Monday, April 30, 2007

Farmers Are Planting Our Food

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

Farmland in Christian County, KYNice farmland in southern Christian County, KY

Across America, farmers are at work planting crops. Their work makes it possible for us to buy food for our families rather than devoting large amounts of time and effort into growing our own. Don't ever forget how important agriculture is!

Even though I always have a garden and often do some canning, I am thankful that I can go to the store and purchase all the foods I don't choose to grow. And I'm really thankful that I don't have to grow and preserve enough to feed my family year-round.

And he gave it for his opinion, "that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together."

--Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels--Voyage to Brobdingnag

The Mideast in 1941

History and Old Stuff...

I am not sure which year to assign to my old geography book Our World Today. It was copyrighted in 1941 but published in 1942.

A War Supplement was added to the back of the book just before publishing. The authors state at the beginning of the War Supplement that it is impossible to keep up with the changes in geography, and that the information in the rest of the book describes the world as it was before the war began to change everything so quickly.

At the time the supplement was written, apparently late in 1941 or early in 1942, Germany had occupied Denmark, Norway,France, Belgium, the Netherlands, part of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece and Austria.

Russia had occupied the remainder of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland. Japan was creating a "new order" in Asia to match Hitler's "new order" in Europe.

Here's what was happening in the Mideast at the time the War Supplement was written:

Turkey made an alliance with England before the war, but agreed that nothing in the treaty should force her to come to blows with Russia. When Hitler entered Bulgaria, Turkey massed troops on her Greek and Bulgarian borders, but after the fall of Greece, she made a treaty with Germany, closing the Dardanelles to any foe of the Nazis. This blocks the only way by which Russia and England can help each other against Hitler. Turkey is in the strange position of having treaties with Russia, England and Germany.

Persia (Iran) has had no reason to enter the war, as she wants to develop her resources and modernize the country.

Arabia consists of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by Ibn Saud, and several border kingdoms. While these border kingdoms are under an informal British protectorate, they have not sent any help to Britain in this war. Arabia was part of Turkey in the war of 1914-1918, and it was the scene of the brilliant acts of the Englishman Lawrence during that war.

Iraq put in a pro-Nazi government by a coup d' ├ętat, but Britain marched in and after a brief campaign restored the former pro-British rulers.

Palestine is under a British mandate, but instead of helping Britain she is a source of annoyance, because of the conflicts there between the Jews and the Arabs.

Syria, under French mandate, was attacked by Britain when she showed herself pro-Nazi by allowing German planes to refuel there on their way to help the pro-German Iraqi revolt. This was the first conflict of British and French armies.

Source: Our World Today by De Forest Stull and Roy W. Hatch. Copyrighted in 1941 by Allyn & Bacon, Boston, and published in 1942. The above information is quoted from the War Supplement in the back of the book.

More posts about Our World Today :

Just a few hours after this post was made, it was visited by a computer in the government of Saudi Arabia's system and another computer in the government of Turkey's system. Apparently they watch the Technorati tags. Interesting.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Pilot Rock Revisited

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Pilot Rock, on the Todd and Christian County line in Kentucky

The folks on the Hoptown Hall Forum have been discussing Pilot Rock lately, and that reminded me that I have a photo of the Rock (above) that I should post. I took it at the end of March, just before the late freeze zapped all the leaves you see on the trees. I like this photo because it suggests how rough the terrain is around Pilot Rock.

Like the images (here and here) that I posted in January, this photo was taken from a gravel road to the northwest of Pilot Rock.

Through the Hoptown Hall discussion of Pilot Rock, I've learned of another treasure legend associated with this landmark. It is similar, but not quite the same as the story I've heard.

I am more inclined to believe the written version (which probably was researched to some extent) than the word-of-mouth version (which was told to me by people who heard it from somebody who heard it from somebody, etc.)

Pilot Rock seen from the southwestThe photo at left was taken about six years ago with a zoom lens from the field just north of our little acreage. This view is from the southwest and I think it was taken in July. That's corn in the background, and I believe it's soybeans in the foreground.

You may wonder why I don't post any photos of the view from Pilot Rock. That's because I've never climbed it! I've never had a desire to stand up there and look off the edge of that rock. I think it would give me the heebie-jeebies.

Our 80-year-old neighbor lady, Miss M., told us about climbing Pilot Rock one Sunday with a group of people when she was a little child. She was wearing shoes with hard, slick leather soles, and she got too close to the edge and began to slip. An adult snatched her back by her skirt-tail just in the nick of time. The Good Lord had other plans for her, Miss M. told us.

Related posts:

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Advice for Mushroom Hunters

More About Trees and Plants... Some Interesting News...

This advice comes from the Mammoth Cave National Park mushrooming regulations.

Mammoth Cave is a popular place to hunt morels, and park rangers are concerned that the morel population may be seriously affected by the volume of mushrooms that is removed each spring.

Regulations designed to prevent a depletion include the following:
  • No more than 2 gallons of morels per person per day may be removed.
  • Morels must be collected and carried in a mesh bag (like the bags that onions are packed in) so the spores can fall out and propagate the species.
These are sensible suggestions for mushroom hunters all the time, not just in Mammoth Park, especially the one about the mesh bag. We don't want mushrooms to go extinct. They're too good!

From a news item in Kentucky Living, May 2007, Volume 61, No. 5, p. 21.

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Purple Cow

And What I Think About It...

Purple Cow
A purple cow is an ice cream float, made with grape soda and vanilla ice cream. I read about it in a book tonight. It sounds kind of good, and it has a fun name. It might be something to keep in mind for the grandkids, a kid party, or Vacation Bible School.

Or you could just have one anytime.

A float really sounds good to me!

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back to Full Feed

Blogs and Blogging...

Those who keep track of this blog through a reader -- (Google Reader, Bloglines, Yahoo Homepage, Netvibes, etc. -- will notice that I've gone back to a full feed.

I am doing this so Technorati will pick up and list my tags again. My tags used to work just fine. Then they quit working. Now, I'm hoping that with the full feed and another tweak, they'll work again.

In case anyone else is having this problem, there is a link to your atom feed that you can put in the head section of the blog template html that might help, along with using a full feed.

Also, I read on the Technorati site that tags that are in the footer section of the blog post will not be picked up. For Technorati, tags have to be in the body of the post.

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Smooth Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

More About Trees and Plants...

I recognize many wildflowers, but I don't know their names. On the other hand, I've seen and heard the names of many wildflowers, but I don't know what they look like.

Thus, when I succeed in making a new match between a wildflower and its name, I usually put it on the blog in celebration. That's the reason for this post!

Smooth Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) Last night, I saw an odd wildflower as I was walking with Isaac on the little road that leads through the woods.

The flower had one long arching stem with slender long alternate leaves, and it had little greenish-white bells hanging in pairs from the places where the leaves joined the stems. (This description is as scientific as you're likely to get from me.)

It took some perserverance, but I finally found it on the internet and then I could look it up in my wildflower books. It is Smooth Solomon's Seal, a woodlands wildflower.

There are several varieties of Solomon's Seal in the U.S., and this one, Smooth Solomon's Seal, can be found in the Rocky Mountains and all states eastward. It is one of three varieties of Solomon's Seal that are found in Kentucky.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has declared Polygonatum biflorum a weed. Each plant has just one long stem, and it can be up to three feet in length. I can imagine that a clump of this plant could create a real tangle of stems. It's not too surprising that the Solomon's Seals are closely related to the knotweeds and bindweeds.

The roots (rhyzomes) of the Solomon's Seals are used in herbal medicines, and I think that's probably where I had heard this wildflower's name previously.

The name of the Solomon's Seals probably comes from the circular scars on the root (rhyzome) where the stems of previous years have died and dropped off. These resemble the Great Seal of Solomon. Or perhaps it refers to a medicinal ability to heal ("seal") wounds.

The fruit of Smooth Solomon's Seal is a blackish berry (one berry per blossom), and it is sometimes eaten by gamebirds such as prairie chickens and wild turkeys, though it is not an important wildlife plant.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fields and Gardens Are Being Planted

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Sunset over plowed fieldSunset over Willis's field

Farming is proceeding full speed ahead in Christian County. Our neighbor Willis has his fields tilled and, I assume, planted. He was working until about midnight a couple of nights ago.

Willis is good at watching the weather and timing his field work so it rains just after he parks his tractor and goes in the house. Sure enough, we had a little shower (and a lot of wind and marble-sized hail) yesterday, and we're getting some occasional showers tonight.

Willis also sent one of his boys up with the little tractor and cultivator to work on my garden before the rain. This is the first time the garden has ever been plowed (or cultivated.)

For the past 15 years, I've dug up the garden with a long-bladed spade, one bed at a time as I planted it. I've raised some big, good gardens doing it that way. However, I am not as excited anymore as I used to be about all that digging.

Old time seed and garden catalogThe garden is too muddy to plant at present, but I'm looking forward to getting started when it dries. I will plant the usual: green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and cantaloupe, mixed in with zinnias and marigolds.

I am going to try not to plant too much more than we can eat. This year, when my neighbor knocks on the door with a dozen tomato plants she wants to give me after I've already planted all the tomatoes I want, I will politely decline!

Back to large scale agriculture, now. Yesterday, I saw a farmer using the largest grain drill I have ever seen. I mean a drill that is pulled behind a tractor. It's a machine that makes furrows at a precise depth, drops the seeds in, and covers them up.

The farmer was taking that drill through a field of freeze-damaged wheat, and I suppose he was planting corn. It looked like he was putting on fertilizer or possibly herbicide from some big tanks on top of the drill.

Grain drills aren't a new invention. They've been around since Jethro Tull invented the first one in the early 1700's. Jethro didn't have a mammoth tractor to pull his drill around his field, but he'd have been proud of the rig I saw yesterday.

The drill was about 100 yards wide, and it was pulled by an enormous, dual-wheeled (front and back) John Deere tractor that was bigger than a locomotive.

Am I exaggerating? I don't think so. You'd believe me if I had a picture, but I was motoring to the doctor's office and couldn't pause for photography. You'll just have to take my word for it this time.

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Holstein Heifers

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

Holstein heifersHolstein heifers

These adolescent girl cows (heifers!) are enjoying today's pleasant spring weather. Their owner, a Mennonite farmer, has a dairy herd.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My Drug Use

All In The Family...

My drug source - the pharmacy counter

I hate being dependent, but there are drugs that I really must have -- the ones that help keep my blood pressure and cholesterol under control.

I've been to the doctor today and he's renewed all my prescriptions, so I shouldn't have to see him for another six months. (That makes me happy!)

I am fortunate that Crestor, the well-known cholesterol-lowering drug, works well for me. Since I started taking it two years ago, my total cholesterol and my LDL ("bad" cholesterol) have both dropped about 75 points.

For blood pressure, I take two drugs, Diovan and HCTZ (hydrochlorothiazide). The combination keeps my blood pressure safely below 120/80. I am thankful.

Here's how I found out that my blood pressure was totally out of control. I got off work one Friday evening and went to Kroger to get groceries. Just on a whim as I passed through the pharmacy, I decided to sit down in the blood pressure chair.

When I saw the readings, I left my shopping cart and drove straight to the doctor's office because I was scared! When the nurse checked my blood pressure there, it was even higher.

It's a wonder I hadn't had a stroke. I had been having headaches every day for months, but I just thought it was my job.

Soon thereafter, I got a little battery-operated cuff so I could check my own blood pressure. One day I had it at work and all the girls were standing around my desk, checking their blood pressure. Roger, one of the bosses, came by and decided to check his, too. It was something like 200/130 -- terribly, unbelievably high.

We all urged him to drop everything and go to the doctor immediately, but he wouldn't do it. He said that his blood pressure always ran high, and he just laughed it off. About six months later, he had a stroke at work one day. Fortunately, he survived and now he takes medicine for his blood pressure.

I hope you are keeping track of your blood pressure and cholesterol, and if you need medicine to help control either of them, I hope you are taking it. We're fortunate to live in modern times with many effective drugs.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Ace Reid's Cowpokes Cartoons

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... History and Old Stuff...

Tonight I was poking around on eBay and came across a copy of Ace Reid's Cowpokes Wanted. We had a copy of that book when I was growing up. I think the bank or one of the salebarns sent it at Christmas time. I must have read it thousands of times.

I also knew the Cowpokes from several magazines and newspapers that carried the cartoon and from the Cowpokes calendars we had from time to time.

The Cowpokes are Jake and Zeb. They are hard-working guys (most of the time) who don't have much luck. Their legs are bowed from too many hours spent in the saddle. Their cows are always bony, their fences are always broken, and their cash flow is always negative.

Maw, Jake's wife, is overworked, but don't make the false assumption that she's downtrodden. Every now and then, she lets Jake know who's the boss.

As a ranch kid, I recognized the Cowpokes as authentic characters with true-to-life problems, so it isn't surprising to read that Ace Reid was brought up as a ranch kid himself.

You can see a few Cowpokes cartoons at:

I see that all of the Cowpokes books are available on the Cowpokes homepage and the prices are reasonable, so there's no need for me to get excited about bidding on a used Cowpokes book.

Ace Reid passed away in 1991 at the age of 66. I was sorry to read that.

Wikipedia entry for Ace Reid

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Stinky Stuff

All In The Family... More About Birds and Animals... The Rural Life...

I tried some Google searches tonight to see if I could find an explanation of why our cat Skittles likes to roll in powdered cow manure every spring.

I found several discussions of dogs rolling in stinky stuff, but not a single mention of cats indulging in this behavior.

The main theories I read for dogs are:
  • a. They enjoy the strong smell and want to wear it. (Variation of this theory: They are so excited when they find a strong smell in large quantity, that they roll in it to celebrate.)
  • b. They have an ancient instinct to mask their scent so they can hunt better.
  • c. They cover themselves with the scent so when they get back to the pack, everyone will be able to smell the latest dog news.
Skittles has opinions about bad smells. For example, one day after lunch, she found a small piece of cooked broccoli under the table. She checked its smell thoroughly and then tried to scratch the floor and cover it up. Apparently she thought broccoli was something that actually belonged in the litter box. (I agree with her, by the way.)

I'm surprised (or I would be if I weren't accustomed to Skittles's strange ways) that she wants to bury a piece of broccoli, but she will go out to the neighbor's barn and roll in cow manure.

I guess it's Skittles's idea of a refreshing spring tonic! She's well dosed with Frontline, so it shouldn't be a flea control mechanism.

She came inside to eat a couple hours ago, perfumed in Funky Barnyard Essence. I put her back outside. If she doesn't have herself cleaned up when I let her back in, I'll have to wipe her down. My nose and her nose don't have the same preferences.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Prom Pics

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

Isaac has driven off to pick up his date and go to dinner and then prom. As he walked out the door in a cloud of Axe, he remarked that it felt really weird to be so dressed up, this far out in the country.

Isaac dressed in prom tux
Isaac dressed in prom tux

UPDATE: Isaac reports that he had a really good time.

His mother (that's me!) was very frustrated about the picture-taking opportunities. Had I opportunity to do it again, I would arrange to go to the date's house and get some photos of Isaac with his date there.

Getting some photos at the Grand Entrance was never a problem when the prom was held at the school gym. If Isaac weren't a senior, I'd make some suggestions about this year's setup. But since he's unlikely to attend another prom, I'll leave all that complaining to other mothers.

This year's prom was at the James Bruce Convention Center. I paid my fee of $3.00 to go in, and once inside I wished I had saved my money. The prom attendees were being announced at one end of a long, narrow, and very crowded foyer. They walked down a staircase, paused a moment for photos, and then walked a few steps into the ballroom.

I couldn't see over the heads and shoulders of those ahead of me and couldn't hear over the chatter. I was fuming, but little by little, I pushed through the crowd and eventually worked my way nearly to the front. I saw many of Isaac's friends go by with their dates but couldn't take their pictures because I was jostled constantly as I tried to peer over shoulders.

When I finally saw Isaac coming down the stairway with Kelsey, I just said, "Excuse me," and pushed my way in front of everyone. I called Isaac's name and they paused for a second so I could take my ONE photo as they passed into the ballroom.

Isaac says not to worry because Kelsey's mom took zillions of photos at the house, so I instructed him to let Kelsey know that he would pay for reprints. Isaac also gave his camera to Kelsey's little brother during the photo session, so maybe some of those photos will be good.

This frustrating experience was probably good practice for being a mother-in-law.

Related post: High School Prom This Weekend

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Trilleum cuneatum (Little Sweet Betsy, Toad Trillium, Toadshade Trillium)

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

Trillium cuneatum, toadshade trilliumThis actually falls under the category of unfinished business...

A few weeks ago, I posted a photo of the plants at left that I had seen as Isaac and I were walking down a backroad through the woods.

I wrote that I didn't know what the name of the plant was. Emily advised me in the comments that it was probably a trillium, and Lewis E. informed me of the same by email.

A bit of research reveals that my readers are absolutely correct. This is Trillium cuneatum, a spring wildflower of the eastern U.S. forests.

Common names I found associated with the plant include:
  • Little sweet Betsy
  • Wake robin
  • Toadshade trillium
  • Toad trillium
  • Hugher's trillium
  • Ground lily
  • Rose trillium
  • Jew's harp trillium
  • Goblet trillium
  • Whippoorwill flower
Surprisingly, Trilleum cuneatum is not included in my Guide to the Wildflowers & Ferns of Kentucky by Mary Wharton and Roger W. Barbour, which I thought was probably the bible of Kentucky wildflowers.

Trilleum cuneatum is included (pdf file) in the APSU online guide to KY / TN wildflowers of the Land Between the Lakes region that notes, "It is not widespread in LBL [Land Between the Lakes], but is locally abundant in a few mesic woods and usually colonial when found."

Read more about Trillium cuneatum at:

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Prairie Bluestem, April 2006

Blogs and Blogging...

I wrote and posted these articles in early-to-mid April a year ago. I hope you'll find something interesting in them.

I didn't write the following, but reposted them from e-mail because they are amusing but true:

And finally, here's a photo of the Virginia bluebells blooming a year ago. I saw them blooming beautifully this year by one of the creeks as I flew by in my car, and I didn't stop to take their pretty picture. In the next few days, they were frosted, along with many other spring flowers. Was there ever a more perfect example of why you should stop and smell the flowers?

Virginia Bluebells - a Kentucky wildflower

Remember this song? The lyrics are by James Seals and it was recorded by Seals & Crofts in 1973.

We May Never Pass This Way Again

Life, so they say, is but a game
And we let it slip away.
Love, like the Autumn sun,
Should be dyin'
but it's only just begun.
Like the twilight in the road up ahead,
They don't see just where we're goin'.
And all the secrets in the Universe,
Whisper in our ears
And all the years will come and go,
Take us up, always up.
We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.

Dreams, so they say, are for the fools
And they let 'em drift away.
Peace, like the silent dove,
Should be flyin'
but it's only just begun.
Like Columbus in the olden days,
We must gather all our courage.
Sail our ships out on the open sea.
Cast away our fears
And all the years will come and go,
And take us up, always up.
We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.

So, I wanna laugh while the laughin' is easy.
I wanna cry if it makes it worthwhile.
We may never pass this way again,
That's why I want it with you.
'Cause, you make me feel
Like I'm more than a friend.
Like I'm the journey
And you're the journey's end.
We may never pass this way again,
That's why I want it with you, baby.

We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.
We may never pass this way again.


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The Late Freeze in Christian County, KY

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

Freeze damage to trees in Christian County, KYFreeze damaged trees are brown on the hillsides

Damage from the late freeze we suffered in Christian County over Easter weekend is quite apparent. As I drive here and there on the rural roads, I see many trees with brown foliage. The hills, which should be covered with various greens as the trees get their leaves, are an unhealthy mixture of green and brown.

The vast majority of the trees will recover and produce leaves, but it will take them a while to realize what has happened and what they must do. A column in the Kentucky New Era by our local county extension agent Kelly Jackson suggests mulching landscape trees to help them cope with the remaining stresses of the growing season.

Of more immediate economic significance, many fields of wheat were hurt by the frost. They look brown, but they may still produce some grain if the wheat head (still in the stem at the time of the freeze) was unhurt. Some fields have been mowed and baled for hay. Apparently the farmer determined that the wheat heads had suffered terminal damage from the freeze. Corn will probably be planted in the wheat fields that have been mowed.

A Mennonite neighbor who grows tomatoes commercially had 1500 tomato plants that perished in the cold temperatures. That's quite a setback for him, particularly since he grew the original plants in his greenhouses. He'll probably have to purchase plants in order to replant in a timely manner. I hope he can find them at a reasonable price.

Our friends Jim and Jan Bravard at the Bravard Winery say that the cold snap has cut their grape production for the year by about 50%. The growing tips of the vines were killed, but new growth will occur and it will bear fruit.

Spring continues despite late freeze Spring growth seen at Pennyrile State Forest today

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Pet Food Recall

More About Birds and Animals... Some Interesting News...

I've been listening to the many pet food recalls during the past few weeks, secure in the knowledge that I had enough cat food to last for a while.

The supply is dwindling, though, and I'll have to buy more cat food soon. It's a bit worrisome to do so because of the recalls. I hope that no recalled products are still on the store shelves. I hope that the cat food I buy won't be ruled unfit for consumption after I've already fed it to Skittles and Casper.

The FDA has a page of helpful information about the pet food recalls including a list (supposedly complete) of all the products. Happily, our brand of cat food isn't listed, but over 100 pet foods have been recalled.

I read today that the FDA is investigating whether the contamination of the Chinese grain products (wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate in the U.S. and corn gluten in South Africa) may have been intentional in order to make the protein content appear higher.

"Melamine was found in all three of those — it would certainly lend credibility to the theory that it may be intentional. That will be one of the theories we will pursue when we get into the plants in China," Stephen Sundlof, the FDA's chief veterinarian, told reporters.

Chinese authorities have told the FDA that the wheat gluten was an industrial product not meant for pet food, Sundlof said. Still, melamine can skew test results to make a product appear more protein-rich than it really is, he added. That raises the possibility the contamination was deliberate. (Source)

Casper, our 7-month-old kittenYoung Prince Casper strolls through his domain

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Quote

And What I Think About It...

Several years ago, I bought a postcard at the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in Mansfield, Missouri, that has the following quotation on it.

It is always best to be honest and truthful;
to make the most of what we have;
to be happy with simple pleasures;
to be cheerful in adversity;
and have courage in danger.
Things of real value do not change
with the passing of years.

-- Laura Ingalls Wilder

I have always been curious what the source of the quotation was. I've also wondered if the two sentences were written together, and whether they were just combined to make the postcard.

Tonight I searched the internet for the phrases in the quotation. It seems that the first sentence came from Laura's letters to children. These letters are reproduced in numerous websites. This is the closing paragraph of a 1950's letter:

The "Little House" books are stories of long ago. Today our way of living and our schools are much different; so many things have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with the simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong. Great improvements in living have been made because every American has always been free to pursue his happiness, and so long as Americans are free they will continue to make our country ever more wonderful.

--Laura Ingalls Wilder

I found the second sentence included as part of another quotation. I could find only one instance of the quotation -- on a Mansfield, Missouri, bed and breakfast website:

Things of real value do not change with the passing of years. Remember, it is not the things you have that make you happy; it is love and kindness and helping each other and just plain being good.

-- Laura Ingalls Wilder

It seems that the two sentences were probably from separate writings, though they are combined on the postcard. It doesn't really matter. They contain good, wholesome principles to live by, and Laura's intention was that they should be shared, especially with children.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Whitehaven at Paducah, KY

Life in The Upper South... History and Old Stuff

Whitehaven mansion at Paducah, KYWhitehaven mansion at Paducah, KY

Whitehaven is a beautifully restored mansion at Paducah, KY, located near Interstate 24. If you ever pass through Paducah, I hope you'll take time to visit it. Take Exit 7 off I-24 and follow the signs.

Whitehaven mansion at Paducah, KYOne wing of the house hosts the Kentucky Welcome Center and rest stop. Its facilities are open 24 hours for travelers.

The main part of the house is open for tours every half-hour from 1:00-4:00 p.m. daily. The house is furnished with antiques, and the second floor holds a collection of Vice President Alben Barkley memorabilia.

Even if you don't happen to arrive at the time that the tours are being given, you can walk around the porches, peek in the windows, and enjoy the grounds. And of course, you can pick up a Kentucky map and lots of tourist information in the Welcome Center.

The historic marker at Whitehaven gives a good synopsis of the house's story:


Main part of house, two-story brick structure, built in 1860's by Edward Anderson. Edward Atkins bought it in 1903 and had noted Paducah architect A.L. Lassiter transform Victorian farmhouse into Classical Revival mansion. He added the Corinthian-columned front portico and named house Whitehaven.

In 1908, Paducah Mayor James P. Smith bought and renamed home "Bide-A-Wee," Scottish adage for "Come Rest A While." Smith family members lived here until 1968. After mansion restored, it opened on June 23, 1983 as Whitehaven Tourist Welcome Center. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

The historic marker doesn't explain that Whitehaven had suffered a good deal of vandalism and deterioration, and its future was uncertain until the decision was made to restore and refurbish it as the welcome center at I-24's northern entry to Kentucky. It's a model of historic preservation of which Kentucky is (and should be!) proud.

Whitehaven mansion at Paducah, KY

More photos of beautiful Whitehaven can be viewed at:

Whitehaven mansion at Paducah, KY

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

High School Prom This Weekend

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

Isaac's senior year-end events have begun. His prom is on Saturday night.

Last year, his date cancelled out on him at the last moment, but he went to prom anyway and had a good time. This year he is taking a different girl, and I don't think she's going to cancel out on him. She's excited about the whole event.

Isaac in tuxTonight after school, I went with Isaac to pick up his tuxedo at the rental place. He has a silvery-gray vest and tie. It looks very spiffy. The vest's color is intended to match the color of his date's dress.

As it happened, his friend from school was there trying on his tux also, so I photographed them, but I won't post it since I don't have a photo release for the friend. However, here's a crop of Isaac from the photo, looking a little frazzled after the struggle of putting the thing on.

Then we did a drive-by of the girl's house about 8 miles out in the country on a different side of Hopkinsville, just to make sure that Isaac knows how to get there and get back home again.

Isaac and date are going to a supper party before prom at a classmate's house and an after-prom party at another classmate's house.

The juniors rented the Convention Center for this year's prom, so it's going to be quite an event. Hopkinsville has a nice, new Convention Center. Several proms were held there last year, and perhaps the popularity of the facility explains why our prom is not being held on Kentucky Derby weekend for the first time in years.

At the beginning of prom (I think from 7:00 -8:00 p.m.), the promenade part of the night is held. The tradition is that each student or couple is announced grandly and applauded as they walk through an arch and down a path. It's their moment in the spotlight.

Parents (or anyone, I suppose) can attend the grand-entrance hour. There's always a big crowd of observers. The juniors charge a couple dollars per head entry fee, and it helps bring in some money. It also gives parents an opportunity to admire the expensive outfits their children are wearing!

I will go. That will be my opportunity to get a few snapshots of Isaac and his date.

In just a month, we'll be going to Isaac's graduation. I can't tell you how hard that is to believe. The years go too fast.

Prom tuxedos waiting at tuxedo rental shopTuxes awaiting pickup at the tuxedo rental shop

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Small Bluets (Hedyotis caerulea)

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

Small bluetts

A large patch of these tiny wildflowers have been blooming on the bank
above the old roadbed on the south side of our little property. They are so tiny that you could easily overlook just one plant in bloom, but when they bloom in mass, they make a splash of color that you can't miss.

These are small bluets, also known as Quaker ladies. This variety (Hedyotis caerulea, formerly known as Houstonia caerulea) is common to western Kentucky (according to my Kentucky wildflowers book and the online wildflower guide to the Land Between The Lakes area of KY/TN.)

They must be tough little flowers, since they are flourishing in an area of our yard that bakes to a crispy crunch every August. They are annuals, so probably their seed has already matured before the hot dry weather of Kentucky's late summer arrives.

Small bluet, Hedyotis caeruleaSome other varieties of Quaker ladies have yellow centers, but our Quaker ladies have violet hearts to match the outer edges of their petals. They are so petite that you'll probably never see them in a bouquet. They're just sweet little flowers of the field.

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. --Song of Solomon 2:12

Related site: Bluets (with music) --very nice.

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Paramilitary, not Boy Scout

And What I Think About It...

I am not holding this poor girl's feet to the fire over what she said, but I wish she had used the word "paramilitary," not "Boy Scout". Perhaps the only uniform she's ever seen was a Boy Scout shirt and that's why it came to mind as she tried to describe the horrific ordeal she had been survived. I truly am not criticizing her.

I do think it is odd that the AP chose to use the direct quote, associating the killer's attire with a Boy Scout outfit.

Erin Sheehan, who was in the German class near Calhoun's room, told the student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, that she was one of only four of about two dozen people in the class to walk out of the room. The rest were dead or wounded, she said.

She said the gunman "was just a normal-looking kid, Asian, but he had on a Boy Scout-type outfit. He wore a tan button-up vest, and this black vest, maybe it was for ammo or something." (Source)

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

And What I Think About It...

Students, faculty and staff, and families of Virginia Tech, I am heartsick for your loss, and I am so sorry that you've had to endure this tragedy. I am praying for you.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mineral Hall and Its Unique Arched Doorway

History and Old Stuff...

Entry to Mineral Hall, Kansas City, MOImage courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division,
Historic American Buildings Survey, HABS MO,48-KANCI,10-5

The curious arched doorway is the photo above is the main entry to Mineral Hall in Kansas City, MO.

Mineral Hall was built between 1903 and 1905. Its architect was Louis Curtiss (1865-1924). He was born in Ontario, Canada. After studying architecture in Toronto and Paris, he came to Kansas City around 1890, apparently attracted by the economic boom and extensive construction in the area.

According to Susan Jezak Ford, writing for the Kansas City Public Library, "[Curtiss] only wore white. He continually smoked monogrammed Turkish cigarettes. He was a reckless driver. Yet his legacy of buildings remains truly recognizable by their style and innovative designs."

The main part of the house was built by William Rule, who never lived in it. About a year after it was built, it was sold to Roland E. Bruner, a businessman with extensive personal and business interests in mining.

To house and showcase his extensive collection of minerals, Bruner employed Curtiss to design and add a wing to the house . The name Mineral Hall was given to the house because samples of local minerals were embedded in the mortar of the interior walls of Bruner's new wing.

The exterior of the home is Jackson County oolitic limestone -- that is, locally quarried stone. The door itself is an example of Art Noveau style. The total cost of the house, when built, was about $25,000.

Mineral Hall looks like the residence of a mining king. The doorway reminds me of a hobbit hole, but of course Louis Curtiss had no such influences on his imagination. In 1903, J. R. R. Tolkien was a mere lad of 11 years.

According to Ford, Louis Curtiss is buried in an unmarked grave in Kansas City's Mount Washington cemetery. He died in 1924, at work at his drafting table.

Mineral Hall is used today as the Admissions Office of the Kansas City Art Institute. The Art Institute website remarks that Mineral Hall's door is said to be "the most photographed doorway in Kansas City."

I found a description of Mineral Hall and the photos I've posted here in the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) at the Library of Congress website. Most of the details I've cited here come from the HABS documentation. If you want to read it yourself, the best way to find it is to visit the HABS homepage and type "Mineral Hall Kansas City" into the search bar.

Mineral Hall, Kansas City, MOCourtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division,
Historic American Buildings Survey, HABS MO,48-KANCI,10-2

Note: I revised this a few hours after I posted it to organize it better and to include more information. I also separated some information into a second post about buildings designed by Louis Curtiss.

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Buildings by Louis Curtiss

Kansas City architect and his buildings

Buildings designed by the talented and eccentric architect Louis Curtiss (1865-1924) include:

Another of Louis Curtiss's buildings, the Bernard Corrigan house in Kansas City, is included in the Historic American Building Survey at the Library of Congress website. The best way to find it is to visit the HABS homepage and type "Bernard Corrigan Kansas City" into the search bar. Like other Curtiss buildings, the Corrigan house is visually interesting and unique.

I wrote about another Louis Curtiss building in the post "Mineral Hall and Its Unique Arched Doorway".

This is by no means a full list of the buildings that Louis Curtiss designed. These are just the Curtiss buildings of which I found images.

Hypno+Raygun has posted an excellent collection of photographs of Louis Curtiss structures on Flickr.
Some other Louis Curtiss buildings appear in this Flikr search. (Research them carefully, though. Some of these buildings were actually by associates of Louis Curtiss -- and others.)
Also see "Louis Curtiss and the Politics of Architectural Reputation."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Admire the Shaker Arches

And What I Think About It...

Arches at South Union Shaker MuseumSouth Union Shaker Museum,
near Bowling Green KY

If I could choose one architectural detail that I'd like in my next home just for the joy of it, it would be an arch (or several!) An arched main entry would be nice and some more arched doorways inside.

To me, arched doorways look peaceful and inviting, and apparently the Shakers at South Union, Kentucky agreed. They built many arched doorways into their Centre House.

You can see a few more nice Shaker arches in these National Geographic photos. (Someone has recreated the National Geographic's Shaker dining hall photo in 3-D here.)

Shaker architecture emphasized clean simple lines, the natural beauty of the materials, and useful function. The simple graceful shape of the arch met Shaker aesthetic guidelines and the arches shaped the light and marked the transitions into a different spaces.

When we lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, one thing I enjoyed in the older homes was the arched entries. I think the arches were a remnant of Moorish influence from Spanish colonial days. I was intrigued by the little drama of passing through an arched doorway that separated public space from private space.

The various arches of triumph that have been built through the centuries are about as opposite as you can get to the humble, simple Shaker arches!

Here's a nice garden arch I saw at the Nashville Zoo. Though I'll probably never live in a house with arched doorways, I could have a nice arched garden gateway. Do you see the benches beneath the arbor? What a lovely transition from the outer world to the garden. The Shakers might approve, as long as the plant on the arbor was something useful like a grapevine.

Arch at garden entry, Grassmere, Nashville zoo
Garden at Grassmere Farm, Nashville (TN) Zoo

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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.