From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On The Road Again

All In The Family... And What I Think About It...



On the road again

Here I am, driving my car down a scenic byway in Christian County, KY. Isaac took this photo a few days ago.

To be honest, I rather like this photo, not because it shows my great beauty and my mop of hair, but because it shows me doing something I really enjoy -- just motoring along. How happy I look! And do you see the beautiful Kentucky countryside in the background. This photo is a true icon of the real me (one aspect of me, anyway)!

I suppose this post will define me as another of those gas-guzzling Americans, but I love road trips, great and small. I enjoy my car because it takes me places I haven't been before. I'll never see all the backroads and two-lanes in Kentucky (let alone the world,) but I see as much as I can, every chance I get.

I have happy memories of loading up the kids and going for little adventures when they were young. I drove a little gray Dodge truck at that time, and Isaac rode in the middle and Keely rode on the passenger side. Isaac says it was always nice and cozy in the middle. The older the truck got, the more adventurous it became to go places in it, but I won't go into all that!

The kids and I made many road trips together to Kansas (west of Wichita) to visit my parents. They are both gone now, my dad since 1996 and my mom since 1997, so I don't go out to Kansas as often nowadays, though my brother still lives out there.

Keely and Isaac were good little travelers, and they speak of those long drives with nostalgia. They like to talk about the sights we saw along the way and the times we stopped here or there. Keely learned to read the map at a tender age and became my trusty navigator, and Isaac enjoyed having the backseat to himself with his books, Gameboy, etc.

My husband, bless his heart, is not an enthusiastic traveler. He wants to reach the destination and get back home again. It's an inborn tendency, I think.

I find that Dennis and I enjoy our trips together much better if I drive. He relaxes and enjoys the scenery when he's "just along for the ride", and I enjoy driving my chosen route (which may not be the interstate.)

My spell checker is telling me that "backroad" is not really a word, but I disagree.

Bar

Related post: A Backroad

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Beautiful Handmade Quilt

Story of an heirloom quilt



Handmade quilt

Carolyn Hall of Bassett, Nebraska, sent the photo of the beautiful quilt above, and I asked if I could post it for everyone to enjoy. She graciously agreed and wrote a few words of explanation about the quilt's history:

The quilt was made by my cousin Neva Armour in MI. When she died it was left to her niece, Sharon Katz Gobel in KY. So the only relation it has to Rock County is me. You may put it on your blog as an example of a completely hand done quilt originally started in the 1930's and finished in 2006-7 by the Busy Fingers quilting group of the Bassett United Methodist Church (Leona Spann, age 93, Lois Bennett, age 87 and Carolyn Hall, age 68). The cat is a barn cat from Cherry county. She must be part Siamese to get the seal brown color.


I sized the photo down to post it here, but take a closer look in the image below. I am awed at the many, many little pieces of cloth, the hours of work, and the thousands of stitches in this quilt. The quilters loved what they were doing and their joy in their skill just shines here.

The story that goes with it makes it even more special. How nice that the quilt was finally completed!

A quilt like this has a value that is far beyond money.

Handmade quilt

Bar

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Rich with Avocados

Avocado tree at our Bolivian home


The second year (1981) that we lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, we rented an older stucco and adobe-brick house on a large lot. The house was built a long time before the gas boom brought a lot of new people and new construction to Santa Cruz. I suppose that area of town was the "historic district."

As is typical in Santa Cruz, the lot had a tall spiked fence along the front of it and tall masonry side walls that were topped with broken glass. The house sat at the back of the lot, and it was the fourth side of the long rectangle.

The space inside our walls was too nice to be called a yard. It was a tropical garden with fruit trees, grass, ground covers and many ornamental plants.

Enormous elephant ears (taller than my husband by a couple feet!) grew in a long strip between the driveway and one of the side walls. Various "houseplants" grew in beds along the sidewalks and patios, including a long hedge of "mother's-in-law tongue" in front of the house. "Wandering Jew" was one of the ground covers in the shade under the trees.

We had a pot-bellied toborochi tree and a mango tree and two banana trees and a funny little citrus tree that was neither lemon nor lime, but what I really want to tell about is the big avocado tree.

The avocado tree stood near the center of the garden, and during our year, it bore fruit. Its paltas (as avocados were called in Santa Cruz) were jumbo size -- as big as a large grapefruit, but pear shaped and heavy. They were bright green in color -- and there were a lot of them. I have read that some avocados (like oaks) bear heavily one year, then lighter the next year. Our tree must have had a heavy year.

We had all the avocados we could eat for weeks. We gave avocados to our friends and co-workers and to everyone who came to visit. Maria, the little Quechua woman who washed the clothes and swept the floor, and the man who cut the grass took avocados home with them every time they worked.

USDA image: AvocadoDennis and I didn't fool around with making guacamole. We cut the avocados in half and ate the soft meat with a spoon right out of the skins. Sometimes we spread mashed avocado like butter on the fresh rolls that the bakery peddler sold out of the basket on the back of his bicycle.

We were rich with avocados in a way that we probably won't experience again.

I thought about our lovely Bolivian garden today when Dennis and I split a huge green avocado that I bought at the grocery store. I paid $2.56 for it, but it was worth it. Its meat was creamy, rich and very faintly sweet. It was delicious, just as I knew it would be when I saw it. We ate it out of the skin with our spoons.

1951 Ford F5 Truck (Cab Over Engine)

History and Old Stuff...



I saw an old truck (scroll down for photos) on a vacant lot in Hopkinsville today. I hope I have identified it correctly as a 1951 Ford F5. I am certain that it is a Ford F5, because it is engraved in chrome on the truck. The question is the year, and I have looked at a bunch of vintage Ford photos trying to figure it out.

I was a little confused because the grill and front end on this old truck seemed to be like the 1951 Ford F5, but all the photos showed a truck with a much longer front end.

I finally decided that the short profile of this one's front end indicates it was a cab-over-engine model. I found documentation for cab-over-engine Mack trucks as early as 1905, so the concept was old stuff by 1951.

I was born in 1951, so I'm the same age as the truck. I hope I don't look as rough as it does! I do think the rust and the various paint hues make an interesting palette.

If you have an opinion on the make and model, please post it in the comments. Thanks.


1951 Ford F5 Truck Cab over Engine1951 Ford F5 Truck Cab over Engine



1951 Ford F5 Truck Cab over Engine1951 Ford F5 Truck Cab over Engine


Bar
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On February 26, 2006, a year ago today, I posted about Gaskell's Compendium of Forms (a beautiful old book) and about windmills. No writer's block that day!

The Need for More Storage Space

And What I Think About It...



Some things don't change much.

I read a few of the little stories and comments on life in my farm women's book tonight (This Way of Life, edited by Maude Longwell and published in 1971.)

As I've mentioned before, this book is a compilation of 25 years of letters to the editor from farm women. The letters were written from 1944-1971. I had to smile about a note that was titled, "Husband heard from."

Mr. George S. Whipple wrote that women were always "asking, cajoling, pleading and yelling" for more storage space, but they just need to clean out the storage space they already have. He suggests that women should throw some stuff away, "which no female seems to be able to do."

He goes on to say that women should also clean out the freezer from time to time, because that would solve the lack-of-space problem there, too.

Mr. Whipple is giving the same advice I've read in dozens of home-organization articles: get rid of the junk. He was a man before his time! But he'd never make it as a professional organizer with his snotty remarks about how women can't throw anything away. Don't we all know that can be a problem for either sex? Smile

Bar

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Living Near One of America's Largest Military Bases

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



Tanks on military transport trucksI don't think I've ever seen more tires on a vehicle!


One thing you'd notice if you came to visit Christian County, KY, is the military presence. Fort Campbell, one of America's largest Army bases, is located on the south end of Christian county, right on the state line between Kentucky and Tennessee.

We see military vehicles on the roads, flatcars of military equipment on the railroad, and lots of helicopters in the sky. (Fort Campbell is home to the Screaming Eagles, the 101st Airborne.)

It is a common thing to see a soldier in uniform waiting at the grocery checkout, buying gasoline, or picking up a child at school.

We have military families at our church. My children have had many friends and schoolmates whose parents were in the military. Some of the Boy Scouts in our troop come from military families. When we hear bad news from Iraq, we think of people we know and say a little prayer.

Many people in Christian County fly flags at their homes and places of business. I think most of the flags are an expression of support for the troops as well as an expression of patriotism. When my brother visited here the first time, he commented that he sure saw a lot more flags here than in Kansas!

On the south side of Hopkinsville, we have a small park dedicated to the memory of 248 soldiers from Fort Campbell who died in a plane crash at Gander, Newfoundland in December, 1985. They were coming home for Christmas from peacekeeping duties in the Mideast.

Many career military personnel retire in this area. Fort Campbell has a nice PX, commissary, hospital, and other facilities that they can use as retirees. Recognizing a need, the Kentucky Department of Veteran's Affairs has recently constructed a 73-acre veteran's cemetery on Highway 41-A between Hopkinsville and Fort Campbell.

We came to this area because my husband was transferred to Fort Campbell as a Department of Defense civilian. Many civilians are employed at Fort Campbell, including our neighbor who lives about a mile down the road. She runs a computer lab for a college that offers classes on the post.

I don't usually even think about these things because they are just "life as usual" in this community.

UPDATE 03/30/08:

About 6,000 more soldiers are stationed at Fort Campbell, the headquarters of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, than in 2002, said Kelly Tyler, a post spokeswoman.

Fort Campbell is the third-largest army post in the country, behind North Carolina's Fort Bragg and Texas' Fort Hood. Recent numbers put Fort Campbell's total military population at 30,865, plus 16,546 family members on post. An additional 46,000 live off the post, Tyler said, and often decide to stay in the Clarksville area after their duty has ended.

Quoted from "Clarksville ranks 10th in nation in growth", by Rachel Stults, staff writer, Leaf-Chronicle, March 27, 2008.


American and other flagsFlags at Gander Memorial Park in Hopkinsville, KY
Clockwise: US flag, POW-MIA flag, Kentucky flag, Screaming Eagles (101st Airborne) flag


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Friday, February 23, 2007

Bitten by the Rhubarb Bug

More About Trees and Plants...



Signs of spring

Here's a sure sign of spring -- onion sets, rhubarb and asparagus rhizomes, flower bulbs, seeds, and much more for the garden have appeared in WalMart.

We had a big clump of rhubarb when I was a child. It was an extremely tart variety with red stalks and huge leaves. My mother liked to make a few rhubarb desserts in the spring when the stalks were fresh and tender. The flavor was probably mildest at that time!

My favorite of Mama's desserts was a baked rhubarb and mulberry pudding that was sort of sweet and sour. The bland, sweet mulberries toned down the sharpness of the rhubarb. Regrettably, I don't have the recipe for it. I don't suppose Mama ever wrote it down.

A few years ago, my brother told me about the rhubarb he's been growing in his garden. "Rhubarb is good!" he announced in the voice of one who has made an amazing discovery. He explained that Mama had got the start for her rhubarb from my great-grandfather. It was "pioneer stock", my brother said, not an improved, selected-for-sweetness rhubarb. Vastly superior strains are now available, he assured me.

After I took the photo that's posted above, I bought a bag of three "Victoria" rhubarb rhizomes out of one of the boxes. I will set it out sometime soon, if the ground dries up enough that I can dig a hole! I don't know how well it will do here with our very hot summers, but I'm going to give it a try.

Still, I wish I could have a start of that old sour rhubarb of my childhood. I looked in the place where it grew when I was back at the ranch several years ago, but there was no trace of it.

Bar

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One year ago today, I posted a photo of typical Kentucky countryside and wrote about the words, "field," "pasture" and "meadow".

Bull Stories

Breechy bovine


Sarpy Sam (Thoughts from the Middle of Nowhere) has posted a great story about a bull that got its head stuck in a hay feeder. The tale is amusing and it's a good example of the real-life, everyday adventures of the cattle rancher. I think you'll enjoy it, even if you're not experienced with farm animals.

Bulls are always a trial and tribulation in the rancher's life. They make a lot of noise and dig holes and they can be belligerant. Naturally enough, they want to be with any nearby cows that are in heat, and some bulls will even go through a fence to get there.

In fact, the only time I ever heard my father use the word "bastard" was in connection with a bull that went through a fence.

It was a hot, still day in the middle of summer and we were in the hayfield. Something on the self-propelled windrower had broken. My dad was trying to repair it but wasn't having much success. He had been lying under the windrower for quite a while, down by the swamp where the air was especially steamy. Occasionally he emerged, covered with grease and hay chaff, to mop the sweat from his eyes.

Suddenly, my brother zoomed up in one of the pickup trucks. He jumped out and reported to my dad that one of the bulls had gone through the fence and was in with the neighbor's cattle.

Overcome with heat and frustration, my father spoke grimly. "That breechy bastard," he said, with deadly emphasis. (The word "breechy" to a rancher means "eager to go through any breech", that is, always looking for a weak place in the fence.)

Coming from my father, those were strong words indeed, because he didn't talk like that. I had never heard him say such a word. It was almost frightening to see my dad brought to this extreme.

Let me explain. Your bull in the neighbor's pasture can cause trouble between you and the neighbor. My dad was honor-bound to get that bull away from the neighbor's cows immediately, even if it meant that no more hay was made that day. In addition, my dad was afraid that this expensive bull might have been cut badly, when he went through the barbed wire fence. Also, it might be fighting with the neighbor's bulls, and it could have injured itself or another bull. All of this on that hot afternoon brought my dad to the point of using strong language.

My dad kept good fences, but when a large, strong, testosterone-charged animal makes an assault, it stretches every wire, strains every staple, and tests every repair.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Last Letter to the Scouts

History and Old Stuff...



Boy Scout logo Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (1857-1941), a soldier of considerable renown and the founder of Boy Scouts, was born 150 years ago today in London,.

I searched around the internet this afternoon for some information about Baden-Powell for Dennis to share with the boys at Scouts tonight, and I came across the following letter which was found in Baden-Powell's papers after his death. In it, he recorded for the Scouts some of his ideas about happiness.

Dear Scouts,

If you have ever seen the play Peter Pan you will remember how the pirate chief was always making his dying speech because he was afraid that possibly when the time came for him to die he might not have time to get it off his chest. It is much the same with me, and so, although I am not at this moment dying, I shall be doing so one of these days and I want to send you a parting word of good-bye.

Remember, it is the last you will ever hear from me, so think it over.

I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have as happy a life too.

I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness doesn't come from being rich, nor merely from being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man.

Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.

But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. "Be Prepared" in this way, to live happy and to die happy-- stick to your Scout promise always-- even after you have ceased to be a boy-- and God help you to do it.

Your Friend,
Baden-Powell


This text is available on many internet sites.

Bar

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Moonshine Still on the Hillside?

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... History and Old Stuff...



Kentucky is famous for its liquor. There's the legal stuff like Jack Daniels and there's the illegal stuff like the moonshine that came out of the Golden Pond area between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, particularly during prohibition days. You can read all about it and even see a moonshine still at the Golden Pond Visitors Center at Land Between the Lakes.

I have heard some stories about the homemade corn liquor that flowed in this part of Christian County, back when the old folks were young -- the 1930's, 40's, and 50's.

Before there were good roads to town, folks gathered on Saturday night at the little local store to dance to the music of the jukebox. One fellow told me that if you had a car you drove, and if you didn't have a car, you rode a mule, and if you didn't have a mule, you walked, but somehow you got to the store on Saturday night because you just had to! You couldn't miss the fun. And it is said that there were always jars of moonshine to pass around out behind the store.

Whiskey jug?I think I may have found a place in the woods near our house where some of that homemade liquor was produced. I can't imagine any other reason why several dozen gallon jugs would be scattered around a small area back in the woods on a hillside a quarter mile from the nearest road.

It's a secluded spot. It could be reached easily from the pasture above, but no one lived nearby and any firelight certainly would have been hidden from the road by the woods.

Most of the jugs are brown, like the one in the photo at left, but a few are made of clear glass. Some have sunk partway into the ground, and others are still lying on top of the forest floor -- perhaps because they've been picked up many times through the years by curious people like me?

A number of the jugs have broken, probably because of water freezing in them, and their jagged tops could inflict terrible wounds to any living thing that stepped on them. I turned over all the broken ones that I saw so that their sharp edges face down to the earth.

If there was a still there in the woods where the jugs are, I know who must have been running (or at least condoning) it, and it doesn't surprise me a bit. Do any of my readers know anything about bottles? Do these look like 1960's glass? (That's my estimate of the time period.)

For that matter, someone is probably still running a still around here. That wouldn't surprise me a bit either. After all, this is Kentucky.




An Alphabet of Bookmarks


Not Easily Classified...



Do you bookmark lots of pages? I do! I've been cleaning them out during the last few days, because the file was getting much too big! Here's an alphabet of a few links I rediscovered. Maybe there's something here you'll enjoy.

A - ARS Image Gallery
B - Black Elk Speaks
C - Color Palette Generator
D - Dave Barry's Blog
E - Educator's Reference Desk, Topics A-Z
F - First Ladies Gallery
G - Glacier National Park webcams
H - Hay In Art
I - It'll Never Work
J - Jeanne's Free Music Downloads & Freeware Page
K - Kerouak on Technique
L - LP to MP3
M - Medieval Clothing Pages: Articles by Cynthia Virtue
N - Nebraska State Historical Society
O - Our Vegetable Travelers
P - Plucked Psaltery 22 Strings
Q - Quick Quilts
R - Research - American West Photographs
S - Suggestions for Your Cemetery Restoration and Stone Repair Toolkit
T - Tools for Basic Home Repair
U - University of Nebraska Press
V - Victory Garden poster
W - Wikipedia Public Domain Image Resources
X - CSS eXamples
Y - Yellow Book
Z - Jim Loy's PuZZle page



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A year ago yesterday, I wrote about Grandma's basement apartment of the late 1950's or early 1960's.

A year ago today, I mused about grocery-store music and posted an old photo of my husband's family.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Gnomes in the News

Life in Germany... Some Interesting News...



I heard a story on Fox News this morning about a garden gnome theft at Keller, TX. In order to answer the call about the theft, police abandoned the idea of investigating a pickup truck without lights that had just run a stop sign. As it turns out, this pickup was probably driven by the thieves, making a sneaky get-away with the stolen gnomes.

Garden gnome moundThis gives me a reason to post a photo of the largest garden gnome settlement I've ever observed. These little fellows lived in a garden near our apartment on Heinersdorfer Str. in (West) Berlin. I took the photo in the spring of 1991. (Do you think this display hints at obsession?)

I'd never seen garden gnomes around the various neighborhoods (central USA, Bolivia) where I'd lived before we went to Germany, so I was quite amused by them when I saw them in German gardens. A little garden and hardware store on Heinersdorfer Str. had a prominent display of gnomes in their window and I often stopped with Keely and Isaac (who were very little then) to admire them in the window.

German gnomeKnowing that I wanted gnomes of my own, Dennis took Keely to the hardware store on a couple of occasions and had her choose a gnome that she thought Mom wanted. One of them is pictured at right. He's ceramic and I'm still fond of him, so I don't let him go outside. He might get broken (or turn up missing, you know.)

Usually, he sits with my houseplants, but for this photo, I moved him to a less distracting background. He has a gnome comrade who plays a concertina (a mini accordian-like instrument) to help provide soothing music for the houseplants to grow by.

Sometime since the early 90's, gnomes have migrated in great numbers to the New World and I've even seen a few in Hopkinsville, KY.

Garden gnomes are versatile little creatures capable of much more than horticulture. A high school German teacher in Lancaster County, PA, uses gnomes to give her German IV students practice in written and conversational German. Students are required to write a series of essays (in German) about their experiences with their gnomes, and they seem to enjoy the learning experience.

Senior Hayli Cingle said her gnome, "Anna," will accompany her on a college visit next week. "I've got to ask my gnome what it thinks," Hayli said.

Hayli said having a gnome and talking about it regularly in German has increased her vocabulary. "It definitely has kept me in a German frame of mind," Hayli said.

Source: "Sprechen sie gnome?" by Madelyn Pennino in the Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, PA), posted to web on Feb 10, 2007
The above story was one of the nicer ones about gnomes in a Google news search. Too many are about "gnome-napping" which does not amuse me. It is simply theft with a cute name.

Bar


I originally published this post with the title, "Gnomes in the Gnews," but I had to change it! That corny misspelling hurt my eyes every time I looked at it!

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How about you? Are there any gnomes around your home or garden?

Monday, February 19, 2007

February's Palette

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



February's palette

These last drab days of winter, every spark of color in the landscape is a welcome sight. The golden heads of some old dry grass caught my eye today. I think the clump of trees in the background is growing around a sinkhole.


Bar
One year ago, I posted a winter photo of our neighbor's "dark barn".

The Sudan in 1941

History and Old Stuff...


The authors of my 1941 Social Studies book, Our World Today, ask the readers to imagine an airplane ride over the continent of Africa...

Continuing along our airplane route southward from Air [a mountainous area of the Sahara], we soon notice a change in the appearance of the country. The yellowish gray of the desert is giving way to a light green color. Descending near the earth, we see that we are passing over grasslands, with scattered shrubs and trees. This is the Sudan.

The Sudan is a broad belt of grasslands lying between the Sahara and the tangled growth of the jungle bordering the equatorial forests of central Africa. It is within the Tropical Zone. The western part belongs to the French and is included in French West Africa. The eastern part belongs to the English and is known as Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.

It is a region of summer rains. The annual rainfall varies from about ten inches near the Sahara to twenty or more along the southern border. The Sudan is one of the most promising agricultural districts of Africa. The grasslands are good for grazing cattle and some parts will grow cotton and other crops usually grown in the warm temperate zones.

Source: Our World Today (p. 110-111), a geography textbook written by De Forest Stull and Roy W. Hatch and copyrighted in 1941 by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA

They didn't know about the oil of the southern Sudan in 1941. Or maybe it didn't seem worth mentioning.


Bar

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

The News from Sudan Is Personal Now

All In The Family...



My nephew Ben has left this week to work for a year in southern Sudan for the Christian humanitarian relief and community development agency, Samaritan's Purse.

Ben is a recent college graduate with a master's degree in Civil Engineering. He has wanted to spend some time working in a third world country where he could use his skills to make a real difference.

With that in mind, he applied for a job providing construction expertise and supervision in Sudan with Samaritan's Purse. He interviewed and was hired, and now just a few weeks later, he's en route to Africa.

CIA map of SudanLast week, he attended some orientation sessions (in Washington, D.C., I think), and next week, he'll have more orientation in Kenya. From there, he goes into Sudan and joins a team to begin work. My sister said that Ben is traveling light with just two suitcases, one of which holds his new, really good backpack.

Supposedly, the semi-autonomous southern part of Sudan is not as strife-ridden as the Darfur Province in the western part of the nation where the government has been allowing genocide. Still, the south has endured decades of war and has millions of refugees. (For more information, see the CIA's brief history or Wikipedia's "History of Sudan.")

I think my family is proud that our good, fine Ben wants to do this, and we admire the humanitarian and missionary spirit in his heart, but we feel some concern for his safety and well-being. If you have a prayer list, will you please put Ben on it?

Bar

Keely, Isaac and Ben in 1995
Here are my two children (Keely on left and Isaac in the middle) with Ben (on the right) in 1995 at the Little House on the Prairie historic site near Independence, KS. It's hard to believe that Keely is now 21, Isaac is nearly 18, and Ben will soon be 26.

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A year ago today, I posted a
1994 photo of my kids and their excellent snowman.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ten Things About Spring I'll Enjoy!

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



Well, actually, I thought of nine things with no trouble at all:

1. Taking a walk without freezing to death
2. No more frosty windshields
3. Hearing the frogs sing the first time
4. Opening the windows to let in the fresh air
5. Watching the trees get their leaves again
6. Putting away the mittens and caps for the last time
7. Walking barefoot under the old maple where the moss is a velvet carpet
8. Seeing the baby calves in the pastures
9. The fragrance of fresh-cut grass and wild garlic*

And Isaac gave me one more to make ten:
10. Spring break!

*A peculiar spring fragrance well-known to all rural dwellers of Christian County, KY.

Bar
A year ago the daffodils were ready to bloom, but we were waiting for the snow to start.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Great Backyard Bird Count

More About Birds and Animals...



Here's a good cause and something fun to participate in. The Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend.

The idea of it is to make several counts of the different species of birds you see in your backyard. Then take the greatest number for each species you saw and report it. For example, if you saw 5 cardinals at 10 a.m. 3 cardinals at 10:30 a.m. and 6 cardinals at 11:00 a.m., you would report 6 cardinals, the greatest of the three counts.

The study is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. You can read all about it at the Great Backyard Bird Count website. Much information is available there, including helpful photos and descriptions to help identify any species you may not be sure of.

Backyard birdsThe specific goals of the bird count are listed on the website, but put simply, it helps us know how the birds are doing. And I hope the count will reveal that the birds are doing well.

Dennis is looking forward to doing the counting at our house, and I will probably make some observations too. I am a little concerned that I haven't seen any mourning doves around the feeders this year.

When I took the photo at right, the wind chills were below zero. The birds were picking up fallen seed off the ground instead of congregating at the feeder as they usually do. Some were even huddling on the ground near the wall of the house.

Bar
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A year ago today, I blogged about "A Twisted Hackberry" that grows at the Catholic church in Hopkinsville. I also had some comments about some little tin men I had seen at the flea market.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Simplifying and Downsizing the Good Way

And What I Think About It...



The book lying beside me (This Way of Life, edited by Maude Longwell, published in 1971 by Farm Journal, Inc.) is a book of short excerpts from country women's letters to the editors of Farm Journal. It's exactly the sort of book I'd pick up from the stacks at a used book or estate sale.

However, I didn't buy it. It was given to me by an internet friend from Illinois, an elderly gentleman whom I met face to face just one time at an internet bulletin-board get-together. I'll call him Don.

Don knew me well enough from our mutual participation in a cyber community to think I might enjoy this book. When he was going through a time of decreasing his possessions, he mailed it to me. His inscription inside the book reads, "To Genevieve. May this book bring you pleasure and increase your zest for living. Don."

Since this book is a collection of little stories, you can open it to any page anytime and read as much as you feel like. I've enjoyed it many times, and it always makes me think of Don. He's in his 70's, and he copes with poor health as well as providing much of his wife's care. The book also reminds me of my childhood because Farm Journal was one of the magazines my father read, and there were parts of it that I read too!

I admire the way Don decided to give away some of his lifetime accumulation to his friends and family. I think you don't have to mourn the loss of your "stuff" so much if you can give it away thoughtfully to people who will truly understand and appreciate its value.

I hope when the time comes for me to seriously depopulate my bookshelves (and all the other storage spaces and caches of knickknacks, etc.), I'll be able to follow Don's example. I hope I don't selfishly cling to everything I own, and then it all ends up being sold to strangers because the kids don't want it!

Bar

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A year ago on Valentine's Day, I posted a photo of Hopkinsville's Founder's Square and wrote about events I had attended there.

Domains, Titles, and Ads are Strangely Related

Blogs and Blogging...



I've been working off and on all day trying to put in a 3-column template for my tree blog. It is finally looking better, but something goes wrong with the line spacing when I use the quotes button. Everything below the quoted material is closer spaced than it is supposed to be. I have no clue why it's doing that!

While I was searching for a template to use, I read that when you change the template, you can save your widgets. You check the box on the HTML template page that says, "Expand widgets," then save the template with the widgets expanded. When you get your new template in place, you just cut and paste the widgets back in.

That sounds simple, doesn't it? After I figured out where to paste them, it went all right, but with the few widgets that I had at that point, it would have been just as easy to simply redo them. However, I'm going to think of the whole exercise as a learning experience.

I've learned one other thing which I'll mention for anyone who is thinking of running ads. When I decided to make a tree blog, I decided to buy a domain name and publish under it. However, it seemed that every tree domain name that I could think of was already taken.

Finally, I came up with "www.woodypath.com" and paid a few dollars for it. I figured I would name my blog, "A Woody Path". But when I set up the blog with that name at that address, all the darned Google ads were about Woody Woodpecker, Woody Allen, Woody Guthrie, etc. The ad server seemed to completely ignore several posts about trees on the page.

This remained true even when I changed the title to various tree names, so I assume it was getting its Woody ideas from the "woodypath.com." So I finally changed both name and address and it's now "Tree Notes" at treenotes.blogspot.com and now, most of the ads are tree ads. Again, I was limited by availability (which is exactly how I ended up with "A Woody Path" in the first place!)

So be warned that the blog title and words in the URL can slant the Google ads, and choose carefully before you buy! And by the way, I have a spare domain name that I'll sell cheap!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Construction in Hopkinsville

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



New Rite-Aid in Hopkinsville Here's a bit of news for my readers who are former Hoptowners.
The new Rite-Aid is finally open for business. It is located at the Country Club Lane and Fort Campbell Boulevard intersection.

They knocked down and hauled away a large building (Winn Dixie) to build this. The new building doesn't use the entire lot, so I guess the north end of the lot is probably available for development.

I visited Rite-Aid the day I took this photo, but I didn't see anything very unique there. We've had our prescriptions filled at Walgreens for years and we probably won't switch. The one thing that might bring me back to the store is the counter where they accept utility bill payments.

Parkway construction in Hopkinsville, KYThe most visible construction in Hopkinsville is the Pennyrile Parkway extension. I wish they were finished with that mess, but it will take at least another year! It should decrease the traffic congestion on Fort Campbell Boulevard between the mall and Lowes. The big trucks and other through-traffic will bypass that area. Perhaps it will prevent a few accidents.

I'm trying to see this road as good progress, but I have mixed feelings as I watch it being built. Thousands and thousands of tons of rock have been heaped to form the roadbed that passes through the Little River area on the south side of town. It has definitely changed the land forever. Some have speculated that stormwaters blocked behind this dam-like roadbed will flood new areas in southern Hopkinsville prone to flooding. Time will tell.

Bar

A year ago today, I was excited that I had seen a pileated woodpecker. I had never seen one before and I haven't seen one since!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Wheatberry Bread

All In The Family... Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



Isaac and I went over to "Clarks-vegas" (Clarksville, TN) yesterday afternoon to eat out with Keely and her boyfriend. On the way over, I stopped at the little Amish bulk-food store near Guthrie.

They have the best selection of flours and other grain products that I know of in this area and most of their prices on these products are very reasonable. I bought rye flour, cracked wheat flour, wheatberries, yeast and wheat gluten. (All of these are ingredients for bread baking.)

This afternoon, I looked up a recipe in my Wooden Spoon Bread Book and made a batch of wheatberry bread using various bread ingredients from the Amish store.

A wheatberry, I should explain, is the entire wheat grain minus its hulls. When cooked, they swell up to about the size of a small ladybug and they're chewy. They give the bread dough a really odd texture.

I made a double recipe and baked it as three long loaves on a cookie sheet. Oh it is so good. We ate nearly all of one loaf, hot out of the oven and well-buttered.

Here's the recipe as I adapted it from the Wooden Spoon Bread Book. If you don't have rye flour, just use whole wheat. The rye flour, wheat germ, and gluten were not in the original recipe, anyway.

Cooking the Wheatberries:

Toast 2 cups of wheatberries by stirring them around in a heavy skillet over medium heat. (Careful! They can burn.) Then put them in a saucepan with 6 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Drain excess water. This makes about five cups of wheatberries, so freeze the extras to use for another batch of bread. Also, I think they might be good in soup!

Wheatberry Bread


Combine in a large bowl:

4 cups warm water
2 packs (or tablespoons) yeast
2 teaspoons sugar


When yeast becomes active, stir in the following:

2 cups cooked wheatberries (at room temperature)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs (reserve the white of one egg)
1/4 cup wheat gluten
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups rye flour

Beat well, gradually adding

All purpose flour as needed.

When the dough is stiff enough to handle, turn it out of the bowl and knead well. Collect any stray wheatberries and poke them back into the dough. Grease a bowl and put the bread dough into it. Turn the bread dough over so the greased side is out. Cover the dough and place it in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour. Punch the dough down and divide it into three equal parts. Shape each part into a loaf. Place the loaves on a well-greased cookie sheet (or sheets.) Cover the loaves and place them in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes. Before baking, beat the reserved egg white with

1 teaspoon water

and brush the tops of the loaves with it. Make seven equally spaced slashes across the tops of each loaf. Place in a 375°F oven and bake for about 40 minutes. Cool the loaves on wire racks.

Bar
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On February 11 a year ago, I posted about "Bill's House." I'm glad I took that photo because last spring, the house was bulldozed and burned. Now there's no sign it was ever there.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

February Blues

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



February bluesWaiting for spring

I read once about the buffalo in Yellowstone. Before the spring thaw finally starts, they wait, wait, wait for the snow to melt and the grass to grow again. The last weeks of winter are the very hardest for them because they are weakened by what they've already endured and they're very thin and hungry.

Our circumstances in Kentucky are not nearly that dire, but we're waiting for spring and warmer weather with eagerness because we want to put away our winter coats.

Years ago, when we moved to Germany from the Kansas City area, we were accustomed to some snow and cold weather in winter. When winter in Germany came, we put on our heavy warm coats and wore them everywhere as people of the colder latitudes do in winter.

We had become friends with a young married couple from Kentucky. It seemed odd that Doug and Rita never wore their warm coats even if they had them in the backseat of the car. They were always running across the parking lots, shivering in just their sweaters. I asked Rita one day why they never wore their coats. She laughed and said she guessed it was the Kentucky way.

Now I understand why she said that. The temperatures are often in the 40's on winter days here -- sometimes even warmer. It's usually easy to go from the car to the store with just your sweater. Lately though, we're lucky if the temperature is above freezing even in the middle of the day. I've had to wear my big coat a lot, and I'm sure tired of it.

You'd never dream that I grew up where the winters were long, cold and snowy. After 15 years in Kentucky, I whine right along with everyone else every time we get just a little taste of real winter.

Bar

On February 10th a year ago, I wrote about "Living With A Well." I am so thankful that we finally got county water last summer.

Ads on the Blog

Blogs and Blogging...



Dear hearts and gentle people (all of you who read regularly!), I have decided to add some Google text-link ads to this blog. I am adding them for the 100-150 page hits per day that come mostly from search engines. They are not aimed at you!

In fact, please do not click on them repeatedly as a favor to me because Google frowns upon that. They will even block a site from running Google ads if there are suspicious levels of clicks from a handful of IP addresses.

I don't think this blog is focused enough to run Google text ads very effectively, but I decided to try it and see what happens. If the ads turn out to be too random or too ugly or if they are pointless because no surfer ever clicks on them, I will probably remove them.

I am going to start a tree blog soon, and I'm going to try to keep it focused mostly on trees. I plan to run ads on it because people who come to a tree site from a search for tree information might actually click on a tree ad. (I don't know if anyone who comes to the very random Prairie Bluestem site will click on a very random ad or not!)

I became rather obsessed with trees 15 years ago when we bought this place and we could finally plant anything we wanted. I did a tremendous amount of research, and finally I wrote an extensive native trees website that still resides on my computer though it's not on the internet anymore. I will be drawing upon it for the blog from time to time.

I also have a large personal library of tree reference books and an unlimited number of local trees to photograph in all seasons, so I'm ready for this, I think. I just need to get the layout figured out.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Early February

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



Icy puddles

We've had the coldest February of this century, I'd guess. According to my unscientific research on Weather Underground for Hopkinsville, KY, it's been colder than average most days since the 16th of January. It's not that common for us to see ice in the puddles --that's why I took this photo.

Old oaks

These beautiful big oaks grow along the driveway of a big old farmhouse that is standing empty. These trees must be at least a century old -- very possibly more than that. I am not good at identifying the species of oak at this distance, but I don't think they are white oaks because their bark is too dark. Southern red oaks are very common here, so that would be my guess.

Rural landscape

These barns belong to a Mennonite farm. The Mennonite farmers here often buy silos that are no longer being used, tear them down, move them and reconstruct them. That works out well for both buyer and seller.

Keeling Hill

Keeling Hill rises out of the farmland northeast of Fairview, KY, just a mile or two out of town. It's on the southern tip of one finger in a group of ridges. I wrote a little about this land formation last July in the post, "Pilot Rock."


Long Pond

This is the Long Pond of Long Pond Road, I assume. At any rate, Long Pond Road passes over the dam that creates this pond, and there are no other ponds of size along the way. I can never drive by it without taking a photo. (See the pond in autumn in the post, "Seen on Long Pond Road.") It's a lovely place, and I have often wondered whether it is a good fishing spot!

Bar

On February 9, 2006, I posted photos of a light snow and wrote about "Happenings in the Night."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Thracian Gold

Some Interesting News...



Bulgaria has sent some ancient golden treasures on tour to Paris, and now they are back home again for a few days before traveling to Switzerland and then to Japan. I had read something about the exhibition of the treasure a few months ago, but I hadn't seen any pictures of the pieces.

An article on the news.bg site, "Thracian Gold Treasure from Abroad Back in Bulgaria" includes a photo of one of the pieces. It's not a large photo, but if you look carefully, you can see that the creativity and detail are beautiful, and the workmanship is just incredible, particularly for something that was made around 400 BC.

I learned from a summary of various Thracian treasures that the piece I admired is a rhyton, a vessel that can be used either for drinking or for pouring liquids (as in a ceremony.) It is part of a group of rhytons that was found in a mountain town in central Bulgaria by brickworkers who were digging up clay.

The Thracians were known as great warriors; Spartacus, the gladiator slave who led a rebel war against the Romans, was a Thracian. And they were renowned throughout the ancient world as expert metalworkers; in The Iliad, Homer describes the Thracian King's golden armor as "a wonder to behold, such as it is in no wise fit for mortal men to bear, but for the deathless gods."

Source: "Treasures Fit For The Kings," by Jumana Farouky, published in Time, May 29, 2005.

If you like history, I encourage you to look at the links I've included here. They whetted my curiosity about the Thracians enough that I'm going to see if I can find an article about them in the decades of National Geographic magazines shelved in our hallway. (And there I have revealed the source of my fascination with treasures like this -- many, many hours spent with National Geographic as a child.)

I'm glad that the people of Bulgaria are learning more about their ancient history, and I am impressed that they are sharing these priceless treasures with the world by sending them on tour. They should be very proud.

Update:
If you have a National Geographic archive near at hand, check out these articles:

  • July, 1980, "Ancient Bulgaria's Golden Treasure"
  • June, 1988, "Visage From Ancient Thrace"
  • Dec. 2006, "Bulgaria's Gold Rush"


Bar

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A year ago today, I wondered if America's bread basket has enough water to produce biofuels as well as food.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Peaceful Valley

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...



Peaceful valley

Isaac (with the help of his Scout troop) has cleaned and repaired an old overgrown cemetery for his Eagle Scout service project. This photo is taken from inside the cemetery, looking out across the valley.

I think there are worse places to be buried. It's quiet and very peaceful. Time progresses by seasons, not by minutes and hours. Now the landscape is brown, but soon it will be green. Then birds will nest in the trees and calves will frolic in the pasture for a time before the cold winds blow again.

Isaac has disrupted nature with his chopping and mowing and hauling off, but when spring comes, she will begin again to reclaim this place.


Scouts at work

Bar

Related posts:
Eagle Project Begun
Eagle Project is Taking Shape

One year ago today on Prairie Bluestem, I related a few stories about Kentucky vultures.
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.