any scary faces peering through our porch windows, I am thinking that Halloween 2014 is a bust.  Happily, though, I have it on good authority that Santa Clause is a tremendous recycler. Ha ha!  How great is THAT?!!      

POSTSCRIPT:  The Swedish Fish have been got.  Sorry, adult kids...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dinner Tonight!

Dinner tonight was a little late, although not outlandish.

We had:
Smoked chicken, with very, very fresh garden tarragon cream sauce,
Baked potatoes,
And very, very fresh garden greens with steamed fruits (prunes, golden raisins, and apples)
Oh!  And baked bread.  Homemade.  No-nonsense baked bread.  Easy.  Email me... 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Spiders. It IS October.

We live in an old, old farmhouse.  A bungalow.  I would describe it as Craftsman, given the incredible wood trim and detail in the interior, but ca. 1887 Old Farmhouse was around decades before trendy Craftsman, and so there we have it: Old Farmhouse.

For years I ran my in-home business (www.bio-works.us) out of the comfort of our first-floor study. It is adjacent to a bathroom and the kitchen, and, if tornado needs-be, the basement.  This worked out very nicely until one day I woke up with the epiphany that I would not have to frantically toss all business-related material into brown grocery bags and haul them into the study closet every time we have overnight guests, if I would simply move "BioWorks" upstairs to one of the empty nest rooms.  (Our study has a really comfortable bed, a darkened room, adjacent to aforementioned bathroom and kitchen, and if tornado needs-be, the basement; it is always our go-to room for overnight guests.)

So now my little office is upstairs,  nestled in a nook of dormers which overlook the front of the house.  I can see the field across the way, which this season is sporting dusty rows of soybean.  I can watch cars and trucks and farm implements heading hither and thither.  (I can always tell, even before checking the weather, when rain is anticipated, by the activity of the farm implements out & about.)  I can wave at neighbors walking past, and even bang on my closed windows at cyclists/friends going by.  The UPS and Fed Ex folks know to honk and look up at my windows to catch my attention.

The past few days, I have had my own little Charlotte's Web going on in one of my dormer windows.  This spider is busy, busy each and every morning and afternoon, making a web in the same place, catching little "things" which have the unfortunate circumstance of alighting in her/his web, and then the whole web-spinning/blood-sucking. (What?!  You've never read Charlotte's Web?!!)

Which brings to mind my other arachnid friend, a Daring Jumping Spider which took residence in my car on the way to Colorado last week.  Daring Jumping Spiders are daring in that they jump, but they are harmless to humans and are sort of fun to watch.  Well! This spider showed up on my drive to Colorado.  He crawled out of one of the air vents.  I let him go A) because he is harmless, and B) I was driving 75 mph.

Each day after, I would get into the car and commence driving.  After several minutes, there would be Daring Jumping Spider, showing his existence in my car by floating down a spinneret from an air vent, or landing in my lap, or crawling along the passenger seat.  Whenever it was safe, driving-wise, I would scoop him up with the plan of dropping him out the window. But he had his own plans, and each scoop-him-up ended with him dropping down onto the floor of the car.

I haven't seen Daring Jumping Spider since I returned to rural Kansas.  Maybe he liked the higher elevation of Breckenridge.  As for my own little Charlotte's Web outside, I can see she/he has begun another web now, at dusk.  In that beyond these dormer windows and my "office" is also my Art Room, and I intend to spend time creating this evening, I suspect Charlotte will not be going hungry in the next few hours as the interior light begins to attract buggy visitors...

Throwback Thursday

I am up in Colorado this week.  Up, in altitude, although not so much in latitude.  The drive from rural Kansas to Breckenridge, Colorado is nearly a straight shot on I-70.  I left home last Sunday, and drove all acorss Kansas in mild/coolish temperatures.  As I neared Denver, I heard on the radio that I-70 was closed at my exits due to snowstorm.  What??!

Happily, they reopened the freeway before I left Denver, and I made it through the mountain pass without incident. 
As opposed to last year's 2013 4th of July Mountain Pass Incident:


You know what?  I feel like I am an OK driver, even after the 2013 "4th of July Fiasco".   That Spouse o' Mine begs to differ.  He thinks I have some post-traumatic stress going on, particularly while driving through the Rockies, where this unlicensed kid rear-ended my station wagon.  And his SUV, full of teenagers, held the remnants of "weed" (the police vernacular, not mine), and empty bottles of tequila.  I am OK.  Really.  I am a white-knuckle driver now, on I-70 from DEN to the mountains, but, yes:  I am OK.   

But this Throwback Thursday is about my childhood friends back in Pryor Creek, Oklahoma.  Sarah and Melissa.  Pryor Creek was (and is) a small, small town, and everyone knew you and your parents and therefore a child had that proverbial village by which to be raised.  This was good.  And sometimes, trying.  But, good.

My two oldest friends are also the two from Pryor Creek with whom I still keep in peripatetic touch.  Facebook has enabled more contact, and that has been very nice.  Melissa and Sarah.  Buddies. Buds.  I can wax poetic about our friendships, but I won't.  Suffice to say that it is such a comfort that I can get in touch with either of these, my oldest friends, and magically, we can pick up right from wherever we opt to in our decades-old lives. 

We three began our friendships, even before Kindergarten together.  I was the youngest of five kids.  Whew!  Did my mother ever want or need a playdate for me?  NO!  There were too many kids of her own, and too many other kids from our neighborhood, to ask for "playdates".

But Melissa and Sarah?  Two kids whose only siblings were nine years older than them?  Their mothers probably looked at the Webster passel of brats (us) and immediately thought, "Let's call Merlene (my Mom) and get these kiddos together!" 

And so, they did. 

And my childhood was enriched by virtue of these two families.  I hope, conversely, my two friends' childhoods were, too.

Both Melissa and Sarah had playhouses built in their backyards.  For them.  I was always amazed  at these playhouses.  Melissa and Sarah were nonchalant about them.  I adored playing in the playhouses as a young kid.  It's funny, too, to look back at the toys we three had.  In my mind's eye, Melissa and Sarah seemed to have nifty, new toys and games at hand when a play date came around.  I had 5th-time-around toys and games.  A Chatty Cathy that, when one pulled her string, uttered "uhh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-garble-garble-garble".  And an old Casper doll that called out time and time again, when his string was pulled, "I'm afraid".

Sarah's Dad was a civil engineer and he took Sarah (and sometimes, lucky me as well) out for drives into the countryside for his work.  If we ever saw a turtle, he would stop and pick it up.   Sarah ended up with an enviable turtle compound in her back yard, by her playhouse.  Her turtles would overwinter, breed, lay eggs, hatch, and for years she had a little colony of terrapins in her backyard.

We moved through K-12, and into college.  We spent time together, Sarah and I, and Melissa and I. After college, we left each other's lives for a space of several years, but for the odd "I'm getting married."  "I'm having a baby." and so on.  After college, the three of us sprouted roots all over the place, and none of the three of us had like lifestyles.  Yet, I kept in touch and embraced my Pryor Creek friendships.

Now, here, some 35+ years later, I still lean on these two friendships.  It's certainly nice to know that I can call either friend, and will always, without any hesitation be welcomed with opened arms.        

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Autumn Season.

 I can tell autumn is here.  It's grey, it's rainy, it's cool.  Our token squirrel has been doing the squirreling away of acorns onto the giant crevice of one of our ancient elm trees.

I am happy.  Therefore, it must be autumn.

I kid you not: I wake up gloriously happy, with a song in my heart and a plan for my day. 

This doesn't necessarily happen in the hot months.  In the hot months, I furtively plan my day, sliced into two polarized sections:  Pre-dawn mornings, and post-sunset evenings (if even, the latter.)  Even in the house, if the temperature eaks its way too far upward, my system shuts down into inactivity.  I find myself sitting and doing..nothing productive.  It's times like that, when I find myself cranking down the AC, "to take the edge off", and you know what?   It's miraculous!  A few degrees cooler, and I am once again a worker bee.  I am up for anything, 50º or cooler.

But let me tell you, the past few weeks have been happy ones.  I am once again doing my 2x daily yoga.  (Don't panic; I do fun stretches and balancing acts to prepare for the NEXT time I fall off my bicycle and into a sorghum field.  No Cirque du Soleil nonsense here.) 

This week I decided to trek out to the Konza Prairie each morning to hike.  What fun!  What beauty.  And, what energy that lasted me the whole day long.  Physical and mental energy from those happy, happy hikes out in nature.

What did I see on my morning hikes?  Lots of wild turkeys. Some really pretty (and unafraid) deer.  Three bluebirds.  A dead skunk.  (Yep: the eau de skunk was prevalent.)  And buffalo!  How fun is it, to hike out on a prairie, and see a herd (albeit smallish?) of buffalo, going about their herdish things?!  What a great week of autumn.  The leaves were a'tumblin'.

Next week sees me enjoying autumn in Colorado.  I hope there are still aspen to behold in their golden glory.  If not, I hope that there is snow, or at least a lingering frost, to behold in its premature season. And I shall find some hikes and climbs and this will take me on to November and the coming holidays and frolicks!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Time Travel

I had reason to travel to my old home town of Pryor Creek this week, the cause of which will appear in a later post.  Today's observations are from my experiences on this short, 48-hour trip to a place I called home (and birthplace!) some forty years ago.  

Really? Forty years?  I certainly don't feel forty years old.  MUCH LESS, FIFTY-FOUR YEARS OLD.

I arrived home to Home, my parents' home for the past fifty-five years (they always said that with every move {five}, they had a baby, and so it must have been the water.)  in the early afternoon.  We, my parents and I, had dinner and were lapsing into early evening, when the front door opened wide.

My middle brother, now 59, loped into the living room and looked at me.  "Let's go!"  he said.

"Where?" I replied - always up for adventure, especially with Bob.  

"Church choir!" was the answer.

Whoop!  Really?  I was immediately entranced.  I jumped up from my easy chair and grabbed my shoes.

Ok.  Ok.  You all are reading this and thinking, Really?!  

Yes: Really.  

Off I went, off to Church Choir with brother Bob, all on a Wednesday evening, in Pryor Creek.

Not unlike any other Wednesday I enjoyed some forty years ago.  Way back in the 60s and 70s, we five Webster kids each began singing in church choir when we were fourteen or fifteen.  Dad, a most musical and spiritual, and artistic father, would just announce some August, that we were ready to join choir.  And we did.  Simple.  No rebellion, that I know of.  (Granted, I was #5, so who knows what the former four felt.  I was all for church choir!)  Dad was the church choir director.  He embraced classical music.  In that classical music was what we cut our teeth on at home, church choir was a simple exercise in aerobic breathing.  For me, the Wednesday evening choir practices were comparable in relaxation as to my yoga exercises nowdays.  A very fine facet of my choir practice "way back" was that I was a much younger singer, a youth,  in the adult choir.  This was curious, but not uncomfortable.  I learned a lot in those choir rehearsals and Sundays, and all of it, good. 

And so, now, on Wednesday, my brother Bob mentions that if I attend choir practice, he won't be the youngest one there.  Remember, I mentioned that he was 59?

We get to church.  I haven't been to this church in ages.  The first thing that comes to mind upon entering:  "Hey, Bob!  Remember when Mike (other brother) walked through this glass window?"  (he was lower elementary, and it was a big durn deal.  I had forgotten about it, even though I witnessed it.)  Bob & I laughed about it.  

Wow.  What memories, when we walked into the sanctuary, up by the altar, and into the choir loft.

Forty years. 

I was even married here.

Bob introduced me to the choir director.  I took out the music for the rehearsal.  And then - what fun!

Someone called to me from the loft: Trish!  It was my PE teacher from way back when, Mrs. Briggs.  I had taught HER son how to swim.  Another voice: Trish, how ARE you?!  Wowee: my former elementary music teacher, my former voice instructor, my parents' great friend, Mrs. Talley.  And then, I saw a dear face up in the alto loft: Mrs. Usrey.  I adored her.  What a great spirit, one that I embraced even at a young age.  There was Dr. Burdick, whose kids I once babysat.  And awkwardly (I felt afterwards), Mrs. Ammons, whom I greeted, but whose greeting was not reciprocated.  Whaaa?  Ooops.  Someone failed to give me the memo that Mrs. Ammons was divorced, no longer Ammons, acrimoniously, and now had a new last name.  Sheesh.  I saw from afar, my former Sunday School teacher.  I tried to catch the arm of the accompanist, Judy.  She played the music for my wedding - thirty years ago!

As we sang for an hour, in the choir loft adjacent to the altar of the church where I grew up, I saw things I knew from so long ago, that I never realized I would appreciate again.  The stain glass from Mr. Moore, which lay in frames made by my Dad.  That was decades ago.  The offering plates are the same. As are the altar candlesticks. 

My sister-in-law observed this morning that I call everyone here by Mr. and Mrs.Somebody.  True.  That's how it was back then, some forty years ago.  I never knew some folks' first names.  I was a kid.  They were my elders.  They were Mr. and Mrs.  What a simple rule.

And now, this week, I time-traveled back and forth from 14 years to 54 years.  I cannot say that it was a good trip.  I need time to digest this experience.  All the folks I met this week are fine, are in great shape, and seem happy.  (Mrs. Usrey is 90, still drives herself at night {this, I cannot do}, and she celebrated her 99-yr old brother's birthday this week.) 

I wonder how they feel, seeing Tricia Webster Armstrong, 54, as opposed to having seen Tricia Webster, 14?  

And as Satchel Page asks, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?"

Ah.  A time-travel quandary, to be sure.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Our family, the extended version, is large.  We like each other.  We don't get together to celebrate things like birthdays and such, but we do celebrate life.  There is a certain comfort in embracing generations, siblings, cousins and such, and  allthewhile knowing that there is a doormat called WELCOME anytime one of us stands at the threshold of family.

This weekend my niece Melinda stopped by rural Kansas for a visit:
Lavender and wine:


The Shamrock Cafe (out in the middle of nowhere, a cozy chair from which to view the Flint Hills sunset):


Is this reminiscent of the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz?


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Windows are Open!

It is Autumn.  Although on the verge of "warm" this afternoon, I will take it.  I wore a sweater (albeit 3/4-sleeved) with a scarf today.  Zounds.  I am emerging out of seasonal hibernation.

Yesterday I planted many rows of my Autumnal Garden.  What did I plant?  Mesclun.  Kale.  Cabbage(s).  Fennel.  Beets.  Leeks.  Onions.  Tarragon.  Rosemary.  Collard Greens. French Breakfast Radishes.  (To my mind, no one eats radishes for breakfast unless they're part bunny; you French folks out there should clarify this...)  and Chicory.  Maybe more...who can recall? 

And so, now, what's to come of all this?  It sounds like I might have put in many hours of labor into this venture, but I assure you that, as usual, I did not.  Darwinism!  I like plants that can fend for themselves.  And so I tilled up space between the massive New England Pumpkin Patch and the dwindly, spindly tomatoes, and called it good.  In went the seeds.  I thought it was supposed to rain last night, but it did not.  And so maybe tomorrow I will sprinkle the Autumnal Garden to get that germination going.  And then?  I wait.

Our windows are open this evening.  I hear cicadas (I call them locust in my Okie lingo.)  There is a young family who moved down the way, and I hear their little kids out playing.  That is such a great sound.  I have some older relatives who moved into a retirement place in Arizona years ago, and that place restricted the presence of children.  So sad.  What's better than a window open to kids hollering outside in play?

This evening I have been fussing around the kitchen, looking for my "for-two" souffle dish.  Where is it?!  If I don't find it, then we are to have two mini souffles, which amount to maybe two bites and that will not suffice.  (Truth be told, I think our "for-two" souffle dish is probably actually earmarked for 4-6.  But we do love us some souffle.)  And along with spinach souffle, we are having grilled tuna and some sort of new potato thing that I have not yet moved on...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Time for a Change?

Fourteen months ago, that Spouse o' Mine and I were driving back from a fun holiday in Colorado.  Nine hours of driving through Kansas gives a couple ample time to drum up all sorts of conversation.  I commenced one subject by saying, "We are currently spending $129.00 per month on satellite television. That's a lot of money for all of those Infomercial channels that we do not enjoy."  From there, we revisited options, and one in particular that our son Graham had mentioned: "Chromecast".  It is a $35.00 gadget from Google that enables one to utilize a smartphone (of which we have none) or a PC or laptop (of which we have several) to send a signal to our television so that we may enjoy EXACTLY what television shows we may want to watch.  We can search such things as Hulu or Netflix, and some sports outlets, and watch things we are intentional about watching.

Intentional.  Ah!  There lies the rub.

The first couple of months after we cancelled our satellite, I found the house very silent during the day.  I had not realized how much I used the television to fill the void of silence.  I began listening to radio - news, music, talk shows.  Gradually, though, my interest in having noise in the house all the time lessened.  (I still listen to NPR and BBC news, The Retro Cocktail Hour, Science Friday, and past Talk of the Nation shows.)

Our "intentional" television viewing has gone through some stages in the past year.  We still enjoy viewing sports, and shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.  All of my HGTV, Cooking Channel, and Food Network viewing?  Now very limited, to say the least.  Just last week I scrolled the offerings of some of my favorite channel haunts.  You know what?  I don't miss them.  Runways and models and chefs and dancers once held my attention.  But now I have been weaned away from this entertainment.

A friend and I were discussing digital photography, and how it has enabled every wannabe photographer, however talented they may or may not be, to get gigs for wedding (and even funerals).  I think, too, that technology has become so inexpensive and simple as to enable television and actors/actresses/news folks to "go for it" on one of the myriad channels that are available in our new millennium.

And so we viewers have a choice to blindly keep the television on, or to move on to something more stimulating.  Go outdoors?  Read a book?  Sing some songs?  Play an instrument?  Write a blog?  Heh heh...  






Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Summer's Nature

The locusts are all in chorus this evening. It sure is a ying-yang song: I love it, I abhor it. The time I love it most is in midwinter.  I think back to the hot sweltering days of summer (not yearningly, to be sure), and I take that memory of the sound, coupled with the heat and the glaring sun, and it makes me smile at the complete opposites of our seasons herein rural Kansas.

Here's a creepy photo of what is burrowing in our gardens and my lavenders:


That is a cicada killer.  I call them locust killers, because I grew up in Oklahoma, where people call cicadas locusts. 

Here's some creepy notes about these LARGE creepy cicada killers: they sting the locusts (cicadas) which renders them paralyzed yet very much alive.  Then they take the locust down into the root system of my lavender (OK, MY version), where they lay their eggs in the locust, and when the larvae develops, it eats away at the still-living, yet-still-paralyzed locust.  UGH.

I was reading an article today about wasps, and how they are valuable to the delicate balance of our nature (this is true, true...) and how we would suffer Biblical proportions of all sorts of pests if not for the wasps, as nearly every pest insect on Earth is preyed upon by a wasp species, either for food or as mentioned above, as host for its parasitic larvae.  Blech.

I really do believe that God created the heavens and the earth.  I don't think any of us have the absolute answers on His creation; why try to pinpoint absolutes?  I also believe that God instilled rules of nature which allow for lives and deaths and wasps and gila monsters.  And evolutions.  And miracles.  I think too many people do not acknowledge "rules of nature" as a God-given plan.  But then, that's my faith.  Others' faith is often different...

Wow.  So I went from cicada killer to faith in creation and evolution.  All in five paragraphs.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Young Autumn

Autumn is the hush before winter. ~French Proverb

I went out and cut lavender early this morning.  Such a peaceful pleasure.  I took my coffee out the back door, called out, “Pasture!” and was immediately accompanied by one dog and two cats.  “Pasture” is one of their favorite words.  This morning was cool, and sunny, and hushed.  I could hear every little bird song, and bug buzz.  Late this afternoon will be dramatically different, when the locust warm up and start their decibel-screeching chatter.   
 
 


















The lavender is gathered into bundles, and is now drying, hanging upside-down, in the study.  I only gathered six bundles this morning, about half of one variety I have planted out in the pasture.  Some of the varieties have been stubborn to bloom, and, new to this lavender business, I can only assume that maybe they will bloom next spring.     
I am also drying a plethora of red peppers.  Perhaps I will make a holiday wreath out of them.
The farmers have begun their corn harvest, and that’s always fun to observe.  Big trucks full of bright yellow dent corn pass by our house off and on all day.  Dent corn is not the sweet corn we roast on the grill every few days.  Dent corn is sent off to make corn oil, cattle feed, and the like.   

There is a jasmine blooming all along the west side of our property.  The scent is amazing, and it carries through the air every trip to our mailbox, or the front yard, or the grotto.
 The peach tree looks meager after two summers of drought followed by a tremendously cold winter.  There is just a smattering of peaches hanging on it, but those which are there, are good-looking.
And it is apple week.  I have three groups of apples: the ones that fall to the ground are automatically donated to the ducks.  In that our ducks hang out under the apple trees every day, and they don’t care where they poop, we err on the side of caution and safety (e coli), smash these fallen fruits with our heels, and leave them for the ducks.  Maybe our eggs will come apple-flavored this fall.  The next group of collected apples are the blemished-beyond-edible, which are going in to a tub for the ducks, for next month.  And finally, the nice, pretty ones, I am bringing inside and we are eating fresh and sauteeing and baking.  Eventually, I will get around to making applesauce for the freezer.


Busy days...and it's about 58* this morning!  This is my kind of weather, to be sure.
 

Where did it go?!

I think Blogger is on vacation.  I put a lengthy post up this morning, and now it is gone.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

To My Kids and a Reminder for All:

I had forgotten about a man I knew years ago, until I read this link (below).  I never knew his name, never asked his name.  I still recall his filthy blonde hair, bloodshot eyes, and sunburned skin, and rags-for-clothes.  He had no sign, no adorable dog beside him.  He sat outside a grocery store in LA.  He was a Vietnam Vet.  He would ask for quarters.
 
This was way back when I worked for TWA - early 1990s.  On occasion from my international flights I would take a month of weekly flights, JFK to LA.  I would do my grocery shopping in LA (at this time I had two toddlers).  Almonds come to mind as a delicacy I would not find in wintertime Michigan. The grocery store was only a walk away from our "TWA" hotel by the airport.  I would arrive back home at Detroit Int'l Airport with a black F/A bag and several brown paper grocery bags, full of fun groceries for the week back home.  I did not fit the F/A stereotype t all. 
 
When I went grocery shopping, I would grab a small something for the man outside - a bottle of milk or juice, a banana, or some sort of bread.  I knew he wanted quarters for either drug or drink.  I rarely gave him one, but every once in a while.  He was kind in his own way. Each time I approached him on my way into the store, I talked to him.  Small talk.  And on my way out of the store, too.  Small talk.
 
I hope I made a difference. 
 

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.  ~ Mother Teresa

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nine Year Olds and Uzis

So the big news yesterday was that a nine-year-old daughter in Nevada was taken to a shooting range by her parents.  She was given a lesson on shooting an Uzi, the strong recoil of which pulled the gun over to her instructor's head, and he was shot.  He died later in a hospital.

Awful, awful!  This news is tragic.  So, so sad for the victim's family. Terrible.

Sad, so, so sad for the nine-year-old.  Probably no one told her that an Uzi will kill.  It will kill foe AND friend.  Did anyone teach her before her Uzi lesson, that Uzis are used in warfare?  Uzis are not used to hunt pheasant, quail, and dove.  Nor deer or turkey. Did the adults at hand just thrust this Uzi into the child's hand, and commence video-taping? 

Six years ago an eight-year-old boy died after accidentally shooting himself in the head with an Uzi at a gun expo near Springfield, Massachusetts. He was firing at pumpkins when the gun kicked back. 

Pumpkins.

Uzis.

Humans.

Stop it. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Weary, Dearie

Here it is: middle of August.  The weather has been quite nice of late, so I can't complain too much about that.  I still have the AC going most afternoons (OK: all afternoons), but this is the first August in a year of Augusts (as opposed to a month of Sundays?) that I can venture outdoors longer than an hour or two, unless I arise at 5:00 am.  (That's what I was doing in the Lavender months of May, June, and July.  Lavender is all planted now, so I am sleeping in: 6:00 am)

The other day I had chance to flip the calendar over to the month of September to check a date.  And there it was:  September 22 at 10:29 P.M. EDT. 

Fall!  Autumnal Equinox!  That brightened my suntanned face (because, let me tell you, it does not matter one whit if, when you arise, you slather {and I have begun hating that term} your entire exposed body with sunscreen, the  ultraviolet rays are going to find a way, ever-so-sneakily, to turn that baby-faced face into a well-worn catcher's mitt in no time, no time a' tall.   I especially hate that I am red-necked this summer.  Even with sunscreen, popped collars, long sleeves, gloves, and a wide-brimmed sun hat (think Scarlet O'Hara), I have still managed to acquire a tan thanks to the Summer of Lavender.

But back to September.  Or even today: the public school systems began classes today.  I missed seeing the rural school bus passing our house this morning at 7:17 am.  This means either I missed the bus, or the two neighbor girls, aged 16 & 17, are driving to school on their own and the bus is no longer traveling down our road. 

And too, that Autumnal Equinox date just gave me hope.  Hope for even cooler days, and chilly - nay,  COLD nights in the near future.

Bring on the snow, I say.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Magical Mystery Tours

When our kids were young and I found time, I would call out, "Mystery Tour!  Get in the car!"  I wouldn't tell them where we were going.  It might be to get a strawberry limeade somewhere, or it might be to a kids' museum or an overnight at Aunt Barb's.  There was intrigue and anticipation and clues to be found.  Those were fun trips!

This weekend I had two trips to Kansas City.  The first one was with that Spouse o' Mine.  He had an annual check-up with a doctor in a new KC office.  I suggested that we use the GPS we borrowed from daughter Gillian while she was in Australia.  So he turned it on and put in the address.  Immediately Sheila (I think that's her name; my friend Paula has a cousin who works for Garmin and she (Sheila?) entered a contest a few years ago to become the "Voice of Garmin"  AND SHE WON!!  How funny is that?  I know the cousin of the Voice of Garmin"!) ...anyway: immediately Shelia started talking.  En français.  In French.  I commented that while French was fine, I thought English might be more useful. But English was not on the language list, and so we went with "en français".  After all, how difficult is it to comprehend "droit" and "gauche"?  We found our way just fine.

The next day I  was to pick up two (adult) kids at the airport in Kansas City early in the afternoon, and another (adult) kid later in the afternoon.  Inbetween the two fetchings, I turned on the GPS, typed in the airport code, and off we went, en français, to pick up kid #3.  It was to be a 20-something-minute drive from the Palza to the airport.  We drove and turned droit and gauche and droit and gauche, and finally crested a hill that took us to the airport.

Whoa!

Wrong airport.

Or, as I reflected as I spied the lone widebody jet out on the tarmac, "This is not the right airport!"  I dissolved into laughter.  I pulled up alongside the lone police officer, still laughing, and told him we were at the wrong airport.  I thought he would chuckle, too.  But he was all serious police business, and so the humor was lost on that guy.

He did, however, direct us - in English - as to the route to the "right" airport.  And we made it there thirty minutes before the plane did. 

I love Mystery Tours.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer. Summer. Summer.

There's not much to report on at the moment, here in late July in rural Kansas. 

Dullsville. 

Ruttsville. 

The weather, they say, is mild (I am STILL hot).  We are watering gardens and such every day.  The farmers are irrigating every day.  I kind of take my lead from them: if they are watering, well, then, so am I. 

In addition to the 169 lavender plants I put in this summer (The Summer of Lavender), I also declared it the Year of the Perennial.  Whether it was the lavender field (weeding, tilling, making troughs with a shovel, planting on hands & knees, weeding, coddling on hands & knees) or my age (54?) or the heat and wind (definitely), I am tired of the annual Planting of the Flowers.  Annuals, being the operative word.  Annuals must be put in every year.  The positive of annuals is that they flower all spring, summer, and fall.  Perennials, on the other hand, need only be planted once (with luck & a prayer), and the bloom for a few weeks each summer. But, with luck & the prayer, they will hang around indefinitely and bring joy each and every summer to one's garden.

Sadly, I think it's the "54" thing.  My knees hurt.

But!  Enough of that nonsense.  In other news, I feel like I have been inundated with negativity of late.  So much so that in my morning prayer today, I asked God to make sure I am a Positive Polly each day.  I don't want to be a 54 year-old Negative Nancy. 

I just looked out the window to across the field where a man on a tractor is taking a huge drink of water from his thermos.  He is cutting/baling hay.  Interesting that he is making small square bales (what we always ask for ) as opposed to the big round bales more prevalent these days. Our hay man stopped by yesterday to tell me that he will not be cutting our hay this summer - too short, too meager.  This is not a concern of ours, really. When we had horses, we wanted grass in the pasture.  Now that we are equine-less, the hay man benefits from our field much more than we do. 

Here's a happy:  Two of our kids are winging back from Australia this week, after having visited the Aussie Grands and extended family for a month.  Gillian is heading directly to her new museum job in Colorado, two days after arrival (Jet lag, anyone?), and Graham will retrieve his car and head back to Washington state and commence his post-grad/post vacay job hunt.   All happy, all positive.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Frightful

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But inside is so delightful,
And since there's no place to go...
Please raise your glass to the guy who invented the AC.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Manhattan Women's Thursday Rides

Last summer a cycling friend, Diane, organized a women's bike ride during the summer months.  It was a hit!  We slacked off during August, heat being what it is, and we called the cycling season good.

This summer, Diane once again organized the group.  I help out by posting notices on Facebook.  This morning's ride held ten cyclists: a group of women who run the spectrum of life: Teachers, self-employed (that would be me), grad student, minister, physician, and more.  What a fun group.  We enjoy the camaraderie of riding and learning about each other.  Would I call us all close friends?  No.  We're fun sporty friends, the ones we can share the outdoors and funny anecdotes with.  We tell funny stories on our rides, as well as discuss politics and civic news.  Just a fun time to be had by all.

We are hoping to keep the group going at least through the autumn months: what a great time to ride!

On another note, this one quite bucolic:

That Spouse o' Mine came home and I was out watering things.  I called to him, and then I said, "I hear sheep."

"Sheep?" he replied.

"Yes.  Sheep.  I hear sheep.  Baa-aaah" 

And that is where we left it.

Well.  Fast-forward an hour, and I thought I heard a call to prayer, Moslem-style, from a high minaret.  "This cannot be,"  I thought to myself.  How can I hear sheep and then a call to prayer?  I am not in the Middle East (although I follow the goings-on like a native.)

Just after I heard what I thought was a call to prayer, my neighbor Barb came round our corner with a pickup and a trailer carrying - YES! - a lamb.  The lamb was not at all happy to be going to the County Fair tonight.  Baaa-aaaah!

Somehow, from the 2nd floor, this bleating sounded like Call to Prayer which I came to embrace back our Egypt days.

And that's all I have. 

Tomorrow's temps are forecast around 108º.  I am not amused.

Monday, July 21, 2014

One Hundred

They lie, they lie.
It is NOT fair.
It is stinkin' hot and windy.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Bedtime Story

Once there was a little duck.  She was a cute little duck who ran around the yard with her little duck friends, all of them chasing June bugs and grasshoppers, willy-nilly, all over the place.  One day, the little duck sat down under a big old pine tree.  When she got up, there was a pretty white egg laying on the pine needles.

The little duck did this again and again over the next few days, as did her little duck friends.  They had a nice collection of pretty white duck eggs!



One day came that the little duck decided she wanted to keep the pretty white eggs warm and protected, so she decided to set on them.  She built a neat little nest out of pine needles, and that's where she sat, day and night, keeping her egg collection dry and warm.




After a couple of weeks, the duck herdswoman noticed that some of the eggs in the nest were missing.  Hmmm...she thought.  A few days later, she mentioned it to her husband, "There were about a dozen eggs on that nest, and now there are only seven.  Do you suppose something is getting to them?"  He shrugged his shoulders.


Well.  The very next day, the duck herdswoman was walking out by the barn and came upon a very long and pretty snake.  It was FIVE FEET LONG!



The duck herdswoman put two and two together, and came up with "let me go count those eggs again."  And so she did.  There were three pretty white duck eggs laying in the pine needle nest.

Aha!

The very next day, the duck herdswoman looked out to see all the little ducks standing around the big old pine tree.  What was that about?  And so she went outside to see what the ducks were doing.  And this is what she saw:






















 The end.  Sleep tight!
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