Thursday, November 30, 2006

Casper's Adventure

All In The Family...

Yesterday, Casper was beside himself with excess energy, so I took him out to the lawn for a while. He was exhilarated but wary. Every hair on his little tail stood on end for the entire half hour he was outside.

First, Casper jumped off the front step and the crackle of leaves under his feet surprised him. Then Skittles was excited and pleased to see him outside. She invited him to several wild chases around the yard, which she won each time by racing up a tree.

What an adventure Casper had! He sniffed, snooped, tasted, touched, stalked, pounced, climbed, frolicked and cavorted -- just to summarize!

I enjoyed his first experience of the great outdoors. It was fun to watch him, and I had to laugh at the poofed-out condition of his little tail. I'm sure it was an involuntary response to the unfamiliar surroundings.

I wish he could go outside freely and often, but we feed an old half-wild tomcat and we're afraid he would fight Casper. The old tomcat and Casper have spent long periods of time eyeball to eyeball through the glass of the door. We don't want them to meet without that barrier. So for now, little Casper has to be a house cat most of the time.

Casper goes outside-2

Casper goes outside-1

Casper goes outside-3

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Winter Begins

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

One of autumn's last daysOne of autumn's last days

We've enjoyed some warm beautiful days of Indian summer this week. (The expression "Indian summer" has an interesting history; you can read about it at Wikipedia.)

While I was blowing some of the last leaves into the ditch today, an ice storm blew into the Kansas City area. Tonight, Dennis talked to his sister from K.C., and she said her boss had sent everyone home from work an hour early because the roads were treacherous.

The storm is moving this way, but no ice is predicted for us. We do have the word "snow" in our weather forecast for the first time. The last day of November (tomorrow) will be a rainy day, and tomorrow night, the rain is supposed to turn to snow. The ground will be too warm for the snow to stick, but the first day of December will be cold and windy.

Hopkinsville's Christmas Parade will be on Saturday, December 2. Some years, we've attended in sweatshirts, but it looks like we'll need coats this year. And with night temperatures in the 20's for the next week, it looks like winter is here.

I realize that the 20's don't seem that bad to folks from the north, but here in Kentucky, we consider it cold. I used to laugh about how folks here complained about weather that didn't seem too cold to me, the girl from northern Nebraska. Now after 15 years here, I whine right along with everyone else. Wink

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A couple of quotes about winter:

  • I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape - the loneliness of it - the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it - the whole story doesn't show. - Andrew Wyeth (artist)

  • There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you ..... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. - Ruth Stout (gardener and author)

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ironing Clothes in the 1950's

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... All In The Family...

I was born in 1951 and I have never lived without electricity, though in my very early childhood, our electricity was produced by a wind charger. The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) lines hadn't yet been brought out south of Johnstown, Nebraska.

I never saw a sad iron in use, but there were a couple of old sad irons in our attic at Rose, Nebraska, where we moved when I was six. I suppose some housewife stored them there when she got electricity and an electric iron.

ironI do remember life before clothing care was revolutionized by steam irons, polyester blends and clothes dryers. In the mid-1950's (as early as I can remember), "wash and wear" garments made of a cotton-acrylic blend had just recently been introduced. Many garments were still 100% cotton and they required ironing, especially if they were dried on the clothesline as nearly all clothing was.

A few devices had been invented to help with the wrinkle problem. My mother had stretchers that were large adjustable wire rectangles. She slipped a stretcher into each leg of wet pants so they would dry with less wrinkles.

sprinkler topWhen it was time to iron, the clothes had to be sprinkled. My mother had a metal stopper with holes in it like a salt shaker top. She filled a soda bottle with water, put the stopper on top, and sprinkled water over the clothes that needed ironing. Then she rolled each garment so the dampness would diffuse and packed it into the clothes basket to sit for a little while before ironing.

I guess spray bottles hadn't been invented yet. Sprinkle bottles were used by all the housewives. You could buy the sprinkle tops for soda bottles at any dime store. They had a cork base to fit the soda bottle's opening tightly. If you were a fancier person, you could buy a ceramic sprinkle bottle with a whimsical shape.

I don't remember my mother ever keeping the sprinkled clothing in the refrigerator, but I've heard that housewives did that. The coolness delayed the mildew and sour odors that could develop if clothing wasn't ironed the same day that it was sprinkled.

I think I might have been six or seven years old when Mama taught me to iron the handkerchiefs and pillow cases. Keeping up with the ironing was a huge chore and it helped a bit to have me do those few things. She was a better woman than I am. I am not sure I would have bothered with ironing my husband's everyday handkerchiefs.

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Costume Rental in Hopkinsville

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Costume rental in Hopkinsville

I noticed today that a new business has started in the old building across from the courthouse, at the corner of 6th and Main. I think the ancient paint on the side of the building says, "Klein's Department Store," and most recently, an antique store was located there. The building has been empty for a couple of years.

The owners of this new costume rental business are apparently involved in local theatre; some of the hand-lettered signs on the door are notes about practice times. At any rate, I wish the Grande Masquerade well.

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Blogger Attitude

Blogs and Blogging... And What I Think About It...

This is about blogging. Over the last few days, I've been looking through about 350 blogs (little by little) that I imported into my Bloglines account.

I've unsubscribed to roughly 100 of them so far. Some of them had subject matter that I don't care to read for various reasons -- they were boring, offensive to me, etc. Others haven't been posted in for a while -- they're dead blogs.

I can't help laughing about what one guy wrote for his last post before he moved his blog. I should have copied and saved it but I didn't, so I'll paraphrase:

  • I'm moving my blog to a new address and if you don't know where I've moved that's because I didn't send you an e-mail. And the reason I didn't send you an e-mail is because you haven't written any comments here. You're just a lurker. My blog is for interactive users of the internet... etc., etc.

Well, then!Well, then! That should get him a lot of readers, not. I'm sure I wouldn't have liked his blog anyway!

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Seen at Nightfall

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Flight practiceFlight practice at nightfall

This plane flew overhead tonight while Isaac and I were rolling the garbage can down to the highway. When we first saw it, it truly looked like a big dark bird flying out of the sunset. We couldn't even hear it. But in just a moment it was overhead and its engines were loud.

It's a military plane, apparently from Fort Campbell. We see a lot of helicopters from there doing flight practice (individually and in groups), but we don't see airplanes as often. Fort Campbell is the home of the 101st Airborne, which is an air assault division -- hence the helicopters.

Looking at the snapshot, Dennis said that his best guess was a C-130, which is a cargo plane that was first put into service during the 1950's. It's been a workhorse ever since.

I think he's right on the identification. Check out the photos at the bottom of this Hercules C-130 page. The shape of the wings, the four propellers, the tailfin -- it all matches as far as I can tell. If you have a different identification, let me know.

Farther down the lane, with my eyes still skyward, I found the misty moon shining through the branches.

I didn't plan to post bookends to my day (sunrise/nightfall,) but it has worked out that way.

Misty moon at nightfall

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Barns at Sunrise

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Barns at sunriseThe neighbor's barns and silo

Dennis and I were up and out of the house bright and early so he could be at the hospital at 7:00 a.m. (Just a checkup. All is normal.) I snapped this just before we left home about 6:15.

Isaac drove himself to school for the first time. I guess he made it all right. I didn't have any phone calls saying that he had problems.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snowflake Photography

And What I Think About It...

The December issue of Better Homes and Gardens has an article about the wonderful snowflake photography of Kenneth G. Libbrecht, a professor of physics at CalTech.

You may see some of Professor Libbrecht's snowflakes in your mailbox because the U.S. Postal Service has recently issued a series of stamps that feature his photos. Austria's postal service also has a set of snowflake stamps with Libbrecht's images.

The BH&G article suggests printing Libbrecht's snowflake images to make your own Christmas cards and stickers. I assume this is within the bounds of what his copyright restrictions allow. Surely they checked with him before printing these craft ideas!

The professor's snowflake website,, is an interesting blend of scientific facts and gorgeous photos. He explains how he took the pictures, and he gives advice about the best places to study snow, as well as describing some interesting snow activities and experiments for scientists of all ages. It's well worth a visit.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Not Jackson Pollock

And What I Think About It...

Not by Pollock
At, you too can make a quick Jackson Pollock-ish image like this. It's a good way to waste a few minutes or more. To copy your image, hold down the CTRL key and press "Print Screen". It will be copied to your clipboard and you can paste it wherever you want it.

Isaac said the one above wasn't random enough. So I made the one below with my eyes closed. It's really not random, either. It's hard to be deliberately random. It's also hard to know when you're finished. I guess Jackson Pollock overcame little difficulties like these and that's what made him a great abstract artist.

After looking at several Jackson Pollock images, I can see that he wouldn't have been finished with them nearly as quickly as I was.

Not by Pollock

"When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of "get acquainted" period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well." Jackson Pollock, 1912-1956

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Blogger Beta Bug

Blogs and Blogging...

NOTE: If you are looking for the Fannie Farmer Cornbread recipe, please visit this link:

ConfusedI had a note at the top of my blog for a week or so, asking visitors who came here from a search engine to use the Blogger search if the page wasn't what the search results showed.

Today I removed the note because the errors don't seem to be occurring now. Here is an example of what was happening:

-- The search query:
Fannie Farmer cornbread recipe

-- The Google search results
Prairie Bluestem: Cornbread for Supper - Nov. 19
In about 1972, I bought a Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and ever since, I've used its recipe for cornbread. Here the Fannie Farmer recipe, doubled as I usually ... - 96k -

Notice that the link was to a page that has nothing to do with cornbread for supper. The blog post that should have come up was

The above example happened dozens of times over the last few days. Apparently the Thanksgiving holiday made people think about Fannie Farmer's cornbread recipe.

I still don't know if it was a Google error or a Blogger Beta error. I complained and received a form letter from the Blogger Beta help desk saying that even if I didn't hear back from them, they would be working on the bug. Apparently they fixed it. I'm glad.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

The Holidays Have Begun

All In The Family...

Santa hat Hold on to your hat -- life will be in fast motion for about the next six weeks. Or that's how it always seems to me when Thanksgiving is over.

Well, bring it on. I've done a lot of the Christmas shopping already and we put up the tree today, as we usually do over the Thanksgiving weekend. It seems too early when we put it up, but as Christmas approaches, I'm always glad that it's done and I don't have to worry about it.

I was worried that Casper (the kitten) would have a party with our usual Christmas tree, so I bought another little tree this year that we can set out of his reach.

However, Keely didn't think the new little tree was adequate, so we decorated the usual tree. To make it more kitten-proof, we attached to a small table with six bungee cords and didn't put any breakable ornaments on it.

Since we had the new little tree, we decorated it also and set it in its high place. The heart of the house is like a forest right now. There are five trees in all -- the big one, the new little one, the little fiber optic tree in the kitchen, and two mini-trees. I will get it all straightened out somehow tomorrow.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Crazy Quilt

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Baby and Crazy Quilt

I bought this old photograph for 25¢ at the Peddler's Mall in Hopkinsville a few days ago. I found it in a stack of old family photos, and I have no idea who the baby was or why anyone would sell its photograph.

Maybe the photograph documents two of the most precious things the parents of this baby possessed -- the baby in its christening gown and an exquisitely embellished crazy quilt.

Or then again, maybe the crazy quilt was a prop that the photographer used with all the babies.

Either way, the quilt is beautiful. I notice that on the right side below the baby's hand, there seems to be a vine with appliqued flowers.

Just as a guess, I'd say the photo might have been taken in the 1920's. I say that because it reminds me a little of my mother's baby picture.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sycamore in November

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... More About Trees and Plants...

Sycamore LeavesSycamore leaves seen against the still water of a pond

Monday, November 20, 2006

Shelving I Built

My Various Hobbies... Chores and Duties...

Shelves I built

The new shelves in our shed, pictured above, are my handiwork. They're made with 2x4 uprights, 2x3 shelf supports, and 1/2 inch plywood, all held together by decking screws. I had the lumber yard rip the sheets of plywood in half for me.

I built the set of shelves on the left last summer, and I just got finished with the other set.

A real carpenter could probably have put these together in a few hours. I built the first set in one day, but it took me a couple of days to build the second set around the two windows. I had to contemplate a while between some of the construction steps. I also had to do some extra bracing.

Even though my techniques are rather primitive, I try to keep it neat and square and make it sturdy. I enjoyed doing the woodworking. That's why this post fits into the category of "my various hobbies."

I should add that if I had to use hand tools, I wouldn't be so enthusiastic. Power tools are wonderful.

The "chores and duties" part of this post pertains to the job of organizing all that junk, hauling it up the ladder and putting it in place. My extra canning jars are on the top shelf at right. (Yes, the entire shelf, except for the fishing poles.) I washed them all and repacked them before putting them up there. Oh, the virtue of it all.

At least the shed is nice and neat, even if my house became a wreck while I was working on the shed!

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Black, The New Christmas Tree Color

Some Interesting News... And What I Think About It...

Black Christmas treeI know I'm on the dull, safe side, not on the cutting edge, but I was surprised today. Apparently, the latest color for Christmas trees is black.

I read it in the news. It must be so. I did a Google search for "black Christmas tree" and it is so, indeed.

I don't care if someone wants a black tree. Black is no more a fake color than gold or silver or white. I remain a traditionalist, though. My artificial Christmas tree is green and it's going to stay that way. Wink

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Songs of the Mississippi

And What I Think About It...

I've been listening to a great CD every time I sit at the computer these last few days -- "Natural Encounters: Songs of the Mississippi." If you like instrumental blues, I think you will love this album. Or it would make a great Christmas present for someone.

The various pieces are interspersed with the sound of the river, and I find myself just drifting along with it. It's very nicely done, very relaxing, and the various selections are simultaneously melancholy and upbeat.

Oddly enough, I just happened across the album, much like the fellow who wrote a highly favorable review on MSN shopping. His story could almost be my own.

I have been imagining floating down a river like Huckleberry Finn and Jim. Every time they went back to the river and got away from the shore, they escaped their troubles. It was when they came ashore that life got complicated.

This is a good time to mention a blog I recently added to the blogroll: Riverside Rambles, written by Larry, a naturalist from Hannibal, MO -- Mark Twain's hometown -- on the banks of the Mississippi River. I have always wanted to visit Hannibal, and someday I shall.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Lunch Hour at a One Room School

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...

At Duff Valley District 4, we loved our lunch hour. It was an extra-long hour -- really about an hour and a half, so it was a real break during the middle of the day for both students and teacher.

pitcher pumpAt 12:00 we washed our hands. We didn't have running water inside, but we had a pitcher pump in the schoolyard. In warm weather, we went outside to wash our hands. One person pumped and we got our hands wet, passed a bar of soap around and rinsed off. In cold weather, the teacher poured some hot water from her teakettle into a bucket of cold water from the pump. One person poured from a dipper, and we took turns washing our hands over a basin.

After a blessing was asked for the food, we opened our lunchboxes and ate the sandwiches, apples and cookies our mothers had packed for us. And we talked. Usually we talked in plain English, but sometimes we talked in Pig Latin, Pig German, or in Pig Spanish.

If you're wondering why you never heard of Pig German and Pig Spanish, it's because we invented them. In Pig German, every word began with "r" and ended with the former first letter plus "er." In Pig Spanish the first sound was "sp" and the ending was the former first letter plus "ish."

When everyone was done eating (usually about 12:30,) we were dismissed for a long lunch recess. Our teachers always required us to play a game to help us stay out of trouble, so someone chose one -- Dare Base, or Hide and Seek, or Run Indian Run, or Ante Over, or whatever -- and we ran around like crazy for 30 minutes.

If there was snow on the ground, we scooted out a maze with our feet so we could play Fox and Geese or Fox and Deer. When the weather was bitterly cold, the teacher let us stay inside and we played Blind Man's Bluff, or Captain May I, or The Prince of Paris. We knew lots of games, but we had our favorites which we played again and again.

At 1:00, the teacher rang the bell and we got a drink of water and sat at our desks again. Then the teacher read aloud to us until 1:30. During my grade school years, I listened to my teachers read many Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew adventures, most of the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series, Henry Reed Inc., and many others.

This was the best part of our lunch hour and the best part of the day. Our tummies full, our bodies pleasantly tired after playing hard, we rested and listened and for a few minutes, entered the world of the story and lived there. We hated to go back to schoolwork when the teacher closed the book at 1:30.

All of this came to mind today when I saw a couple of Hardy Boys books at the flea market. I guess Frank and Joe and their pals Chet and Biff are still solving mysteries. I'm the one who has grown up and left, not them.

Hardy Boys booksI really wish the seller hadn't put the price tags on the dust jackets!

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Bloglines Subscriptions

Blogs and Blogging...

I don't think many of my readers use Bloglines or Google Reader but they are great tools if you follow quite a few blogs. Another is My Yahoo and there are many more readers. You just create an account and enter the addresses of the blogs you read, and the blog reader will find the RSS feeds for them.

When you go to your Bloglines or Google Reader account, the reader will bring in all the new posts from each of your blogs so you can check them there without all that clicking back and forth from a blogroll. Or there are links to the actual blog in your blog reader so you can easily read more or leave a comment if you want.

I have tried Bloglines and Google Reader. Both are free, but in my opinion, Bloglines works much better than Google Reader on dial-up. Google Reader is just too slow. I think Yahoo has a free reader also, but I've never tried it. There are surely many others as well.

A blog, news site, etc. that has a feed will probably display one of the symbols below (or perhaps just the words, "Site Feed" or "RSS Feed") with a link that leads to its feed so you can visit it and subscribe with your blog reader.


You can import other people's lists of blogs into your account. In Bloglines, when you read a blog, it tells you how many other people are subscribed to it. When you click on the subscriptions link, you get a list of all the people who are publicly subscribed, and you can look at their account and see what other blogs they are reading. If you think you might like some of them, you can download ("export") their list of blogs in a special file (.opml) and then upload them to your own account.

I downloaded a couple of lists yesterday from other readers of a blog I like and uploaded them to my Bloglines account. Then I didn't like the folders the other people were using, so I deleted everything I had uploaded and worked on the .opml files a little to make the folders smaller and rename them. (It wasn't hard if you've ever messed around with HTML and know what starting and ending tags do.) It was much easier to do it on my computer offline with a little copying and pasting than to enter each blog subscription online and change its folder. Then I uploaded them again. It worked fine.

Quite a few of my readers here are bloggers, and I read their blogs too. But sometimes, their blogging doesn't keep up with my desire to read something! On those occasions, I have been clicking the "Next Blog" button (on the Blogger toolbar at the top of the page) and wandering off into Blogger-land, which is a vast wasteland of drivel and tripe (yuck!)

I think I have a better alternative. I am going to look through those folders of blogs that other people are reading, as I have time. I'll unsubscribe from any blogs I don't like and I'll keep the good ones. This will have to be a ruthless process, as I am subscribed to about 400 blog feeds at present and I don't want to keep that many! I am hoping to pick up just a few really interesting blogs out of them. I think my chances of doing so are much better with this method than with the "Next Blog" button.

By the way, if you want to see what I'm subscribed to currently, you can do so at my Bloglines account:

View my Bloglines subscriptions.

Or try this link to download an .opml file of them:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving

All In The Family... My Various Hobbies...

Today's Miami Herald has an interesting article and basic recipe for mashed potatoes. I have never followed a recipe to make mashed potatoes, but I did get a couple of ideas from the article -- using russet potatoes and stirring in buttermilk.

Dennis would rather have plain boiled potatoes, but on holidays he is outvoted about whether the potatoes should be mashed.

I like to mash them with an old fashioned potato masher. The lumps don't bother me at all.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Last Leaf

More About Trees and Plants...

The Last LeafLast leaf on the mulberry tree

When I think of "The Last Leaf", I think of O. Henry's story about the sick girl who clung to life only because she could still see the last ivy leaf.

When I was searching for that story so I could link to it, I found a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes titled "The Last Leaf" about an old man who has lived beyond his time.

I also found a post in a blog by a lady from the Netherlands, an e-book by James Kendall Hosmer about American and European history, a poem by Joanna Baillie , and many photos -- all titled "The Last Leaf".

It's an interesting thought and image -- see for yourself the many interesting links related to that theme.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Auction of a Fine Farm

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

Farmland for sale

An auction of a 311 acre farm will be held in our neighborhood on Dec. 9. It is being sold to settle an estate. We've heard rumors of some prices offered privately for the farm, so it will be interesting to see how it sells.

Farmland for saleThe farm lies mostly in a flat fertile valley, and it includes some of the best farmland in this neighborhood, It looks like some of the land -- perhaps most of it -- is going to be taken out of production. The land that borders the blacktop road has been broken into lots of roughly ten acres each, so small acreage seekers will be bidding against buyers who want to farm the land.

The family that owns the farm has family graves in an old cemetery near here. The oldest birth date of a family member's grave is 1818. Dennis and I are curious whether the farm today might be a remnant of a land grant to a Revolutionary War veteran. The man who was born in 1818 might have been the son or grandson of a war veteran. This is pure speculation on our part. Perhaps we'll learn something about the farm's history at the sale.

I am hoping that a new farm or two will be pieced back together when the land is sold on Dec. 9.

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Dennis reports that the winning bid was $1,101,000. The entire farm was purchased by a single buyer, a local farmer who dabbles in real estate. Because the land adjoins the farm on which this man and his married son both live, it seems unlikely that he will resell or develop it.

On The Road Again

All In The Family...

Dennis and bike

Some people really don't know when to say, "Enough!" Here is Dennis with his bike. He's determined to get back on the road. You can see how he's decked out in full safety garb (and also, how he's too thin for his clothing!)

Ten weeks have passed since his accident. He's doing very well, but I'm a little nervous about that bike and perhaps he is also.

A few days ago, when he came back from his walk, he said a big pickup truck with dual wheels in back had come up behind him on the highway. He said the unique sound of those rear duals was very much like the sound of the vehicle that hit him. We'll never know, I'm sure, but we can't help wondering who... and why...

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Heaven's Open Door

All In The Family... Christian and Lutheran Life...

Rain cloudsRain moving eastward, late in the afternoon

Here is one of my early memories. I think I was about three years old, and I was with my parents in the Church of the Nazarene basement at Ainsworth, Nebraska. Someone was playing the piano and everyone was singing. To my surprise, I heard my Aunt Becky's name in one of the songs!

This world is not my home,
I'm just a-passin' through;
If Heaven's not my home,
Then Lord, what will I do?
The angels beckon me
From Heaven's open door,
And I can't feel at home,
In this world anymore.

To this day, I think of my Aunt Becky when I hear this song. The opening in the clouds in the photo above reminded me of another phrase in the lyrics --"Heaven's open door."

You can hear and read this old Gospel song at Heavenly Midis, or if you can't hear that page, you can listen to it on Midi Picking by Harry (Scroll down to "This World Is Not My Home". It's a good foot-tapping rendition, though sadly it was cut just a tad short on the very last note.)

I became a Lutheran as an adult, and I love the hymns Lutherans sing -- hymns that have been sung by Christians for hundreds of years -- but I also love the classic Gospel music I grew up with. I'm doubly blessed because I've had the opportunity to learn and enjoy both genres.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

I am going to say this is a 1957 Chevy, and if I'm wrong, I am sure someone will correct me.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

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Bare Essentials

And What I Think About It...

"Perfection is not when there’s nothing to add,
but when there’s nothing to take away."
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944, French aviator and writer)

What a great quote. I could (should) apply it to hundreds of things in my life.

The quote gives more guidance than the well-known saying, "Less is more," but the two are closely related. "Less is more" was the mantra that guided Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), a German-born architect who designed minimalist skyscrapers, such as the IBM Building and the Lake Shore Drive Towers in Chicago.

His [Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's] mature buildings made use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define austere but elegant spaces. He developed the use of exposed steel structure and glass to enclose and define space, striving for an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of open space. He called his buildings "skin and bones" architecture. He sought to create a rational approach that would guide the creative process of architectural design, and is known for his use of the aphorisms “less is more” and "God is in the details".


Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (whose thought about perfection I quoted above) studied architecture in Paris before becoming a pilot, so perhaps he was influenced by minimalist thought there. He wrote a number of books about flying, but I think most Americans would know him better as the author of "The Little Prince."

I admire the idea of minimalism (things stripped to their essence, unnecessary detail eliminated). There are very few areas where I've achieved such perfection. It remains a goal, and I try to keep reminding myself.

A few years ago, one of the children at church wanted me to buy a magazine for their school fund-raiser. I looked through the list, and the title "Real Simple" caught my eye so I subscribed. To my surprise, it is mostly a shopping magazine. The magazine's theme is, "Life made easier," and they think you need to buy a lot of stuff to achieve that goal.

"Less is more," and "Life made easier," don't perfectly contradict each other, but they don't perfectly parallel each other either.

I think this relates -- we don't own a weedeater or a rototiller. There are times when those tools would make life easier, but if we owned them, we'd start imposing higher standards of perfection on the lawn and garden. Without them, we get a little more exercise occasionally, but most of the time, we save ourselves a lot of work and expense. Even better, we spare ourselves from the guilty feeling of owning expensive yard tools that we think we should use more.

Our yard doesn't have to be groomed to perfection -- we live out in the country. Enough is enough.

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Eagle Project Begun

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

The breeze that is blowing tonight would be refreshing if it were summer, but it's a cold wind when it's 35 degrees outside.

I'm warm here in the house. I have a nice fire going in the wood stove and both cats are stretched out in front of it, asleep.

Dennis and Isaac are camping out tonight with the Scouts. I am not too worried about them. Isaac has two sleeping bags with him, and he'll be in a tent. Dennis has a sleeping bag and a couple of wool blankets. He said he was going to sleep in the truck in his insulated coveralls and if he got cold, he'd start the truck. He probably won't even need his sleeping bag.

I have camped a few times in similar temperatures. It's not too bad as long as you're warm enough to sleep. If you can't get warm in your bed, though, it's a long miserable night.

The campout follows a work day for Isaac's Eagle Scout project. They cleared about a third of the old cemetery he's restoring and cut several dead trees . It looks like there will be more broken tombstones than we had thought. They found several covered in the overgrowth.

Old tombstonesMr. H., the landowner, told us that slaves were buried in the cemetery along with the families who owned them. He said their graves are "marked with limestone". I think he was talking about some of the small rectangular stones with no writing or with initials only that the guys found today under the tangle of vegetation.

Mr. H. also said that he has buried two dogs in the cemetery. He thought of them as members of his family. He meant no disrespect to the people who are buried there.

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Related post: Eagle Project Is Taking Shape

Old cemetery
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Friday, November 10, 2006

Week of Plumbing Woes

All In The Family... The Rural Life...

It started last Friday night (a week ago) when we suddenly lost water pressure. In morning light, we discovered that water from our county water lines was pouring into our well -- the old stone-lined, hand-dug well.

The plumbing company that put in our county water line did not cap off the line from the house to the old well as they should have; rather they put a stop in the line, and the stop blew out. (County water is supposed to be kept totally separate from well water. It was done illegally but we didn't know what they'd done and the plumbing inspector obviously didn't check it!)

It was the weekend, so we turned off the water and waited. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we called plumbers and waited for them to show up. They promised they would come out, then stood us up. I guess they thought it was too small of a job for the distance they'd have to drive.

Wednesday night, I finally called my brother and asked him how to fix it. He told us how to cap off the line, we did what he said, and it went fine. We were elated. Water at last! (We should have called Dwight on Saturday!)

Then in an unfortunate and unforeseen accident, the shut-off valve broke when we were turning the water to the house back on! Our happiness turned instantly to misery. We truly could have cried.

The valve is underground, and you have to reach deep into a 6-inch tube to turn it on. When the valve broke, water started pouring out of the tube like it was an open fire hydrant (only a mild exaggeration.) We had to make a fast trip down to the highway to turn off the water at the meter.

Six inches is not enough room to do plumbing in, so we pulled out the tube and enlarged the hole. I cannot describe what a muddy mess that was. With high groundwater plus all the water that poured out of the line, water was standing over the valve that we needed to replace. Every time we bailed out the hole, it filled right back up.

Desperately, I called every plumber in the phone book again. (I was so desperate I even called the plumber I once threatened to report to the Better Business Bureau.) Not one of them gave me a glimmer of hope. We worried all night about what we would do now, and I prayed earnestly that please, somehow the water could be fixed so we could have some kind of a normal life again.

This story ends happily. Dennis called my cell phone just after I dropped Isaac off at school this morning. "We've got a plumber," he said -- what wonderful words! One of the messages I'd left on an answering machine had been answered. Within a couple hours, the valve was replaced, and the water was back on. The plumber had a submersible pump that kept the water out of the hole so he could work.

Meanwhile, another plumber called to say he could come out and fix our water problem. Where were all these plumbers days ago?!?

At any rate, we have running water again, and hopefully, this will be the end of the plumbing problems for a while. Now we have to see whether the water bill is high enough to warrant claiming a water leak. And we've filled up all our emergency water containers again, so we're ready for the next time.

Dennis and I do quite a few things, but we are not plumbers. Through necessity, we are learning a bit about it, though. Ugh.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Five Memorable Purses

Carrying a purse

The histories of five great purses I have owned

I can't tell you how many purses I've had in 55 years. I think the number might be more than 2 dozen but less than 55. Or maybe not. I just can't estimate. Anyway, here are five I remember fondly.

  • A square wooden box that looked like a miniature picket fence, with bright green flower-print cloth above and two circular handles. It was a cute, unique purse of the early 70's. The one bad thing about it was that the wooden part tended to snag nylon stockings. Keely played with this little box purse when she was little, and I think she still has it.
  • A pearl-beaded envelope clutch. I bought it for some formal event when I was in my early 20's. It served me faithfully for many years and I had many compliments on it. Unfortunately, I decided to hand-wash it a few years ago. The stain in the lining that I wanted to remove is still there, and the innards of the purse were terribly weakened in the water. It must have had some kind of cardboard in it.
  • A "man-purse" I bought in Bolivia. It was the smallest purse I ever owned. All the Bolivian guys carried them. It was larger than a wallet, but much smaller than most women's purses. It was leather, and it had a wrist strap. If I couldn't close it, I knew I had too much in it. It died when its main snap stopped working. I still have it somewhere, unless I purged it in a clutter-control attack.
  • A handmade leather patchwork purse. It was another of the purses I bought in Bolivia. At the market in La Paz, someone sliced into it with a razor in a pickpocket attempt. (They did this sort of thing there; you had to be on guard constantly in crowds.) The seams of the patchwork were too tough for them, and they didn't get into the bag. I took it back to the shop where it was made, and they were horrified but proud the purse had resisted the attempt. They removed the cut patches and replaced them, and the purse was good as new.
  • A huge alligator-skin bag I had when the kids were little. I bought it at the Army Post Exchange (PX) in Berlin, Germany. It had been priced at $125, but I paid about $20 for it on clearance. Did I mention that it was huge? It was long and deep with two short shoulder straps, and it fit nicely under my arm. It held everything I needed and everything the kids needed too -- books, toys, diapers, and more. I never carried a diaper bag.
The purse I'm currently carrying is a black Duck Head® shoulder bag with a zipper closure, and an outside pocket for my cell phone. If it becomes a memorable purse, it will be for its durability. It's going into a second year of hard use, and it still looks decent.

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Check Your Acetaminophen

Some Interesting News...

Perigo Co., a pharmaceutical manufacturer that supplies Walmart, CVS, Safeway and over 120 other chains has announced a recall of 11 million bottles of acetaminophen that may contain particles of metal.

An Associated Press story posted on November 9, 2006, states:
The FDA did not know in which states the pills had been sold, but instead recommended that customers determine whether products they bought are being recalled by checking the store list on the FDA Web site and the batch list.

The batch numbers appear on the container's label.


Personally, I don't take store-brand acetaminophen because acetaminophen is not too effective a painkiller for me. If I am going to take acetaminophen, I prefer Tylenol Extra Strength Rapid Release Gels. I do take store-brand ibuprofen, though.

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Jerks in the Workplace

Blogs and Blogging...

Guy Kawasaki has an interesting book review today about people who are jerks in the workplace. Don't read it if you're easily offended by a common slang name for a certain bodily orifice. I thought about printing the review for my husband to read, because he's worked for a few real jerks over the years, but I decided not to. It would just make him angry all over again!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Moss and Lichens

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... More About Trees and Plants...

Moss and lichens

The moss and lichens enjoy this cool damp weather, even if I don't. Yesterday, some of the lichens were looking positively aqua in color. Frost has not yet nipped the little fern that's peeking out behind a fallen leaf.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Winter in Germany

Life In Germany... Some Interesting News...

It's a dark, damp day, and it reminds me of Germany. The winters we spent there were similar to the Kentucky winters we've seen. We had more cold gray days with rain and ice than with snow. When we did have snow, it wasn't usually too deep and it didn't usually stay on the ground for long.

Our winters in Germany were surprisingly mild, considering that Aschaffenburg (near Frankfurt) lies just below the 50th parallel and Berlin is several degrees north of the 50th parallel.

For the sake of comparison, consider this: the 50th parallel lies entirely north of the United States. Cities of similar latitude to Berlin and Aschaffenburg include Winnipeg (Manitoba) and Calgary (Alberta). It would not be said that their winters are surprisingly mild!

At one time, I'd have said that warm ocean currents (the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift) protect the continent of Europe from the extreme winters of northern North America. I learned this in Social Studies class in elementary school. I think I heard it again in a college geography class. However, I recently stumbled across an article that advances a different theory ("The Source of Europe's Mild Climate", by Richard Seager, in the July-August, 2006, edition of American Scientist Online.

Dr. Seager, a senior research scientist at Columbia University, would say that I was taught a myth about warm ocean currents in grade school. He has tested the Gulf Stream theory with computer models. He says that the warm ocean current probably produces a few degrees of temperature moderation on both eastern North America and Europe, but its effect is not enough to explain the 15-20° difference in winter temperatures between the two continents.

Seager states that the main factor in the severity of winters in both North America and Europe is the Rocky Mountains. He explains at length about the stretching and contracting of huge air masses as they flow across the mountains, but here is the bottom line:
The southward flow takes place over all of central and eastern North America, bringing Arctic air south and dramatically cooling winters on the East Coast. The return northward flow occurs over the eastern Atlantic Ocean and western Europe, bringing mild subtropical air north and pleasantly warming winters on the far side of [the] ocean.

Quoted from "The Source of Europe's Mild Climate"

Though we didn't suffer much severe winter weather while living near the 50th parallel in Germany, we couldn't escape the short days and long nights of winter. In winter, I remember that the sun didn't rise until 8 a.m. and it had set by 4 p.m. I am thankful that our winter days in Kentucky are not that short!

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Not a Still Life

All In The Family...

CasperSo innocent!

Casper has been getting up on the hutch behind the computer for a couple of days now. Today he started lying on top of the books, then chewing on them, so I had to move things around a little so he can't make the climb.

He is a very energetic kitten!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Packs of Cows

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

I talked to my elderly neighbor on the telephone this afternoon. For Isaac's Eagle Scout project, the Boy Scouts will be cleaning the old cemetery where her grandparents are buried. The first workday will be next Saturday, and we were talking about where the Scouts might camp that night.

Ms. M. explained that it wouldn't be a good idea for them to camp on her farm. She's seen so many copperhead snakes there over the years that she's afraid someone might get bit, and her son who lives on the place says that the cows have started to run in packs. She doesn't know if they would attack anyone or not, but she doesn't want to take a chance.

When I hung up, I told Dennis that Ms. M. had cows on the farm now and that they were running in packs. He gave me a funny look and commented that usually groups of cows were called "herds", not "packs."

Later in the evening, I went over to Ms. M.'s house to get a package she had for me, and she wanted to talk some more about the Scouts' camp-out. She said it made her mad that the wildlife people had ever released those cows here -- and finally, I understood.

It's not cows that are running in packs on her farm. It's cowts! Coyotes, that is. (I'm relieved!)

Actually, Ms. M. was pronouncing the word as I do (kī'ōt') but with the accent of this area. I just wasn't listening carefully!

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Nearest Book Meme

Blogs and Blogging...

This is from Sarabeth's blog:

1. Grab the nearest book.

2. Open the book to page 123.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog, along with these instructions.

5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest!

(Quoted from I once was HP)

The nearest book for me was Roget's Thesaurus, and it has no sentences on page 123, so I've disqualified it.

The second nearest book was Huckleberry Finn. I'm not reading it, but I guess Isaac must be.

"I ain't undisposed. What's your line -- mainly?"

"Jour printer, by trade; do a little in patent medicines; theatre-actor -- tragedy, you know; take a turn at mesmerism and phrenology when there's a chance; teach singing; geography school for a change; sling a lecture, sometimes -- oh I do lots of things -- most anything that comes handy, so it ain't work. What's your lay?"

(Four sentences from page 123 of a paperback edition of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain)

This was entertaining to do. What's your nearest book?

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Pennyrile Politics

Life in Christian County, KY...

All of the voters hereabouts are pretty fired up about the election next Tuesday. Campaign yard-signs are everywhere. A particularly complete set of Republican yard-signs can be seen on the front lawn of the Christian County Republican Party headquarters (above photo.)

Once upon a time not so very long ago, this county was completely Democrat, and most local races were settled in the primaries within a field of Democratic candidates. Within the 15 years that we've lived here, the Republican Party has made huge growth within the county, and in the current election, many races have both Republican and Democratic candidates. That's a good thing -- it encourages us not to get stuck in a rut!

As for Isaac, he gets a day off from school because some schools are used as polling places. Next year, he'll be old enough to vote.

The word "Pennyrile" in this post's heading is a localism. This area of Kentucky is known as the Pennyroyal region because the herb pennyroyal grows here in abundance.

In local dialect, pennyroyal was/is "pennyrile" and both forms of the word are seen and heard throughout the area. We have both the "Pennyrile Rural Electric" and the "Pennyroyal Area Museum" in Hopkinsville, as well as scores of other businesses, etc. that have some form of the p-word in their name.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hopkinsville Football Stadium

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in The Upper South... More About Trees and Plants...

Bradford pears
Hopkinsville KY stadium

The Bradford pears around the high school sports fields in Hopkinsville are gorgeous in their fall color right now. This tree species is widely planted through the Upper South, due to its quick growth, attractive shape, long season in full leaf, and beautiful blossoms and color.

Unfortunately, the Bradford pear has a very short lifespan. Because its branches are spindly and weak with a dense distribution, they break easily in any weather event. (This is a weakness of most pears.) These trees are probably a decade or less in age, but they're at their prime. They'll be breaking up soon.

The football stadium was built about 1992, I think. This photo shows just the home side. There's a similar, but smaller, set of seats on the visitor's side.

Like many towns across the south, Hopkinsville greatly enjoys its high school football teams. When I first saw this stadium when we moved here, I thought its size was excessive. It looked big enough to be a college stadium. However, I have seen it filled to capacity during the annual match between Christian County's two high schools.

The stadium is used by both high schools. One high school plays at home each weekend, while the other high school goes on the road.

I'm still a little in awe that this is a high school stadium. In the county in northern Nebraska where I grew up, there was a set of wooden bleachers just big enough for our small high school band. The spectators sat on bales of hay or stood around the edge of the field. Actually, it was usually cold enough that moving up and down the field with the teams helped to prevent frostbite.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Three Sisters

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... More About Trees and Plants...

Sister treesThree sisters

These three trees have been growing side by side for a while. Perhaps they've been together fifty or a hundred years already. At first they existed separately, but now their height and breadth have increased and their branches and roots are intertwined. The trees have not grown as large or as evenly as they might have in isolation. The one in the middle has been most affected.

Human history has not touched these trees as they stand on their hill by the road. In their slow, simple lives, their sap ebbs and flows; the sun, rain, and soil feed them. Their leaves mature and and fall. Winter comes and spring follows. In some years they flourish, and in others they simply endure.

They have grown side by side long enough that they've become dependent upon their combined structure. While they are three, they are strong against the wind and weather, but if one falls, the others will be more vulnerable.

This phenomenon is seen when forested areas are cleared to build houses. When a few "lawn specimens" are left standing, those suddenly isolated trees are prone to weather damage. Their roots were torn and trampled when their mates were ripped away, and the branches and trunks that were strong in the group are not robust enough to stand alone.

"God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools." ~John Muir

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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.