Prairie View

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Wrapup--July 31, 2017

The big event of the weekend was the wedding of Jonas Morinigo and Kerri Byler.  Hiromi and I were invited to the wedding because Kerri was one of my high school students.

Jonas came here several years ago to work as a Choice Books volunteer.  His parental family lives in Tennessee, having moved there from Paraguay several years before then.  Jonas' father is a youthful-looking native Paraguayan, who is sometimes asked if he is Jonas' brother.

At the reception we sat across the table from one of Jonas' aunts.  She is a sister to his mother.  Their family came from Paraguay where they live to see their newborn first grandchild, and to attend the wedding.  The husband told us that he speaks four languages, with English apparently being the least familiar one.  Spanish, Guarani, and Pennsylvania German are the other three languages he knows.

While we were still seated, my brother Ronald spoke to Toby, the husband of the Paraguay couple, and invited the guests to spend the night with them in Labette County where Ronald's family lives in SE Kansas.  That was the first that I realized that they knew each other.  Ronald and Brenda had visited Paraguay on official Amish Mennonite Aid business near the time of my father's death in November. That's when they got acquainted.  This was an unexpected opportunity to continue some of the conversation they had begun then--about church matters, no doubt, since both of them are pastors.

Can you believe that I never thought to ask the names of the couple across from us who felt like friends by the end of the meal?  I only learned Toby's name when Ronald addressed him as such.  My bad.


"Mrs. Toby" told me the barest details about her parental family's saga.  She told me that sixteen children were born to her parents.  Only 14 survive.  I don't know where the family lived in the US, but they moved from this country to Belize.   From Belize they moved to the Eastern Paraguay Chaco--the same area that was offered to many Mennonite refugees after World War II.  Later they moved to a different part of Paraguay--near the Clinica Luz y Esperanza (Light and Hope Clinic) where some of our own local church people have served--most notably Lois Yoder, who delivered several thousand babies while she worked there as a midwife.

Some of the children obviously married while they lived there, and they stayed when the parents moved back to Belize.  The aged parents still live in Belize.

Mrs. Toby told me that she remembers when Roman and Ruth (local church people and market gardeners) had their farm sale before they moved to the US.  She thinks her parents and Roman's parents lived in the same area in the Chaco before she was born.


Jonas has established a reputation locally as the armadillo-trapping-expert.  In Paraguay they augmented the family's food supply, and, even here, some of Jonas' trapped armadillos ended up in a cooking pot.  Jonas makes his own traps--simple box traps with a wire tripping mechanism on the inside wall of the box.

During the open-mike time, LaVerne reported that after the first time they realized that they had an armadillo problem, Jonas came to investigate and reported that they "have a regular armadillo highway out there."  He trapped nine of them before the trap stayed empty.


Benji, my nephew who is the property manager at Golden Rule Property Management where Kerri also works, told a funny story about the time Kerri and another girl did a day's worth of mowing on properties that needed it.  Things went well except for one yard where they had trouble getting the mower through the front gate.  They finally gave up and mowed the yard entirely with a string trimmer.  As they were reporting, Benji began to suspect a snafu ( he couldn't remember a fence or a gate on that property . . . ).  It turned out that somehow the first part of the address had gotten mixed up and they had found the right house number--but on the east side of Main Street rather than the west (East 9th instead of West 9th, for example).  I'm sure the recipients of this mowing service were mystified.  I wonder if they're still puzzling over it.


I've been thinking a lot about storytelling and trying to figure out how to help my students cultivate the skill.  As it turns out, Leroy, the resident professional storyteller, is not nearly as full of advice about storytelling as he is full of stories.  After he gets back from leading a group of young men on a hike down into Grand Canyon (four nights camping in the canyon), he plans to see if he can find a book among his stash that might be helpful to me.  It's what I asked him for when my first questions didn't produce a clear storytelling map.

I'm sure that storytelling comes quite naturally for some people.  The rest of us need to be mindful of what makes a good story, and especially, we need to practice repeatedly.  That's the one thing I know that would be helpful to my students.

I know very well that there probably isn't a Grand Canyon hike in my future, but Leroy suggested an appealing (but still impossible) alternative:  a river trip through the Canyon.  The fact that it comes with a $5,000.00 price tag is the killer, although I don't doubt that it's a fair price.  I told Leroy that I may have been forever spoiled by the river cruise in Bangladesh last November.  That ship was the right size (only about 20 passengers), and we could stand around and watch the anchor being let out or winched up, or we could go into the ship's head cabin and watch the pilot turn that big wheel to keep it in the right channels.  From the hold downstairs, wonderful cooking smells wafted up, and when it was ready, the bounty was served with aplomb.  On the "roof deck" we had a great view of  the countryside along the river banks, and the other vessels on the river.  The engine sounds were not annoying, but audible, and I can't quite imagine a vessel so large that you would hardly know if you were moving or not--or so small that the higher winds and waves would be scary.

We got a small taste of that one morning when we were anchored within sight of the Bay of Bengal while a tropical storm was lashing the Bay.  Some of our passengers had gone on shore and walked through pouring rain to a beach along the Bay.  Our pilot barely waited till they got back in their motor boat (heavily-loaded and riding low in the water) before pulling anchor and sailing upriver with dispatch.

I confess to having done a good bit of checking on river cruises after I got back to see if such a thing might be within reach on one of our US waterways.  The search turned up the Road Scholar program.  Ohhhhhhhhh.  It's the stuff of dreams.  They offer all sorts of trips, many of them international.  Each one is paired with many learning opportunities.  Hence the "Scholar" part of the company name.  Here again though, the price . . .


The meeting scheduled last week with the nursing home administrator had to be rescheduled for this week.  It's about the landscape at the facility.

Maybe some background is in order.  This nursing home is now being administered by a visionary couple who feels called to help turn around struggling facilities.  This is not their first project, and it will likely not be their last.  Ownership is by a large corporation.

Hands of Christ has served clients that have gone there to live when they could no  longer stay in their own homes.  Rachel Yoder currently has regular Bible studies with some of the residents.

One of the much needed improvements is in the landscape.  The street side is reasonably attractive, but the courtyard areas that residents can safely (?) access need a lot of help.  Rachel is working hard to pull together a team of volunteers who can make these areas attractive, accessible, and full of  life.  Rachel and others have done a huge amount of work to remove nuisance vegetation and work the ground.   When I was there, I sketched the various parts of the "smoker's courtyard," and wrote down the measurements I was taking.  Inside my head, plans were taking shape as well, but I realized that I needed a lot more information if I were to come up with a good workable landscape plan.  That's why the meeting is happening.

I can't imagine that much money is available, but my heart breaks for the people who are confined to such desolate surroundings, and I pray for ways to make things better.  I'm sure feelings like mine are what made the lady administrator cry every night after work the first few weeks after they arrived in Hutchinson.  Even the welcome shade under the lone Siberian Elm is crisscrossed with surface roots that would be hazardous for anyone whose mobility or stability is compromised.  Parking spots for wheelchairs need smoother paving.  A bird bath (empty) and a bird feeder showed some effort at bringing birds to the area.

Squirrels frisked without fear, and their presence added some life to the place.  They were apparently responsible for a number of corn plants growing in the bed outside the dining room.  One resident forbade the volunteers to uproot the corn, because "one of them has an ear on it." It did indeed, but I couldn't imagine that it would produce much since it was growing in a very shaded area.  It told me something about how hungry the residents are for some connection to living, growing things.  The corn was growing right outside their "floor-length" dining room windows.

Some of the clients who use the smoker's courtyard have mental health diagnoses.  What I know about the healing effects of being in nature makes me hopeful that these people could benefit from a varied and beautiful natural environment.


Speaking of healing effects of being in nature . . . I've been learning about grounding or earthing--both terms for human body contact with the earth.  It's fascinating, and I am inclined to think that it's not entirely hocus-pocus, although I haven't sorted out what is incontrovertibly sound.  The most familiar and simplest means of contact is going barefoot.  Any kind of non-conductive footwear (like rubber and plastic) limits beneficial electrical exchanges between the earth and human body.

The fact that a number of maladies seem to have increased around the same time that materials for shoe soles changed may be related.  I think it's very possible that we haven't discovered yet what all is affected by this change in our lifestyles.

Remember those sandburs we uprooted last week?  I had hoped that I caught them before they dropped the thorn-clusters that contain seeds, but I realized that it was a vain hope when I examined the bottom of my Birkenstocks and had to remove many stickers before I carried them into the house or the backyard.  Sandburs are the main deterrent for going barefoot at our place.  I did make an effort last week though to at least let my tender feet rest on the grass while I'm sitting outside.  It meant moving to the edge of the patio while I was trimming the tops off the onions I had harvested.


I think the Roadrunner I've been seeing might have a mate or at least a sidekick.  I looked out the patio door just in time to see two large birds shortly after they'd gotten airborne.  From the angle of their flight, I'm quite sure that they had taken off from the edge of our property.  They were the right size and shape for Roadrunners.   I never saw two Roadrunners together here, but last week I saw one drinking out of the water dish on the patio--maybe two yards beyond the patio door.


Our family is planning an "immigration papers" celebration now that my brother Marcus' long wait is over.  We're having pupusas, a Salvadoran food that Marcus and Anthony remember and love.

We're meeting at Hans' house in town.  Hans has a guest, Fineas, from Australia, a friend he first met at the "Beachy" church in Gympie.  Fineas has been touring the US with Hans for the past few weeks.  The gathering is partly a chance for the Miller family and Fineas to get acquainted.


My sister Clara and her adult children Zachary and Victoria plan to arrive here on Tuesday of this week.  Clara's first grandchild is expected around the middle of August, which is the same time that the Elreka reunion is planned.  Clara can't stay till the reunion, and she'd like to be at home when Nigel and Karen's baby arrives, but it's possible that she may be able to return at a later time.


In one of my flowerbeds, a very large thistle-like plant is thriving.  I decapitated it once early in the season, and it came roaring back.  I was about to attempt another eradication when I had second thoughts.  Did I or didn't I plant a Sea Holly in that spot?  That would be a thistle-like plant, which I've never actually grown before.  I decided that the best thing to do was to let it grow until it developed flowers.  If they don't look like Sea Holly, I'll show no mercy.  Out it goes.  I especially don't want those noxious thistles that have moved in to find shelter on my property.  I'm sure the landowners around us have the same interest.  It now has fat buds, so the wait may be nearly over.  If anyone who is more familiar than I am with the earlier stages of the bad thistle's life cycle checks out my plant, I'll uproot it before it blooms if you can identify it.


In the food line at today's carry-in after church, Paul Yoder told me about his nephew, Loren, who is a doctor in Indiana.  Every year Loren invites people from the area to his place for a time of singing hymns.  Hundreds of people show up. They always begin with the German song sung at every Amish Sunday morning church service--the Lob Lied.  Loren has a deep appreciation for his Amish Mennonite heritage, and is distressed by what he sees as departure from the things he appreciates, especially the shift in some sectors to involvement in conservative politics.  He has purchased land in Belize.  Paul said this in the context of his disaffection with the current conditions in the church, so I presume he's putting an escape plan in place.

Loren's parents lived at one time on the farm where I grew up.  My grandfather A. J. Beachy purchased the farm from Loren's grandfather, Dan Yoder.

My sister-in-law, Brenda, recently traveled to have Dr. Loren perform carpal tunnel surgery for her.  His going rate is about half of what others charge.  Much of his clientele is probably Amish.  These people pay their own bills (without insurance), and he has reasonable assurance that they will not default on their debts.  These things combine to make him able to offer his services at a lower price.


Congress is deeply mired in healthcare issues.  Lord help us all.  I don't think Obamacare is that great, but I think the alternatives being offered are worse.  When Hiromi asked me today what I think should happen, I said that I don't really see any good options.  I said that what I think is needed is a major shift in our approach to healthcare (promoting wellness rather than treating sickness), reform in the legal sector (placing limits on malpractice lawsuits), and regulatory reform (so that the pharmaceutical industry does not have a monopoly on substances that may be legally prescribed).  I find the insurance business at fault as well.  None of these were touched under Obamacare, and I don't think anyone is offering to right the wrongs now.  That's why I don't see any good options.


At the lunch table today, Jonny told about doing a construction project for Tom Heintzman, a person whose name I recognized from his having worked for the parks department and then owning Prairie Hills nursery.  I learned a few things about the man that lives on his property and works for him--Zach Hemmerling.  I know Zach from Farmer's Market.  I knew that he has a horticulture degree and that he keeps a vineyard and market garden--and that he got married fairly recently.  I have vines that I bought from him and once just missed the opportunity to take my food production class to his vineyard so he could show us how to prune grapevines.  What I didn't know is that he used to be a champion wrestler and he has an IQ of 157.  I presume that Jonny got that information from Tom rather than Zach.


I've heard reports about the Rosedale conference last week including a statement in which the leaders confessed having wronged the women in their churches by barring them from participation in certain aspects of church life in which they had good things to offer.  They sought forgiveness, which was offered by a representative group of women in the church.  This apparently happened without any presumption that the ordination of women as pastors would follow.  One woman who is a Facebook friend found reasons for great hope in this model of addressing troublesome aspects of  practice without "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." I'm interested in seeing how this develops in actual practice.  


  • As to Jonas and his armadillo trapping, he sounds like a great resource for the K-State Research Extension Office. If the Extension Office was interested, it could be an interesting, educational video.

    By Anonymous Jim Potter, at 8/07/2017  

  • Jim, I never thought of that. Maybe I can serve as a link so that can happen. I also see possibilities for this topic as one that my students can explore and document in a Foxfire-type project. Creating a video would be a new kind of communication effort from my classes, but I have no doubt that students could manage it. Thanks for the comment.

    By Blogger Mrs. I (Miriam Iwashige), at 8/07/2017  

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