Prairie View

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Meditations Inspired by Thoughts of Mary

 

I offer the following without commentary.  Each piece was shared on Facebook by one of my friends.  I've tried to give them credit as well as noting the original author.  

Shared by Norma Lebold Miller and Maribeth Beiler
This hit my soul…..
She was "highly favored" but was almost put away by the man she loved the most.
"Highly favored" but she was rejected by every person in Bethlehem.
"Highly Favored" but she laid on the dirt floor of a barn and gave birth to a baby she carried nine months.
"Highly Favored" but in the middle of the night had to leave all she knew and move to a strange town because God said so.
Favor never looks like favor at first. Favor sometimes takes you through frustration, failure, and fear. You want to be favored of God? It may be in darkest night or deepest valley. But there in that place where no one sees you and you feel like no one understands whisper to yourself, "this is only the beginning not the end. This will turn out for my good and His glory. This is because...I'm Favored."
~ Evangelist Brent Carr

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Shared by Merlene Wingard

Sometimes we just don’t fit in.
I don’t mean when someone accidentally forgets to invite us to something
Or a group of friends happen to meet up without us
I mean that kind of not fitting in where you’re surrounded . . . but alone.
You’re tolerated but not celebrated.
You’re used but not welcomed.
You’re in it but not a part of it.
You’re there because it’s where circumstances have put you… but the people would have never chosen you.
And you know it.
And it hurts.
And it feels like there is nothing you can do about it.
Maybe you haven’t been there, but I have.
As I was placing a nativity, I was distracted by a kid needing my help. When I came back, I noticed Mary sitting alone, and I had to wonder if she ever felt that same way.
Was she ever surrounded while actually feeling very left out?
She wouldn’t have fit in with the religious crowd. After all, she was with child before marriage.
I wonder what Joseph’s family thought about her? Her sudden pregnancy, not from Joseph, couldn’t have gone over well. How would they have felt about that?
She wouldn’t have fit in with the other women. She was pregnant and yet had not known a man. How could she have even related to them? And who would have even believed her? What woman wouldn’t have talked behind her back?
She had a baby in a stable?
Not good enough for so many
Her newborn was a threat to the Kingdom?
Too much for most people to handle
People worshipped her son?
Who did she think she was? Surely other mothers couldn’t handle that type of competition.
Where would she have fit in?
I can’t think of anywhere.
Yet,
She found her place holding the Son of GOD close.
She found her place at her son’s, her Savior’s, feet.
She found her place at the foot of the cross.
She found her place with Jesus.
What a beautiful reminder for those of us who might not feel like we fit in nor accepted.
HE not only wants us
HE not only accepts us
HE desires us.
HE loves us.
HE loves you.
Come find your place… it’s with Jesus.

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Shared by Rosanna Brubacker

Biblical manhood according to the Christmas story is:
Silently observing God working powerfully through women.
Learning from women prophesying and proclaiming God’s word.
Listening to and believing the lived experiences of women.
Following the leadership of women towards what has been revealed to them by God alone.
Seeing that God completely flouted the theology of male headship advocated by the current religious culture and being at peace with it.
Choosing to abide by the law of love rather than the law of the land (Deut.‬ ‭22:20-21‬).
It is seeing how central women are to the movement of God in the world and not feeling threatened by that reality.
May this become the biblical manhood of the church.
*please note*: Reading the Christmas narrative according to Luke’s gospel in light of the strict patriarchal culture and legal system of the 1st century context is where I drew these reflections as I read.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Companion Planting in Vegetable Gardens

I've been reading and learning a lot on this topic recently, and chose to summarize what I'm learning in a document that I decided to post here, for ease of future reference.  I'm unsure about how the formatting will transfer, but we'll find out.

Note:  I have also looked at the book Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte recently. I believe that this author may have stumbled onto the fact that some plant combinations work better than others, but I find that the book that I’ve chosen to reference here is easier to follow for people whose brains work like mine.  That is, after a principle has been established by referencing formal research, specific applications of conclusions arising from that research are suggested. 

For my own planning purposes, I hope to focus on 16 different garden crops (the kinds that are part of my “survivor” collection of open-pollinated seeds), identifying companion planting remedies (flowers as well as other vegetables) for problems that I’ve observed in my own garden. I may be able to do this in the form of a chart to add to my collection of garden charts. 

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Reference:  Plant Partners:  Science-based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Gardener by Jessica Walliser, Storey Publishing, 2020. All information below and many quotes are taken from this book.

Definition of Companion Planting:  The close pairing of two or more plant species for the purpose of enhancing growth and production or trapping or deterring pests. 

Main Idea

Plants have interactions with each other, with the environment, and with the life forms around them, especially insects.  One of the best ways in ensure that these interactions are beneficial for a desired crop is to increase the diversity of the plants around the desired crop.  Although research has uncovered some specific reasons for why certain crops seem to thrive in the presence of certain other plants, much is still unknown about how plants interact with their neighbors.  For this reason, keeping an open mind, making careful observations, and being willing to take small steps in the right direction seems wise.  Seeing the garden as an ecological habitat is a better mindset than to see it only as a canvas on which to impose the will of the gardener in hopes of maximizing yields for human consumption. 

Mechanisms at work in Companion Planting (Diversity = Stability)

1.  Chemical messaging—Plants and insects can release semiochemicals into the air that have the effect of calling in predators to eat a pest (HIPVs—herbivore-induced plant volatiles), warning neighboring plants to “arm” themselves, spurring faster growth, backing off from their neighbors (plant shyness, observable when canopies “refuse” to overlap).  This occurs above-ground.

2.  Fungal association—Below-ground mycorrhizae (various species of fungi) that colonize on roots of living plants extend their reach through the soil (via their “roots”—hyphae) and transfer along their length nutrients and moisture, making them available to adjacent roots.  Fungi also seem to be able to send communication signals to accomplish many of the same functions as the above-ground semiochemicals. 

3.  Resource competition—When desirable crops out-compete undesirable ones for resources, we consider the competition a benefit.   At other times, companion plants will share nutrients and access to water with their neighbors, so this is a benefit in the absence of competition. 

4.  Plant diversity/allelopathy—While seeming to be at odds with each other, these two mechanisms actually can end up as allies.  Allelochemicals are substances used to compete with other plants or fungi (i.e. neighbors), limiting their growth.  Used positively, allelochemicals can be used to limit weed growth around desirable plants.  Also, since some plants are not affected by allelochemicals, they can thrive next to plants producing them, while other competition is held at bay.  Sorting out suitable plant partners for desirable crops often has the effect of increasing plant diversity in the garden, making the whole garden more stable, resilient, and productive. 

5.  Nutrient absorption—One plant can improve the ability of another plant to absorb nutrients by altering one or more of these factors:  a.  Soil structure  b.  The concentration of nutrients present in the soil  c.  How strongly the nutrients are bound to the soil  d. How mobile that particular nutrient is within the soil.

Beneficial Results of Companion Planting

1.  Reduced pest pressure.  Utilizes luring, trapping, tricking, and deterring pests to minimize damage.

2.  Reduced weed pressure.  Utilizes living mulches through crowding or shading.  Allellopathy (growth inhibition produced by the roots of some plants) may also be used. 

3.  Reduced disease pressure.  Mechanisms:  a.  Generating antifungal compounds or conditions in the soil  b.  Supporting beneficial microorganisms  c.  Reducing the splash-up effect  d.  Limiting certain insect-transmitted diseases  e.  Improving the overall health of the soil and the plants  f.  Preventing a buildup of pathogens in the soil 

4.  Improved soil fertility or structure.  Mechanisms:  a.  Using plant roots to break up heavy or compacted soil  b.  Using living plants which exude beneficial chemicals through their roots, thus feeding soil microbes  c.   Using plants that have the ability to transfer nitrogen to other plants via the soil. 

5.  Improved pollination.  Specific species of pollinators are known to pollinate specific crops.  Planting companion plants that attract these insects can improve pollination of the target crop.

6.  Improved biological control.  Companion plants can provide habitat for insects or other animals that prey on harmful insects. “Banker plants” can provide habitat for these beneficial insects after one wave of pests has been dealt with, while they wait for another wave to arrive

7.  Improved aesthetics.  Most people simply find a mixture of plants more visually appealing than monocultures.

Specific Combinations to Try

1.  For improved soil fertility and structure. 

A.  Cover crops—warm season and cool season crops that are planted but not harvested, for example:  oats, buckwheat, winter rye, crimson clover, winter wheat, cowpeas/southern peas 

B.  Nitrogen transfer—garden beans + potatoes, fava beans + sweet corn, cowpeas + peppers and other tall transplants, peas + lettuce, edamame (edible soybeans) + fall greens 

C.  Breaking up heavy or compacted soil—buckwheat, forage radish, turnip (especially the kinds with long, tapered roots).

2.  For weed management

A.  Living mulches—Crimson clover + cole crops, medium red clover + winter squash, white clover + strawberries or blueberries, white clover + tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and other tall vegetables, subterranean clover + many vegetables, oats + tall vegetable crops or berries, winter rye + asparagus, cowpeas + peppers, yellow mustard + summer squash  

B.  For allelophathy benefits—oats and winter rye work for many crops that are transplanted into these freshly killed crops. Oats works especially well for sweet potatoes. Cucumbers + taller vegetables, rapeseed (canola) + potatoes,

3.  For support and structure

Living trellises—corn + pole beans, sunflowers + mini pumpkins, broomcorn + edible bottle gourds, amaranth + chayote, quinoa + bitter melon, sunchokes + cucamelons, orach + fall peas, tithonia + Malabar spinach, kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate + gherkin cucumbers, sorghum + asparagus beans, okra + currant tomatoes, tree kale + runner beans

4.  Pest management

A.  Trap cropping—cabbage + collards to lure diamondback moths, tomatoes + cowpeas to lure Southern green stink bugs, various squash + blue hubbard to lure squash bugs and squash vine borers, bell peppers + hot cherry Peppers to lure pepper maggots, various vegetable + radish or Pak choi to lure flea beetles, cole crops + Chinese mustard greens to lure flea beetles, various vegetables + mustard greens to lure harlequin bugs, strawberries + alfalfa to lure lygus bugs

B. Masking host plants—Peppers + alliums (onion family) for green peach aphids, zucchini + nasturtiums for squash bugs, chines cabbage + green onions for flea beetles, tomatoes + basil for thrips, collards + calendula for Aphids, potatoes + tansy or catmint for Colorado potato beetles

C. To interfere with egg-laying—Cole crops + sage, dill, chamomile, or hyssop for cabbageworms, tomatoes + basil for hornworms, tomatoes + thyme or basil for yellow-striped armyworm, cole crops + thyme for cabbageworm and cabbage loopers, onion and cole crops + marigolds for onion root maggot fly and cabbage root fly, cabbage + white clover for cabbage root maggot flies

D.  To impede pest movement

a.  Hedgerows--wide, linear, permanent plantings composed of a mixture of trees, shrubs, grasses, and perennials that are closely spaced and selected to provide a succession of blooms and a variety of textures and growth habits.  They may also serve a variety of other good purposes.

b.  Low-growing cover crops for soil-dwelling pests—crops that block access to the soil for those pests that lay eggs, pupate, or dwell in the ground

5.  Disease management

A.  Cover crops and living mulches—potatoes + oats or winter rye for verticillium wilt, potatoes + brassicas for potato scab, cauliflower and lettuce + brassicas for verticillium wilt and sclerotina stem rot, tomatoes + hairy vetch for managing foliar diseases, watermelons + hairy vetch for reducing fusarium wilt, beans + winter wheat or winter rye to manage root rot

B.  Improve air circulation—plant in “layers” to facilitate good air circulation:  Tall plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and okra are surrounded by or interplanted with lower growing varieties such as carrots, beets, and bush beans.

6.  Biological controls (focuses on a natural balance between pests and predatory insects)

A.  To attract beneficial insects:  Lettuce and other greens + dill and fennel for aphid control, eggplants + dill or cilantro to control Colorado potato beetle, cole crops + black-eyed susans and cosmos for aphid control, various vegetables + carrot and mint family herbs to control caterpillar pests, lettuce or grapes + sweet alyssum for aphid control, cole crops + lacy phacella for controlling cabbage aphids and other pests, many crops + crimson clover to control thrips

B.  For habitat creation:  broccoli + crimson clover to attract predaceous spiders, lettuce + bunchgrasses to attract ground beetles, low-growing plants to attract ground-dwelling beneficials, hollow-stemmed perennials for winter habitat, hedgerows of closely planted, permanent woody vegetation

7.  Pollination (especially by native bees, since the European honeybee is far more difficult to manage)

A.  To improve pollination:  tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants + large or hooded (snapdragons) flowers to attract bumblebees, blueberries + crimson clover to attract bumblebees, squash + more squash to attract squash bees, flowering herbs + annuals to attract sweat bees, greens and root crops + cosmos, sunflowers, and daisies to attract small native bees, flowering plants to attract mason bees and mining bees to fruit trees,

B.  To create nesting habitat for pollinators (especially tunnel and ground nesting bees):  be smart about garden cleanup, leave 12 inches of stubble when removing plants, eliminate pesticide use, leave dead trees and branches if not a hazard, leave some bare ground, go no-till

.  

Monday, November 08, 2021

Cancer, Black Lilies, and Palestinians in Kansas

One of the very best things about being a Master Gardener is having easy access to cutting edge information from the plant world.  In today's monthly meeting, we heard from a local grower of Arum Palaestinum, a plant from Palestine which has shown remarkable health benefits for those who use it medicinally.  The wild Jack-in-the-Pulpit and the houseplant Peace Lily are both related to Arum Palaestinum, which is sometimes referred to as the Black Lily.  the plant grows wild in Palestine and has been used in folk medicine for centuries.  In Kansas, it must be grown in greenhouses because it's "too hot and too cold" outdoors here, as the grower told us.  It grows well only in very well-drained soil, but commercial potting soil is fine as long as it's not overwatered. 

All parts of the plant contain beneficial compounds, but coming into direct contact with or ingesting any part of it without first heating it is extremely irritating to the human body, due to oxylate saponins.  It needs to be "baked" first--that is, heated to a certain temperature and held there for a specified length of time.  

Right now, the main Black Lily product offered for sale is being sold as a food supplement called Afaya Plus.  Other nutritional products are included with the Black Lily substances, and the combination is sold in capsule form--for a price in the range of 65 dollars to $90.00 for 60 capsules--up to a month's supply.  As a nutritional product (i.e. food supplement), no claims can be made by company representatives about its ability to "treat, cure, or mitigate" any disease.  Anecdotally, people who have used Black Lily products report amazing improvements  for a variety of conditions, most notably, cancer.  I understand that several Facebook pages contain personal experience accounts.  I know that other such accounts have appeared in feature stories in our local newspaper.   

It's probably significant that several pharmaceutical companies  are busy trying to create duplicates of the Black Lily compounds in their labs.  Since no naturally occurring substances can be patented, creating an "artificial" version is the only lucrative path forward for a pharmaceutical company.  

Hyatt Life Sciences is the parent company that makes Afaya Plus. Genzada Pharmaceuticals is the name of another related company.  Did I mention that these are local companies?  When I was in college in Sterling, Kansas I learned to know the younger brother of this company's founder.  He had attended a Christian high school in the area and then came to live with family members in Sterling after he graduated.  The family had immigrated fairly recently from Palestine, and the founder of the company set up shop in Sterling.  He is a chemist who developed many products that were used in oil fields. The founder's name has undergone several iterations, and Najib Zaid now has become either Gene Zaid or Gene West.  His sons use "West" as their last name.  

I feel caution about seeming to over-hype any product, but I will say that if I or a loved one was suffering from cancer, I think I would seriously consider taking Afaya Plus.  No major red flags developed in terms of deleterious side effects when it was tested in higher and higher doses in dogs.  Instead, increased dosages seemed to result in more health improvements.  Obviously, you would want to learn more than I've said here if you were needing help with a health condition.  I'll leave some links here that might help you get started with learning.

Hyatt Life Sciences homepage.  Click on the three lines in the upper left hand corner for a menu that takes you to other pages.

This is the pharmaceutical company that is specifically working on cancer treatments: Genzada Pharmaceuticals.

This is a Facebook page that has a few "testimonies" from people who have taken Afaya Plus.

Facebook Page for Hyatt Life Sciences.

Genzada Pharmaceuticals has a Facebook Page here.

Purchase page for Afaya Plus.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

When Popcorn Doesn't Pop

I recently bought popcorn from the same place that I've bought it before, and it's been disappointing from the start.  It just doesn't pop very well, and eating it is not a pleasure.  Especially at this stage of Covid recovery, with my taste buds not fully reawakened, the texture of food is critical to being able to enjoy it, and this popcorn does not pass the texture test.  At all.  

My low-brow research methods (googling) for why this is the case were activated, and I'm working on remedying the situation by adding water to the popcorn storage jar.  I'll put several helpful links at the end of this post.

When popcorn is newly harvested and insufficiently dried, it can swell without exploding riotously, producing an eating experience that is not unpleasant, but quite different from what I've come to expect.  Philip Wagler told me what caused this--long ago when our youth group used to grow, process, and sell popcorn as a fund-raising project.  One night when the shelling happened in the shed at Miller Seed, we popped some of the corn that we had been working with, and I encountered this firm-Kix-like product for the first time.  Phil thought this was a treat, and I agreed that it was quite good.  

More often though, when the product is unsatisfactory, the cause is a lack of moisture.  In other words, the kernels have dried out too much instead of not enough.  When moisture in popcorn is heated, it expands inside the hard shell that is located on the outside of the kernel.  When the expansion reaches a certain level, it explodes through that hard shell, carrying the starch with it and forming a "blossom" of popcorn outside the shell.  Too little moisture produces a small blossom, or the "shell" is not breached at all, and the kernel does not change in size.   In any case, there's too much "hard" and not enough "fluffy" when there's too little moisture.

Optimum size for the blossoms results when popcorn has a moisture content between 11.2% and 14% (sources disagree). Moisture meters can help determine the exact moisture content, but I'm going for the low-brow option again.  I'm adding a bit of water to the popcorn kernel jar, shaking it up, and then leaving it set for about 2 days.  Then I take a small amount and pop it the way I usually pop popcorn to see if it has absorbed enough moisture.  So far it hasn't. 

One of the sites below suggests adding 1 teaspoon of water per cup of popcorn.  Leave it for several days, shaking occasionally.  Then test a small amount by popping it as you usually do.  Repeat as needed till it pops well.  This is essentially what I'm doing.  I'd guess though that I've added at least a fourth-cup of water to one bag (several pounds?) over time, and I'm shocked that it is still not popping well.  Until now, I've never needed to add more than a teaspoon or two.  

Here's one link and here's the other one.

I also typed the following paragraph into an earlier blog post--which may be helpful for some who have popcorn popping troubles of a slightly different kind than what is featured here.


In the past year or so I've gotten a lot better at figuring out how to fix popcorn problems. Recently when my beloved Lady Finger popcorn produced a batch of tough, low-volume kernels, I knew it needed more moisture. So I put some water in the unpopped corn container and shook it up and left it set for a few days.

Yesterday I tried it again. It popped up beautifully, with no unpopped kernels left over.

I've also learned to leave the top partially ajar as much as I can while I'm actually popping it so steam can escape as it's released during the popping process. This helps keep the popcorn from being tough. I leave the top completely open till the popping starts and again near the end when the popped corn on top keeps everything under control. In between I can usually put a wooden spoon across the top between the lid flap and the kettle part of the popper, leaving it partially open, but not allowing many kernels to escape. (The popper we have has a lid clipped to the kettle and hinged in the middle.)

Added later:  

Here's a bit of explanation on how to adjust the heat when popping popcorn.  This seems like common sense, but I didn't know it before.  

If popcorn is heated too slowly, it won't pop because steam leaks out of the tender tip of the kernel. If popcorn is heated too quickly, it will pop, but the center of each kernel will be hard because the starch hasn't had time to gelatinize and form a foam.  Read about it at this site

Another tidbit  I've picked up on size and amounts is that in a 4-quart pot, you should add 2-3 Tablespoons of oil and 1/2 cup popcorn kernels. 

One more tidbit:  Test the oil temperature by heating it and adding only two kernels.  When they pop, remove from the heat and add the remaining unpopped corn.  Stir and leave it off the heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Then return it to the stovetop burner and continue to heat it.  The idea is that you are heating all the kernels to the same temperature.  Because of this, they will pop at nearly the same time.  I'm not sure how important this step is if you use a Whirly-Pop popcorn popper, as I do.  This type has a stirrer, so I think the kernels are usually heated fairly evenly because of the constant stirring. 

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Last night after church (Tonya shared her life in Ghana with us and then invited us to a fruit pizza and popcorn snack) I ate some of the biggest popcorn kernels I've ever had.  I want to learn more about the origin of these kernels, because the product was very good.  I was reminded though that one of the reasons I opted for the tiny-kernel varieties is that the hulls are less likely to flake off when popped, only to end up stuck between my teeth and gums when I eat it.  

I'm still adding water to my problem batch of popcorn kernels,  and testing the results.  I consider it unacceptable to have up to 25 unpopped kernels from only two tablespoons of original kernels.  I can hardly believe the volume of water that I've needed to add so far--a teaspoon or a tablespoon at a time.  As long though as the kernels absorb the water (as evidenced by the kernels not sticking to the sides of the clear plastic storage container) and the popping is subpar, I'll keep trying.  I'm investigating other reasons for the problem, of course, which is why I'm coming across new information now.


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sunday Wrap Up--June 20, 2021

The big news of the past few weeks in our family is that Shane and Dorcas are expecting a baby girl.  The wee one has four older brothers, so this is a much-anticipated prospect.  A sonogram last week showed a strong heartbeat, which was another cause for rejoicing.  This good news was especially welcome after some concerning possibilities showed up on the previous sonogram, at 20 weeks gestation.  

The biggest item of concern is that a large (7 cm) chorioangioma was discovered.  This is a non-malignant tumor of the placenta.  Sometimes babies suffer no ill effects when this condition is present, and sometimes it's fatal to the baby--depending on how large the tumor is and how "greedy" it gets for the available blood supply.  The only intervention the doctor has mentioned so far as a possibility is inducing labor if signs of distress show up.  Late in the pregnancy, this is not as grim a prospect as it would be now, of course.     

Many prayers are being offered on this baby's behalf.  Dorcas' transparency is inspiring, and she posted the good news and the concerns on Facebook with just the right tone of anticipation and vulnerability involved in the balancing act that the realities call for.  

For now, scans will be performed every two weeks.  During the third trimester, the interval will be reduced to one scan each week. That's a lot of trips to Wichita to see a specialist.

Sometime in the near future, the results will be available for a blood test for Down Syndrome.  This test was done since a few (two) characteristics consistent with Down Syndrome were observed on the first sonogram.   Laughing about this as I did is probably not considered a typical response--and I didn't laugh right away, but hear me out.

The two things noted as potential DS indicators are characteristics that my perfectly normal Asian husband also possesses.  He also possesses one more that's on the list, but this baby does not have that third one--or any of the other five non-Asian characteristics that appeared on the list I saw.  The specialist, however, was very firm in stating that "these are not Asian characteristics."  I'm thinking maybe she knows and maybe she doesn't. God knows, so we'll keep right on talking to Him about this--receiving the hope and peace that He gives.  His presence is guaranteed in any case. 

I realized very quickly that this baby will be welcomed and cherished with or without Down syndrome.  I also thought right away of a Facebook friend of mine who has several children with Down Syndrome, only one of them being homemade.  She's very convinced that Down Syndrome is a gift, and she truly delights in all of her children--four of whom were adopted with pre-existing handicaps.

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Our eight-year-old granddaughter has volunteered as a test subject for one of the Covid vaccines for children.  She has received one injection.  Since it's a double-blind trial, neither those administering the vaccine or the one receiving it know whether she's getting a placebo or the real thing.  Collecting data through phone calls and blood draws are part of the trial process. 

Our son heard about the possibility of participating in the trial and thought it would be a wonderful thing for his children to have a part in it.  The children's mother wasn't so sure, so nothing was said to the children.  Then a  young friend spoke of it with great excitement because she already had plans to participate.  At that point, the oldest granddaughter begged to be able to join the trial "to help America."  After talking through how many needle sticks that meant (at which point the younger sister bowed out), and reminding her that it would not help just Americans, and securing an agreement that the daddy would be the one shouldering the responsibility of providing transportation, etc.  the deal was made.  Off they went to Newton several days later.  

It so happens that there's some hefty financial incentive for participation also.  I'm not sure that the granddaughter knows how this will be handled, but her parents have plans to tuck most of it away for her to access in the future.

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My sister Lois is expecting her first two grandchildren in the near future--the children of Hans and Heidi.  Both of them are local, so we're all getting a chance to share in the excitement.  

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Wheat harvest has been in full swing during the past week.  With one hot dry day after another, anyone who could escape equipment problems got a good shot at getting the "gold" into a bin.  There's a chance of rain tonight.  A very welcome cool-down is on the way as well.

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Today is the summer solstice.  I watched the sun go down tonight and noted the features on the horizon that lined up with the "sinking" spot.  I've done this throughout the year.  

I don't recall ever seeing the exact figure, but I estimate that if I were to stand facing straight west and point my right arm to the summer solstice sunset spot and my left arm to the winter solstice spot, my arms would be spread at something approximating a 90-degree angle--maybe less.  

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I have some very striking tall red-leaved plants growing in my garden from seeds that I scattered last fall and this spring.  The seeds came from amaranth plants that were growing at the demonstration garden on the Hutchinson Community College campus last summer.  

At HCC the plants always reseeded very enthusiastically in the former Thomas Jefferson garden area.  In other words, the seeds originally had been acquired as part of a collection of seeds gathered from the gardens of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.  Sally, a Master Gardener, had nurtured the garden until that area became the cutting garden area.  Those annual red-leaved plants came back every year since then from seeds dropped the year before. 

Our daughter-in-law, Hilda, noticed the plants in my garden and observed how much they looked like the red "greens" they used to eat in Bangladesh.  There, they were called lalshak.  I knew that amaranth leaves could be cooked and used like spinach, so it seemed safe enough to try eating them.  Hilda took some home and prepared them as she was used to eating lalshak, and the whole family was delighted to taste this favorite familiar dish again.  Hiromi and I have eaten some since and liked it too.  

I think it's remarkable that Thomas Jefferson and Bangladesh are meeting in my Kansas garden.

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 Grant and Clarissa's house is teeming with the activity of six little "Prettyman" boys.  Clare and her sister Tara each have three boys, and Tara is here for a visit from Washington state.

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My sister-in-law Judy has a brother Mark who is battling Covid in Costa Rica.  He has been hospitalized with Covid pneumonia.  

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A group of local bikers are headed west now, with the culmination of the trip occurring at the top of Pikes Peak.  This is happening in lieu of the annual Bike Across Kansas that was canceled for the second year in a row.  

I might worry less about this trip if I didn't know about Hiromi's niece's experience with a run up Pike's Peak.  She collapsed partway up, despite being a very experienced runner who has run double marathons.  With a medical crew providing oxygen, she limped along a little farther till she reached the point where she would be provided a ride to the bottom.  Otherwise, she would have needed to walk down, and she couldn't think of doing that.  

Starting out in triple digit temps was surely not much fun.

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Carol, Shari, and Braden are headed to Greece to work in a refugee camp for several weeks.  Braden's parents and siblings will be going to Pennsylvania where Arlyn plans to teach during summer term at Faith Builders.

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Lil Nisly is suffering from some paralysis on one side of her face, resulting in the normal eye-blinking reflex going on vacation.  This dehydrates her cornea and calls for various interventions at different times.  Eye drops applied at frequent intervals, lying down with eyes closed, and at night taping the eye shut are measures I've heard about.  

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Many of the situations that I've mentioned are prayer concerns.  Thank you for joining in this prayer effort.