Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Last Sunset of January

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

January sunsetJanuary's last sunset

It looks like the first sunset of February, 2007, will be over a snowy landscape. It's snowing a little as I post this, and we're supposed to get up to 3 inches total by tomorrow night. There may also be some freezing rain tomorrow, depending on what the temperatures do. This is our first snow of the winter.

I doubt if there will be school tomorrow, because they usually cancel if the roads are slick at all. But we won't know for sure until tomorrow morning.

UPDATE: Yes, school was cancelled and Isaac is enjoying his day off. They could have run the buses today, but many of our residents are not accustomed to driving in winter conditions, so even an inch of snow makes the roads a lot more dangerous. It has been snowing lightly much of the morning, but the flakes are so fine that it's not accumulating very fast.

Ice Skating Memories

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

Yesterday, our temperatures stayed below freezing all day, and this morning the ponds were iced over and water in the ruts in the fields had frozen. I had almost forgotten how ice looks. It's easy to get used to the mild winters of Kentucky.

It's hard to imagine myself ice skating now (it would hurt too much to fall down!) but I skated frequently when I was growing up in northern Nebraska, especially during my grade-school years.

Our little country school was located in a low area near a marsh, and the far end of the schoolyard flooded at times. When it flooded and froze, we brought our ice skates to school and skated at recess.

I remember one winter when the schoolyard was so flooded that we could skate up to the barb wire fence at the schoolyard's edge, step over, and skate out onto the meadow.

One of our teachers brought her ice skates to school and skated with us during lunch recess. We laughed at her because she skated roller-skate style and didn't use the toes of her skates to dig in and take off like we did.

Sometimes we all walked about 1/8 mile to the big pond on Walter Boerger's land and skated there.

I don't want to give the false impression that I was an expert skater. I skated well enough that I could move along without worrying too much about falling down. I knew how to bend forward and regain my balance if need be. If things were going really well, I might pick up one foot for a moment and hold steady while I slid along on the other.

I certainly didn't skate around with one leg extended behind me or do graceful leaps through the air like a figure skater. The Horner girls, Carolyn and Velda, were better skaters than I was, and in fact, the illustration above reminds me of Velda. She could make splinters of ice fly as she cut a figure eight or spun around in a circle.

Our church youth group held a few skating parties on one of the lakes in the Sybrant area. I remember skating around the muskrat houses on moonlit nights. We could warm our hands and drink throat-scorching hot chocolate at the bonfire on the edge of the lake.

Given the cold winters and the many ponds and lakes of the Sandhills, it's not surprising that many country kids learned to ice skate. My dad learned to skate as a boy and loved it. They lived along Moon Lake, a sizable body of water south of Johnstown, Nebraska, that is the source of the Calamus River. He told about making a sail so the wind would blow him across the lake on his skates. If the wind was blowing 25 mph, that's how fast he went.

My aunt wrote in a letter to me, "[I] remember Charlie getting on his ice skates when the lake was frozen in the wintertime. We'd probably be going to Grandpa Clark's and Dad would drive on around the end of the fence out onto the lake. I was always afraid the ice would break through. You'd hear it crack. Then we'd pick up Charlie down on the other end of the lake. He'd skate that far."

My children have been Kentuckians since Keely was 5 and Isaac was 2. They have never had a pair of ice skates. They've never even had the experience of sliding across a frozen pond in their overshoes. That makes me feel a little sad for them.


Related post: Ghosts of Christmas Past (8) in which I recall ice skating on a snowy Christmas Eve.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Winter Skies and Fields

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Winter skies and fields

In this part of Kentucky, our countryside is densely populated (from the viewpoint of someone who grew up in northern Nebraska.) This view gives an illusion of wide open spaces that really isn't the case here. There are homes immediately to the left and to the right of this photo.

I posted a photo of this same field and set of farm buildings last October when there were soybeans in the field (below).

Bean field


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Saints Peter & Paul Parish Hall

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Hopkinsville, KY, has recently repainted their parish hall (above photo).

I imagine that the terra cotta color was chosen to make the parish hall look more like its near neighbors. The red brick church sits downhill just a few feet from the front of the parish hall. Two vintage red brick homes owned by the church sit beside the parish hall. I think one of the homes may be the rectory, and the other is occupied mainly by the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop.

The red berries on the shrubs along the red wall look very red indeed, and even the bark of the shrubs takes up a reddish hue. It's an interesting landscaping effect.

What do you think? Tell us in a comment.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Flocks of Black Birds (Blackbirds, etc.)

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in The Upper South...
More About Birds and Animals...

Flock of blackbirdsBlackbirds seeking fallen grain

This part of Kentucky (and much of the greater Ohio/Mississippi Valley), is an overwintering area for blackbirds, or more correctly, black birds. Red-winged blackbirds, starlings, grackles, cowbirds, and others roost together in forested areas at night and fly in huge flocks during the day, looking for food in the fields.

I noticed earlier this winter that we didn't seem to have as many flocks of black birds this year, but this morning when I took Isaac to school, I saw big flocks of thousands and thousands of birds in the air, on the fields, and in the trees. I think the recent cold temperatures have finally brought them into our area. It was a frosty +10° here last night, and much colder than that farther north.

Many people don't like these big flocks. They eat grain that's waiting for harvest during the fall and drop manure over what they don't eat. When they roost too much in any one area, their manure builds up and histoplasmosis, a respiratory disease that humans can contract, can be a problem. They endanger airplanes when they roost near airports and they make suburban forests miserable for the human residents. And the complaints go on and on.

Flocks of blackbirdsFinding food along the road
The birds don't bother me much since I don't have any crops, don't fly much, and don't spend much time in their roosting areas.

Occasionally, a flock will drop out of the sky and land in our trees for a few minutes. Casper, our kitten, is really freaked out by the loud noise of their wings, the cacophony of their chirps and cackles, and the sudden sight of them swooping in to the treetops or rising into flight as a flock.

I enjoy seeing the huge flocks because they help me imagine how a flock of passenger pigeons might have looked. Two hundred years ago, passenger pigeons flew the skies of Kentucky in even greater number than the blackbirds. Here is John James Audubon's famous description of the passenger pigeon numbers in Kentucky:

"The multitudes of Wild Pigeons in our woods are astonishing. Indeed, after having viewed them so often, and under so many circumstances, I even now feel inclined to pause, and assure myself that what I am going to relate is fact. Yet I have seen it all, and that too in the company of persons who, like myself, were struck with amazement.

"In the autumn of 1813, I left my house at Henderson, on the banks of the Ohio, on my way to Louisville. In passing over the Barrens a few miles beyond Hardensburgh, I observed the Pigeons flying from north-east to south-west, in greater numbers than I thought I had ever seen them before, and feeling an inclination to count the flocks that might pass within the reach of my eye in one hour, I dismounted, seated myself on an eminence, and began to mark with my pencil, making a dot for every flock that passed. In a short time finding the task which I had undertaken impracticable, as the birds poured in in countless multitudes, I rose, and counting the dots then put down, found that 163 had been made in twenty-one minutes. I travelled on, and still met more the farther I proceeded. The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse, the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting flakes of snow; and the continued buzz of wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose."

John James Audubon, in Birds of America.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

The End of a Log House

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Log house

When we bought our small country acreage, there was an old log house in the yard. The log house (with an added wing) was the farmhouse before the house that we currently live in was built. For those who may be wondering, this log house was built by a Harned, but I don't know the first name.

Today, I came across a couple photos taken about the first of October in 1991 that show the log house. We had been here for about a month when the photos were taken. The photo above looks east from our house. A lot of old metal and trash was piled around the yard then, and some of it is visible beside the little white shed at right.

The old log house, or "log room" as the former owners called it, was full of junk also. There were cans and bags of unidentified powders, rusty cans of dried up paint, stacks of old newspapers, boxes of chipped and broken kitchen dishes, old boards with rusty nails, piles of rags and old rugs, broken windows, and so on.

Of course, we found a few interesting things in it as well. Old tools were piled in one corner, including some antique picks and axes with handmade handles. One old box yielded some vintage milk bottles and aqua-colored canning jars. On a nail in the wall, we found clothes hangers made of curved tree branches with wires bent around them. We also saved a few old wooden crates, an odd-sized handmade wooden door, and an ornate headboard.

If you look closely at the photo, you'll see that a chimney is standing out in the yard near the log house. It was once on the outer wall of an addition to the original house. The original house had a big fireplace on the eastern wall, opposite the door that's visible in the photo.

The whole house was covered with wood siding at one time and painted white, and thus some of the older neighbors still reminisce about the "white house" on this place. This may have been done at the time the addition was added to the north side of the cabin.

Log houseWhen the previous owner of the property built a new house in the early 1960's, he tore off the addition on the old house and left just the "log room" standing. By the time we moved here, the plank floor of the log house was rotten in places and the northwest corner was sagging dangerously due to weather-related deterioration of the logs. The second floor of the house had an uncomfortable slant to the northwest.

The next spring, a great-great grandson of the log house's builder approached us. He wanted to tear down the house and salvage the logs. He had recently torn down a log house built by another ancestor, and he intended to use the good logs from the two houses to add a log room to an old house he was renovating. (This fellow is a carpenter by trade as well as being a good general handyman, as many country folk are.)

We accepted his offer on the condition that he not only remove the house, but really clean up the whole area and haul off all the junk. I also stipulated that I would like to keep the stones from the chimneys that were small enough for me to lift.

So the log house and its chimneys were torn down and hauled a mile across the field to the old homesite that the gr-gr-grandson was rebuilding and restoring. Over the next couple years, he did indeed add a log room to the old house. He did a remarkable job of craftsmanship and soon had a comfortable, attractive, rustic home. We could see it plainly across the field, between us and Pilot Rock.

This story ends sadly. One Sunday morning as we got in the car to drive to church, we looked across the field and saw flames shooting as high as the treetops from this newly rebuilt house. An electrical problem (possibly caused by a squirrel chewing off the insulation on the wires) caused a fire in the attic. They tried to put it out themselves before finally calling the volunteer fire department. Then the first fire truck got stuck in the very rough muddy road leading to the home and blocked the way for all who came to help. Needless to say, the house burned to the ground.

Fortunately, everyone escaped without injury and they were able to salvage a few things from the home before the fire grew too dangerous. If there is a moral to the story, it would be to call the fire department right away if you have a fire, and even more importantly, to have a good enough road to your house that the fire truck can navigate it. Otherwise, you're on your own.

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Gas Prices in Hopkinsville, KY

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Gas Prices in Hopkinsville, KY

Gas Prices in Hopkinsville, KY

These are Kroger's prices for gasoline yesterday in Hopkinsville. The price I paid, $12.79 for 6.917 gallons of gasoline, includes a Kroger card discount of 3¢ per gallon which reduced the price per gallon to $1.84. Since these prices are the lowest they've been for a while, I thought I'd document them.


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Friday, January 26, 2007

Rural Skyline

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

SkylineArms stretched to the morning

There are some trees I really enjoy seeing without their leaves in the winter. This is one of them.

The scarlet robe of autumn
Renounced and put away,
The mystic Earth is fairer still, --
A Puritan in gray.
The spirit of the winter,
How tender, how austere!
Yet all the ardor of the spring
And summer's dream are here.

From "Winter Twilight" by Bliss Carman

What do you think? Comments are welcome.

More Glimpses of the World in 1941

History and Old Stuff...

My 1941 Social Studies book, Our World Today, has been lying on the coffee table, and I've been browsing through it for the last week or so. This book appeals to me because it was written just as my parents were becoming adults, immediately before America entered World War II. It also interests me as a background of the events of 2007.

Kurds and Wahabis

For example, in the chapter about the Near East, there's a half-page photo of a large group of Kurdish men on horseback. Most seem to have heavy mustaches but not full beards. They are wearing black turbans and carrying rifles. The caption reads:
Mounted Kurdish Warriors of Northwestern Persia

The Kurds live in a region of lofty mountains extending into the three countries of Persia, Iraq, and Turkey. Some of them live in villages, raising fruits and cereals, but many are nomadic tent dwellers, devoting their time to raising horses, cattle, sheep, and goats. The Kurds have been much feared on account of their sudden raids upon the bordering villages of other races. These are some of the lawless people whom Reza Shah Pahlevi has had to subdue in order to make traveling safe in Persia.

Source: Our World Today (p. 377), a geography textbook written by De Forest Stull and Roy W. Hatch and copyrighted in 1941 by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA

A few pages over, there's a photograph of an old Wahabi man. He has a white beard but no mustache, and he's wearing a light-colored robe that's gathered up loosely by a belt hidden under the folds. His head is also covered with cloth. He's holding a staff that's as tall as he is. The caption reads:
Wahabi Tribesman of Arabia

The Wahabi who live in the interior of Arabia are the strongest people of the Arab tribes. Although they follow the Koran with almost fanatical zeal, they do not hesitate to waylay and rob pilgrims on their way to Mecca, and to make themselves feared and hated for their raids on border settlements.

Source: Our World Today (p. 383), a geography textbook written by De Forest Stull and Roy W. Hatch and copyrighted in 1941 by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA

British Influence on the Arabian Peninsula

In the text, the authors explain that Great Britain has taken "some part in the control" of several nations along the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea to reduce the pirate attacks on British ships conducting commerce in the area.

The quotation about Wahabi tribesmen (above) mentions that their attacks on border settlements. Those would have been settlements of Koweit (1941 spelling), Oman, Aden and Yemen that bordered the sea on the outside and the Great Arabian Desert on the inside. The authors note that the interior borders of the small nations along the ocean are not well defined.

On a political map of the region, Aden at the mouth of the Red Sea is labelled "Aden (Br.)" and in Africa, just across the Gulf of Aden, is "British Somaliland." Today, Somalia is a terrorist hotbed and a nation in the turmoil of civil war, and Somalian pirates are still a big problem for shipping in the area.


The Energetic Americans

In the section about the United States, the authors give a number of reasons that America has become a world leader in manufacturing. These include natural resources, climate, etc., and also "an energetic people."
Americans are noted for their energy and the vigor with which they go at their undertakings and carry them through. In slang phrase they have "pep." Our salesmen are known as "go-getters because they go after and get business.

Americans hustle, that is they move quickly and aim to accomplish a lot of work in a short time...

Source: Our World Today (p. 383), a geography textbook written by De Forest Stull and Roy W. Hatch and copyrighted in 1941 by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA
I wonder if the authors would say the same thing about Americans today? I doubt that we hustle the way we used to do. I think we expect more leisure and entertainment than those who had come through the Great Depression allowed themselves. I don't think today's writers of Social Studies books would even attempt to influence children to think of themselves as peppy go-getters. They'd be more interested in getting children think of themselves as tolerant.

American children of the early 1940'sChildren in an assembly hall at Amache Elementary School
Public domain image from the early 1940's
courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum


Related post: Impact of the Automobile

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Web 2.0 Name Generator

Blogs and Blogging...


What do these names have in common? They were all produced by the Web 2.0 Name Generator. If you need a web name for yourself, your blog, your business, or whatever, here's the place to get one. Thanks to Google Blogoscoped for posting this amusing link.

What do you think? Comments are welcome.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Orton Effect

Blogs and Blogging... Some Interesting News...

Original photoAfter the Orton effect

I've been reading about the Orton effect on various blogs. It's a graphics technique that can be used on photographs to bring out the colors and give them a glow. I found a good tutorial on creating the Orton effect in Paintshop Pro and tried it on a really bland photo to test the effect. The photo at left is the original photo, and the photo at right is how it looks after the Orton effect.

If you like messing around with graphics programs, I promise you'll enjoy playing with the Orton effect.

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Blogs and Blogging...

Lane Hickenbottom (of the photo blog View) and his wife have a beautiful baby boy. Photos are posted.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wednesday's Sunrise

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

SunriseThis morning's sunrise

The skies were beautifully clear this morning, and the ground was frosty. This old barn is on our neighbor's place, over the hedge and across a couple electric fences from us. We've had a lot of rain, and the field in the photo is muddy. In fact, I nearly sank through the grass and into the mud, just walking across the yard to take this photo.

What do you think? Comments are welcome.

Personal History of Food Wraps

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... History and Old Stuff...

My kitchen has a variety of food-preservation wraps and bags today, but I remember when wax paper and aluminum foil were the main food wraps.

We always took our lunch to school. (Obviously, our one-room rural school didn't have a cafeteria.) My mother usually wrapped our sandwiches and cookies in wax paper. Sometimes she had wax paper sandwich bags.

I was envious of my third cousins, the Saar kids, who brought their sandwiches wrapped in shiny new aluminum foil. Sometimes my mother wrapped our sandwiches in foil so they could be heated on the top of our little school's space heater, but it was never new foil. It was recycled aluminum foil with the wrinkles pressed out, and when we got home and cleaned out our lunch boxes, we saved the foil again.

I was born in 1951, so these memories are from about 1956-1965.

Reynolds aluminum foil for household use was introduced in 1947, bringing World War II technology to the consumer. Our parents often called it "tin foil" instead of "aluminum foil" and so did we. There once was a tin foil food wrap, but aluminum foil, which was more flexible and free of metallic flavor, had replaced tin foil before my memory.

Saran wrap was used to encase airplanes in WWII, and after the war, it was refined for use with foods and brought to market in 1953 by Dow. Plastic baggies by the roll were introduced in 1957, and Handi Wrap, made by Dow, came along in 1960. I don't remember plastic wrap or baggies from my school lunches. I remember wax paper.

Zippered plastic bags are a recent invention -- Dow began test marketing Ziploc bags in 1968.

Wax paper predates aluminum and plastic food wraps by 75 years. Thomas Edison invented wax paper in 1872 when he was only 25 years old. It was a familiar product even back in the 1920's and 1930's when my parents were growing up. My mother probably felt a degree of loyalty to a tried and true product when she wrapped our lunches in wax paper. Why buy plastic when wax paper was cheaper and worked so well?

I always keep wax paper on hand because it's very useful. I use it to cover food in the microwave so it doesn't splatter, to cover the counter tops when I'm doing something messy, to line baking dishes for certain cakes, and to help start a fire in the woodstove (crumpled wax paper).

- - - - - - - - - -

Google search: "wax paper hints"
The History of Plastic

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Be Yourself

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... And What I Think About It...

In a cookbook that my mother-in-law's church published in 1975, I noticed that some of the ladies used their husband's names as their signatures -- "Mrs. Donald Woods", "Mrs. George Lewis" -- instead of simply signing their own names -- "Rosemary Woods", "Carolyn Lewis."

It reminded me of the elementary school in central Missouri where I taught in 1982-83. It was a small-town school, and the principal was a tall commanding woman with a withering gaze, a steely demeanor, and an obsession with micro-management. She had worked in the same building since her first day of teaching.

When she was in her late 40's, she married, and from thence onward, she signed her name as "Mrs. Nolan D. Windsor*." Unfortunately, Mr. Windsor had a heart attack and died when they had been married only a few years. Mrs. Windsor had been a widow for about a decade when I taught under her scrutiny, but she still signed every correspondence from the principal's office with "Mrs. Nolan D. Windsor."

When the time for the first report card grew near, I began to wonder if I was expected to sign my report cards as "Mrs. Dennis L. Netz." I questioned a young co-teacher, and she told me that she and most of the teachers did sign their report cards with their husband's name. She felt it demonstrated a spirit of voluntary cooperation with Mrs. Nolan D. Windsor.

Well, that seemed absurd to me. My husband had absolutely nothing to do with my classroom or my teaching, and in fact, no one in that town even knew him. So, I signed my report cards with my own name as I had done through previous years of teaching -- "Genevieve L. Netz."

If Mrs. Windsor had any objection to my signature, she didn't ever mention it to me.

I think the days of ladies identifying themselves by their husbands' full names are nearly finished. I honestly can't remember a single time that I've signed my name as "Mrs. Dennis L. Netz." I have always been convinced that I am myself. On the other hand, I do sometimes write "Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Netz" on guestbooks and similar things.

My church's cookbook, published in the late 1990's, doesn't have a single recipe signed in the Mrs.-Husband-Name style. That's not evidence of a trend, though, because I was the editor. If any lady did submit a recipe that way, I'm sure I changed it to her real name.


*Names in this article were changed to protect the innocent.

What do you think? Comments are welcome.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

January Scenes from Christian County, KY

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Today I drove the backroads across the northern part of Christian County, or as we call it, "North Christian". As the day progressed, the sky grew steadily grayer, as you'll see in the photos.

Pennyrile State ForestNear the Pennyrile State Forest officesScouts setting up camp

Isaac's troop is having their traditional "freeze-out" camping trip tonight. They're at Pennyrile State Forest. Above, Isaac (red coat) and another scout are setting up their tent. Earlier the forecast called for snow, sleet, and freezing rain tonight, so we weren't sure if they'd sleep in tents or in a building that the Forest Service offered. The weather forecast improved dramatically today, so they're in their tents tonight.

Wall at Pennyrile State ForestOld wall at Pennyrile State ForestWall at Pennyrile State ForestOld wall at Pennyrile State Forest

This old stone wall near the headquarters once enclosed a home and its lawn. Now the home is gone except for its concrete floor and massive stone fireplace, but the wall remains. It stands a couple feet tall and is made from large blocks of native stone. It's capped with a layer of concrete that's shaped like an upside down "V". Small native stones are embedded edge-wise in the concrete.

The old hotel in Crofton, KYThe old Crofton (KY) HotelMain Street at Crofton, KY

Crofton is a little town about 15 miles north of Hopkinsville on Highway 41. The railroad tracks run literally through the middle of town. Trains blocking the crossings are a big problem for Crofton's residents. The Crofton Hotel was built in 1906, and it replaced a former hotel or boarding house that burned down. It closed in 1959. (Source of these historic factoids: Postcard History Series: Hopkinsville by William T. Turner and Donna K. Stone)

Buildings on Main St., Crofton, KYCorner of Main Street, Crofton, KYAbandoned farm buildingsLong-abandoned farm buildings

From Crofton, I went east on Highway 800 and Highway 109. These narrow state highways wind through the hills and valleys, following the path of the old trails. They exist mainly to serve the people who live along them, not for travel across the state.

January fieldsA lush January fieldMore abandoned farm buildingsMore abandoned farm buildings

I don't know why the field above wasn't mowed. I wondered if the land might be owned by a hunting club or group, and maybe they left it for wildlife. I did see a big flock of wild turkeys near here.

Pilot RockPilot Rock seen from the northwestPilot RockAnother view of Pilot Rock
I've written about Pilot Rock several times, and the links to those posts are given below. It stands on the county line between Todd and Christian Counties, and it is the highest part in both counties. This view is from the Ebenezer-Ovil Road, a gravel road that runs between Highway 189 and Highway 508.

Related posts:
Pennyrile State Forest
Pilot Rock
Treasure at Pilot Rock or Apex in Christian County, KY
Seen on Friday, the 13th in which this photo shows the back doors of the old Crofton Hotel.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Chigger Territory

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life In Missouri... Another Trip Down Memory Lane...

From late spring until soil temperatures finally cool again in the fall, it's chigger season in Kentucky.

The chigger is the parasitic larva form of a tiny mite. Chiggers are so tiny they can't be seen without a magnifying glass. They live in damp shady areas and when a host (such as a human) pauses there for a moment, they climb on and search for a place to attach themselves.

If you bathe with hot water and plenty of soap soon enough, you may wash them off before they hook into your skin. But if you don't, the chigger will find a place where the clothing is tight (such as the waistline) or where the skin is thin (such as the ankles) or wrinkled (such as the folds behind the knee). Then it will pierce the skin with its mouthpart and inject some enzyme-laden saliva to liquify the skin so it can be sucked out.

ChiggerNot surprisingly, the area where the chigger is at work becomes inflamed and itchy within a few hours. If the chigger is not killed with soap and hot water (recommended treatment) or knocked off by scratching (not recommended!) it will feed for several days. Then it will finally detach itself and drop back to the ground where it will become a nymph and finally an adult.

A few careless hours spent in a chigger-infested area can put you into a hell of unimaginable itching for a couple of weeks. The first time I ever got chiggers, I fished all afternoon in a Missouri farmpond. I had never heard of chiggers before, so I sat for hours on the big rocks along the water's edge. The next day, I was in agony with dozens of itchy welts -- and I suffered for many days thereafter. Welcome to Missouri!

And then there's the interesting combination of chiggers and poison ivy. I've had that all over my feet and ankles. I did that here in Kentucky, fishing again! I've learned to be very dilligent about using insect repellant and showering promptly, but even a single chigger bite can itch like crazy.

It's amazing to me that when my sister and I were little girls in northern Nebraska, we played in the tall grass (chigger heaven) all the time and we never got chiggers. We didn't get ticks either. (Ticks are another parasite we have in Kentucky.)

On summer afternoons, we made "houses" by mashing down circles in the tall grass under the trees in the shelter belts. We played for hours there, sitting and lying on the ground in the shade.

If there had been chiggers in the grass, we'd have been eaten up by them. There simply weren't any. After living in chigger territory for much of my adult life, it's so hard to imagine that!

The Heeler's Song

Blogs and Blogging...

Take a moment and listen to (or download) The Heelers' song on AudioStreet: "Not the Theme Tune to Casino Royale" by James Bong and the Villians. It's funny and really well done! I'm very impressed.

After you hear it, check out the photos of James recording the song and view the cover art for the CD (done by James's friend, Mebdh Gillard.)

James's blog, The Heelers Diaries, is written with great humor and heart. It's s an ongoing account of his adventures in County Kildare, Ireland, and beyond, and a treasury of many poems and photos.

Many times his blog has lifted my spirits and made me smile!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Impact of the Automobile

The Rural Life... History and Old Stuff...

I don't often think about the tremendous changes the automobile brought about (besides air pollution, roadkill and oil cartels), but today I was reminded by an essay question in a 1941 textbook.

Think of a farmer 30 years ago without an automobile. Then think of him to-day as the owner of an automobile for himself and family, and a motor truck for taking his products to market and bringing home supplies, and describe the change in his life made by his possessing these vehicles.

Source: Our World Today (p. 619), a geography textbook written by De Forest Stull and Roy W. Hatch and copyrighted in 1941 by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA

My parents were both born in 1923, while America was making the transition from horse-drawn conveyances and machinery to gasoline powered vehicles and machinery.

My father remembered going to the nearest little town in a horse-drawn wagon to hear preaching at a tent meeting when he was a little boy. He also mentioned that the first automobiles that they owned didn't have automatic windshield wipers. They were a welcome innovation!

My mother could remember the livery stable that her grandfather, Marcus Eaton, ran in Gordon, Nebraska. I am not sure when it finally closed, but probably the advent of the automobile was as much a factor as my grandfather's age.

Here are some interesting facts about the growth of the automobile industry, taken from Our World Today (cited above).

1895 -- 300 automobiles produced
1899 -- 4000 automobiles produced
1930 -- 6,000,000 automobiles produced, and 88% were manufactured in the U.S. and Canada
1940 -- 45,000,000 cars owned worldwide, and over 2/3 of them in America

Mennonit buggies going to churchMany people of the Amish and Mennonite faith in this part of Kentucky still use horses and buggies. Our more conservative Amish neighbors don't drive gasoline-powered machines of any sort, but they do use stationary gasoline motors to run some farm equipment. Most of our Mennonite neighbors use modern gasoline-powered machinery, but don't drive cars.

Even though these people reject the ownership of automobiles, trucks take deliveries to and from their farms. They routinely hire an automobile and driver if they are going to town, and virtually every product they buy there has been brought to the store by a truck. Their mail is delivered by a rural carrier in a car.

They don't live like a farmer in a developing country who raises a crop, takes the products to market and brings home supplies using only animal-power -- or even his own back.

They aren't even much like the American farmer of 1911, mentioned in the essay question above. Even if they wanted to live that way, I don't think they could in America.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Planting a Love for Trees

Ten reasons trees are important

In an essay directed to schoolchildren of New Jersey, Joseph S. Illick listed ten reasons why we need trees.

He wrote that trees are our friends because they provide:

  • Beauty
  • Shade and shelter for people
  • Purification of the atmosphere
  • Wholesome water (through tree-covered watersheds)
  • Protection against drought and flood (by moderating the amount of run-off)
  • Food and shelter for wildlife
  • Nuts and fruits
  • Enrichment of the soil (through leaf-fall)
  • Environment for play and recreation
  • Wood for lumber, paper, and much more

This list comes from a booklet of 108 pages, titled Common Trees of New Jersey, by Joseph S. Illick, published by The American Tree Association, Washington, D.C., in 1926. The book was written for and provided to the Schools of New Jersey by The American Tree Association.

It is interesting to think of the historic context in which this little book was written. By the late 1800's, much of America's primeval forest had been cleared, and America began to realize that its trees were not an inexhaustible resource.

Arbor Day, on which every school child was urged to plant a tree, was first held in 1872 in Nebraska and was soon observed by other states (on various schedules: occasionally, regularly, and sometimes nationally.)

Illick's booklet, provided to New Jersey schools by the American Tree Association in the late 1920's, was addressed to school children with the intent of capturing their interest and enlisting their efforts for a lifetime, just as Arbor Day did.

The children of the 1920's became the CCC tree planters of the 1930's. Certainly, they had more pressing reasons than the love of trees to join the CCC, such as the need to earn money so their families at home could eat! Still, sometimes they must have remembered their study of trees in school and felt encouraged that their work was important to the nation.

I am most familiar with the history of forestry in Missouri but I believe many forested areas in Kentucky and throughout the South and West endured similar treatment by logging companies and farmers:

Around 1870, the citizens of Missouri had begun to use natural resources for profit. Timber mills flourished and vast forests of pine and oak were leveled, sawed, sold and shipped. Over-fishing of streams was common (dynamite became a new fishing tool) and an almost total annihilation of game turned the land lean. By the 1930's the lumber mills were gone as were the forests and game. Soil erosion and water pollution had begun due to the clear-cutting, slash-burning, and continued farming of slopes. This was the condition of the land when the forest service began restoration in the early 30's. When the Great Depression rolled across the United States, thousands of young, unemployed men joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). CCC camps were established in the newly formed national forests. During the 10 years the Civilian Conservation Corps was active, Corpsmen planted thousands of acres trees, built fire lanes, and constructed recreational facilities across the national forests. Much of their work is still evident.

Source: History of the Mark Twain National Forest

My husband's father worked in a CCC forestry camp in Minnesota during the Depression. He planted trees, and he also learned how to cut a tree with dead-eye accuracy using cross-cut saws, as the workers cleared the way for roads, campgrounds, and buildings in what became today's national and state parks and forests.

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Festival of the Trees
This is my first submission to
Festival of the Trees.
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"If the Nation saves the Trees,
the Trees will save the Nation."

(Slogan at the bottom of one of the dedication pages
in the front of Common Trees of New Jersey)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Palettes I've Collected

My Various Hobbies...

Usually, I don't find any interesting $1.00 books in the Dollar Tree, but I did find one once. It was The Perfect Palette by Bonnie Rosser Krims. At the time, I was repainting my bedroom, the hallway, one of the bathrooms, the kitchen, etc., so it was interesting to look through the various color combinations in the book and imagine them in my home.

Each of her palettes has three colors. Some of the palettes in the book are illustrated with photographs of a room done in those colors. Other palettes are illustrated with paintings that contain those colors.

Since then, I've collected various tearsheets, scraps, etc. of color combinations that I like and tucked them into the Perfect Palette book. The palettes below are taken from them.

If I were ever going to actually use them in a room, I suppose I'd have to refine them a little. Meanwhile, collecting a new palette every now and then is another of my odd but cheap and harmless hobbies.

PaleteFrom a photo of a flowering vine against the sky

PaletteFrom a gift bag

PaletteFrom a photo of a grapevine
on the front of the church bulletin

PaletteFrom a painting of iris in a magazine ad

PaletteFrom a magazine ad for carpets

PaletteFrom a scrap of cloth

Recently, I added a Palette Grabber extension to my Firefox web browser, so when I see a set of colors online that I like, I can collect and save the palatte. Apparently, I'm not the only person in the world with this curious interest.

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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.