Prairie View

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Climate Change Comments

This is a followup to Hans' comment in an earlier post. I started to write this in a "comment" box after the post, and tired quickly of the space constraints, so I moved it here.

In connection with the "nothing to lose" comment [if we behaved as though climate change were real] , I thought of the financial loss aspect, and by extrapolation, the loss of other creature comforts and necessities, when I wrote that. I decided, however, not to add the qualifiers I was noting mentally, opting for brevity (I know--hard to believe.) rather than thoroughness. I quoted James, and said I agreed with him. While I might not have made the statement in exactly the same sweeping terms he used, I identified with an implicit conviction that the path of caution has much to recommend it.

In the conversation with James I had said, in effect, that I see environmental factors through the lens of an obligation to be good caretakers (stewards) of our earthly environment. When that commitment is firm, I believe that in our personal choices, financial losses can legitimately be incurred in the pursuit of discharging that obligation. It is a way of making an offering of obedience to the Lord. I think some of the farmers I know do that as a matter of principle.

I admit to having a visceral feeling of disgust with what I hear from the American industry side of the environmental debate. I think the underlying motivation for resisting environmental controls is almost always profit driven--what the Bible calls "the love of money" and which is identified as "the root of all evil." I think James identifies in industry the same underlying motive I see, and is mentally juxtaposing love for money and love for people, and feels that when a minister seems to tilt toward the "love of money" side, it's especially galling. I know you would say that the choices are not that clear cut, and I agree.

I followed the links you posted, and the next comments were written after I read them.

I’m not interested in doing the necessary research to establish the national and international scope of environmental problems. Neither am I interested in aligning myself with a specific political position in relation to environmental regulations. I won't attempt to support or refute what I think is your basic premise--that being against government environmental regulations is not equivalent to being unloving toward people. I do nevertheless feel like challenging some of the strong statements you're making--not because I'm taking offense, or because I think it's totally untrue, but because I think some of it is unclear and there could be benefit from expanding the view a bit in some areas. The whole debate does not turn on one factor; for example, whether or not placing regulatory limits on industry causes more suffering for poor people than leaving industry to its own devices--although I agree that considering this issue is valid.

You say "If there is global warming, people can always find high ground--it's not as if it will move with tsunami-speed. However, a creeping global food shortage because of high expenses because it costs so much more to produce is actual tangible, projected suffering." Are you saying that people can adjust to global warming because they have more time, but they can't adjust to food shortages that will happen right away? I tend to think the food shortages would happen slowly too, if they were a trickle-down effect of a slow-down in industrial output. The swift results would happen in the coffers of industry giants. What is the "high ground" that people will be able to find in the event of climate change?--high moral ground? less harsh environments in which to live and grow food? How does producing food cost so much more with government control of industry pollution? I don't think government limitations on fossil fuel for agriculture is being proposed. That's where it would seem to me be a possible limiting factor on food production--less so in industry controls. Making the “leap” from government environmental controls on industry to assured food shortages could be challenged, I believe.

I have heard statistics and stories from reputable organizations about how factory emissions and effluents sicken many poor people who live downstream or downwind from the factories, or who work in them without adequate protection. On the basis of this information, I think a case could be made about lack of carefulness with environmental pollution disproportionately affecting the poor also. These people need jobs, even if the jobs sicken them; they need a place to live, and don't have the resources to move away or fight back against the deplorable conditions they live in. With or without government controls the poor are disproportionately affected by industrial pollution.

I’m as dismayed by the prayer to the Mayan goddess as you are. It happened in a U.N. meeting in Mexico, and the person offering the prayer had a clearly Hispanic name. I assume she was from Mexico, and the goddess she addressed is one of the gods and goddesses still worshiped in that part of the world. I acknowledge also that a lot of religious garbage is associated with the environmental movement. When this happens, I think often the earth is regarded as part of God Himself–not a created entity, apart from God, and lovingly fashioned and watched over by God, as I believe it is.

In the one source you referenced, most of the rhetoric and research focuses on the disaster of enacting governmental controls on the use of fossil fuels. Free market forces are seen as a better source of control than government controls. Frankly, I don’t have a vision for going to bat for either of those causes. While free markets are often lifted up as the righteous alternative to unholy government meddling, I see a lot of residual Social Darwinism in unbridled enthusiasm for free markets. I don’t like government meddling either, but I recognize the need for restraint from some source, without which the powerful (right or wrong, selfish or benevolent) would always have their way while the weak would bow to their will. The answer is neither in free markets or in governmental controls, of course, but in the changed lives of people who live by Godly principles.

Fossil fuels are a monster in the climate change discussion. If we could instantly stop using fossil fuels, everyone in the current debate could shut up and go home. Other kinds of pollution present health hazards, but no one is suggesting that they cause climate change. We can’t move away from fossil fuel use instantly, of course, or render them innocuous, but I see moving away from fossil fuel energy use as a good thing overall, unless it can be made far cleaner than it is now.

The fact that fossil fuels pollute is undeniable, and I'm as concerned about their health effects as about their possible climate change effects. When people talk about cap and trade laws, for example, I see such laws as being good on the side of moving toward less fossil fuel use, or cleaner use, but I’m not prepared to defend cap and trade laws as being good and right–for some of the reasons the article you cited suggests. It’s a messy business with few easy answers.

I'm encouraged when I remember that I'm not responsible for deciding what is right for everyone in every place and time. I can start with the principles I find in Scripture, and God will give me wisdom to know how to apply them in the situations that are part of my life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I bought a can of primer today to apply to the exterior of the front door at the Trail West house. The instructions say that the paint should be applied when the temperature is between 50 and 90 degrees. During the night tonight, between 12:00 midnight and 1:00 A.M., the mercury should plunge to those depths, according to the NOAA forecast.

The official temperature in Hutchinson this afternoon went to 112 degrees. My sister Lois, who lives near our place, says their thermometer registered 113.6. We have only 16% humidity, but it's still hot enough out there to singe your eyeballs.

A cold front is to sink south across Kansas tomorrow, and we have a chance of staying below 100 for one day. Then it's back to the 2011 summer normal.

Mara, the Beggar

Mara, our old ewe, is really good at applying many layers of guilt when she thinks it's breakfast or supper time, and she spies someone outside who is not bringing her food. For this reason, Hiromi always braces himself to resist her reminders when he goes for the paper before doing his morning outdoor chores.

This morning he came in laughing. "She adjusted her volume," he told me. The closer he got to the porch on his way back from the newspaper box, the louder and more insistent her deep bass baaaaaaas became. Hiromi stood strong, however, and Mara will wait for her breakfast till Hiromi finishes with his.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Moustache Trivia

"Moustaches are associated with the military." If you're Amish you already know that.

Five years ago, in May 2006, I got curious enough to test this hypothesis through research. Here are some excerpts from the findings I wrote down:

From what I can learn of mustaches and their association with military officers, the association was probably at its height in the 16th century in Europe. Beards were not worn then because they too easily became a handle with which to hold the head of an enemy when a soldier was attacking with a sword. Records exist of Anabaptists being adamantly opposed to the wearing of mustaches at that time.

In this country, beards and mustaches were both popular in the military around the time of the Civil War. By that time, guns had replaced swords, and beards were no longer the safety hazard they had been earlier. Beards and mustaches were also common among non-military men of the time.

Fashions had changed by the wartimes of the next century (1900's) and beards were abandoned in the military, for the most part. Mustaches may have been worn by some in the American military at mid-century, but a picture of the major generals of WW II reveals none of them having a mustache. Although the enclosed photo [not available here] is not too clear, individual pictures of the generals taken during that era show them with no facial hair. Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur were probably the best known generals, and they were both clean-shaven. Subsequently, the presence of any hair came to be viewed as a lice hazard, and new recruits were summarily shaved completely.

The above findings lead me to believe that in order to have a personal memory of mustaches being associated with the American military in any way at all, one would need to be well over 60 years old now. I personally suspect that the 16th century abhorrence of mustaches is the “memory” that has been passed down repeatedly, and is still fresh today among some–not as a recollection through experience, but as a memory of having been told it.


This afternoon when I went out to start the water in the west garden, I found two Northern Orioles flying around in a panic inside the bird netting Hiromi draped over 36 of the tomato plants and their cages. I stalked them grimly, and they fled to one corner of the netted area. One of them disappeared before I reached them, but the other one was held fast, tangled in the fabric at ground level. So I caught him, and lectured him emphatically, and rapped him on the beak, then threw him in the air. His wings caught the air, and he sailed to the top of the Elm south of the garden. I sincerely hope his little bird brain is busily sending notes to himself: Do not repeat this action. Stay away from the bird netting. Stay away from the garden. Be very afraid of being caught by the lady in the pointy Vietnamese grass hat. I hope no, no, no keeps ringing in his ears for a long time.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rain at Nap Time

Right after our Sunday dinner, it started raining--serious rain that obscured the Harvestore silo a half mile away--that ran down the window panes and made everything outside look blurry and wavy--that roared on the metal garage roof outside our bedroom window--that smelled like rain, and announced its approach with thunder. Praise be to God.

I watched it for a bit, then went to take the nap I was anticipating, because, as everyone knows, going to sleep with the sound of rain is a beautiful thing--unless you're already getting too much rain, I suppose. I couldn't sleep right away though. I was afraid I'd miss out on the rain. It came to a grand total of .25 inch--clearly not a drought breaker, but a source of relief just the same--allowing the leaves in the milo field across the road to uncurl at least briefly, and washing down the pollens and dust that have been circulating exuberantly all summer.

Joel and Hilda, who live three miles away, got no rain when we did. Tonight they got rain that missed us. Capriciousness is apparently the name of this rain game.


Twila and I talked after church about the winds we've had this summer. They've been a blessing for the most part, we agreed. We've had mostly ideal wind speeds at 10-15 miles per hour--enough to provide some circulation at night and evaporate some perspiration during the day, but not scorching, driving winds that withered and wasted everything in their path. Even setting up and running sprinklers is less frustrating when the winds are cooperative.

I've noticed too that many of the winds are from the southeast rather than the southwest, which is more typical. It's a blessing for us since southeast winds send every bit of PS wafting out over the fields of this farm rather than toward the house and gardens. The only disconcerting part of this pattern is that usually SE winds indicate approaching moisture, but this summer that hasn't materialized as rainfall on our farm.

Tomorrow's predicted temperature is only 99 degrees. If the reality matches the billing, it will be the only day below 100 degrees in a multi-week stretch.


On chorus tour, Shane heard from someone in an eastern state that "It's getting pretty dry here. We haven't had rain for about a week and a half."

Shane resisted the urge to say Let me tell you something about dry . . .


Tomorrow is our 30th wedding anniversary. It's been a short 30 years, but long enough to go from newly-wed to empty nest (almost--by Aug. 20, when Grant gets married).

Hiromi is busily gathering information and making a plan to go to a Japanese restaurant in Wichita tomorrow evening. Sushi, tempura, or hibachi-style steak? It's a tough decision, and I'm proud of him for tackling it. I love this kind of food as much as he does, and I'm really happy about the chance to celebrate together. The drive down there and back is part of the anticipated together time.


Thinking about all this wonderful food reminds me that this is the best time of year to make tempura at home too, so maybe we'll eat chef-prepared sushi and hibachi steak in Wichita and gear up to do our own tempura at home. That would be a fun thing to do for our next Iwashige family meal. Tempura is basically batter-dipped, deep fried vegetables which are then dipped in a flavorful "soup" and eaten with rice. We like to do green beans, zucchini and other summer squash, onions, peppers, eggplant, sweet potato, and corn (cut off the cob and clumped with batter). Chicken or shrimp are our favorite tempura meats. The batter is very light, and makes a crackly thin fried coating.


Shane and I manned our market stand yesterday. It was a good market crowd, but, as has been the case the past several weeks, the heat seems to have the effect of people sort of keeping their head down, and grimly fixing their attention on finding the things they have on their mental list, and then bolting for home as quickly as possible. That's not a good environment for selling lots of product if you're offering a "luxury" item or a food item relatively new to the market--like meat and flowers.

Jared S., Arlyn M., and Andrew M. provided the music, and did a great job. Each of them did some singing and they all played an instrument--keyboard, bass, and guitar.

One lady used $3.00 of her Senior Farmer's Market Nutrition Program money to buy chard. She was apparently used to eating greens, and was delighted to find this food offered.

No one gets more than $30.00 in ten coupons of $3.00 each. The money can only be used for fruits, vegetables, and honey, and vendors who sell those things and are registered with the program can take the coupons and cash them at any bank, but not give back any change to the customer. Since the chard purchaser got all our remaining chard and it was worth only $2.57, I gave her a bunch of free flowers to compensate. "Keep the change," she had said, but giving her flowers made us both happy.

This program is funded through the Department of Agriculture, and has been available at our market for three years or so. I think it's a good use of government food assistance money. In our area, the coupons are mostly distributed through the Department of Aging.


Our baby guinea numbers dropped from nine to three by their second day. It's probably best that I don't know what creature to blame for eating them. If it was a dog or cat, I don't want to know about it, and if it was a wild animal, I don't want to kill it anyway.

I am harboring some disappointment with the adult guineas for not being more attentive. I really think they probably do OK most of the time, but the other night when we were working in the corn patch, the whole guinea family joined us, and then the adults crossed the fence and browsed through the veggie garden, leaving their chicks stranded alone in the middle of the corn patch. The dogs were there too--not a great combination. The adults seemed to remember their duties eventually and tardily returned to the corn patch to collect the family.


Shane stopped in on Tuesday to take the dogs home after their stay here while Shane and Dorcas were on chorus tour. He couldn't bear it though--taking them home to while away their time in a small kennel in this brutal weather. So he asked if they could stay here until it cools down some more. We're fine with their seeking out shade wherever they can find it, and rolling in the grass where we've watered, or hiding under the porch.

Brandi, who is the more rambunctious of the two, had started out at Joseph's place, but her barking at night prompted Joseph several times too many to take his gun out to shoot whatever predator she had cornered--only there was no predator there. Joseph's dog's barking is apparently strictly reserved for the necessities, and Joseph knows that when he barks, there's an invader present.

While Brandi was there, Joseph's dog, George, looked on with great embarrassment every time Joseph showed up with a gun in response to Brandi's barking. Silly female.

I keep wanting to call Joseph's dog Charles, but that would be disastrous. That's their toddler--not their dog. I think my ADD brain is conflating those English Monarch names--Charles and George--and has trouble sorting them out properly.


Joel and Hilda had the singing tonight for the young people. Hosting a crowd of 30-40 people for these gatherings is more challenging when the weather doesn't invite overflowing into the outdoors at mealtime and for socializing. The singing always goes better inside though.


Today in church, during sharetime, Vera suggested we sing "All the Way My Savior Leads Me" in connection with our need for rain. It was an interesting lens through which to view the words of this song:

All the way my Savior leads me
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav'nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate'er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father's house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bearing Others' Burdens

In a conversation with my neighbor Jamie I confessed an unholy reaction I had a day or two ago when I read a Facebook prayer request from a stranger in western Oregon. The post asked people to pray for sunshine and warm, dry weather. My reaction: Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to begin to think of praying for that? We're sweltering here in an overabundance of sunshine and warm, dry weather. To pray for more of it seems absurd.

Jamie knew exactly what I meant. He told me a closer-to-home story about a phone conversation he and his wife had with their son Jesse who lives in northeastern Kansas. On his days off Jesse does lawn mowing and other yard work, except that when it rains, he can't do those things. He summed up his feelings about this by saying, "I'm so tired of all this rain."

"Jesse, don't even think of saying such a thing," his mother told him, the sight of browning vegetation everywhere outside her windows no doubt prompting that reaction. I know exactly what she meant.

I heard another person say today what I have often thought recently, "It's really depressing to drive down the road and see what's happening." It hurts even more when you know the people who own and work the fields along the road. You know these people are already working hard and spending carefully to make their farming venture profitable, and that is not nearly always enough. Most farmers depend on some other income source to survive. How is it that these right ways of living aren't enough? I guess that's how if often is for people in many parts of the world--hard work and careful spending don't insure having enough. This reality can feel overwhelming, as if the whole world's burdens weighed us down.

My own reaction to the desperate Facebook poster from Oregon was probably exactly like the reaction of many people who have heard about our need for rain and cooler weather--when they themselves are wishing for warmer, sunnier, drier weather: Can you imagine how hard it is for me to begin to think of praying for that?

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ," the Scripture says. I've never before doubted that wisdom, and I don't doubt it now. I do wonder, though, exactly how you go about doing it, especially when your own desperation so completely clogs your feelings and depletes your resources that reaching out to help another feels like one empty hand stretching toward another's empty hand. I'm not quite sure either whether bearing another's burdens has more to do with feeling or doing.

Perhaps there is something to be learned from the "empty hand" imagery. Jamie said, "Not that talking about it really changes anything . . . " when he was explaining to me what he and Hiromi had been discussing.

"Talking about it helps us commiserate," I answered, "and sometimes that helps--knowing we're not the only ones suffering." Maybe the reason that's a good thing is because helpless people in company with other helpless people are forced to look away from themselves for aid available elsewhere. When they look to God, it may even help them see possibilities among their own resources that they've missed before.

After my thoughts had already churned along for some time on the "burden bearing" theme, I read a blog post written by my friend Dorcas, who lives in western Oregon. Hearing about what excessive rain and cloudy weather means for their grass seed business and for farmers in their area helped me put a face on that Facebook information, and I can now commiserate with the Oregon residents' desperation almost as well as my neighbors'. Even before this I remembered that praying for someone else does not first require feeling all that they're feeling when they have a need for help.

For me, the take-away lessons are these: 1) Pray for those who suffer, even if you can't feel what they're feeling. 2) Don't stay isolated when you're suffering. 3) Focus on God when you're suffering. 4) Don't take on the whole world's burdens; ask God to help you see what is within your capability to influence or change, and ask Him to turn your thoughts away from the rest.


Today I finally had the opportunity to tell my professor friend James that I liked his recent "Western Front" article (the readers write section of our local newspaper). It was a response to an earlier column by a local pastor on climate change.

James said in his article that he thought that even if climate change turned out not to be an ongoing phenomenon caused by human activity, we have nothing to lose by behaving as if it were exactly as some fear it is--that we are on a course creating huge changes in our climate patterns. I agree with him about having nothing to lose by behaving cautiously in environmental matters. James was further distressed by the fact that the original writer is a minister who "doesn't care about people"--in James' words.

I said I thought that the matter of stewardship should help guide our thinking about the environment. "We're caretakers of what God has given us. We need to figure out what that means, and do it." I can't imagine that it means poisoning what's here, knowing that it will harm people. I also commented on the many weather extremes we're witnessing this year, and wondered aloud what significance this has.

"That is a predicted effect of climate change--greater extremes," James said. We also discussed a matter in the local news, of late.


The Sunflower Electric company is going through the permitting process in preparation for building a power plant in western Kansas that will emit into the atmosphere 12 million tons of particulate matter per year. While some people oppose this on the basis of its climate change potential, I think it's quite enough reason to oppose it because of what those particulates will do to the air we breathe, and to our bodies after we've breathed it. It's a health issue--not only a climate issue. 3.9 billion gallons of water per year will also be used in the process of generating this electricity. The Ogallala Aquifer, which will supply this water, is already being depleted far faster than it's being replenished. This is an issue directly related to sustaining agriculture and human populations in those areas--another good enough reason to oppose Sunflower's plans--beyond what it might mean for the climate.

The power generated by Sunflower will mostly be sent to Colorado, which is ironic, since the coal used to generate the electricity will come from Colorado initially. I say if it's going to be Colorado coal and Colorado power, let's let it also be 3.9 billion gallons of Colorado water and 12 million tons per year of Colorado pollution--a package deal that stays outside of Kansas.

The Sierra Club is vigorously opposing the current plans by filing lawsuits. Under an earlier Democratic state governor, permits for construction were denied. When the governor joined Obama's cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Services, her replacement took a more generous stance toward the power company. A permit was granted for construction--strategically at the very end of 2010, which insured that more stringent environmental regulations scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2011 would not apply. I seriously doubt that this was coincidental.

Media research uncovered the fact that, in the public comment period that was ostensibly a government effort to gather input from the public and answer questions, Sunflower actually supplied some information and answers to their liking and the government passed it off as the result of their own investigation. This smells rotten to me.


Ultimately, what happens with Sunflower, and in Oregon and in Kansas weather is beyond my control. I can pray about these things, and then perhaps God will turn my thoughts elsewhere--back to everyday matters of taking care of what I am responsible for--to matters of stewardship, which I pray may include for all of us--care for everything in our "world" that God cares about.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Watering Corn and Pigs

Do you have any idea how to turn quarrelsome pig squeals into contented grunts on a triple digit day?

Today I finished watering the corn and piled the hose length near the hydrant just outside the hog pen when I got an inspiration. Before I turned off the hydrant, I set the cut-off valve at the end of the hose so that it produced a coarse spray instead of a single jet. I aimed at the pile of hogs trying to cool off around the waterer. The pile disentangled itself and each pig stood still, absorbing the moisture, and grunting softly. Then they came over to the fence near me, and snuffled some more. Others came streaming out of the building to get in on the action outside. I squirted them too. Their temperament improved by the second. I didn't overdo the watering, for fear of turning their fluffy, dry bedding into mucky, smelly stuff--just enough to dissolve the irritability into affability. I left them feeding contentedly and moving about normally.

It was a small moment of pleasure for both them and me.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Heat Records Since 1889

It's probably not a good sign when you're waiting for things to cool off so you can stand working outside again, and you know the cool down has begun when you find out that the temperature has gone down to 103.

The formidable heat continues unabated, and the forecast calls for more of the same through all of next week--overnight lows around 80 and daytime highs 105-107, with no rain. Lest you think that this is business as usual in Kansas, here is a quote from the National Weather Service:

Summer 2011 Proving to be One of the Hottest on Record (So Far...)

Below normal rainfall in concert with periodically strong and stagnant upper level high pressure systems has resulted in sweltering summer heat across much of Mid-America. After recording one of the hottest June's on record, Wichita is poised to record one of the hottest July's on record as well. The average high temperature from June 1st through July 15th at the Air Capital was 96.5 degrees, ranking 2nd warmest since 1889 behind only 1980, when the average June 1st through July 15th high temperature was 97.1 degrees.

The number of days this year where the mercury reached at least 100 degrees at Wichita is also staggering, with 22 such days recorded through July 16th. This ranks 2nd since 1889 behind only 1980, when 23 days of 100 degrees or higher where recorded through July 16th. (End of quote)

Comparing this year's record to the record for each of the past 122 years helps put things into perspective, and it's not reassuring.

If you're one of the people who is convinced that global warming is a figment of some blowhard's runaway imagination, I don't recommend that you broadcast it in these parts at the moment.


Today at market, almost every conversation of any length touched on the heat.

Earl said he nearly lost consciousness on his way home with a load of peaches he had helped harvest in oppressive heat--in Missouri, I think. His eyes weren't focusing anymore. When he was within about 30 miles from home, he pulled off on a side road and asked his young grandson if he could get them both home. "He didn't have a driver's license, but I know one thing. He got us home, and we wouldn't have gotten home if I had driven. I don't even remember getting there. Pam took him home, and after she got back I helped unload the peaches."

I think Earl was suffering from heat exhaustion. No comment on his decision to let his grandson drive, except that I can understand his desperation.

Norma, who is Amish, talked about how everything you touch is hot. There's a breeze at night, but 90 degrees still feels hot. By morning, when it's coolest, the breeze has died down. With no electricity, no cool air can be drawn through the house, and the whole structure retains a lot of heat from one day to the next. She gets up at 3:30 to do her baking for farmer's market so she can turn off the oven before the day gets too hot.

When Hiromi and I were setting up our stall at market this morning, I muttered to him, "What I really feel like doing right now is turning around and going home."

"Me too," he said. But of course we didn't. We stayed and suffered along with everyone else.

"I haven't worn shorts since I was seven years old," Hiromi told me later, "but I'm thinking about it now."

"Don't," I said. "It's not a good Amish thing to do."

Dale C. looked at our chard leaves and said they'd be perfect for putting on top of a person's head under a hat, to help keep a person cool. That is apparently an old-fashioned trick he was familiar with. I wasn't.


The other day Lizzie told me she always wears a hat outdoors, and she thinks it would help me stay cool when I have to work outside. I tried hers on when she offered it to me, and it felt right--to my surprise. I don't wear sun protection of any sort, and I probably should. Maybe there's a hat in my future. In the meantime, my suntan will have to suffice to protect me from sunburn.


The guineas hatched today. Nine keets are following behind one parent and walking ahead of the other. I admire their dutiful parental attentions. I don't think we'll have to worry about the babies getting a chill from being led through wet vegetation--one of the threats to the survival of these tiny fuzzy babies.


I've noticed that our sheep do not seem to like Lamb's Quarter. Today I mentioned that in a conversation with Sheila, who has sheep. "I don't know of anything that really likes Lamb's Quarter," she said. "It'll kill rabbits. We found that out the hard way."

"I like Lamb's Quarter," I said. We used to eat the tender young plants cooked like spinach.

"I do too," she answered. "We eat it like a wilted lettuce salad."

Sheila said sheep love Pigweed, and she's going to ask her neighbor if she can fence his wheat stubble ground which is growing a "bodacious" crop of Pigweed. That'll stretch her pasture a bit. Instead of the usual 350 or so hay bales she's accumulated by now from her land, she has 85.


Brandi arrived here on Friday to join Lexi. The dogs seemed happy to be together again. Shane surmises that people at Joseph's house got tired of Brandi, so he brought her over. That's OK. We like her. She's more feisty than Lexi, and acts a little more like an adolescent--regularly doing goofy things like snapping at the stream of water coming from the end of a garden hose.


On Wednesday evening when we had a special service to pray for rain, a number of people spoke about what has become meaningful to them in relation to the drought and heat. Irene quoted from Isaiah 58:11, which was the verse for the day in her devotional reading: "And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy they soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." The idea of having a satisfied soul in a time of drought was meaningful to her.

Someone else quoted the words of a song taken from Scripture in Habakkuk 3:17-19: Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. . . .

I'm thankful for cold clean drinking water, and good wells for watering plants and keeping animals alive--even for helping them cool off--which I assume is what is keeping the pigs quieter after someone from Oren's household comes over outside of regular chore time to tend to their comfort.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Farmyard Detente

Poor Lexi got two comeuppances this morning--one from the Mama cat, and one from the Papa Guinea. They both came after her, weapons at the ready, and she wisely turned tail and ran. I felt a little sorry for her since she wasn't really acting very threatening, but detente is a good situation when it concerns residents of a farmyard.

Come to think of it, Hiromi yelled at her too--when she ran toward the garden where Hiromi had just spotted a skunk. Lexi obediently cleared out and gave Hiromi a chance to retrieve his shotgun and dispatch the skunk.

When Hiromi was ready to leave for work, we had to disturb her again. The cool, breezy resting spot under his car wasn't a safe place anymore, but she was reluctant to leave it. She came when I called her though. Hiromi wasn't all the way out the drive before Lexi shifted over to the closest available vehicle and crawled under the minivan. That low-to-the-ground Welsh Corgi profile has its benefits.


The NOAA daily weather prediction icons look like a Halloween display. All the days are orange, with the word "hot" as a caption, and all the nights are black, with captions ranging from "partly cloudy" to "mostly clear". That rain we're praying for isn't registering in the forecast so far, although there was some thunderstorm activity north of us last night. Every day through at least next Wednesday is predicted to be over 100.


For the first time this summer, Hiromi and I have gotten a good handle on our weeding. While not quite every weed is eradicated, most of them are gone, and most of our garden areas are mulched. We've done part of it in miserably hot weather, and part of it early in the morning before Hiromi had to leave for work.


We miss Bill at Fairview, but Steve took good care of us this week when both our vehicles needed attention--for a price, of course. Being able to use Shane's car while they're on chorus tour really helped us make things work while the vehicles were at Fairview.

"My favorite car," Hiromi said when he was ready to leave this morning and got into his 1984 Chevy Caprice with the buggered-up right front corner and the flapping-in-the-breeze shredded interior roof lining. I can't think of anyone else that would speak so tenderly about this car, but we already know that Hiromi's tolerance level in this matter is phenomenal.


We've ordered all the flooring for the Trail West house, and the carpeting is installed in the one bedroom we decided to carpet. The dining room and living room already have a hardwood floor. All the other rooms are getting various types of floating floors that are relatively easy to install ourselves.

The cork and the strand bamboo were purchased online from Cali Bamboo, after we did a lot of reading and some investigation of local options. Even with pricey shipping, we could still get it cheaper online, and felt confident that we were getting good quality. None of the local shops seemed to have any special knowledge of or experience with either one, and we decided we didn't need their help with this. The cork comes in click-together planks and the bamboo comes in click-together boards--which I think we will bind together with a bead of glue.

I'm still a little surprised at what we decided on for the kitchen--a tile-look laminate. The guy at Thomas Flooring told me that is the product with the best price point. In other words, the quality for the price is the best he has to offer. It comes in click-together planks about 15 x 50 inches. He laid to rest my main reservation by saying about the danger of water damage, "I wouldn't spill water on it and go off and leave it, but I'm really sloppy with how I mop this floor [pointing to a display section in his store] and I've never had a problem with water infiltration."

All the glue-down stuff would have called for a pricey underlayment--more money than for the vinyl itself, and the sheet vinyl would have been trickier to install ourselves. The dimensions of the kitchen would have necessitated seams or a huge amount of waste if we had gone with sheet vinyl. I had always pictured wood-grain patterns in laminate, and realized when I saw the tile pattern that there were more options than I knew about. For this choice, I needed expert advice, and felt good about giving business to the private shop on Main Street in Hutchinson.

Wolcott's on 4th was a good choice for our carpeting. They had a good quality remnant piece in a neutral color for a good price, and they got it installed promptly.

I suppose our many different types of flooring choices would give some installers and decorators nightmares, but I think we'll like all of them. All of them open into the living or dining room, and all of them will look OK with an oak hardwood floor, with either neutral coloring in manmade materials, or made of neutrally colored natural materials. The varying purposes for each of the side rooms will be very nicely accommodated by what we chose--bamboo, which, when strand-manufactured is harder than oak, for the study, where no one ever gets down on the floor. Cork for the middle room, which might become the spare bedroom/exercise room, where both firmness and softness come together nicely in sound and shock absorbing cork, and nylon carpeting, for a cozy master bedroom. All the non-carpeted areas are allergy-friendly, and the one carpeted area is at least two rooms away from all the regularly used outdoor entrances--thus less likely to get outside dirt tracked in.

Plus the two private flooring shops--Wolcott's and Thomas Flooring--we patronized Star Lumber for our kitchen counter laminate, Lowes for the patio doors, and Home Depot for paint and lots of odds and ends, so we feel like we've done our bit to invest locally and economically, even with some of our product being shipped in. Matt K. and Myron B. are two local craftsmen/handymen who will help with some of the work. We probably didn't get bottom dollar on everything, but we got help where we needed it, and got fair deals all around.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Random Rants

I recently read an article from an Indian newspaper about homeschooling. In the article, three families enumerated their reasons for homeschooling. The reasons all were related in some way to the title of the article: "School is an Artificial Social Environment"--Hindustan Times. This seems to me to be a self-evident truth, and I'm always surprised when people feel obligated to debate it.

The social environment classroom schools most closely resemble is the industrial model--if that can be considered a social environment at all. A mechanical environment might describe it more accurately. John Taylor Gatto, who is a highly acclaimed American former public school teacher, traces our American educational roots to the efficient systems developed in Germany for the manufacturing industry. The most alarming part of this insight is that a key component of making such a system work is to churn out people who do what they're told without questioning, and who learn not to resist mindless, repetitive tasks. Both industry and education work best when this happens.

It's true, of course, that many, many teachers do not idealize the industrial model of education. They do their best to awaken minds and encourage passion and inquiry. But whenever they do so, they ramp up the inconvenience factor of classroom instruction exponentially. The bottom line is that traditional classroom instruction is simply not an environment in which these things can happen easily.

Outside of school, people almost always work with others in some non-academic capacity (sometimes in addition to academic pursuits), they work with people of varying ages and levels of competence and disability, they are free to come and go as needed--no captive audience, in most cases. People gravitate to and delve deeply into developing their natural interests and abilities. Learning in "brick and mortar" classrooms, with only other close-in-age people, on academic subjects only, as part of a captive audience, with everyone following the same educational track--the antithesis of a typical social environment outside of school.


Some things in life simply defy efficiency. Taking care of children, the frail elderly, people with mental deficiencies, and the infirm are examples. In fact, I think looking out for almost any living thing can fall into this category. Routines can help, but they will never cover all the bases. Yet the need to carry out these caregiving tasks is compelling. Jesus says we're doing for Him whatever we do for "the least of these."

Efficiency can become a limiting value when people become so focused on efficiency that they sometimes seem blinded to caregiving necessities--or at least unwilling to consider an inefficient option to accomplish a greater good.


If we plant grass there, we'll have to water and mow it. So, year after year, the yard transitions between dust and mud, depending on how much or little rainfall there is.

Don't plant anything in the garden that grows on a vine. It's too hard to keep the weeds out.
So some of the best treats of summer have to be purchased at a dear price or they can't be enjoyed at all.

In big church gatherings followed by a meal, if we dismiss everyone at once, people will take too much time to visit, and serving lunch will take too long. So everyone is whisked from their seat to the lunch line, and there is no time to connect with people you hoped to touch base with.

When we lived at the Trail West house, our kitchen was a galley style walk-through room. At the end of one row of counters we had a small table where the family often ate. The end of the table butted up against the base counter along one wall, and the table was also backed up along one long side against the west kitchen wall. This easily allowed for only three people to sit at the table--along one exposed end and side. When our second child was born, we often had a high chair near the table, protruding very inconveniently into the kitchen walkway, but we never considered banishing the baby to another room to eat so that we could have our efficient kitchen back. Yet, in our public places, we are tempted sometimes to do similar things. The old people can't navigate the stairs to the basement for carry-in meals? Let them eat upstairs. The Sunday School class meeting place is not convenient for people with mobility issues? They'll get along somehow.

This logic pains me. An inefficient or expensive option, if it would address these needs satisfactorily seems justified to me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Worse Than Reported

I minimized the awfulness of the weather report yesterday. Today's paper reports that Hutchinson had the nation's hottest temperature yesterday at 112 degrees. That was the reading at both 5:00 and 6:00. This temperature broke the previous record for Hutchinson for this date by four degrees. The old record has stood since 1980.

The temperature yesterday also tied the all-time high for Kansas, which also occurred in 1980, on July 10.

Anyone who lived in Kansas in 1980 and was old enough to make memories, remembers that scorcher of a summer. With perhaps one exception (missing it by a degree or two), every day in July that year saw triple digit temperatures. On a number of those days, the high was almost 110.

The temperature was already over 100 yesterday at 10:00. On our way to the car to head for church, I said a thank you prayer that our church now has air conditioning. That was not the case in 1980.

As I said in yesterday's post, we are still outside the "Excessive Heat" warned area, probably for several reasons. One, the predicted high for yesterday was below the mark, so the weather service apparently didn't see it coming. Two, I suspect it was less humid here than it was south and east of us where the "Excessive Heat" warning was in effect. When I checked in the afternoon, we were at 20 % humidity.

I wasn't encouraged by the way the news article in today's paper summed up the situation by quoting a meteorologist: . . . temperatures in south central Kansas will probably be 103-105 today, then around 100 on Tuesday and Wednesday before warming up as high as 105 on Thursday and Friday. There's no end in sight. . . .

Grant said at noon that he heard an agronomist for this area say this morning that he doesn't think there will be a single acre of dry land corn harvested here this year. I hope he's wrong.

On the NOAA site, the most recently published drought monitor map shows our area to be in extreme drought. The next higher and most extreme situation of all has crept into southern Kansas, in Harper County, which is designated as being in exceptional drought.

All this is enough to add some real fervor to the prayers that are and will be ascending.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Wrapup--7/10/2011

Lord, have mercy.

At 7:00 tonight the temperature is still 105 degrees. We're not even in the "Excessive Heat" warned area. That area includes all the counties in Kansas southeast of here. It's still desperately dry here, although several places around had a bit of rain last night. Most of us saw it slide around to the southeast, as has been the case many, many times this summer. I'm beginning to feel like "The Elephant's Child" who said, with the crocodile pulling on its nose: This is too buch for be.

Joe Y. admitted during share time at church that, with the crops suffering as they are, he's finding it a bit hard to keep his chin up. And he finds it hard to talk about financial matters in church--because he realizes that even when we feel "poor" we are still enjoying a higher standard of living than is true in much of the world--and because talking about money just seems so obnoxiously materialistic. He's a farmer, as are a number of others at church. He has tried to focus on Who God Is instead of What God Does, and finds it a great help in this time of trouble.

Sanford expressed a wish that we would get together some time specifically to pray for rain, and recounted a story from Minnesota about 125 years ago. A terrible grasshopper plague descended on the state, and the governor called people to a day of prayer and fasting. Skeptics mocked, and there was a short period of very warm weather in which more grasshoppers hatched, and the problem worsened. The mocking continued. Then a cold front blew in and the grasshoppers got buried in a layer of freezing rain and snow.

This morning David and Gary made a hurried executive decision and declared 8:00 Wed. eve. as the time to gather at church to pray for rain. David urged us to invite people from other churches to attend. (You're invited.) The regular service had been canceled because of the Faith Builders chorus program tomorrow evening. "If we get rain before Wednesday evening, we'll have a praise service," David said.


Hiromi came in tonight and reported that he saw the mama cat with a dead oriole in its mouth.

"Well, what am I supposed to say?" he asked, a bit defensively, no doubt anticipating my sad noises. "It's nature taking its course, isn't it? I didn't shoot it. I think the cat was proud of her prize."

I know very well that inside he was jumping up and down, seeing far fewer bird-pecked tomatoes in his future. I can't really blame him. It is annoying to see perfectly beautiful tomatoes ruined. But I still mourn the loss of one of the loveliest, brightest birds of summer.


In one of the last Sunday evenings Harley spent in Russia before he returned to Kansas for the summer, he asked a group gathered in his apartment to tell him about the differences they see between American culture and Russian culture. Culture in this usage refers primarily to how people view life and the world. The list Harley shared with us at church on Wed. eve. grew out of that input. The following information comes from my notes.

1. Americans have the strong belief that we personally can shape the environment around us. Russians subscribe to the concept of fate: "We can't do much to change things." Their language has four different synonyms for "fate."

2. Americans believe in change. They think it's good, and means progress. To Russians, tradition is important. (By implication, change is suspect.)

3. Americans are time oriented. Russians are relationship oriented. The difference can be illustrated with regard to meeting appointments. Americans routinely interrupt a conversation if they see it's necessary in order to be on time for an appointment. Russians would not be so rude as to interrupt a good relationship-building moment of conversation by rushing off to meet an appointment. On the matter of time, approximation is good enough for a Russian. (I think I must be a Russian disguised as an American.)

4. Americans subscribe to equality and egalitarianism based on the Aristotelian idea which was championed in the Renaissance: Man is important. The Reformation reinforced this as well in the emphasis on priests being no more important than the common people they were supposed to serve. The Russians respect authority--to a fault, according to Harley, and presumably also according to his Russian friends.

5. Americans value individualism and privacy, as opposed to collective thinking. Russians think collectively and the evaluate matters in terms of how they will promote the welfare of society.

6. Americans believe in self-help: We can do everything. (Harley did not provide a clear Russian contrast to this idea, but the implication is probably related to #1--and the concept of fate.)

7. Americans value competition. It forms the heart of free enterprise. In Russia, cooperation is a strong value. For example, Russian students regularly engage in what would be called cheating in America. If someone else needs an answer, and you know the answer, why wouldn't you help out another student by sharing yours?

8. Americans have a strong future orientation. Russians cherish the past.

9. Americans are action oriented and work oriented. Russians value who you are, not what you do.

10. Americans are comfortable with informality. Russians value formality. These values are demonstrated in how people dress.

11. Americans value directness, openness, and honesty. To Russians, this can seem blunt and uncouth. They value saving face.

12. Americans value practicality and efficiency. (No contrasting Russian value was specified here or for number 13.)

13. Americans are materialistic.

14. Americans value happiness. The right to its pursuit is guaranteed in the Constitution. Russians value suffering and almost worship hardship.

At Farmer's Market on Saturday, Harley came by to talk. In a bit of chitchat about the subject of his talk on Wednesday evening, he said "There's a reason America is the biggest economic force in the world." He referenced our initiative and our ability to work and figure out how to make things work.

Harley has lived in Russia for the past 17 years, at least during the school year. He lived in several other Slavic countries before that. From that perspective, he has formed impressions about how best to live in such places in a values-influencing way.

1. Learning the language of the people you hope to influence is the first imperative.

2. Work hard at balancing adaptation to local values and maintaining loyalty to basic truths.

3. Forget about establishing denominational "turf" in mission endeavors. Harley has seen too often the confusion and division that results from American religious "hobby horses" being imposed on an unsuspecting audience. For example, Baptists in Russia are not typically Calvinist, but American influence has brought pressure for change in this area.

4. Practice incarnational theology. In other words, live your truth. Harley suggests learning to do something extremely well, and then offering it as a service to those you wish to reach.

On the history of Mennonites in Russia, I gained several insights.

1. In Russia, the Mennonite chapter is over, according to Harley. Only one identifiably Mennonite congregation still exists, and Harley considers its worthiness of support dubious. Nearly all Russian Mennonites went back to Germany after World War II.

2. What is left of Mennonites in Russia often goes by a Baptist label. These people have dissident Mennonite-ism in their history. Years ago, among Mennonites, a sub-group gained a vision for evangelism--something which was frowned upon by the Mennonite establishment, and was in conflict with the terms of their welcome as immigrants from Germany. Evangelism-minded people met on Sunday afternoons, after attending the regular morning service. Eventually these people came under the leadership of Baptist churchmen from Hamburg, Germany, and from then on, these people did not cling to their Mennonite name.

3. Mennonite Brethren from Russia were at one time very active in mission work, especially in India. This denomination still has a strong presence in India, as a result.

4. Today, in Russia, the non-mainstream churches (Russian Orthodox is the denomination which is claimed as the church home of 82 % of the people.) are the main voice against abortion. They are the only voice against alcoholism and recreational drug use.

Harley speaks in glowing terms of the Orthodox theological tradition as being the closest to original Christianity. The worship of God is a major emphasis. Harley believes, however, that in the matter of ethics, there is much to be desired in the Orthodox Church. He recommends two writers on the subject: Calistos Ware (not sure of spelling) in Orthodox Theology, and Don Clendenon (spelling?). I don't have a title for the last author.

Someone asked if infant baptism is practiced in the Orthodox church. Harley said, "Yes. It is a covenantal baptism." I forget exactly how he described this, but I know from having attended a Presbyterian college how they define it, and Harley's description seemed much the same. It is not how a person becomes a Christian, but a way of symbolizing an infant's welcome into a community of people who have a covenant with God to live as His people--much as Israel did in the Old Testament.


Dale Conkling told us on Saturday at our market stand that he had been to hear the Kansas Youth Chorus program at Cedar Crest on Wednesday evening. He was in awe of how good it was. "I liked it so much that I'm going to go hear it again when they sing at Center," he said. John Miller directs the group this year.

So far they have sung in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on this trip, in at least one prison, and in three churches.

This morning in church, for devotions, Arlyn N. used a phrase from the purpose statement of the chorus to focus our attention on worship. I can't remember the exact quote, but it was something about worshiping God by making an extravagant personal investment. From what I hear, the "extravagant personal investment" is yielding good returns.


Someone emailed me last week, wondering if writing about the shenanigans here a week ago wouldn't encourage more of the same. I acknowledged that this was possible, and then explained why I decided to write about it anyway. Here's an excerpt from the much longer explanation:

"I may never know whether any of what I hoped would come of it actually happened. And maybe I'll come to see it as a mistake to have said anything about it. I guess if that happens, I'll have to re-think my general philosophy of shining the light of day on the details of life--the better to see whatever significance is present in those details. I tend to have a "Let the chips fall where they may" attitude, since I've long ago figured out that even the most careful calculation does not guarantee being able to predict where those chips will fall and how hard they will strike or how high they might bounce."


One of my favorite things to do with leftover flowers from Farmer's Market is to pass them out to the Sunday School children after church. I usually do one class at a time, starting with the youngest. I have a little face to face time with them this way, and I seize it as a teachable moment (I'm sure you can't imagine this.) and tell them the kinds and variety names of what I'm giving them. It's sweet how some of them want to make sure their siblings get a fair deal in this handout, and they'd love to round up all their friends and relations to spread the happiness around. I usually talk about how all of their family can enjoy the flowers I'm giving them today, and I'll get to the other Sunday School children another time, etc. This seems necessary in order to make the recipient group manageable.


The very worst thing about teaching Sunday School is that I can never remember who I asked last to lead in prayer. I'm afraid I keep asking the same people repeatedly without realizing it. This is one of the great inconveniences of having a poor memory. And I often forget even to ask anyone before we've taken prayer requests, and then I feel bad for asking someone to lead who may not have been taking careful note of each request. So I do it myself. Otherwise, I really enjoy teaching my Sunday School class. Each of the ladies is dear to me, and I love to see them around the circle each Sunday.

Teaching on Sundays feels different to me during the summer when I'm not already teaching five days a week. The bulk of my studying--certainly all of my note-taking--usually happens on Sunday morning. I'm not proud of this procrastination, but it gives me a really good reason for jumping out of bed at 5:00 AM on Sunday, and I really don't mind doing that.


The air conditioner in the minivan is on the blink. It makes the right noises, but it doesn't produce cool air. I'm bummed at this poor timing. The muffler on Hiromi's car has lost its moorings, and the tail end bounced along on the pavement on his way home from work late Saturday night. He spotted a trail of sparks as he was driving along and figured out what must be causing it. When he got home, he purposely parked so that he wouldn't have to back up to move the vehicle. "I don't want to jack knife the muffler," he explained. Good word picture--a fine example of the pleasure of hearing English expression from the lips of a non-native English speaking person.

I suppose both vehicles will have to go to the repair shop, and I'm pretty sure the minivan will not be first in line. It runs, after all, doesn't it?


Lexi is staying here while Shane and Dorcas are on chorus tour. She's as pleasant as always, trotting contentedly along after anyone who's going anywhere outdoors, and looking up expectantly at anyone who stands still and looks down at her. She's irresistible when she does this, and a pat on the head is the only possible response.

She spends a lot of time lying in the shade under one of the vehicles. (Those short legs are good for getting into low-clearance places.) She also figured out that flopping down in the middle of a freshly flooded okra bed is a good feeling.


On Friday, a semi driver delivered some of the flooring we ordered online. The flooring was the only thing in that big box trailer when he got here.

He asked me to sign something, and, before he looked at the signature, he said, "Let me guess. Your name is Nisly or Yoder."

Ha. "No. My name used to be Miller, but I married a Japanese guy, so that complicated my last name quite a bit."

"Oh, so are you related to the Miller Seed Farms people?" (For a non-Mennonite, he plays this game pretty well.)

"Yes, but not through the Millers. It's through the Nislys." He shook his head. I didn't bother to confuse the matter further by explaining that we are actually also related through the Millers, but not the Miller family that the seed farm is named for. The original "Mrs. Miller Seed Farm" was the daughter of a Miller (my great, great aunt) who married a Nisly. "Mr. Miller Seed Farm" came from Oklahoma and was not closely related to the Kansas Millers. To those who are still with me, thank you for your perseverance.


Hiromi shot a skunk the other day out by the old silo. So the other day, when it was a Pig Smell day (i. e. a PS day), the south wind carried an odor of a different flavor to the west garden. It was a PSS day (Pig/Skunk Smell).


Grant says the moles have invaded the front lawn. He took a picture of some mole damage and sent it to Shane with the message: This is why you shouldn't kill mature bull snakes.

Grant and Shane do not see eye to eye on this matter.


Tomorrow we get new carpeting installed in one of the bedrooms at the Trail West house. We ended up getting a piece just the right size from Wolcott's on Fourth Street. They're doing the installation as well.

The guy who owns the store knows Andy Yoder well--from Partridge.


For the noon meal today, we had roast beef, prepared in the crockpot with new potatoes, creamy cucumber salad to eat as a topping for the potatoes, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes from the garden, and locally-grown cantaloupe. This is my idea of good eating.

Grant had left a note on the table: Gone shooting. He missed the meal. I can't imagine that that pleasure could possibly have outweighed the summer food eating pleasure. But what do I know?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Expert Advice on Rhubarb

Bob Marker stopped by my stall at Farmer's Market today and talked about growing rhubarb. He had a great wealth of knowledge, and I couldn't believe he has lived right here all these years and I never heard of him before. The quantity of rhubarb he usually sells is measured in thousands of pounds. He never harvests any stalks that are not a yard long and an inch and a half in diameter. (I'm estimating by what he showed me with his hands and fingers.)

I kept him talking by asking questions. I learned that the variety his family grows is descended from what his immigrant grandfather brought with him when he emigrated to the United States. It goes by the immigrant's family name: VanNorman (not sure exactly how it's written).

The grandfather's original patch was just west of Nickerson--11 acres in size. He never watered his rhubarb, but it was well-watered nonetheless by the high water table on his sandy land near the Arkansas River.

The rhubarb patch Bob maintains now is three houses south of Benton's Greenhouse on the east side of the road. His phone number is 663-6875. He sells rhubarb roots at a 3/$5.00 price when he divides his own stock every four years. One clump can be a foot or more across by the time it's ready for division. He rotates his plantings so that he has some to divide every year. Bob says he doesn't make money from selling rhubarb at $1.00/lb., but he makes good money from selling planting stock. In his will, he has specified Benton Greenhouse as the heir of his rhubarb stock.

Bob says he plants his rhubarb rows on a ridge. Each ridge is a big step away from the next ridge. Along the ridge, he spaces the plants a big step apart as well. The ridge is important because rhubarb rots easily when the soil it grows in can't drain well.

He has often fertilized with 13-13-13 from the Coop, but this year his ground seemed worn out, and he didn't harvest a thing. His rhubarb is there, but it's not kicking out the size stalks he insists on, so he's letting it recover its energies. He has also made arrangements to have manure hauled in, in an effort to rejuvenate his planting. "You have to mulch it really deep when you do that though, or you'll get a tremendous amount of weeds," he said. "I never had a weed in my rhubarb patch except after I hauled in manure."

I forgot to ask Bob whether his rhubarb is green or red.

By posting this information here, I'll never have to try to remember where I left that scrap of paper where I wrote these things down. I didn't ask Bob for permission to make this information public, but he shared it so freely that I presume he is eager to connect with people who are interested in growing rhubarb. If you talk to him, tell him you heard about his rhubarb from the flower lady at the Farmer's Market.


A very sweet frail elderly lady named Sally Wiens, from Inman, stopped to visit again today. I remember talking several years ago with her about growing flowers. Her face lights up when she talks of all the flowers she has grown and loved. "I got sick and had to move, so I left all my flowers behind. But the people who moved there love flowers as much as I do, and they have kept things looking so nice. I drive by there just to look at the flowers."

What Sally wanted today was to know where I got my zinnia seeds. She used to have large and strong zinnia plants, but has not been able recently to duplicate that kind of growth on the zinnias she plants. I started giving her seed company names and information, then realized that this would be much more simple if I simply took her information and sent in a catalog request via the internet. She was quite relieved to have me offer to do that.


One couple who stopped at our booth knows Dwight and Karen. They regularly drive out to The Potluck to buy produce. When they saw the meat offered for sale in our stall, they put things together and realized this was the meat source Dwight had been talking to them about.


The former president of TSW, the company where Hiromi used to work, stopped by. "Where's Hiromi?" he asked.

"In the van, sleeping," I answered honestly. Gotta go sleep before it gets too hot. (This man has a clear sense of priorities, and, as you can tell, he is very purpose driven.)

"Well, I don't think he'll get that bonus today that he was hoping for," his wife Barbara laughed.


The Lebanese man who loves to buy chard to use instead of grape leaves as a wrap for the little cigar shaped ethnic food delicacies--outdid himself today and bought three big grocery bags crammed full of chard leaves.

"How long does it take you to use that much chard?" I asked.

"One day," he answered. "I buy some of it for my sister," he added.

"You know what I do with it . . . . " I did. "It's so much better than grape leaves."


A vendor across the way crossed the aisle to fuss over my flowers. I didn't exactly follow everything she said, but something about the market in Seattle, WA that is the oldest Farmer's Market in the country, and how the flower vendors there sell flowers in $5.00 bunches by pulling stems out of many buckets and wrapping the whole collection in newspaper for the customer to take.

I don't think she was being critical of what I was doing, but I thought . . . Lady, you have no idea how different it is to grow flowers in Kansas than in Washington. Any $5.00 bunch of flowers I could put together would probably represent several times the time and cost of that Washington bunch, and I'd still have a hard time getting people to buy, no matter how pretty the flowers. This is a tough flower market in a tough economic time. Especially this year, a long-stemmed flower grown in Kansas is a miracle, and finding a customer to sell it to is another miracle."


Today, twice, a customer asked if I would take the flowers out of the vase and sell them for $5.00--logical for a person who doesn't need a vase. I surprised myself by refusing to do that.

"I don't take apart an arrangement and sell it for less after I have spent the time to put it together," I said. I did offer to sell both zinnias and statice by the stem at a very reasonable price since I had more than I needed for the arrangements. I sold more arrangements than usual today, in spite of those refusals.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Blog This

Discovered on the floorboard of our minivan: A poopy diaper inscribed with the words--Blog this.

So I did.


Someone from the sheriff's department came out yesterday to investigate. This is exhibit #4 in the saga.


So far I have faithfully followed the instructions directed toward me. I was told to get a life. I did. (Actually I just continued the good one I already had.) I was told to "blog this." I did.

I can only wish the perpetrators of this mischief were as faithful in following the advice they've no doubt been given--the Godly sort, given in love. Maybe reading this post will remind them of some of those things.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Blogger, Get a Life

Someone painted a message on the straw bales lined up south of our corn patch: Blogger, Get a Life.

In more craziness, someone posted an ad on Craigslist with our number and Grant's cellphone number: Free Farm Fresh Eggs, Limit: 2 dozen per customer. Call early. These will go fast. The first and only call so far was from someone we knew, who quickly helped us figure out that someone had posted dishonestly. In the near future, we won't be answering any calls from numbers we don't recognize or that don't come with a caller ID name.

I won't be painting any straw bales with this message, but I'm thinking: Prankster/Disturber of the Peace/Trespasser/Identity Thief/Defacer--Get a Life.


"Do you have any enemies?" I asked Grant.

"I don't know, but I'm fixin' to get one," he answered. That was before he saw the straw bale message obviously directed at me.

I should probably have asked, "Do I have any enemies?"

If my blog irritates someone, all it takes to remove the irritation is to not type in my blog address or click on any link to this blog. That's the beauty of blogging. Nothing I write is ever in anyone's face unless they first willingly thrust their face into this blog. After that, any coward can take cheap shots from a position of anonymity. People with the necessary courage can be up front about their identity and grievances.

Thunder King Report

To the person(s) who launched a $2.50 Thunder King fireworks explosive and a string of firecrackers in our driveway at approximately 1:45 this morning:

1) All three adults inside the house were awake or awakened. None of them were amused. Many bad vibes were launched in your direction.

2) The guinea fowl nesting right next to the launch site must have had a near heart attack, to say nothing of the developing keets inside the eggs. Very rude. Deadly perhaps.

3) Please celebrate to your heart's content . . . preferably at another time and place. Better yet, give us the money you blew up on our property. That would warm our hearts in a thinking-of-you kind of way that wasn't possible this way.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Flies, Fires, and Feasting Birds

What is it with the flies? They pop wheelies in my hair and spin kitties on my eyelids. They buzz at my ears and collide with my cheeks. They sometimes bite at my arms and legs and the back of my neck.

Indoors I flail away with a fly swatter at any that hold still within reach of my extended arm, and still others always await. I slap at them when no weapon is within reach and it's always a mixed blessing if my aim is good and I'm quick. I say "ha" when I get extra lucky and kill two at once. I even say "ha" sometimes when I kill only one with an easy dispatching thump on the tabletop.

We do not have children who leave doors ajar. If there were holes in our screens, the flies would not find them since the windows stay closed while the air conditioner drones along. I can only conclude that they wait around the front or back door and rush to enter whenever the door opens. Stupid flies. No. Smart flies--really annoying smart flies.


We had rain! True, it was only two-tenths of an inch here, but it was wet and welcome and wonderful. I'm praying for more.

Lowell said they had a little over an inch--only three miles northwest of here. Good for them.

The showers are firing along a cold front sagging across Kansas. Some cold front. Predicted highs through mid-week are still right around 100.


Our favorite indecisive customer outdid herself at market today. She paid for bacon with a check, but it was made out to the wrong name. (A sign at the front of the booth clearly says who checks should be written to.) I saw it in time, and asked if she would change it. Just then someone came up and lavishly praised the quality of the ham steaks they had purchased earlier, so she asked to buy a package of those as well and wrote a new check for the increased amount, with the right name this time.

Later she came back and said she would like to exchange the ham steak for something in smaller packages of equal value. Of course, there was nothing of exactly equal value, so I gave her the second check back and she wrote me a third one for the pork chops she was buying instead plus the bacon.

"Oh, dear Barbara," was Shane's tired response when I reported to him later what happened after he left market this morning.


Shane got a chance today again to talk on the live radio broadcast from the market, and he responded to a question from Ron, the market board chairman and broadcast "moderator" to explain what naturally raised pork is. Shane finished by saying impulsively "Happy animals make good meat."

Afterward Ron, whose wife has training in marketing, told Shane he thinks that would make a wonderful advertising tagline: "Happy animals make good meat." Shane liked the idea.


Janis Bair's old pasta booth was festooned today with a black fringe banner tied high across the back, and two bouquets of white, yellow, and black helium balloons. On a table in the booth was an enlarged copy of her obituary, and a small collection of pictures of her at the market, and her helping represent the market at a past Taste of Home event. Janis died of cancer on June 26.

I knew her first as the Herb Lady. Later she added Pappardelles pasta to her offerings. Besides fresh herbs and flavored vinegars, from her I purchased pasta I had never "met" before--extremely high quality products of many shapes and flavors. Much of the pasta had herbs and other flavorings embedded in the dough, and all of it was toothsome and substantive.

When my term on the market board ended, Janis was elected, and I handed over the secretarial records to her. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the market, and memorials to the market were suggested for those who wished to honor her memory. Jan was perpetually cheerful and as friendly and reassuring as you would expect a retired teacher and school administrator and La Leche League leader to be.

Random Observation: Janis' name had a novel spelling for both her given and middle name: Janis Lin. Her husband, on the other hand, whose middle name was a homophone to Jan's, was spelled traditionally in every respect: John Lynn Bair. Jan's dad's middle name was Derrill, so the novel spelling tradition has apparently been in place for several generations.


A man I did not recognize came to talk at market today. "So you're Miriam," he began.

"Yes. And your name?" I answered.

"You knew me as Harry Elvon."

Ah yes. The middle name was used to distinguish him from his father, who had the same first name. I had no idea he lived here. He grew up here and then married and moved to Minnesota. I hadn't seen him for many decades. He was several grades ahead of me in school.

I remember one mean trick some of his friends played on him on the school bus, which I was an accomplice to. Boys and girls never sat in the same seat on the bus. One morning, however, as we approached his home, someone suggested that I sit on the floor in front of the seat I already occupied, and they piled coats on top of me. No one else was sitting in that seat, so Harry Elvon sat in that vacant place. At the ensuing outburst of laughter, he caught on, grabbed and flung aside the coats, and in one motion fled to another seat. I wasn't really proud of what happened. He'd never done anything to deserve a mean trick, as far as I knew.

I didn't apologize today, but I thought about it.

We now have a common interest in Mannatech products.


As of today, Shane and Dorcas know the gender of their unborn child. Let's just say that the Iwashige family gender tradition looks secure for the moment.


We took almost three tubs of lettuce to market today--nearly all of it in the category of lettuces called by a variety of names--French Batavian, French Crisp, or Summer Crisp. The lettuce went like hotcakes. To most customers I said something like this: "We had a salad this week from this lettuce, and it was very good. Lettuce can get bitter in hot weather, however, and I hope what you're getting is alright."

The most beautiful heads came from Clare's garden. Grant gave me permission to harvest all of it.

I'm sold on growing these kinds for the latest crops, although they are excellent early crops as well. We planted Magenta (an improved Sierra) and Nevada. Magenta is red-tinged, and Nevada is green. Jericho, a green Romaine, is also a good durable lettuce in hot weather. I think all of these are available from Johnny's Selected Seeds.


I thought I just might perish in the process of putting the meat back in the freezer in the shed after market. It was terribly hot in there, and the ice chests were heavy, and my blood sugar was low from not eating, and I was barely functioning. Shane and Dorcas had left market early and Hiromi had stayed in town to go to work early in the afternoon, so I was alone with the unloading project.

Finally I had unloaded everything that would have died with me in the heat, and I could stay inside. Oh the bliss of a sandwich on Yolanda's fresh home-baked bread, with thin-sliced ham and sweet onions and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers--almost worth waiting till 1:45 to eat.


Kansas Youth Chorus begins their summer tour this week. They'll be gone over two weekends. I overheard Shane tell someone today that they will be going to the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario area, and presumably many places between here and there--in prisons and in churches. Shane has helped plan the trip and will be singing. Dorcas is going along.


The Beachy side of my family is having a reunion in Kalona, IA next weekend. I thought I might go with my parents, but I don't think Hiromi would be able to manage market alone--with Shane and Dorcas gone too. I'm not sure what we'll decide.


My Uncle Earl is not well. His caregiving daughter Sylvia died last year, and her husband took over much of the caregiving. In his 90s, widowed, and feeble, he would no doubt welcome heaven as an alternative to prolonged life here.


My sister Linda had a really freaky fiery trial today. Something in her hamper must have spontaneously combusted and filled the bedroom with smoke. Davy, next door, discovered where the smoke was coming from after Linda had called on him to come over. He grabbed the hamper and carried it outside. Only part of the hamper and some of its contents were burned. Linda remembers that she wiped up some cooking oil drips some time with a rag, which might have ended up in the hamper. That doesn't seem like a very logical explanation as a source for the resulting smoldering, but nothing else makes any sense either. Wiping up the drips happened about a week ago.

On most days of the week she is not home early in the afternoon, but today she did not go to work, and was there to smell the smoke and investigate before a fire got out of hand. The fingerprints of the Lord's protection and mercy are visible all over this event.

This reminds me of the fire in Marian and Rosa's house a number of years ago. Fire broke out in several places in the house at nearly the same time, with no clear cause ever established. More damage resulted from that fire, but the house was repairable, and no one was hurt.


Hiromi is really annoyed with the birds that are pecking at every ripe tomato in the garden. He thinks it's Orioles. I think he's right. He assigned me a research project for today: Find out what to do to prevent bird damage on tomatoes. I had already thought of most of the ideas I found online, but we'll have to talk about which ones to pursue. I think one easy thing to try is to put out water for the birds near the garden. In times of drought, they seem to use juicy fruits as a moisture source. Does anyone have other ideas?