Thursday, May 31, 2007

Butterfly Moment

More About Birds and Animals...

Spicebush swallowtail?

This beautiful black butterfly was basking in the sunshine at the edge of the road this morning. Or maybe it was looking for a drop of dew caught in a leaf. It gave me just a moment to photograph it before it flitted away.

Honestly, I'm no expert on butterflies. Maybe Collagemama will set me straight if I'm wrong, because she seems to know butterflies much better than I do.

I am quite sure it's a swallowtail of some sort. It might be a spicebush swallowtail. The blue patches are the right shape and color. The wing shape seems right. The border of white spots seems right.

The one thing that's making me wonder is those two little yellow spots on the lower inner edge of its wings. Those spots are bright orange in most photos of the spicebush swallowtail that I examine. In fact, bright orange spots in that location are one of the identifying characteristics of the species.

So I am not sure. Maybe it's a juvenile spicebush that just recently emerged from its chrysalis. Maybe it's a spicebush with a natural variation of color. Or maybe it's an entirely different butterfly.

I do know one thing though -- a person sure can waste invest a lot of time in looking up non-vital information on the internet.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Oil Drilling in The Land of The Free

Life in Kansas... And What I Think About It...

Oil well drilling rigSeveral years ago when we visited my brother and his family, southwest of Wichita, Kansas, they took us to see an oil well being drilled.

My sister-in-law Kathy works for an oilfield supply company. Her boss and other brothers in that family and any employees who wanted to throw in some money were all shareholders in the well. Kathy was an investor, but I don't know if they struck oil or not.

They had a big pond (behind the racks of pipe in the photo above) that was full of water which is used somehow in the drilling process. The closer you got to the drilling tower, the more mud (and noise) there was.

When they start drilling, they work around the clock. This crew had a little trailer house that was completely open on one end. I guess they could go in there and get a cup of coffee and still keep an eye on the mechanisms through the open side of the trailer. The inside of the trailer was only a little less muddy than the work area.

The Kansas oilfields remain important. A lot of oil has been pumped out over the years, and some wells had become too marginal to operate at a profit when prices were low. However, with higher oil prices, higher-priced technology can be used to extract oil, and some of the wells that had been closed are back in production.

The latest oil production statistics I could find in a quick search said that Kansas was producing 93,000 barrels of oil per day in 2005.

Kansas oil field drilling rigIt looks like oil prices are going to get higher and higher for the rest of man's time on earth, so it's a good thing we're still developing our domestic resources. I'm glad if the high price I pay for a tank of gasoline goes at least partly to the guys in Kansas and other oil-producing areas of the United States.

The American flag flying on the site expressed an appropriate spirit of independence, I thought. Kathy says their guys always fly the flag when they drill. I'm proud to know that.

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Dry Conditions in Kentucky

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in The Upper South... And What I Think About It...

Driving through a rain storm

I wish this was a recent photo of rain on my windshield, but it's not. This photo was taken on May 3 as we were driving through some rain squalls in the northern part of the county. We didn't get any rain at home that day, and we haven't had a good rain since. It is getting dry in Kentucky.

May is typically one of the wetter months of the year here. The May rains help build up soil moisture to carry us through the hot dry months of July and August. But not this year.

The lawn is looking burnt in places already, and the dust from the gravel road is terrible every time someone drives by our place. Thank goodness we have a tall hedge between us and the road that catches a little of the dust.

I've been watering the garden, and I'm sure the farmers wish they could water their field crops. Irrigation is not common here. It's hard to get an adequate well. A few farmers have ponds that they can irrigate from (until the ponds go dry.)

This morning, I heard a weather report on one of the news networks. The reporter read the forecast for the nation, and when she came to the southeast U.S., she waved her arm across that part of the map and said it would be a "beautiful dry weekend."

Beautiful dry weekend? Doesn't she know that 585,000 acres have burned in Georgia and Florida? The fires have been burning for weeks, bringing misery and anguish to thousands and thousands of people. Even in Kentucky, we've had hazy days of poor air quality from the smoke coming off the fires.

I know she can't put rain into the forecast, but she could choose her words with a little more empathy.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Amazing Antiques

Cadiz, KY's antique shops

Stores in Cadiz, KYCadiz, KY Main Street
Antiques and collectibles in front of an antique storeAntiques, collectibles, and junk

When my brother Dwight was here last weekend, we did some sightseeing, including a visit to Cadiz, KY. Cadiz is the county seat of Trigg County, just west of Christian County where I live.

Cadiz was a great place to take Dwight because he and I enjoy antique stores, second-hand shops, flea markets, pawnshops, etc. (My sister likes them too. I don't know if it's our genes or our upbringing.)

Cadiz has at least half a dozen antique stores on Main Street in the old store buildings. Many tourists pass through Cadiz because it is near the Land Between the Lakes, and that extra traffic helps support the antique business, I imagine.

Mountain Dew bottles from the 1970'sCollectible soda bottles
Old paint-by-number picturePaint-by-number, nicely done
We spent several hours wandering through an amazing assortment of stuff -- old furniture, dishes, books, clothing, tools, knickknacks, gadgets, everything you can imagine, and more. Several of the stores in Cadiz have three floors that extend across adjoining buildings.

I note that antique stores are, more and more, a museum of my time, as well as times before me. Things from not-so-long-ago --like the soda bottles pictured above -- are displayed right along with the true antiques.

I think the Mountain Dew bottles in the photo might be from the 1980's. They don't have the picture of the hillbilly which was on earlier bottles. Also, the early Mountain Dew bottles were smaller.

My brother bought a pocket knife at one of the stores and I bought an old book and a few postcards. All that entertainment didn't cost us much.

My new old book is a world geography from 1920. I'll probably be posting a few things from it.

Old handmade quiltOld "Log Cabin" quilt
Old handmade quiltThis quilt pattern probably has
a name, but I don't know it.


I remember in the mid-1960s, my dad brought home a 6-pack of Mountain Dew in bottles from Iowa. We all liked it, but it wasn't sold in Nebraska.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Life In The Shire

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

Isaac and I have been taking our nightly walk again for the last few nights, after a lot of disruption in the schedule for a couple of weeks. He's bored with our old route, so we've been walking down our lane and out onto the highway, about two miles round trip. It's not a busy highway, so when a vehicle does approach, we hear it coming long before it arrives.

Wheat along the roadsideMany wheat plants are growing along the highway, sprouted from seed that fell last year from harvest-laden trucks. The wheat plants look much like their undomesticated grassy relatives, except for the great difference in the size of their seed heads.

A baby rabbit sat very still in front of a mailbox, hoping we didn't notice him. As we drew closer, he bounced away in a panic.

A little farther on, a bird flew out of the tall grass of the ditch with a great chatter and clatter. We agreed that she probably has a nest. I hope she doesn't get as excited about vehicles as about pedestrians, or she will never get her eggs hatched.

Cattle grazingThe air is fragrant with hay. Across the county, the first cutting is being taken. Yesterday, our neighbor was making big round bales in his field. Today, the bales have been moved, and cattle have been turned in. They will enjoy the tender new growth of grass.

This place is like the Shire of J.R.R. Tolkien's books. If this little community deep in the heartland was ever threatened, if the Black Riders were ever seen here, then we would know that the dark shadow of evil had grown very long indeed. Brave soldiers have fought terrible wars to preserve this place, but we've hardly noticed.

Sunset and grass

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Die-Hard Coffee Quaffer

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in Germany... Life in Bolivia...

Cup of CoffeeEvery coffee drinker has a little story about when and why he/she started drinking coffee.

Here is my story. I attended a parochial boarding school during my high school years. The school had strict rules and policies that were heavily influenced by Mennonite thinking (at that time).

In such a restrictive place, small privileges were treats. Students were allowed to have a cup of coffee at breakfast -- so I had one. It wasn't very good-tasting coffee, but I drank it anyhow, and that is how I became a coffee drinker.

Except for two years in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where I drank hot tea, I've been a coffee drinker ever since -- over forty years now.

I drank hot tea when we lived in Bolivia because I couldn't stand the coffee there. Believe it or not, everyone drank instant Nescafé, imported from Brazil. They took a cup of boiling water and thickened it with sugar and Nescafé to make a black syrup. Ugh. No matter how I mixed it, I didn't like it.

In Germany, I learned to drink coffee with cream in the hotel restaurant, while we were waiting to move into our first apartment. The coffee was too strong to drink black, but it was delicious with a slosh of rich, sweet cream from the pitcher that was delivered with the coffee.

To this day, I still make strong coffee and top it off with skim milk. (I can't drink all that cream without getting fat, and besides, I'm supposed to watch my cholesterol.) I've never liked sugar in either coffee or tea, not even iced tea, which makes me a bit of an oddity here in Kentucky.

I recently bought a new coffee pot. It's retro in appearance, and it makes a nice chugging sound while it perks. My brother commented that it sounds like an old-time John Deere tractor.

I also have a stove-top percolator , so I can make coffee in just about any circumstance. I've used it on the woodstove when we lost power during ice storms, and I use it on the camp stove when we go to the lake. I could even make coffee with a campfire if necessary.

How about you? Are you a coffee drinker?

Coffee percolator
Related posts:
Enjoy Your Coffee
Coffee Is Good For You

Seen on a refrigerator magnet:
"Coffee! You can sleep when you're dead!"

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Flats of Flowers

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

Flats of bedding plants

I took this photo a few days ago. K-Mart has either received a fresh shipment of flowers or has been doing a beautiful job of caring for the ones they have in stock.

If you estimate that each 6-pack is worth about $2.00, there's quite a bit of money in this photo. I can't decide exactly how many flats there are, but there are at least 15, and each flat holds at least six 6-packs (or more if they're the itty-bitty 6-packs.) So that's at least $180 in flowers if they sell them all and don't let any die from neglect.

I did buy some petunias and impatiens . They always do well in pots for me. I planted some flats of small marigolds and they're currently living on the front porch until they get big enough to transplant to the garden. I should have started the seeds a little sooner, but they'll grow quickly and bloom until we have a hard freeze next fall.

Volunteer zinnias are coming up in the garden from last year's flowers so I will transplant some of them into a clump or row and let them grow.

Working the Election

Chores and Duties... Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Sticker each voter received
at the election Tuesday

I read an article in the newspaper a month or two ago that said poll workers were needed, and I decided I'd try it. I filled out some very simple paperwork at the county clerk's office and was hired.

A few weeks ago, I went to a class about being a poll worker. A man from the Kentucky Secretary of State's office taught it. It was detail intensive, and he said many times, "We don't want to see your name in the newspaper."

The class frightened me a little. I was especially worried about getting the machines set up properly -- one of my responsibilities as an election judge. We were shown how to do it in the class, but we could only watch. There were too many in the class for us to actually practice doing it.

Yesterday I worked in an election for the first time ever. I didn't sleep very well the night before. I got up about 4:00 a.m. and arrived at the polling place at 5:15. The other workers arrived before long and we started getting things set up.

Carefully following the instruction sheets given to us at the class, the other judge and I opened the two machines for voting without too much trouble. One was an old-style machine with curtains that is being gradually phased out, and one was a new machine called an E-slate (pictured at right.)

At 6:00 a.m., we had several voters waiting to come in and several more came in before 8:00 a.m. Then the trickle of voters slowed down to a drip, and the day went very slowly. We had another small rush from about 5:00 p.m. until the doors were finally closed at 6:00 p.m.

The other judge and I had to set the machine for the correct party every time someone voted. Since it was so slow, we tried to get as many people as possible to use the new machine. We had plenty of time to show them how to twirl the dial to make a selection and then press "Enter" to record it.

It was a primary election for Kentucky state officials. The voter turnout all over the state was very low. Where I worked, we had about 13% of the registered voters in the precinct. It's too bad about the apathy, but I was thankful that it wasn't very busy since it was my first poll-worker experience.

I had a book of Willa Cather short stories with me, and I read "A Death in the Desert" and "Neighbour Rosicky" during the slow spells. (I had read them both before, but I enjoyed the re-read.)

The other judge (a man) also brought a book, and the clerk and the sheriff (two ladies) talked all day. They had been in the same class in high school about fifty years ago, and they had a lot to catch up on.

I was also nervous about shutting down the machines, running the tapes, removing the last seals, and filling out the reports, but we followed the directions, and I haven't heard anything yet about us not doing it right -- or seen our names in the newspaper!

After we got everything packed up at the voting place, the other judge and I had to take everything except the voting machines to the courthouse in Hopkinsville, turn it all in, and sign another paper.

We were told at the class that there would probably be a Democrat run-off election in June for the governor's race. However, a candidate (Steve Beshear) did get over 40% of the vote, so a run-off is not required, and the next election will be in November.


EAC - Become a poll worker. This link gives a contact number for poll worker information in all 50 U.S. states.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Christian County, Kentucky, in 1843

History and Old Stuff...

Snooping around in Google Books for "history Christian County Kentucky" tonight, I came across a description of Christian County written in 1843. It's rather interesting so I decided to post it. It was written in one long paragraph, but I have broken it up into separate lines to make it more readable.

CHRISTIAN, county, Ky. Situated in the s. part of the state and contains 612 sq. ms.

The land in the N. part is poor but covered with timber; in the S.W. are fertile barrens, as they are called. The soil is a fertile clay, and produces tobacco, corn wheat &c.

It is the 3d county in wealth in the state. Watered by Little r[iver] and its branches and Pond and Tradewater r[iver]s. Capital: Hopkinsville.

There were in 1840,
neat cattle, 15,053,
sheep 18,196,
swine 52,656,
wheat 103,833 bush. produced,
rye 13,284,
Ind. corn 1,022,850,
oats 290,585,
potatoes 22,846,
hemp and flax 177 tons,
tobacco 3,400,502 pounds,
cotton 43,040,
sugar 19,190,
bituminous coal 11,475 bushels;

31 stores, cap. $136,875;

8 tanneries,
19 distilleries,
3 potteries,
13 flouring [mills],
23 grist [mills],
13 saw [mills],
1 oil [mill],
1 printing office,
1 weekly newspaper.

Cap. in manufac. $81,640.

4 acad. 234 students, 19 schools, 517 scholars.

Population whites 9491, slaves 5,997, free col'd 99; total, 15,587.

Source: A Complete, Descriptive and Statistical Gazetteer of the United States of America... (page 127) by Daniel Haskel and John Calvin Smith. Published in 1843 by Sherman & Smith of New York.
The "fertile barrens, as they are called" in southwest Christian County (mentioned in the second sentence above) were areas of treeless prairie. Some of the grasses that once grew on those prairies were eastern gamma, Indian grass, big bluestem and little bluestem. Today, the land in that part of the county is mostly farmed.

May 23, 2007
A hayfield in Christian County, KY

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Wild Turkey Breaks Bus Window

Some Interesting News...

This story goes into the "Not surprising" file:

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A school bus driver suffered cuts Tuesday when a wild turkey crashed through the windshield of her bus on Interstate 84.

The bus was carrying 36 fifth-graders and four adults on a field trip from Windham Middle School to Indian Rock in Meriden when a flock of turkeys flew into the bus' path, police and school officials said.

One bird went through the windshield, police said...

Source: Wild Turkey Injures School Bus Driver

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEP) says their turkey toms can weigh 15 to 25 pounds and turkey hens can weigh 8 to 12 pounds.

The CT DEP also gives this bit of general information about their local turkey species:
In the United States, five subspecies of wild turkey inhabit 49 states except Alaska. The subspecies which exists in Connecticut, Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, ranges from southern Maine to northern Florida, west to eastern Texas and north to North Dakota.

Given the size of the bird and the inertia of a bus traveling 55 mph or more, it's not really a surprise the window broke. The driver suffered cuts from the glass but will be all right, apparently. There were no other injuries, though some of the kids had glass in their hair.

I haven't yet had a dangerous road experience with a turkey, but I've had a close call with a turkey buzzard that flew up from a roadkill morsel toward my windshield. They're big birds, but not nearly as large as a turkey tom.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mourning Dove Nest

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

Mourning dove nest

This mourning dove nest is about 20 feet up in a silver maple near our house. Mourning doves are well known for constructing flimsy nests, and this one could be described as "sprawling" as well.

During nesting, the male gathers the nest materials and lands on the female to hand it to her so she can work it into the nest. Somehow I missed seeing all that.

In summer, mourning doves inhabit all 48 contiguous states of the USA, and they winter throughout the continental USA except for the very coldest regions.

Carolina pigeon (mourning dove) by AudubonI believe mourning doves are the same bird that we called "turtle doves" during my Nebraska childhood. John James Audubon, the great naturalist and ornithologist, called them "Carolina pigeons."

Audubon thought that the closest relative of his Carolina pigeon was the now-extinct passenger-pigeon. I suppose that is correct, but I really don't know. I am too sleepy to research it tonight, so you're on your own if you decide to quote that fact.

More information:

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Chores and Duties...

I'm working at the election today and won't be around my computer until this evening. I tried to get Isaac to guest-blog, but I don't think he's going to, so here are some posts the archives of April and May, 2006, that you might enjoy.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Graduate

All In The Family...

We've been busy celebrating Isaac's graduation. It's been a busy, but very nice weekend.

More later. Right now, I must fall into bed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cornfield Planted with No-Till Methods

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

No-till farming

This field was planted to wheat earlier this spring, but it was damaged in the late freeze at Easter time. The farmer applied a herbicide to kill the wheat and then planted corn right into the dead, but still standing wheat plants.

This method is called "no-till" farming, and it was invented in Christian County, KY. It saves energy and it also cuts down on soil erosion and herbicide use. (Many weed seeds are stimulated to grow if the ground is disturbed and they catch a flash of light. They don't see any light when the crop is planted without widespread soil cultivation.)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Punctuation: Plurals of Numbers

And What I Think About It...

I thought I was well informed about the proper use of the apostrophe, but I visited a webpage about apostrophes tonight and found a rule that surprised me.

Another common error is using an apostrophe to indicate a plural number set. "The low temperature will be in the 40's" is incorrect. There should be no apostrophe in 40s. Similarly, decades should not have apostrophes unless they are possessing something.

Source: How to Use Apostrophes -WikiHow

I investigated further and found similar information:

Years in a decade are often marked with an s only: the 1930s, the '70s.

Source: Uses of the Apostrophe

It is no longer considered necessary or even correct to create the plural of years or decades or abbreviations with an apostrophe:

-He wrote several novels during the 1930s.

Source: Google Answers: Grammar--Plural of Abbreviation

Apostrophe not needed!
I'm positive that back in the Dark Ages, I was taught to add an apostrophe before the -s. when writing the plural of a number. And the last two quotes above do hint that an apostrophe in the plural of numbers was once acceptable. I found two examples in reference books that suggest this, also.

The Little, Brown Handbook (by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron, published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc., New York, 1992, p. 425) says that letters, numbers, and words can be made plural by italicizing (or underlining) and then adding an apostrophe plus -s. But the following is added:

Exception: References to the years in a decade are not underlined and often omit the apostrophe. Thus either 1960's or 1960s in acceptable as long as usage is consistent.

From a 1977 edition of The Gregg Reference Manual (by William A. Sabin, published by McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York, 1977, p. 125-126.)
Numbers expressed in figures are pluralized by the addition of s alone.

in the 1980s
temperature in the 40s
sort these 1040s and W-2s

NOTE: Some authorities still sanction the use of an apostrophe before the s. However the apostrophe is functionally unnecessary except where confusion might otherwise result.

Well, I can change. I'll give up the apostrophe in the plurals of numbers. When I see a number plural that's written the old-fashioned, incorrect way in the blog archives, I'll edit it. I do want to use proper punctuation.

I draw the line on my efforts to be correct, though. I'm not going to do proper footnotes. This is only a blog, not a research paper. I'll include the information about the darned book, and if you want a proper footnote, go ahead and write one.

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Wheat Looks Good in Christian County, KY

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

Wheat field in Christian County, KY

I'm glad to report that the wheat fields in Christian County are looking good despite the frost damage a little over a month ago. I think the varieties in some fields had not yet developed enough to be damaged by frost.

Also, my brother explained to me that wheat will send out extra shoots if the main grain head is frost damaged. These shoots will produce wheat also. The quantity of grain per acre will be down a little, but there can still be a crop.

At any rate, it's good to see many wheat fields looking lush, green, and healthy. The frost-withered leaf blades are still there, but they've been covered over by new growth.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Red Clover, A Favorite of Mine

More About Trees and Plants...

Red clover blossom

I love red clover blossoms. I love their fragrance.

I'd have sworn that red clover was a North American wildflower, but it's a native of Europe, western Asia and northwestern Africa (according to Wikipedia.) Nonetheless, it is the state flower of Vermont. Obviously, it has been naturalized on this continent for a long time.

Clover blossoms right now are about as nice as they will be all summer in Kentucky. Both the red clover and white clover are blooming profusely as farmers prepare to make the first cutting of hay. It would be a good time to pick some blossoms and make a batch of clover "honey".

I've bought a pound of white clover seed a couple of times and sprinkled it across the part of our little property that we call "the meadow," (an optimistic label.) Rabbits love the clover leaves and blossoms, and groundhogs have also come to feast. I enjoyed seeing them. Now, little by little, the grass has choked out most of the clover. I should sprinkle some more seed.

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Hopkinsville High School Baccalaureate, 2007

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

The Hopkinsville High School Baccalaureate was held last Sunday night, May 13. Here are a few photos taken before the event.

Our son in graduation garb: cap and gownOur senior, Isaac
High School gym ready for BaccalaureateBefore the event

Isaac joins the Class of 2007Isaac joins his class
Baccalaureate program

This should be a carefree, joyful week for Isaac, but sadly enough, someone stole his Ipod out of his backpack at school today. He's pretty sick about it. We have offered a reward, but we're not very hopeful. Isaac's name and phone number are engraved on the Ipod, so maybe that will at least deprive the thief of some of the joy of showing it off.

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Hopkinsville High School Choir Spring Concert

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

Hopkinsville High School choir concertAdvanced Choir at HHS Spring Concert 2007

Last Thursday night, the Hopkinsville High School (HHS) Choir performed at Second Baptist Church in Hopkinsville. I thought we were arriving early, but as you can see, we didn't get front-row seats.

I tried taking a few photos during the concert, but this is the only one that turned out at all. I had to hold my camera high above my head and I wasn't steady enough to get a clear photo. Isaac is somewhere in that photo.

Both our children were members of the HHS Choir, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every choir concert I've ever attended. I'd like to attend future concerts, but I'll have to pay attention to learn when and where they are since I won't have a ready source of info (no choir member in the family anymore.)

Keely was fortunate to be in the HHS Choir while Barbara Felts was still teaching vocal music. Isaac also sang for Mrs. Felts for his first year of choir.

Then Ms. Felts retired and we've had a young but promising director for the last three years: Rebecca May. She is leaving HHS to take a job in a high school music program in Clarksville, TN, next fall (a shorter commute for her and more money.)

During Isaac's choir years, the choir pianist has been Wil Houchens, a classmate and friend of Isaac's from our neighborhood. Wil is a gifted pianist with a great future in the instrument. The HHS Choir is going to miss him next year!

All of this leaves the HHS choir in a state of flux and vulnerability. I hope HHS finds a competent vocal music teacher to fill the position. HHS has a long history of prize-winning choirs. The program has been a pride and joy to the entire community.

More importantly, the HHS choir has been a great place for young people to learn music, performance skills, and discipline, to develop talents they'll enjoy the rest of their lives, and to excel in a non-athletic, non-academic, non-competitive setting.

It would be a shame if the excellence of the HHS choir program erodes, and mediocrity take its place.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

My Personal Blogosphere

Blogs and Blogging...

PTG at Plains Feeder has a poignant Mother's Day post. What he says about mothers could well apply to fathers, sisters and brothers as well. Life is short and uncertain. If hard feelings can be resolved, it's good to do so because you don't know what tomorrow will bring.

In the ongoing drama of The Heeler's Diaries, my friend James has recently attended the wedding of his feminist cousin Pauline. (Start at the bottom of the page and read up.) I try to read the Diary every day. It amuses me.

Sarpy Sam, author of Thoughts from the Middle of Nowhere has been posting some beautiful photos of springtime on the prairies of Montana as well as his usual commentary about events on the ranch, Montana, and agriculture at large. Here's a nice photo of a landscape with sharptail grouse.

Larry at Riverside Rambles recently posted an interesting photo essay of an old roadside motel with a set of cabins near Hannibal, MO.

I enjoyed Michael Leddy's post at Orange Crate Art about an old advertisement for Alka Seltzer. It reminded me of Fizzies, a tablet that you dropped in a glass of water to make a sweet, bubbly drink. Oh, what fun. They were around in the late 1950's, I think.

The Pondering Pig has been considering the top 10 worst song lyrics of all times. Apparently he doesn't listen to much C&W, because I'm sure that genre could offer some contenders for the list.

If you don't find something interesting to read in this list, feel free to check the links at my Bloglines account.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Planting the Garden with Mama

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... All In The Family... And What I Think About It...

As I was planting beans in the garden a few days ago, I thought about my mother. I don't know if my brother or sister were involved in her garden-planting sessions, but I participated in many of them.

My mother planted corn, potatoes, pumpkins, melons, etc. in hills within a row. Here's the procedure.
  1. Establish a straight line by stretching a string across the garden (tied at each end to a stick that is inserted firmly into the ground.)
  2. With the hoe, pull the garden soil back at regular intervals along the straight line, creating a row of shallow holes.
  3. Instruct young daughter to follow behind the hoe, placing a specified number of seeds (or seed potatoes) in each hill.
  4. Pull the soil back over the seeds with the hoe.
  5. Instruct young daughter to follow behind the hoe and gently firm the soil over the seeds with her little feet.
Beans were planted in a similar fashion, but a long shallow ditch was excavated with the hoe instead of a series of small holes.

We called each planting with several seeds a "hill", whether or not it was on top of a little pile of soil.

I didn't realize at the time that I was learning anything, but looking back, I realize that Mama was showing me how to plant a garden as well as requiring me to do a little job.

Recently, my daughter told me that she was surprised how many things she knew how to do because she had watched and helped me do them when she was little.

One of the Mennonite women once told me that they teach the children how to do things by working with them. It's common to see their children helping in the garden, the milk barn, the machine shed, or wherever.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Experience with Tomato Cages and Stakes

Growing tomatoes vertically

I prefer to grow tomatoes in a cage or tied to a stake or trellis (rather than letting them sprawl on the ground) because:

  • I have trouble with bermudagrass and it can get started all too easily in areas I can't see, such as under vines.
  • Our summer weather is very humid. The fruit gets better air circulation when the plants are off the ground and the fruit rot problem is greatly reduced.
  • I can plant twice as many tomatoes in the same space if I stake or cage them. (In fact, you can grow all the tomatoes you can eat in a strip that's six or eight feet long if you grow them vertically.)

I have bought tomato cages several times, so I have several different sorts. I took a good look at them yesterday and I can offer some advice about judging their quality when purchasing them. Look at how many rings they have as well as how many legs they have.

  • Best: 4 legs and 4 rings
  • OK: 3 legs and 4 rings
  • Weaker: 3 legs and 3 rings

Even with 4 legs, I usually put a stake through the cage to help steady it as the plant inside grows. A big tomato plant with lots of fruit is heavy. When all that foliage gets soaked in heavy rain and the ground goes squishy and maybe the wind is blowing too, the tomato cage can tip to one side.

Tomatoes on the vineI always grow my pepper plants inside tomato cages, but I don't always use tomato cages for my tomato plants. This year, I'm going to stake the tomatoes. I have planted each tomato by a steel fence post. As the plants grow, I'll weave twine around a plant, around a post, around the next plant, around the next post, etc. If I remember to add some twine about once a week, it works well.

Steel fence posts are the ultimate tomato stake. The longest ones are five feet tall in the ground, maybe a little more. You can count on them to stand firm, no matter what the weather or the plants do. They have handy notches on one side that keeps your string from sliding down, and they're reusable for a couple decades or more.

You should also buy a fence post pounder. It's a heavy steel tube with handles, closed on one end, that slips over top of the fencepost. To drive the post, put the pounder in place and then raise it a little and let it fall to whack the post into the ground. It is vastly easier to use a fence post pounder than to drive the fenceposts with a sledge hammer.

When it's time to pull up the fence posts, they are much easier to remove when the ground is thoroughly wet. Just "wee-waw" them in all directions, and they'll come right out.

Related posts:
My Vegetable Garden
A Composter but not an Organic Gardener
Tomatoes Someday

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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.