Prairie View

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Treasured Visitor

On Sunday, for the first time ever, a Downy Woodpecker visited our bird feeder. He appeared again yesterday. We've had lots of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers at the feeders for the past few years, and I occasionally saw a Downy in the tall trees near the house. But it was as if the tiny woodpeckers never saw the feeders.

I'd like to think that the Downy Woodpecker came because of the beef fat we put out recently, but he never ate any of it that I saw.

A new bird at the feeder always causes great excitement inside the house--if I'm here, at least. Meanwhile the bird outside is completely heedless--going about his business--in the limelight or hidden away--happy either way.


We're sending approving looks and extra pats Brandi's way, ever since she deposited a dead mole for us to exclaim over next to the drive. Late last summer we saw lots of tunneling in the yard south of the house, and Grant uttered many vile threats whenever he saw new tunneling activity. But we never got very serious about trapping, poisoning, or repelling them. I personally think the dog disposing of the moles is a perfect arrangement.


Is there a volunteer substitute teacher for the high school on Friday? All of us teachers and about eight students want to attend Alvin Yoder's funeral or Liz Hershberger's funeral in Indiana. We'd really like to count the day as a school day so that we can have a day off at the end of the quarter for figuring report card grades. We're having a lot of trouble thinking of someone who might be available. Almost everyone has a connection to Alvin Yoder's extended family or is gone right now and unavailable for that reason.


We need a new kitchen stove. Does anyone have a warning or a recommendation for what we should consider? I'm not convinced that electronic control panels are a wonderful thing, but it may be the only thing available these days. In an active weather zone such as is true of this region, electrical storms can zap those control systems in a flash. We could use either a 30-inch or a 36-inch stove.

I'm considering a Frigidaire if we buy a new one, since that's apparently one of the few domestic brands that isn't made by generic-gendering Whirlpool. I really like the idea of an oven that allows a setting low enough to act as a warming drawer or a proofing chamber. We probably need a gas range, since electricity is quite expensive at our Trail West house (Wires running through many low-populated square miles has that effect on rates.). But propane is expensive too, and the cost gap has probably narrowed considerably in recent years. I also like white instead of stainless steel for kitchen appliances, except I think black is a nice touch for the top. I can think of better things to do with my time than buffing the silver finish on my appliances, or mopping up or scrubbing off spills on a white top.

There's probably not a range out there that would be just right, and I could probably be happy with an imperfect one if it worked right and didn't cost a fortune. If my appliance store cousins lived here I'd gladly buy from them, but I'm not sure that buying a stove in Iowa to use in Kansas makes a huge amount of sense. My parents often did something similar though.


Somehow the talk in the typing room today got around to spankings--most recent, most memorable, favored parental administerer, avoidance tactics, accompanying admonitions, spankable offenses, merits of crying promptly, having to wait till Dad came home, begging not to wait, bending over requirements (the hamper or the bed--toe touching is to be avoided at all costs), hands or paddles or wooden spoons or yard sticks or glue sticks (!). I listened without comment. And no one pretended that this discussion was incongruous in any way with the task most of the students were in the computer lab for--doing a written report on Othello. This was not during class time--more like a study hall--obviously not a very strictly managed one.


Most of the students ate outside today. It wasn't that warm, but it was sunny and dry and calm, and warmer than any other days recently.


The sophomore girls and Mr. Schrock had one very funny science lab experience today, judging by the peals of laughter which went on for quite some time.


Kerri entertained everyone in the computer lab briefly with a near-topple off the backless task chair she was using at one of the computers. She momentarily forgot the "backless" part and leaned back to relax. A wild grab for the table, a little yelp, lots of giggling, and everything was soon back to normal.


Yesterday during school Grant called to ask if those dried apples I sent for him contained anything other than apples. "Not a thing," I assured him.

Just as I walked in the door at home I remembered the "Fruit Fresh" I had used to keep them from turning brown while I was peeling and slicing them for the dehydrator. I was pretty sure he was asking because Clarissa wanted to know if they were safe for her "potato-free" diet.

So I checked the ingredients and sent Grant the list. Clare responded promptly: "Well, I ate the whole bag, so I guess we'll see what happens." Nothing on the list obviously contained potatoes, but she has learned that the starch hides in many dry ingredients, added as an anti-caking agent.

I haven't heard anything further. I think it would be nice if such accidents served to broaden her list of allowed foods. I don't have any plans for future "intentional accidents" though.


Shane and Dorcas are in Chaing Mai getting some urgent pampering and shopping and tailoring tasks out of the way between their in-the-jungle stint with Craig and Rachel and their next stint in Burma. Then Japan, then home.

Hiromi is a little worried about how everything will work in Japan. It's a pity he won't be there to accompany them. That would make everything so painless.


My brother-in-law Marvin showed a rental house yesterday to several young men who lamented that their previous landlord "who was such a nice guy" didn't have any other rentals they could move into. (I think they had to find a cheaper place when one of their number moved out.) They incidentally mentioned the landlord's name: Shane.

Marvin was floored. They ended up giving him a key that one of them had forgotten to turn in to Shane when they left. Marvin dropped it off here this morning.


Hiromi's penchant for terse communication backfired recently when he sent Shane an email telling him he had been at the Abbyville house to look for a tool he thought Shane might have borrowed, and "there was no water" when he tried the faucet.

Shane read that in Thailand and panicked. He couldn't remember that he had turned off the main water valve as he intended to when he left on a -3 morning. He was visualizing burst water pipes in the basement and all pressure lost upstairs because of water filling up the basement.

He called here on Sat. night while Hiromi was at work at Wal-Mart and begged for him to go check things out. When Hiromi got home, he said he meant to reassure Shane that the water was turned off as he wanted it to be. "I guess I'll have to write him back with longer sentences," he observed.

I heard a great deal of rooster crowing going on when I was talking to Shane. "There must be a rooster close by," I commented.

"Oh, there are approximately 100 roosters close by, and they all crow at this time of the morning," Shane said.

I doubt that sleeping late would be a possibility in that place.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Death and Grief

Alvin Yoder (90) died during our church service this morning. He suffered a stroke earlier this morning and had been taken to the hospital. His death was announced during share time. This provided an opportunity for us to pray together for those who survive, and for a few people to share words of appreciation for Alvin.

Joe, who has been Alvin's closest neighbor all his life, commented (after a sermon on grace-filled speech) that Alvin, beneath a rather rugged exterior, was careful in his speech, and, in this area, served as a model to Joe.

Alvin's knowledge of Scripture--by memory--was legendary. A number of people remembered this out loud this morning.

Alvin's daughter Marietta is still on Sabbatical from many years of service in El Salvador. She was scheduled to return next Monday. Rachel, another daughter, is in Romania, teaching counseling in a Christian university. Frieda is teaching English as a second language in a university in China. A son, Oren, who is one of our ministers, had just left to attend Faith Builders in PA for winter term. I believe he had gotten only as far as Ohio where his wife's sister lives with her family. Lois works as a midwife in a clinic she helped establish, but she lives with her parents and helps see to their needs. Ernest lives with his family in Labette County in SE Kansas. That's six children--all serving the Lord in remarkable and ordinary ways.


When Wendell was teaching composition class at Pilgrim, one year they did a booklet of stories about Alvin's life. Within the past week I've re-read that booklet and prepared to do a reprint.
I think that task will proceed on an accelerated track, given the number of friends and relatives who are likely to gather this week for Alvin's funeral.

As legendary as Alvin's Scripture knowledge were Alvin's physical prowess, his math brain, and his many death-defying feats--usually in the course of a day's work in roof repair or concrete construction. Among the stories recounted in the booklet are a number of times when he either plunged over the edge of a barn roof or was left dangling on the edge when a ladder escaped from under him--or narrowly averted similar scenarios. Once he fell head-first onto concrete, and another time, he fell off a roof at my Uncle Paul's house, and then, without revealing the episode, he calmly appeared at the door to say that he was ready for a ride home (as previously planned). Hilda accompanied him, but Alvin drove, shifting with his left hand--uncharacteristically. The next morning they learned that he wouldn't be coming to work since he had broken his wrist in the fall.

And then there were the times when he was driven over by a combine or a tractor . . .

Having died in the hospital from a stroke several hours previous--at age 90--looks like a pretty ordinary way to die when you consider all the other ways Alvin might have died.


Alvin once loaned me money. I was in college at the time and needed a bit of money to tide me over till I got income again from summer jobs. He charged me 2% interest, as I recall.


Time, in the wake of the shootings in Tuscon, had a feature article on grieving which I found very fascinating. I have limited experience in this realm and thus, limited credibility. That's why I noted with satisfaction that some of my tentative observations are borne out by responses from people who speak of their own experience with grief.

The article told how the well-known "stages of grief" entered the vocabulary through the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in On Death and Dying, a book published in 1969. Since then, the "wisdom" has found common acceptance and often been repeated. The stages were based on one-time interviews with terminally ill people--not actually on survivors after a loved-one's death. Kubler-Ross formulated the sequence when she was up late one night, and never questioned any of the people she interviewed about the veracity of her definitions and sequencing of stages. A number of grieving myths have, in fact, grown up in the wake of the "stages of grief" dogma.

People who grieve often don't seem to be following exactly the grieving steps as Kubler-Ross outlines them. They feel them all at once, and they never get through the process, for example. The grief never entirely goes away. Talking about the grief or not talking about the loss--either approach can result in returning to fairly normal functioning in a timely manner. I remembered what Lori Miggiani said at their son Seth's funeral. "I've experienced all those stages already." She spoke of seeing God's hand in what had happened, but at other times saying to God "I want him back. You can't take him away."

The overall message of Time's article on grieving is that people are more resilient than is often thought, and most people do not need grief counseling and continuing "talk" about the loss to recover to the point of being able to go on with life fairly productively--usually within about six months. These things are sometimes necessary, but not nearly always, as some would suggest.

I do identify with Kubler-Ross's impulse to give some form to what might otherwise be a nebulous and perhaps chaotic phenomenon. And writing down the patterns she thought she saw emerging wasn't a bad idea. It just wasn't the last word, and people should probably not have been so quick to consider it to be the final word.


For some reason, what I was feeling one day last week took on grief meaning for me, perhaps because of what I had just read. The event that triggered my feelings of sadness and loss would not have appeared to any onlooker to have that potential. It was a fairly innocuous conversation with only mild disagreement. But the words I heard were very similar to words I heard many years ago, and I experienced a flood of emotion afterward--filled with memories of a very difficult time in my life, and the feelings of betrayal, injustice, and helplessness came roaring back. In some ways it felt like nothing had changed, and the situation now is not improved over the way it was then. In those moments the grief felt as fresh as ever. Yet I have, in most ways, gone on with life normally and productively since that long-ago disappointment.

Isn't this how grief is? Ebbing and flowing--usually creeping around and among the normal rhythms of life--but rising fast, and towering and crashing at other times? And no, I can't imagine ever "getting over it" in the sense that it will be a "nothing" to me. The experience has helped shape who I've become, and that is something. I don't plan to rehearse my cause for grief endlessly. I believe doing so can reinforce--not diminish--the feelings. But giving recognition to those events, evaluating them in the context of our present lives, thinking about whether any specific action is called for now, and writing about it, of course--these are measures that seem reasonable and might be profitable.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Wrapup 1/16/2011

I stayed home from church today to give myself a chance to recover from the flu-like symptoms I've had for the past few days. (Must lecture students about staying home when they're sick. Forcing themselves to come to school even when they're sick passes the "blessings" along.) One of the complications of staying home was that I was scheduled to teach a Sunday School class.

When I woke at 4:30 and figured out that I was not better than yesterday, but worse, I tried to think who I could call to take my place. Including the other teacher, there are only four class members who are not over 80 or pushing 80. Two of them (and I) would not be there today. The only other young person in the class doesn't have email, so I couldn't help her out by sending her my notes. My sister Linda and sister-in-law Judy both already teach classes. I ended up asking Hilda and happily for me she consented. I hope she could also access Joel's notes--prepared for the mens' class he teaches.


Shane and Dorcas have arrived safely in Thailand. They had a direct flight from Chicago to Tokyo, with a free upgrade to business class. Working in a travel agency as Dorcas does and having other relatives in the travel industry has its perks. Hans donated this particular roomy travel perk.


Last Thursday was our principal's 50th birthday. Norma, ever the faithful birthday-rememberer, suggested we do something special. With the help of the Moms in Touch group which meets on Wed. A.M., we decided to have an all-school breakfast, with any interested parents bringing cards and money gifts at lunch time.

I fixed a signup sheet and got students to bring ingredients for creamed eggs with pork over toast, and ready-to-eat fruit platters and coffee cakes and hot drinks. Everyone came early, and Norma directed the decoration of the learning center, while I directed things in the kitchen. Marvin and Lester Yutzy's families brought 50 black helium balloons and some of the students tented Mr. Shrock's desk with streamers fastened at the ceiling.

When Marvin M. called and said he was following Mr. Schrock and he would arrive in about ten minutes, we hurriedly finished up and then turned off the lights and hid on either side of the entry way to the learning center. When he came in the front doors of the school, we chorused out a jubilant "Happy Birthday" and sang a rag tag version of the song--as our students are fond of doing, for some reason. Unflappable as ever, he stood there grinning, holding his brief case and taking in the black balloons on the ceiling of the entry way.

Mr. Schrock had instructed Jean Ann not to make a big deal of his birthday, so she didn't. Fortunately he had not given us similar orders.

We started eating around 8:00 and went a bit past the regular starting time, which we expected would be the case. Everyone was apparently OK with that, and enjoyed the meal. For some of them, it was the first taste of creamed eggs. Others who have eaten it, have never had bacon and sausage included in the mix as we did. I may decide to post the recipe in a separate post.

In the middle of January, we need to take advantage of all the opportunities for festivities that we can manage, and a Jan. 13 birthday is just the ticket.


The snow cover that arrived at the beginning of the week is still mostly intact, although it's looking more ragged by the day. Tomorrow might be its death knell--47 degrees predicted.


We're getting ready to do the third printing of the Ervin and Emma Stutzman life story books. I believe the sales volume exceeds any booklets we have done previously. Having them ready by Christmas helped with this.

Ervin Stutzman called me this morning from Haiti where it was sunny and 70 degrees. The fundraising sale for Haiti is coming up this Saturday in Florida, and he wants extra copies of "the book" to sell or gift at the sale. It looks like another Priority Mail package is called for, given the fact that we're very nearly out of the books he wants until we do another printing.


I am currently enamored with lilacs and have been researching the various kinds. I have seen only white ones and the common lavender ones. Apparently there are seven or eight color categories--purple, violet, blue, pink, magenta, and yellow--besides the lavender and white. In addition, I learned that there are three main types: Hyacinthiflora and Preston hybrids, in addition to Syringa vulgaris--the common lilac. Each of them flowers at a slightly different time with the common lilac in the middle, and the Preston Hybrids the latest.

If anyone locally has unusual lilacs, I would be interested in doing some kind of plant swap for a start of your lilacs.

I hope to start some Snowball bushes also (Viburnum) because they bloom at the same time and go perfectly together in bouquets. (Swapping offer for these applies also.)


One of the Christmas memories the "contingent of marauders" (my six nephews between 7 and 12?--Mom's term for them when she saw them going past the window after dinner, carrying various sorts of weapons) will no doubt carry with them is the fishing trip they took on foot. I still haven't figured out where they went--to a shallow pond, but there's none close by that I know of. They caught 40 small fish barehanded.

When they arrived back at the house, poor Chadwin was having difficulty navigating since he had fallen into the water and his wet clothes had frozen into a hard shell around him. When he had been safely turned over to his mother's care--who hustled him off to the shower--and everyone had warmed up a bit, they went out to check on the fish. Sad day. The cats had discovered them and eaten them all.


Ten years ago this week Hutchinson, KS made national news because of a series of strange disasters that shook our local shopping town. The first clue that something was amiss was an explosion that burned two downtown businesses and broke windows in 25 other businesses. The fearful fire burned hot and high for a long time, even after the gas lines to the buildings had been turned off. By afternoon someone had figured out that there was gas erupting from an unknown source under one of the buildings. It continued to burn for days.

Shortly afterward, a second explosion occurred in a trailer park on the other side of town. The elderly couple who were awaiting evacuation in their trailer when the explosion occurred under their home both died of burns suffered in the explosion and fire. People were freaked out--not knowing whether any part of town was really safe.

With the help of specialists called in from several other states, someone determined that natural gas had migrated from old salt caverns seven miles west of the city. The caverns had been utilized as storage facilities, and pressurized gas had found a leak in the bore hole to one cavern and then drifted eastward through crevices in the shale layer nearer the surface. With the aid of old city maps, a pattern emerged, and gave direction to the evacuations that were necessary. Wherever an old salt mine shaft was located, the gas surfaced easily and, if there was an ignition source, the gas ignited. So people were evacuated wherever there was a mine shaft close by. Under the first businesses that burned and under the mobile home that exploded were two salt mine shafts.

Sealing the leak in the storage cavern was a long process involving pumping the gas to other storage areas, so that repairs could be done safely. In the meantime, many vent holes were dug all over the city so that the gas could vent harmlessly into the air. In some cases, fires erupted at the vent holes and burned for a long time. A sink hole developed near one of the railroads that passes through the city.

The Hutchinson Mall was closed down and many downtown businesses were closed till safety could be assured. The owner of the trailer court lost much of his retirement investment. Lawsuits followed, and most were eventually overturned or ended up with dramatically reduced awards. The city manager was so traumatized that he took retirement soon after.

Gas storage in underground caverns was apparently virtually unregulated, and, as an outgrowth of Hutchinson's experience, groups from places as far away as England figured out what a reasonable set of regulations might look like.

This moment of fame for Hutchinson came with a lot of pain and loss, but ten years later, both of the destroyed businesses have relocated in new quarters, and the gas company has not filled any new caverns in the area that proved unsafe. If a greater degree of safety can be assured in other areas close to such storage facilities, some small gain came out of this loss.


I rather enjoyed writing the date on the day earlier this week when the date included five ones--1-11-11. (Small pleasures for simple folks.)


Last week someone called the school to inquire about the possibility of enrolling his son in our school. He knew almost nothing about our school and it turned out that he really wanted the grade school, but I did a double take when he answered my "May I ask who's calling?" question early in the conversation. He gave me his name--a Christian Hiromi worked with for years at TSW. When I told him I am Hiromi's wife, he was delighted with being able to make this connection.

I couldn't do much other than refer him to others who have the necessary information and authority to decide whether admitting the son would be an option.

The recommendation for our school apparently came from someone from Hutchinson who attended at Pilgrim in the first years the high school was in session.


Jenni and others are back from the work project in Haiti. Jenni stopped by my room the other day sporting a multitude of tiny braids. I can only imagine the delight the "braider" had with her tightly curled RED hair.


We still haven't found the heavy-duty three-hole punch that disappeared at school over Christmas vacation. We miss it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mental Photgraphy

I do better at having words at the ready than having a camera at the ready, so I take mental notes when others, better prepared, would take a picture.

Here's the picture I saw on the way home from school tonight around 5:00.

When I came down the overpass on US 50 by the cemetery, headed west, I glanced over to my right where the cemetery lay, and saw what the 2-3 inches of snow and the wind had done there to create something beautiful.

Last night's wind was from the northwest, so every tombstone created a long skinny sparkly-white drift on a NW to SE axis. Slightly bluer snow shadows filled the troughs between the drifts. The sun was very low in the western sky, far to the south, so every tombstone also cast a long black shadow on a SW to NE axis, lying perpendicularly across those waves of snow.

So much beauty and drama in a place that is almost always quiet, and often witness to deep sorrow. I think there's probably a lesson there somewhere. Even if there isn't, it was worth contemplating and worth recording--lovely enough to move my diaphragm sharply.

Maybe someone in the area who has one of those cool many-featured cameras and knows how to use it will come by there tomorrow evening (or morning) and stop there to record what I saw. Tell me if that happens. And tell everyone if you see a lesson in the scene or have a anything at all to add to my mental photography effort.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Legal Beachy Addiction

I saw a Facebook post from someone at Calvary Bible School who is undergoing "music withdrawal." Instantly I knew how to describe a phenomenon I've observed over the past number of months. In a medical sense only people who have addictions undergo withdrawal. I think music can be an addiction.

I don't claim to be anything other than an interested observer on this matter--certainly not an authority or a professional of any kind. The following observations are more tentative in my mind than they sound.

You may be addicted to music if--

1. You can't work with your hands without listening to music.

2. You can't study without listening to music.

3. You can't stay home if a good live music presentation is going on within an hour's drive from your home.

4. You have an opinion on every singing group or musician ever mentioned in your circle of acquaintances.

5. You dream constantly of the next good music thing you will buy the minute you have the money.

6. You can't go to sleep without listening to music.

7. You can't wait to learn to play the next instrument.

8. You're in a crowd that engages only in vocal religious music and you feel stifled.

9. A sizable portion of your income goes to buying music gadgets or experiences.

10. You think more is always better where music is concerned.

11. You're offended if anyone challenges your music choices.

12. You use music as an escape from responsibility.

13. You can't enjoy singing unless the people around you are good singers.

14. You can't enjoy singing unless you're a very good singer.

15. You refuse to accept any definition of good or bad music beyond your own preferences.

16. You think anyone disinterested in music is probably mentally, emotionally, or spiritually abnormal.

Do you agree that music can be an addiction? Are there alternatives to "cold turkey" withdrawal? (Where did that term ever come from?) Or is music a good addiction that does not call for any resistance at all?


I'm pleased to say that I had my grades for the past semester ready before I went to school today. I'm not so pleased to say that it took me till past 2:30 pm to get to school.

We did not get snowed in. It wasn't looking too promising when I went to bed, so I planned to get up at 5:30 as usual and get going. This morning it dawned on me that with this semester's lighter teaching schedule, I could probably just as well work here at home as at school--with fewer interruptions and more room to spread out my multitude of notebook binders and stacks of papers. A quick call to Norma revealed that even the usual learning center obligation before lunch on Monday would not be an issue today because Norma was not going to the grade school at that time as she normally does. So I ended up having my own version of a snow day--a furiously busy kind of snow day, however.

I got to school almost in time to teach my typing class, although a slight schedule confusion on my part necessitated Norma's taking over the first few minutes of class.

Tonight I feel like a new person. I'm so excited about all the possibilities for ways to spend the evening that I may not want to stop to go to bed at a decent hour.


I'm off to the next fun thing to do this evening--look at seed catalogs and start putting together orders.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Blogging as Evasive Action

It feels like a long time since I've been here. The Christmas post was going to be the first of several, but I never got back to it.

On New Year's Day we invited all the Kansas Iwashige relatives for our traditional New Year's Day feast of Japanese food. We always have a good time, and wonder afterward why we don't get together more often. Hiromi and his sister talked to their mother and brother in Japan via Skype.

This year the conversation was partly about a trip Shane and Dorcas plan to make to Japan and other parts of Asia. They're leaving next week and plan to be gone about a month. Their time in Japan will be short and near the end of their trip, but it will be long enough for Shane to meet his grandmother--probably the only time in his life he will ever see her, given the fact that she is 95 years old. All around, it would be nice if Hiromi were there at the same time, to facilitate their finding their way and helping them communicate.

Hiromi's brother Saiji thinks so too. He thinks Hiromi failed his boys by not teaching them Japanese. I think what he really regrets is that his typical "life of the party" persona will be almost entirely wasted on Shane and Dorcas if they can't understand him. I agree--it's a shame, but it's true, of course, also, that Saiji has had some opportunities to learn English that he has not made good use of or he would be able to talk English now as well as Hiromi did when he first came to America. I don't think Hiromi needs to be the whipping boy here.


Today we had the annual Farmer's Market organizational meeting. Unlike most past years when we had a catered meal, we had a potluck this year. It turns out that produce farmers know a thing or two about cooking. The spread was impressive.

The county horticulture agent gave a presentation on several publicly and privately funded programs that are making investments in the "local food" movement--developing markets in institutional food service kitchens, training producers, providing publicity for producers, etc. I feel vindicated when I hear about this--for having nudged the FM board several years ago in the direction of defining and limiting the term "local" for our market's purposes. I was pretty sure then that "local" would soon become a very critical marketing emphasis, and I didn't think we were ready for it as we ought to be.

I learned at the meeting today that last year the Hutchinson Farmer's Market took in over $280,000.00 in revenue. If that money turns over five times in the local economy, as is reportedly often the case, it's making its own quiet contribution to economic recovery for our county--to the tune of over a million dollars. The Wednesday market alone brought in over $45,000.00, which is as much as the total market season produced about ten years ago. We also carried forward an $8,000.00+ balance. Someone today remarked that at one point long ago, an $8.00 balance was something to feel good about.

Someone else described our vendor group as a family where people look out for and help each other. "We bicker like family too," another person observed wryly after a spirited discussion about what our starting time should be and whether making exceptions for late people was legitimate. We are not all of one mind on this.

Being with the market crowd makes me itch to get seeds ordered and started growing. But first I have to finish the grade cards for last semester, and before that I have to finish a pile of grading. This is not my favorite part of teaching. (So why am I blogging instead of grading? This is the question I'm asking myself. To clear my head of interference, I guess.)


Last week one evening we had a mournful bovine chorus which continued throughout the night. When it was still going on the second morning, I called to see if Lowell knew why the cattle were so unsettled. (I thought maybe the longhorns across the road were sending upsetting signals.) Judy told me that Lowell had weaned the calves and taken them to their home farm, so they were hearing the other half of the chorus. That explained everything.

Wed. eve. when I walked from the church to the car after the evening service, I heard similar sounds coming from Titus and Marijane's farm. It turns out Titus was weaning calves last week too.

"Much weeping in Ramah" came to mind--"for her children." I'm pretty sure the bovine context is wildly inappropriate, but hey, what do you do when such words turn up and feel almost right for describing what's happening at the moment? Squelching them entirely seems a waste.


On New Year's Day we took our company out for a walk around the hog barn to see the pigs. I laughed when the pigs in the first pen all woofed and galloped to line up along the fence to stare, and check out the strange creatures appearing in their territory.

Why did I think of the song we used to sing in grade school about a trip to the zoo? "You'll see more freaks outside the cage [pen] than inside, any day."


Hilda's grandmother died in Indiana on the last day of 2010. She had been ailing, and we weren't sure whether Joel and Hilda would be here or there on New Year's Day. They left by car the following day for a funeral this past Tuesday.

On New Year's Day, after it was only Hiromi and I and his sister and her husband here, (the others had gone home) they talked about how much they enjoyed our children and their spouses "today."

"Both of your in-laws are so nice," they told us. "I think it has something to do with your religion," they said too. "You have so much going for you--friends everywhere, and so much support," my brother-in-law told me. They also talked about a mutual acquaintance with whom they feel embarrassment for some of the manipulative and dishonest things they've witnessed them doing. "What I can't understand is that they go to church. If they're Christians, we're Christians."

All I could think to say to that was, "I'm so sorry. . . "

We really love this part of our family and feel blessed to belong together. I'm praying to be able to share Christ with them. They are so accepting and receptive, and yet it's not easy to get to the Christian faith matters that are at the core of the difference they see in our family's life and theirs.


Accumulating snow is predicted for Sun. eve. and Mon. It will be the first real snow of the winter. Following that will be the coldest temperatures of the season, with temps slightly below zero.

I'm as eager for a snow day as the students are. That would deliver me from my grades-not-ready dilemma. I'm not quite convinced that I should pray for a snow day, but I am very open to being as considerate as possible of all the overconfident (or fearful) and inexperienced teenage drivers and the realistically fearful mothers of young children who will likely be forced onto snowy, slippery roads, with low visibility, and dangerous wind chills, if we do have school. (Maybe the wind chill part won't actually happen till later, but it sounds good in this list.)

I think there's a reason that the school cancellation decision is usually made without my input--probably a good reason. It's OK.


We're reading "Othello" for our literature selection this month. It was the very first book we read when we started this program while Harry was the principal--between five and eight years ago.


I stayed behind with the five "left behind" students on this past week's field trip.

I'm usually open to relaxing the usual rules somewhat on these days as long as lots of work is getting done. Things seemed to be clicking right along most of the day.

At one break, however, there was an extraordinary amount of giggling and guffawing in the kitchen. When I went to investigate, everyone was gathered around the island , with a pile of bananas and banana peelings, and a pile of sugar-free chocolate candy and candy wrappers on the counter.

Two of the boys had stuffed themselves with eight bananas each, and candy besides. Soon after the bell rang, one of them asked permission to go to the restroom. He did not reappear for at least 15 minutes.

I had allowed two girls to go fetch the 40 pound box of bananas that were then free for all at school the rest of this week. That box was plucked off one of ten pallets each containing 24?? (can't remember for sure) of those boxes. I don't know all the details, except that it was from a semi load of rejected produce because some of it had frozen en route to its destination. Such rejects sometimes get shuttled off to farms for animal feed unless someone intercepts it again en route. The chocolate candy was rejected because of possible contamination with peanut butter.

Cows apparently like chocolate candy. I'm sure you can imagine the chocolate milk jokes high schoolers might concoct for such a situation.


Today at the Farmer's Market dinner I sat beside Doris, who writes several weekly newspaper columns. She's a sweet lady. During our conversation about the expected snow and cold I mentioned the news article I had seen last week about the fad among young people to shun the wearing of coats. Maybe cool boots or a statement-making baseball cap, and maybe shorts and a T-shirt, but no coat--in New Hampshire--in a blizzard--waiting for the bus.

"That's what my next column is going to be about," she said.

During the break in typing class, I often talk about or read something from the newspaper. I was pleased with my students' wisdom on the day I referenced the article on coats. "That's stupid," one of them said.


Doris also told me that her husband, who is diabetic, began to act strangely several months ago. Concerned, she talked to her pastor about the "strong ideas" he was developing. The pastor asked if he uses Splenda regularly. He did. Then he said that he knew someone else who exhibited similar behavior which stopped when he stopped using Splenda. (Splenda is a sweetener that can be used in volumes equal to the sugar volume in regular recipes.)

It worked the same for Doris' husband. The blood sugar was under control throughout, but something was obviously going wrong neurologically.