Friday, March 28, 2008

More on Tomatoes and Chicks

Another sunny day here, almost all of the snow melted (we only got about two inches after all, I knew the Weather Service couldn't be right two times in a row!) so we're back to mud :-) Oh, the joy of least it means that spring is coming.

Well today I slept in till about 8:30am, and got going kinda slow but tomorrow I'll probably be up by 5:00am, to get ready to cut wood all day--so it sorta averages out over time I guess. The guy I cut wood with--Mr. Joe--is a fifty-odd year old bachelor who lives with his two dogs (the dogs eat like royalty, and so does anyone who he has over to eat) on his folk's farm (although they have been in paradise for some 10 or 15 years) and works at a lumber mill in town as a mechanic and truck driver. He is having surgery on his foot (for the third or fourth
time) in a week, so we're trying to get all the wood cut we can before that, and before thing get too muddy (or the fields are planted). We met him when we started going to Ainger (Bible Church), and I helped him with haying a year or two until he quit. Now (and then) we cut wood together. He just has a small wood stove in the kitchen and so just burns small stuff (we cut up buzz poles and buzz them up on his buzz saw). The saw is belt driven (off of a Case SC) and makes quick work of linking up the long poles.

This afternoon I spent a few hours working on my version of an electric lamp brooder, (just need to quickly attach the light fixtures) and a adjustable growing light hanger. I think I'll need to move the chicks outside sometime tomorrow as well. Here's a picture of them in the basement quarters:

A chick's eye view!(they sure didn't want to stand still!)

Here you can see better all the different colors and kinds that the hatchery sent this time:They kinda took exception to the flash :-)

Here's how I built the brooder:
First I sketched it out roughly and listed the materials I would need.

Then I cut out the pieces on our table saw (don't mind the mess--it's not as bad as it looks, we can still climb through it all ;-) and the tractor (the thing with the snow blower) makes a great auxiliary workbench)With all of the pieces cut up on the floor, I got out the tools I would need. Now were did I put those screws I wonder.....

Once I found the screws (they were hiding under the turkey deep fryer (to the right of the tractor in the photo above) the deep fryer, (a fancy one with a drain even) that we picked up at Lowes for about $16--it had a price sticker on it for that amount, and they honored it without any question, quite amazing really, considering that it was originally on sale for $79.99! What a find--thanks Mom, I would have walked right past it!) I started putting pieces together:
Then I realized that it wouldn't work that I tried again...And then I put it together again. And realized it wouldn't work. (are you beginning think I like to just try stuff to see if it will work, rather than waste, I mean
spend time trying to figure out if it will work in the first place?) And after taking it all apart and cutting some off of the long sides, and reassembling it this is what I had:Now for the sides (1' x 2' and 1' x 4' ):
Here is the interesting corner I ended up with:
I'm sure that if I did it again I would do it a little different, but this seemed to work out all right in the end:Some friends had actually let me borrow their old commercial style brooderbut when I tried it out, it seem to have only one setting--just barely warm. The thermostat must be going bad.
As you can see it's an old coil thingamabob type (similar to the whatchamacallit style) :-)

Then I started in on the plant light stand.

Screw a few more pieces together and viola!

From concept to finished product in use in only about three hours.
I like projects like that! It seem to work well on top of all that. An extra bonus.

On the tomato front, someone asked about what I used the egg shells for--here's picture.
Just gently break out one end of the egg and rinse before leaving to dry. Then pack with soil, add seeds and let 'em grow. Then when you want to transplant just crush the shells and then remove (or not) and put the root ball into the new potting stuff. I understand that this method works especially well for melons etc. that need extra calcium. These are Ground Cherries. For the tomatoes I just sprinkled the seed over a flat (of the homemade improvised kind--meat trays, old plastic berry containers, and of course egg cartons) of potting soil and covered with wet newspaper. I do have a special place set up for germinating seeds--an electric blanket covered with plastic, on which I put free-after-rebate boot trays to hold water and the flats. You can see it pretty well in the picture of the light stand-hanger thingy.

Maybe someday I'll get around to showing how we cobbled together our not-so-permanent hoop house--not tonight though! :-)

Well I must be off to bed,

So long for now,


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Snow Again!?!?

Noooo! Not more snow! I though it was supposed to be spring!

Doesn't look like it's to be so, does it:

Can anyone say "An inch an hour"?





The Weather service can!

And we have to go away again tonight!

Well have to run,


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Of Tomatoes and Chicks

Afternoon to y'all. Just a quick note on what I've been doing lately.

The chicks first: the new batch came on Monday (replacements from the hatchery) and are so far doing ok. I hope they continue that trend! Only one dead, a little one that wasn't doing too well in the first place. He felt awful light--one of the symptoms of pneumonia--but I sure hope that isn't it. Too many died from that last time. The Electrolytes from Mcmurray's are quite a bit different from the ones at TSC so maybe that was the trouble last time. They've lasted longer this time than last so we will see.

On to the tomatoes: The
inevitable happened. It was finally time. The poor plants had out grown their sprouting flats. Something more was necessary. In a word: re-potting. It took longer than I expected, but the task in now done and before too long I can plant them in the garden. Mom helped me make some newspaper pots, which are supposed to be biodegradable although the video (follow the link above) says otherwise (not to put the pots in the ground intact). We made ours a little thinner, and it looks like they will rot out quite nicely. (not too many things you can say that about with satisfaction!) Any way, that project kinda took over the whole kitchen:It's actually looking quite tidy in this picture. Must have consolidated stuff or something. Overall though it was rather hard to cook much :-) Fortunately I started after dinner on Monday night, and was done before dinner on Tuesday. (In my defense I got just a little distracted by this paper I had to write since is due tomorrow, and had to undergo the editing process. And before you say "no problem for you, you seem to have no problem with writing on your blog, " let me say: This blogging is just fun stuff! For School I have to follow a list of rules as long as my arm: make sure you include this and don't do this or that! Just a note about the writing curriculum we use--it's great. It is called IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing with Andrew Pudewa) It's the best program out there. I've gone from *HATING* writing to actually enjoying it for the most part--the "super essays" are a bit long but then I tend to have about 250 word paragraphs (you'd have never guessed would you? :-) ) We even keep accidentally calling Mr. Pudewa "Dr. Pudewa." It really seems like he should have a PhD or something! There is no better program out there for writing. He covers everything from long multi-page essays (research papers) to news summaries to timed essays (think ACT and SAT) to Personal Essays (College entrance essays) to book report type things to Story Critiques and everything in between. He gives you a formula to follow and that makes it soooo easy, and yet every person puts in their own way of writing and even when your all useing the same outline (he's a big fan of KWO's--Key Word Outlines) the papers turn out totally different. Some are short. Mine are really long. :-) And he teaches you how to do it with such style and...well...excellence, that i(f your mother edits your papers) you'll be writing at a PhD level (well almost) by the time you complete his program. His humor is also excellent. We had the chance to meet him at our Home School Conf. a few years ago, and he is just as funny in person as he is on DVD (I did mention that the whole course is taught by Dr. (I mean Mr.) Pudewa on DVD didn't I?). If you want to learn how to write easily with confidence and style (Think Jonathan's (my bother, I mean brother) more proper stylish way of writing--he's still kinda in the grove while I've slipped in to a more conversational blogging style :-) Lots of "dress-ups" and "decorations") check out his materials--they're great!

Back to the least until I get distracted again :-)
Here are our pots:
They seem to work pretty well so far. And the egg shell also worked nicely. I could just crunch them up a little and peal the shell off and put the root ball into the new pot without disturbing it too much.

And here are the trays of neatly (OK, so there not that neat, but maybe they'll grow--thats what matters) potted Roma tomatoes:

And here is the ever versatile, ubiquitous gray tub: Now it may not look like much, but these are one of the more useful junk that we've collected. You see these are seat motor packing crate thingy-ma-bobs (whatchamacallits?) Dad's work was throwing them out by the truck load. So we brought them home almost by the truck load. I think it was at least three mini-vans full at about 20 or so to a load. We gave a lot of them away (everybody else thinks they're great too) but we still have a bunch of them stacked up in the garage. They stack well, have handles and most are waterproof. What more could you ask for? I used it to mix the potting soil with water. Worked very well.

Well thats all for now, talk to y'all later,


P.S. for my rebuttal to Jonathan's last post see the comments. :-)

Monday, March 24, 2008

RE: Icefields Parkway

Upon reading Matthew's last post, I was shocked and disillusioned concerning his lack of appreciation for the Icefields parkway. Personally, I consider the scenery along that beautiful road some of the most inspiring I have ever seen. Therefore, today I am setting out to show the wonders of the Icefields Parkway. I will admit that the actual icefields aren't that impressive, but the mountains they hang on, now those are things you can't ignore.

Now, getting right to the point and avoiding my brother's infomercial style(he's complaining that his writing style is 'fun to read'[according to Goodolboy][don't tell Matthew, but I kind of agree], however I say it's not exactly well laid out[something derogatory has to be said since he is now hunting down our friendly neighborhood squirrel{he eats from the bird feeder, and Matthew shoots at him with his bb gun to scare him off, and threatens to knock him out for good}]--but I digress), here is the documentary evidence.

Isn't this mountain vista wonderful?

I could understand one of the 'the mountain's hiding the view' people not to be impressed, but overall, this is a splendid rock outcropping of the Canadian Rockies, complete with pine covered foothills.
In whom does this half-cloaked spire not inspire a feeling of majesty?

The colors along the Icefields were practically perfect.

Examine the dark green of the trees, the puffy whiteness of the clouds, the pure, clean chill of the snow, the perfect blue of the sky.

This is the bow river.

Glaciers grind up minerals until they have a neutral buoyancy, then into the water they go to give it this beautiful color.

Although I'm sure some people don't feel the same about mountains, and I'm not trying to prove that mountains are better than anything else(we live in a forest state and most of us[maybe excepting dad] especially loved the Canadian plains) I knew not that Matthew didn't especially like the Icefields Parkway, and wanted y'all who haven't been there to see some of God's most magnificent(in my opinion) handiwork. Please don't take this wrong.

I have a hundred more pictures, so if anyone needs more proof, I can continue.

The Icefields Parkway was certainly more impressive than Denali, were all you could see of mt. McKinley was the cloud shrouded base.

Anyway, I am going to go outside and play with the dog, but I hope to soon post about the new ice age that's taking the world(Al Gore included) by storm.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Sunset over "Ice Fields Parkway"? (Read On....)

This morning when we woke up to 15 degree temperatures we were wondering if there had ever been an Easter this cold! But I guess that this isn't actually the earliest that Easter can be--March 22 is, given the right circumstances. It makes things interesting having the date of the Holy day determined by the equinox and the moon. You see Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring (the equinox). [that's it for useful information today I think--the rest of this will just be scraps and oddments :-) ]

But on to the sunset (from last night). Allow me to set the scene: We were invaded. They came in overwhelming numbers. We were just getting used a life free from their intimidation and threats. A life of soft summer breezes and warm sunny days. Days filled with birdsong and laughter....And then they came. We had no escape. The land was again viciously thrust under their control. An icy cold grasp, usually unrelenting, and one that would choke the life out of the flora and fauna if given half a chance....

But before you get to feeling too sorry for us, I'll tell you what happen....No it wasn't grasshoppers, Asian lady beetles (although we have been besieged by them numerous times before--not fun!), or stray cats--it was snow flakes. (Of course you knew that from the last post, but a guy's gotta take a little "poetic license" now and a again) (Oh, and I don't really hate winter that much but I am ready for spring!) Thankfully, their days are numbered. And while this really is NOT a sunset over Ice Fields Parkway, here it is. (On an "oddment" note, we have been on the Ice Fields Parkway and, in my unprofessional's not that great. Now don't get me wrong, it was "interesting," but the actual Ice Fields are so far away. Now if we had been able to climb on them....) (Oh, yeah, the photo...coming right up...)

The following picture was taken looking West [obviously--it was a sunSET ;-) ] over the vast, endless snow pack that stretched to horizon, that wet, fluffy (or sloppy) white stuff that had taken back over the landscape

Even in this picture you can see that the sun had actually melted the tops of the hills off. However, that morning there was at least a good 8 to 10 inches everywhere and more in the drifts. It is a good packing snow, if it wasn't going to melt off so fast I would be tempted to build another snow fort. Some time in January, or February (or was it December...hmmm....) we had one that covered about a third of the patio outside the back door....not the best place because we had to roll all of the snow balls up hill! And we're not talking just little snow balls either, we're talking at least three and a half feet tall and between a foot and a half to three feet thick.

Our favorite fort was not even built in Michigan though, it was in a state to the South West...New Mexico! We were on vacation (either en-route to the Grand Cannon or on our way home, I forget) and staying in Glorietta at the Southern Baptist Convention Center of the same name (great place to stay by the way, they have sort of like apartment with a couple of bedrooms and a kitchen all for rent at a very reasonable rate (at least when we were there) they have one in Western North Carolina too--Ridgecrest) any way we were staying up in the mountains, and the night of the day after we arrived and got unpacked (in our short sleeve shirts) it snowed. It did not snow a little. It snowed a lot! It started snowing Sunday night, by Monday morning we had got roughly 18 inches, by Tuesday morning 2 feet! It was great! The best part of the whole trip! We had (optimistically) taken our winter coats and the snow shoes--Praise the Lord (PTL) and good idea Mom!! Did I mention that it was the middle of March and the danger of snow was basically past? Yes I do believe God had his hand it that....(as some would say "meddling again." Nice when He does that isn't it?) Let's see where was I....Oh yes the snow fort. We met the people staying next door, a pastor and his wife and two girls, rounding out their vacation before going back to Ok city to finish moving, and any way the girls built a little mound-up-a-bit-of-snow-and-call-it-a-fort fort, and we thought it would be fun to show them what a Michigan fort looked like. So we rolled up a bunch of two foot snow ball and stacked them all up nicely--even built in seats and a "fridge" to hold watter bottles! But the best part of that fort was the snow was so deep it didn't take much to get a really big snow ball, AND there was a lovely hill right handy so we could roll the ball down hill. That was probably our biggest and best fort ever. Even Mom helped build it. And I bet it melted a couple of days later. (we had to leave the next day, I think it was to go home...)

Dad and I also got to go snow shoeing up the mountain in the snow. We were following some sort of trail--I think! It followed and kept crossing a beautiful mountain stream, the pines were laden with piles of powder and the woods were silent except for the rushing brook. It was great.
Another thing I really liked about staying there was the hot lunches. That may sound strange, but I liked it...all the soup and must have been something else, but now I don't remember. Maybe it wasn't that great after all :-) (I'm sure it was)

Oh before I forget here is another interesting shot of the same sunset:
The snow started settling shortly after it fell, and by today we're down to about 3 to 6 inches. The plowed/shoveled areas are melted off and quite dry. The Robins are glad for someplace without snow!

On a different subject....

This morning at church we had an early service at eight, breakfast at nine, Sunday school and ten, and the regular service (not a meeting--I hate meetings!) at eleven. A rather full morning. And since there would be no food for breakfast if we all didn't bring any....I'm sure you get the point. Mom was able to prepare her offerings yesterday so we didn't have to think about that this morning, PTL. She usually makes Empty Tomb rolls, and this year was no exception. These are special rolls that are, can you guess?, that's right--empty! For any one interested in the recipe, here it is:
Homemade Bread dough (None out there would even think of using...horror of all bought now would they?)
Marshmallows (We don't make our own of these for some reason...perhaps it's the air puffing that's the hard part)
First preheat your oven to a low temp to raise the bread. (or don't preheat and just turn it on when you get the rolls in there!) Next take a piece of dough a little bigger than a
golf ball (for you fellow poor deprived non-golfers, that's about a two inch lump. We know about golf balls due to having a golf course practically in our back yard (used to be a corn field....sigh. I've heard it plays like it's still a corn field--maybe one day again)) take the dough and shape it around a marshmallow. Make sure you seal it up really well or all of the sticky marshmallow will leak out on to your greased baking sheet. (I did mention that part didn't I? Grease them well, or you may be sorry!) Once you have about three or four hundred dozen of these made (or how ever many you care to make) and placed on your greased cookie sheet, place them in your warm (but not hot--you don't want to melt the marshmallow yet) oven to rise. Once they have risen to the appropriate size (roughly doubled or so) crank the temp up to about 350 degrees and bake them for about 20 minutes (or till they're done--if you leave 'em in there too long the smoke alarm will go off and that batch will have to go to the chickens, or pigs, or goats or something--maybe just cut the bottom off) When you cut the perfectly browned product in half there will be a hole in the middle--just like the empty grave Easter morning. So there you have it a delicious breakfast treat, kind of sugary (somehow sugar seems to be the main ingredient in marshmallows. You'd never guess from how sweet they taste [insert sarcasm into that last remark if you haven't already]), but good. And if you actually can follow that recipe amongst all the commentary you deserve a prize! (please note I did NOT say that you would get one, just that you deserved one!) Have fun baking!

At least with two services this morning there are none to night--kind of nice to just stay home and rest once and awhile.

The hoop house is doing fairly well. The snow load on the West side turned it into and A frame for awhile but I think I have it straighten out again. The grass is really greening up in there. Inside of the Hoop Coop, a.k.a. chicken tractor, which is inside of the hoop house, the grass is up tall enough to mow already! If I ever get some chicken to the point to where they live long enough to go out side, they will really like it I imagine. The new batch of chick is due tomorrow morning--bright and early I'm sure--the last time the Post Office called me at 6:11am. I got rid of all the old bedding and disinfected the feeders/waterers so hopefully this batch will do a lot better than the last batch. (100% mortality in about two weeks!) We will see.

The plants I have growing upstairs are doing fairly well. I am never sure how much to water. I need to plant some more stuff too--peppers, redo some tomatoes, and start some butterchrunch head lettuce. Any advice on starting seeds (or chicks for that matter) would be appreciated....I've never done this stuff before and am just about the definition of a bumbling amature :-)

Well that's all for now,

Until next time,


Friday, March 21, 2008

What ever happened to Spring??

Yesterday it was warm and sunny....The first day of Spring....What Happened??

If you click on the pictures you can see the driven snow better. It's coming down around a rate of an inch an hour. (From my own calculations)

When I took the pictures the ground was just starting to be covered. Now we have just shy of three inches. Good thing we put more wood in the basement this morning before this all started.

Here's the official prognoses:




I wonder what the Robins are doing....The Red Wing Black Birds are at the feeders eating sunflower seeds, but I don't see any Robins, they must just be hunkered down some place.

We will have to monitor the hoop house to make sure that the snow doesn't collapse it....again.....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Laundry Day!

The sun has finally decided to shine, the clouds have all but disappeared and the wind is blowing. What a beautiful day to do the laundry. I like doing the laundry; actually what I really enjoy is hanging it out. I don't mind throwing the clothes in the washer, but I hate using the dryer. Especially on a day like today.There is just something so satisfying about full lines of clothes hanging out in the sun and gently blowing breezes. What is there not to like? Going out in the fresh air with baskets of heavy wet clothes, and coming in with baskets mounded high with sweet smelling dry laundry? The birds cheerfully serenading you as you go about your work? Or perhaps the feeling of pride in a job well done, as you survey the full lines swaying gently in the breeze? I even enjoy the stiffness of hung-out clothes over the limp, wet-noodle like state in which they emerge from the dryer. [and if you stay tuned in to this "limited time offer" I'll even tell you the *best* way to hang various items up :) ]

Even in the dead of winter I like hanging the clothes out. It's called "freeze drying." (it might be considered a disease by some people) Basically that means if you don't freeze before you get the stuff up on the lines, the laundry will eventually freeze,
ridding it of excess moisture. (Just a note: ALWAYS wear a coat when hanging out laundry to freeze. The goal is for the clothes to freeze not you! Gloves are also nice, but the pins are hard to handle with gloves on.) You can tell when the items are dry by if they are soft. They will still be a little stiff, but after a few experiments you'll be able to tell when things are dry. (Oh, and if you stay tunned, I'll describe the *best * way to hang various items up, but first....)

This method works best on *cold* and windy but sunny days. It really doesn't work as well if it is not *cold*. I mean like at least below 20 degrees. The colder it is the better it works. And did I mention it needs to be *cold*? [Just checking :-) ] Also, it absolutely does not work if it is snowing. I have tried this. Believe me, if it's snowing just give up and try again a different day. The snow accumulates in the pockets and folds, or just plain
sticks all over and when you bring the clothes in they are wetter than when you started. Like I said I tried that. It doesn't work. Not at all. I don't think it would work very well in a blizzard either, since then it is just snowing really hard, but I haven't had a chance to test that theory--we don't get many blizzards in mid-Michigan. (But if you stay tunned, I'll show y'all the very *best* way to hang out various items!) [and I didn't even watch any "infomercials" when I was sick the last few days! :-) ]

Now when you finally bring the frozen (but now soft) laundry in, they may be slightly damp, but either ironing or an hour or so of inside drying (provided you are using hot wood heat and the inside temperature is at least 75 degrees) should finish up the drying process until the clothes are bone dry. (Next! The very *best* way to hang out clothes!)

And now...(drum roll please) The absolute *best* way to hang up big bath towels, long sleeve shirts and...the favorite of men, women and children, the can't be without item, the most dearly beloved piece of work wear ever... Jeans! This is the (almost) guaranteed method for clothes that dry the fastest outside, need the least ironing, and smell better than any other way of doing laundry (that I know of)!

First those big fluffy bath towels: with the basket directly underneath the spot on the line where you wish to hang the towel (preferable at least two to three inches away from the nearest item), grab (don't be shy and delicately pick it up--grab it! Remember it's windy, and you don't want to be chasing bath towels in the neighbors yard a half a mile down the road.) grab, one corner of the towel and pin it to the line. Next, grab the middle of the towel (the goal is to hang the whole thing with the long side on the line) and stretch it taught against the clothesline away from the first corner. Finally, grab the last corner, and pulling it tight, pin it to the line. The finished product should look similar to this: This is the best way, because the water in the towel has a shorter distance to travel as gravity pulls in downward. Unfortunately, this method takes up more line space, but it is still the *best* way to go.

Now for long-sleeve shirts: this is really simple, just grab the side seems and pin them to the line. Also make sure the the shirt is opening towards the breeze to facilitate quick drying. (I know for sure that this the the very *best* way to hang shirts because my Grama said so!)

And on to the jeans: "The Three Pin Method for Properly Line Drying Jeans." This is a bit more complicated, but I'm sure y'all will try it because it is the *best* way around. First pick out one pair of jeans that you want to hang up. Then wear them out in the mud to play and rough-house with the dog. Next put them in the washer, and wash them. [Oops! This was only supposed to be about how to hang them up, not how to get them
dirty! Slight memory lapse there...sorry :) ] That is to say, um, oh yes, hanging up jeans....Pick up the pair of jeans by the and make sure that they are buttoned and the front and back of the waist band are lined up properly. Next grab the side seam and pin the waistband to the line. Then pin the middle of the waistband (right next to the button). Using a third pin, attach the far end of the waistband to the clothesline. Last, but not least, make sure that the legs are straight, and the cuffs (if there are any) are properly aligned. (that last step is the secret to success, don't skip it!) So in the end, you should end up with rows of neatly hung jeans looking like this:While it is best to hang them on a level portion of the line, they have a tendency (at least at our house) to drag the line down until there dragging in the dirt. So unfortunately, we must hang them next to the post.

Also please note: When hanging up clean clothes, make sure your hands are clean prior to handling them. No coming directly from the garden to hang up clothes without washing your hands. Especially white clothes. It doesn't work well. (Just trust me on that one)


Stay tunned for "How to make your own low-cost, easily disassembled, effective (once you figure out how to keep the plastic from blowing off) growing season extending, hoop house"

Until next time,

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Weekend

Solo & Ensemble is finally over! It was a good experience, but I'm glad it's done for the year. I got ones (or firsts or passing grades) in both of my events. In trumpet, which was scheduled for just after we arrived, I didn't do as well as I had hoped--quite a bit worse that I had just played the song at home--an 85, the lowest passing score. At least, I did well on scales and sight reading. And for the first time in my S&E career, the judge didn't make any comments about my embouchure! For my piano competition, which was later in the day, I got an 89--better than trumpet--and better than I had hoped for! I had a lot of people praying for me, and for the piano (it was a very good piano, compared to the one at district). It was a record S&E for HSMA, also. Three members of the organization score perfect 100's, and several events were invited to the state honors festival. Only three proficiencies didn't pass! The only bad part about doing so well is that tonight Mr. Case, the HSMA president, will have to make a long speech about how great HSMA is, and how no one went unprepared, and then pass out all the proficiency sheets. All that wouldn't be so bad, but it takes time away from our normal band rehearsal.

You may have noticed that you get a random music player each time you come to our blog--the result of my first javascript program! Even more surprising, it worked on the first try! Mr. Jim hasn't had a chance to work on the church computer yet, since he was in Washington D.C. to do political stuff for Farm Bureau. If--or when--he gets it back up and running, I'll put some of my own piano music--recorded just before the crash--on the blog.

A blessed Holy Week to you all!


Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Frosty Morning

It was quite frosty this morning, with a beautiful sunrise.
Every individual blade of grass, and leaf was so delicately touched with frost--it was just one of those morning that was so pretty with God's handiwork so obviously displayed, it is just a joy to be alive and breathing in the crisp morning air.

Even the patch of old dead weeds became a thing of beauty, once the gentle rays of the rising sun caressed them with its glowing radiance.
This shot is looking south, down our drive way to the corn field and woods beyond.
At the bottom of the driveway to East, this is the vista that awaited this morning.
And this is one of my all-time favorite shots. It is taken looking East to the rising sun, overlooking "Farmer Don's" farmstead. We have taken many, many pictures like this, the view is especially great during the winter when snow covers the fields and shimmers with the coming of day.
Here is is again after the sun has peaked above the horizon. Beautiful. The pictures don't really do it justice. (but if you click on the images to blow them up, it is better)

However, although the morning was frosty....

Spring is in the air!

Yes indeed, Spring is finally, slowly creeping into our area. Our first hint was the Irises starting to green up on the West side of the house, and the Yucca's in the rock garden to the East of the driveway.

Then I noticed that the Pussy Willow bud are popping out.

That sent me on a hunt for more signs of Spring, and I found Daffodils pushing their heads out of the cold ground and snow. They seem to be some of the bravest flowers, even while there's still snow around in patches, the Daffodils are getting ready to put on they're early Spring show.

Also the Maple Trees are almost ready to bud out, it's really kind of late for them, but it has been quite cold up until now. Most people around here are just starting the to collect sap to boil down for syrup. That is also late this year--usually they start in February.

The Clincher, however, was the Robins! They have returned! If that's not a sure sign of Spring, I don't know what is. The Red Wing Black Birds beat them up here again this year, but the Robin's weren't far behind.

I'm ready for Spring this year, usually I want Winter to hang on as long as it can, but this year is different, somehow. Maybe it's the seeds I have started upstairs, or maybe it is because of the 60 degree temps we had in mid-January, but in any case I'm ready for the warmer weather. I'd also appreciate it if the ground would dry up some. Right now we're wading around in about two inches of mud in most of the yard. It was windy yesterday, which helped some, but it still has a long ways to go.

This morning though, you'd have thought it was already mid-summer to listen to the birds. Blue Jays and Red Wing Black Birds added their raucous songs to those of the Black Capped Chickadees and Cardinals, who were blending their medleys with the Robins and Sparrows and adding to the general happy cacophony. The morning was just alive with bird song.

I wasn't planning to get up quite so early this morning but once I was out with the dog, I sure was glad I got up.

Friday, March 14, 2008


This evening, for supper, we had a delightful meal. Mom made a ham and meat(I'm not sure what else she put in it) noddle dish with frozen carrots from Gordon's, and biscuits. Mom's biscuits are some of the best in the country. Light and fluffy, these delectable treats are slightly powdery and soak up butter beautifully. Add some homemade strawberry jam, and you have one of the best combinations I've ever tasted. Anyway, they are really, really good.

Before I got up, during mom's tutoring, Matthew got quite sick, with pain at 12 on a scale of 10. This mysterious ailment also came with intense bouts of vomiting. Eventually, he got to sleep for a couple of hours, and when he awoke, the pain was about a 1 or a 2. By three or four, he was out playing with the dog. Many people were praying for him, and that seems to be the only explanation for his miraculous recovery. Praise the Lord!

Here's a link to a better picture(actually a pdf) of Matthew's garden layout.

Tomorrow is state S&E, so hopefully that will go well. At least things will slow down once it's over. Pray for the piano, that it won't be too stiff(Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata doesn't take them well, having 2 measures MF, and the rest quieter). Also petition that the computer would follow me well during my trumpet solo.

I'm also slated to perform something at our tri-church Good Friday service, but that will be relaxing after the Moonlight Sonata. I plan to play my Funeral Medley, which will be quite good for a Good Friday service.

Mom's (she's directing it) church choir is also preparing a piece for Easter Sunday, and Dad and Matthew are singing. I don't do much in the way of singing, mostly because I'm usually already in over my head back at the sound booth. So, with God's help (not to be critical, but although the group doesn't lack enthusiasm, some of them need help :-)...) they will do good.

I guess that's all for now,


Our New Dog

We have a new dog! Well actually he's been here since Monday afternoon, so I guess he's only sort of new :-)

As Jonathan mentioned previously, "Baxter" is part Border Collie, and part Newfoundland (we think). Everybody (including me) keeps going on and on about his feet, but since they are white they are set off nicely. However, what I really find interesting is that between each of his four toes is some sort of webbing--which I guess the Newfoundlands have. Also his pads are slightly rough and sort of sticky or something, he is able to walk on a glaze of ice with no difficulty whatsoever. It is almost a problem, because if you are following him over icy ground, he tends to make the bad spots look no worse than dry ground.

Baxter was originally named after Baxter Black, the cowboy poet, by our Pastor's wife when he was their dog, but we have renamed him after Miss Sadie Baxter--the kindhearted old maid, and benefactress of Lord's Chapel in the Mitford series of books by Jan Karon. She once claimed to be "firm and slightly tart." Although Baxter (the dog) is not at all firm, and is more a sweet little (or not so little) puppy than tart, we think that is pretty much what he needs at this stage of his life. ( the firmness, slightly tart that is)

Here he is:
He has the prettiest markings (especially when his feet aren't dirty) and his fur is so soft. He is also quite agile. In these pictures he's playing with the innards of a golf ball. The dog seems to be pretty smart, we just need to work on making sure he knows he can't get away with much. He's not quite housebroken--but we have a carpet cleaner!! Fortunately, he's only had one accident so far, and I think that was probably my fault--I was trying to catch up on blog reading and start writing while everyone else was gone and didn't keep track of him as well as I should have.

It is nice to have a dog again though, particularly one that will do something. After our older dog (a Cocker Spaniel and Lab mix) died at 10yrs old around thanksgiving, we had several qualifications for a new dog (although not all of them were met) #1 Floppy ears for Dad. #2 Not too big for Mom. #3 Short hair for Jonathan, who is semi-allergic to dog hair (along with almost every thing else: Grass, Trees, Cats, Dust, Peanut Butter, Soy, and sometimes Me :-) ) and #4 Will do something for Me.

Baxter met most of the qualifications, except for the short hair, and how could we refuse him?

One of his favorite games is chasing a running person and then getting in front of him to herd him back to where he started from. A couple of nights ago, Dad Jonathan and I were all out letting him chase us. I would run one direction, and then when he caught me, Jonathan would run the opposite way (from where I started) and then when Baxter caught him, Dad would run a different direction until the dog caught up with him, and the process would repeat. Good exercise for all involved! Unfortunately, the ground is really soft, and when I run I sink in about two inches--making it rather hard to go very fast. Not that it matters how fast I go, that dog can run like the wind, and turn on a dime. I imagine that's why they use border collies for herding sheep. We may have to get a few!

Our last dog, Lady was short and fairly fat, and could hardly keep up with me walking fast, so it is really fun to have a quick dog. Of course that was later in her life, and she was really Mom's dog, Lady would lay by her wherever Mom went. Sadly, we had to have her put to sleep the Monday after Thanksgiving. The vet had removed a tumor from her awhile before that, and surmised when he put her down, that it was probably cancerous. I got down stairs that morning, and found her all twisted up and leaking bloody urine. Dad and Mom and Jonathan took her in to the vet soon after where she was put to sleep.

Overall she was a pretty good dog, especially at eating any people food that happened to come her way. It's kind of funny, because Lady was such a "Mom dog" while Baxter doesn't really like her as well--he's sort of attached himself to me (not that I mind the least bit).

Baxter is really a very nice dog, he's just so active. He has a really sweet personality, and will give most anybody a free face-licking. Pastor and Ms Kathy are sad to give him up, but he is just such a puppy that they couldn't keep up with him. Ms Kathy is home most of the time, but Pastor is usually over at the church studying, or out farming, so he couldn't help with Baxter very much.

So he's ours now, and a very nice dog he is.