Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Second Look--October 12, 2017

or Busy Bees and Other 6-legged Creatures

Fall is officially here according to the calendar and the weather is slowly following along. Overall, we've had warmer than usual temperatures which is okay by me because I'm still trying to catch up on yard work that needs to be done before everything goes dormant. The leaves of some trees are starting to change and others are going straight to the turn brown and drop stage because of lack of rain this fall. With fewer things in bloom now, the bees seem more concentrated on the fall blooming flowers. One of the things I noticed earlier here in the new yard were fewer bees. Now I wonder if I was comparing different seasons in my mind and not realizing it.

Without further ado, here are a few things I saw recently during a Second Look.

We inherited some very healthy mums outside our backdoor and they are giving quite a show.

The bees are enjoying the mums.

As are the moths...

And the flies.

The patio tomatoes are still giving us tomatoes for salads in the evening.

The osteospermum continue to bloom.

As do the ever-faithful marigolds. The bees like them, too. 

But I do not like the European Hornets that are eating the bark off our lilac bushes.

Yesterday morning was dark and dreary and I found this bumblebee sleeping on a purple sage plant.

And close by, I saw a cricket. I'm wondering if this is the one that sounds so loud at night.

Many trees are still green, but some are starting to change colors.

The leaves have already fallen off this pear tree revealing an interesting bird's nest. It's very messy which suggests a sparrow built it, but it doesn't have the coarser material that I've usually seen in sparrows' nests. I'm still waiting on Aunt Martha for an ID.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Family Reunion

or An Interesting Question

Last weekend I went to a family reunion on my father's side of the family. Besides the normal catching up, there was a theme throughout the day. How did your parents meet? This all started because I found a newspaper clipping in one of my mother's scrapbooks about my oldest aunt's wedding in 1948. It got me thinking that I had heard the story about how my parents had met, but none of the accounts of how my aunts and uncles first got together. I asked around and heard bits and pieces of stories from various cousins about their parents. However, I was able to get one of the stories straight from the source--Aunt Debbie and Uncle Alan.
Uncle Alan at the time he met Aunt Debbie
(minus the leather jacket.)

Debbie and Alan told the story of when they first laid eyes on each other at a church Christmas play. Upon seeing my uncle standing at the back of the church in a leather jacket, my aunt declared that was the man she going to marry. It didn't seem to matter that her fiancee at the time was sitting right beside her. They wove a quite colorful story of the complications of fiancees and girlfriends with my aunt even telling my uncle that she was engaged, but only on weekends.

While I immensely enjoyed the tale of their first meeting and courtship, there was another part that I found even more interesting. My aunt asked each one of her suitors, including my uncle, a curious question, "If you were going to build a city, what would you do?" Among other things, Uncle Alan answered that he would design one like Washington, D.C., with a center circle and streets going out like spokes from there. I commented to my aunt that that must have been an acceptable answer and she said that Alan was the only one who ever gave her an answer. Her fiancee said she was never going to build a city, so it didn't matter.

Then I asked the obvious question, why did she ask about building a city? Aunt Debbie said that it told her if the suitor could make a plan and if they could dream about the future. I found that very smart of her to question her boyfriends in that way. It seemed to be a good test because she and my uncle have been married for almost 62 years now.

I was not nearly so clever as my aunt, but I had a question for Ward, too, before we got married. I asked him that if we had problems, would he go to a counselor with me? He said that of course he would. Then there was my follow up question, "Would you go even if I thought we had problems but you didn't?" Well, he gave the right answer to that one also and here we are thirty some years later. Luckily, I haven't had to take him up on his promise yet.

Did you have any specific questions for someone with whom you thought you might spend the future? Is there a question you wished you had asked?

Note: You've heard it many times before, but I'll say it again. Now is the time to learn your family stories. My Uncle Alan is the only one left of my father's eight siblings. I wish the others were here to ask the same question about their meeting, but they're not. Who knows what other stories we might have to add to this one if I had talked to them earlier.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

PawPaw Festival, Part 2

or What you get if the Three Little Pigs had built one house all together.

Last post I talked to you about the Pawpaw festival I went to recently. Besides doing all things Pawpaw, we got to explore the grounds and see the sustainable farming methods being practiced on the farm where the festival was held. We also saw the farm house that I'll show you today.

The circular, round-timber framed, strawbale house was built using local resources and was finished about a year ago. Mike, the farmer, his wife, and son are living there now. Fortunately, we were able to go on a tour of the house. Well, sort of. There were so many people who showed up for the tour, that moving around the house was difficult. So Mike gave us an overview and let us walk around on our own. Sometimes it was difficult to get a good picture because of the crowd, but I think below you can get an idea of what the house was like.

The house has a main level and a loft. It also has a green/living roof that helps with absorbing the summer sun and insulating during the winter. It was quite a hot day when we were there and even with all of the people inside, it was pleasant.

It was a busy day for Mike, so he ate his lunch as he told us about the house. The kitchen is behind him with concrete counter tops.

The house was framed with tulip poplar timbers harvested from the farm. On the right you can see a bit of the balcony that they used as a reading area. Also, you can see the high windows which help with climate control.

The walls are all straw covered with plaster. This porthole gives a peak into them. The plaster was made of clay, sand, wheat paste, fine straw, and the secret ingredient to make it white-Charmin toilet paper. Apparently Charmin has fine microfibers in it that makes it a good match for the plaster.

The earthen floors were made of clay, sand, and straw and were hand troweled on. After the floors set, they were coated with linseed oil and finally wax.

The bathtub and shower.

The fireplace has a soapstone stove insert that keeps the house warm all night with one armful of firewood. In the summer, Ward found it a good place to sit.

There were two bedrooms, this one for his son, and one for his parents.

You can go to Mike's website if you want to see more details or see pictures of the house being built.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Paw paws

or How to Have Fun While Avoiding Chores

The Plan: To stay home last Saturday to catch up on some work around the house.

The Reality: Spent last Saturday at the Paw Paw Festival.

Part 1

It didn't take long for me to change plans once my sister-in-law sent me an email asking if we wanted to meet them at the Paw Paw Festival on Saturday. The festival was held on a permaculture farm which was one of the reasons I wanted to go. I really didn't know much about that and was intrigued by the whole concept. The owner of the farm spent 20 years living in Central and South America and brought back ideas from there to start his farm.

Part of the permaculture farm was made up of food forests, a new concept for me.  During a tour, I learned a food forest is an area that has been planted with plants for food and medicine on varying levels mimicking the different ecosystems of a forest. It has plants from large trees to vines on the ground and everything in between. The idea is that plants come back year after year and are sustainable.

Here are a few pictures of  some of the things we saw on Saturday.

In case you aren't familiar, the paw paw is a fruit tree native to the eastern US. 
The fruit is rarely seen in stores because it only ripens for three weeks 
out of the year and is difficult to transport because of its soft flesh.

Paw paws. These are a cultivated variety and are a little larger (about 4" long) than the wild ones. They also have fewer seeds than the wild ones. 

There were paw paw trees for sale, which by-the-way can grow up to 20' tall. I didn't get one because I decided next year, I'd just go to my sister-in-law's house were they have a lot of paw paw trees in their woods.

This was our tour guide who taught us about food forests. The A-frame behind him is full of paw paw seedlings. They need to spend the first few years in shade before they are planted in full sun.

This food forest is about seven years old. You can see the different levels of plants. There are two basic methods for planting--one is to fill a space with different plants and the other is to plant islands that will eventually grow together. This farmer chose the island method.

One of the things I sampled here were the fruits from this che tree. They were sweet and juicy and I really liked them.

However, I didn't sample these Jerusalem artichokes also know as sun chokes. They are used for their roots but can cause digestive upset if you eat too many. My brother-in-law confirmed this from experience.

And of course, we had to taste some paw paws. Besides the raw fruit we tried the jam you see cooking above as well as some paw paw homemade ice cream. Both were good but I'd say that I liked the ice cream more. That may have had something to do with the fact that it was 90 in the sun.

Next time in Part 2,  I'll show you the straw bale house the farmer lived in.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Thankful Sunday--September 24, 2017

I am thankful for time with Sarah.

You may remember Sarah, my special needs buddy, whom I spend Sunday mornings with while we navigate different Sunday School programs. Sarah is very tuned into nature and has shown me a lot in that area. This last Sunday was no exception.

After eating our fill of bacon and eggs with the youth group, we made our way to the other building for singing. Well, we almost made it to the other building. Along the way we found too many things to explore to leave time for singing. We noticed leaves that were just starting to change and a picnic table that was upside down. We saw big bugs and little bugs and the flowers that were still blooming. She also found "helicopters" (winged maple tree seeds).  Instead of going inside to sing, we decided to stay outside at another picnic table and examine the things she had collected along the way.

A normal two winged seed group, and the unusual three winged
And do you know what we found when we examined them? A triple seed group of maple seeds! They usually come in a pair. Sarah has been picking seeds and leaves from this tree for years, but we have never seen anything like this. In fact, I haven't seen triple seeds among the thousands of winged seeds I've seen over the years. I couldn't even find a reference to them on the internet. To say the least, I was excited.

If you look really hard, on the back of Sarah's hand,
you can see the tiny insect we watched.
I also got another lesson from Sarah about slowing down and being in the moment. A very tiny green bug landed on her arm and she watched it for several minutes. She was careful with her arm movements, so she wouldn't disturb it. We watched as it crawled around her arm and she described the sensations she was feeling to me. When it was time for her to leave, she carefully transferred the bug to a leaf and left it in the grass where she found it. Quite frankly, I'm not sure that I would have even noticed the bug if she hadn't showed it to me. But with her coaching, we had a slow, calm, interesting few minutes of just being in the moment with the bug. Something I need to do more often.

So for getting to spend another morning with Sarah, I am thankful.