Prairie View

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Animal Tales and More Important Events

Life on our little property has trended toward the wild and crazy side, of late.  It involves pesky wildlife more than frisking senior citizens. 

Hiromi likes them.  "It,"in this case, since we've seen only one at a time.  We wonder where it came from, since the nearest trees are nearly a mile away.  Did this one really run all the way over here from a neighbor's yard?  No Barney to chase him off, so the squirrel has his way with the bird feeders.  When a gable-type roof rotted and blew off one of our feeders, Hiromi decided to replace it with a Walmart feeder with a copper-colored metal top over a clear cylinder-shaped feeder.  The squirrel has left that feeder alone. 

Everything has left that feeder alone.  When Hiromi set it on the ground in the middle of where the sparrows regularly congregate to flutter and feed, even the sparrows stopped coming to any of the feeders.  For now we're hoping that familiarity will breed comfort, not further contempt.  Silly birds.

Yes.  Inside the house.  Well almost.  Inside the utility room.  "Triple homicide," Hiromi announced happily after one foray to check and empty the traps.  Today it was "double homicide." They have indeed been unusually cooperative with our murderous intentions.  I've never ever heard of catching three in one snap of the trap.  We've lost track of how many we've caught in the last 48 hours or so.  There have been two or three traps set all the time, and we've emptied them all several times a day.  That is, Hiromi has emptied them.  I go only so far as to check the traps periodically.  I think the cat food and the bird seed in paper bags out there draws mice like a magnet.  They  must have been multiplying, since some of the mice we caught were definitely juveniles.  My best guess on number of mice caught is 12 or 15. 

These encounters have been the most stress-inducing of all.  We'd been getting whiffs of skunk scent occasionally and seen fresh dirt where something was digging under concrete slabs, etc., but last Wednesday things escalated fast. 

The other morning when my sister Linda wanted to borrow a canning kettle, Hiromi obliged by retrieving it from the cave cellar where our canned goods are stored.  He brought it up and she went her merry way while Hiromi returned to the cellar to place some empty jars on the shelves.  While he was there he smelled a faint skunk smell, and then soon, a more powerful smell.  He was also hearing some rustling in the stairwell that opens into the main part of the cellar in one corner.  When he walked over to investigate, he saw a furry black and white body moving about in the dirt behind the open stairway--which was his only escape route out of the cellar.  He pondered the options for a moment and then decided his best bet was to go up the steps at a measured pace, trying to avoid alarming the skunk.  After he had made it out safely, from the top of the stairs, Hiromi saw the skunk walk right down the stairs into the main part of the cellar from its stairway hideout.

He had briefly considered hollering out to me to bring him a gun, but he heard me drive off to school, oblivious to his predicament.  I think I'm glad he didn't have a gun in his hand while he was down there, and glad that he didn't holler, for that matter. 

Hiromi next called Vincent, the community skunk  musk extractor, to ask for advice.  Vincent recommended that he just leave the door open and hope the skunk leaves on its own.  After I got home and heard what had happened, we decided to spread a layer of flour on the top landing in hopes that we could see footprints leading out, thus determining when it was safe  to close the cellar door.  That flour layer never did reveal anything, but yesterday Hiromi finally had the time and motivation to check the cellar.  No skunk.  Whew!  Or is that Phew!?

Hiromi threw all his clothes into the washer and did some emergency laundry.  Even his shoes needed washing.  I wasn't here to incorporate some of the odor absorbing methods I had used with washing clothes from Dwight's burned house, so he did the best he could with multiple washings using regular soap. 

Yesterday Hiromi discovered that the frame on which the cellar door rested while closed was missing its bottom piece, so there was a narrow opening there.  Also, the honeysuckle growing rampantly in the dirt on top of the cave cellar had overgrown the long edge of the door where it opened, so some of it got caught when the lid came down, keeping it from closing all the way.  That must have given just enough room for the skunk to squeeze through at the bottom of the frame.  He installed a two-by four to complete the frame, and trimmed back the honeysuckle vine.  Problem solved, we hope.

Great Horned Owl
I haven't seen this guy recently, but I've been hearing him.  I had hoped that he was cleaning up on the skunks around here, but if so, he had obviously missed at least one.

Wednesday evening when our small group gathered at LaVon and Twila's place for a fireside chili supper and taffy pull, It was a lovely, brisk, clear, and fun evening, in gathering dusk, in view of a gently glowing sunset and then a sparkling, starry sky.  Lowell's family saw a bobcat on their way to LaVon's house.

The most exciting thing I saw on my way to their house was the Oatney Farms crew and equipment busily bringing in the soybean harvest.  A tractor and grain cart on the road unloading into the grain trailer on a semi allowed no space for me to pass. I waited happily and watched the combine churning along in the field nearby.  Farm activity is close to my heart, and I know something of how much work and investment has gone into getting the crop to this stage.  I'd be a real chump if I complained about a small travel delay when the farmer's return on investment is finally almost within reach.


Many far more momentous events than animal tales have taken place recently.  Last weekend I attended a wedding (Frieda and Christian's), a funeral (my aunt Fannie Miller--Mrs. Mahlon), and an ordination (Dwight Miller was chosen by lot to be our new bishop). 

In the past few weeks there have been three deaths in the Smith family--Hiromi's sister Chee's family--for her, a sister-in-law, and daughter-in-law, and a great-granddaughter.

Yesterday we had a Skype conversation with our son and his family in Asia.  Arwen read one of her books to us.  She will be five next month. Her other grandparents are planning an extended stay in Asia, leaving early in November and staying till around Christmas.

There's another grandbaby expected next April.  This one will either break the single-gender streak in our sons' families or be the fourth member of a future Iwashige Brothers quartet. Either way:  wonderful!


Hiromi is busy pickling the fall harvest of Japanese vegetables--leaf mustard (takana pickles), Chinese cabbage (kim chee), and daikon (takuan).  He routinely shares them with family and a few others who will enjoy them.


After feeling his toe grow more and more sore throughout the day Friday, Hiromi discovered when he got home that he had an infected ingrown toenail.  He's been soaking it regularly in Epsom Salts water since then and it feels much better.  He expects to see a doctor some time this week to find out if further treatment is needed. 


Our youth group had their annual retreat this weekend.  With a number of the ministers gone, and several other families missing, it was an unusually small crowd.  LaVerne and Gary were in Oklahoma (Zion had communion), Arlyn was speaking at the Word of Life Church Camp weekend, and Julian was at our young people's retreat. 


Yesterday was the second day since school started in the middle of August that I have been able to stay home for an entire day.  Often I had to return to work at school on Saturday.  I'm still working at whittling down my work week to more reasonable hours.  Others are helping, and I'm grateful. 

I guess "reasonable" is a matter of perspective.  A 31-year-old's death from overwork recently has focused attention on a common problem in Japan.  She had worked 160 hours of overtime in the previous month.   

The system and the individual both carry some responsibility in the workplace.  Figuring out my responsibility as an employee is the main thing I need to focus on.  Others have more responsibility for figuring out the system.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


My students and I have been having fun with a Facebook thread on mondegreens.  As I learned in this sequence of funny posts and comments, a mondegreen is a misunderstood or misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of the lyrics of a song.  This usually happens for either a non-reading child or an adult hearing an unfamiliar song without being able to read the words simultaneously. 

I split up the comments on Dorcas Smucker's Facebook post and gave each student about ten comments.  From those comments they were to write a little story on mondegreens, to be read aloud to the rest of the class.  They could also include any that they either heard themselves or experienced themselves. 

We had a merry time in class today. 

Serena told about her little brother Charles, who was listening to Shalom's (a local men's quartet) rendering of "Come, Come, Ye Saints" over the time of being potty trained.  The phrase "No toil nor labor fear . . . " in his interpretation became No toilet paper fear. . .
One of my students used to hear "Menno Simons, What a Name . . ."instead of "Man of Sorrows, What a Name . . . "  She gets the award for most pointed cultural appropriation of a song.

From Facebook, probably the most outrageous misunderstanding was from "Lead On, O King Eternal"--mangled to say Lead on O Kinky Turtle.  Turtles also appeared in "A turtle's life is better" (Eternal life is better). 

Dorcas led off by asking if anyone else used to pity Ferman Deep, who was always grounded.  (From "We Have an Anchor"--"grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love").

The mother of several of  my students (one who shares my given and maiden name) used to hear "hard eggs, broken pieces, ruined lives . . . "  Switch out eggs for aches and you have the original.  And can't you just see those eggshell fragments from peeling hard-boiled eggs--broken pieces of course. 

Annette Stoltzfus (the local one?) used to sing "the half has never yappentoe . . . " (yet been told).  Coming right up:  new word for the updated version of Merriam-Webster Colliegate.  Yappentoe.

There is raaaspberry pie instead of "there is rest by and by."  "Give us this day our gravy bread."  "Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonshine. . . Oh no!   Teetotalers all--singing that song, no doubt.  Talk about incongruity.

A visitor to a Mennonite church service once thought "Just As I Am" was making a statement about the peculiar style of "home-sewn dress she observed:  "Dressed As I Am Without One Pleat."

At the sewing circle one day a little Pennsylvania-dutch-speaking girl heard the ladies singing "Bringing nae [sewing] machines . . . " (Bringing in the sheaves).  Sure enough.  That's just what the ladies had done--brought their sewing machines. 

Those poor shepherds on the Judean hills who had to "wash their socks by night, all seated on the ground. . ." An uncomfortable position for a distasteful job--done in the dark, to boot. 

Cedric's sister was listening to a song with ear buds and singing along when she must have come to  the phrase "Don't let my system blow" and caroled out "Don't let my sister know."  I can't for the life of me think what the original message of that song might have been.  Redneck version of "Keep me safe till the storm passes by?"

It's probably a mercy that I can't remember my own mondegreens, but I'd love to hear more of them from my readers.  If you've implored others to "Rescue the parachute" or announced "Rex chewed the paraffin" please tell us all about it. 

Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Onion Report and Other Trivia

Because of the great success of this year's onion crop, we have been enjoying never-before-attempted onion delicacies.  The latest was Blooming Onions.  They're always available at the state fair, and when Hiromi saw them there, he decided to learn how to make them at home.  His second attempt was a great success.  We've also have good homemade onion rings, and I've enjoyed sauteed onions on top of everything that seemed remotely appropriate--casseroles, sandwiches, scrambled eggs, etc.  I also made an onion casserole or two.  I liked the casseroles better than Hiromi did. 

My onion growing report is as ready as it will ever be probably.  The plants were all ordered from Dixondale Farms, a wholesale onion plant supplier from Texas.  The Master Gardeners pooled their orders and got good quantity price breaks.  The onions were delivered around April 10.  Some of the same varieties are available at Stutzmans.

I have become a trumpeter of the virtues of planting intermediate-day onions in our Kansas gardens--because we live in the north-south middle of the United States.  Although how they're grown makes a difference (high fertility and lots of water are good), selecting onions matched to your latitude location is the single biggest factor in insuring big onions.  South of us they should plant short-day onions, and long-day onions are most successful north of us.  Intermediate-day onions begin to size up when the days of are intermediate length. 

The goal is to have many leaves before the sizing up begins, since there will never be more than one ring for each onion leaf.  More leaves equal bigger onions.  In Kansas, a second goal is to grow the tops large before hot dry weather arrives and growth of all plants slows.  Soooo, big plants before the days get too long and the weather gets too hot and dry--that's the goal.

Here's what we planted:

Intermediate Day Onions (harvest on July 21)
1 bunch Candy
1 bunch Intermediate Day Sampler (Candy--yellow, Sierra Blanca--formerly Super Star--white, and Red Candy--red)

Short Day Onions (harvest on about July 10)
1 bunch 1015Y--yellow

Long Day Onions
Long Day Sampler (Walla Walla--yellow, Ringmaster--white, and Redwing--red)

The biggest onions of all were the Super Stars, with one weighing 1.3 lbs.  These were from the Intermediate Sampler pack.  Seven of them weighed over 1 lb. each.

The bunch that yielded the largest harvest was the Candy, with a 50 lb. total.  Most of the onions were large and nice. 

The most surprising result was the size of the red long day onions--Redwing.  The size far exceeded the Red Candy intermediate day variety.  These were part of the long day sampler pack, which also sported some nice-sized Walla Wallas--one of them at .91 lbs.  These did not dry off as soon as the others did, and by the time I harvested them later in the summer August 10???), the outer layers had some greening and sunscald. 

The 1015Y variety was just as mild and sweet as advertised, but the total produce from one bunch was only 27.4 lbs.  These can be stored for only one month.

The Intermediate Day Sampler total yield was 35.96 lbs.  The large Super Stars couldn't quite compensate for very small size of the Red Candy.

The fact that there is no Intermediate Day variety that is a good keeper (storage onion) is always a disappointment.  Candy reportedly lasts about three months, and that's the longest keeper. 

It's also disappointing that sweet onions are never good keepers.  High pyruvic acid content is part of what makes onions strong-tasting--and long-lasting in storage.


Trivia:  Shane's first business was selling onions from the company that was the predecessor to Dixondale Farms--Piedmont Plants.  He took orders from neighbors and friends and then ordered the onions at wholesale prices and sold them with a slight markup--still cheaper than local sources. 


Today's paper had a story about the Dwight and Karen Miller family having just moved into a new house that stands in the same spot where their former home burned to the ground three months ago.  Here's what I posted on Facebook:
My brother Lowell, my son Shane and my grandson Cedric are all mentioned or pictured in this article--not to mention the main characters, my cousin Karen's family.  

Read the article at this link.  In the picture, Cedric is making a snooty face, for unknown reasons.  He loves Cindy and had apparently gone with Shane to help with the moving process but stayed parked beside Cindy.  You might also enjoy the comment thread under Shane's post of a link to the same article:

Clarissa Iwashige Oh Cedric. Posing for the paparazzi.
LikeShow more reactions
7 hrs
Shane Iwashige Right!? You can tell he's thinking about all the people he could charm and seized his moment in the spotlight.
LikeShow more reactions
6 hrs
Miriam Iwashige Cedric, ever the unfazed and in-charge. Not too sure though about all those people interrupting his time with his beloved Cindy.
LikeShow more reactions
Reply5 hrs
Clarissa Iwashige It's a middle child thing.


Shane's business has outgrown the building that Hiromi used to own and live in, and they're getting ready to move into new quarters on West 4th Street, across from the Co-op.  Rainbow ???? used to be the business in that building. 

He's advertised recently for someone to join the Rock team in construction.  He posted a copy of the Rock Group's Core Values, and hinted at them in the original post:

Rock Renovation is looking to add a full time team member to our construction team. The successful applicant will be a person of integrity, self motivated, and a good cultural fit in our organization that values: Business as Mission, Community, Shared Abundance, Quality, Improvement, and Integrity. Basic construction experience preferred, but we will consider training the right person. Contact me if you're interested in more information!

Joesph Hershberger's "I am coming" response is probably not a serious response.  Shane worked for Joseph until he left to work at Rock, and I don't think either one is looking for a complete role reversal right now. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Being Quiet

My Facebook feed is full of pictures and opinions about professional athletes "taking a knee" while the national anthem is being played before a football game.  I was weary of the opinionated madness expressed on this topic long before it started.

The stripe of Mennonites I identify with were once known to be the quiet in the land.  Eventually some of us realized that being quiet sometimes amounted to being complicit in unsavory activities, and that being faithful Christians sometimes meant speaking out or taking other unquiet action.  I see the wisdom in this, and applaud efforts to relieve suffering, to protect the vulnerable, and to point the way to Christ.

I am increasingly wary, however, of efforts to defend people's actions in spheres where people like us don't really belong to start with.  In my estimation, the sports world is certainly such a place.

I have no doubt that our 16th Century Anabaptist forefathers would gape in astonishment that any of their spiritual descendants would become mired in robust defense of nationalistic fervor--in sports arenas, of all places. Long before the 16th century, in the first centuries after Christ, when Christians were present for sports-as-entertainment events, the Christians were the spectacle--not the spectators.  The spectators cheered at the spectacle of Christians being torn apart by hungry wild beasts. or as they faced gladiators, or were otherwise cruelly sacrificed,  Nationalistic fervor in a Roman arena often meant death for Christians.  For Christians to flock to arenas for sports-as-entertainment would boggle the first-century Christian mind.  To criticize an expression of conscience that is seen as a departure from nationalistic fervor would boggle the 16th-century Anabaptist mind.  Both of them boggle  my mind.

There's another side to this, of course.  We'd all like to avoid being viewed as unpatriotic.  Not only that, we feel grateful for the freedoms that we enjoy and would like to express that freely.  We do appreciate all those who work in public service roles with integrity and honor.  We'd like to be able to do that, while acknowledging honestly--in our own minds at least--that what we enjoy is not everyone's experience in this country.  In hyper-politicized minds, the latter simply can't be done without being pejoratively labeled.  That's a pity.

In short, in the sports world, and in the nationalism realm, Anabaptist Christians can be faithful, I believe, to God and to their faith heritage by simply recognizing that we don't have required roles in those arenas.  When matters like "taking a knee" arise, going back to being the quiet in the land is the most sensible option of all.  I recommend it.


Immediately after I posted the above, I saw the following on Facebook.  It was originally posted by Gerald Mast and shared by Rachel Stella.  A woodcut from the Martyrs Mirror accompanied the post. In 1553, an Anabaptist street vendor in the Dutch city of Bergen op Zoom named Simon de Kramer was selling his wares when a public parade for the communion host began marching down his street. As a protest against the idolatrous conflation of divine and human authority represented by this civil religious ceremony, Simon refused to kneel with the people around him. The Martyrs Mirror says that "according to the testimony of God presented in the holy scriptures (he) would worship and serve only the Lord his God." Simon was captured and sentenced to death by the "enemies of the truth", led outside the city and burned to death. The bailiff who had Simon executed soon became sick with remorse and sorrow and could not be comforted or restored. According to the Martyrs Mirror account, the bailiff "died in despair, an instructive and memorable example to all tyrants and persecutors." Resisting idolatry and tyranny sometimes involves standing when people think you should kneel and sometimes it involves kneeling when people think you should stand.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Missing Information Fallacy

When it comes to blogging, absence makes the heart grow heavy--heavy with thoughts that have piled on top of other unwritten thoughts.  Digging out from under it seems like a daunting task, and overcoming the inertia of inactivity on this front sometimes calls for forcible ejection--a blow to the psyche, for example.

Bypassing many of the events that I've been immersed in--many of them pleasant and soul-refreshing--I'll go straight to a matter I've been mulling over.  Obviously, this thinking didn't come out of nowhere, but I won't be detailing the events that prompted the reflection.  Here's a query I posted on Facebook recently:

I need help finding precise words for a phenomenon I've witnessed at least three times in the past few days. Here goes with the wordy version: Generally, what happens is that criticism is leveled against a person or source for something they did not say, rather than for something they said. The logical "fallacy of omission" doesn't quite seem to fit. Is there another term that does fit?
As I see it, the problem with this kind of criticism is that it's never possible for anyone to say all that should or could be said on a given topic or at a given time. A simple recognition of that seems appropriate when concerns or critiques are given. Otherwise, the critic risks not being taken very seriously, at least by people who recognize this reality.
I specifically remember having made this mistake myself in the past and do try to avoid repeating it. I wish I could name it though.

The closest anyone came to suggesting a name was this sentence from a longer comment by Harry Shenk--all of it worthwhile, but only this referencing a name:

 It would be a sub-category of assuming and assigning motives, which is called "evil surmisings."

"Evil surmisings" is a term taken from the King James Version of the verse in I Timothy 6:4 which reads like this:

 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,

The context is that the apostle Paul is writing to his apprentice pastor, Timothy, with instructions about how slaves are to respond to their believing masters.  Faithful service is called for.  Paul emphasizes and expands on these instructions by saying this in verse 3:

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;

The list of evils associated with resisting the truth of Paul's words goes on in verse 5:

Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

In this passage of Scripture "Evil surmisings" keeps company with other unsavory characters.  The English Standard Version says it like this (verses 3 & 4):

he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

For years I've been uncomfortable with information that begins something like this:  "You won't read about this in the mainstream media" or "You won't hear about this from your doctor."  What follows is usually some "inside" information to which the writer and only a few other discerning souls are privy.  It is presented as being "more true" than mainstream media information and whatever your doctor tells you.  Not only that, it's likely that information missing from the media or not mentioned by the doctor is being intentionally withheld for some ulterior reasons.  In other words, the logical "fallacy of missing information" is being assumed.

Besides what was stated in the original Facebook post, my logic goes like this:  Some form of incompleteness in communication is always present because we are human, with limitations.

The "fallacy of missing information" is extraordinarily difficult for the critic to establish because it rests on being able to accurately discern another's motives, besides being able to analyse the whole body of knowledge on the subject at hand thoroughly enough to see what necessary information is missing.   Most of the critics I've encountered don't make the cut by this criteria.

Let me assure you that I believe that media bias exists, and that a desire for profit and power has corrupted the practice of medicine in some cases.  The leap to indicting all media and all medical practitioners as being suspect is what I wish to stand against.

Obviously, since I'm not a journalist or a doctor, these particular suspicions have not been lobbed my way.  My grief comes from having been criticized not only for what I've said, but for what I didn't say.  How is this right?

Harry Shenk and KJV to the rescue.  It isn't right.  Evil surmisings.  Directed my way, that's what I have in common with the mainstream media and the medical establishment.  I'm glad I finally have a name for it. Often naming a thing strips it of its power.   Thank God for the Apostle Paul and for his inspired words that can help clarify matters like this.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Prairie Petunia

On our way to the wedding on Saturday, I saw wildflowers along the road that I didn't recognize while driving by.  We  had just crossed the railroad, driving north on Herren Road.  On the east side of the road, in the sharp angle of the corner of Marvin Nisly's field were lavender flowers, appearing singly and about the size of a quarter.

I had to wait till the next day on the way home from church to stop and check them out further.  I still didn't recognize them, even close up, although I noted that the flowers were petunia-shaped.  I consulted my field guides after I got home, and I believe that the flowers are Ruellia humilis, or Prairie Petunia.  Here's a page with pictures and information.

The plants are perennial.  They are actually not related to the garden-variety petunias, in spite of the common name and the similarity of the blooms.

Buckeye butterflies use Prairie Petunia as a larval host plant.  In other words, if you find worms munching on the leaves, you probably should leave them alone if you want to enjoy the Buckeye butterflies that the worms will transform into.

One of the unusual things I noticed about the flowering branch that I brought home is that it appeared to have very fine strings attached all along the leafy stems.  I knew where they came from when the first flower dropped off the branch I had cut, and, to my surprise, a long string pulled right out of the base of the flower trumpet and stayed attached to the stem.  One of the pictures on the cited page shows the strings.

I wish there were some way of protecting that patch of Prairie Petunias.  What if Marvin posted a "Do Not Mow" sign?  What if Jeff conveniently delayed lowering his mower deck when he mowed the ditch in that area?  I personally think that preserving this patch of wildflowers has merit.

I've had my eyes peeled for wildflowers for most of 65 years, and this is the very first time I've seen these flowers in this area--or anywhere else (they're widely distributed).  Any flower that blooms this cheerfully after the punishing heat and drought we've had recently deserves all the survival help we can offer.

If you live in this area, I hope you take the opportunity to drive by and to enjoy the Prairie Petunias.  If you know of other local patches of these flowers, you're welcome to post that here as well.

In other wildflower news, the Ironweed that grows in the ditch along our property is at its loveliest right now.  This seems to be earlier than most of the Ironweed around here blooms.  On Saturday when I especially noticed it, the blooms were full of nectaring butterflies.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Wrapup--July 31, 2017

The big event of the weekend was the wedding of Jonas Morinigo and Kerri Byler.  Hiromi and I were invited to the wedding because Kerri was one of my high school students.

Jonas came here several years ago to work as a Choice Books volunteer.  His parental family lives in Tennessee, having moved there from Paraguay several years before then.  Jonas' father is a youthful-looking native Paraguayan, who is sometimes asked if he is Jonas' brother.

At the reception we sat across the table from one of Jonas' aunts.  She is a sister to his mother.  Their family came from Paraguay where they live to see their newborn first grandchild, and to attend the wedding.  The husband told us that he speaks four languages, with English apparently being the least familiar one.  Spanish, Guarani, and Pennsylvania German are the other three languages he knows.

While we were still seated, my brother Ronald spoke to Toby, the husband of the Paraguay couple, and invited the guests to spend the night with them in Labette County where Ronald's family lives in SE Kansas.  That was the first that I realized that they knew each other.  Ronald and Brenda had visited Paraguay on official Amish Mennonite Aid business near the time of my father's death in November. That's when they got acquainted.  This was an unexpected opportunity to continue some of the conversation they had begun then--about church matters, no doubt, since both of them are pastors.

Can you believe that I never thought to ask the names of the couple across from us who felt like friends by the end of the meal?  I only learned Toby's name when Ronald addressed him as such.  My bad.


"Mrs. Toby" told me the barest details about her parental family's saga.  She told me that sixteen children were born to her parents.  Only 14 survive.  I don't know where the family lived in the US, but they moved from this country to Belize.   From Belize they moved to the Eastern Paraguay Chaco--the same area that was offered to many Mennonite refugees after World War II.  Later they moved to a different part of Paraguay--near the Clinica Luz y Esperanza (Light and Hope Clinic) where some of our own local church people have served--most notably Lois Yoder, who delivered several thousand babies while she worked there as a midwife.

Some of the children obviously married while they lived there, and they stayed when the parents moved back to Belize.  The aged parents still live in Belize.

Mrs. Toby told me that she remembers when Roman and Ruth (local church people and market gardeners) had their farm sale before they moved to the US.  She thinks her parents and Roman's parents lived in the same area in the Chaco before she was born.


Jonas has established a reputation locally as the armadillo-trapping-expert.  In Paraguay they augmented the family's food supply, and, even here, some of Jonas' trapped armadillos ended up in a cooking pot.  Jonas makes his own traps--simple box traps with a wire tripping mechanism on the inside wall of the box.

During the open-mike time, LaVerne reported that after the first time they realized that they had an armadillo problem, Jonas came to investigate and reported that they "have a regular armadillo highway out there."  He trapped nine of them before the trap stayed empty.


Benji, my nephew who is the property manager at Golden Rule Property Management where Kerri also works, told a funny story about the time Kerri and another girl did a day's worth of mowing on properties that needed it.  Things went well except for one yard where they had trouble getting the mower through the front gate.  They finally gave up and mowed the yard entirely with a string trimmer.  As they were reporting, Benji began to suspect a snafu ( he couldn't remember a fence or a gate on that property . . . ).  It turned out that somehow the first part of the address had gotten mixed up and they had found the right house number--but on the east side of Main Street rather than the west (East 9th instead of West 9th, for example).  I'm sure the recipients of this mowing service were mystified.  I wonder if they're still puzzling over it.


I've been thinking a lot about storytelling and trying to figure out how to help my students cultivate the skill.  As it turns out, Leroy, the resident professional storyteller, is not nearly as full of advice about storytelling as he is full of stories.  After he gets back from leading a group of young men on a hike down into Grand Canyon (four nights camping in the canyon), he plans to see if he can find a book among his stash that might be helpful to me.  It's what I asked him for when my first questions didn't produce a clear storytelling map.

I'm sure that storytelling comes quite naturally for some people.  The rest of us need to be mindful of what makes a good story, and especially, we need to practice repeatedly.  That's the one thing I know that would be helpful to my students.

I know very well that there probably isn't a Grand Canyon hike in my future, but Leroy suggested an appealing (but still impossible) alternative:  a river trip through the Canyon.  The fact that it comes with a $5,000.00 price tag is the killer, although I don't doubt that it's a fair price.  I told Leroy that I may have been forever spoiled by the river cruise in Bangladesh last November.  That ship was the right size (only about 20 passengers), and we could stand around and watch the anchor being let out or winched up, or we could go into the ship's head cabin and watch the pilot turn that big wheel to keep it in the right channels.  From the hold downstairs, wonderful cooking smells wafted up, and when it was ready, the bounty was served with aplomb.  On the "roof deck" we had a great view of  the countryside along the river banks, and the other vessels on the river.  The engine sounds were not annoying, but audible, and I can't quite imagine a vessel so large that you would hardly know if you were moving or not--or so small that the higher winds and waves would be scary.

We got a small taste of that one morning when we were anchored within sight of the Bay of Bengal while a tropical storm was lashing the Bay.  Some of our passengers had gone on shore and walked through pouring rain to a beach along the Bay.  Our pilot barely waited till they got back in their motor boat (heavily-loaded and riding low in the water) before pulling anchor and sailing upriver with dispatch.

I confess to having done a good bit of checking on river cruises after I got back to see if such a thing might be within reach on one of our US waterways.  The search turned up the Road Scholar program.  Ohhhhhhhhh.  It's the stuff of dreams.  They offer all sorts of trips, many of them international.  Each one is paired with many learning opportunities.  Hence the "Scholar" part of the company name.  Here again though, the price . . .


The meeting scheduled last week with the nursing home administrator had to be rescheduled for this week.  It's about the landscape at the facility.

Maybe some background is in order.  This nursing home is now being administered by a visionary couple who feels called to help turn around struggling facilities.  This is not their first project, and it will likely not be their last.  Ownership is by a large corporation.

Hands of Christ has served clients that have gone there to live when they could no  longer stay in their own homes.  Rachel Yoder currently has regular Bible studies with some of the residents.

One of the much needed improvements is in the landscape.  The street side is reasonably attractive, but the courtyard areas that residents can safely (?) access need a lot of help.  Rachel is working hard to pull together a team of volunteers who can make these areas attractive, accessible, and full of  life.  Rachel and others have done a huge amount of work to remove nuisance vegetation and work the ground.   When I was there, I sketched the various parts of the "smoker's courtyard," and wrote down the measurements I was taking.  Inside my head, plans were taking shape as well, but I realized that I needed a lot more information if I were to come up with a good workable landscape plan.  That's why the meeting is happening.

I can't imagine that much money is available, but my heart breaks for the people who are confined to such desolate surroundings, and I pray for ways to make things better.  I'm sure feelings like mine are what made the lady administrator cry every night after work the first few weeks after they arrived in Hutchinson.  Even the welcome shade under the lone Siberian Elm is crisscrossed with surface roots that would be hazardous for anyone whose mobility or stability is compromised.  Parking spots for wheelchairs need smoother paving.  A bird bath (empty) and a bird feeder showed some effort at bringing birds to the area.

Squirrels frisked without fear, and their presence added some life to the place.  They were apparently responsible for a number of corn plants growing in the bed outside the dining room.  One resident forbade the volunteers to uproot the corn, because "one of them has an ear on it." It did indeed, but I couldn't imagine that it would produce much since it was growing in a very shaded area.  It told me something about how hungry the residents are for some connection to living, growing things.  The corn was growing right outside their "floor-length" dining room windows.

Some of the clients who use the smoker's courtyard have mental health diagnoses.  What I know about the healing effects of being in nature makes me hopeful that these people could benefit from a varied and beautiful natural environment.


Speaking of healing effects of being in nature . . . I've been learning about grounding or earthing--both terms for human body contact with the earth.  It's fascinating, and I am inclined to think that it's not entirely hocus-pocus, although I haven't sorted out what is incontrovertibly sound.  The most familiar and simplest means of contact is going barefoot.  Any kind of non-conductive footwear (like rubber and plastic) limits beneficial electrical exchanges between the earth and human body.

The fact that a number of maladies seem to have increased around the same time that materials for shoe soles changed may be related.  I think it's very possible that we haven't discovered yet what all is affected by this change in our lifestyles.

Remember those sandburs we uprooted last week?  I had hoped that I caught them before they dropped the thorn-clusters that contain seeds, but I realized that it was a vain hope when I examined the bottom of my Birkenstocks and had to remove many stickers before I carried them into the house or the backyard.  Sandburs are the main deterrent for going barefoot at our place.  I did make an effort last week though to at least let my tender feet rest on the grass while I'm sitting outside.  It meant moving to the edge of the patio while I was trimming the tops off the onions I had harvested.


I think the Roadrunner I've been seeing might have a mate or at least a sidekick.  I looked out the patio door just in time to see two large birds shortly after they'd gotten airborne.  From the angle of their flight, I'm quite sure that they had taken off from the edge of our property.  They were the right size and shape for Roadrunners.   I never saw two Roadrunners together here, but last week I saw one drinking out of the water dish on the patio--maybe two yards beyond the patio door.


Our family is planning an "immigration papers" celebration now that my brother Marcus' long wait is over.  We're having pupusas, a Salvadoran food that Marcus and Anthony remember and love.

We're meeting at Hans' house in town.  Hans has a guest, Fineas, from Australia, a friend he first met at the "Beachy" church in Gympie.  Fineas has been touring the US with Hans for the past few weeks.  The gathering is partly a chance for the Miller family and Fineas to get acquainted.


My sister Clara and her adult children Zachary and Victoria plan to arrive here on Tuesday of this week.  Clara's first grandchild is expected around the middle of August, which is the same time that the Elreka reunion is planned.  Clara can't stay till the reunion, and she'd like to be at home when Nigel and Karen's baby arrives, but it's possible that she may be able to return at a later time.


In one of my flowerbeds, a very large thistle-like plant is thriving.  I decapitated it once early in the season, and it came roaring back.  I was about to attempt another eradication when I had second thoughts.  Did I or didn't I plant a Sea Holly in that spot?  That would be a thistle-like plant, which I've never actually grown before.  I decided that the best thing to do was to let it grow until it developed flowers.  If they don't look like Sea Holly, I'll show no mercy.  Out it goes.  I especially don't want those noxious thistles that have moved in to find shelter on my property.  I'm sure the landowners around us have the same interest.  It now has fat buds, so the wait may be nearly over.  If anyone who is more familiar than I am with the earlier stages of the bad thistle's life cycle checks out my plant, I'll uproot it before it blooms if you can identify it.


In the food line at today's carry-in after church, Paul Yoder told me about his nephew, Loren, who is a doctor in Indiana.  Every year Loren invites people from the area to his place for a time of singing hymns.  Hundreds of people show up. They always begin with the German song sung at every Amish Sunday morning church service--the Lob Lied.  Loren has a deep appreciation for his Amish Mennonite heritage, and is distressed by what he sees as departure from the things he appreciates, especially the shift in some sectors to involvement in conservative politics.  He has purchased land in Belize.  Paul said this in the context of his disaffection with the current conditions in the church, so I presume he's putting an escape plan in place.

Loren's parents lived at one time on the farm where I grew up.  My grandfather A. J. Beachy purchased the farm from Loren's grandfather, Dan Yoder.

My sister-in-law, Brenda, recently traveled to have Dr. Loren perform carpal tunnel surgery for her.  His going rate is about half of what others charge.  Much of his clientele is probably Amish.  These people pay their own bills (without insurance), and he has reasonable assurance that they will not default on their debts.  These things combine to make him able to offer his services at a lower price.


Congress is deeply mired in healthcare issues.  Lord help us all.  I don't think Obamacare is that great, but I think the alternatives being offered are worse.  When Hiromi asked me today what I think should happen, I said that I don't really see any good options.  I said that what I think is needed is a major shift in our approach to healthcare (promoting wellness rather than treating sickness), reform in the legal sector (placing limits on malpractice lawsuits), and regulatory reform (so that the pharmaceutical industry does not have a monopoly on substances that may be legally prescribed).  I find the insurance business at fault as well.  None of these were touched under Obamacare, and I don't think anyone is offering to right the wrongs now.  That's why I don't see any good options.


At the lunch table today, Jonny told about doing a construction project for Tom Heintzman, a person whose name I recognized from his having worked for the parks department and then owning Prairie Hills nursery.  I learned a few things about the man that lives on his property and works for him--Zach Hemmerling.  I know Zach from Farmer's Market.  I knew that he has a horticulture degree and that he keeps a vineyard and market garden--and that he got married fairly recently.  I have vines that I bought from him and once just missed the opportunity to take my food production class to his vineyard so he could show us how to prune grapevines.  What I didn't know is that he used to be a champion wrestler and he has an IQ of 157.  I presume that Jonny got that information from Tom rather than Zach.


I've heard reports about the Rosedale conference last week including a statement in which the leaders confessed having wronged the women in their churches by barring them from participation in certain aspects of church life in which they had good things to offer.  They sought forgiveness, which was offered by a representative group of women in the church.  This apparently happened without any presumption that the ordination of women as pastors would follow.  One woman who is a Facebook friend found reasons for great hope in this model of addressing troublesome aspects of  practice without "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." I'm interested in seeing how this develops in actual practice.