Tuesday, November 14, 2017

This and that

Let me say it again. Despite good intentions, I have been largely absent from here. Nothing big happening, just lots of little things that don't seem that interesting to share. But I'm going to do it any way. Below are a few of them complete with no pictures. :)

Last week we had our first hard freeze which was the signal for time to start going at warp speed toward the holidays. But before that, I was still pretending that the mild days of fall would continue indefinitely. I worked on weed control and bed cleanup. I collected seeds (note to self--more to do in this area) and mowed grass. But the most important thing I did outside was to plant crocus bulbs. Crocus are truly the highlight of spring for me with their bright, early colors, but I didn't see any come up last year. I'm hoping my newly planted bulbs bloom the first year and I have little pockets of crocus greeting me here and there in a few months.

(Chose not to insert picture of plain dirt where I planted the crocus.)

Also, I've started on holiday prep. I'm not one who shops all year for things and finishes my holiday shopping in August. It always seems that if I see something in May, it won't wait easily until December or by December that persons needs or wants have changed. Anyway, I've started making a few things. Unfortunately, I can't show them to you yet. But let's just say, that concepts don't always turn out in reality. Several weeks of kitchen mess have given me some "interesting" things to give.

(Can't show you what I've made or it will spoil the surprise for some.)

I know that I'm very old fashioned, but I'm one of those people who still sends out cards, letters, and pictures at Christmas. I've started that process and everything should be ready in two or three weeks. I also have started that for my mother. I was obsessed one weekend while making a card for her to send. Nothing was working out quite right partly because I didn't know how to use the four different editing programs I was trying. But now I think we're in good shape to help her with them when we visit at Thanksgiving. Preparing cards is something that Wally and Theo often do with their grandmother.

(Can't show you the cards I've been working on for privacy reasons.)

Ward went away on a week long backpacking trip a couple of weeks ago and I did a few things to surprise him for when he got back. One of them was working in the garage. Wally came over and helped me put together some shelves that we got several months ago to help organize the garden area. It took a bit of rearranging, but Ward came home to a cleaner, better organized garage, at least in one corner. He noticed and was pleased. Mission accomplished.

(Chose not to show you pictures of our messy garage. Actually, I forgot to take some.)

I'm not sure what else has been going on. Let's see. We went to a dinner theater, Theo's been sick, and we got the furnace fixed. And there's that work thing that keeps happening every day. So there you have it--whatever it is.

(Didn't take pictures of the furnace, or a sick Theo and wasn't allowed to take them at the dinner theater.)

Until next time...


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Morning

We had a cloudy sunrise this morning.

Good Morning.

I'm not a morning person. Never have been. Ward learned long ago, it's best to not talk to me in the morning. Some people wake up fully awake, but not me. It takes my body a few hours to feel awake even when I've had a good night's sleep. But that doesn't mean, I'm not enjoying this morning.

I awoke early to go walking, but my walking buddy couldn't make it until this afternoon. So here I am in a quiet house with the men in my family all sleeping. Both Wally and Theo are here for a visit, so the day holds extra excitement for a day spent together.

The cats have been fed and are already stretched out for their morning nap. Only the sighting of an occasional bird out the window gets an alert. It's a cloudy morning, so there's no crowding into the same sunbeam for them.

There's something about the quiet of the morning, that is very calming. Soon there will be hustle and bustle with to-do lists and errands. But for now, I am enjoying the peace of the early morning. I hope you are, too.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Time Flies, Sometimes


I turned around yesterday and realized that some how, it was the end of October. How could that be? In my mind, I just finished July. Time is a funny thing. It's a constant, but it seems to speed up and slow down at different times. How does that work? I stumbled across an article that gives a little insight to this question.

It all relates to the way we process things in our brain, according to a study done in Munich, Germany and reported by Scientific American. Researchers interviewed 499 people from ages 14-94 about their perception of time.They found that in short durations up to a year, for all ages, time seems to go fast--especially when they were having fun. The difference seemed to come when time was examined in retrospect. Time from childhood seemed to have gone slowly, while time from later years (over 40) seemed to go much faster.

Here's how the researchers explained this phenomenon. The brain lays downs memories for novel experiences. However, it doesn't do that for familiar ones. So when you experience a lot of new things, like everything in childhood, there are a lot of memories to go with that time period. However, when you experience fewer new things, like much of adulthood, you have fewer memories. So the same time period can seem either long or short depending on how many memories you have associated with it.

I'm not sure this explains how time seemed to jump from July to October, but it does explain some other things like why I remember and quote more things from my childhood that any other time. This subject needs more examination. When I have time. :)

Do you notice time in different ways?


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Joe

or It Was a Privilege

Saturday, Ward and I went to a memorial service for a former neighbor, Joe. Joe lived a long, good life and died at the age of 92. When the service was over, a friend through her tears, said that we all need to know someone like Joe.

Joe grew up on a farm in Virginia and served in WW II receiving both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service. He married his sweetheart, Patsy, and had four children. Joe was no stranger to hard work and often worked two jobs to provide for his family. He sometimes bartered and did additional work to provide extras for his kids like piano lessons and braces. Joe stressed the importance of education to his children, but also told them that common sense beats book learning every time. He was an active member of his church and used his faith to help him through some of the difficult times in his life.

We got to enjoy the fruits of Joe's labor.
When we first met Joe and his wife, Patsy, they were retired but living an active life. They were the first ones to welcome us to the neighborhood with a plate of brownies and we became fast friends. Joe spent time with Wally and Theo showing them some of his things from WWII and telling them of his experiences. He also showed them his favorite saddle and told them stories about his time on the farm.

Joe hadn't lived on a farm for a long time when we moved to the neighborhood, but it seemed that once a farmer, always a farmer. He could usually be found outside tending to one plant or another. Joe planted an acre of garden for just he and Patsy. Well, actually, he and Pasty, and his friends, and his neighbors. We could always depend on Joe for a steady supply of fresh vegetables during the summer.

I think that I always felt a special connection to Joe because he reminded me of my father. Joe and my father were the same age and both grew up on a farm. They loved being outside and they both felt there was no need to do something unless you were going to do it big and well. Their gardens were a perfect example of that. And as they aged, they also found a way to keep doing what they wanted, sometimes to the dismay of those around them. Below is a perfect example of that.

After Patsy died, Joe's kids worried about their dad being home alone because he had his own set of health problems at this point. They got him a golf cart to use as he checked on his garden, etc. I think that his kids thought the cart would lessen the chance that he would fall while he was roaming around on his three acres. I was surprised, but Joe used his cart faithfully. However, one day I looked out the window and Joe was on the top of a ladder with a chainsaw trimming one of his big trees. No spotters, no help, just a man doing what he thought had to be done. I went across the street and told him that I was there on behalf of his children and they didn't approve of what he was doing. However, I got a big chuckle from it and admired the fact that he was going to keep doing what he liked as long as he could.

I couldn't agree with my friend more. We all need to know or to have known someone like Joe. Someone who valued hard work. Someone who was faithful to his family and church. Someone who put his life on the line for his country. And someone who provided his neighbors with a steady supply of fresh vegetables. I am very happy that I had the privilege to know one of those people.


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.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Visit to the Fair

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a small town girl at heart. I have lived in large cities, small cities, suburbs, and small towns, and the thing that feels the most comfortable to me is the small town. I think that is because that's how I grew up. I now live in the urban sprawl between two large cities, but within that sprawl are pockets of small towns trying to preserve their way of life and I am lucky to be close to two of them. Last weekend one of them had one of those small town events that made me feel at home--the community fair. It's free and fun and close; the perfect combination. If you've been reading here a while, you know that the fair is something I try to participate in every year.
These goats were happy to be petted.

The fair in some ways feels like it is from another time. It's small enough that there's enough room for parking, but big enough that you're bound to see several people you know at any one visit.  The very young to the very old enter things to compete for ribbons. You see vegetables, quilts, photos, Lego creations, eggs, livestock, baked goods, canned goods, etc. all hoping for a ribbon that comes with a cash prize. You can also enter a tractor pull, veggie vehicle races, a pet show, and an ice cream making contest among other things. You can enjoy music from local bands as well as craft demonstrations and a fashion show of homemade outfits. Just picture yourself back with Andy, Opie, and Aunt Bee going to the Mayberry Fair and I think you'll get the idea.

I didn't get many pictures, but here are a few of the things that I enjoyed this year at the fair.


The fair opens Friday morning to school groups. I worked this year with the children's librarian during their visits.  The kids loved her Man-in-the-Yellow-Hat costume from the Curious George books as well as her monkey puppet.


The inside exhibits are in the Fire Department's activities buildings. I entered green beans, herbs, flowers, and a photo. I got a variety of  ribbons from these entries as well as no ribbons on some. If you squint, you can see my basil in the background that got a second place.


Uncle Billy was on vacation, but he told me it was okay if I entered some onions for him.


I always like looking at the needlework section. In the past I've won ribbons in this department for some of my knitting and x-stitch but this year I did make anything that I could enter. 


The fire department always has a truck or two there for kids to explore until there's a call. Then they're off!


However, the giant John Deere tractor doesn't go anywhere. Most of the people in this crowd are waiting on their kids who are exploring the tractor. They are also looking at the jazz band playing to the right and some are talking to neighbors. This is a fairly typical scene. Later that night it was more crowded, but never uncomfortably so.


I always find the chickens on display interesting because of the variety of bright colors they have.


There were several baby animals on display. Among them were a lamb and its mother.


As well as a donkey foal and its mother.


So there is a brief visit to the fair with me. Maybe next year, I'll show you some of the food traditions. In the meantime, I should get busy making things I can enter next year.



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thankful Sunday, September 10, 2017

I am thankful for shelter.

The hurricane activity this season has been a good reminder of how very lucky I am to be safe and dry with a roof over my head. As we have seen, not all are so lucky. The last few days I have been hearing the story of one of those unlucky families and I've shared some of it below. Communication has been very difficult since the hurricane, so some of the details are sketchy.
Melanie and her sister at my wedding. 

Melanie is the daughter of friends and I was her constant babysitter when I was in college. She was adorable and we had a lot of fun together. Now Melanie is all grown up and married with with 4 children of her own. She lives in the U.S Virgin Islands on St. John. Or she used to. Irma wiped away everything she and her family had. Luckily, no one was hurt, but they had no where to go after the storm except into a van that some how had miraculously survived.

The main concern for them is to get off the island before Jose comes barreling through. Easier said than done. The local airport had some damage making flying iffy at best. The first flight they could possibly get out would be on Tuesday. In the meantime, the family got on a chartered boat with others to Puerto Rico hoping to fly to the US from there. However, Puerto Rico is having enough problems of their own and refused to let them enter. The boat had to turn around in the middle of the night for a 3 hour trip to St. Croix. There they got a hotel room and it was the first time they had a place to sleep and bathe since the hurricane hit. Now they have tickets to fly out of St. Croix on Friday to Texas where her in-laws live. Here's hoping for the best that that actually happens.

What you don't get from my telling of Melanie's story above is the desperation that you hear in her families' pleas for information. The anger and panic you hear when plan after plan falls through. And imagining what it must be like for those four children ages 8 months to 11 years old as they are going through this very scary, difficult situation.

Melanie and her family have survived and will be able to move forward with the good family and friend support they have.*  It's going to be a long road, but they will make it.

So for the shelter I am so lucky to have and the shelter that Melanie and her family found last night, I am thankful.

*Presently, there's a Go Fund Me drive to help buy plane tickets for them. The tickets are about $2-3000 each.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Giving

We are hearing a lot these days about disasters around our country and the help that is needed as a result of them. Front and center are the fires in the west and the hurricanes in the Gulf and Atlantic. The devastation of it all is overwhelming to see and hear about.

A few of the supplies I'm collecting for the hygiene kits.
But that's not all that is catching my attention. I look around and see local children who need things for school and animal shelters that need help to care for abandoned animals. When I turn on the radio, I hear about people around the world dying by the thousands in earthquakes and typhoons, as well as losing their life trying to escape corrupt governments. At home, I see a neighbor who has just lost her husband and the child who needs attention that they aren't getting at home. I see the nursing home residents who could use a visit.

The needs of the world are endless and this overwhelms me. So what do I do when I'm inundated with all of these cries for help? I try to just do something. Tune out the rest and focus on one thing at a time. If I don't do this, I become immobilized and don't do anything.

My current focus is on Hurricane Harvey. I lived in Houston for ten years before moving to Maryland and I still have several friends there. I watched as Harvey wreaked havoc on familiar areas and felt that I needed to help in some way. There are many ways to do that, but I have chosen something concrete.

I am making, with friends and family's help, hygiene kits that have been requested by my church's relief organization, UMCOR. These are standard kits with soap, toothbrush, towel, etc. that are given out around the world and are much needed in the Houston and surrounding areas. I hope there will not be a great need for them with Hurricane Irma, but the kits can also help there.

So besides trying to be kind and respectful to others in every day life, focusing on one thing at a time is how I try to help in my small way. Sometimes it is putting together hygiene kits, sometimes it's making a monetary donation, and sometimes it may be writing a letter to an elderly relative. I try not to overthink things, which is my normal mode of operation. and just take some kind of action. That's what works for me. How do you handle the overwhelming needs of others that surround you?


Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Second Look--August 31, 2017

This yard is a little less wild than the last one, so on the surface it seems as if it's not as interesting. But all I have to do is look and sometimes take a Second Look, and there are interesting bits of nature everywhere.

Here are a few of those things that I saw recently in my yard.

After taking a break during the heat, the osteospormum are blooming again.


Besides the purple, I have two other colors of them.


This sedum came from a small volunteer that was in the middle of some lily of the valley a friend gave me. I planted it and the sedum has established itself and started to bloom.


And speaking of volunteers, this dill plant came seemingly out of nowhere. I'm hoping to collect the seeds and have several plants next year.


As far as herbs go, the basil is doing very well. You can see the variegated plant is pretty tall and the globe one is growing well, also. (I trimmed all of the blossoms off of it after I took this picture.) Some of the other herbs are just barely surviving. I think it's all due to location, location, location. I'll have some better ideas where to plant them next year. 
Note: The blue yard stick is approximately 1 meter long. 


While cleaning out one of the beds, I uncovered some day lilies enough for one of them to bloom.


The purple sage has started to bloom again and the skipper butterflies are enjoying them. Notice the butterfly's proboscis arching out of its head into the flower for a drink of nectar.


And in this picture you can see actually where it's coming out in the front.


I find it interesting that bumble bee's proboscis is shaped very differently from the butterfly's. It has a shorter, stouter one that can not get into as many flowers. However, it has somewhat made up for this by having a triangular shaped head that will go further into the blossoms.
You may remember this picture from another Second Look. In that one, I noted the yellow pollen baskets on the bee's back legs.