Prairie View

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Things I Learned at Farmer's Market 6/27/2010

I've wondered why freshly laid eggs sometimes are rotten. Yesterday I learned from Sheila that sometimes when a hen has an infection in the egg laying tract, the eggs are very bad. Some people give their hens a round of antibiotics mixed in either the food or water to take care of the problem. Sheila says it works best in the water because it's easier to withhold it for a time and then offer medicated water and they'll drink it because they're thirsty by then.

Sheila also says they gather the eggs two or three times a day in hot weather and put them directly into the refrigerator, cleaning them as necessary at a later time.


One young man told Hiromi yesterday that he is an ex-convict who has filled out many job applications or had interviews that always end the same way when the company representative comes to the part about having been convicted of a felony. Then he's told that they'll check with their superiors and get back to him. He never gets the job and usually doesn't hear back.

Several weeks ago, the man bought flowers from us. Yesterday he told Hiromi that he and his female companion are separating. The flowers must not have "worked."


People without a gall bladder must restrict their diet to very low-fat foods or risk swift intestinal distress. I learned this from someone whose gall bladder was removed.


One person I talked to was a woman who said she grew 14 inches in one year when she was an adolescent. She married a man who was 6 feet tall in sixth grade. He eventually grew to 6'4". They have a daughter who is 6'2" tall.


A young woman who is majoring in Equine veterinary medicine is spending the summer working on a horse farm in Oklahoma. She's very impressed with the owner of the farm, who walks through his barns at least twice a day, and greets every one of his many employees by name. He speaks fluent Spanish to his immigrant employees. When a Mexican national recently suffered an injury on the job, the employee went out of his way to pay for his care and he visited the employee regularly to show his concern.

The young woman is very sure she never wants to have a job exercising horses or being a jockey.

Racehorses are often not very tame. They run better if they're not overly well-gentled. So working with them can be a little bit risky, and those who must do so regularly know that they must constantly be vigilant.


The sister of the vet-in-training is an orthopedic doctor-in-training. This summer she is shadowing and assisting an orthopedic surgeon, and learning a lot in the process.


One of the Amish church districts in the Yoder-Haven area has 30 households--a larger number than is often the case. However, that same church district had only 17 young people at a recent singing, with only three of them being girls.


Our market is requesting that every vendor be on site at 7:00 AM, 30 minutes before the market opens, or the stall they have reserved and normally occupy can be declared vacant and rented to someone else. If for some reason a later arrival is necessary, a phone call to the market manager or board chairman can keep the stall reserved for the vendor who usually occupies it.

It doesn't usually take us 30 minutes to set up, so we find this new requirement a bit annoying, but we understand the problem when there are so many vendors wanting a spot that leaving one vacant just because there was a no-show makes very little sense.


Some people say "shard" when they ask for Swiss Chard. I don't know why.


On the first market day of the month, vendors need lots of change because people who just got paid come in with $20.00 bills and use them to pay for small purchases.


I have mispronounced Mariachi in the past. It has a sneezing sound in the last syllable. I don't know why. "Character" was the pronunciation clue I referenced incorrectly.

I've encountered the word as a variety of Lisianthus (Prairie gentian/Eustoma), but I know it is used as a Spanish word with musical associations


I've also mentally mispronounced pergola in the past. PAIR guh luh is close to right. It's one of the words I've often read and understood but seldom heard or spoken.


Coaching a boys' baseball team is stressful when the parents of the players get too involved in the game. They can be very grim about winning and put an unreasonable amount of pressure on their sons--so much so that it's hard for them to have any fun playing the game. One coach I know doesn't enjoy it as much as she used to. The kids are as much fun as ever, but some of the parents are unfun.


The guy who played and sang at market yesterday was John D., just as I guessed, although the facial hair threw me off for a bit. Also, as far as I knew he still lived in the Pleasantview area, but someone told me they thought the musician was from Pretty Prairie. I didn't catch many of the words of his songs, but he has a good voice. The strong parts sometimes switched so fast to the quiet parts that I always lost the lyrics then, even if I had been keeping track till then. Nothing sounded familiar, which is probably no wonder, given my old-fashioned tastes in music.


Someone told me yesterday that her mother always made rhubarb pie without sugar. I cannot imagine eating rhubarb that way. All her children thought they hated rhubarb till they grew up and learned that other people ate it with sugar. Then they learned to like it. They've concluded their mother had found a sneaky way to eat all the rhubarb without having to share it. The prize does not seem commensurate with the punishment in this case.


One woman who bought flowers yesterday told me that seeing them throughout the week always cheers her up. That's a good reason to buy flowers.


Richard's family was at market yesterday to see his brother Donald's family's market booth. These two men lead very different lives. The one is a Beachy pastor, gardener, furniture store employee married to a woman who grew up Amish; the other is a pediatrician married to a pediatrician who is Asian. I'm pretty sure the pastor does not envy the doctor. I don't know how the doctor feels about his life. I presume he's happy.


Pappardelles pasta is very good, but I rarely buy it because it's expensive. Jan, the herb lady at the market, knows how to sell it--by preparing a sample dish, made according to the recipe that comes with a bag of pasta. The claim to fame for this pasta is the wonderful flavorings that are added to the pasta dough, and the fact that the quality control is painstaking and the result is stellar. Many of the recipes star Jan's fresh herbs also.


Norma comes to market with a tractor and trailer. Usually her husband drives the tractor, unhooks the trailer, and comes back with the tractor when the market is over. Yesterday, Norma and her oldest son were there alone, and they left with Norma at the wheel. She told me it's scarier to drive at the end of the day than at the beginning when there's less traffic. I admire her courage. Her baked goods are quite popular.


Quite a few of the market customers are middle-aged people who are there with an elderly parent or neighbor. I'm always happy to see people who look out for the elderly in their circle of family and friends.


I have never seen a market customer who was wearing too many clothes, but I have seen quite a few who would look a lot better with more clothes. I thought of this again yesterday when I saw a large man wearing a tank shirt and suspenders.


I met a lady whose name was Ashariah. She has a daughter named Israel Miriam. The girl's first name is pronounced Iss ry el--a feminine pronunciation, according to the mother. I suspect that the mother's name was one she chose herself as an adult. She associates with others in a religious group who have done so. If there's an Ashariah in the Bible I've forgotten who she was.


Unrelated to market--I'm leaving for Indiana at 3:00 AM tomorrow to attend the funeral of Alvin Beachy, father to Susanna, who has been a dear friend since we were 17 years old. She is the mother of our daughter-in-law, Hilda. Thanks to Paul and Edith for providing a ride for me.

Alvin died of fatty embolisms following a traffic accident in which at first his worst injury seemed
to be a broken ankle. Essentially, marrow from his broken bones traveled elsewhere in his body, causing blockages in vital organs.

Rebecca told me after church today that her father died of similar complications when his chest was crushed, but she had never heard the name for this condition. I wonder when this term first came into common usage, or when the mechanism for damage was first understood.

Monday, June 21, 2010

At Partridge Road and Illinois Avenue 6/21/2010

The intersection of Partridge Road and Illinois Avenue is less than 1/4 mile south of our home. When we and the dogs take each other for walks we usually walk to this intersection and then east on Illinois Avenue for about 3/4 of a mile before turning around to retrace our steps.

Partridge Road is a paved county road, and Illinois is a township road with a river gravel surface. Because the ditches along township roads are not mowed very frequently, Illinois is a better place to observe wildflowers in bloom than Partridge Road is. A case in point is the fact that the county mowers passed noisily by our place after we got back from our walk this morning.

I know without looking that the one lone devil's claw plant that Lexi invariably finds irresistible is gone. Every time we passed it, she would sniff it with great interest, then drop down and roll over in it, even wiggling "just so" to scrape the top of her head directly over the plant. I wonder if it has insect repellent qualities. I know it is strongly scented--not particularly pleasantly so, in my judgment. Lexi even took the cluster of buds at its growth tip into her mouth, but didn't really bite it off. Most people are familiar with the wickedly hooked ends of the devil's claw dried seed pods, but I'm told that the immature seed pods are edible and can be prepared like okra. I've never been hungry or curious enough to try it.

Several wildflowers have come into bloom since my last report. They are Daisy Fleabane (annual), Cat's claw Sensitive Brier, California Loosestrife, Showy milkweed, Wavy-leaf thistle, Spiderwort, and Wild Hemlock. Fleabane and Hemlock are white, but everything else in the "new" list is somewhere on the pink through lavender-blue spectrum. The bright gold of Plains Coreopsis is filling drowned out spots in the wheat fields with arresting color. Purple Poppy Mallow (Winecup) is still in bloom, as is Yarrow.

An article in our local paper this spring announced that the county was operating on a crown-only mowing policy. That is, they would mow the shoulder of the roadside ditches and leave the remainder as a refuge for native wild plants. This was to be a money-saving measure, as well as a place for Kansas' native grasslands to reassert themselves. My observation tells me that the people actually doing the mowing have failed to get the memo on the new policy. or they define "crown" very differently than I do. In practice, the mower flails everything, except a narrow strip on the far edge of the ditch right next to the adjoining field.

I know that hay fever sufferers like my mom applaud the old road-to-field mowing method, and I think some farmers don't appreciate how cheatgrass gone to seed in the ditches invades nearby wheat fields. But I think the crown-only policy is great, and I wish it were faithfully implemented. Mile after mile of green shredded vegetation offers very little in the way of aesthetic value, unless monotony has qualities to recommend it that I'm not attuned to. Far better to leave intact the variety and diversity nature provides than to wrest it into uniformity at the expense of its form and color.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Things I Like in Weddings

Today I went to the second of three summer weddings I'm invited to. All of the brides are former students of mine, and their weddings are a pleasure to remember or anticipate.

Today was David and Rosalyn's wedding, and everything about it was lovely except that Rosalyn is becoming an Oregonian instead of David becoming a Kansan. I told Rosalyn today that I was sorry about that, but I hoped she would not feel guilty for leaving. "It's OK. Just come back often." After all, she's not running away irresponsibly. She is 22 years old and doing as many virtuous women of the past have done--following a godly husband to his home and livelihood.

Everyone thinks of Rosalyn as a "keeper." If you pictured the kind of daughter you would like to have, she would look and act like Rosalyn. She told us once in child development class that her dad says she had some stubborn episodes when she was about two and he had to spank her pretty often. But most of us have never seen anything but a sweet and joyful spirit. In school she never tried to slide by without doing her best, and she welcomed learning opportunities--a teacher's delight.

On to my list of good wedding things--

1. Beautiful singing (I can't get too much of this.)
2. Smiling faces (A few tears are OK too.)
3. Family and friends everywhere--a celebration of Christian community
4. Creative and resourceful decor that reflects the couple's interests and identity*
5. Meeting the couple afterward
6. Good "real" food, with tasteful seasonings
7. Stories at open mike
8. Wise words at open mike
9. A thought-provoking wedding sermon
10. Flowers--lots of them
11. Pretty dishes at the wedding table
12. People telling us who they are when they speak at open mike
13. Introductions of family members
14. Seeing parents of the couple honored
15. Seeing all the wedding "helpers" genuinely appreciated
16. An efficient serving line
17. Evidence of respect for the traditions and values of the family, church, and community
18. Round tables to eat at--for good conversation
19. The service and reception in the same building (I know this isn't always feasible.)
20. A relaxed and worshipful atmosphere
21. Enough spontaneity and humor to keep things fun (A few glitches which everyone can smile at help in this department.)
22. Traditional vows
23. Most important of all--the confidence that the couple is committed to follow the Lord faithfully, and that He has directed their relationship

I've never been to a perfect wedding, but I can't think of a single one that I didn't enjoy. Three of them were the best ones of all--first when I got a husband, and later, when our two sons each got a wife. Like Rosalyn, they are the kind of daughters everyone would wish to have.

*Rosalyn had clear glass cylinders and bowls filled with tiny green apples to pick up the "Granny Smith" green in the decor. Perfect--along with the green zinnias I am so very fond of. She was growing them herself, although I heard she was a little worried that they would not be ready in time. I'm guessing the apples were thinnings from their fruit trees. Rosalyn comes from a market gardening family.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Church, Weather, and Work

Sunday's share time in church involved more "heavy" stuff than usual, but people who spoke of painful realities also testified to experiencing the goodness of God.

Keith talked about the daunting day he and Miriam had last week when they saw four different doctors, all who are on board to help usher their unborn baby safely into the world when the time comes, and then provide the necessary medical interventions to give the child a chance at as normal a life as possible. Ultrasound has revealed significant abnormalities, including open spine. The day contained one very bright spot when they met their obstetrician and discovered that she is a fervent Christian. Keith thanked all who prayed for them in the small group the evening before, knowing that the following day could be difficult.

Jerry asked people to pray that his family could experience peace and joy as they walk through this difficult time in their life. Jerry and his wife are here from PA/MD for wheat harvest with Jerry's parental family, although Ruth is quite ill with cancer and was not able to be in church. "God is giving us that [peace and joy], now already," he added.

Harold thanked people for praying over the time of his mother's death. "It's hard," he said, "but not as hard as I thought it would be." He attributed the grace he felt to the prayers of Christian brothers and sisters.


On Sunday we received our ballots for election of the deacon's committee. The three people who are eventually elected will serve as long as six years as assistants to LaVerne, who is our ordained deacon. On the ballot are Lorne K., Lowell M., Dwight M., Titus N., and Marvin Y. This is a new aspect of church leadership for our group.

Also on the agenda soon is a meeting to discuss the possibility of an ordination later this year.


Between Saturday morning and this morning we had four and one-half inches of rain. Hiromi started out for Hutchinson this morning by way of 4th street, and turned around to go around the south way on US 50 because of high water. He didn't actually get to anything that was impassable, but he knew that the area near Fun Valley floods easily, and, based on how nearly the Salt Creek bridge on Partridge Road was inundated, he guessed that other areas down the line would not be safe to drive through.


Hiromi and 1, 999 other people filled out job applications on Saturday for Siemens, the wind generator nacelle (the hub of the windmill) manufacturer that will open a new factory in Hutchinson within the next few months. One hundred people will be hired initially, so about 19 out of every 20 who applied will not get a job now.

The odds do not inspire optimism, but Hiromi was pleasantly surprised to see how well his past job experience and training meshes with the kind of skills Siemens is seeking. Designing and installing wiring harnesses and control panels for custom fire trucks and ambulances seemed like one of the best things to talk about in the job experience line. But the fact that he has expertise in both electronics (an associate degree and quite a few years of work experience) and electricity (He is a journeyman and worked as a construction foreman for multi-story buildings in Japan.) probably doesn't hurt either. Most people are one or the other--not both.

Hiromi was curious who all he would see there, but he had the bad luck to sit where looking around would have been way too rude and obvious, so he spied only a few familiar faces. One was a former co-worker who still has a job where they both used to work, but Hiromi knows he was treated very shabbily, and hopes that a job switch will be possible for him. Our daily paper quoted someone from Wichita who was there looking for a job on Saturday. I doubt that the workforce traffic between Hutchinson and Wichita usually flows in the Hutchinson direction, but when the getting is good, lots of people apparently try to get on board.

Hiromi pointed out to me that this company coming to town will mean a lot of re-shuffling in existing companies as people seek to improve their financial situation by going to a higher paying job. So the jobless who apply are competing, not only against other jobless people, but against people whose current jobs have survived the shrinking job market.

We trust the Lord to work things out according to His purposes.


I stopped in today at my cousin Howard's office to pick up a special rain gauge used by people in the CoCoraHS network of precipitation observers. Howard wasn't in at the moment, but I was impressed that he's got a great job for a person who is a farmer at heart, but can't quite put together a way to make a living farming. He works as manager for the Cheney Lake Watershed Management Area, which is partly under the auspices of the city of Wichita--the largest user of the available water in Cheney Lake. That's why they have a vested interest in making sure that upstream pollution is minimized. So one of Howard's jobs is to work with landowners to manage waste and runoff so that topsoil and pollutants don't get flushed downstream where they would add silt to Cheney Lake and foul the water supply.


My dental hygienist told me today that her four and eight year old daughters love to play with toads. With the recent rains, toads are easy to find, and she helps them fix up a toad house where the they can stay for a few days while the girls watch and take care of them.

I think she's a good mother, at least when it comes to interacting with wild creatures. Releasing the toads, but letting the girls enjoy them first strikes a good balance between preserving the wonder while preserving the wildlife.

She also told me about the wonderful sunset she saw last night. The clouds lifted in the west just as the sun was setting, and the heavy line of clouds contrasted sharply with the brightness of the area of clear sky on the horizon. She called her sister in town so she could go look, but the view was too obstructed, and she couldn't see it. Another evidence that she's a mother I can admire.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tidbits 6/13/2010

We've had three and one-half inches of rain since yesterday morning. The evening and overnight weather vigil has begun, and I hear thunder. We have a severe thunderstorm warning, and 90% chance of heavy rain overnight. Does this sound like good wheat harvest weather? Didn't think so.

Already all the fields have major mud holes . . . . We now interrupt this "broadcast" to shut down the computers and unplug the phone lines, since the weather is sounding more and more violent out there.


No hail, but the wind blew fiercely for a bit, and we got dumped on. I told Grant I thought the rain was bypassing the droplet stage and just coming in sheets to save time. Although I still hear thunder almost constantly, the window-rattling claps and blinding flashes have moved off to the east.

The weather map is very colorful, mostly in different shades of green, which indicate all sorts of flooding reminders--watches, warnings, flash-floods and ordinary floods. Heavy rain northwest of us is bringing water downstream through our county and creating flooding along streams.

I haven't checked the rain gauge.


Earlier this week, we had storm damage from part of a tree and the meter pole ending up on the garage roof. I read later that there were microbursts in the area, and I suspect that may be what happened here.

The very next night we had another round of thunderstorms, and Hiromi got up during the night to unplug the phone line that connects the computers to the DSL line for internet access. He should have unplugged the phones altogether as we all realized after we discovered three of the four phones in our house got zapped overnight, and had to be replaced.


During these storms I worry about the sheep. The dogs occupy their former quarters, so they have a chance to stay dry, but that leaves the sheep without shelter. I know the rain doesn't hurt them, but I think it would be close to criminal to leave them outside if we had hail the size of some I've seen on this farm. I think it could kill an animal.


Yesterday at market, Grant's boss, Terry, brought some of his daylily blossoms to show me. He's embarked on a daylily breeding venture, hoping to combine some of the beauty of southern daylilies with the hardiness of northern daylilies.

I've learned from him what breeders are working on. They love a colorful "throat" to contrast with the main color of the flower. They also love ruffled edges, and it's even better if that ruffle has a color that contrasts with the main flower color. Sometimes breeders can manage to fix two lines of color on that ruffled edge. Another feature is the "pinch," which is found in the middle of the outer edge of each petal. It looks as though someone literally pinched the petal there, and the soft fold stayed.

Yesterday morning Terry had done some pollination work on his daylilies. He does this the old fashioned way, by transferring pollen from one flower to the ovary of another flower. Then he waits till a seed head forms and ripens. He gathers and plants the seeds and grows the plants for however many years it takes for them to reach flowering size. If the flower is what he's looking for, he propagates it vegetatively until he has enough stock to sell to a nursery. This process takes about seven years from start to finish.

I love daylilies and Terry loves to talk about them, so we have a good time together.


Yesterday my high school home ec teacher came to Farmer's Market. She told me she lives on the farm where she grew up near Pretty Prairie. I learned this because I spoke up and asked her if she is Mrs. Kemp. I told her who I was, and that gave us an opener to a nice brief conversation. I always marveled that such a chic, smartly dressed lady had such an Amish name: Edna Ruth Kemp. (I didn't tell her that though.)

Later, someone came by who looked like Mr. Kirby, the high school math teacher who followed the memorable Mr. Oliver, who was my math teacher. I didn't speak up and ask him if he was Mr. Kirby, though.

I don't know if it's cowardly or courteous to spare these people being accosted by the likes of me, probing for confirmation of an identity they established with me so many years ago. I confess I avoided identifying myself to Miss Deiner once when I saw her in a fabric store, but she died not long after, and I was sorry I didn't act more friendly. She taught me in third and fourth grade.

I think I feel ambivalent about renewing some of these old acquaintances because I am not proud of all that these people know about me. But I think I probably need to get over being preoccupied with such things. I know that every student I've ever taught has a warm spot in my heart, and I love when they talk to me. The ones I knew when they were junior high age thirty or more years ago and have rarely seen since, I might not recognize instantly. I might have to do as Mrs. Kemp did: "Refresh my memory," she said, and then when I told her my name she remembered me.


I would love to find what kind of lettuce we could grow right through the summer. So far it seems that the French crisp or summer crisp types show the most promise. These have less tip burn tendency than the butterheads, and seem to stay bitter-free longer than most. The heads are about half the size of grocery-store iceberg types, and not as firmly packed. All the leaves are greener, and thus more nutritious than iceberg varieties.

People often tell us how wonderful tasting was "the lettuce we got from you last week." We're crossing our fingers, and hoping for at least one more week of good lettuce growing weather.


My sister Linda began moving yesterday to a house two doors down from her present home. The process has been delayed somewhat by the work needed to refinish the hardwood floors hiding beneath a well-used wall to wall carpet.

Willard, who is Marvin's go-to man for home improvements, is up to the refinishing task, and the floors are looking better every time I see them.


Yesterday we picked about four gallons of pie cherries off the little tree by our parking area. They are from a Balloton tree that we planted after we moved here. This year's crop is by far the largest this tree has ever produced.

I'm making a mental note to check out the kinds of sour cherry trees that have red flesh instead of yellow flesh as this one has. I'm disappointed with the browning that occurs when the fruit is exposed to air, even at the point where the stem separates from the fruit. North Star is a variety I remember as having red flesh, with the very common Montmorency having yellow flesh like the Balloton.

Does anyone know how well or poorly the mechanical cherry pitters work? I'm wary, but since I don't have a crew of offspring to put to work pitting cherries, I can see that my preservation of pie-ready cherries is going to be limited by the time it takes to prepare them.

I made a pie last night, and need to pit many more cherries tomorrow. I also want to make the cherry cobbler Judy's grandma used to make.


We checked on things tonight again at the Trail West place. I discovered a raspberry bush almost hidden under the branches of a volunteer mulberry and nestled next to a bush cherry. I offered to share the one ripe raspberry with Hiromi. Thankfully he refused the offer and I got to eat it myself.

We were dismayed to find bindweed in a sizable patch of what used to be our garden. I doubt that the people who lived there recognized it for the thug it is. Gardeners and farmers know that it needs to be attacked early and often--not allowed to grow unchecked, or eradication could be very difficult.

Out back in the orchard area a lot of water was standing. Fruit trees don't like standing water. I didn't like the puncture vine and thistles I saw growing there. That place needs sheep again, and geese, to keep the "stickers" at bay.

Bermuda grass has spread a great deal since we left the Trail West place . In the right place, this is a good thing. It can be very invasive though, and I don't want it anywhere near the garden or flower beds. Around the back door and in the sheep pen it's OK.


Two weeks ago we, along with many other Partridge area families, were invited to our closest neighbor's place for a "pre-ception" as a celebration of their daughter's upcoming marriage in Minnesota. It was also a celebration of her parents' marriage and her aunt and uncle's marriage at least 25 years ago. We didn't take our dancing shoes as was suggested, and we never did make it to the backyard where the music was being played.

But we had a memorable and wonderful time, camped out at a table by the little stream at the base of the bank of flowers in front of the house. Jamie and Chris have made a lovely homesite out of an abandoned farm we used to walk to sometimes on Sunday afternoons. The water feature they've installed is part of the charm of the place. The food was abundant and delicious, and old friends, one by one, stopped by to chat as we ate and stayed to soak up the ambiance.

We grew up near Chris' family, and it's really neat to live close together still and exchange flowers and news of our family's doings.


At Jamie and Chris' house, we visited for some time with Kaisha, who is married to Chris' nephew. She and Hiromi have at least one thing in common. They are first generation immigrants.

Kaisha is from Poland. When she was seven years old, she and her mother and younger sister boarded a ship on which her father worked as an electrician. This was not unusual, since families seldom saw the husband and father of the family otherwise. The occasional accompaniment on voyages helped compensate for long absences.

On this voyage, the ship docked in New Orleans. While in port, Kaisha's family simply walked off the ship and went to the American embassy to seek political asylum. They knew no English, so an interpreter was located for them. They also had no contacts in the United States, and no money to buy what they needed. Someone put them in touch with a charitable agency that found them a place to stay, and helped them get established in other ways.

Poland at that time was beginning to change through the rise of Solidarity, and in some ways, life was not too bad for Kaisha's family. But as Kaisha explained, her parents could not feel peace about who they had to become to survive in Poland. They wished to be law-abiding citizens, but found themselves smuggling baby formula from Sweden and baby clothes from Germany in order to provide for their young family.

When they left on that trip to the United States, no one told Kaisha anything. It would have jeopardized the plans if children had blabbed at the wrong time, so she never had a chance to tell her grandparents goodbye, and she mourned the loss of the new kitten she had gotten just before they left Poland. It was five years before it was safe to go back to Poland for a visit, and they saved enough money. In that last year before they returned, both of her grandfathers died.

Kaisha marvels at her parents' chutzpah in having decided to come to America. In New Orleans there was no enclave of Polish immigrants as there is in Chicago and possibly elsewhere, so they had to interact with people who they could not converse with or they would not have interacted at all.

Hiromi arrived in America on a boat also, docking at Los Angelos. However, he left his home in Japan openly, and had a sister waiting in Kansas who opened her home to him for the first several years he lived in the United States. He was not escaping a repressive political situation. He was attracted to America because there was adventure and room and opportunity here. Although he has always struggled with English, he had studied it in school, and could read and write it to some extent, so he was far ahead of Kaisha's family in this regard.

But both Kaisha and Hiromi have found the immigrant experience challenging. Neither one would want to leave the US, but both have left part of themselves behind in their country of origin. In a sense that makes them strangers here because so few share knowledge of their background. However, on a quiet early summer evening in the country near Partridge, Kansas, talk of one's home country and experience in arriving here is a pleasure neither could have known if Hiromi and Kaisha's parents had not ventured boldly into unknown territory to make a new home. And that is only one of the pleasures they all have found in this welcoming land.


My youngest brother Marcus has shingles.

Last week Hiromi saw a doctor for a physical exam, and he asked him if he wants a shot to prevent shingles. He didn't think he needed it since "Isn't it only old people who get shingles?"

I told him I knew of someone who had that virus settle in the spinal cord, with total disability as the result. That scared him.

I also explained that shingles is not just a skin problem; it's a nerve problem essentially, with the skin eruptions occurring where the nerve endings are. This was news to him. He's reconsidering the shingles shot.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Brandi and Lexi took us for a walk again this morning. This time they did not wrap me up in their leash lines, and Brandi did not slip out of her collar. We made it the whole two miles, with the dogs finishing the walk quite a lot more sedately than they started it. Those short little legs must have felt weary after all those tiny steps, many of them taken while straining at the leash.

We're busy analyzing their personalities. Grant says Brandi is the leader. Hiromi says Lexi is quieter, but he thinks she has more power. Hiromi also says if Brandi is the leader, she's insecure in her position, since she seems to take offense every time Lexi gets any attention. I say they'd both find life a lot easier if they stopped fighting and rebelling.

So far, my training efforts have been limited to effusive bragging whenever they slip up and forget to pull on the leash. I know it sounds wimpy, but it's easy and more pleasant for everyone than yelling constantly when they pull on the leash.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Walking the Dogs

Hiromi and I have been struggling to find the motivation to get back to our regular routine of walking, so we felt clever this morning for thinking of taking the dogs out for exercise. Lexi and Brandi (Shane's dogs) were definitely in favor of this plan, as evidenced by their tongue-out, eager leaping against the kennel fence when we approached, and racing around inside the kennel when Hiromi darted inside. Hiromi sort of wrestled them down to get their leash and collar connected.

The first connected dog got handed off to me outside the kennel, and the dog promptly started bounding in all directions at once, with the retractable leash quickly extended to the limit. I waited there for Hiromi and the other dog. Bad idea. As soon as dog number 2 was outside too, also on a fully extended 15 foot leash, the dogs got thoroughly tangled up with each other and ran circles around me. I stood there helplessly holding the end of one leash while something sharp dug into the back of my leg just above the ankle. Hiromi held the other leash and looked on helplessly as the dogs and I got more and more tangled. The dogs were clearly running this circus. Finally, Hiromi had a flash of insight and gave me both of the leashes, so I could begin untangling things from the leash end, rather than both of us trying to get the dogs separated at the other end.

As soon as we got untangled, Hiromi took Brandi and I took Lexi and we started out the drive and down the road, having figured out by then how to lock the retractable leash and keep the dogs close to us. I forged ahead, with Lexi trailing behind me. Brandi strained against her leash, trying to catch up with Lexi, and Hiromi brought up the rear. So there we went--me pulling Lexi along and Brandi pulling Hiromi along.

"Heel," Hiromi called out once, not very convincingly. He laughed when he said it, and we all know that if you want dogs and children to mind, you do not laugh when you give commands or make requests. They didn't heel. We were a dysfunctional group.

We had gotten all of 1/8 mile from home when Lexi slipped out of her collar, and was free to run. Fortunately, she was so busy worrying Brandi that she never figured that out. Hiromi examined the collar dangling uselessly from the end of my leash, found that it was weak and worn and promptly made an executive decision, announcing that we were going home. When we got there the dogs rushed pell mell into the kennel as though they wanted to be there. This was a good thing. My leg hurt where the rope had dug into it, and I noticed the skin was missing in a narrow straight line around the back of my leg.

We set out again on our walk, and had a much more peaceful time of it. Even when we were powering along into the teeth of the wind, I was breathing more easily than I had at any time in that first 1/8 mile.

After we got back to the house, I added one item to the shopping list: dog collar.

With a new collar and all the smarts we acquired today, the next time should go along without a hitch.

No offense to Corgi lovers, but have you noticed that these dogs are a bit badger-like in their, um, physique and habits? Wide and low and furry and full of many powerful wiggles. Unlike badgers, they're very friendly, though. If I had been as close today to a badger as I was to the Corgis, a narrow strip of missing skin on my one leg would have been the least of my worries.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Around 3:00 this morning, we woke to a horrendous crash. Next we heard sharp ticks of hail hitting the metal roof of the garage. Then everything went dark, except for the bright flashes of lightening that illuminated the windows.

I found my way in the dark to the kerosene lamp and the propane lighter and left the lighted lamp on the dining room table. When I got back to bed I kept wondering whether we should be taking refuge in the basement. The roar on the garage roof kept getting louder, or was it the roar of the wind? I couldn't tell, and none of the reporting/warning systems we're used to depending on worked without electricity. We ended up staying put.

This morning we saw the cause of the crash. A huge branch from the 60-year-old Chinese elm north of the house had twisted off and taken the meter pole down with it onto the garage roof. Actually, the base of the branch was resting on the ground well away from the base of the tree, but it still draped itself across the roof slope all the way to the peak. Something about this is strange since the branch actually grew angled well away from the house--almost as if there was something other than a straight-line wind carrying it.

Hiromi had an early appointment in town and Grant had to go to work, so I called the power company.

Doug, the lineman, came this morning and offered to turn off the power so someone could work on removing the pole and the tree. By that time we had had power for a number of hours, and I wasn't eager to have it shut of with no idea when it might be restored. He ended up leaving his card and phone number so that we could call whenever we were ready to tackle the mess. I called Dad then and he must have called several other people.

Lowell and Ollie came to our rescue this morning and dragged the tree off the roof with the help of the tractor, the bale spear, and a chain. "We got into the vinca, I'm afraid," Lowell said afterward. I didn't go look. The pole was still not righted, and the power line sagged low enough in the front yard that it would have caught me on the forehead if I had walked into it.

This evening they came back, along with Dad, and then Doug showed up. Grant joined the effort. Between the five of them, they got the meter pole off the roof and got it temporarily reset. The power was off while they were doing this, but it came back on during supper.

Dad and Ollie marveled at Doug having been able to get his behemoth of a truck between the garage and the nearby trees to get his cherry picker close enough to do the necessary work. "Ich glab eyah hat die bluma fasaaht," (I think he ruined the flowers.) I heard Ollie say. I peeked and saw that indeed the wheels of the truck had tracked right through between the garage wall and the railroad tie that marked the boundary of the flower bed. I haven't looked at the damage since the truck left.

I wish it weren't like this. Heroes who swoop in to perform their dramatic deliverances leave damage along with the deliverance. That's part of living in an imperfect world, and I won't get hung up on the damage if I focus on the kindness and competence of those who came to our rescue.

Last night's storm was a complete surprise. Usually we have ample warning. The hail boards Hiromi made to put on top of the tomato cages in case of weather like this were all hanging on the fence from specially-made wire hooks. This morning some of them were twisted violently. When another round of rain threatened this forenoon, I went out and put them all in place. This way they'll be where they belong if the severe weather predicted for late tomorrow afternoon materializes. With highs in the upper 90's and a cold front coming through around 5:00, I won't be surprised if the clash of contrasting temperatures causes turbulence. I already have plans to be in a safe place when that happens.

Punny Stories

Our beloved bishop David was in charge of the sharing time today and ended up unintentionally being very punny. I hope none of our guests were shocked at the rising titter of laughter that followed his entertaining comment.

Arlyn had just shared how their family trip to CA turned out to be a real blessing. They prayed for protection–once just before they ventured onto a freeway. About ten minutes later, in a rented car, a tire blew out. Whereupon their six(?) year old son said, “Well, I guess God didn’t answer that prayer.”

Arlyn went on to say that he doesn’t know if they explained things just right, but they did talk about the fact that, even though they were inconvenienced by the blowout, they were blessed in that no one was hurt when it happened. So God really did protect them, just as they had asked.

In response, with an apparent reference to the way daily life can safely be committed to God, knowing that God hears and answers, David said, “That’s where the rubber meets the road.”

When people laughed, he quickly added, “That pun was unintended. I’m not that smart.”

I hope those who object to laughter in church were mollified by the disclaimer. For those of us who needed no mollifying, the “jollifying” was quite nice.


My sister Linda told me tonight about a conversation she overheard between Joel and my mother. Joel apparently had heard that she took a tumble recently, and said something to her about it.

“Well, I’m glad there wasn’t more fallout,” Mom said. (She wasn’t hurt.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Quote for the Day 6/4/2010

Shane and Dorcas brought two dogs from Colorado for us to take care of till they move here later this month. They are Welsh Corgis, which means they are rather low to the ground, fairly long-haired, with pointy ears and lively habits. These dogs are destined for a life as breeders.

Before my brother Lowell saw them, but after he heard what kind they were, he muttered something about whoever made those dogs not quite getting the job finished up right.

Later, when he went by the kennel, I heard him say to them in a patronizing tone:

"Sorry about the legs."


The Corgis, Brandi and Alexis (Lexi), and the sheep had a rude introduction. (I may have been the only one who thought of how miffed the sheep might be to find their kennel/pen occupied by two dogs--never mind the fact that about all they do in their small pen is come in for water. ) The sheep came from grazing along the tree row, striding purposefully toward the pen as usual when the dogs spied them and rushed toward the fence barking animatedly. The sheep skidded to a halt and then turned tail and ran back to the tree row.

Hiromi moved a water tub into place in the grazing pen outside the kennel, and filled it. Several times the sheep came up part way and then thought better of it. But the dogs had expended all their barking energy on the first approach, so it didn't seem so scary after a while. Within several hours' time, the sheep had gotten all the way to the water tub and drunk their fill. I think they'll probably be able to keep each other company after a while--separated by a fence though, for safety's sake.