Category: Monthly Wrap-Ups

January 2024 Wrap-Up

Time Flies

January 2024 is at end. Since I am still coping with the aftermath of 2023, the time passed quite quickly. No travel to speak of since I spent every night at home. So, what was accomplished? Lots of reading. Three books reviewed with a fourth review due out in time for the weekend. Many football games watched since a family favorite team is headed to the Super Bowl. Finally, lots of hand quilting.

Snow storms, blizzards and weather in the mid-sixties made for a crazy month and it looks like the erratic pattern will continue in February. Growing up in Florida, there did not seem to be such wild weather. But perhaps I did not notice. Children have other priorities.

Random Thoughts from January 2024

  • If two old men stay healthy, it looks like we will have a re-match of the 2020 Presidential elections. On the Republican side there will be a new V.P, what about on the Democrat side? Most importantly-do costly elections eliminate younger candidates? Furthermore, why do candidates drop out before or after just one primary? Is the money machine that great?
  • Are pro ball games rigged? The Haters seem to think so.
  • After reading Lauren Grodstein’s We Must Not Think of Ourselves, I wonder if Americans would leave the country if taken over by fascists or communists? Actually, would the inhabitants of any modern country?
  • Why is it so hard for a nobody to become published? I’ve certainly read books that were just so-so and yet published, not self-published. In fact, I have read self-published books that were better than those going the traditional route. Perhaps Amazon deserves a thank you after all.

Bloggers

I read a handful of bloggers on a regular basis. Their content is varied but I enjoy what they write and learn many things. What continues to surprise me is how often I am contacted by others to write articles on subjects that are important to them. Even if I share their viewpoint, I do not feel compelled to “speak” for them.

This last week of January 2024, a different request appeared in my mailbox. The young men wanted to write a column on health and wellness. They sent a link to their own website and no, I did not click on it. But I did search and find the blog. It is a credible blog. So, why not just post there? What happened to independent thinking?

Looking Forward

I am successfully growing indoor herbs for the first winter ever. Basil, Rosemary and Thyme have been harvested from their containers throughout this long winter. Even better, the ginger roots brought back from my parents’ house are growing as well. Now the trick will be to repot so they can grow to full size. The blooms have an incredible fragrance.

February will see the first of the seed starts. The forecast for this week is above average in temperature so winter pruning and clean-up can commence. This is a good time to prune the grape vines and cut off the tops of the dead plants in the garden. It may look like lazy farming, but leaving the plants in the ground helps fight against erosion from the wind.

Finally, the blizzard knocked down some fencing and it is time to repair again. Fortunately, the damage was to the deer fencing and not the heavy- duty privacy fencing like in previous years.

November 2023 Wrap-Up

A Challenging Month

The challenge of November 2023 parallels the rest of the year. Patience, stamina and endurance are all needed when acting as a support system for a loved one. Good quality medical care is available, but the health care system in the United States of America definitely has room for improvement.

Coping with stress takes an effort. Each individual needs to discover what mechanisms work best for them. Both spiritual beliefs and Earthly pursuits may relieve the strain one faces in the most difficult of times. If you are experiencing personal troubles, find what works for you.

Health Care

A few months ago in the August Wrap-Up, I discussed a downside of rural living-travelling hours to reach specialized health care. Thus, it is not surprising we opted to spend weekdays in a major city and only returning home on the weekends. Unfortunately, many still drive hours on a daily basis for therapy. Cancer treatments involve specialized care.

I am spending much time in waiting rooms while acting as a support system. So, my observations may be skewed. However, any of you working at or running an insurance company need to re-evaluate your industry. There is no way any doctor would prescribe unnecessary chemo treatments. Nor would patients willingly take additional chemotherapy. Yet, a few days ago I witnessed a young woman (decades younger than I) denied treatment because insurance authorization for the current week had not yet been approved!

This is unacceptable in this country of ours. Or in any country. If private companies cannot act in good faith, we will become more and more socialist. Pros and cons of the various “isms” will be written another day.

Family Visits in November 2023

On the positive side of the month, we have seen many family members on a weekly basis. Each has roots in the rural areas but have chosen to live and work in the city. Even though I can see the attraction, I still hate the traffic.

However, I will take advantage of the closeness of grandchildren and great-nephew and look forward to seeing all the youngsters during this difficult time. Thanksgiving provided an opportunity for family support as well as delicious food. This Thanksgiving holiday ranks among the best.

In the Library

Illustration of a Thanksgiving gathering passing food around the dinner table.Children’s book reviews filled up much of the month. Peyton Picks the Perfect Pie remains a favorite long after the feast. However, other than Sanibel Flats, no other adult reading took place. My top ten books of the year may be difficult to compile next week.

November 2023 Quilting

Sitting and waiting in doctors’ offices and hospitals yields much time for lap quilting. I finished the beautiful bargello baby quilt and am now working on one of the UFO’s. Quilting is one of my coping mechanisms for the challenges of November 2023.

October 2023 Wrap-Up

Halloween

A platter shaped like a witch's hat full of candy for Trick or Treaters.
Ready for the Trick or Treaters.

It is Halloween once again which means it is time for the October 2023 Wrap-Up. From a personal standpoint it has been yet another tough month. I have talked before of the feeling of having a shoe drop. Well, shoes are dropping all over the place. So many that my closet must be getting empty.

I realize everyone has time periods of difficulty. 2023 is mine. Hopefully, I will become a stronger person. Furthermore, I finally understand the anticipation of ushering in a New Year. I sure hope 2024 will bring more joy and less sadness, frustration and angst.

A Troubled Soul, A Troubled World

Other families and individuals are also facing grief this year. Most recent among the Hollywood set was actor/author Matthew Perry. Please click here to read my review of his incredibly honest autobiography, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing. Condolences to all that knew and loved him.

And as difficult as my own saga has been this year, it has unwound in a nation that has strife but is not under attack from foreign invaders. Unrest continues in Ukraine and now in the Middle East. May peace on earth become a reality versus a holiday saying.

Those of us that have seen many trips around the sun understand no one wins in a war. There are only survivors. Unfortunately, casualties often include innocent children. What a waste of the future.

October 2023

Late fall ushers in cooler weather and final harvests for those of us in the north. This past weekend saw snow in the mountain west and cold rains elsewhere. Crisp air is warmed by afternoon sunrays only to bite once the sun retreats and the moon takes over. Animals know the seasons are changing. Around these parts, tarantulas are on the move, geese are flying south and squirrels are gathering acorns from my oak tree.

Kids are learning “new” Halloween ideas in October 2023 such as the Switch Witch. Apparently, kids can keep five pieces of candy and leave the rest on the front porch before going to bed and by morning the Switch Witch will have switched out the candy for a toy. I just learned of this from my first trick or treater. Perhaps a new kids’ book read in preschool, certainly a new tale for me.

Staying Positive in October 2023

In challenging times, it is difficult to stay positive. But a smile and a good attitude will aid in keeping the negatives of stressful times at bay. Seeking help from family and friends as well as professionals as needed is my plan. The blood pressure medicine is working and that is a blessing of modern science.

Thanks to all the loyal readers out there. The posts have been sporadic but overall readership has remained stable. Also, thanks to all who have reached out via email and phone. Positive vibes are so important!

August 2023 Wrap-Up

Writer’s Block

Of the many difficult months, I have lived through, August 2023 ranks as one of the most difficult from an emotional standpoint. And as a result, writer’s block has reared its’ ugly head once again. Even with multiple book reviews in the can so to speak, uploading on to the blog was more than I could handle.

Clearing Out a Lifetime

Many readers can relate to the discomfort faced by deciding what to keep and what to give away when going through the belongings of loved ones who no longer walk this Earth. You feel like you are losing that person or persons all over again.

Moreover, in a small family, there are too many items filled with memories and no place for them to re-home. I first encountered this problem nearly thirty years ago. While visiting a neighbor, she proudly showed me a roll top desk her father had made and gifted to her to celebrate her twenty-fifth anniversary. She knew then, years before her demise that the family would auction the item. It was bulky and both offspring were condo dwellers.

I think of Marilyn each time I walk by the beautiful desk commanding attention in my front room.

Now I face a similar problem. August 2023 was the month to clear out my parents’ home and ready it for sale. Both were hoarders. Yet, many of the items they owned have meaning for me. Short of buying (or keeping) a second home, I have no place for most of the items. Nor do my offspring. I can only hope someone will treasure whatever pieces are not kept.

Rural America Problems

Maybe once a month I wait at a stoplight. This is one of the best things about living in a rural part of the country. In fact, of the five towns in my county, only one even has stoplights. How much time do people waste sitting at a stoplight?

But there is one big problem with living in an unpopulated area- a lack of specialized healthcare. Fortunately, young doctors rotate in and out as a means of debt forgiveness via a loan forgiveness program. This means primary care is available. And sometimes they stay and raise a family, embracing the rural life.

But specialty docs just aren’t needed enough to operate in a rural area. So, one must travel to a city for treatment of a wide range of conditions from high-risk pregnancy check-ups to cancer treatments to heart issues. Really for any advanced medical problems.

High tech equipment is not economically viable in a town of only a thousand or two. Much less one of five hundred. And for my Urban Area readers, often it is over one hundred miles to reach a city of more than ten thousand people. Telehealth can only reach so far.

This is not new to me as I made quarterly trips to a Children’s Hospital for years. But as I age and as the appointments are at times for me, the travel is more tiring. It is a balancing act. August 2023 saw four such trips of over one hundred miles.

August 2023 In the Library

Many books were read and some shared this month. A backlog of reviews exist. Reading offers me the escape that most people find in television. I prefer to let my mind imagine the characters. Both old favorites and new discoveries with respect to authors were enjoyed. I hope you find a book through the reviews that appeals to you.

Record Heat

August 2023 scorched parts of America and the world. I personally experienced 111 degrees Fahrenheit on my cross-country drive. Perhaps, even more difficult was the slow cool down at night. Nightfall was needed to drop below triple digits on multiple dates and locations.

The summer of 1980 was also a scorcher. I remember triple digits all throughout July. I hope it is another forty plus years before we have a repeat this heat.

August 2023 In the Garden

High heat hinders growth in the garden. The tomatoes are slow to set, and the cucumbers suffer as well. However, the potatoes enjoyed their underground lair. As a result, the harvest yielded some good-sized spuds with a wonderful taste. One can only hope for the same result next month from the sweet potatoes.

Potatoes in a harvest basket.

July 2023 Wrap-Up

Busy Month

Some months are so full that a daily log could fill the pages of a manuscript and July 2023 was such a month. Thunderstorms, hail and rain have finally given way to the dry heat and southwesterly winds that are more typical of this time of year. Unfortunately, not before compromising some of the grain harvests of the Great Plains.

July 2023 In the Garden

Two inch in diameter hail stones from July 2023 storm The wonky weather has also affected my home garden. One of the two-inch pieces of hail took out an entire potato plant and knocked off some green tomatoes. And many blossoms. The cold rains of the first three weeks of the month gave great moisture to the ground and we are no longer in a drought. However, crops are taking their time ripening.

So far only the patio tomatoes have turned red. A handful of beets and cucumbers have been harvested and just one eggplant has been picked. But plenty of blossoms signal a productive month ahead even if the drip systems need to run.

Furthermore, the herbs are the most prolific I have ever seen. I could participate in a Farmer’s Market if I had a license to sell herbs. The dill has benefited from both robins and humans picking off the caterpillars of the swallowtail butterflies. In turn, chickens enjoyed both the insects and the small pieces of dill mixed in with other grasses as a supplement to their regular diet.

Parsley, sage and horehound are all thriving. And a new book added to the library contains great recipes for these and other herbs in the garden. Look for the Homegrown Herbs book review coming in August.

In the Library

July 2023 was a great month for reading as the heavy rains of the first part of the month and the triple-digit heat of the last few days kept me inside. In addition to five books reviewed on Econogal, three more are already slated for posting. These include books from the Cañon City trip.

I continue to look for new authors or new-to-me writers as I visit the library and make the occasional trip to a bookstore. It is so hard to get a foothold in the industry that I want to review as many new individuals as I can.

Major Events for July 2023

The Fourth of July is a favorite holiday and we travelled to see family. Good food accompanied the pleasant daytime weather. But a major thunderstorm rained out the fireworks. Other trips included visits to Colorado mountain towns of Cañon City and Vail. Both quick overnight stays tied to business. But the mountain scenery fills me with peace.

A weekend trip to celebrate the youngest family member turning one also involved an evening thunderstorm-certainly a recurring theme for July 2023. But the afternoon of the party was sun-filled. Perfect for little ones to play in the water.

Economic Thoughts

Little evidence of a recession still holds true from my observations. Prices are still high so I wasn’t surprised by the additional rate hike from the Federal Reserve. Yet, employment and growth are evident in my little town. New businesses continue to open and/or are under construction. The job opportunities are mostly retail and construction. The hailstorms will ensure work for roofers through the fall.

The housing market remains tight in our part of the world-if the price tag reflects the market. It is hard to tell if a new equilibrium has been established, but sellers no longer have buyers over a barrel. And so far, fire sales and foreclosures are not the norm. A healthy market is welcomed.

July 2023 Wrap-Up- Final Thoughts

The politics of Washington, D.C., Moscow and Beijing seem to be taking a back seat to the weather. Heavy rains, triple-digit temperatures and other climate events are upstaging the pontification and power posturing of some world leaders. The calving of ice at the two poles and the rising ocean temperatures are most concerning. I will continue to read both non-fiction such as The Great Displacement and fiction such as the similarly titled The Displacements to broaden my knowledge. There is much to be learned.

 

May 2023 Wrap-Up

A Long Month

As May 2023 turns into June here on the High Plains many thoughts tumble through my mind. The past six weeks are jumbled together without a precise timeline. Very foreign to my way of thinking. But unexpected death can do that to a person.

Travel Cross Country in May 2023

Multiple flights and a very long car trip occurred during the month of May. Planes are full as are airports and their companion Arrivals and Departures lanes. The pent-up demand from the pandemic seems not to have abated much at least as far as the travel industry is concerned.

Criss-crossing states via automobile reveals full hotel rooms along the Interstates and highways. Even more interesting to an observer were the many, many 18-wheelers carrying large loads of infrastructure goods. As compared to recent such drives, large coils of conduit have been replaced by wind tower components and gigantic concrete pipes for underground use.

The always present summer road construction was in full swing with large crews busy at work. One was reminded that we are a Republic of states with the greatly varying laws concerning travel through the work areas. Uniformity does not exist.

Inflation

Prices for goods also vary by state. Gasoline varied from $2.99 to $3.59 and while different taxing levels account for some of that, stations without petrol at some or in one case all the pumps indicate other factors are also at play.

Grocery prices are also increasing. Before long something will need to give. Pent-up demand will not be a match for overall inflation. I expect non-necessary travel will soon come to an end.

Nature in May 2023

Spring brings new life to the garden. Along with much appreciated rain are funnel clouds and tornadoes. I filmed my first rope funnel cloud on 30 May 2023. It was going away from my position. I am gaining an appreciation of the thrill of storm chasing.

The circle of life continues in my back yard. Dill plants were under attack by the anise swallowtail caterpillars (Papilio zelicaon). Were is the key word. Today, a fat robin picked them off one at a time. Perhaps food for hatchlings, the hungry caterpillars are no more.

May 2023 Blog Posts

My writing has taken a back seat to grief. And to the intricacies of becoming an adult orphan, as a friend and loyal reader of this blog described the new existence, I find myself in. The next six months or so will be spent wrapping up the pieces of my dad’s life.

Many decisions will be made. As the family historian, he possessed many old documents. What will be kept and passed on to future generations is just one of many decisions I face. However, I will attempt to return to regular posts in the coming months. Please bear with me.

 

March 2023 Wrap-Up

Spring vs. Winter

Spring is battling with winter for control as March 2023 finishes up. The temperatures remain winter-like with upper teens and lower twenties (Fahrenheit) still occurring weekly if not daily. But the winds have kicked in, a sure sign of changing seasons here on the High Plains. Long range forecast calls for average to below average temperatures for the month of April. So, spring planting is on hold.

However, much yard work occurs whenever there is a break in the tropical storm gusts and the day sees temperatures over 45 F°. Two new manifolds are ready for action. The first is a replacement for the old pipe in the Big Garden. The second will irrigate the asparagus bed, rose bed and cut flower bed.

Yesterday, the first of the asparagus spears were spotted poking out of the ground. Since the next several nights will bring temperatures in the teens, new straw was scattered across the bed. Often the temperature swings 50 degrees from high to low creating confusion for plants and animals alike.

Quilting Continues

Many days in March 2023 (including this last one) were too nasty to stay outside for any length of time. So, many hours were spent in the basement working on quilts. The youngest grandchild received his completed quilt when he traveled to the Plains one weekend. The small pink bargello is next up for quilting and a king size bargello quilt in greens and blues is all cut out and ready to be pieced.

An I Spy quilt is also on the docket for April. The base of the quilt is in the UFO stash and wording for the I Spy clues is almost complete. I hope to stay on track for my goal of completing the unfinished pieces stored in the quilt room.

March 2023 Seed Starting

Due to the wacky weather nothing has been transplanted into the garden. But multiple trays are ready to go. The greens can withstand temperatures in the mid-twenties. However, the forecast still shows drops into the teens. Patience is needed.

Tomatoes joined the seed starts. They have a long way to go before transplant size. As long as the temperatures stay cool the plants can take their time. I am way behind on the seed planting but the natural indicators of time support the delay. The first crocuses did not appear until the Ides of March. Some years the harbingers of spring pop up at the end of January. Paying attention to nature and noting the emergence from dormancy aids in knowing when to plant what.

Kale, cabbage and broccoli seedlings
Kale, Cabbage and Broccoli
Lettuce seedlings ready to transplant
Ready to Transplant: A variety of Lettuces.

March 2023 In the Library

Since the weather was conducive to mostly staying indoors, many books were read in March 2023. A series by Christian fiction writer Terri Blackstock took up several nights as did quite a few gardening books. The action-adventure books Code 6 and Burner as well as the non-fiction Adrift: America in 100 Charts were all reviewed on the blog.

All the books read in the month were library check-outs. I am fortunate to have such a wonderful library in a town with fewer than ten thousand people. The staff is incredible, and the programs are many and varied. Truly something for everyone!

Looking Beyond Local

Several key events took place at the national level during the month. Banks focusing on the tech industry took a beating. Silicon Valley Bank depositors had a lifeline thrown to them. All deposits became insured by the FDIC. This may become a moral hazard. Time will tell.

In other financial news, talk about Central Bank Digital Currencies increased during the month. I am very leery of CBDCs. There are too many cyber attacks across many industries. I think a system of CBDCs would be ripe for fraud. For a good overview of the issue click here to connect to information from Think Tank Atlantic Council.

Finally, the end of March 2023 brought the first ever indictment of a former United States President. Many are comparing the action to the tax evasion charges that brought down Al Capone. We indeed are living in interesting times.

February 2023 Wrap-Up

This last day of February 2023 is a high wind one for this part of the High Plains. Winds are above 30 m.p.h. with gusts above 50 m.p.h. a common weather event this time (or anytime) of year. Fortunately, there are plenty of things to do inside.

February 2023- In the Library

Many books were read in February. Most for fun. Two Jayne Ann Krentz romances, a re-read of Helen MacInnes cold war fare, a new Julie Garwood romance-Grace Under Fire and the new thriller from David Baldacci-The 6:20 Man. While none of the above were reviewed, I enjoyed them all.

Sometimes prioritizing the fun of reading is important. I remember loading up on fiction during the summer breaks while working on my degrees. Required reading takes the fun out of things. This is one of the reasons I refuse free copies from publishers. I would feel compelled to read and review all the books. It was nice taking a month off (mostly) from the reviews.

Sorting the Basement

I am still working on Losing the Clutter in the basement. About two-thirds of the hobby room is finished. Many scraps of fabric are on the margin of being too small to save. I blame it on my grandmothers. Both remembered the hardship of the 1930s until they died. In the process, they instilled a sense of re-using and re-cycling in me. But strips of cloth less than an inch in width really need to go.

Starting Seeds

We still have two months plus before we reach are average last freeze date, but seed starting is underway. Kale, spinach and lettuce are under the grow lights. Furthermore, a few seeds have been scattered in the garden as well. The expected light snow of this week will provide a blanket of moisture from the most cold-tolerant varieties such as the Pak-Choi.

A few of the indoor plants such as the artichoke have been transplanted into bigger pots. This will give them more room to grow as they wait for warmer weather. In the coming weeks even more seeds will be started indoors.

Query Letters

So far, I have struck out with my query letters. However, much constructive criticism was received. Revisions are in order. Such is the life of a writer unwilling to self-publish. At least for now.

January 2023 Wrap-Up

Seasonal Weather

The month of January 2023 was cold and snowy. Since this part of the world is in a moderate drought, the moisture was welcome. However, the single digit and below zero temperatures can disappear at any time without any concern from me. Naturally, January 2023 was spent indoors.

Time was split between reading, writing and quilting. Additionally, a few seeds were started. There is always something to occupy the hours of the day.

January 2023 In the Library

A wide range of books were read this month. Three entertaining novels were reviewed, Elevator Pitch, The Escape Artist and Remarkably Bright Creatures. All were enjoyed. Non-fiction books included works discussed in the post Time to Plan the Garden and The Complete Runner’s Handbook by Glover and Glover. Next on the TBR list is Brain Saver Protocols Cleanses & Recipes.

Quilt Room Action

Baby Quilt in browns and teals
Ready for the hand-quilting.

A quilt for the youngest in the family is now at the hand quilting stage. Another baby quilt, this one for his cousin-to-be on his Dad’s side of the family has been cut out and the sewing will commence this week. But that is not all of the activity going on in the quilt room.

I have finally reached this important room for decluttering. Truth be told, not much can be tossed. But a lot of organization is needed. This last day of January 2023 saw the beginning of separating the fabrics into color categories loosely following The Home Edit guidelines of ROY G BIV. I have also turned the stack fabrics on their sides giving a better view of the patterns. The fabric arrangement will continue into February. Then I can start on the hobby cabinets.

Seed Starting

The first seeds were started in January 2023. Most were brassicas. Kale and cabbages have already emerged. Two of the peanuts have sprouted as well. The former plants can be placed outside while the temperatures still fluctuate below freezing. The peanuts will grow inside until June. Three artichokes were planted but no signs of any life yet.

Fortunately, it is a long way off before outdoor work dominates the schedule. Plenty of time for seeds to sprout and seedlings to grow.

November 2022 Wrap-Up

Away From Home

November 2022 entailed traveling through thirteen states. But most of the time was spent in Kentucky and Florida. Overnight stops included the states of Missouri, Louisiana and Texas. All in places familiar to me as part of my “Travel Safety” mindset. Not all of the travel was alone. I had company for the better part of the trip.

However, I am looking forward to staying put in December. Hopefully all the kids will make it home for Christmas. This will be the first holiday gathering since the pandemic began. During the pandemic we gathered twice- for a memorial service and a wedding. A familiar theme for writers.

Hobbies on the Road

Completed Stocking

As a quilter, I often travel with a small quilt in the final stage-the hand quilting. This is true of this trip. All that remains is the binding.

However, for this trip I also brought a Bucilla stocking. The extended stay in Central Florida allowed me time to start and complete the cute snowman for the newest member of the family. I think the stocking will be loved.

Keeping track of craft items while traveling can be tricky. For this November 2022 trip I kept the two projects in the same tote bag. Large enough to carry both items and small enough to carry into hotel rooms at night. Both the quilt and the stocking may have small monetary value, but each is priceless.

November 2022 In the Library

Travel also gives me great opportunity to read. Four books were reviewed in November 2022. (Click on each title for the individual review: The Displacements, Thank You For Listening, The Last Thing He Told Me, Love Marriage.) And another completed and still another currently in the reading stage. Plus, numerous children’s books are ready for gifting. They deserve a review as well.

Weeding in a Garden

November 2022 included weeding in a garden. A Florida garden, the warmer climate allowing work in this late fall month. As one ages, it is difficult to keep up with the yardwork. And that is if one is actually inclined. In my dad’s case, he prefers the jungle look. All I can think is… a habitat for snakes. So, a backyard jungle has gone through a partial transformation.

But the majority of the work took place in the front of the house. Wandering vines were removed, pine needles swept and accrued sand removed from the driveway. Now he has a safe path to the mailbox. Plus, the communal sidewalk is clear for the neighbors to traverse.

Of course, the hurricane was responsible for the twigs and small branches littering the lawn. Mother Nature contributed to the wild appearance.

Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving was small but very nice. Spending time with family is important to me. A focus on togetherness has always made the day special. The lovely Florida weather was an added benefit. So, even though Thanksgiving was early, the day helped set the tone for an upbeat end to November 2022.

October 2022 Wrap-Up

Happy Halloween

The end of October 2022 is here and so is a favorite day of many. Happy Halloween to all the Trick-or-Treaters. I am away from home today so I will miss all the costumes. Maybe my spouse will have some leftover Halloween candy to share once we reunite mid-week.

October 2022 In the Library

Many books were read this month. My target of one book reviewed each week was met with a wide variety to choose from. From historical novel to futuristic, with a solid economic text and just-in-time for Halloween- a trio of children’s books. Furthermore, two more reviews are on the way. The eclectic selection continues with a fictional commentary involving climate change and other social issues in The Displacements. Be sure to check back later this week. And a romance/love story will be featured next week.

Closing out the Harvest

The first freeze of the fall took place in October 2022. There are still a few green tomatoes ripening on the table. Even though the harvest was not record setting, it was plentiful. For those who missed Progressing Through the Season, click here to see some pictures of the newly planted asparagus bed.

Fall Cleaning

October 2022 extended the re-organization of the house. The focus this past month has been the basement. In addition to the canning storage area, I am organizing the library/play area. The grandkids need a space to spread out when they visit.

Highlight of October 2022

The best of the month came toward the very end. My new railing and stair banister finally arrived from the artists at Mostly by Nature in Santa Fe. We have purchased other pieces from the shop Sequioa Santa Fe on Galisteo Street.

The old railing was dismantled when hardwood floors replaced the carpet in the living room back in June. There have been no visits from the toddlers during this time for obvious reasons.

Now that the construction phase is over, I am looking forward to having family gather for the winter holidays. It will be cramped, but many memories will be made. Enjoy the before and after photos below.

Old Railing

Wood spindle railing
Last picture of wood railing before removal

New Railing

Artistic one-of-a-kind Iron railing
Unique Iron Railing updates the room.

September 2022 Wrap-Up

Summer Hanging On

The last day of September 2022 means another month has passed by. Time does not stand still. No freeze yet so lots of canning when I am not travelling. The highlight of the month was a road trip to Pierre, South Dakota for a Zonta International District 12 seminar. Weather was delightful but offered another glimpse of a changing climate. The highs were in the 80s and I never needed at jacket. Not even at night.

Skirting the Badlands

Last weekend I saw my first glimpse of the Badlands as I returned from Pierre/North Pierre, South Dakota. A distant glimpse as I was travelling south on South Dakota Highway 73 from Kadoka, South Dakota to Merriman, Nebraska.

The topography to the west was incredible. The canyons and bluffs created by rains as well as drainage from the White River, are stark in their beauty. I wish I had pictures to share but alas I was driving and there was no really good place to pull over. Driving down this road encountered little traffic. Not surprising since the area is not conducive to vegetation or habitation. Just incredible views of nature.

Heartland Travel

The Heartland of America is vast. Even numbered interstates crossing east/west begin with I-10 to the south culminating with I-94 to the north. I-90 intersects South Dakota, and the speed limit is 80 m.p.h. and at this speed I only noted one lawbreaker. On my trip out to Pierre, I only drove 19 miles of interstate. The rest of the trip involved U.S. and state highways.

Positives of using the backroads are less traffic and a greater chance to notice the surroundings. Negatives can include difficulty passing local drivers and occasionally roads in poor condition. Fortunately, we had no troubles on this trip. Only positives.

 

September 2022- Endless Cucumbers

Cucumbers are the star of the 2022 garden. Almost October and they are still flowering. Of course, the days are getting shorter, so I expect the vines to start slowing down. Pickles will certainly be in Christmas gift baskets. But many other goodies that are cucumber based will be included. The Indian Cucumber Relish recipe from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving filled the house with wonderful aroma and both the sweet and savory jam recipes are great.

The tomatoes are struggling to turn red. So only one batch of family secret salsa recipe has been whipped up. I believe that will change in the coming weeks. Long-term forecast shows no freeze into the first ten days of October. So, canning will continue.

September 2022- In the Library

Reading is not on the front burner with everything else vying for attention. I am currently reading Lilac Girls picked up on my visit to Mackinac Island. Set in the Second World War, the book is gripping. My To Be Read list keeps growing, so I know how much of my winter will be spent. Dividing my time between reading and quilting is once again, just around the corner.

August 2022 Wrap-Up

Busy Month

Classic White church with steepleAugust 2022 was a busy month with multiple trips including a short weekend in Upstate New York. The airplanes were packed and delayed. Although with the new guidelines, even a minute behind scheduled takeoff is now considered a delay.

I did manage to squeeze in a few hours in New York to visit a church where one of my ancestors had preached. Full of intention to write a post sharing the experience, alas the pictures remain in the computer and the words in my head. Much like the bats of the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin.

August 2022 Odds and Ends

The rains on the High Plains took a hiatus in mid-August. Fortunately, moisture returned at the end of the month. Unfortunately, the battle with ants returned with the rain. Mysteriously, I found a copy of The Berenstain Bears and the Great Ant Attack as I was re-arranging furniture. Naturally I took the time to re-read this classic children’s Chapter Book. Stan and Jan Berenstain put forth quite a bit of information in the books. No wonder my kids loved the series!

Tomato plants are loaded with green fruit. But have been battered by the incessant wind. Cucumbers are slowing down, as are the eggplant and jalapeno peppers. The potatoes are starting to die back, and a harvest of potatoes has commenced. I am hoping for a late frost, so the sweet potatoes have a chance to mature. But that may not happen since a blue jay was spotted this last day of August 2022. These beautiful albeit noisy birds make a short appearance on their flight South each year.

First Draft Complete

The first draft of a children’s board book is complete. And it is surprising to see the wide range of requirements for submission. A warning to other writers. Read the fine print. There are publishers who reserve the right to reject your submission but retain your idea without compensating you. I found that unsettling.

Currently I am editing and deciding whether to submit directly to a publisher or find an agent. There are pros and cons to each as I am finding out in Author 101: Bestselling Secrets From Top Agents by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman. Another option is to go the self-publishing route.

Politics in America Key in August 2022

The only thing I am certain of for the latter half of 2022 is that the United States of America is facing unprecedented times. August 2022 is shaping up to be an historic month. U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan to start the month off. Pelosi’s visit was the first by the House Speaker since 1997. And one that caused a few waves with the People’s Republic of China.

Her visit was topped politically by the FBI raid on former President Trump’s current residence. An unparalleled move, at least in my memory. Is this just politics? Or is something genuinely disturbing going on? If nothing else, the fall campaign season should be particularly fiery. I wish there was a way to avoid all the political advertisements. Needless negativity shortens the lifespan.

Growing Family

Last Christmas Day I learned a new grandchild was due at the end of August 2022. Well, the little guy arrived quite early and quite small back in Mid-July. Preemies are a bit scary, so I chose not to share the news in the July 2022 Wrap-Up. However, now weighing six pounds two ounces, he has doubled his birth weight. Tube feeding helped with the weight gain. Preemie baby with oxygen and feeding tubes.He remains on supplemental oxygen but everything else is as if he was born at the “normal” forty weeks. Much time has been spent with this tiny lad, and he seems determined to catch up quickly. I treasure my family and am thankful for this newest member. Even though the curse of interesting times is upon us, life can bring joy. Embrace the blessings!

July 2022 Wrap-Up

Hot and Rainy in July 2022

July 2022 brought both dry heat and heavy rain to my part of the country. The high temperature topped out at 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Multiple rains of over an inch also occurred. The heat is a normal occurrence in July on the High Plains of America, July 2022 was not exceptional. The rain was a bit above average but not unheard of as compared to other parts of the United States getting a once in a lifetime storm, over and over again.

Big Storms and Changing Weather

Ever since Hurricane Harvey dumped feet of rain on Houston, Texas, I keep an eye on storm systems. Slow moving rains can saturate the ground, even when the ground is parched. Furthermore, the storms don’t need to be hurricanes.

Last winter we suffered through 100 plus m.p.h. winds which devastated my garden fence and blew away my garlic. Click here to read the January 2022 Wrap-up. Winds this summer snapped my almost 30-year-old, borer-riddled, prize-winning peach tree in half. The fruit was too immature to ripen.

I am not old enough to personally know how this year’s winds differ from the Dust Bowl years. I am thankful these winds did not occur ten or so years ago when we witnessed less than ten inches of precipitation two years in a row. No rain and high winds make a deadly combination in my part of the world.

July 2022- Back on Track

Finally, I feel like I am back on track with my writing, both on the blog and otherwise. Writer’s block exists. My goal for July 2022 focused on output first and then on quality. Hopefully the content did not suffer much.

Perhaps re-reading the Diane Mott Davidson books helped. Certainly, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s Option B helped my malaise. Plus reading and reviewing the two new fiction books, Meant to Be and We Begin At The End was time well spent.

Fair Time

Once again rural county fairs are in full swing. Carnivals and parades augment the showcasing of 4-H projects and Open Class exhibits. Funnel cakes, snow cones and Bierocks are sold at concession stands to fairgoers. Everyone needs to experience a county fair at least once in life. Those of us involved in rural life look forward to the fair each year.

Getting Candy at the Fair Parade July 22
Getting Candy at the Fair Parade

March 2022 Wrap-Up

Wow, March 2022  is already gone. This month needs more days in it! I think the shortness of February has something to do with the fact March always seems to disappear. Plus, this time of year has so many demands on me.

March 2022 in the Garden

Spring arrives in March and so does the beginning of the yard work. Since President Biden told us to expect food shortages this year, I decided to expand the garden and plant more. Two new beds were rototilled. Asparagus, which takes multiple years to establish will grow in one. The crowns will also be planted in the next day or so. They will reside between the grapevines planted last year and the fenced garden. Deer tend to turn their nose up at this crop.

A snow fence now encircles the Big Garden as an added deterrent against the wildlife that wander in and out. Next, I will need to build a new gate. Additionally, plans to repair the blown down fence are started. Utility lines are marked. So, the project should be finalized this weekend. Hopefully it will be a few years before hurricane force winds visit us again.

Two hundred forty-four plant seedlings are nestled under the grow lights. Not counting the sixteen peanut plants. Nor the sweet potato slips. Of course quite a few of the starts are herbs and flowers. The latter really draw in the bees; key for pollinating the fruits and vegetables of the garden.

Snow fence built in March 2022
A snow fence adds another barrier against wildlife and wild winds.

Quilts and More Quilts

I am hand quilting a small baby quilt and have another waiting in the wings. A third quilt for a toddler is in the design stages. Fabrics are picked out along with the pattern. A diagram with numbers will keep me straight. Then, there is a key to the diagram which lists each quilt by description. There will be about twenty-five fabrics altogether in this latest design. The name of the pattern is Trip Around the World. One of my favorites. If you keep to the diagram everything comes out great.

March 2022 in the Library

More books were read than reviewed in March 2022. I reread one of my favorite Helen MacInnes books as a way to protest the Invasion of Ukraine. But, I did not include a review. I also read two new board books before giving them to a mom-to-be. They were cute. Maybe I will review a series of board books this summer.

Furthermore, I think you will enjoy the next two reviews. One for each of the upcoming weekends. Both are fiction. So I need to rebalance and find a non-fiction entry that I can finish. I much prefer to lose myself in the world of imagination. Too many dry texts in my past.

Inflation Challenge

The month of April will include an Inflation Check Challenge. It will be interesting to see how prices compare. I know petrol is higher. And housing. I am glad I am not young and just starting out. That would be a real challenge! Maybe things will slow down in April. As interest rates and prices climb, the supply/demand mechanism will come into play.

February 2022 Wrap-Up

Short Month

The shortest month of the year often gets away from me and February 2022 is no exception. Quilting was the focus for much of the month. But I read quite a few books were as well.

The super cool air has kept me from starting seeds. Many nights the temperature dropped below zero degrees Fahrenheit. A check on the ground indicates a freeze point just a few inches below the surface. So, I will wait another week before starting seeds.

Political events on the international level are the center of attention. Since I only watched one night of the Olympics,  most memories of a united world competition were wiped out. Instead, the tensions abroad are on stage. How quickly events can change one’s thoughts!

February 2022 in the Hobby Room

February 2022 featured hours in the hobby room. Because, hand quilting takes a considerable amount of time. If I owned a long arm machine, projects would be completed much faster. But, I do enjoy the hand quilting in small spurts.

The queen size quilt just completed took a lot of small spurts. Since this is a wedding present, I spent much care. The lines of quilting are in long rows. Furthermore, the binding is included in the backing. quilt showing backing, binding and topI think it will be treasured forever.

A crib quilt is now layered and the stitching will commence. I created the pattern myself and love how the colors blend together. Since the youngster has an engineer and an architect for parents, the trig calculations on the white background will be appreciated.

The fabric prints shift along the diagonal.  First, the upper half is baby-themed. Then the quilt transitions to teenage themed. Thus extending the use of the quilt. However, as the little one grows, it will most likely transition to a lap quilt.

Finally, the third quilt has the borders pieced. Now I need to calculate the length and width measurements required of the panel center. A seam allowance must be taken into account. Another key factor is which of the borders I attach first, sides or top and bottom.

Busy Reading Month

February 2022 provided plenty of time for reading as the weather was typical-cold. I am still trying to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. The Angry Earth became a DNF (Did Not Finish) as the length overcame my attention span. The work is well written and I took away quite a bit from the sections I did read.

I very much enjoyed both fictional novels finished this month. Janet Evanovich is a favorite and I enjoyed new to me author Kate Atkinson. Both authors will remain on my radar.

War

War Rattles over NATO Inclusion did not receive much attention when first published on February 12, 2022. I can understand the lack of “likes” as war is not something to promote. But I was surprised at how few people read the post. Perhaps world interest lags mine.

Unfortunately, the war rattles are now front and center on all news outlets. Furthermore, the topic is now critical. My hope is that a global war is avoided.

There are many novels covering clashes of political ideals. Two authors in this genre I have reviewed are Helen MacInnes and David Baldacci. Both worth reading. In a world of gray, good versus evil does exist. The conflict in real life is daunting. Now all eyes are glued to Russia and the Ukraine.

Queen size quilt in browns, cream and blue
Queen size quilt, hand quilted
Baby's quilt in reds, blues, golds, and whites
Farm animal panel quilt with border of yellows and purples

January 2022 Wrap-Up

Start of a New Year

The time for the January 2022 Wrap-Up is here. It always amazes me how fast the first wrap-up arrives. We are already finished with eight percent of the year. Here on the High Plains the weather has run the gamut from high winds to gentle snow with a few gorgeous almost spring-like days thrown in.

January is a time for planning the upcoming garden, quilting and reading. Especially on the dreary days. Wonderful walks and some travel accompanied the pleasant days. In between we gathered in small groups of family. Perhaps the larger gatherings can resume in the summer.

January 2022 In the Library

Quite a bit of reading took place this month. Non-fiction led the way, although not all have made it to this forum. There were two fiction reviews, a cozy mystery featuring Mac ‘n’ Ivy and a hard to categorize selection in Piranesi.

Since the alternating of fiction and non-fiction works well, I plan to continue in this way. Perhaps, I became bogged down last year with too many similar books. Finding the balance is key. Reading is both relaxing and inspiring. Although, sometimes not at the same time.

January 2022 In the Garden

High winds created havoc in the garden. A row of garlic was blown out even though heavily mulched. Fence and fence posts were sheered and netting and supports shredded. Repairs are planned. But may not be completed until March. The ground is too frozen in shady areas.

Seeds are mostly purchased. Early starts will be made indoors in February. Since the destruction of the garden hardscape was great, I am also toying with ideas for more permanent structures. I will be certain to share.

Projects and Hobbies

Chandelier refinished with gold paint on the frame and the lampshades remain a frosted white.Currently the main focus of my quilting has been the hand stitching of a large bed quilt. But I also made some changes to home décor. Kitchen lights have arrived and are waiting to be installed. But an agreement can’t be made with regard to the entryway. One household member prefers a dungeon look of iron and wood while the other more of a Broadway theatre look with gold and crystal. Thus a compromise was struck and the current light fixture stays for now; with a paint job!

Needs and Wants

The light fixtures are key representatives of the needs versus wants dilemma. In this time of rapidly rising costs, we all need to be cognizant of expenditures. The kitchen lights had become faulty. New bulbs short out. But the entryway fixture works well. So, no need to replace.

Tracking expenditures should be basic economics. Budgeting needs to focus on current needs. Wants are fun to have items that we can do without. I think 2022 will be a year to focus on needs, not on our wants.

The wrap-up of the Inflation Check Challenge points out the importance of separating needs from wants. While we are most likely avoiding hyperinflation, significant inflation is on tap for 2022. Only a perfect storm will lead to the former. A storm we do not want. So, I for one will be quite careful with my budget in 2022. Purchases and investments will still occur. But only after much due diligence.

November 2021 Wrap-Up

A Quick Reflection

The November 2021 Wrap-Up marks another month off the calendar. A new variant of Covid-19 is in the news. So is climate change. Fall is winding down, albeit slowly. The holiday season has begun. What started as a slow month of productivity has morphed into one of busy-ness. Thus, time to reflect.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Only one month to go and we have the second year of the pandemic behind us. History alone will give us a clear picture of the depth of Covid-19. Accurate reporting is a challenge for nations trying for validity. Then there are many countries unwilling or unable to report cases and deaths with any precision.

November 2021- A Glimpse of Climate Change

No precipitation, rain or snow, fell on my part of the world in November 2021. Thus, the drought returns. September 20th is the last recorded rainfall in my gauge. Unfortunately, the forecast is calling for more of the same. High temperatures are running fifteen to twenty degrees above average. This would have been a good year to grow crops under a hoop.

The frosty night temperatures do create a problem with irrigation. Hoses need to be disconnected almost every night since few nights remain above 32°F. But watering of certain plants is critical because they have not entered their normal dormancy. It is a tough time to be a gardener.

Thanksgiving 2021

This Thanksgiving was quite enjoyable. We gathered as safely as possible. The age range included one just under a year to the oldest soon to be a nonagenarian. A new recipe developed for a youngster restricted to a vegan diet for health reasons was enjoyed by all. I will share the recipe for Nolan’s Vegan Holiday Rolls next week. These rolls are adapted from the Soft Gluten Free Dinner Roll recipe.

I married into a big family. We cannot fit everyone around one table and meals are always buffet style. This took some getting used too since my family gatherings growing up topped out at eleven. Cousins and all. A tight fit around one table but doable-just not much elbow room. And Southern families tend to have all the dishes in the center of the table to be passed around. As with everything in life, there are pros and cons about each serving style.

In the Library- November 2021

My reading fell off again this month. But I am currently enthralled by Nell Painter’s Old in Art School. Hopefully, I will have a review to publish this Friday. One of my goals for 2022 is to re-establish my posting patterns-if possible. As usual, quite a few books have been bought for gift giving in December. In addition to my Econogal’s Annual Top Book Lists, I am contemplating adding a top gift list. Of course books would be a big part of that list as well.

Craft Time

I have spent many hours in my Hobby Room this month. A thorough re-organization was needed. The room is a good size. However, I need to find room for my paints-at least for the month of December. My painting nook upstairs is perched between a southeast and southwest window. This provides great light. But it is also where the Christmas tree goes.

The bulk of the Hobby Room is devoted to fabric. There is a good size cutting table. And a much smaller sewing table. Book cases hold quilting books and magazines. But they also hold gardening books. I still lack a greenhouse/ garden shed so my seed storage is also in my Hobby Room.

Finally, I have cabinets holding glue guns, glue, beads, pipettes, ribbon, crayons, pencils, papers and more. Photos and scrapbooking materials also have a home in the room. So, organization is key.Felt Stocking pattern

November 2021 Productivity

The month ended up being very productive. I have always found work, especially manual labor, a cure for what ails you. I am on track to finish a Bucilla stocking for the youngest as well as a new quilt. Staying busy in a constructive way is my way of combatting the Blahs.

October 2021 Wrap-Up

Halloween

The October 2021 Wrap-Up is here and that means it is Halloween. I am still undecided about opening the doors to Trick-or-Treaters. The general populace seems oblivious to the current resurgence of Covid-19. Additionally, the forecast is one of a wintery mix. In lay terms, a cold rain mixed with sleet or snow or both.

On top of that, the October 2021 Wrap-Up includes the quarterly Inflation Check. There is much talk in the media about price hikes. We will see what my personal check list looks like. Have you checked your list yet?

Also included is a look at winter projects. I am ready to focus on the hobby room until the first of the year when the brassica seeds will be started. Since I was not able to build a greenhouse, only a few plants were brought inside. Hopefully, they will thrive.

Man wearing a Fritos Costume
Both the costume and the wearer have aged since 2005 when this was taken but both are present Halloween October 2021.

Inflation Check Challenge

Keeping track of prices has been enlightening. There is definitely some price creep, but no large leaps in the products I am watching. The largest quarterly increase of available goods was 5% for the dry cat food. This was the first increase for this product since the challenge began.

The largest increase from a percentage standpoint was in canning lids. An increase of 17% is quite meaningless when there is no product to buy. I do not check for lids every day, but quite frequently and have not seen any locally since February. Jars are still available as are packages of rings and lids together. Both incur more cost.

Third Quarter Inflation Check Challenge

ItemAmountJanuary 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
April 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
July 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
October 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
Comments
Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk52 Oz.$3.49$3.99$3.99/$2.99$3.99
Small Bag Signature Select Sugar4 lbs.$2.99$2.99/$1.99$2.99$2.99/$2.49The October sale price was a smaller reduction than in April.
Signature Select Cream Style Corn14.75 Oz.$0.69$0.79$0.79$0.79/$0.65Enjoyed the October sale price.
Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast4 Oz.$6.99$6.99$7.19$7.49Another increase in yeast is concerning. Price before the pandemic was several dollars lower.
BananasPer Pound$0.59$0.55$0.59$0.59
Kraft Real Mayo30 0z.$4.99/$3.79$4.99/$3.99$4.99/$3.79$5.29/$3.99Mayo is still on sale. However the jars were either at or past their Best Use date.
Meow Mix6.3 lbs.$7.78$7.78$7.78$8.22First increase in price for this product about 5%.
Morton Salt26 Oz.$1.19/$0.94$1.19/$0.99$1.19/$0.99$1.29/$0.99Increase in regular price.
Crest Pro Health Toothpaste4.6 Oz.$5.99/$4.99$5.49/$3.99$3.99/$3.49$3.99/$2.99The continued price decline makes one think there is a price subsidy at play.
Align Probiotics28 Count$26.58$26.58$26.58$26.58
Tide Botanical Rain Detergent92 Oz$11.97$11.97$11.97$11.97/$11.39Small Discount
Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids12 Count$3.18$2.88$2.88$3.38The big increase this quarter did not keep buyers away. Still completely sold out each time I check.
3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter1 Count$15.88$15.88$15.88$16.38An increase of 2.5%. Stock was low but not sold out.
Dunkin Donut Boston Cream1 Count$0.99$1.09$1.17$1.09Competition brought the price back down. New coffee shop in town.
Regular Unleaded Gasoline1 Gallon $2.36$2.79$2.79$2.79The local Pilot must have bought a year's worth of product- or else selling at a loss. Prices while travelling topped $3.50. We certainly fill up before leaving town.

October 2021 Wrap-Up in the Hobby Room

October is a transitional month. Outside temperatures can vary widely-even day to day. So, I spend some time in the hobby room. Currently, I have multiple projects going on. One quilt has been layered and is in a stand. At least one hour a day is spent hand quilting this Christmas gift.

Another gift is in the cutting/sewing stage. I did not include rotary cutting blades in the Inflation Check Challenge, but they seem to be a bit more expensive. Each new project usually needs a new blade, so I should have included these. Maybe next year.

A new great-nephew is arriving next February. His quilt is currently in the design stage. I am in a bit of a quandary with this one. I have a great backing piece, with one small problem. It is about ½ inch shorter than my design. So, I am working on the math.

My current plan was to have alternating blocks of a finished seven inch size. The center would be comprised of 16 of these blocks. I was planning on a six inch border. But, to incorporate the design into the border, I end up with seven inches per side. Somehow, somewhere, I will need to “cheat” either a seam allowance, or with the binding. The alternative is to use a boring border.

The final project is a cloth book. I bought the kit at the Alamosa Quilt Company travelling through there in August on the way to Santa Fe. I have been searching for kits like this for several years. The grandkids will love these!

Final Thoughts for the October 2021 Wrap-Up

An ongoing pandemic can be quite depressing. Viruses are pesky. Flus and colds appear every year. Severe consequences vary by type. Few people die from a cold, more from a flu. Covid-19 is more deadly than either. (I am really tired of seeing the 99.9% figure surviving Covid-19 on social media. That is far from true.)  But the novel coronavirus is far, far, less deadly than Ebola or the new virus I am watching- H5N6. Click here to read about this viral flu infection that kills about half of those who contract it.

Since I am not a microbiologist, I cannot offer any valid insight. But I can read and discern. And I can alert as I did back in January 2020.

We need to recognize our world is changing in many ways. Detrimental shifts need to be addressed. Beneficial changes celebrated. The future is uncertain. I intend to do what I can to add value to our world. Conservation is a good place to start. I learned when camping as a Girl Scout to leave the land better than before. What a good lesson for all people, places, and things!

 

 

 

 

August 2021 Wrap-Up

A Scorcher

August 2021 on the High Plains was a scorcher. But, a couple of afternoon thunderstorms brought some much needed moisture. And relief for a day or two from watering. Travel also provided some respite from the triple digit heat.

August 2021 In The Garden

Unlike last year, the current crop of Roma Tomatoes is struggling with a blight. The fruit is small and the vines are shriveling even before ripening. Fortunately, other crops are producing so I have plenty of options.

Cucumbers and green beans are vying with each other to be king of the garden. There will be plenty of pickles and beans this winter. I have designated one tower of beans to stay on the vine. This way I will enjoy dried beans as well as fresh green beans.

I am also harvesting broccoli, Swiss chard and a few beets. The blue potatoes are almost ready to harvest. Since we are not forecast to go below freezing anytime soon, some of the longer developing crops should do better this year.

August 2021 In the Library

This month marked a return to reading and reviewing on a more regular basis. The ratio of fiction to non-fiction was 3-1, not too bad. The fictional settings were from various parts of the United States. I found them quite enjoyable. And I highly recommended Liquids Till Lunch, the self-help book towards overall wellness.

Special Projects

I have been working on some special projects in the sewing room. They are gifts so no hints or pictures-yet. One was quite difficult because there was not a pattern. I hope to write about this old-fashioned gift next week.

Travel

The Alamosa Quilt Company was on my list of stops while escaping the heat. If you are ever in this high mountain valley town, this store is a great place to shop. The staff is very knowledgeable and the selection is top notch.

There is a back way to Santa Fe from Alamosa. The drive is relaxing until you are almost to the Capitol City of New Mexico. Non-Interstate roads can be quite the treat, but not if you are in a hurry. As I wrote in Summertime In Santa Fe, this road trip is one we take periodically. The food is great and so is the artwork. Santa Fe is truly a can’t miss destination.

A Difficult Point in Time

World events during August 2021 were complex and disturbing. Covid-19 is striking again. Arguments continue on many levels, but in my part of the world the biggest controversies revolve around vaccinations, treatments, and masks.

Here in the United States, repercussions from the changing climate include massive fires and large storms including hurricanes. The destruction is great. Unfortunately, the arguments and finger-pointing rival those surrounding Covid-19.

Last and certainly the most unsettling is the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Words truly fail. Much was sacrificed these past twenty years and to no avail. One hopes September is better.

July 2021 Wrap-Up

After a two month hiatus I am returning to the monthly wrap-ups with the July 2021 edition. This month will include a comparison of prices as well as a summary of events. Even though the book reviews are fewer, the gardening and travel offer plenty to discuss.

Covid-19 and Summer Travel

Without a deep dive into the numbers, it is hard to correlate the media reports of new Covid-19 outbreaks with observation. In the last six weeks I have put 5000 miles on my Subaru Outback crossing the country. Thirteen states in all. People are travelling everywhere. In addition to a few examples of gas shortages, hotel rooms along interstate highways are also in high demand.

I still prefer to pack food along in a cooler. But to be honest this habit developed pre-pandemic. At the end of a long day of travel, often the last thing I want to do is find a restaurant. Picnic lunches at rest areas also hold an attraction over fast food.

July 2021 Travel

The longest trip in July took me all the way to Florida for the Celebrating Life event honoring my Mom. The much needed closure allowed me to see family that I was separated from during the Covid-19 pandemic. I truly hope this pandemic will run its course and does not get repeated in my lifetime.

I took a slight detour through Texas Hill Country on the return trip. It has been more than a decade since my last visit. This is a beautiful part of the country. And worth leaving the Interstate system to visit. Rural areas suddenly turn into small (and not so small cities) and vice versa. Fair warning, the torrential downpours still occur almost daily. Of course that makes for good grazing. I saw plenty of herds on my trip including the infamous longhorns. But no white Cadillacs with the horns on front. Most likely an iconic image of the past.

July 2021 In The Garden

The toughest part of travel in the summer is the neglect to the garden. Fortunately, the Raised Row technique I use keeps the Big Garden relatively free of weeds. However, a few cucumbers grew so big that they became food for my niece’s chickens. I did have enough of the right size to turn into six pints of pickles. The canning season is just getting started.

The first of the potatoes and the last of the garlic have also been harvested. Green beans, eggplant and tomatoes are all starring in the garden. Unfortunately, there have been casualties as well. Neither the artichoke nor the avocado were able to survive the neglect.

We are fortunate the rains continue. The most recent storm dropped over an inch. Plenty to help with the veggies which seem to prefer natural water over human supplied. The rain also helps keep the utility bill in check.

Overgrown Cucumbers

Cucumbers of all sizes
The chickens enjoyed the over ripe ones!

Fair Time

It is county fair time on the High Plains. Last year many of the fairs were cancelled or mere shadows of previous years. This year should be a return to normal. For those of you in major cities, many counties here have been without a case in months while the more populated counties average one every week or ten days. Thus it is hard for inhabitants to want to maintain isolation.

County fairs in this part of the country focus on the 4-H kids. They also offer rodeos and parades. The fairs are community events. Most of the county high schools have all school reunions in election years. That was skipped last year. A lost year. All school reunions are possible because average class sizes hover in the dozens-or fewer.

Price Comparisons in July 2021

My travel in July 2021 allowed me a glimpse at prices across the country. Gasoline has been the most intriguing. While it is $2.79 in my home town, a high of $3.65 was spotted in both Colorado and Tennessee.

I did some grocery shopping in Florida. The comparisons were quite interesting. Twenty pounds of rice in Florida is almost half what I pay. But the beef prices were much, much higher. I chalk that up to transportation costs.

Thus, the timing for the Inflation Check Challenge is perfect. The current quarter price comparison follows.

Inflation Check Challenge

ItemAmountJanuary PriceApril PriceJuly PriceComments
Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk52 Oz$3.49$3.99$2.99July Price on sale Regular price $3.99
Small Bag Signature Select Sugar4 Lbs$2.99$1.99$2.99April Price on Sale Regular Price $2.99
Signature Select Cream Style Corn14.75 Oz$0.69$0.79$0.79
Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast4 Oz$6.99$6.99$7.19July Price Increase of $0.20
Bananas1 Lb.$0.59$0.55$0.59A return to January prices after a April dip.
Kraft Real Mayo30 OZ$3.79/$4.99$3.99/$4.99$3.79/$4.99A return to the January Sale Price
Meow Mix6.3 Lbs$7.78$7.78$7.78
Morton Salt26 Oz$0.94/$1.19$0.99/$$1.19$0.99/$1.19
Crest Pro Health Toothpaste4.6 Oz$4.99/$5.99$3.99/$5.49$3.49/$3.99A continued decline in price
Align Probiotics28 Count$26.58$26.58$26.58
Tide Botanical Rain Detergent92 Oz$11.97$11.97$11.97
Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids12 Count$3.18$2.88$2.28Sold Out in Both April and July
3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter1$15.88$15.88$15.88Sold Out in July
Dunkin Donut-Boston Cream1$0.99$1.09$1.17
Regular Unleaded Gasoline1 Gal$2.36$2.79$2.79In January and April prices were within a few cents. July prices had a twenty cent range in town.
A comparison of prices to keep track of inflation.

April 2021 Wrap-Up

The April 2021 Wrap-Up signals the month is finally over. The month felt like a year in some respects. A small amount of progress was made on the last of the baby quilts. A tremendous effort yielded enough plants to fill the Big Vegetable Garden. Finally, I made it past my reading block and the writing is starting to come around as well.

Covid-19 Vaccinations

All of my immediate family has opted to vaccinate against the coronavirus. Reactions varied from none to mild. Mostly sore arm muscle at the injection site. This is a common side effect for me.

In my neck of the woods, many have decided not to vaccinate. Unfortunately, the result of a low vaccination rate is a resurgence of the viral outbreak. So, one way or another herd immunity should come about. Personally, I do not know of anyone who contracted the disease twice. But this new outbreak is taking a toll on the younger populations. This is particularly surprising because our students have been in school together since the fall. Thus there has not been an increase in contact and interaction.

Inflation Check Challenge– April 2021 Wrap-Up and Check-In

The comparison prices from the Inflation Check Challenge were quite a mix. Of the fifteen products, nine kept their regular price the same. However, sale prices changed with some showing a slight increase. Two items decreased in price. Bananas dropped four cents a pound. Most likely a seasonal adjustment.

Mysteriously, canning lids dropped in price. Not surprisingly the thirty cent price dropped resulted in an empty shelf. The product was sold out. I have no idea if the price will change again once new product arrives.

My expense for sugar was less because of a coupon, but the regular price remained the same. I love coupons! Both salt and mayonnaise remained on sale, but the sale price adjusted upwards.

The biggest increase was gasoline. It is now $2.79 per gallon. This increase took place in the early part of the quarter. I think the price has stabilized for a while. Here is the list:

Item                                                                                                                                   January 2021                                 April 2021                                                                                                                                                              Regular Price/Sale Price              Regular Price/Sale Price

Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk                                                                    $ 3.49/$ 3.99                        $ 3.99

Small Bag Signature Select Sugar                                                                                       $ 2.99                                      $1.99/$ 2.99

Signature Select Cream Style Corn                                                                                     $ 0.69                                      $ 0.79

Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast                                                                                          $ 6.99                                      $ 6.99

Bananas                                                                                                                                    $ 0.59                                      $ 0.55

Kraft Real Mayo                                                                                                                      $ 3.79/$ 4.99                           $ 3.99/$ 4.99

Meow Mix                                                                                                                                 $ 7.78                                      $ 7.78

Morton Salt                                                                                                                              $ 0.94/$ 1.19                           $ 0.99/$ 1.19

Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste                                                                                                $ 4.99/$ 5.99                           $ 3.99/$ 5.49

Align Probiotics                                                                                                                       $26.58                                     $26.58

Tide Botanical Rain Detergent                                                                                              $11.97                                     $11.97

Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids                                                                                       $ 3.18                                     $ 2.88      Sold Out

3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter                                                                                               $15.88                                     $15.88

Dunkin Donut-Boston Cream                                                                                                $ 0.99                                      $ 1.09

Regular Unleaded Gas                                                                                                             $ 2.36                                      $ 2.79

 

Yellow Roses in Honor of Mom

March 2021 Wrap-Up

March 2021 provided much needed moisture here on the High Plains. The big snow event elsewhere came in the form of rain. Three days of precipitation. Then just a week later we had a quick, wet six inches of snow. All melted within 48 hours. All total, we received over three inches of moisture.

March 2021 In The Garden

Seedlings under grow lightsThe spring rains did not immediately turn into flowers. We still have the lagging effect of February’s brutal cold. The crocuses that can pop out of the ground by February 1, did not arrive until March 20th. And, the flowering trees have yet to make an appearance. So this Easter there will be an absence of color in the garden.

Several new fruit trees and bushes were planted, and a young sour cherry was transplanted. Of course, the weather was taken into consideration. A dream of having a greenhouse/garden house is becoming a reality. The cherry stood in the way but has adapted to its new spot in the yard.

The apple tree and plum tree have been protected from deer and rabbit. Plus, the raspberry is a dwarf and so will be a patio plant. More plantings will be done in the first half of April. This year may see a large amount of winterkill.

My grow light seedlings are coming along. The brassicas and leaf greens are in the process of hardening off. I have tentatively scheduled the transplanting for late next week. (After the mini heat wave which starts Easter Sunday.) Finally, the first of the asparagus have poked out of the ground. Soon, we will enjoy fresh garden grown veggies.

March 2021 In The Library

My reading goal of including more non-fiction is on track. Additionally, I am expanding the genres under the fiction category. Currently I am reading The Invisible Life of Addie Larue. Very interesting.

However, I am slacking off in the number of periodical articles perused.

Pandemic Thoughts

March 2021 certainly flew by faster than March 2020. It is hard to believe the pandemic is still ongoing. I did receive my first vaccination. There are no problems to report so far. I took the first vaccine available to me, Moderna. Time will tell if there will be any side effects, good or bad. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to seeing more family in the near future.

I am concerned by the many variants popping up throughout the world. My corner has returned to business as usual. Everything is open. For the most part masks are by choice. The exception is in healthcare areas. Perhaps we will be spared the variant strains. Starting Good Friday, anyone 16 or over may be eligible to receive a vaccination.

Inflation Check Challenge

The end of the first quarter is upon us. So our initial inflation check challenge is due. It is time to start filling the market basket formulated at the beginning of the year. Off the top, I know gasoline has skyrocketed. It will be interesting to see how other goods in the basket compare. Keep an eye out for the one-on-one comparison coming in late April.

 

 

 

 

February 2021 Wrap-Up

February 2021 is one for the history books. Brutal, record setting cold pushed past the High Plains on its way south towards the border of the U.S.A. and Mexico. Fortunately, our part of the country expects sub-zero temperatures from time to time. So, we escaped the disaster that befell many of the southern states.

But we did not escape the cold! The official low temperature for the month in our little town was a negative 28 Fahrenheit. At our place, the outdoor thermometer hit a temperature just shy of that. We were very thankful our power remained on. Needless to say, indoor activities ruled February.

Reading Through the Cold Snap

Much of February 2021 passed by while reading by the fire. In addition to Spin and Cleaning Sucks, I re-read several Janet Evanovich books. They bring needed laughter. I also read a delightful YA novel, Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer and a thought provoking economic release by James Rickards, The New Great Depression. Both will appear as reviews in March.

February 2021 Garden Prep

It is never too cold to think of the garden. In early February 2021, peanuts were started. I did not soak them overnight, but just for a few hours. This was a mistake. Only three of the two dozen have sprouted. This will be remedied.

Other seeds started include cauliflower, at a fifty percent germination rate; celery, kale, cabbage, and iceberg lettuce. The lettuce has a 100% germination. These cold weather crops should be big enough to transplant by early April. If not sooner.

Our last average freeze date is May 15, although later freezes and even snows are not unusual. Thus, transplants are an important part of gardening. Due to the severe cold, I doubt my hoop experiment will yield any success. So, my plans for a greenhouse-garden house are moving forward.

Quilts and More Quilts

Another advantage of cold weather is the time available for quilting. February marked the completion of two baby quilts with a doll quilt thrown in. I am down to just three UFO’s. I look forward to sharing more about the quilts as March progresses. Binding finishes off the quilts and is my least favorite part of the process.

Log Cabin Quilt in yellows and grays

New Life in February 2021

 

The highlight of February occurred on the 19th. Another granddaughter was born. I am excited to welcome Ivy Louise into the family. She is named in part for my mom. The circle of life continues.

January 2021 Wrap-Up

The January 2021 Wrap-Up is a day late but hopefully not a dollar short for the reading public. As a month, it was difficult. Numbness as much as pain. But that is to be expected when dealing with Life After the Loss of a Loved One. Fortunately, the circle of life continues. And as I have experienced from a tooth repair at the dentist, numbness wears off. Pain to the heart will take longer, but fortunately a life full of good memories is lasting.

Travel in January 2021

A long cross country drive offered a glimpse of how America is reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic. The vast majority of the country has taken steps to stay healthy. This does not mean everything was closed down. Restaurants were open. Outside seating was available in most cases. But capacity varied greatly.

We did encounter a few places where masks where not in the majority. Business was booming in these spots. I think this will be the case everywhere by the end of 2021. As more and more people who want the vaccine achieve their goal, pent up demand will explode.

A final thought on travelling by car in the United States is just how beautiful this country is. And how varied. (I guess that is two thoughts.) Visitors to the country as well as citizens should go beyond the big cities. The smaller towns offer such a diverse experience.

Looking Forward in 2021

January 2021 is now in the past. We lost two family members, bringing the total to three for this long winter. The remainder of the high risk individuals in the family have all received a first vaccine. So far, no adverse reactions. At the end of February, I will report on the second series of shots.

My spouse is on the extended list for vaccine, but I am not yet eligible. It will be interesting to follow the progress both here and abroad. Meanwhile, I expect to be a bit unsocial for the coming month.

Spring 2021 In The Garden

The snow mostly disappeared over the weekend allowing me to get into the Big Garden and make some repairs. A large windstorm in the middle of the month caused damage to the support structure. We still have very cold nights, below zero this past week, so no outside planting. But seeds will soon be started indoors. Life begins again.