Prairie View

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ten Favorite Childhood Books

Someone tagged me on Facebook, with instructions to list ten favorite books I read as a child.  I'm having a problem here--several actually.  One, I have a poor memory for details.  Two, I'm beginning to wonder if I had a book-deprived childhood.  I do know that when I had young children I often envied their reading opportunities, and realized that their homeschool experience far surpassed my public school experience in this access-to-and-time-for-reading department.  As is often the case, I can't quite comply with the listing format that works best for others, but I'm willing to approximate the list of ten.

When I was in first or second grade our teacher read Pilgrim's Progress during story hour.  I thought it was a wonderful story.

Our home did not have many story books, and we never visited the public library when I was growing up.  We did have a church library, and we had a school library, of course.  I read so many books from both libraries that I sometimes thought there were no interesting-looking ones left.  From the church library I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Among my favorites from the school library were Thornton W. Burgess books, and a few Jim Kjelgaard books. Those were animal stories, and I loved them.  I also read a number of Lois Lenski books.  The only title I recall now was Texas Tomboy.  In a similar vein was Caddie Woodlawn, another story of a tomboyish girl.  I loved both stories, and identified with the main character.

What we had at home instead of individual story books were sets of books.  We also had a collection of old magazines from Christian publishers.  My mother had sewed them together in books, and we read them over and over.  Youth Companion is the one I remember best.

We also had one very large volume of children's literature, a textbook from a class my dad took in college.  It was called Story and Verse for Children, and had poems and stories from the best children's authors.

In the category of sets of volumes, we had Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories, Childcraft (the old red-covered ones), and World Book Encyclopedia.  I browsed the Encyclopedia often, and read and re-read the Bedtime stories and Childcraft books, especially the volumes with stories and poems.

So there you have it--my custom-formatted list of ten books.  Here it is, in summary:

Jim Kjelgaard books

Thornton W. Burgess books

Laura Ingalls Wilder books

Lois Lenski books (Texas Tomboy)

Pilgrim's Progress

Caddie Woodlawn

Story and Verse for Children

Childcraft Series

Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories Series

World Book Encyclopedia

My list looks like the kind of child I was, and hints at the kind of adult I became.  I'll let you put that together any way that seems right to you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Wrapup 9/14/2014

Hiromi's new work schedule of having Saturdays off pleases me a great deal.  I'm also  happy about his never having to work past 7:00.  Since my first class starts at 10:30 and his work day usually begins about then, our morning schedule is compatible too.  Lots of good togetherness going on here.

After hearing about the insect-bite-healing properties of plantain, and after learning from Richard and Susan where to find it near school, I looked for it along the roadside near our place.  Hiromi and I took a walk this evening and, since he politely asked me to do so, I named every plant I could identify.  I saw many lovely grasses in full bloom, but not much plantain--one plant, to be precise.

"Is that what I've been working so hard to kill on this place?" Hiromi asked when I showed him.

"No.  I think that's dock," I answered.  I hope I'm right, but I'll have to check things out a little more to be absolutely sure.  According to what I found online, plantain comes in many different forms.

During lunch on Friday, when Richard and Susan were at school, I was trying to remember what Plantain Lily is.  Later I remembered that it's another name for Hosta.

All the discussion about plantain began when we looked at a large and beautiful flower arrangement that Sheri Nisly had given Norma, in honor of Anja's memory.  She was a cousin to both of them.  In the bouquet was a long oval-shaped leaf that we were all trying to identify, and Susan said it reminds her a bit of plantain.  Since the bouquet contained many lilies, her comment triggered the Plantain Lily memory for me.  That leaf may, in fact, have been a hosta leaf, although I've never seen that exact leaf form and color.  Given the enormous variety in hostas, however, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the plant material has become part of the floral trade.


In bloom right now are these:  Indian Grass, Big Bluestem, Silver Bluestem, Purpletop, Switchgrass, Foxtail, Lovegrass, and several less ornamental grasses--Goosegrass?  and Orchardgrass?  In flowers I saw Goldenrod, Ironweed, Smartweed, Plains Coreopsis, and Snow-on-the Mountain.


In school last week, when Dietrich casually mentioned a bite on his arm that was painful and itchy, I inquired about whether it might be from a brown recluse spider.  He didn't know for sure, but he said his mom has been bitten twice by a brown recluse spider, and both times she recovered with no lasting effects after using plantain leaf to heal it.  That's what Dietrich is doing for his bite.  He had just started treating it.


Some locations nearby saw frost on Friday morning.  Frost this early is almost unprecedented.  It's a month earlier than the average first frost date.  I haven't heard of damage to vegetation--only frosty windshields, etc.

The temperature a few days earlier had gone to at least 99.


Lizzie Nisly had her 81st birthday yesterday.  Friends of hers made others aware of the event and suggested ways to make it a special time.  Last year, on her 80th birthday, no one could think how to celebrate.  The birthday occurred between Anja's death and her funeral.


(Big) Josh Yoder helped out his great uncle and aunt, Amos and Anne, by calling for quiet via the sound system during the visiting after church today.  When everyone was listening, he said that the aforementioned relatives had received a lunch invitation and needed help remembering who had invited them.  It turned out to be William Hershbergers, and Leroy was on hand to provide transportation for them.


Friends of Anja's family are making plans to plant a rose garden at LaVerne and Rebecca's home to  honor her life.  Anyone is welcome to contribute. Some plants that complement roses will also likely be incorporated, so any dollar amounts can be put to good use.  I haven't heard any mention of this, but I'm also hoping that mulch and drip lines will be installed to make maintenance easy.  A single rose bush might cost between 20 and 25 dollars, although what is purchased and where it's purchased will make a difference.  Money can be donated to Joanna Yoder (Mrs. Oren), Judy Miller (Mrs. Lowell), or to LaVerne and Rebecca directly.


On our church bulletin board are two letters of thanks from a congregation in Monrovia, Liberia.  Included are pictures of people who have just received food purchased with funds from our church.  The Ebola sickness has created many secondary problems, including paralysis of normal work and marketing activities, and simply getting food on the table is more difficult than usual.

The congregation we're helping is the one where Lowell and Judy visited last spring?, and where Lowell spoke a number of times in a Christian conference.


 David is grateful to have received a ten-year multiple-entry visa to India.  He and Lowell hope to go there later this year, and this time Larry Byler will likely go along.


For the first time since we live here, the area around the back door is nicely cleaned up and mowed.  I have not yet had the courage to inquire about the fate of some of the things that were out there.  I think my suspicions are probably on target, based on Hiromi having produced a cast-iron grill plate today that he said we could use the next time we want to grill fish.  (Last night's attempt was not entirely successful.)  "I got it out of the recycling," he informed me.

"You had thrown it away?" I asked incredulously.

"Not thrown it away.  Recycled it."

"What was it for?"

"It was part of the camp stove.  I think Shanes have it."

That was even worse.  He knew where it belonged, and where it could be used to good advantage, and still threw it away.  (I mean recycled it)

I fretted and stewed over it awhile, and then told him that I've figured out what's wrong with him. I'm sure you can see that diplomacy and tact were oozing out of every pore at this point.

"You have no imagination," I said.  "You look at something, and can't think of a single thing it would be good for, unless an insight happens to hit you in the face.  All you can think to do is get it out of sight as fast as possible."

"We don't have room to store it," he said.  Further evidence that he has no imagination.

Efficiency can be so overrated.


Time has a very informative article on what goes on during sleep. In short, the brain cleans and heals itself during this time.  Cranking along during waking hours results in a build-up of waste material, and a slow-down of its processes.  Too little sleep time results in waking hours during which the brain simply cannot function optimally because it's still clogged with wastes.


One of the stellar pleasures of teaching an adventuresome food production class last spring was the chance I had this summer of trying out some of the heirloom tomatoes they planted and shared with me.

Today when I provided a meal for my parents and Linda, I prepared the most beautiful plate of sliced tomatoes that I have ever seen.  On it were slices of Ruthie's "white" tomato (actually a clear pale yellow), an orangey yellow Kellog's Breakfast tomato, ripe green slices of Aunt Ruby's German, and, of course, some ordinary red ones.  The green one was from Kristi, since my plant like that had unaccountably died, after growing to a decent size in the garden.  I think Kristi had originally planted the Kellog's Breakfast one too, which has produced well for me.   I may be spoiled for life, and never again settle for just plain old red tomatoes and nothing else.


Kristi butchered the rabbit yesterday that she had raised for the "animal" part of the food production class.  Not everyone in the class thought she would have the intestinal fortitude to prepare it for the table, but they were proven wrong.

When she did her "wilderness survival" for a school science project, she had shot and cooked a squirrel to eat, so I suppose a domesticated rabbit seemed easy, compared to that.

Jordan's pigs are still growing, and are regularly being treated to "people food" wastes.

Everyone else chose to care for chickens.  Some are laying hens, and some were broilers that have long-since been packed into the freezer.


My brother-in-law, Marvin M. was born in 1957.  He turned 57 today.  My brother Caleb turned 58.

As Perry Lee does faithfully, he got us all to sing Happy Birthday for Marvin after church.


Bryan and Cynthia Shenk have come here to live.  Bryan has lived here most of his life, of course, and Cynthia comes from Leon, IA.  After having had three families from our church move away in the past year, it's nice to have one moving in again.  Lyle Stutzmans moved to Indiana, Conrad Yoders to South Dakota, and Sanford Yoders to Miami, Oklahoma.


Have I mentioned that soccer is the game of choice at school right now?  In all the years I've been there, this has never happened before.  It's a wonderful thing, in my opinion, given the fact that it's an outdoor activity, it's a participation sport, and it involves a lot of physical exercise.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Negative Review

I'm ready to put some of the slightly tense and sad thoughts of the past few weeks behind me.  No.  No one is out to get me.  Neither have I suffered injustice or torment at the hands of others.  What I've been doing a lot of is reading the news.  In preparation for the first current events study of the school year, I immersed myself in pinning down the particulars of what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine, Iran, the US-Mexico border, and inside ISIS.  It took looking underneath the surface, in some cases, to understand our country's role in the events transpiring in those places.  I had to understand things well enough to write a one-paragraph summary of each situation, and then, as questions surfaced, to elaborate on every one, repeatedly, as students sought to understand and then write and speak on specific aspects of them.

I feel saddened by the suffering in each place, and the complexity of doing anything at all to help make things better, except pray.  Even now that our president has offered a plan for "helping," I know, as we all do, that the answers offered are not really answers at all, but, at best, a way of delaying what is, in a sense, inevitable--the darkening of a world increasingly ripe for a final harvest.


It's the week of 9-11, and more significantly for us here, it's the week of 9-10, the day when our Anja was instantly killed a year ago.  Marian's death followed only a little more than a month later.  Sheldon died about a month after that.


I'm reading the book IndoctriNation:  Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity.  I have a great deal of respect for others in my profession, but much of this is really depressing stuff.  While conditions in public education do not directly affect my family or me, I grieve for what it means for many around us.

I'm revisiting insights I've held close for a long time, and see that, rather than being able to moderate my reservations about "status quo" education, I may need to reshape some assumptions in a more cautious direction.  I don't like  having to do this.


Within a few weeks, work will begin in earnest on readying the old Elreka building for school next year.  Before then, and going forward, a pile of decisions will be made, and past decisions will be implemented.  I don't see the way forward as being any tidier than the process has been until now.


My car needs a new fuel pump.  It will set us back about $500.00.


I feel like I've done a lot of restraining in typing class, much as I try to state things in "We need to do this" terms rather than "Don't do that" terms.

"Look at the screen [rather than the keyboard].
When I'm talking, no one else talks.
Keep your hands to yourself.
Train your brain and let your brain train your fingers.
That negative score is a bug in the program; you'll have to start over as a new user and test in again."


Hiromi found three snakes today while he was moving dirt from several plastic canvases on the ground--with a shovel moving the dirt back into the hole it originally came from.  The snakes got moved to the dense growth on the north side of the big old chicken house.  I really hope they stay there.


Mice are finding their way into the house of late, and we're doing our best to welcome them with freshly baited, carefully positioned traps.  They don't all have the grace to die without making a mess.  One particularly dramatic one left its red body fluids spread over a large area near the trap, and then disappeared entirely, leaving the trap empty.


Hiromi is having a lot of trouble viewing and participating in an online class he's taking on Saturday mornings.  The teacher is from Tel Aviv, Israel.  It seems that an upgrade in bandwidth might fix the problem.  The plan with our internet provider allows the upgrade to happen free of charge.

I wasn't very keen on Hiromi taking the class, and I've had the temerity to wonder aloud if the problems are a sign from heaven.  Meanwhile, the teacher is picking Hiromi's brain to see what new classes he should be offering.  I think I see the makings of another wrap of the mesh in that questioning process.

In trying to solve the computer problem earlier, Hiromi talked to the tech support person provided by the course provider.  He was Muslim, apparently, and seized the opportunity to instruct Hiromi on what he should be learning about instead of this Jewish and Christian stuff.  He didn't choose a very likely target for his efforts.


I'm not sure how writing all about such negative things has the power to improve my mood, but it does.  I had to stop myself many a time while writing, or I would have gotten off-topic and begun to tell about another good thing that is happening.  I'll have to do that at another time.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Stories for a Picnic

Today at our Labor Day church picnic two people commented on my not having posted anything on the blog recently.  It's true, of course, and it's due to blogging having to get in line behind other priorities.  Actually, it's due mainly to having to spend my time thinking mostly about things that don't mesh well with blogging--which requires lots of thinking before any writing can happen.  Or I can simply report what other people have been thinking and saying.  Much easier.


First, I wish you would all have had the privilege of listening to Leroy H.'s storytelling at the Labor Day program before lunch today.  I was a little late getting there (yes, Sharon, again), so I didn't hear the beginning.  I can't recount all the stories, but I'm sure if you had heard them you would have joined in on a lot of knee-slapping laughter, sympathetic nods of understanding, and bright-eyed interest from the audience.

When I got there Leroy was talking about the time a Kirby sweeper salesman tried to sell his mother a vacuum cleaner, which she pointed out to him was not sensible since their house had no plug-ins.  They were Amish and had no electricity in the house.  Not to be dissuaded, the salesman offered to take them to his church, which was a Mennonite church, and they accepted.  Thus began a church journey away from being Old Order Amish and has led finally here to Center Church in Kansas.

Along the way, the family members who stayed Amish responded to the Hershberger family's change in status with varying degrees of acceptance.  Perhaps the least accepting was Elizabeth's sister Ida, Leroy's aunt.  She was married to Denny (Danny?) Gingerich.  Especially after Denny became a deacon, he and the family felt more responsible than ever to be good examples,  and keeping themselves properly separated from family members who had strayed was important.  So the rift remained--to the point that one day when the Hershbergers had notified the Gingerichs that they would visit at a certain time, they arrived to find the house empty--an obvious message of non-welcome.  The Hershbergers had driven hundreds of miles to make the contact.

In recent years, at the funeral of Leroy's cousin, the son of Ida and Elizabeth's brother John, who had left behind a large family of children from ages 2-21, Leroy got a request from the dead man's children to please tell the Taily story.  Earlier, at another family event, he had charmed them with that story, and they wanted to hear it again.  Leroy did not agree to tell that story because he thought it was too inappropriate, but he agreed to tell other stories, which is how he found himself standing in front of a group of children and young people seated on straight backless benches, outside, with hundreds of funeral-goers milling around just beyond the fringes--busy power-visiting, as Leroy put it.

People began cocking an ear in the direction of the storytelling event, and to Leroy's surprise, he saw Aunt Ida sidling up to the group.  He also saw his mother about to cross Ida's path, and watched them engage in a little interchange.  Later he heard that Ida asked Elizabeth why she was wearing such a long dress.  "You would have never done that if Mom had asked you to," she accused.

Completely blindsided, Elizabeth said simply, "I repented."  (The laughter here was partly because of amusement at Elizabeth having been at a near-loss for words.  This is a rare occurrence.)

Then Ida asked, "Where did Leroy learn to tell stories like that?"

Still taken off guard, Elizabeth said something like, "In school, I guess."  (How's that for explaining to an Amish woman the benefits of a degree in English from Yale University?)

Something seemed to thaw in the relationship between the families, and later Denny asked Leroy if he would come for a visit and tell his stories to the whole family if he could get them together to listen.  He said he'd come, but first, he extracted a promise from Denny that he wouldn't play the trick again of going off somewhere and not being home when he arrived.

Leroy and his parents did pay them a visit, and this time they were served a wonderful meal of Amish comfort food--on separate tables, mind you--to maintain a proper separation, but separated only by about a foot and a half of space at the ends of the tables--not a dark, closed-door house.  After the meal, the large family of Denny and Ida arrived, each with their own large family, and Leroy entertained them.  It was a love-filled time together.

At some point, Leroy told Denny that he had heard a story about him, and he wanted to know if it was true.  He had heard that he was offered $15 million  for his 200-acre farm because it contained an unusual kind of sand useful for use in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and Denny had told him no.  The sand was unusual in that the tiny stones are round instead of straight-sided.  Thus, they work much better for injecting into fissure lines underground, since they cannot pack together tightly and clog up the transport lines prematurely.

Denny essentially affirmed the story, but explained the decision further.  After the offer came, Denny said he would have to let his children help decide, since they would have the burden of spending all this money.  The children decided that if they got that money, they would never have to work again, and that wouldn't be good for them, so they turned down the offer.  Besides, Denny loved his farm just the way it was, and didn't want the top of it lifted off, the sand stripped out from underneath, and the top put back on.  He loved the hills, the trees, and the pond that attracted wildlife.

When Denny told the agent what they had decided, after he recovered from the shock, the agent offered $19 million instead.  "No.  That would be worse," Denny said, and the dumbfounded man left.


In the visit to Denny's home, Leroy saw a china cabinet that Denny had designed and built.  When he opened the cabinet doors at the bottom of the piece of furniture, however, it contained firewood instead of china.  Denny explained it all.  The china cabinet actually covered a hole in the floor.  In the basement underneath there was easy access to an outdoor woodpile, or perhaps the wood was thrown down a chute into the basement.  Then the firewood was loaded into a box attached to a winch that could be raised right up to nestle inside the china cabinet doors.

In the early design and trial stages, however, something went wrong, and a loaded wood box got stuck on its way up the line, and when Denny gave the winch an extra crank, the woodbox came crashing down and broke on the basement floor with a terrible crash.  Denny, a prankster, as the larger Gingerich family has a reputation for being, saw an opportunity, so he walked over to the bottom of the stairway and lay prostrate on the floor, holding very still.

Predictably, his wife Ida came to the basement door to investigate.  "Denny,"  she called.  No answer.  "Bisht du alraat?" (Are you OK?)  Still no answer.  "Denny, vonn du alraat bisht, shaff dich doe roof,"   (Denny, if you're alright, get yourself up here) Ida said, already walking away from the doorway.  Leroy surmised that Denny had tried that trick too many times before to fool Ida--or maybe she was just uncommonly shrewd.


Another Gingerich relative, Rudy, who had a business repairing motors, also hosted for the men of the community a conversation center around the pot-bellied stove in his shop.  This proved to be an ideal setting for plying his prankster trade.  He got a lot of mileage out of driving several nails into the seat of a wooden chair the men often sat in, and then hooking up wires to those nails, and trailing the wires to a device (Motor?) on his workbench that delivered an electrical charge through the wires and nails when Rudy pressed a button.  He tried it the first time when he had a single visitor.  The way it usually worked after that is that anyone who had been treated to the prank, and had leaped out of the chair, levitating above it for a moment, as Leroy described it, would hang around long enough to witness the performance of the next victim.  And so on, till the room was full of victims and witnesses.

One day a 400-lb. English driver-of-Amish-people came into the shop, and Rudy was faced with a moral dilemma.  Is shocking English people OK?  Amish is for sure OK.  But English?  Rudy decided in the affirmative.  The shock had predictable results, except that when the levitation was over, and the man sat down heavily again, the chair split right in two, and was never used for noble purposes again.


Leroy is mostly bald, with a long, flowing gray beard, expressive blue eyes, glasses worn intermittently in a perched-on-the-end-of-the-nose style, and has no shame.  All of those things, with a fine-tuned ear for language, and concerted effort to learn the storytelling profession, combine to make his stories memorable, especially when the telling strikes chords of familiarity and insight, with just a twinge of intrigue and daring.  He's single, so his storytelling efforts have never been narrowed down to a handful of offspring.  Instead, the "whole world" comprises an adoring audience--when Leroy's in fine storytelling fettle--or is that mettle?  Both, I think.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

From the Zoo to School with Stops at Points Between

On Thursday of last week, Hiromi and I took Tristan and Carson to the zoo in Hutchinson.  If ever things can turn out perfectly, that was such an event.  Both boys were happy the whole time--from about 11:30 to 3:30.  Of course, the last 15 minutes or so, they were both sound asleep in their car seats--which is a happy time for them and for anyone in proximity to little ones.  We carried them into the house at their home without extracting them.  They stayed asleep.

The original plan was to leave right after Carson's morning nap, and return in time for them both to take an afternoon nap around 2:00, but we "went with the flow,"  had a snack before we started, took a leisurely stroll through all the exhibits, bought fish food and fed it to the fish, then went to a picnic spot with playground equipment nearby.  Getting our fill of food and play took till 3:00, and then we packed up and headed home.

The hardest part of the trip was getting the double stroller into and out of the trunk of the car.  Hiromi practiced folding and setting it up several times before we left Shane and Dorcas' house, and watched to see what it took to wedge it into its spot in the trunk.

Tristan will be three near the end of October, and Carson will have his first birthday this week.  Carson used his sounds for "kitty-kitty" for racoons, deer, prairie dogs, foxes, and all sorts of other animals.  From his seat in the stroller, we knew when he spied the animals in a display by this utterance.

At lunch, Tristan used a little sectioned plate.  During the meal, he casually pointed to one section and said "This is empty."  Hiromi reached over and moved a part of his sandwich to the empty section.  Just "like that" he moved it back to where it came from and continued to wait expectantly.

"Oh.  Is that where the grapes were?  Is that what you want?" Hiromi asked, getting more grapes without waiting for an answer.  Duh.  Grandpa.  Tristan loves grapes, and obviously has diplomatically oblique requests down pat.  Adorable.  That's what it is.


Today in church we had a visitor from Ch--a.  She is a former student of our own Fr--a, who has been an English teacher for university students in the visitor's home country for many years.  During share time, the visitor spoke of how she met God through her teacher, and thanked us for supporting her teacher.  She also asked us to send more teachers, so more people can find the peace that she's found.  The visitor is studying in Colorado right now.  She has a son, who accompanied her to Kansas.  He looks like he's in the lower grades in school.


Fred Nisly celebrated his 90th birthday today with an open house at King Street Center.

I heard recently that Center has at least 20 people over 85.  At least a handful of those are over 90.


We're bidding farewell this week to Tonya and Tresa Y,, sisters who will serve elsewhere for the next year.  Tonya is off to Thailand to teach school to the children of Americans in Chang Mai, and Tresa will work in the kitchen at Faith Builders in PA.

Carla M. has already left, along with Mary Beth R. from Plainview, to teach English among the Kleine Gemeinde Mennonites in Oasis Colony in Mexico.  They are replacing Floyd and Dorcas M., who taught there for a number of years, but are now moving back to Pennsylvania.

Mary Beth was a former student and a Golden Rule employee.  She's very competent.  Carla has taught in our Christian school in the past, and has worked for a number of years now as a paraprofessional at Yoder Charter School, which is part of the Haven public school district.  She also is well-prepared to teach effectively.


The drawing board Hiromi gave away found a new home in Oregon.  The connection with the new owner happened by a circuitous route, but the delivery happened via a fairly direct route.

Duane and Ruth Nisly live in Costa Rica.  They read this blog.  Duane grew up here and Ruth is a sister to my sister-in-law Judy--Sanford Yoder's daughters.  Duane and Ruth's daughter Connie got married recently and moved to Oregon.  Her husband plans to work in landscaping.

In Costa Rica, Duane and Ruth spied the offer of a drawing board, and recognized its potential usefulness to their son-in-law.  They contacted Duane's sister Janet, who lives here.  Janet contacted  Connie and her husband and confirmed that they would like to have the drawing board, but they were unsure how to get it to Oregon.

Last Sunday, we had been at William and Elizabeth Hershberger's place for the noon meal, and their grandson was there also, en route between Oregon, where he will be teaching school, and South Carolina, where his family lives.  When Janet reported that they would like to find a way to send it to Oregon, I mentioned the grandson's visit here, but I was unsure whether sending it with him would work very well, since his vehicle in a VW, and I didn't know if he was still around.  I also mentioned to Janet that William routinely goes to Oregon, to his daughter Regina's community, during the summer to pick blackberries.  I didn't know if he had already gone this summer or not.

Janet promptly called Elizabeth  to see what she could learn.  William was leaving the next day for Oregon and had enough room to take the drawing board along.  He was headed to the same region of Oregon, but not the same community.  However, someone who lives there (or in Connie's community) goes to church regularly in the other community, so they could quickly get it to the right place.

Before Janet came here to pick it up and take it to William's place, Hiromi put the drawing board together to make sure the parts were all there.  They weren't.  So he made a trip back to the farm and looked around again in the basement we had tried to empty out last week.  He found two pieces near the shelves that still contain the belongings of some of my siblings.  He was still missing a few adjustment knobs though.  He found those in a bag of parts he had found and tucked far back in a desk drawer, assuming they belonged with the desk.  By the time Janet came, it was all assembled and then disassembled for transport.

When things work out wonderfully like this, getting rid of things feels very good.  Thanks to everyone in the chain of people who helped make it happen.


Recently I heard someone spoken of whose "parents were absolutely crazy--both of them."  The person describing them caught herself and said, "Oh, I forgot, people here don't say things that bluntly." She reformulated the analysis with more nuanced and gentle words which  I can't remember exactly.  A pity, since it was quite entertaining.

A little later, on a different subject, she triumphantly pointed out, in something I had just said, that I was "doing it."  I had just described a father as being more directive in the details of his older children's lives that some fathers are.  "You mean more controlling," she said, "not the way your dad would have done it."


Earlier, I had also heard this:  "Why didn't he just say, 'Don't vote' " (in relation to a discourse on Christians and government).  "He came so close several times."   I don't know if my attempt to explain was convincing.

I've been doing some thinking about how "we" talk, and Hiromi and I have puzzled together over the matter.  Hiromi observed that speaking plainly has many merits, and it often creates problems when people assume that being less direct equals being more Christian.  As a non-native-English-speaker, he is not well-prepared to understand nuances, and really appreciates very direct words.

Hmmmmm.  Recently, right on the heels of catching a lot of displeasure (or angst at least) over some of what I've written, a writer I admire (Dorcas Smucker) mentioned my blog in hers and recommended that others follow it, describing the words as being very carefully chosen and profound.  I giggled when I read that, given the incongruity of the messages I've been getting.  I do, of course, like to hear the affirmative messages better than the other kind, but I know I need to listen to both kinds.  The Stat Counter I use for the blog saw an immediate spike in hits per day after Dorcas' blog post, notwithstanding the fact that I had just posted some particularly unprofound content and I lay no particular claim to well-chosen words.  Writing is a crazy world sometimes.

This link lauds simple, plain speech in a pleasurable, easy-to-read format.


I've also been giving thought to what we teach students about writing, and how we go about doing it.  For years I have accepted the wisdom of teaching primarily essay writing in high school, with writing of research papers required also.  Nevertheless, I have ventured farther into other kinds of writing than some teachers do, and have felt justified in doing so, given the emphasis outside of composition class on essay writing for current events and literature.

Another article I read recently pointed out that many Christians trained to write and think in "essay" terms are poorly prepared for a debate format.  In essence, they can make an assertion and defend it when a single voice is heard, but they are less able to give and take in a rapid-fire exchange, where assertions are regularly and promptly challenged, with little time to prepare a well-crafted response.

The writer of the article focused on how the instant ability to fact-check via smart phones affects the credibility of preachers.  He emphasized the need for preachers to do their own fact-checking carefully in advance, in the process also preparing themselves for the kind of challenges that might come up in a debate format.  In short, he was suggesting that preaching in "essay style" may not be all that is needed in our day.  He was furthermore suggesting that our schools include more training in functioning well in an argumentative setting.

I'm still pondering this, and would be glad for further input, especially from people who understand our setting and values, and understand what might be possible or needful in similar settings.


One more excellent article deals with spiritual formation in the lives of students.  The four situations the author wants to prepare his students to face are these:  "1.  The semester with the persuasive, atheist philosophy professor  2.  The day their best friend dies in a car accident  3.  The year when they don't feel God's presence at all  4.  The day when their fiancèe breaks off the engagement, even when they have remained abstinent."  He sees each of these as "pivotal moments along the way that constitute 'make or break' tests of their faith."

The article made a lot of sense to me.


School starts this week on Wednesday.  Before that, on Monday evening, my Food Production students come here for a tour of my garden.  It will not be me proudly showing off my garden--way too many weeds for that.   I plan to prepare tempura for them to taste, utilizing garden vegetables.

After the big tomato canning event on Saturday, and having spent the day at school on Friday, and picking many bushels of tomatoes on Thursday--after coming home from the zoo, tomorrow must be a big clean-the-house day.  Thankfully Doris plans to come and help.


Tomatoes are my favorite vegetable.  Let's put aside the technicalities of whether they are true vegetables for the moment.  I love them plain, with no more than a little salt, creamed in tomato gravy, chunked and canned and eaten cold, cooked and strained into a smooth drink, added to soups, or constituting the main ingredient in soup, adding to many main dishes, and in sandwiches of all kinds.  It's probably a good thing that I really like tomatoes, since our garden has been outdoing itself with production that requires gathering all the pails I can find--in any size--filling them with tomatoes in the garden, and hauling them to the house with the dump cart pulled behind the lawnmower tractor--two loads worth.

I want to can some tomato soup yet, dehydrate some tomatoes, and can whatever is manageable.  Otherwise, I think there are a lot of giveaways in my tomato future.


It looks like  next week may be the hottest week of the summer so far.  After that, we have prospects for a major cool-down, unless what looks likely now according to Weather Watchers fails to develop.  We've had blessedly moderate temperatures most of the summer.  Right now we'd love more rain, and the heat next week will tax our ability to cope, but we're thankful for access to groundwater when we need it for irrigating.


I heard myself sighing last week when someone mentioned the start of school in the near future.  Summer seems so short is what I was thinking--not I dread the start of school.  I'm very conscious of my need to hear from God about how to apportion my time and energies, in order to accomplish His purposes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Chemistry and Art Lessons After Breakfast

Within the past few weeks, Hiromi wished to weigh out a small amount of rock salt.  I envisioned him using our digital scale, tested and certified for use in sales.  This scale is accurate to one-hundredth of a pound, or is accurate to fractions of a gram, and we used it for produce.  But no.  "For this I'm using my balance scale.  It's more accurate."  He needed 8.4 grams of salt.

Hiromi proceeded to retrieve a small battered cardboard box from the study, from which he extracted a metal scale covered in blue plastic.  From a smaller wooden box inside the cardboard box, with a tongs he fished out several very tiny weights and placed them in one of the "saucers" on the scale.  Then he began to add rock salt crystals to the saucer at the other end of the balance "beam."

"I've had this for more than 55 years," Hiromi said.  "I bought it when I was in the fifth grade--for my chemistry projects."

"Did you really pay for it with your own money?"

"Of course I did--from my monthly allowance.  I had to save to buy it."

"What kind of projects did you do?"

"I made  black powder."

"What did you use that for?"

"Making a model rocket.  The  black powder was for launching it."

"Did it work?"

"Not really."

"What did you use for a tube?"

"That was the problem.  I used an aluminum tube.  It melted when I launched it."

After a thinking pause:  "I could have burned my Daddy's house down.  I had my chemistry set on a little table top right next to a paper shoji screen.  When I was heating the carbon, sulfur and potassium chloride together for the black powder, the flame licked up the sides and ignited the chemicals.  It was just a big flash, so it didn't really burn anything."

After another thinking pause:  "I'm glad my mom didn't throw this scale away.  I got it out of her storage building when we went to Japan.  She didn't save my book of Hiroshige paintings though.  I loved his paintings, and I bought a big book that had his paintings in it."

"What did he paint?"

"Well, the ones that are the most famous are 53 scenes he saw along the road from Kyoto to Tokyo.  There are 53 towns along this road, and he painted a scene from each town."

"Are you familiar with any of the towns?  Could you recognize any of the scenes?"

"Oh, no.  He did this hundreds of years ago."  Minor detail he had neglected to mention.  "I think I have a smaller book about his paintings."  Sure enough.  After another trip to the study, he produced a book which he showed me.

"Here's a scene about the daimyos (warlords).  Every three years they had to take an enormous group of people to Edo (modern Tokyo) to do any jobs the shogun (overlord) assigned them.  That's how he kept power.  It involved enormous expense and was a huge undertaking.  This picture shows part of a group like that."

I checked ebay to see if Hiroshige Ando prints are offered for sale there.  I came across the print Hiromi had explained.  It was apparently part of a complete collection of the 53 Stages of the Tokkaido, and was purchased by the previous owner in 1884.  At least I think that's what this means:  Yes description of the purchase in 1884 is the previous owner.   It was listed by "an online antiquarian bookstore in Tokyo, Japan" at a price of $3,499.99.  The note on the item's condition said this:  The hole vacancy according a few to a worm-eaten spot,A part of binding portion has broken.  If you decide to purchase this print, it will be shipped free from Japan.

If you look up the ebay listing, be sure to read the details near the bottom--Japanese to English translation at its most humorous, definitely done with dictionary in hand rather than a native-English-speaking person at hand.  (Example:  A thing with old goods of our shop takes the lead.)

The Hiroshige paintings are woodblock prints, done with amazing precision.    The outstanding feature of the prints is the composition, using mostly simple lines.  The print Hiromi chose to explain to me might have been the busiest of all the paintings.  The color is spare, with each print using only a few, mostly muted, colors.


I'm delighted with a quirky detail about the artist whose first name is Hiroshige.  His given name combines the first two syllables of Hiromi's first name with the last two syllables of his last name.  No wonder Hiromi feels a kinship with this artist.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Offer for Locals

Hiromi has a complete free-standing drawing board that he would like to donate to someone.  He would prefer that it go to someone who can make use of it in his or her chosen vocation.  The movable "arm" is included.  I'm sure there's a proper word for that gizmo, but I don't know it.

Call 567-2123 or email either of us with our first name to ask questions or let us know of your interest.