Prairie View

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Wrapup 3/28/2011

News on the Iwashige babies is more somber this week than last. We are no longer expecting twins, unless Shane and Dorcas have twins all by themselves--certainly not an expected outcome at this point.

A sonogram on Tuesday revealed that Joel and Hilda's baby had come and gone before anyone had a chance to meet him or her. One week earlier there had been a brief episode of troubling developments, which prompted them to schedule the sonogram--for reassurance, they hoped, since all seemed well again by the following weekend. But by Tuesday the baby had disappeared, although its lifeline and tiny little dwelling place were still clearly visible on the sonogram.

We are all readjusting to this new reality, but we are disappointed. Joel and Hilda are going on with life and went to Kansas City this weekend as planned, for a marriage enrichment seminar.

Shane and Dorcas heard their baby's heartbeat several days ago, which was a nice surprise, since it's often not possible to pick it up at this early stage, although a beating heart is visible on a sonogram.

Embracing both joy and grief at the same time is a challenge. Just before Joel was born, we faced a similar situation when our dear friends' baby was born prematurely and died almost immediately. I don't remember a lot of specifics about how we coped, but I have the sense that God provided, and we entered into their grief and they entered into our joy. The friendship survived. I may never know, however, what hidden pain they suffered.


I'm reflecting on differences in how people feel about sharing information. Our cultural heritage probably predisposes us to more caution than is true in some cultures. We all understand, however, that, even within the same culture, a lot of variation exists, and a group's customs can change over time.

Some people keep all information close to the chest. They might be such good listeners that you don't realize till after a conversation is over that you really didn't hear much from them. You have to know them a long time before you figure out that they have opinions. Maybe this only happens to those of us who can hold forth a little too vigorously.

Other people spill their heads and hearts all over the place. You know the good, bad, and ugly almost as soon as they know it.

Probably most of us think we are good middle-of-the-roaders when it comes to sharing information--appropriately cautious, but not obsessively private. Just right.


I admit to being a bit of an information junkie. Few things energize me as does the need to know. Usually I'm eager to share it with someone when I find out. Certainly, not because everyone else needs to know that I know it, but I can't imagine that other people don't want to know what I know. So many things in life are interesting and worthy of contemplation and wonder. That's right, isn't it? ISN'T IT?

I do not, however, particularly love to ferret out all the details of another person's life. Budding romances and developing babies and brewing scandals can all simmer quietly for a long time before they finally surface and I learn about them at the same time as everyone else. This is completely acceptable--unless, of course it involves my family. Then I don't want to learn it first on Facebook.

Here are a few of the "Attitudes About Sharing Information" categories I've identified on the fly--

1) Don't share it unless you can guarantee that it will turn out well.
2) Don't share it unless everyone and everything is portrayed in a good light.
3) Don't share it unless you can control the results.
4) Don't share it if someone might ask uncomfortable questions about it.
5) Share freely that you know something that you're divulging only later or only to a select few.
6) Dispensing information is a race, and being first is important.
7) Share information freely, but make the recipient(s) promise not to pass it on to anyone else.
8) View others with disdain if they share something they find interesting that you think is boring.
9) Don't share anything before it can be documented, footnoted, and archived.
10) Don't share anything that could ever be used against you.
11) Family matters are private. Most matters somehow can be construed to be family matters.
12) If it involves finances, it's private.

And now I will retire smugly to my information dispensing corner, where all is true, important, and perfectly balanced.

Meanwhile, I will do my best to rejoice with all who rejoice, and weep with all who weep. I will have to trust others to share freely enough with me that I will know when either or both are appropriate, and I will try to do the same.


William Hershberger is having hip replacement surgery tomorrow. He has walked painfully for some time, and used a cane, of late. Since he has hemophilia, surgery involves some added risk. Medical advances make it a manageable process, however, according to William's daughter, Charity, who is about to graduate from a nursing program. I certainly will continue to pray that William comes through the surgery with prospects for pain-free mobility.


School starts again tomorrow after a one-week spring break. Only five weeks or so remain in the school year.

Next week, on Sun. eve., the high school students give the first of several spring programs. This one will be at Center.


A group of women from here hope to go to Boley, OK next Saturday for a one-day women's seminar/retreat. Dorcas Smucker is to be the speaker. I'm looking forward to meeting this "friend" for the first time--in my memory, at least. Our fathers were friends back when they were the only two Amish young men who had ever gone away to college and returned home to remain part of an Old Order Amish church group. Now they are both past 80 (Amos may be 90 or more.) and in Beachy churches. I've learned to "know" Dorcas through her books, her blog and through some email correspondence.


People seem to marvel that our church needs eight ministers. Today, however, four of them preached (or at least met with Christians) elsewhere. Gary was somewhere in Asia with one or more of our six members who live there, Dwight was in OK, LaVerne was in Labette Co., and David was in IN where Susanna's parents' estate sale was conducted yesterday. Arlyn preached here, and Julian presided over the church service, while the on-sabbatical and partly or completely retired ministers listened from the audience. There always seems to be plenty for everyone to do.


This week I ordered perennial food plants for the Trail West place. Grant and Clarissa plan to live there, and I'm excited about having someone there to take care of the plantings in exchange for some of the harvest. Even with careful shopping, this is not cheap, but I see it as a good investment. If all goes well, there should eventually be enough production for market sales.

I can't do things like this reflexively, as some people seem able to do. They check their favorite catalog and buy whatever is listed there. Or they find someone who has a patch and dig up their extra plants. Or they pop in at the garden center and pick up whatever is on display. I worry about bringing home diseases along with those free plants, or ending up with a variety that is poorly adapted to the demanding Kansas climate from the catalog. I trust the garden center only slightly more than the catalogs.

So I do the time-consuming research to find adapted varieties, and I part painfully with the necessary cash to buy disease-free plants. Now to make the necessary soil preparations to get all these roots and shoots into the ground promptly when they arrive. For fellow Kansans--here's what I bought (and why I bought it, in some cases):

Strawberries: (A long production time is important to me.)

Earliglow--early and with a wonderful flavor--small though, after the first flush of production
Redchief--disease resistant, recommended by K-State, and red throughout--mid-season
Jewel--widely recommended, disease resistant, mid-to-late season
Sparkle--cold hardy, late, and excellent flavor

I think both Earliglow and Sparkle have some Fairfax in their ancestry--a really sweet berry.

All of the bramble fruits listed below are recommended by Dr. Brenda Olcott-Reid, who lives in SE Kansas and apparently works with a university breeding program across the state line in MO. I've read and learned from her writings in the past, and found a website featuring her presentation when I did an internet search for heat-tolerant raspberries. I was pleased to discover that I had already picked out most of what she recommended.

Thornless Blackberry--Triple Crown (winter hardiness is one of the concerns here)

Raspberries--I found all these varieties at Pense Nursery in Mountainburg, AR for competitive prices. The red raspberry was not readily available elsewhere.

Black Raspberry--Jewel
Purple Raspberry--Royalty (This is a red-black cross, usually pruned like a black.)
Red Raspberry--Revielle (Polka was also recommended as a fall-bearer. Revielle is very early, and I think it has a better chance of bearing well before the August heat takes its toll.)

Rhubarb--Summer heat is hard on Rhubarb, and the K-State recommendations are not decisive--more like a list of what people plant. I'm trying a number of different varieties in hopes that some will survive and perhaps thrive.

Crimson Red--cheapest at Berlin Seeds
Victoria--the only green variety, but reportedly quite productive and sweet, fairly common
MacDonald--from Burpee
Canada Red--from Jung
Valentine--from Jung--although they may be out of it by now

Asparagus--Heat tolerant is important, and all-male varieties do not choke up the bed with reseeding over time as other varieties do.

Jersey Supreme--Early, all-male, and very tolerant of temperature extremes
Purple Passion--Reportedly sweeter and more tender than most. (I can't resist the purple color of the spears.)
Atlas--Very heat tolerant, productive. I'm going to dig up my patch here and transplant it, since I think it won't likely survive Shane's renovations of the house and yard when he moves here. This variety seems completely unavailable commercially this year, unless you want to buy at least a pound of seed. (One ounce contains 250 seeds.) Only a few years ago, this was recommended by the K-State vegetable specialist, and I ordered some from a grower in eastern Kansas. They don't list it this year, and I learned that the CA company that produced the seed has been sold to a New Jersey company that doesn't yet have their own Atlas asparagus seed supply. The CA company has some left, but will not sell in small quantities, and has no roots left.


We had some snow again this evening, and Thursday will likely be the first spring-like day this week. I'm going to move the lettuce to the greenhouse tomorrow, however, and leave it out there. It needs lots of light and can stand the cold. We've been moving a lot of stuff in and out daily, but it's too cold outside right now for warm-season plants like peppers and tomatoes, and they're living inside under lights for the present.

I had hoped to avoid having to plant lettuce indoors this spring since I planted it outside under plant protectors--re-purposed deli tray covers--round, clear, and several inches tall. This was all very well, except that they needed a little more moisture than they got, and then all but two of them blew away last week when we had fierce winds, first from the south, then from the north. I wouldn't know whether to look for them in OK or NE. "I think you'll have to start lettuce inside," Hiromi told me, after noting the absence of plant protectors when he fed the sheep in their nearby pen. So, several days ago, I did, and now it's coming up.

The garden has been tilled, but there are manure chunks that need "melting," as Hiromi puts it.


Some of my favorite zinnia varieties have become obscenely expensive--40 cents a seed. I sold some plants last year, but am not sure that anyone would be willing to pay what I'd have to charge if I sell them again this year. They are described as being decorticated (I think that's how you spell it.), whatever that means. I'm guessing it describes a way of processing the seed that makes it more uniform and easily machine seeded. The "normal" seeds do look strange--like smashed and slivered and curled short, chopped-up twigs.


The Spanish class from the high school is planning to go to Waslala, Nicaragua on their class trip.


Hiromi has almost finished his gas kiln, and fired it for the first time last week. Joe Yoder did some of the welding for him, and a sheet metal shop in Hutch shaped the structure according to Hiromi's specifications. Hiromi lined it with fire bricks and insulation, and mounted it on a small trailer so he can demonstrate firing raku pottery elsewhere.

Joel Garret, a potter friend, who is a public high school art teacher in Nickerson, is organizing a Saturday art workshop in McPherson and asked Hiromi if he would do a raku demonstration. That was the motivation Hiromi needed to finish this project. He bought many of the supplies seven years ago.

I have a very practical mental list of pottery I'd like Hiromi to make. He has only one item on his list: tea bowls for the Japanese tea ceremony. I might have to dust off my clay "throwing" skills and make whatever I want. I haven't done it since the first year we were married, and now I could practice on the wheel in our basement and get it fired either in the electric or gas kiln in the shed.

Hiromi hopes to perfect a glazing/firing technique that ends up with some natural red clay color showing through a black glaze. This requires reduction firing, which, as I understand it, utilizes burning in an oxygen-starved environment. This process draws iron out of the clay, and leaves its color on the surface of the glaze.

The practice glaze he tried last week was an underwhelming success. It turned out a very flat and monotonous dark gray--slightly lumpy in spots, which made us both laugh. It wasn't done very painstakingly, since he was mostly testing the burner in the kiln, and he will surely do more research and experimentation before he shows off his skills to those high school kids who gather in McPherson.

I suggested pottery making as a hobby to Hiromi a number of years ago. I thought it would let him make use of his bent toward both science and art, and his appreciation of tradition and innovation. His ability to keep meticulous records is helpful too in learning from his experimentation.


Hiromi had a fairly memorable negative experience with a customer who came through his checkout lane last week--during the few minutes Hiromi worked past his quitting time. The manager asked him to do so, since it was very busy at the time.

The woman had multiple coupons. This is not usually a problem, but one of them did not "take" when he processed it. (I think it was for two items and she had only bought one.) The customer was talking on the phone during checkout, but she occasionally flung comments and instructions in Hiromi's direction also. She informed Hiromi that she was told that the person at checkout should do _____________ to redeem the coupon. Hiromi was still trying to understand what she was saying when he overheard her tell the phone friend that "this guy doesn't know what he's doing." She interrupted her phone conversation long enough to inform him that she is ____________'s wife (a local attorney), and he should call customer service and the manager. He did, and they both waited a long time before those people arrived. Hiromi could very easily have taken care of the situation by himself by then. Meanwhile, Hiromi's relief checker arrived, and Hiromi gladly escaped.

That was an offensive customer on many levels. Hiromi knows her attorney husband and thinks well of him. He thinks he probably has the good sense never to go shopping with his wife, and he fervently pities him, in general. Grant surmises that everyone in the store who has ever taken care of that customer takes one look when she arrives, and moans to themselves, "Oh no. Not that woman again."


Hiromi had a good job evaluation last week. After one year of work, he will be eligible for a raise. Woohoo.


An RN we know came through Hiromi's checkout lane recently. When he asked if she's working at the hospital, she said she was working at the Newton Wal-Mart, hoping to be transferred to the Hutchinson store.

The hospital in Hutchinson has recently laid off 49 workers, so finding a job there might not be easy. But driving to Newton for Wal-Mart wages seems like a pretty desperate move for someone who at another time could have earned RN wages in the same town where she lives.


I hear that the University of Kansas lost a big basketball game today. I won't lose any sleep over it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Here's a copy of an email I sent to the DLM family email group, after everyone had gotten identical emails from Joel and Hilda and Shane and Dorcas:

This news has been very hard to keep under wraps--Iwashige twins on the way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We already know that they will not be identical. We even know that they will not be fraternal. We're not even sure they will be born on the same day. But until other information is incontrovertible, we're counting on two Iwashige babies with Oct. 28 birthdays.

You should have heard the exclamations and seen the expressions when Joel and Hilda and Shane and Dorcas began to compare due date notes around the table when all the Iwashiges were together.

This grandmother-to-be promises that she did not announce the date four months ago and begin cracking the whip. Announcements and whip cracking do not produce babies anyway, so it's a good thing I didn't do that.

So pleased . . .


Here's a copy of the identical emails:


We thought you might enjoy knowing that the next generation of the DLM
family is, apparently, under way! If all goes well, we're planning on
welcoming a new Iwashige to the world around October 28 of this year.
Feel free to consider this public (rather than "friends and family")
news on or after this Sunday. :-)


We're mindful that the safe arrival of a healthy child is always a gift and not a guarantee, so we are interceding already on behalf of these babies and their parents. But we're rejoicing meanwhile in the goodness of God Who has already given us this Good Thing to look forward to.


Last week people here heard the news about Dorcas' sister expecting twin girls in Thailand.

I joked with Dorcas that she obviously has some "twin genes" in her family, but it probably also takes being married into the EJM family. Dorcas' sister's husband is part of a local couple's extended family that included several sets of twin grandchildren, and at least four sets of twin great grandchildren. The unborn twins will be the fifth--unless another set of twins appears in the meantime.

One baby will be quite enough as far as Dorcas is concerned.


Tonight after church several of us ladies talked about different ways of distinguishing between the two sets of grandparents most children have. One local family uses "Opa" and "Oma"--the Dutch words for Grandma and Grandma. This makes sense since they used to live in a Dutch speaking part of Belgium, and the mother is a native of that area. The Shenks called one set of grandparents names I can't remember--from a language Edith couldn't remember either. Linda reminded me that we called our Kansas grandparents Mommy and Daudy, and our Iowa grandparents Grussmommy and Grussdaudy.

Hilda has Spanish in her family's history of having lived in El Salvador. Dorcas has Luo from having lived in Kisumu, Kenya (among Obama's father's tribesmen). I don't know what the Luo grandparent words are and I'm not sure that the Spanish ones would seem quite right. I guess I'm assuming that the other set of our grandchildren's grandparents will want "regular" names, so it's probably up to us to be have the irregular ones. Hiromi and I are considering Grandpa-san and Grandma-chan. (We're giggling though about the possibility, so far.) Ojiisan and Obaasan are probably just a little too strange all around.

What other ideas are out there--for grandparent names?


Linda remembers more than I do about the dilemma Joel had as the oldest child and grandchild--being taught relationship titles that no one else used.

Linda remembers that I suggested once that he pray for Daddy and Mommy and Grandpa and Grandma, so he did--only he said Hiromi and Miriam and Mom and Dad.


The owner of Software Builders has 12 children, and, while no employee has come close to approaching this family population feat as far as I know, there does seem to be a minor flurry of activity in the population increase department. Josh and Joel are both expecting their first child, and Ellis is expecting his fourth--in the same month, as I understand it.


Willard Mast's birthday is on the Iwashige babies' due date. My father's birthday is the 18th, which he thinks would be a good day for the babies to arrive. (I suspect it would be easy to find agreement on that--from Dorcas and Hilda, especially--when the 18th rolls around.) My nephew, Joey, has a birthday on the 26th, and another nephew Zachery, has a birthday on the 27th. Babies don't know, of course, that a due date is an appointment, and, if they did, they might still show an inconvenient disregard for punctuality in this matter.


All the baby news is creating quite a buzz.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

News on Jae

We have finally gotten word about Jae Young Hwang, the Korean Japanese young man who was part of our family for about ten months while he attended Pilgrim High School. He lives and works now also in southern Japan, far away from the site of the earthquake damage, and is safe and well.

Jae's family's home, however, is in a prefecture right next to Fukushima, which is south of Miyagi--both prefectures where the most serious earthquake and tsunami damage occurred. The Hwang family lives in the northern part of Ibaragi prefecture, just south of Fukushima.

Jae's sister Sooin wrote the following in a personal message via Facebook:

Our place also had a damage and we are running out of oil, water and food.
However our area is not the worst place and the situation is getting better.
Please pray for Japan.
Hope your family are all well.

If you've been wanting to pray by name for someone in Japan, pray for the Hwang family. They are a Christian family, and are active in a Korean congregation in Japan. Jae's parents moved to Japan when he was five years old, and they have lived there ever since. His mother was a Christian before she left Korea.

This is an opportunity for Christian people in Japan to reach out to others, but they are obviously not immune to suffering themselves, and I'm sure it would be a blessing to the Hwang family to know that people are praying for them.


Tonight someone from Christian Aid Ministries called to see if we had ideas for Christian contacts in Japan that might be able to partner with CAM in providing humanitarian aid and literature for the stricken areas. I gave him several stateside names of people I know of who have contact with Japanese people who share Anabaptist ideals. By the end of the week CAM hopes to have people on the ground in Japan.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Wrapup 3/13/2011

Hiromi's last utterance before he went to bed just now was "The third nuclear reactor in Japan just blew up." He's been following the events in Japan, on NHK, I think. Apparently, not much is known yet about how bad it was. It may have happened with this one just as happened earlier. In that case, the structure (building) around the reactor blew up when a potent mixture of hydrogen and oxygen ignited, but the reactor itself (made of stainless steel six inches thick) was undamaged. The explosive situation developed because sea water had been used to cool the reactor, in the absence of the usual cooling mechanisms because of damage from the earthquake and tsunami.

When sea water is used, it's the last resort, since the reactor is forever rendered useless after that. The threat of a meltdown was serious enough to warrant this drastic action.


I marvel at the concern of Americans over the loss of life in Japan, the destruction of cities, and the threat of radiation. Yet in WWII, Americans dropped bombs on two cities in Japan, resulting in the death of 200,000 people, destruction of two large cities--Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the release of radiation that caused illness and abnormalities for years to come.

These many years later, the peacetime use of atomic energy has again become a fearsome threat, piled on top of shocking natural catastrophe. And the whole world is concerned.


When a tornado or ice storm goes through Kansas, loss of power is a common result. But our roads are still here and usually our power generating capacity is still intact. Restoring power is just a matter of crews getting out to reset poles and re-string lines. Not so in eastern Japan. The major coastal highway is gone in many areas, sunk permanently to a level that places it on the ocean side of the shoreline. Getting to many of these towns has been impossible so far. And their electric power plants are blowing up and threatening to poison everything in the vicinity.

If you think of how cold it can still get in Partridge, Kansas (We're getting snow this evening.), think of Sendai, Japan--near the earthquake epicenter. Both Partridge and Sendai are located very nearly at 38 degrees latitude, north. I hear that people there are cold and hungry, and in the dark. Many, many aftershocks--so many that officials have lost track--keep people too scared to stay inside all the time. At least one aftershock registered above six, and one this evening was at least four. This is no tropical nightmare. It's a wild winter in Japan.


We have not heard from Jae, the exchange student who lived with us for ten months. His family lived much closer to the earthquake damaged area than most of Hiromi's family. We're not sure where he is based in his job as a journalist, and, of course, we're not sure what his role in reporting on the recent disaster might involve.

He's not very diligent in answering his Facebook messages, and right now, that's the only contact information we have for him. So we wait, and pray for him and his family in the meantime.


We had night school on Friday evening from 6:00 pm till about 12:30 am. I may have been the only person there who came straight home from school in the afternoon and took a long nap. I showed up at school after things were underway, as I usually do--since I'm not a full-time teacher. People seemed fairly bright-eyed at that point, but even coffee, Mountain Dew, and energy drinks didn't sustain that condition indefinitely.

A lot of students had worked feverishly all week to earn "E" privilege status for the night school event. As a result, the learning center was fairly de-populated much of the evening. When students weren't in class, they trucked out to the shop to play basketball or watch others play.

Marvin had assembled the park benches the comp class donated to the school, so they were pressed into service in the shop on their "maiden voyage" day.

Friday was a spring-like day, and the windows were wide open during the first part of night school. But the wind shifted to the north during the night, and it got a lot colder.

Typing class came near the end of the day--an intentional scheduling maneuver to provide something a little more active than doing pace work. While they were working on designing Plain Talk covers, I overheard Nathan say, "OK, I'm getting tired. I spelled 'of' o-v-e." Nevertheless, he whipped out an on-the-fly original poem for the cover of the Plain Talk. It started out with "I'm getting tired . . . " When he showed it to me, he hastened to assure me that this isn't really what he would want on the cover.

I wondered yesterday how parents feel about our night school. I don't know that they've ever been asked, and I think they probably should have been. Any comments out there?


I loved the Gathering for Gardeners, except that I got tired of sitting on those hard folding chairs. We moved so quickly from one lecture to the next that there was no time to get up and move around, let alone zip to the back for a cup of coffee or water and a cookie or two.

I often marvel that the same people who are really knowledgeable about specific gardening subjects have the good fortune to be good speakers too. Or maybe I wouldn't notice it if they weren't, since I find the subject captivating in any presentation.

Among other things, I learned that mole baits do no good since the only thing moles are used to eating are live soil dwellers. The only remedy for moles, besides dogs that dig them up and cause more damage in the process than the moles might do, are fairly grisly traps--one of them called the harpoon type--which gives you some idea of the dispatching mechanism. For pocket gophers, on the other hand, baits are often effective. We have either moles or gophers--moles, I think, but I had never considered the gopher possibility before yesterday. I'll have to examine their entrance or air-hole mounds more carefully to know for sure. The tunnels look much the same.

I found out why it's so hard to find David Austin roses in the trade. The rosarian who spoke yesterday said they're wonderful roses, but they stocked them faithfully for some time, and there was almost no demand for them. "We couldn't give them away," he said. And here I was drooling over their pictures in the Wayside catalog and deciding yet again that I couldn't justify spending the money, not dreaming that they might actually go away some time because no one was spending the money. Last year Stutzmans had some of them, and this year they have none--just when I'm finally ready to use gift money and other odd bits I've collected to buy some good landscape roses that also make great cut flowers.

I have almost no patience with tea roses--naked as they usually are from the knees on down, with terrible complexion problems (blackspot) if you don't spray them within an inch of their lives, with only one chafer-beetle-laden blossom on each stem. Then if you ever grow a perfect one, you bring it indoors, and it promptly blows itself totally open and then drops its petals. This is not a satisfactory scenario for a field-grown cutflower grower. I want bushes that look good in the landscape, resist diseases fairly reliably without sprays, don't shiver themselves into oblivion in the chill of winter, and look good in a vase on the table for at least four days. Some of the David Austin roses fill the bill as do some of the roses bred by Kordes, a German breeder. They don't have to have the classic tea rose shape, as long as they're full-petaled or graceful in some other way.


Yesterday I met a farmer's market friend who referred in passing to her husband's having been laid off because he refused to falsify safety inspection records his boss told him to falsify. He had worked as an engineer with this company for more than 30 years.

Our Sunday School lesson today in I Peter 1 was apparently written to a group of Christian Jews who were dispersed in the area that is present-day Turkey, among people who did not share their faith, and did not take kindly to seeing them live out their faith. The raging persecution that was unleashed later had not yet arrived, but life was hard for Christians, and Peter was writing to help them understand the reasons for hope.

I thought of my friend's husband. Maybe his workplace experience put him in a situation much like those Christians in Peter's time--suffering for doing what was right--not because Christianity is outlawed, but because following Christ has always put people at odds with the ways of a world in conflict with the way of Christ. Nevertheless, we have reasons for hope, just as they did.


Perry Lee and Judith celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary today with an open house. At 5:00 there was to be a time of singing out of the Coleman's song books, arranged for men's voices. We went early and didn't stay for the singing.

The old pictures cycling through on a screen provided a lot of interest. Perry Lee's prized black '57 Chevy appeared in some of the pictures.

Lyle and Maria and Owen and Wanda orchestrated the event.


I sat beside Esther in church today. I could tell she was Asian and soon learned that she is Kim's sister--who is married to my former student, Esther. They grew up in Paraguay. She and her husband Arlen are here from PA visiting their son who is a student at Bethel College in North Newton, about 50 miles from here. He was with them today. I hope he feels welcome to come back.

With all the CASP guys still here, we had quite a diverse group at church this morning.


Our dining room is partly turned into a potting shed, as is often the case this time of year. Hiromi transplanted some tomatoes while I was off to the Gathering for Gardeners yesterday, and I seeded another half dozen flats of ornamentals after I got home. We have peppers and eggplant ready to transplant also.

Hiromi also transplanted the Swiss Chard. We'll see if they survive the transplanting. They're not known to do well under those conditions, and I had planted them into individual cells because of that. My plan was to move them directly into the garden, disturbing their roots as little as possible. We obviously weren't quite on the same page in this matter.


I'm still amazed with how well everything works on this second-best stove we got from LaVerne and Rebecca at a very special price, and I'm really enjoying cooking and baking again. I notice, however, that the burners are not as hot as they were on our old one. I think it's because it has sealed burners, and the grates must have higher clearances to accommodate the burner position. The increased space between the burner and the cooking pan allow more heat to escape and direct less of it toward the bottom of the cooking pan. I read about this phenomenon on the internet when I was trying to identify the characteristics of various stove options.


I think I agree with the person who commented on daylight savings time by marveling that anyone would think that you could take a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it onto the bottom of the blanket and expect to end up with a longer blanket.

Just when I could begin to look forward to waking up to daylight, the morning schedule is plunged back into the Dark Ages. It's almost enough to make me reconsider my preference for early morning rising.


My aunt Judy (Mrs. Perry) was in the hospital last week with lung problems. She is at home now, but still on oxygen, except when she puts it aside because it's too much bother. She is quite frail, and apparently has some dementia.

Lydia Yoder also had a very weak spell last week, but returned to normal after a day or so.

Conrad and Rebekka's toddler son David also was in the hospital with pneumonia.

A lot of people are sick with the flu, and the illness often sticks around a while. We've had one or more absences at school almost every day for the past few weeks.


Achievement tests will be given this week at the high school. We're hoping for good attendance on those days. At the grade school, there were a number of absences on testing days, and the prospect of making up the testing looks fairly daunting.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Calling All Local Gardeners/Earthquake News

The annual Gathering for Gardeners is scheduled for tomorrow in Hutchinson. Sponsored by the local Horticulture Club, the day will be filled with lectures by excellent and knowledgeable speakers on a variety of topics. It starts at 9:00 (with registration prior to that), and the final lecture begins at 3:30.

Starting Plants from Seed
What's New in Roses
Moles, Gophers and Deer, Oh My!
Edible Landscaping
Starting a Garden from Scratch
New & Exciting Annuals for 2011
Growing Sunflowers


Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
407 E. 12th
Hutchinson, KS
(West of the Cosmosphere on 12th St.)

Alan Stevens speaks twice--the state extension specialist on ornamentals, and James Taylor, local retired HCC horticulture professor also speaks twice. Other speakers are from nurseries and the extension service.

I recommend this event to anyone who is interested in gardening and can make it work.


We just heard about the 8.9 earthquake in Japan, and have had several inquiries about Hiromi's family. We haven't known this long enough to try to get in contact with anyone in Japan. The quake epicenter was on Honshu island, which is the third island from the south, and by far the largest island in the chain of four islands that make up Japan. They run roughly in a north-south direction. Hiromi's family lives on Kyushu, the southernmost island. They live inland, so we believe they would not have been affected by a tsunami.

Sendai is a coastal city about 80 miles from where the underwater epicenter was. It's the city named in news releases as the hardest hit land area. Sendai is several hundred miles north and slightly east of Tokyo. Both cities are located on the eastern coast of the island. Tokyo experienced significant damage, and 4 million buildings there are without power. I can only imagine how the paralysis of the communication and transit systems has brought normal life to a screeching halt. Narita, the major international airport near Tokyo, is closed. Thirteen hundred miles of coastline were affected by the quake.

We have friends and relatives in Tokyo, and are concerned about their welfare. We're praying for them, as well as for all the people we don't know, who experienced terror and loss.

Other Pacific island areas are warned about coming tsunamis, and apparently Hawaii has already been affected.

This is the most powerful earthquake to have hit Japan since records have been kept. It's also one of the most powerful earthquakes to have been recorded anywhere, ever.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Ham Hocks

Hiromi recently checked out several Wal-Mart customers who were buying ham hocks with a WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food assistance card. The ham hocks looked like miniature whole hams, except there wasn't much meat on them--mostly bone covered by skin. "What do you do with these?" he finally asked one customer, after his curiosity grew enough to overcome his reluctance to ask a nosy question.

"We use them to flavor beans."

"Get some for Tuesday night's supper," I suggested after Hiromi recounted his experience. I had planned a white beans and kale crock supper and knew that adding ham hocks to the pot would lend some wonderful flavor to the dish. I had never cooked with them, but I could picture them--the sliced off end of a fat ham, cured and cooked along with all the meatier parts, but severed at the end of the process in order to make a tidier, more attractive package to display in the meat case.

Hiromi reported at supper tonight that when he asked the guy at the meat counter where to find the ham hocks, he could see the disdain on his face. "Why do you buy something with so little meat on it?" he asked. Hiromi had already told him that he wanted something to flavor beans after he at first mistakenly started down a pig's feet trail, and realized after he saw them that no; pig's feet weren't right at all. So he tried to describe what he wanted because he couldn't remember the name.

The guy at the meat counter's reaction got me thinking about how people are likely made to feel when they buy ham hocks, especially with a WIC card--like poor, stupid folks who don't know anything about smart shopping and who have totally unrefined tastes.

What I know, and the WIC people might also know, is that if you add ham hocks to white beans, you're not counting on the meat from the ham hocks to provide protein for your meal. You're counting on the beans to be the protein source, and nothing more is required of the ham hocks than bubbling away until they're fished out at the end of the cooking process. Granted, the fished out pile looks very messy and fairly unappetizing, but it's easy to offer it without regrets to the half-wild cats on the farm, and those ham hocks move effortlessly on to bless another set of humble scavengers.

Beans are smart food--economically and nutritionally. Their high fiber content makes a person feel satisfied after having taken in far fewer calories than would be the case with an equal volume of meat.

Let that guy at the meat counter have his thick ham slices. (On another day I'll have them too.) But let him save his sympathy or disdain for the poor ignorant people who buy ham hocks. They don't need either sympathy or disdain. They need nutritious, inexpensive, good-tasting food, and ham hocks help them get it. The meat counter guy will no doubt keep right on indulging in a surfeit of protein and feel smart while doing it. I'll do my best not to regard him with disdain for doing so.


The kale Hiromi told me he bought turned out to be turnip greens. It said so right on the long twistie around the bundle. I used them exactly as I would have used kale, and it turned out fine.

To the beans I added onions and garlic, sauted in olive oil with the greens before adding to the beans. When the beans were soft, I added salt and pepper, and some red pepper flakes, along with a small can of tomato sauce.

It was exactly our kind of good.