We got several bits of unwelcome news in the past few days--about friends and family who are facing crises.
John and Renita Y.'s family are leaving E. S. because of having unwittingly become targets for threatened gang violence. It started with their innocent young daughter's having spied several men with evil intent and telling her mother what she saw. After the information passed through various "hands" and the intended target escaped with his life, guess who is being blamed for enabling his escape? The threat to the family from here was delivered by means of trashing their house and then apparently calling emergency services to report the incident. Local citizens recognize this as typical "threat language."
Twila Y., has been diagnosed with cancer--less than a week after having first noticed a new lump. She is the mother of a high school student ( the youngest) and the grandmother of her oldest son's four children, with five others in between. Our family has lived alongside theirs for many years, with our children finding age mates among theirs. In her husband Joe's family, two siblings and three of the siblings' spouses have died of cancer. We all think that's quite enough cancer for one family. My dear friend Marian was Joe's sister.
Closer home for our family, we're hearing alarming news from our oldest son's adopted country. The fearsome terrorist/military group based in the Middle East has taken responsibility for the killing of two foreigners whose countries are aligned with the "crusader coalition." One was from my husband's homeland, and the other was from the country in which the Apostle Paul was martyred. One was killed in our son's city of residence, and the other killing happened in another district. Both were apparently working with a non-government organization. Foreign embassies have recently given some guidelines for appropriate precautions for their in-country citizens.
All of these situations call for intercession and faith in God's goodness and power. All of them also involve family members of David and Susanna, our bishop's family.
My youngest brother was released from HCF on Friday of last week. He's staying with Dad for now, based on his own request. If an opening develops at Oxford House in Hutchinson and his application is accepted, he will likely transfer there. After two years of him not being within hugging distance, it's very good to have him around again. He's pleasant and helpful, and openly speaks of the "out-of-control" situation that characterized his life before his incarceration. Substance abuse treatment is part of his release arrangement. The first order of business for him is to air up the tires on his vehicle and see if it still runs, get the tags current, and renew his driver's license. For many others, release also means finding a place to live, and finding a job. Those two things are taken care of in Marcus' case.
In the lead-in to Marcus' release, I attended a court hearing, and was duly impressed there with the power in the hands of a judge. Of those who entered the court room in prison garb, cuffed and shackled, some were back on the street within an hour. Others were not granted that freedom. To have a responsible, fair judge is a great blessing. Thankfully, Judge Rose appeared to be that kind of judge. Marcus' appointed attorney was the same one who represented the infamous BTK murderer from Wichita a number of years ago. I presume that was also a court-ordered appointment.
When Dad picked up Marcus, another young man who had just been released asked if he could have a ride home. He said his family was to have been there to pick him up, but no one was there to do so. Dad agreed, and introduced him to the Lord en route. The young man was very open and very grateful. His parents both have a drug problem, just as he does. "No one ever cared enough to talk to me like this," he told Dad, while thanking him.
I couldn't help wondering what Marcus was thinking while the conversation was taking place in his hearing. Some things about their situation were very similar, and some things were markedly different.
Three Catholic women from the Kansas City area attended our church service this morning as the guests of William and Elizabeth Hershberger. They have been friends for at least 20 years. The visiting women are sisters to each other and are all teachers in Catholic schools. One was a sister in the other Catholic sense of the word for ten years, leaving before taking her final vows. I learned by listening to her speak to someone else this morning that only cloistered sisters are normally referred to as nuns. Those who serve in the public are called sisters.
I've heard lots of "Catholic" talk since I started to attend the Master Gardener classes. Three of the people with whom I make the ride back and forth to Newton are Catholics, and I hear them talk among themselves about their religious life.
One lady informed another in my hearing that she was not raised Catholic, and it took her four tries to "make it" into the Catholic church. I'm not sure what that meant. I also learned that those two women attended the same parish services, but didn't know each other because they normally attend Mass at two different times. They also really wished that "Father"would add a more convenient confession time--either before or after Mass, rather than having to make a special trip for confession.
When we met a priest at the restaurant where we ate lunch, he turned out to have been stationed earlier in our area, and was now on another assignment. He told the ones in our group who knew him that he was "making people mad" again. The ladies with me explained later that right after he came to St. Teresa, he was ordered by the bishop to close the school, and when he followed those instructions, the action met with a great deal of disfavor among the patrons.
One of the ladies told me that she only once in her life attended a Protestant service--in Kansas City. It was a Mennonite church, and she was with dear friends from nursing school at Bethel College.
I've heard that "Father" has terrible eating habits, and the diocese eventually hired a cook so that he'd get some decent food.
The only man in our van load is also Catholic. He's "an officer and a gentleman." Actually, I don't know that he's like that film character at all. I'm not familiar with the movie except by title. What I do know is that he was the school resource officer for more than 30 years with the local country sheriff's department. He's courteous, and every week I learn more about his varied interests. First I heard about irises. He's a member of the local iris club. Last week I learned that he is a published author, and we had a lively conversation about writing. I also learned that his wife is an artist--whose name I now recall having seen often on paintings. Recently she has taken up sculpture, and in an interesting twist on their interests as a couple, she created sculptures of the main characters in a novel he is in the process of writing. These sculptures "live" in the house with them. Next Thursday evening both of them plan to go to Salina to hear Anne Lamott speak. She's a well-known writer.
Just now, from the Amazon site
that lists his book, Cop in the Classroom: Lessons I've Learned, Tales I've Told
, I found that he was also a teacher and coach in public schools, a store security officer, and a substance abuse counselor,
In addition to the above book, I'd like to read a play he wrote: Under the Radar: Race at School
. It's about racism.
In speaking of his retirement, Jim stated how it is, and it matches my experience on sabbatical. He said, "I do a lot more of what I want to do--when I want to do it, but I'm no less busy than I was before."
A few nights ago, when the forecast sounded chilly, I carefully placed cucumbers from the garden inside a grocery bag and put them on a chair on the patio--my way of compensating for limited refrigerator space. The next morning the bag was gone, and I was sure the cat hadn't moved it. I spied the bag several yards away, with several cucumbers half in and half out of the bag. More cucumbers had dropped near the chair and along the way. I didn't know whether to blame a raccoon or a possum.
On the way to church this morning I saw several vultures gathered around a dead 'coon on the road. I hope the cucumber thief is gone for good.
The afternoon session for Master Gardeners last week was about dealing with nuisance animals. I was a little amused by the polite reference to euthanasia as one of the appropriate solutions in some cases.
I had never given much thought to hazards associated with relocation of nuisance animals. I had thought about the ethical problem of making the nuisance animal on your property someone else's problem, but I had not thought of how the animal may be carrying pests and diseases that infect a distant population when an animal is moved. Voles, moles, deer, and armadillos were among the nuisances covered.
I learned that armadillos are native to Central America, and have steadily moved northward over a period of many years. The first ones were found in Kansas in about 1911? and now they are found also in Nebraska. People who should know believe that there must surely be a northern limit to their range, but no one knows what that is.
I learned also that it's now proven beyond any doubt that some armadillos carry the leprosy bacterium. Eating the flesh is not the only way for the bacterium to pass from animal to human. Handling the animal can do so as well. On the positive side, leprosy is now fairly easy to treat.
Bait or electronic vibrations do nothing to help kill or frighten away moles. Moles feed only on living, moving creatures, and do not rely on their sense of smell at all. They seem to thrive in some areas that are regularly assaulted by vibrations from passing vehicles, right next to a busy street, for example. A vicious-looking mechanical trap, placed strategically to extend into a busy tunnel is the recommended way to euthanize a mole.
One of the aspects of the Master Gardener class that turns the tables on this teacher is that I now take a quiz at every class period. It covers the content of the previous class period's lectures. A final test will be based on the quizzes. Students must score at least an average of 70% to pass the class.
I give the test-makers high marks for creating good tests. The answers are not obvious, even though they're always multiple choice. On the first two tests I missed the extra-credit question both times. I think the graders are being a little over-dramatic by boldly marking such papers with a -1, when it's followed by a 100% notation. The papers are all laid out on a table after they're graded, and students go there and pick out their own quiz, with all other papers in full view. Protecting students' privacy is apparently not a high priority, but I'm pleased to report that I have been able to scrupulously avoid peering at the scores of other test takers.
My table-mate, who retired recently from a position as director of a county health department, was thoroughly dismayed after the first test. The next time she reported to me, "Miriam, I studied for hours. This [previous test score] is entirely unacceptable. I was a straight-A student and valedictorian of my class. I can't keep on flunking these tests." After the last class, she happily informed me that she now had a passing average.
At the gathering where the "old" master gardeners and the new ones were introduced to each other, my high school science teacher was present. I learned later that he had talked about me behind my back, and that he saddled me with a reputation to live up to. I was frankly dismayed. It was kind of him, of course, but directly interfered with my wish to stay under the radar, and be able to network with other class members as one of the "learning" crowd. I determined to take some decisive action to be helpful and supportive wherever I could, in order not to be seen as being aloof in any way. I thought immediately of the elderly lady in the class from our county who is a caregiver for her 92-year-old sister dealing with dementia. She had been fishing for ideas or help with the final presentation that each person (or team) is to give to the class, and no one had offered her much. I couldn't think of much at the time.
Later, at home, I thought of an idea that might interest her, and emailed her the suggestion and offered her help in getting started and in doing the presentation if she wished. She was very pleased. I remembered hearing her say that she's re-doing her yard and wants especially to make it welcoming to birds and butterflies. I suggested that she give a presentation on how she plans to do that. My recent involvement with the pocket prairie planting at school covered a lot of the same territory, since we had similar goals for our plantings there. Now I'm beginning to feel more comfortable again.
Fresh green beans and fresh beets from the garden are part of our meals this week. Starting about now, we could also eat various types of greens often--kale, chard, spinach, beet greens, and mustard (the mustard is actually destined to be pickled--for Japanese takana pickles). Broccoli heads are sizing up, as are the Chinese Cabbage heads. The cauliflower and cabbage aren't as far along as I wish they were. Planting time lesson is being noted--earlier next year.
Rhoda Y. told me recently that she got 80 quarts of tomatoes from the 4-bushel picking of tomatoes she got here. I'm very happy that she could use them.
Rhoda inquired about how I did my fall garden. I should have told her how I planted the cole crops that grow into large plants. I direct-seeded them inside carefully-spaced No. 10 cans with the ends removed. The cans were placed on either side of a 12-inch-wide trench bounded by long ridges on the sides. At first, I watered daily inside the cans with very gentle spray, and after they germinated and grew to some size, I watered by filling the trench and allowing the water to seep into the root zone from below.
To people in more hospitable growing climates, this probably all seems like going to needless pains, but the bit of shade and wind protection those cans offer is very valuable. I really hate thinning, so this widely-spaced method also offers me the advantage of being able to avoid that.
Other crops direct-seeded in rows were beets, green beans, red radishes, daikon radishes, mustard, carrots, kohlrabi, shungiku, and spinach. The last four germinated very poorly for some reason, but the others did well.
In a different area, and planted much later, I have another collection of greens coming along. I hope that many of these will winter over under a row cover. I can't wait to taste these first-time greens: tyfon, claytonia (miner's lettuce), and mache (corn salad). I've grown or tasted these before: arugula, radicchio, and sorrel. I'll plant warm-season greens next spring. Amaranth, perilla (shiso), New Zealand spinach, and spreen (looks like lamb's quarter) are on that list. I hope to let all of these go to seed next summer, thus providing a perpetual greens supply in the future.