Prairie View

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Aunt Nellie--Part 2

We buried Aunt Nellie today--there in the sun and wind and traffic sounds, comforted by words of Scripture and songs of heaven. Sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters and nephews and brothers-in-law and pastors and farmer neighbors and church friends helped each other, and the final deed of service in Nellie's honor was accomplished.

South of Nellie's grave, and several rows east in the cemetery are two marble markers for the infant children of Edwin and Nellie. Both of them were born prematurely. Loretta Mae lived for four weeks. Wilbur Lynn lived only one week. A third grave marker is somewhere in Indiana. That baby, Raymond, was stillborn, also prematurely, when Edwin and Nellie went to Indiana for her sister's wedding. Raymond was the first in the row of babies who died almost before they had begun to live. Marlin was older than these three babies, and then Valetta came along, and four more healthy babies after that.

Yesterday Leanna (Nellie's daughter and primary caretaker of late) told me that the surgeon who operated on Nellie last week discovered a great number of adhesions, after-effects from a surgery in 1991 to remove a badly infected appendix. He observed that she must have had a very high pain threshold, since most people experience a lot of pain in that condition, and she likely had the condition for 18 years.

Apparently Nellie finally caved in to what most other people would have succumbed to much earlier--only after the first, minimally invasive abdominal surgery earlier last week. When the doctor saw how things were, and how uncomfortable she was, he recommended clearing out the adhesions so that she could rest. But that more extensive second surgery was more than her body could tolerate. It's possible that it caused a mild heart attack. For whatever reason, she went into congestive heart failure.

My sister-in-law Judy asked Nellie several weeks ago after church how she was. Nellie chuckled a bit and said, "I bet you can't guess what I did last night. I fell out of bed." She went on to recount the conversation she had with Edwin after that happened, and they decided there was nothing to do but call Leanna, since Nellie couldn't get up by herself, and Edwin is too frail to help her. So Edwin called Leanna at 3:00 AM and Leanna came over and helped set things right.

Leanna also told about finding Nellie fallen outdoors several weeks ago, apparently on her way back inside after having made the rounds to tend her flowers. She told Leanna what she had needed to do out there: Veetz rohpa (Pull weeds). Edwin was asleep and didn't realize Nellie had gone outside. Leanna asked Nellie why she hadn't pressed the button on her person for summoning help in just such cases--if she fell and couldn't get up. "I didn't think it was necessary since I wasn't hurt," she said.

Will, who teaches school next door, drove by on another occasion and saw her in the yard after she had fallen. No one was with her, so he stopped and helped her up and back into the house. That flower-checking venture involved a few glitches, but not enough to detour her permanently.

For several decades Nellie had severe dietary restrictions. She did not feel well if she ate wheat, dairy, or any acid-containing fruits or vegetables. But she didn't want to talk about it if she sensed that anyone would go to special pains to provide food for her that she could eat. Choosing among the available, though limited, options was quite alright with her--certainly much preferable to being fussed over.

Among the pictures in the Edwin Miller family archives is one hilarious one of Nellie perched on the seat of a now-vintage tractor with lug wheels. She is wearing a large straw hat, and most unaccountably, white, strappy, high-heeled sandal-like shoes, her foot stretching toward a brake or clutch that was almost out of reach for a miniature like Nellie. Jaunty, daringly a little unconventional, and on the job outdoors--That was Nellie all over.

Later, when she drove a three-wheeler to round up and move their Holsteins, she must have done it with the same aplomb she demonstrated early in life. At least her grandchildren fondly remember three-wheeler rides with her, after the serious business with the cows was done.

Attending funerals is one of the most reflection-prompting things I can think of doing. This funeral was no exception. I see Leanna's faithful tending to her parents' needs--traveling the miles between her home and theirs at least three times a day for many months, and resolve to be ready to help take up the task if my parents ever need such help. I see Nellie's uncomplaining, self-deprecating good humor, and want to live cheerfully. I see her and Edwin's faithfulness to each other over 63 years of marriage, and I want to be faithful to my husband. When sorrow intrudes on life, I want to grieve without bitterness, as Nellie must have grieved after her babies died, and she went on with life and having babies. When I am 88, I hope everyone lets me potter around outdoors with my flowers, even if I can't predictably stay upright in the process. If I fall out of bed and can't get up, I want to tell on myself and joke about it after church the next day. I'm not sure I want to try riding a three-wheeler or driving a lug-wheeled tractor in high heels, but living near the edge doesn't sound bad to me. Especially, I want to finish well, so that if someone ever needs to decide when to disconnect me from a ventilator, they will know that they are releasing me to go where I want to be forever--with God and those who have preceded me to glory.

David Y. read aloud today a poem he had found in Nellie's Bible. I liked it and am passing it on.

Beatitudes for Friends of the Aged

Esther Mary Walker
Blessed are they who understand
My faltering step and palsied hand.
Blessed are they who know that my ears today
Must strain to catch the things they say.
Blessed are they who seem to know
That my eyes are dim and my wits are slow.
Blessed are they who looked away
When coffee spilled at the table today.
Blessed are they with a cheery smile
Who stop to chat for a little while.
Blessed are they who never say,
"You've told that story twice today,"
Blessed are they who know the ways
To bring back memories of yesterdays.
Blessed are they who make it known
That I'm loved, respected and not alone.
Blessed are they who know I'm at a loss
To find the strength to carry the cross.
Blessed are they who ease the days
On my journey home in loving ways.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Aunt Nellie

This afternoon my Aunt Nellie died. She was 88, and the oldest in my father's family, spouses and all. Her husband, Edwin is my father's oldest brother.

It's easy to think of this as a deliverance for her, since she was in a serious health crisis several times during the past week, with two abdominal surgeries. I don't know many details, but she was apparently on a ventilator since the most recent surgery. She seemed pleasant and reasonably comfortable whenever I saw her over the past months, and had been in church fairly regularly until the past few Sundays. Hiromi often went to pick her and Edwin up at their home so they could be there for the church service. He and LaVerne, our deacon, shared the pick-up schedule.

In the past week I've been thinking back a lot to happier days when I spent a lot of time with Valetta, Edwin and Nellie's daughter who was less than a month younger than I, and my first close friend. We loved to do many of the same things--most exasperatingly for our mothers--climbing trees and investigating birds' nests. We also worked in the field together sometimes, sometimes switching off driving the same tractor, and at other times, each driving a tractor in the same field. Her dad and mine farmed some land together for a while, so there was a lot of working together.

Occasionally I got to go with my dad when he went to work at Edwin's farm for the day. I remember him doing that when it was time to fill the silo. On one of those all-day stays, I learned to ride a bicycle, with Valetta and occasionally Marlin helping along by holding on to the seat to keep the bike upright while I was getting the pedals coordinated. They cheered for me when I finally got good enough to go a short stretch on my own, after they stealthily took their hands off the seat and kept running alongside as though they were still supporting me.

I remember another very good time of playing in the stock tank on a hot summer day. Our grandpa came along and smiled at us, and stopped long enough to tell us the story of when Uncle Mahlon nearly drowned in that stock tank (or another in that spot) when he was three years old, and Uncle Edwin pulled him out and saved his life. I know I heard that story again later, and maybe I've conflated the two events, but that's how it seems to me. Edwin's farm used to be Grandpa's farm.

I also remember a mini crisis at their house when Valetta and I were returning from the loft in the "shohp" where we had gone to check out some bird nests. We were barefoot, as usual. When I got close to the bottom of the ladder, I jumped off, right onto two nails protruding from a board.
That necessitated a trip to town for a tetanus shot the next day.

I spent many a Sunday afternoon at Valetta's house. We usually had hamburgers for lunch.

Nellie had a green thumb, and I loved seeing what was growing in their yard and garden. The heady scent of those voluptuous pink Cabbage roses by the outhouse was reason enough to go there. We played sometimes too in the sandbox by the windmill, with the hollowed out trunk of a nearby Mulberry? tree providing one of the props for our imaginative pastime.

Nellie brought back maple seedlings from her parents' yard in Indiana, and planted them around the house. They were the first maple trees I learned to know up close and personal.

Laddie (or was it Taffy?--or both, at different times?), the dog, was always part of the scene in those earlier years at Valetta's house. He was a good dog, and I was never afraid of him.

In Edwin's family and ours, Valetta and I were not the only age mates. Omar and Carol, Orville and Myron, Leanna and Lowell, and Howard and Dorcas each formed a cousin pair in their grades at school. Orville and Myron were the closest pair, since they were of the same gender.

Nellie was an unusually creative person, I realize now. She was always thrifty, and did not pursue hobbies as zealously as people do nowadays who have more disposable income and fewer scruples against spending it on their own pleasures. She loved a bargain and knew how to place her own bids at auctions she went to. Yet she did not accumulate incessantly, and certainly did not live extravagantly. Much of her creativity was turned to making do with what she had instead of doing "crafty" things with things she bought for that purpose.

In the past few years, Nellie's memory was almost gone. She could still fry eggs for breakfast if Edwin was nearby to tell her when it was time to start, and to guide her through each step along the way. She had an amazing degree of self-awareness, cheerfully admitting to her memory failures, especially with names. "Oh I know you. I just can't remember your name," she told Grace, who was in Valetta's grade in school, and a lifelong acquaintance and friend. Edith, who helped look in on Edwin and Nellie when Leanna was on a trip, was one of Nellie's favorite people, of late. But she always called her Millie because she couldn't remember "Edith."

In a well-functioning community, every child has people other than their parents who help raise them. Nellie was one of the people who helped raise me. I'm grateful to God and to her for doing that. I'm glad she's getting a well-earned eternal rest.

Still, I realize that Nellie's death creates stress and sorrow for the family she leaves behind. I'm praying for them.

When a Prayer Call Sounds Like a Siren

In last Sunday's sermon David told about a recent experience in which he was with a co-worker on a job site when an emergency vehicle passed within hearing range. David commented that he was glad he was not in the vehicle's path, or involved in the emergency situation. The co-worker responded by saying that when he hears a siren, he likes to pause for a moment to pray for the people who are involved in the crisis--both those who need help and those who are coming to their aid. David appreciated the insight and urged us to consider doing this, among other ways in which we can reach out to people around us who are in need--even people we don't know.


About two years ago Mark and Rose N. and their family moved here from Indiana where Mark had grown up. Rose grew up mostly in Wisconsin and Missouri, but others in her parental Hershberger family eventually moved to Kansas, so Mark and Rose's coming brought them closer to her relatives. Not many of us knew much of Mark's childhood, except for Larry B., who grew up in the same community as Mark. From him we learned that Mark had survived a horrendous accident when he was five years old and lost his arm in a farm accident. It was wrenched from his body in a forage machine--perhaps a silage wagon--and he saw it disappear with the forage. During his recovery he got many cards which his mother kept for him in a scrapbook. Some of them were from people he did not know.

Mark and Rose's family includes four children, the oldest of which was about 16 when they arrived in Kansas.


Earlier in the same year that Mark and Rose's family moved here, another family arrived. Paul and Edith and their grown children Nathan, Tresa, and Tonya came, along with their married son Conrad, and his wife Rebekka and daughter Keturah. Their married daughter Twila already lived here. This family moved here from Belgium.

Paul grew up in Kansas, but never lived here since before he was married. Much of the time he was away he was involved in a Christian ministry, either in a stateside retarded children's home, or in European missions. When they were in the states, the family lived in Ohio.


Today in church, during testimony time, Mark read aloud from a card he received when he was five years old. It was from someone he did not know. He discovered it recently when he was looking through his scrapbook.

The card said "We don't even know your name. . . We work at Sunnyhaven where there are children whose minds don't work as fast as some children's do. . . We're praying for you. . . We have a boy who is one year old." It was signed Paul, Edith, and Nathan Yoder.


Today all those people are members of the same church in Kansas. Who but God could have nudged the heart of one young family among his children to pray for and extend good wishes to another who was in crisis at that time, knowing already what no one involved could possibly have guessed--that they would one day be transplanted to the same community hundreds of miles away--that this evidence of belonging together would some day be very precious?

If David had told us such a story last Sunday in a hypothetical situation to illustrate one of the points in his message, we would have thought it too improbable to be believed. But God knew that today an entire congregation would be blessed by the simple reading aloud of a message of caring penned 34 years ago--from one well-loved church family to another, who were then as unknown to each other as the people are that we pray for when we hear the siren from an emergency vehicle.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

School Facility Ambiance

In composition class, we've been doing a group-written essay. What this means is that we choose a subject that is either boring or interesting, but above all discussable. Then we start with a sample thesis that makes a statement about the subject. For this year's class we started with this statement: People who place a high value on _______________ will prefer a _____________ school facility. Then we started making a list of terms for the first blank, following up with a corresponding term for the second blank. (It was actually a little less tidy than this, but you get the idea. . . ) Some of the words we came up with for the first blank were aesthetics, ambiance, unpretentiousness, flexibility, recreation, mingling of age groups, separation of age groups, security, accessibility, plus some that I can't remember.

In a gradually narrowing-down process, each class member chose several subjects on which they could express an opinion statement that could serve as the thesis for an essay. They developed pro and con lists and bombarded the thesis with questions, and made an outline and wrote each paragraph incorporating all the ways we learned to write good paragraphs. Finally they wrote an introduction and a conclusion, and handed in the finished essays. Among the eight students, one person wrote in favor of constructing a school facility with a great deal of flexibility. Another wrote about the need for providing space for recreation. One good Mennonite wrote about the importance of being thrifty. A homeschooler who is taking the class wrote about constructing a facility that would promote interaction between people of various ages. Another student prizes innovation, but what especially interested me was that three people idealized making good aesthetics and ambiance a prominent feature of a school facility. These people do not want ugly or uninviting in their school experience. I don't blame them a bit.

After I read all their essays aloud to the class, I told them that one of my dream features of a school facility is that every classroom would have an adjacent outdoor space that could easily serve as overflow classroom space on beautiful-weather days. I didn't elaborate a great deal, but I'd love to see wide windows looking out on a fairly private grassy, shady, landscaped area. Separating the indoor space and the outdoor space would be an in-between area covered by a wide overhang on the building, with space on ground level for picnic tables on a paved surface--for eating lunch, or--gasp--doing lessons or working together in groups, or having a class or whatever.

I believe we can do so much better than the standard-issue small Mennonite school. I think the site formula usually presumes that a sidewalk circles the building, with no more than eight feet of landscaping space between the sidewalk and the building. Sometimes the concrete runs all the way up to the building. Beyond the sidewalks is gravel--or maybe pavement in richer communities than ours. In a far flung corner of the grounds is space for a softball diamond, and somewhere closer is a small collection of play structures for the little ones. Somewhere an outdoor slab might provide accommodations for basketball or volleyball.

The main problem with the standard school format is that children encounter nothing but hard surfaces in bland colors all day long. Texture and color and freshness are in short supply, and variety in the physical features of the learning environment is almost non-existent.

I concur with writers who believe that children do not develop optimally without some access to the natural world. Yet for generations, teachers have rued the tendency for children to stare out the classroom windows. Organized sports have been thought preferable to playing among the trees. What if teachers actually had the freedom to lead the way in regular encounters with the outdoors while accomplishing the other necessary tasks of group schooling--because the environment made it easy? Teamwork can happen just as surely when the task is maintaining a landscape or creating bird habitat as when it is trying to score more points in a ball game. Why have otherwise intelligent and good-hearted people bought so readily into the convenient-for-adults/not-good-for-children mindset, and willingly spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars to perpetuate the errors others have pioneered?

To be sure, many factors must be considered when school facility plans are being made. The variety of perspectives in our composition class is a sample of what becomes exponentially more complex as more people's viewpoints are considered. How does one impose some order on the process?

My guiding principle is fairly simple: Do what's best for the people who use it the most. That would be the students, if we're talking about a school facility. And don't assume that what comes to us by way of American or Mennonite building traditions follows the above guiding principle.

And please, please, don't saddle some hapless organization or construction expert with the task of designing a facility for purposes he may not hold dear at all. This is a high-stakes task, and can not safely be carried out without copious quantities of prayerfulness, thoughtfulness, and vision.

Ambiance has to do with the surrounding environment or influence. It encompasses a broad swath of factors, and might seem hard to quantify and accommodate. But the effort must be made nonetheless. Sizable outdoor rooms adjacent to each indoor classroom would help tremendously in creating the kind of ambiance that every school facility needs.


By the way, do you know how to spell and say ambience or ambiance? Dictionaries and spell checkers vary on both counts.

We tried out various pronunciations in class, even attempting what we imagined was a good French pronunciation--by shooting the last syllable through our nose.

Critter Complaints

In general, I like animals. But recently my sentiments have often strayed pretty far into the irritated category.

Mice in the pantry and in the bedroom lead the list of irritants. At least eight of them have been offered to the cats after they were captured in traps. So the pantry party is less raucous than before, and the rustling under the bedroom furniture is less lively.

Crickets are abundant this time of year, and they are not all chirping sweetly in the grass outdoors. I have not systematically tried to ferret out and destroy every cricket in the house, but whenever I see one within range, I dispatch it. That means that unless I follow myself around with a broom and dustpan or figure out some other clever disposal method, I get to survey the results of my murderous handiwork many times over.

Flies--at school, at home, and at market--are plentiful, persistent, buzzy, and hideously annoying this time of year. It's as though they feel their mortality overtaking them with the approach of fall, and they are desperately trying to avoid the inevitable. Their desperation triggers a decidedly unsympathetic response in everyone I know. More murder on the mind for all of us. Hiromi and I cheered so enthusiastically after we finally cornered and killed a very large fly two nights ago that an observer would have thought something truly momentous had occurred. Simple pleasures for simple people.

Worms in the snapdragons I've picked for market bouquets prompt another yuk reflex. Why--in the fall of the year, when the weather is ideal for growing snapdragons, have the worms gained a foothold? When I discover them while I'm making bouquets at market, I furtively head for the parking lot and flick them off with my floral scissors, hoping no one sees the maneuver. I shudder at the thought that I might some time in the past have missed one and sold it to some unsuspecting customer who thought they were buying only pretty flowers in a vase.

I've noticed with interest that when the worms are on red or bright pink snapdragons, the worms themselves turn a shade of pink or red. An evolutionist would see this as a very clever adaptation of the species to its environment. I see it as the saturated color of the petals they're munching on being transferred to the creature that eats them--like carrot juice that turns the skin slightly orange when people drink a lot of it--or skin that turns silver when a person scarfs down a lot of the silver-containing alternative health solution that reportedly acts as a natural antibiotic.

Last of all, I'm slightly irritated again at Max. This time it's for munching on the bag of cherry tomatoes I bought at market today from Don's market stand. I had accidentally left them in the van, and Hiromi saw them and started indoors with them, but stopped to put the ducks and guineas away for the night. Max was still tied so he left the tomatoes on the porch steps temporarily. But not all went as planned. Apparently invigorated with the thought of his impending release, Max broke his light chain, and showed up to help with the poultry roundup. Hiromi's reproof made him think better of chasing the birds. However, he beat Hiromi to the tomatoes. One giant chomp and he decided he wasn't interested after all, but I think we'll declare it a total loss without investigating that bag of tomatoes any further.

On a brighter note, the butterflies are abundant and lovely in this season. The one lamb in my Mama-Papa-and baby flock of three is looking fat and sassy. And there are now two of the formerly wild cats that let Hiromi touch and stroke them.

Joey and I looked up the Lovely Cotinga the other night. It's a dazzling blue and red Central American bird, and Joey had come across the name, but didn't know how it looked. So he kept the name alive in his mind all day by using it for his big sister. If I ever see it at our feeder I'll know what to call it now--not that it's a real possibility, of course.

Thank God for reminding me that the world has butterflies, and fat lambs, and tame cats, and Lovely Cotingas in it, along with mice, crickets, flies, worms, and naughty dogs. On balance, this world isn't such a bad place to live after all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quote for the Day 9/24/2009

At the lunch table, where David and Arlyn both were cramming for German class--

David (to Arlyn) : I'm done studying now, so we can start arguing as soon as you get finished studying.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Quote for the Day 9/21/2009

Arlyn (to David) : Whenever we eat lunch together we end up arguing.

Me: What are you arguing about now?

David: He thinks Obama tells the truth, and I think he tells lies. (Rough approximation here)

Me (to David) : What does he lie about?

David: Lots of stuff.

Me: You know David, it's easier for you to say things like this at the lunch table than it would be in an oral report or a written report. There you'd have to cite your sources.

David: Well, I read lots of stuff about it in magazines here at school.

Me: Have you given any thought to how you might characterize the kinds of magazines we have here at school?

David (chuckling) : I suppose they're pretty far right wing.


Lest you spend any time worrying about David and Arlyn's arguments, you should know that they are usually done in good fun.

David is an enthusiastic giant of a senior, and Arlyn is diminutive and less noisy by nature, but just as attached to his own opinions. They're good for each other.

I don't always know for sure whether David actually believes what he firmly declares he thinks. It's quite possible that he's trolling for a reaction, and is disappointed if no one takes the bait. Some of us don't mind accommodating him.


Arlyn spoke for himself on Obama: "I don't think he lies, but sometimes he tells just the part of the truth that supports his position. He's a good politician."


David pointed out that in the address by Obama that was interrupted by Joe Wilson's infamous very brief speech, Obama had said many lies.

I told him that I understood that Obama had just stated that the Health Care Reform Bill would not provide free coverage to undocumented aliens, when the "You lie" event occurred, and perhaps was meant as a comment on that specific point. While Obama apparently technically said the truth--that it does not offer free medical care to non-citizen immigrants--neither does the Bill specify mechanisms for insuring that it can not happen.

If my source (Kathleen Parker, I believe) reported accurately what the Bill says and does not say, Arlyn has a perfect Exhibit A in his assessment of Obama with regard to truth telling. He's a good politician.


I have actually never given much thought to how one would characterize the magazines we get at school, although I remember hearing from a principal the rationale for choosing one of the two weekly news magazines--the most conservative of the three that are in the same league. The two news magazines we get are US News and World Report and World. We also get the Hutchinson News, our county's daily newspaper. National Geographic and Popular Mechanics arrive regularly too.

I wonder if Sojourners would look comfortable on our magazine display. I've brought some relevant Time magazines to school in the past, although Time is not quite the antithesis to US News and World Report that Sojourners would be to World. Maybe I should think hard about how I would feel about a short sojourn at Pilgrim, both for myself and a magazine, before I decide for sure whether I should take it upon myself to broaden the magazine selections at school. I think I should at least sleep over it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Things I Learned at Farmer's Market 9/19/2009

Some people apparently think two large tattoos on one's shoulder blades can substitute for clothing on the entire upper backside of a woman's body. Add a top front, a skirt with many tiers and layers, and a ring in the nose, and you're all ready for a trip to the Farmer's Market.


Red Jalapenos are less hot than green ones, according to one Hispanic shopper who fished through our tub for every green one he could find.


You can never tell about flowers. This week I took fewer flowers, with less variety, than at any time all season, and everything sold--even the bouquet I put together with the leftovers--only flowers in magenta and sky blue. I had hardly finished it before someone bought it.

This week I included Wichita Mountains Goldenrod in the bouquets. It might be the only week when the flowers are in their prime and suitable for arrangements. It looks like a bright yellow version of lavender Liatris, or Kansas Gayfeather.


You can never tell about eggs either. This week we brought home most of the cute pullet eggs produced by Lowell's hens. Last week they sold very well, perhaps because the regular egg vendors were absent.

Having to keep them at a constant 40 degrees is foolishness, in my humble opinion, and we made some pretense of doing that by putting the display cartons on ice packs. But it was a cool day, the eggs were very fresh, and I really would have liked to forget the ice packs and just show off our abundance.
Publish Post

I bought a Bald Cypress tree for $5.00. It grew as a volunteer in the seller's flowerbed. He told me he must have just the right conditions, since they are apparently difficult to start from seed.

Now I need to find the right spot for it. I don't have a bog or pond or any such thing for it to settle in with. The best I can hope for is a spot that gets regular watering, and is not too exposed to hot dry south winds. Are there other things I should consider?


The herb lady tells me that cilantro grows well here only in the spring and fall. In the summer, it bolts to seed very quickly.


Sheila is home sick with pneumonia. She is one of the mainstays at the market, and her husband and son filled in for her today as vendors.


Bruschetta (Bruce-ketta) is delicious. It was served at the market today by Marcella's, an Italian restaurant. The diced tomato topping usually also includes a little salt, olive oil, garlic, and basil. Pepper and balsamic vinegar may be added as well. It is served on top of thinly sliced and toasted Italian bread.

I saw on their menu that the special for the day at the restaurant featured escargot (snails). I think I'd prefer the bruschetta, thank you very much.


The husband of the lady that makes the goat milk soap bought flowers for her today. We made a deal (with him leaning in conspiratorially), since he had only a five-dollar wooden nickel, that he could have a bouquet in a vase, as long as he made sure to return the vase.

Wooden nickles are tokens people can get when they swipe their credit cards at a central location at the market. These tokens can be spent on produce or flowers, and redeemed by vendors turning them in to the market credit card fund manager.


Lots of people have never tried daikon, the huge white Japanese radish that we grow in the fall. Our cool wet weather has created wonderfully mild (with just a bit of a kick), crunchy specimans that we took to market today. We offered samples, and lots of people tried them.

Several people even bought the tops, which Hiromi uses to make Japanese pickles by salting and pressing them. I don't know what other people do with the tops, except for one person who said she steams them.

We use the daikon roots to make another kind of Japanese pickle, and sometimes we cook it in miso soup. Finely ground, it gets added raw to mizutaki, and adds a spicy flavor to the soup. For American palates, it's great too julienned for salads, cut into sticks for relish trays, or sliced for sandwiches.


One market vendor sells a fuzzy navel salsa, which contains oranges and peaches. I've never tried it, but it sounds interesting.


The "Honey Man" at Farmer's market, told Hiromi today about the first prize winner for honey at the state fair. It was apparently an entry by the Beekeeper's Association, which Bill, the honey man is a member of. Grant had told us that the first prize winner for honey was his boss Terry's friend, so this information is a bit difficult to reconcile. Maybe Terry's friend was the individual producer whose honey the association submitted. Or maybe there were different divisions in the honey contest.

Wesley, the principal where I teach, is a beekeeper. When I asked him how honey is judged, he said that he's aware of two primary factors: color and flavor. Light color is preferred, and some strong flavors are considered objectionable. Other distinctive flavors, like buckwheat honey, for example, are favorites for certain people, and not favored by others.

Wes also told me that smartweed, which is blooming right now, makes a bad-tasting honey. If bees have only that to forage on, the honey they produce is not great honey. He says that he can taste it every time if his wife uses smartweed honey in the dough when she bakes bread.

Last year was a bad year here for honey. It was dry during the times when good honey crops were growing, and wet when the blooming period arrived. In a good year, there's plenty of moisture while the crop is developing, and warm, sunny weather while the blooms are out.

I heard the honey man say today that all his bees are on alfalfa. People who produce alfalfa seed are happy to have bees to help pollinate the blossoms, thereby boosting seed production. So bees, alfalfa, beekeepers, and farmers can live together in a big, happy family. I like this kind of interwoven benefit in production systems.


Last weekend our tenant sent a distress signal our way. A skunk apparently got under the basement-less house and was raising a litter there. Their efforts to block off the entrance and entice the mother into a trap weren't working. Could Hiromi help?

I didn't blame them a bit for wanting deliverance. They couldn't let their toddler outside for fear he would walk right up to the skunk and get sprayed if he happened to see it. On the other hand, killing the mother outside, leaving the babies to die of starvation under the house, didn't seem like a great option either. They were already old enough to be heard and smelled inside the house.

Hiromi kept watch for about an hour around dusk that evening with no sighting of the skunk. He finally left them with Grant's rifle, and instructions to call if they saw it outside and wanted him to come.

A day or two passed with no word from the tenants. Then they called, saying they had seen the mother and five babies walking away from the house. Good riddance.


Tonight on the way home from Dwights I saw a skunk cross the road in front of me, on Illinois Ave. just on the east side of Partridge Road, a quarter of a mile from our house. I announced the sighting as soon as I got home, and Hiromi and Grant mobilized.

Long story short, there is now a dead skunk in the middle of the road one-eighth of a mile from our house. Grant reported that he saw the yellow sulphurous cloud erupt after the second shot. Its essence followed them home. If you pass by our place in the near future, be sure to avoid the dark blob in the middle of the road south of our place.

Friday, September 18, 2009


We haven't had a three-year old in the house for quite a few years, but I realized today that I am still answering many questions. Here are some of the ones I remember being asked within the past half week or so (some of them condensed or reworded slightly) :

1) What should I do about the gaps in the row of barberry bushes that I planted last fall?

2) What can you tell me about getting a wildflower planting started?

3) Do I have to put an ingredients list on whatever foods I want to sell?

4) Are we going to have to plant certain crops in the food production class next spring or can we choose what to plant?

5) How many points do we lose if we're late handing in our written reports (for current events)?

6) How many quotations can I use in my report? Is this too many?

7) Will you serve on a committee to help plan the winter teachers meeting?

8) Have you harvested your flowers yet? (Hiromi)

9) Is this sweet corn from our garden? (Grant. Yes.)

10) Is your power on yet (from the linemen who were working near here yesterday) ?

11) Do you still have flowers? Do you have cockscomb?

12) Are you back in the groove of school?

13) What should I do with the student who keeps looking at his keyboard in typing class?

14) What do you think about an individualized curriculum? (student writing something for a PACE)

15) How can I change this paragraph so it sounds better? (comp student)

16) Did you forget to get the quiz ready? (No)

17) Can we do a play? (student)

18) Can you sign this? (ditto many times--students)

19) Can you read over this ebay posting information before I send it in? (Hiromi)

20) Where shall I put these eggs? (20-some dozen from Lowells, for Farmer's Market)

21) Is it OK if I ride to school with you? (Christy)

22) Do you need more colored paper? (for making the blurbs for the church history timeline)

23) Can you help me resolve some of the problems with getting an accurate church membership count for 1970 to 1980? (Josh, who did a wonderful graph showing the changes.)

24) Would it suit you to have a family camp out in a few weeks? (Lois)

25) Would you like for me to come talk to your child development class? (From a nurse midwife--Yes!)

26) Do you need some habenero peppers? (Hilda)

27) Did you notice how the boys pick up the fetal models like a tool and the girls hold them like a baby? (Susanna)

28) Am I supposed to water the fern every day?

29) Did you pen up the guineas and ducks?

30) Is supper ready?

31) Do we have any more jars?

32) Are you sure you want everything that's in the fruit room?

33) Can I count this answer correct?

34) Who has read the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling? The story "The Elephant's Child?"

35) Can you think of anything that's happening at church that we would miss if we went to Minnesota? (Henry Schrock, who also gave me the exact dates of the planned trip)

36) Do you want me to cover for you in the Learning Center? (Norma)

37) Can you give me some information about the house? (referring to a blog post item)

38) Can you spray insect repellent on my back?

39) Can you make a sign for this daikon we want to sell at market?

40) Is this the Fabulous tomato? (The variety we planted that has a special "good flavor" gene)

41) Do you care about the alarm on Fridays? (At 5:38 this morning when I asked Hiromi if the alarm had gone already and I had missed it. Yes. I didn't get it. . . Of course I care about the alarm on Fridays. I want to get up when it rings.)

Every question and answer involves interaction with another person--something I value and would not want to be without. So keep on bringing on the questions. That way I'll know we're connected.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quote for the Day 9/17/2009

Brandon (referring to the Health Care Reform current events report due tomorrow) : This is pretty. . . uh . . . challenging. We don't have a computer at home or anything.

I'm proud of how he's tackling the project though, especially on this first project when the learning curve is precipitous--just learning to type, figuring out word processing, online research, and the mechanics of essay writing. He went to the public library and found some good source materials online on the two people whose views he was to research and form an opinion about--Brownback and Sebelius, I believe. He printed out the material and studied it. Then he wrote a thesis and got it approved. Now he's ready to tackle putting everything together.

Health Care Reform is indeed a challenging subject, not only for our students, but for everyone. Anyone who declares that the solutions are simple seems to me to be assessing the subject as a mirror of his or her own condition. From my vantage point, such assessments do not inspire confidence.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quote for the Day 9/16/2009

Jacob: Mrs. I, I had some protein for lunch today.

Me: That's wonderful. What did you have?

Jacob: I had some bread and some meat.

Me: I am so proud of you.

Jacob (starting to say something, then changing his mind) : Um. . . . Never mind.

Mr. Schrock (to Jacob) : Aren't you going to request an update on her blog?

(Our school's resident mother hen is happy today.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quote for the Day 9/14/2009

At the lunch table--

Me (to Jacob, who wasn't eating) : A fast lunch today?

Jacob: No. I usually don't eat lunch.

Me: Why not?

Jacob: I'm usually not very hungry.

Me: You're sure it's not just that you don't feel like fixing yourself a lunch in the morning?

Jacob: Well, Mom actually usually fixes lunches, but they're not always ready before I have to leave.

Me: You really need to eat something to keep your blood sugar high enough so that you have some energy.

Jacob: I ate some Butterfingers before lunch.

Me: That's when your blood sugar briefly went through the roof. Then you got a jolt of insulin, and your blood sugar promptly crashed. You need some protein to keep your blood sugar stable.

Jacob: So what has protein?

Me: Meat, cheese--all dairy products, eggs.

Jacob (to Brandon) : Never tell Mrs. I your secrets. . . (I think he said something more which I mercifully don't remember.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hurtling Along

Life is interesting right now, and it's a shame I'm not taking time to reflect on it and record it properly. So I'll do snippets again.


I'm helping prepare displays for a 3-evening series commemorating 50 years since Center church started. My dad is speaking each evening, and Paul Yoder and my sister Linda and I are trying to pull together displays of old newspaper clippings and photos. We posted a timeline and are hoping to have ready a digitally recorded and projected showing of photos. We're also updating and proofreading some of the information my composition class and Anabaptist history class compiled on our history. This will likely be published in the future, after others add to it and edit it. We have some good people helping, but it's a big project, and I'm not getting a lot of other extras done these days.


Yesterday Hiromi and I and many others attended the funeral of Mahlon Wagler, who died at the age of 88. He was a big part of Center Church's beginning, since he was ordained as the deacon very shortly after the group was organized. He served until the early 90's, I believe. In recent years dementia and strokes had robbed him of his ability to participate in church life. Several weeks ago, after another stroke, he lost his ability to swallow, and after that, he sort of faded away, dying with much of his family at his side, and a glad and bright expression on his face at the very end.

My father spent many hours on the phone with Mahlon. At certain times in their lives, they talked nearly every day, sometimes more than once a day. Besides being on the same ministerial team for years, they served together as charter members on the board of Mission Interests Committee. Mahlon was the secretary, and he kept on decade after decade, as other members came and went.

Before Mahlon was married, he spent 2 years in France, near Germany, doing reconstruction work after World War II. He returned to Europe several times after that, and traveled also in the Middle East. He was in Egypt for his nephew's wedding.

The poignancy of Mahlon's passing in the middle of our 50th Anniversary celebration was not lost on me. He was there during all of those 50 years, but he won't be here for the next 50--just as many of us who are far younger will not be.


Next month when each member in our church has a chance to meet with all the ministers, I plan to suggest that we put in place now a historical library committee, or at least some mechanism for recording historical data, collecting what has already been recorded, and making it accessible to others in the future.

I've seen so many interesting things that were pasted in scrapbooks that are already beginning to deteriorate. And, along with the people in my classes, I have tasted how time-consuming and fraught with potential errors it is to chase down details a long time after they've happened. I still haven't found anyone who can tell me exactly when Lydia Stoltzfus died, for example. She was a childless widow, and most of her closest relatives have died too.

I'd also like to see us do regular pictorial church directories. At least every seven years seems like a good idea. It would be more difficult to do, but I'd love to see a picture taken of each person at the age of 7 weeks, 7 months, 7 years, and then 14 years, 21, 28, 35 . . . . . Can you tell I'm really getting used to thinking in "Sabbath" cycles?

Here's a shout-out to everyone about pictures. Label them with the date they were taken (or developed, at least), and identify the scene or the people in the picture. Do it right away. On clippings, be sure to record the name of the daily or periodical, date, and page number. Use acid-free materials for scrapbook pages to insure that the paper does not deteriorate.


In my walks along Illinois Avenue, I'm seeing signs of fall in seedheads on the native grasses, and in the flowers blooming right now. Within the past week I've seen the following: Switchgrass, Bluestem, and some kind of Foxtail. I've also seen Goldenrod, Smartweed, Pitcher sage, California Loostrife, Ironweed, and Coreopsis. I see ragweed in full bloom, and I'm thankful that my immune system behaves properly now in this misery-triggering environment for seasonal allergy sufferers. I credit the food supplements I take--which everyone knows cannot "treat, cure, or mitigate any disease."


I'm doing lots of reading on Health Care Reform, and gradually some things are emerging that I can either affirm with confidence or reject with confidence. I'm not tipping my hand now, since I want to do all I can to let students develop their own conclusions without fear of disagreeing with the person who will grade their written reports on Health Care Reform. After the deadline for the student assignments is past, I want to do what we've asked them to do--write a one-page essay on the subject.

A recent editorial in our local newspaper recommended the same article that Caleb recommended in a comment on an earlier blog post. It was in The Atlantic. I recommend it also.


One lady at Farmer's Market has always seemed strange to me. I think she's harmless enough, but she seems belligerent when there's no obvious reason for her to be that way.

Today she told me that her dad was a stubborn Mennonite, and her mom was on the Amish side of the divide, which meant that she would see a doctor only grudgingly, and her dad was too stubborn to listen to her (the daughter) when she said he ought to take her to the doctor. So now her mother is in the hospital due to fluid on her lungs, being admitted after a trip to the emergency room--right after the daughter left Indiana to return to Kansas--with her father at that time still not wanting to hear about taking his wife to the doctor.


James Taylor brought me some Mexican cucumbers today, also known as Mouse Melons. They are smaller than a small cherry tomato, and look like a perfect miniature Crimson Sweet Watermelon--really cute. He says they taste a bit like a cucumber, and, after we've showed Grant, we plan to eat it. I gave one to Norma at market so she could show her children. James says he took some to the state fair on the spur of the moment--after Pam Paulsen, the county horticulture agent who had given him the plants--urged him to do so. He got a red ribbon, which pays for the plants and his trouble.


I was on the phone with Joel tonight while he and Hilda were searching one of the state fair parking lots for their car. They had carefully noted its location, so as not to repeat the scenario last year when its whereabouts had apparently been a mystery way too long after they were ready to leave. They tried the panic button trick, and apparently thought at first that the car that responded couldn't be theirs because it was in the "wrong" place.

Been there. Done that. I'm fortunate that Hiromi is much better at keeping track of little things like cars than I am.


I am so proud of Hiromi. Last week he canned 30 quarts of tomato juice. Before school one morning I assembled all the supplies and set things up in preparation for the whole procedure. Then I demonstrated a quick run-through, after cooking a kettle full of tomatoes he had cored and chunked and refrigerated the evening before, while I was at a meeting for the 50th Anniversary display. He had wanted me to tell him all about it before I left for the meeting. I didn't have time, but I said I would do so the next morning.

The next morning I meticulously wrote out instructions and left it on my computer screen, after I discovered that I couldn't print it since the printer had gotten zapped during an overnight thunderstorm. Hiromi never read the instructions. I am choosing to consider my demonstration to have been so effective that it was not necessary. That's more reassuring than worrying about some of the details I did not demonstrate--which I suspect were overlooked--like timing the processing after it starts to cook rather than as soon as the jars get put into the canner.

I finished up the very last batch after school so Hiromi could go to town for a new printer.


The same lightening strike that fried the printer also did in the wireless router that allowed my computer to access the internet. So, until we got a new router delivered, I was isolated from the ether net. (I hope I used that term correctly.) It's good to be back.

All of our computers are fine.

We all heard the pop that must have marked the fateful frying moment. Right after than Hiromi got up and unplugged everything around the computers. Too late.


We've had 4.75 inches of rain within the past few days. Fall crops look marvelous, but the cool weather we've been having keeps things maturing at a slow pace. In my garden, it means that the corn I hurried out to harvest when I remembered it on Friday was still too immature. I had thought last weekend it should be ready by midweek, judging by the size of the ears and the color of the silk.

I wonder if this might be one of those years when a fifth cutting of alfalfa will be possible. It rarely happens, but all the rains have prompted very good regrowth since the last cutting.

The week of the state fair in Hutchinson seems always to be a rainy week, even now that it's been moved ahead one week to avoid the equinox, which apparently was thought to be one rain trigger worth avoiding.


At market today we sold pullet eggs laid by grown-up chicks that Lowells raised this summer. One small child looked at them in amazement. "Why are they brown?" he asked. His grandfather grinned as I explained that the eggs are the same inside as white eggs, and some chickens lay eggs with different colored shells. I showed him the picture Lowells had furnished of the hens and told him that those brown chickens laid those brown eggs. (That explanation should work until he encounters white chickens that lay brown eggs or brown chickens that lay white eggs--if there is such a thing.)


Lisa told me today that they have at least 50 pumpkins in their pasture. It all began several years ago when their tenants planted pumpkins in the garden. They threw what they didn't want of the harvest into the pasture where the cows ate them, and subsequently scattered the seeds in their manure. Every year some of these have sprouted and produced, and this year the crop is quite good. They're considering bringing them to market for us to sell. I hope they do.


I wonder if jiggling and bouncing while playing is a prerequisite for an accordion player. Today a group of ladies played at farmer's market, and I got a kick out of noting that some of them swayed from side to side and one little lady bounced straight up and down as she played.

They played lively fun music, and some hymns.


Hiromi decided to experiment the other day with leaving Max untied while the ducks and guineas were out. Shortly thereafter he found Max tormenting a duck he had cornered. He caught and tied him--except that the latch on the chain had apparently rusted a bit and didn't click shut, so Max was loose when I left for school. He would not come when Hiromi called, so Hiromi watched, and shortly caught him in the act again of harassing a duck. It was exactly the teachable moment we all hoped would come, and, after Hiromi punished him right then and there, Max fled to the garage and stayed there most of the day. He hasn't gone near the poultry since then.

On our walks, he races through the water standing in the fields with as much reckless abandon as he did through the standing wheat earlier. He really loves to run.


We had a lively conversation with a lady who lives in Careyville, a section of Hutchinson in which sinkholes have developed, apparently over cavities formed in the process of mining salt below ground. As a result, the area has been determined to be unsafe, and all the houses there are being purchased by the owner of the salt mine. If they are not moved, they will be demolished.

The Smiley lady we talked to has a house for sale, and she and her husband would like for an Amish or Mennonite family to buy it. It sounded like it would make a nice home for someone.

The people in that section of town understandably feel imposed upon, but the woman who talked to us was clearly trying to find God's will in it.

House moving is done here more often than in some places, and it can work out very well. The house we live in was moved from Burton, about 25 miles away.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Things I Learned at Farmer's Market 9/5/2009

I learned what Pomodori is, and that it's very good. Better yet, I copied down the recipe for making it.

I also learned about Boursin Cheese. It looks to me like cream cheese, and it has herbs and spices mixed in. The ingredients included garlic, white pepper, parsley, and chives. The cheese was spread on New York Style Bagel Chips, then topped with slow-roasted Roma-type tomatoes coated with olive oil and spices.


One jobless young man in Hutchinson is a fan of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, whose theories most Libertarians are in agreement with. He also identified himself as being involved in praxis (practical application of a field of learning) related to a category designation I've forgotten--something about people being self-sufficient and not depending on the government.

The young man's discourse began when his wife spotted the poster on our table advertising the just-begun-laying pullets that Lowell is selling. She wants her own chickens.

The man asked where Hiromi came from, then told us a story about his Chinese friend, whose "amazing story" illustrates the "truth" of the von Mises theory. The Chinese man arrived in the US as a member of a team of acrobats. While performing in Hutchinson, he defected, and has since become financially very successful, with a number of businesses to his name. He lives elsewhere in the state now.

Our family saw an acrobat performance by a team from China a number of years ago. I wonder if the young man who defected was on that team.

In what was probably a case of TMI, the young man today lowered his voice and said that his wife was actually married to the Chinese man at one time "just to help him with immigration and everything," but that he was OK with that, and the present and former husband of the same lady were "good friends and everything."


I learned that Donald stayed home from market today because it was his turn to preach tomorrow and he needed the day to prepare. God bless him.

This reminds me of an exchange I overheard several weeks ago between James and Arlyn. Arlyn was not enamored with the new job he acquired in the recent church offices election, especially because it necessitated excusing himself from the social event we were all involved in--because he had to go to a meeting.

James (who is a minister) commented that he thinks the office Arlyn is filling now has term limits--which was a gentle reminder that, for ministers in our setting, there are no term limits. Arlyn smilingly conceded the point.


I heard something about the experiences of a person who is learning from a Christian counselor about how to deal with his own bondages--to multiple personality manifestations, and "voices" that suggest wrong actions. God bless him too.


I learned that one stray female Muscovey duck hatched sixteen ducklings, after the woman who unexpectedly acquired the duck found a mate for her. This is the first year she does not have a grasshopper problem.

She also told me that three of the ducklings drowned when they could not get out of the wading pool she had provided for them. They needed a step near the wall to get out over the slippery side, but she didn't know that.


My bunches of dried flowers were in demand today. Fresh flowers, though were a tough sell, even though they were beautiful, and people told me so.


Last week Hiromi gave one man a zucchetta rampicante, and he and his wife liked it so much, he called Hiromi to ask him to bring several more for him this week. He reported that they had sliced it about 3/4 inch thick, brushed on a bit of olive oil, and grilled it. It was a little sweeter than zucchini and very good. He said it reminded him a bit of spaghetti squash, which his mother used to grow, but he couldn't remember what it looked like.

"Like that," I said, pointing to Norma's table next to ours, where she was selling some spaghetti squash, along with her baked goods.

We sent several to Colorado with the young people from here that are camping there this weekend. Camping food is not famous for being vegetable-rich, and I don't know if this will find takers or not, but it's out of our kitchen, at least. Yay.

I cut up and cooked another one tonight, and I plan to try making some pumpkin custard with it.


We learned how the wooden nickel program works at the market. People use their credit cards to purchase the wooden nickel, which can then be redeemed for produce. The vendor who gets the wooden nickels in exchange for produce turns them in and gets a receipt for the dollar value. The following week, the vendor gets a check from the market for the value of the wooden nickels he turned in.


One elderly gentleman who saw the pullet eggs we were selling for Lowell said, "I haven't seen pullet eggs since I was a kid on the farm."

Another person looked longingly at the eggs and said, "I love brown eggs," but she didn't buy any.

James asked his wife Betty, "Would you like to buy some of Miriam's brown eggs?"

"No, I'm sorry. They're pretty small, and I wouldn't know how to make my recipes with small eggs." (Add an extra egg maybe????)

James loves to hang around a while and talk plants. His wife is always ready to go before he is.


The lady who sells Mexican food would like to buy some fresh milk to make cheese with. She also leaned that grocery store milk often contains hormones, and she doesn't want to feed her daughter hormone-laced milk.

I told her about Dwight's diary where she could buy milk. Later she asked if I could bring her some if she gave me a container and money. I promised to do so.


Donna told me that one year they planted garlic in October, and it bolted to seed. She wondered if that was too early to plant garlic in the fall. I don't know.

I do know that fall is the right season for planting garlic, which does not seem to be common knowledge among gardeners. The clove puts out roots in the fall, and begins growth early the following year, and produces much larger cloves than spring planted garlic will.

They were selling soft-necked garlic, which is distinct from hard-necked garlic. Besides the firmness of the neck, I don't know how they are different.


Someone in the area is preparing Five-Alarm Chili this weekend. At our stand, they loaded up on Jalapeno peppers, and also bought the Holy Mole and Ancho peppers I had packaged separately.

If you see someone walking around Hutchinson with smoke coming out of their ears, you'll know they had some of the Five-Alarm Chile.

They told me that I also should grow Habenero and Chipotle peppers. Hiromi wrote it down.

I actually have one Habenero plant that has the first peppers just turning yellow.


One shopper was very pleased to find red Jalapeno peppers. She had a recipe that called for 47 Japapeno peppers, and all she had was green ones. Like any good cook, she wished for something to add color to the product, and knew that red peppers was what she needed. She found it at our table today.


Jim and Lisa told us about eggplant pickles, which sounded like something we'd enjoy. She's emailing me the recipe.

The brief description she gave sounded a lot like the process we use to make many of the Japanese style pickles we eat.


When the musician of the day was singing "You Are My Sunshine" I wondered what he thinks when he sings it. I thought of his ex-wife, who might have had some of those same thoughts somewhere along the way, especially the ones about leaving me to love another; you'll regret it all some day.

Actually, I doubt any such deep thoughts were involved in the singing and playing.

Compartmentalizing one's life is all too easy to do.


The friendly young boy who usually helps his grandpa sell peppers was missing today. He was in Wichita with his mother. His dad was there instead, with huge silver doughnut-shaped earrings snugged up to his head at both ears. It reminded me of the pictures I've seen of what is considered fashionable in some "primitive" cultures, where inserting progressively larger pegs in the ear lobes results in ears that hang very low--the lower, the more admired.

Admiration was not the first sentiment I felt when I spied the ear rings.


Nevin stopped by the market today. He was in my class in grade and high school, and has lived elsewhere ever since--until several months ago, when he moved "home"--into the house in Partridge Joel and Hilda bought right after they got married.

It's really good to reconnect with him a bit. He's been a teacher all his working life, and now is married to a teacher. Neither of them is teaching this year, however, but they are both very eager to be involved with children and young people. She has experience in and passion for helping children with learning difficulties, and would like to do tutoring.

From my front door I can see the farm where Nevin grew up two miles away across the fields.