Category: Uncategorized-A Bit of This-A Dab of That

No Hiding from the News

Speaking Out

Gore Creek in the morningFor the past ten days or so, I have been away from home, hiding out in my favorite retreat. But there is no hiding from the news. So, even though family matters take the forefront right now, I am commenting. The Supreme Court verdicts are concerning.

Voters on the left in 2016 are seeing their fears come to life. Combined with the blocking of President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the highest court in the land and two additional appointments by President Trump a major shift is now evident. The conservatives have control of the Supreme Court.

2022- Just the Beginning

Key judicial decisions released Summer of 2022 include a gun control issue in New York State, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Furthermore, a major slam against the other two branches of government is found in the strike against the EPA. Lastly, the highest court will listen to an election case from North Carolina next year which may permanently alter how America transitions power.

The decisions don’t follow any pattern other than conservatism. Extreme conservatism. For example, the Roe V. Wade case can be seen as a state’s rights issue. The Deep South and other Christian fundamentalist areas of the country are now free to ban abortions and certain types of contraception (And yes, we may see additional cases to challenge the latter) in the respective state constitutions and legislations. Trigger laws changed regulations immediately in several states.

The State of Texas is taking actions one step further with the criminalizing of abortions. Neighbors, co-workers, indeed even strangers can turn in women who may have “vacationed” out of state seeking a pregnancy termination. Click here for a related article. Honestly, this reminds me of Germany in the 1930s. What is the next step? Designated “prisons” for doctors performing these safe terminations? Will females of all ages be confined in like places?

However, if the Supreme Court were pushing a States Rights agenda, New York State would be allowed to retain the tighter gun control law. A law on the books for over one hundred years. This discrepancy is most concerning. There is no hiding the fact the Supreme Court decisions stem from an agenda. I am unsure of how the Founding Fathers would view this dictation of personal morals.

No Hiding from The News

As a Christian, it pains me to see such un-Christian like views coming from the fundamentalists currently serving in Congress. Remaking the Constitution or rejecting it altogether as Representative Boebert did the day after the Colorado primaries is more than just worrisome. (Rep. Lauren Boebert Calls Separation of Church and State ‘Junk,’ Says Church Should Direct Government (yahoo.com)) And many of the hard-core conservatives appear to have ties to the January 6th incident. I say incident because there is debate in America over what truly happened that day.

Fundamentalists on the Supreme Court are also making waves. Justice Thomas is most notable. Quite ironic. He is against every ‘liberal’ relationship except one. Interracial relationships are ok. Of course, that permits his own marriage to stand. Again, he has ties to January 6th   through his wife.

Perhaps that is my biggest complaint. Extremists that say, ‘do as I say not as I do.’  Can you truly be a patriot and then storm the Capitol? I say No! Furthermore, why is Justice Thomas allowed an interracial marriage, yet he publicly seeks to ban same-sexed marriages? Why is one normal and the other not? Who decides? The state?

Divided We Fall

We have a big division in this country. One I have posited is stoked by outside forces. But the fuel is there to begin with. It may all tie into the current economy. Just as the economy of the mid-1800s spurred the Civil War conflict.

The Civil War arose out of the age of industrialization. Slave states wished to hold onto the old technology, human labor. Union States wanted to abolish the practice. Allowing the import of slaves may be the biggest mistake made by the Founding Fathers. It certainly was immoral. And we are still grappling with the outcome hundreds of years later.

There is no denying the economy played a big role in the Civil War. I believe a similar conflict occurs today.

Another Technological Revolution

Now we are in the midst of a new era, one of computers and artificial intelligence. This transition is apt to be every bit as contentious. Machines continue to replace much of human labor. And now, human thought. One can see the scary ramifications, if one is educated. And if not educated?

Here lies the crux of the problem. I have expressed my frustration with the state of public education over the years. Content is watered down. Graduating classes of less than one hundred have ten valedictorians. The Trophy Generation bears the brunt of their Helicopter Parents’ actions.

An unwillingness to allow children to face failure created a generation that cannot solve problems. And yes, this is a generalization. There are Millennials that can problem solve creatively. Many kids that earned meaningless grades will be able to punch buttons on a microwave or use social media apps on smart phones. But there is no hiding the fact that if these machines break, most individuals have no idea how they work. Or how they can be fixed.

Perhaps the transition will end soon. Individuals born after 1995 have always known computers. If not at home, at school. Thus, I think their brains will be wired differently. But will they join the workforce before we self-destruct? And will human creativity be a match for Artificial Intelligence?

No Hiding Ignorance is not Bliss

I use very little social media because of AI and Big Data. Less than ten years ago I became upset with Facebook when I tried to relate my experiences with Charter Schools. I literally was not allowed to post a comment. A few weeks later there were individuals fired from the company for inappropriate algorithms.

My use of various social media continues sporadically. Not what advertisers like to see. Unfortunately, few individuals understand the link between social media and Big Data. Many cite an unwillingness for vaccinations with fears of a microchip being inserted. The concern is their every move will be tracked. Yet these same individuals never venture out of their homes without their smart phones. No hiding from ignorance. Phones track your location and your searches.

Such a populace does not understand the ramifications of artificial intelligence. Furthermore, an unlearned and unskilled population will contribute to a growing inequality of wealth. This excellent article from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows the current statistics.

Wide inequalities in a country lead to civil unrest.

United We Stand

Can the United States of America remain united? A question that needs an answer. The Founding Fathers created a system of checks and balances. For the first time in my memory, the three-tiered government faces an imbalance with respect to the judicial branch. With time, the system should rebalance. As it has in the past.

I am still against stacking the court. Although now I understand the concept better. My belief is voters will turn out in November in much larger numbers than usual for the mid-term elections. The recent decisions by the high court have stirred up a hornet’s nest. There is no hiding from the fact that extremists are currently in control. But I believe moderates outnumber extremists of both sides. November 2022 is a critical election. Now is the time. Make your voice count. Vote.

American Flags

June 2022 Wrap-Up

Travel

June 2022 was a month of travel and closure for me. Kentucky and Michigan were two destinations. The former was work related and the main purpose for the latter was for the interment of my dear friend Beverly. Both trips involved air travel as well as car rentals. Furthermore, inflationary prices had no impact on the number of travelers.

Perhaps others threw expense to the wind seeking relief from two years of pandemic. Or maybe they were combining tourism with task as I did. Regardless of reason, travel in early June indicated inflation had yet to slow demand.

Kentucky June 2022

My Kentucky trips usually revolve around horses. I have a stake in a partnership. Money is pooled and then divided between acquisition of yearlings and purchasing horses through the claiming box. A Louisville based trainer is in charge.

I don’t expect to get rich from this partnership that I have a very small stake in. Horse racing can be a very draining pursuit for the pocketbook. But I love horses and this set-up is perfect for me. The most I can lose is my initial investment. And I could lose it all. But I consider this as my discretionary entertainment expense.

Horses train early in the morning. Very early! The first sets usually gallop under lights as the sun has not yet made an appearance. By nine in the morning the works are complete, and the barns await the afternoon races.

From time to time an owner is able to see a horse win in the afternoon. This is enjoyable, but I love watching the morning works the best. Backside at the track is a beehive of activity. The love and hard work of the stable from grooms to hotwalkers to exercise riders and trainers’ shames those who do not understand the industry. Owners enable the business model to operate.

Michigan June 2022

Freighter in the Soo Locks June 2022A quick turnaround between Kentucky and Michigan was a great indicator that I am not meant to be a jetsetter. Less than 24 hours at home made me appreciate the slower paced life I usually lead. However, the trip to Michigan gave me closure, much needed closure.

Since Michigan barely registered in my states visited count, I was excited to spend more time there. Furthermore, it is unlikely I will return. The Upper Peninsula in particular is out of sync with my normal travel patterns. But I am so thankful for the experience.

A flight into the small airport on the United States side of Sault Ste. Marie was the starting point. The Upper Peninsula reminds me much of the Great Plains with respect to population and lack of traffic. Similarly, the small-town vibe of our starting point as told in this Classic Cars post welcomed me from the start.

However, there are great differences. Primarily water. The Great Lakes are truly magnificent. My only contact prior has been the Western side of Lake Michigan along the populated shores of Illinois and Wisconsin. So, visiting the Soo Locks was fascinating. Luckily the visit coincided with a large vessel using the canal to travel from the lower Lake Huron into Lake Superior.

Mackinac Island

Maintaining Sault Ste. Marie as a base gave us easy and affordable access to upscale Mackinac Island. Visitors to this historic island can either arrive via ferry or small aircraft. Horses and bicycles are key modes of transportation. But we chose to walk. Good shoes are a must if you take this route.

One can spend days on the island, but we enjoyed our partial day. Enough time to soak in the atmosphere and leave the visitor wanting a return trip. A future post will focus on the experience. There is simply too much to include in this wrap-up.

South of the Bridge

The Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge I have ever driven over. But my first view was from below. Some of the ferry departures detour underneath on the way to Mackinac Island. We were lucky to be on such a trip. The engineering and architecture are exquisite reminders of what great feats man is capable of.

Once on the mitten side of the bridge, population and tourist numbers pick up. June 2022 marked the interment of my friend Beverly at her Michigan birthplace. And driving through this part of the country she visited yearly brought me peace.

I tasted whitefish, her favorite, for the first time and liked it almost as much as halibut. A quick meal at the Cherry Hut brought back memories of the jam she would bring back from her trips. But best of all was the time spent at her lake.

We were very fortunate to have hosts Deb and Les put us up for three nights around the graveside service. Their lake house was just a few doors down from Bev’s cabin. Running along the lake, eating breakfast on the porch overlooking the water and watching the sunrise reflect below all brought knowledge of what she enjoyed on her annual visits. Crystal Lake is one of the prettiest lakes I have ever seen. Beverly was treasured in both locales.

Mackinac Bridge view from water June 2022
Mackinac Bridge June 2022 from ferry
Viewing South on Mackinac Bridge June 2022
Lighthouse lamp

June 2022 on the Plains

Returning from my June 2022 travels, I was pleased to find the cold dry air replaced with warm summer rains. The garden is finally planted. Lettuces and green onions are gracing the table and harvesting of the cherries has finally begun. The unusual spring has thrown off the normal harvest dates on the wheat as well as in my yard. But combines are now running and garden plants are starting to bloom. Summer is finally here.

Classic Cars

Classic Cars in Classic Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Classic Cars Show logo on semiClassic cars took over Portage Street in downtown Sault Ste. Marie. The Flint Vehicle City Back to the Bricks car show made a mid-week stop in this border town. Fortunately for me, the timing coincided with my arrival on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Speedy Classic Cars

As you can see from the photos, a wide range of vehicles participate in the display. But Corvettes and Mustangs vied for the top spot in the category of model most represented. I love the classy lines of a Corvette. But I have only been a passenger once. On the other hand, I have occasionally driven a mustang.

But speed cars are wasted on me. My current drive for this trip is a Dodge Charger and the maximum speed so far is 75 M.P.H. But the vehicle handles well.

Car Show Enthusiasts

A very nice sized crowd turned out for the show. Lots of interaction between the proud car owners and the mingling enthusiasts. Theme cars like the Back To The Future DeLorean and The VW Beetle Herbie from The Love Bug and Herbie Rides Again were tricked out to look like the originals.

Quite a few photos were snapped by the onlookers. And the few autos with sale signs generated interest as well. Babies in strollers napped and old timers reminisced.  Community events like this car show remind me of the many good things in America.

Classic Car Promo Tour

The Back To The Bricks classic car promo tour ended in Sault Ste. Marie after stops in Alma, East Tawas and Petosky. The six day tour of Michigan served as advertisement for the Main Event scheduled for August 15-20, 2022 in Flint, Michigan. Click here for more information.

Hood Ornaments

I love spotting unusual hood ornaments when strolling among the classic cars. This show did not disappoint. Shiny chrome statues glistened atop Ford and General Motor vehicles. My personal favorite was a figure head of Chief Pontiac, naturally adorning a Pontiac.

Next time you are travelling, seek out the local community events. This country has a lot to offer. Make the most of your opportunities.

Back To The Bricks Car Show

Manual Labor

Soul Food

A little manual labor is good for the soul. For many reasons, I have recently increased my physical labor. First, hard work helps distract the mind. At times life events can become overwhelming. Throw in world tensions that an individual like me has little control over and things quickly take a downward spiral.

Second, the labor shortage is widespread. Labor, whether it is manual or highly skilled technology is in high demand and expensive. So those with a bent toward economizing will continue in a Do-It-Yourself fashion for the foreseeable future. (Unless a hard recession hits-but that discussion is for a later date.)

Expanding the Garden-Manual Labor

Manual Labor Dug Asparagus BedThe first major project of the spring was expanding the garden. Fortunately, two of my offspring and their significant others helped out. Two areas were rototilled. Both were about forty feet long by four feet wide.

The first is a new asparagus bed. The new garden area required hand digging a trench to a depth of about twenty inches. Then compost was added. And then soil was loosened.

Next, the asparagus crowns were spaced every eighteen inches. The tentacle looking roots were spread apart so they resembled octopi. Then a layer of soil about four inches thick was spread on top. Over the next month as spears poked through the ground, additional soil was added to the trench.

After the trench was full, the spears were allowed to reach for the sky. A great-nephew describes asparagus as a dragon tail. This is accurate until the spears begin to open. Then they have a very delicate fern-like appearance. For the first year all the asparagus will be left to open up. There will be no harvest. Next year a few spears will be cut while the still resemble a dragon’s tail. In the third year a regular harvest can be made.

The second bed did not require as much manual labor. After the rototilling, I raked the bed even. Then I transplanted my flower seedlings into the garden. Most of the flowers will be annuals. But I did add some Shasta Daisies and Yarrow.  Asparagus Growth One Month

Indoor Manual Labor

The second significant task this spring-other than decluttering- was painting one of the bedrooms. An almost neon pinky orange paint which delighted my youngest as a child needed to be toned down. My plan for this room is to turn it into a grandkid sleeping area. I hope to find a trundle bed to join the crib that currently inhabits the space.

Preparation is a key part of painting. (Read this review if you will be painting soon.) In this case the lower third of the wall had a bright wallpaper of yellows, oranges and pinks. The heart striped border coordinated with the wallpaper.

After stripping the paper, the walls were cleaned with Murphy’s Oil soap. Then the taping began. I needed to use brand new painter’s tape as the old did not always stick well.

The primer was tinted with the color of the topcoat. Ceiling and walls received a color matching much of the remainder of the house. The color is Oklahoma Wheat from Benjamin Moore. Depending on the light, the color shades from light tan to creamy butter. Very soothing

 

Neon Orange Pink Paint
Before
Oklahoma Wheat
After

Physical Effects

Manual labor builds muscle and provides good cardio work as well. Stretching both before and after is recommended. Just as if you were going to exercise.

The physical activity positively affects the brain and mental well-being. Most likely endorphins. However, my age is starting to be a factor.  I recognize this truth and give myself added time to accomplish my goals.

If life were simple, required manual labor could be an answer to all the violence and negativity in the world. Unfortunately, we live in a complex world with no easy solutions. But if you experience difficulties beyond your control, as I have this spring, maybe a little manual labor in your life is the answer.

Stay Positive!

Internet Rumors

Internet Rumors: How did the Latest Begin?

Horehound in bloom
Horehound

Internet Rumors abound. The latest one suggests the country of Australia is proposing a ban on home gardening. So, I am including this link to actual parliament testimony for those of you interested in reading the propositions. I could see no outright ban on growing your own vegetables. But I admit I just performed a brief scan of the document.

However, I did see enough to understand how an Internet rumor could begin. Testimony included discussion of invasive species of both flora and fauna. Since I live in a rural agriculture area in the United States, such discussion was not novel. However, one of the species mentioned, horehound, thrives in my garden. I consider it less a problem than either oregano or mint. All three are groundcovers that spread.

The other plants mentioned in the testimony were blackberries, lantana and pampas grass. All are spreaders. Plants that grow where they are not wanted can be considered weeds. So even though blackberries are delicious, residents of the Pacific Northwest might find them as noxious as I do bindweed.

Controlling Nature

The testimony also discussed the problem of Asian Honey Bees and Fire Ants. I am not a fan of fire ants, but as long as they stay away from the house, I leave them alone. They are very beneficial in the garden eating many pests. The key is for nature to stay in balance. I would not like to have fire ants everywhere.

Asian Honey Bees are dominators. They eliminate other types of bees from their territory. Many governments restrict their import. But like other living things, such as viruses, the spread is difficult to control.

Two Opinions

Several years ago an acquaintance voiced an opinion which greatly differed from mine. The belief is that growing food in the garden took away jobs for others. The impact goes beyond the farm owner and worker. The middle producers and the grocery store employees also depend on people needing food.

My argument is that I cannot produce enough to eliminate those jobs. My garden supplements but does not replace. And I have a big garden. Truly, I think most individuals do not realize the work it would take to be self-sustaining. For those, I suggest they find a copy of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Division of labor has led to both more productivity and longer lives.

The biggest reason I prefer to grow my own is the taste. Many vegetables bought at the grocery store are picked prior to a ripe stage so they can be shipped without damage. The result is the food is not at peak ripeness. When I pick from my own garden, I pick for that day. Only farm markets come close!

More Internet Rumors: Taxing and Permits

Other Internet rumors suggest various governments will tax home grown foods. Or prohibit them altogether. This is widely circulated without the details. As the saying goes the devil is in the details. Most of these incidents involve local governments or HOA’s. (Home Owner Associations) Restrictions may include no vegetable gardens in alley ways or front yards. Plus any seed packets are usually taxed. As are plants from the nurseries or the Big Box stores.

At the moment, I have had no push back for my big garden which is in my side yard. But I am proactive. A fence now separates the garden and the street. Furthermore, a new flower bed is in front of the fence. The garden house/green house is on hold because of permits and building costs. Our small town charges fees for almost everything. I will need to pay the city a minimum of a thousand dollars if I move a small building onto my property. The fee increases if it is built from the ground up.

Impact of War and Covid-19

The invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic are still impacting the supply chain. Supplementing my supper table with home grown vegetables makes sense to me. Since I live in a town on a small lot, goats and cows are out of the question. Furthermore, I am on the edge of town so coyotes can be a problem. Thus I will not attempt chickens. But I do look forward to tasting the first tomatoes of the year.

In my opinion Internet Rumors try to sow dissension and disharmony. I prefer sowing seeds. Both flowers and vegetables. Between the wars and pandemic there is enough strife. This summer plant some beauty and nutrition instead.

Good Friday 2022

Good Friday

Good Friday is observed by many in Western Culture. Christianity is a significant, but not the only religion practiced. So the holiday is not universally recognized. Nor is it marked with celebration by those identifying as Christians.

Since the day marks the crucifixion of Jesus, sadness and sorrow are the emotions I associate with Good Friday. In 2021, I grieved over the loss of my mother. This year a cousin is mourned. Her recent death unexpected but not surprising. Meg was battling cancer. Somehow, some way, her body shut down. Literally overnight.

Absorbing Death

My cousin was much younger than me. Her only child still in Middle School. Such a loss is difficult to absorb and comprehend. For all. Yet, a young teen will seek concrete answers in a world of gray.

Parents burying offspring goes against nature’s circle of life. Unfortunately, I have witnessed this aberrant occurrence too often. And the loss of a young one is part of nature-just a part humans have bypassed more than other species.

A sibling is hit hard. I know from my own experience nearly thirty years ago. The loss will continue as the challenges of family responsibilities fall on Meg’s sister.

The greatest loss belongs to her spouse. Soulmates. I cannot even imagine the devastation. Their wedding is still fresh in my memory although it was a lifetime ago. The exchange of vows, and the washing of the feet. Surrounded by family and friends.

My heart aches for all.

Faith on Good Friday

Christianity is just one of many religions in the world. Furthermore, it is not the only monotheistic religion. Nor is it the only one with Faith. But a Christian’s Faith centers on the Good Friday crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And the belief His death absolves sins.

So, today I will be reflecting on much. For me, remembering those who have gone before me is part of the observance. Another component is the spiritual connectedness. This is not something I can explain. It is just there. Finally, I will embrace life, striving to live up to the epitaph on our great-great grandmother’s tombstone: Life’s Work Well Done-Life’s Course Well Run. Rest in peace Meg. You are missed.

Ramblings From The Countryside

Countryside Ramblings

Today I am sharing various ramblings from the countryside. Thought rambles, not hikes or treks. Because winter is officially gone. And spring is still chilly. But chirping birds and cooing doves wake me even though the dreaded time change means it is still dark out. I feel like we have been thrust back into mid-December.

Too bad we haven’t been. Gasoline was still reasonable. Although supply chain issues were ongoing. Yet the severe spike in inflation was still not yet rampant. The third and fourth inflation check challenges indicated creeping inflation. I predict next month’s list (yes I plan to continue another year) will outdo all of last year with respect to percentage increase.

A Covid-19 Lull

Even though a new variant is spreading across Asia into Europe, here in the rural part of the High Plains we are in a lull. Absolutely no new cases the last two weeks. Since the report from the County Health won’t be out until tomorrow, I do not know if the trend will continue. But it very well might. I hear little coughing as I run my errands.

Another indication is the big drop off in the number of medical helicopters flying overhead. Small towns dotting the countryside lack the volume of cases requiring specialty care. So, severe illnesses are often flown out.

A bit of a Catch-22 with regards to medical care exists in the countryside. For example, the one pediatrician can be overwhelmed. But in reality, two pediatricians would have a lot of down time. This is true for all the medical specialties. And flying patients out is standard protocol. Unfortunately, the flight costs are very high and many cannot afford the flight insurance. But without this specific insurance, a single flight can wipe out all savings.

Proms and Graduations

The young people in town are preparing for traditional spring events. Such as prom, a symbolic dance in America. A key departure from my youth is how the flowers are now picked out. And worn. Instead of being surprised by what flowers are presented by the young men, the young women play a key part in the design. No longer are lapel corsages worn. Instead, flowers are attached to bracelets which are then worn on the wrist, the arm or even the ankle.

The month of May will bring about graduation. Unlike the heart of the pandemic years, the ceremonies out here in the countryside will return to in-person events. So will the parties afterwards. We have multiple high school graduations and one college graduation to celebrate this year.

Spring in the Countryside

The crocus blooms are spent. But the hyacinths, daffodils and tulips are now poking through the ground. By April, blooms will be abundant. And more than just the potatoes can be planted outside.

Livestock are also bringing life to the countryside. Cow-calf herds dot the landscape with newborns following their mother’s paths. Baby goats and sheep frolic in the brisk air. And lots of baby chicks everywhere. When the bleak pictures of war get me down, a drive around this rural land reminds me of the rebirth of spring.

Small yellow chick living in the countryside.
The youngest of the chicks. Libby the farm dog keeping the older chicks corralled.

International Women’s Day 2022

History

Research into the origins of International Women’s Day indicates the recognition began in 1911. Yes, over one hundred years ago. Key countries involved include Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The day of recognition was first tied to the suffrage movement. Now, gender equity and equal pay are key components.

A Difficult Achievement

Equity should be straight forward. But it isn’t. This concept of fairness is difficult because inherently life itself is not fair. Just by being born in Country A instead of Country B gives one an advantage. But the gap can be closed to a certain extent, if conditions allow. Unfortunately, differing cultures preclude the elimination of gender equality. A specific example would be Afghanistan. 2021 saw the return of rule by the Taliban and subsequently a reduction in rights for females.

Starting with equal pay for equal job duties may be a goal in countries where women are respected. But in the case of countries where women are not even allowed an education, striving for equal pay is meaningless. And to be honest, I have no ideas on how to change a culture of such a country. It must come from within, not imposed upon by outside forces.

Personal Responsibility

Personal responsibility may seem a strange topic to discuss as part of International Women’s Day. But I think it is a key component. Respect for women begins on an individual level. Both by men and women, particularly by the former. And unfortunately, a woman can be another woman’s barrier with regards to career movement. This absolutely needs to stop.

Equality is not an exact measurement. Partnerships (including marriages) work best when the partners are on equal footing. This does not mean identical input. Instead, gender equality relies on a recognition of the important contributions of women and girls. Their empowerment is vital to sustainability. Respect for women’s inputs and outputs is necessary on key issues today. Such issues as climate vitality, education, corruption and violence need women’s voices.

International Women’s Day 2022

Continued gains in gender equality will take more than a single day. However the importance of International Women’s Day is not insignificant. The celebration serves as a reminder. Women deserve respect. And equal opportunities.

The recognition on March 8th, 2022 is symbolic. And meaningful. Worldwide, we have yet to reach the day when a child’s birth is celebrated the same regardless of gender. Furthermore, we still classify careers as traditional for women. Or categorize them as non-traditional. Gender equality is attainable, but there is still work to be down. So, remember to recognize the important women in your life today.

Century of Life

A century of life. One hundred years spanning from 1922-2022. Independent to the end. Unusual, but very real. The time line is overcrowded. So much happens in a lifetime. Both for the world and the individual.

1922- Start of the Century of Life

Each year has key events. 1922 had several. A detailed month-by-month list can be found on Historic Newspapers which can be accessed by clicking here. Political upheaval topped the events. Fascism was rampant in Europe. Although Hitler did not attain power that year, he was shortly jailed and was flexing his muscles. Benito Mussolini did become the Italian dictator in 1922.

Of other key political events, the most notable was the formation of the U.S.S.R. in December of the year. Other incidents of unrest included the Irish Civil War and the Rand Rebellion. So even though World War I had just concluded, peace was not present throughout the world.

Women’s Rights

1922 also marked the U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing the validity of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote. The suffrage movement continued across the globe. Women were experiencing many firsts. Most notable was Rebecca Felton of Georgia, first United States Senator. Across many fields of study and occupations, women were beginning to be recognized for their work.

Friend and Fellow Zontian

Friendships are hard to explain. Often they revolve around shared interests. In this case, the shared interest was the work of Zonta International. A group I have discussed before. I have been a member almost thirty years, my friend for over sixty. Only a special cause spurs this type of loyalty. Empowering women is such an ideal.

Century of Life for Beverly

Beverly was born in 1922. She grew up in Michigan, graduated from Northwestern University and took a long train ride west to begin the rest of her long productive life.

During her first years on the High Plains, she worked in her field of study for a large hotel/restaurant. Then she jumped ship and started a business of her own.

This wonderful women, sole-proprietor of a small clothing shop in a small town was a living example of work ethic. She maintained both her home and store right up to her death. And she showed up to meetings and events continuously. Just a few weeks prior to her death she attended a Chamber of Commerce dinner where she was pleased to witness a fellow Zontian win the Chamber Person of the Year.

Beverly was an active member of Zonta International. My friend served on all levels from the local club to the International level. I have much respect for her work. And her humility. She often commented that her only merit was her longevity. Fortunately, this was not the case.

Community Recognition

Movie Marquee with Birth and Death Date 1922-2022 a century of lifeIn the United States, communities recognize outstanding citizens in a variety of ways. People of the Year awards, newspaper articles, movie marquees and often the last if not the least is eulogies. At Beverly’s funeral a review of her life was definitely part. But the best of the service were the poems read by her great-granddaughters: I Am Standing by the Seashore and The Dash.

Both poems reflected the century of life lived by the Christian. Faith and good works. A life well-lived. Rest in Peace Beverly. 1922-2022.

War Rattles over NATO Inclusion

Ukraine: Focus of War Rattles

Saber rattles are a thing of the past as war rattles now take other forms. Yes, troops are amassing along the border of Ukraine. Russian troops. As of now the outcome is uncertain. Perhaps war games as military training is now called. This is the claim of Russia. Another possibility is an invasion. And the instigator? A desire to add Ukraine to NATO.

What is NATO?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed after World War II with twelve countries, most of which were in Europe. The European countries were a primary battleground during the Second World War. It is easy to understand a desire for a joint force given the history.

NATO provides an agreement among countries to join forces in cases of aggression from outside agents as was the case during World War II. Member nations have been added through the years and now thirty countries are protected by the pact.

Former President Trump disliked NATO. But I think his reasoning stemmed from an economic point not a philosophical one. The United States of America spends great amounts of money on the military budget. NATO expenditures approximated 3.7% of the defense budget or about $811,000,000,000 in 2021. This amount is double what all the other countries chip in. So, in essence, the American people, through their tax dollars are acting as policeman to the world. A debate for another time.

Why is Russia Concerned?

Since 1999, fourteen countries have joined NATO. The majority were once under the control or actually part of the former U.S.S.R. Thus, Russia perceives a threat as a United States backed security force edges closer to their border.

Vladimir Putin, the current president of Russia has drawn a Red Line in the Sand with regards to Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Belarus border Russia. Foreign troops in these two countries are seen as a threat.

Putin has been the leader of Russia since the beginning of this century and he created a law in 2021 allowing him to continue until 2036. Such control defies the description of a democracy. Thus, it is easy to understand why war rattles are on the horizon.

Will NATO Intervene?

Ukraine is not a member of NATO. So there is no defense agreement in place. Without a commitment, there are no grounds for force. But wars do not need a reason. Unfortunately.

War Rattles

Are we looking at a traditional war? Perhaps. Troops are massing at borders. Military equipment is being stockpiled. But, I expect a different type of war may be upon us. Economic sanctions have been utilized for decades and most likely will play a part in this altercation.

So, how will Russia respond? “Sabre rattling” may play a part. But human capital is precious. Cyber- attacks could certainly come into play. Computer hacks can and do interrupt commerce and offer a response to sanctions. Putin is a skilled former KGB intelligence officer. Not someone to be underestimated. So just one question remains. Will there be a rattle of war or the tranquility of peace?

Understanding Inflation and a Final Look at the Inflation Check Challenge

Complexity of Understanding Inflation

Understanding Inflation can either be simple or complex. A simple look just compares prices over time periods. An example is the Inflation Check Challenge covering the last 12 months. Complexity arises when we search for the whys and how comes. Today we will take a look at both.

Inflation Check Challenge

Early last year I became concerned with the possibility of inflation. Interruptions in the supply chain were becoming a problem. So, I issued the Inflation Check Challenge to the readers of Econogal. I shared an example of a market basket and began tracking prices. Throughout the year, I posted quarterly comparisons. To review previous graphs, click on the month that interests you; January 2021, April 2021, July 2021, October 2021. Below is a year- end comparison with additional comments.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

Listing the CPI throughout 2021 would have been less work, but personally not as meaningful. This figure is closely watched and often influences everything from the stock market to government entities and individuals. Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) are based on the CPI. But the CPI has some shortcomings. Especially for those of us living in rural areas.  The index is weighted heavily toward urban life.

A second argument concerning the CPI is whether or not to include items whose prices are volatile. Food and energy costs fall into this category. These two categories are represented in the below table by the highest increases. Thus, arguments such as this Wall Street Journal opinion piece on transitory inflation by Alan S. Blinder need to be considered.

Thirdly, the CPI does not reflect the impact of substitute goods. Without a close substitute, inelasticity of a particular good or service is great, so prices shoot up. Conversely an elastic good will not show much of a price increase. (See Elasticity of Demand and Supply in Regards to Covid-19.)

Transitory Inflation

Over the last six months or so the term transitory inflation has been bandied about. There are nuances to the definition. Short-term, temporary, and not permanent are all a bit vague, but certainly apropos. Recently, Federal Reserve Chairman Powell dropped the description “transitory” when discussing inflation. Why?

Economists are split (Still!) on what the future holds. Individuals like Mr. Blinder above, defend the current rates of inflation as transitory. This school of thought believes prices will self-adjust in the coming months. And that Fed action will be harmful. This is very much the Classical School approach.

Deflation

The argument for transitory inflation also reflects a belief that deflation is a possibility in the near future. Both with and without governmental interference in the economy. Understanding inflation means grasping disinflation and deflation.  Disinflation occurs when the inflation rate slows down. We are currently not in a period of disinflation.

Nor are we in a period of deflation. However, if you look at the table below one item represents deflation. Why did toothpaste decrease in price? Was this an anomaly? Most likely. If the price check were to continue, I would expect this item to also increase.

Those studying the market understand not everything moves in the same direction. But to have a deflationary period, the majority of goods would be offered at lower and lower prices. Deflation and recession often go hand in hand. The United States has not experienced prolonged periods of recession in almost three decades. Nor have we faced high inflation. Instead we experienced a steady low inflation rate interrupted by a handful of short-lived recessionary periods. Most notably the financial crisis of ’08 and ’09.

Understanding Inflation: Demand-Pull and Cost-Push

How high will inflation go? Will we experience hyperinflation, stagflation (high inflation accompanied by a recession) or will the current increase lead to deflation? All are possibilities.

The supply chain disruptions triggered the economic change. Shortages of goods play into demand-pull inflation. Regardless of whether the demand is a need or a want, too few goods leads to higher prices as the market tries to reach an equilibrium. So, even though the shortages were thought to be temporary, an upward price movement took place.

Unfortunately for present day consumers, demand-pull inflation is concurrent with cost-push inflation. The Covid-19 pandemic is greatly impacting labor. And labor is a key cost in production.

Cost of Labor

Even before the pandemic hit, there was pressure to raise the minimum wage rate. Urban areas in particular had an imbalance between wages and the cost of living. Add onto that the aging of the Baby Boomers into retirement status and a squeeze begins in the labor market.

Then Covid-19 struck. Early on the focus was on the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Thus the impact on the labor market should have been negligent. But, other factors came into play. Health care workers and other essential workers remained on the job during the early waves. Many were repeatedly exposed. Non-retirees began to become severely ill. Deaths occurred across all demographics. Long-Covid disabilities popped up randomly. If you are near retirement age or a non-essential second income, do you want to take such a health risk? For many the answer was no.

So, early retirements are occurring. Non-retirees are also leaving the workforce. Replacement labor is costly. Salaries are pushed up by fewer individuals available to work. The hardest positions to fill require specialized training. Employers compete by offering higher wages. Cost-push inflation is here.

Government Intervention-Fiscal and Monetary

Understanding inflation can be quite complex. The current situation reflects this. Shutting down the economy in 2020 as a response to the novel coronavirus will have long term implications. In addition to national defense, governments have a responsibility for the social wellness of citizens. So, the shutdown was an effort to control viral spread.

To offset economic losses, a number of fiscal policies were put in place. Congress passed trillions of dollars in aid. The various stimulus packages injected dollars into the money supply. Economic growth was not occurring-indeed production was inhibited by worker illnesses. Thus more demand-pull pressure occurred.

Monetary Actions

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors attempts a juggling act. In theory, the Federal Reserve is an independent entity charged with the stability of the economy. The goal is one of high employment with a low level of inflation.

But in recent years, “The Fed” has been pushed by both sides of the political aisle. Most recently as mentioned in the Random Thoughts of Mid-January 2022, the entity has been tasked to include non- monetary functions such as Climate Change in its decision making.

So, rate hikes to discourage inflation were put on hold. The signal is for an increase in March of 2022. In my opinion the rate hike is overdue. Zero percent interest rates sound good on paper, but in reality may have done great damage to the economy. Time will tell. But, easy money through monetary policy coupled with tremendous amounts of stimulus signal inflation. Combine that with both demand-pull and cost-push market influences and you have a recipe for a perfect storm.

Hyper-inflation

Is hyper-inflation next? A possibility exists albeit slight. Keys to hyper-inflation, which is defined as a 50% increase in prices month-over-month, are demand-pull inflation and a large money supply. Both are in place. Usually, developed countries escape hyper-inflation. Production can be ramped up which results in enough supply to defeat demand-pull stressors.

But, the Covid-19 pandemic is interfering. Wave after wave of variants undulate across the world. Production is impacted. Supply chains are broken. The labor market is skewed. Easy money amplifies the problem. How much will the March rate hike be? Will it be in time?

Conclusions

Last year at this time I felt confident we were in store for inflation. The prediction was accurate. This coming year? I have no idea. More inflation in the short term is likely. But after that? Cases are being made for both deflation and hyper-inflation. Compelling arguments for each. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence supports the latter. Less than 48 hours after compiling the Inflation Check Challenge List, gasoline prices hiked another four cents. Three increases in a week do not make hyper-inflation, but the trend is ugly. However, I will not panic unless the price of a gallon of gas is locally $4.50 at the end of February. The important word is local as I have heard this amount is already charged in parts of the United States.

Politics and pandemic waves are interfering with the supply and demand mechanism. Thus, economic theory, difficult to apply in the best of times, might not be relevant in 2022. Now is a tough time for understanding inflation.  The only certainty is uncertainty in the near future.

Year End Price Comparison

ItemAmountJanuary 2021
Price
Regular/Sale
April 2021
Price
Regular/Sale
July 2021
Price
Regular/Sale
October 2021
Price
Regular/Sale
January 2022
Price
Regular/Sale
2021-2022
Change in Price
Regular/Sale
% Change + Inflation
(-) Deflation
Regular/Sale
Comments
Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk52 OZ.$3.49$3.99$3.99/$2.99$3.99$3.99/$3.79$0.50/$0.8014%/27%Double digit price increase for both regular and sale price.
Small bag Signature Select Sugar4 LBS.$2.99$2.99/$1.99$2.99$2.99/$2.49$3.29$0.30/$0.5010%/25%The sales price inflation is calculated over a six month period.
Signature Select Cream Style Corn14.75 OZ.$0.69$0.79$0.79$0.79/$0.65$0.89$0.2029%Sold Out in January of 2022. Unable to calculate inflation impact on sales price, only on sale once.
Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast4 OZ.$6.99$6.99$7.19$7.49$7.49$0.507%Surprised at the single digit inflation rate as item often sold out.
Bananas1 LB.$0.59$0.55$0.59$0.59$0.69$0.1017%This is a January over January comparison and did not take into account the lower April 2021 price.
Kraft Real Mayo30 OZ.$4.99/$3.79$4.99/$3.99$4.99/$3.79$5.29/$3.99$5.29/$3.99$0.30/$0.206%/5%Sale price bounced around a bit. Regular price steady upward movement.
Meow Mix6.3 LBS.$7.78$7.78$7.78$8.22$8.22$0.446%Steady Increase
Morton Salt26 OZ.$1.19/$0.94$1.19/$0.99$1.19/$0.99$1.29/$0.99$1.29/$0.99$0.10/$0.058%/5%I have never seen salt NOT on sale. Glad both indicators are in the single digits, otherwise one would have to take the stats with a grain of…salt.
Crest Pro Health Toothpaste4.6 OZ.$5.99/$4.99$5.49/$3.99$3.99/$3.49$3.99/$2.99$3.99/$1.99(2.00)/(3.00)-33%/-60%Definitely flies in the face of inflation to have this large of a decrease.
Align Probiotics28 Count$26.58$26.58$26.58$26.58$26.5800Price Control? The lack of change defies common thought on prices and inflation.
Tide Botanical Rain Detergent92 OZ.$11.97$11.97$11.97$11.97/$11.39$11.9700No change to regular price and only on sale once.
Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids12 Count$3.18$2.88$2.88$3.38$2.28($0.90)-28%Decrease in price perhaps reflects seasonal demand? Plenty of product in stock.
3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter1 Count$15.88$15.88$15.88$16.38$17.47$1.5910%Even with the additional increase in price, product was sold out in January 2022.
Dunkin Donut Boston Cream1 Count$0.99$1.09$1.17$1.09$1.17$0.1818%Return to July pricing. Newness of competition has worn off.
Regular Unleaded Gasoline1 Gallon$2.36$2.79$2.79$2.79$3.05$0.6929%Ties for the largest percentage increase on list. Price is still way below what a gallon costs in other areas. Local market leader changed hands so more increases would not be surprising.

Random Thoughts 0f Mid-January 2022

Covid-19 Pandemic Continues with Omicron

Mid-January 2022 may be ushering Omicron into my hometown as I type. Numbers had been consistent and in the single digits per day for the past few weeks. But numbers jumped, really jumped this last week with almost one hundred total cases just reported. This will most likely continue for a month if we follow the pattern seen in the cities.

Hopefully our little hospital won’t become overwhelmed. Not many medical choppers lately to rouse me from a sleep. I pray that continues. But the vaccine rate is low and Omicron evades the vaccine. This novel coronavirus remains a puzzle, one that most are too tired to solve.

Masks are scarce here. School is in person. Businesses are open so staffing may be a tad bit difficult but doable. My corner of the world leans toward the approach of inevitableness.

I long for a remote cabin in the woods stocked with six weeks of food. Enough time to get past Omicron. But the reality is this is not possible for me. Furthermore, what happens when the next variant hits. And the next. Quite depressing.

Psychological Impacts of Mid-January 2022 Milestones

Setting Covid-19 aside, this week is a bit of a hardship from a psychological standpoint. It marks a year since my Mom’s death. Also, the week brings two more birthdays, with one a milestone.

Ten years ago, to mark the mid-century milestone, we travelled to Denver to celebrate in style. We attended the National Western Stock Show and stayed at the historic Brown Palace. Truly a treat! But this year there are no plans to celebrate with a special trip.

Instead, we will stay at home. A shared (the two birthdays are consecutive) chocolate sheet cake with a cooked pecan frosting will be baked. To be honest, I don’t have the rest of the meal planned out. Priorities, right?

What is happening at the Federal Reserve?

If you are still keeping track of your market basket, you know first-hand there is inflation. Price increases are popping up everywhere. In the case of Dollar Tree, the inflation rate is 25%. The Federal Reserve last raised rates in 2018. Isn’t it time? Nay, past time.

But perhaps the Central Bank knows something the rest of us don’t? Or, more likely the Federal Reserve is juggling too much. After all climate change is now part of the task list. Just what will a climate stress test look like for banks? Finally, what prompted the Vice-Chairman to resign just a few weeks before his term ended? Were things that unpalatable? I think the resignation is a statement.

Mid-January 2022 at the Grocery Store

Are your grocery shelves full? Two full weeks went by without Fritos. Thank goodness these chips are not a staple. Furthermore, many substitute goods exist. But Fritos atop homemade chili can’t be beat.

This past trip, cream cheese was sold out as was my favorite kind of grated cheese for pizza. In the case of the former, no direct substitutes. I do not know if the supply problem is at the manufacturing level or is due to transportation glitches. But the chain is broken.

Media pictures show many empty aisles but neither I nor my many relatives have encountered this. Just individual items such as those discussed above. So, it is hard to get a clear picture.

Random Thoughts of Mental Wellness

Think Positive.

Take Calming Breaths Throughout the Day.

Enjoy a Bubble bath with a relaxing beverage.

Spend some time outdoors.

Read for fun.

Eat Dark Chocolate.

Tell someone you love them.

A Month of Birthdays

January-A Month of Birthdays

We are currently celebrating a month of birthdays. My husband, his mom, three of our four children and I all have birthdays in January. As for the fourth child, he was due on New Year’s Day but came a few days early. So instead of gaining weight from late November to New Year’s, my problem was always after the holidays.

The “first” birthdays were all in one week. “First” because I include the late December date. Three cakes in one week is tough on the waistline. Since the kids are out on their own this is no longer as big of a problem.

Birthday Party Via Zoom

Two share a birthday. My youngest and my Mother-in-law. And today is their day. One is making her way into her late twenties. The other is celebrating her 90th. In other times the latter would warrant a big family get together. Last summer we thought such a gathering might be possible. Then Omicron reared its’ ugly head.

So, the grandkids have a Zoom Birthday party scheduled for her. This is a Generation Three party. The offspring were not included in the email link. But I think that is fine. Her kids will all take time today to give her a call. Hopefully a celebration can be scheduled next summer. Perhaps at fair time.

Delayed Birthday Lunch

Since I just visited my Mother-in-law last week, I will delay sharing a birthday lunch with her until my birthday next week. She lives just over an hour away, so it is an easy drive. Her small town of around 1500 people has a wonderful bakery/café. A perfect place to celebrate.

I am being selfish. Next week also marks the one year anniversary of my Mom’s passing. Truthfully, I am anticipating needing the comfort of our visit. In times of sadness I seek out loved ones. Plus, I will also be celebrating a milestone day.

Best wishes for all of you seeking some type of normalcy. Remember to celebrate life’s milestones in some fashion. Stay positive, life can be hard, but it is important to live life well.

Focus on the Future

2022

I have decided to focus on the future with respect to 2022. With two bleak years behind me on the macro level and a very mixed personal 2021, it seems an almost impossible task. Yet the alternative, miring oneself in angst is not acceptable. This does not mean I am adopting a Pollyanna attitude. The world is in dire straits. But, I do want to take more of a micro approach.

Reading in 2022

While the big picture is uncertain, there is no reason to lose sight of the “little” picture. My immediate bubble if you will, can be a positive. This past year I endeavored to read more non-fiction. I did and with positive results. So this year I plan to focus on the future by reading at least one brand new author (not just new to me) every other month.

I also want to keep a good mix of genres. Perhaps even test the waters in some areas I do not visit much. We will have to see what the year brings. This past year has shown I am not a big fan of autobiographies.

Keeping the Creative Juices Flowing

Bucilla Sugarplum Fairy Stocking
A stocking for the newest family member.

Staying somewhat isolated during a pandemic has been productive for me. I am still dabbling in acrylics because I find it reduces tension. The quilt designs are another outlet as was the Sugar Plum Fairy stocking.

Writing has been a challenge. But unlike my piano playing-stopped abruptly after the death of a loved one- I have pushed on. To be honest, my reason is self-serving. Anecdotal and not scientific, but the writing helps keep my mind sharper. Most definitely a use it or lose it scenario. Brain health continues to be a priority.

Focus on the Future

Family of four on Christmas morning.
Christmas with the new generation.

Personal legacies are important. Tradition and legacy are entwined. Family traditions leave lasting memories. The importance is two-fold. First, traditions keep memories alive. Loss isn’t as tough when you can carry on as it has always been. Yes, the pandemic has created obstacles. But those can be overcome.

Second, new generations need these traditions to create a sense of belonging. This is most critical in these unusual times. We have kept our gatherings relatively small this year. Thanksgiving pushed my comfort zone but was done safely and before Omicron reared its’ ugly spikes. Christmas had one offspring and his young family in person and the rest plus my Dad joined via Zoom.

This technology has been important for our family. Much can be achieved with a focus on the future. If for some reason 2022 has everyone going their separate ways for the holidays, we can see and hear each other long enough the little ones can feel a connection.

A New Year with New Resolutions

I almost hate sharing resolutions as 2020 was such a disaster and not much was done in 2021 either. But I do want to focus on the future in a positive way. So here are my resolutions for 2022.

  1. Try a new recipe each month.
  2. Finish one creative, non-writing project each month.
  3. Continue to write.
  4. Reach out to friends and family on a regular basis.

Of all these, the last will be the most important if these mutations keep coming at us, wave after wave. I wish I could say this will be the last year, but I just don’t know enough biology to predict. Regardless of what the future may hold, I plan to focus on the future in a positive way.

2022 has started on a positive note for us in the form of snow. Even though powdery versus a heavy wet snow, it is much needed moisture. Enjoy this glimpse of a snowy start to the new year.

Snowy backyard.
Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving 2021

Eclectic Thoughts for Thanksgiving 2021

Thanksgiving 2021 is here. Sharing eclectic thoughts for Thanksgiving week is not new, nor is it a yearly occurrence. However, this year it seems important. Much is happening in the world. And much of what is taking place is concerning.

Violence and crime amid broken down justice systems, the pandemic, the economy and its’ battered supply chain and the divided opinion on what is next are just a few discussions that may pop up at perhaps still small Thanksgiving tables. But at least for me, more than two people will share this year’s feast. Yes, there are always reasons to be thankful.

Broken Down Justice

Is our judicial system broken? I hope not, but some weeks I wonder. This has been one of those weeks. I am willing to accept jury decisions as given, even if I disagree. After all, jurors listen to far more evidence than I ever read about. But, I do disagree with how easy it is to get bail. Furthermore, I think we need to understand there are many causes of recidivism. Thus, there will be individuals that will not be rehabilitated.

Such a case occurred this past weekend. A lifelong criminal plowed a car into a parade. Five people lost their lives and another four dozen were taken to hospitals. The individual accused of the violence had just been released on $1000 bail, even though he still faces multiple trials for previous violent crimes. The most recent an auto attack on the mother of his child.

Less deadly crimes are occurring on the West Coast. Proposition 47 increased the dollar amount to $950 for felony theft. Below that, shoplifting is still a crime but listed as a misdemeanor. The thought was to reduce overcrowding in prisons. But the reality is a huge uptick in looting. Click here for more information.

Covid-19

Divisiveness continues to spring from the ongoing pandemic. The divisions are great. While I believe we are past the virus is a hoax stage, much argument surrounds the vaccines. Especially the ones based on mRNA technology. But other disagreements include masking, vaccine passports, and freedom to choose whether or not to vaccinate. Also, some countries, most recently Austria, are returning to lockdown status.

Much of the blame can be pinned on fear of the unknown. While the United States of America has collectively been thought of as a country of early adopters, that is a generalization. Plenty of Americans prefer a wait and see approach. Many others want proof, and not just those from the Show Me State of Missouri. The country is a large land mass with a population greater than 330 million. We are not going to be all on the same page. And that is ok.

But we do need both tolerance and a sense of responsibility for ourselves and others. This is lacking.

We have an airborne disease wreaking havoc across the globe. Stopping the spread is important. My knowledge of biology is lacking, but I know enough to be cautious. Invisible germs are still germs. Only history will tell us how long and how damaging this novel coronavirus has been, is and will be.

Supply Chain

One of the most frustrating things to me is the continued push for a commercialized Christmas. Since we are experiencing such a problem with supply chain disruption, why is advertising seemingly at all-time highs? What happens when the goods are not able to be delivered in time? Or at all? How will the labor shortage come into play? Lots of stress for retailers, both large and small.

Perhaps 2021 should be a year that emphasizes something other than the latest toy or gadget.

Thanksgiving 2021

Bittersweet is the best way to describe my emotions this Thanksgiving 2021 morning. But at least I am out of the funk that descended upon me at the end of October. I miss the Queen of Halloween as my Mom was often called.

Thankfully, a mid-November weekend visit by the newlyweds lifted my spirits. My house is decorated for Thanksgiving 2021 and my heart is filled with gratitude. A small gathering of four generations will occur. The vast majority vaccinated and the most at risk fortunate enough to have a booster.

Three batches of rolls are about to be baked including an adaptation of the Soft Gluten Free Dinner Rolls. If this recipe is as good as the original, I will share. The only other dish I am responsible for is a family favorite corn casserole with jalapeno peppers. It will be nice not spending all the time cooking as there is a new grandchild to spoil.

I plan to celebrate and be thankful today.Cake decorated to look like a Thanksgiving 2021 turkey.

Divisiveness and the Covid-19 Vaccine

An Opinion Piece

The growing divisiveness in the country (perhaps the world) is bothering me. Individuals have taken opposing sides on various key questions; vaccinations and other health issues, spending limits and other economic policies and last but certainly key-climate change and energy policies. Today I am focusing on the Covid-19 vaccine.

Personally, I think it is good to have opposing views. “Yes” men (and women) bother me. I have long been a fan of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. But we need to remember RESPECT. Something in short supply.

Agree to Disagree

Lately, extremists are decrying the principle of agreeing to disagree. This is terrible. On so many levels. This idea of only one right is wrong and possibly dangerous. A good example can be found in the history of calculus. Both Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz developed principles of calculus-independently. The argument in the late 1600s centered on who should have the credit. As a result, British mathematics was hindered for almost a century. Click here for more of the story.

Just as there can be more than one right, more than one wrong can occur. I am sure each of you can relate to this concept. Unfortunately, two wrongs often create great divides in families and friendships.

So, how do we get past this period of divisiveness? Perhaps by reflecting on history and reading, or re-reading literature both current and classic.

Erasing History

A big concern of mine is erasing history. This is a touchy subject. But an important one. We can’t deny history. Nor should we. The Holocaust happened as did slavery and The Civil War. The flags flown by the Confederates and the Nazis are symbolic. When I see them I remember how horrific actions were. But, the reminder makes me want to not repeat the past. The statues across the country of various Southern and Northern military men also remind me of the divisiveness of the Civil War. I choose to remember. I believe if we erase the past and forget, we will repeat our mistakes.

Remembering history, or researching if not known is helpful. There was divisiveness during the Spanish Flu. Masks and isolation were the triggering points. Some towns literally shut themselves off from the world. (Click here for history.)

Vaccines are the current divider. The dissension is great. Neighbors are divided. Co-workers are divided. Political leaders are divided.

Pandemic Divisiveness

We are now edging close to the end of the second year in this pandemic. My guess is we have another year to go. I would like to be wrong-on the short side. We haven’t learned much in the last 100 years. And yet our knowledge has grown greatly.

The fear of the unknown is dividing us. Early adopters versus late adopters, risk takers versus the wait and see type.  The divisions are great. Fear of the unknown. But is there more? Does the education system come into play? What about our communication system? So much information is available via the Internet. Can the information be easily understood? And more importantly vetted! I think pre-prints need closer examination than what is being given by the various disseminators. This includes media on all levels; mainstream and back-channel.

But the media does not bear all the blame. We do as individuals. Where is our commonsense? Why can’t we discern the truth from the fake?

 

Late Adopter

I am a late adopter. I like to see things work. But I also know risks can have rewards. My daughters are proof of that. So, I am educated enough to seek good advice. When the vaccines first came out, I was reluctant to try the new mRNA type. Thus, I talked to my General Practitioner (GP), a doctor I have seen for decades. And I took his advice.

He gave good advice. I had no adverse reactions to either Moderna shot. Crowded places still worry me but I feel very comfortable spending time with family members also fully vaccinated. You only see a first crawl or step once! And I am traveling again.

But the pandemic is pushing our healthcare workers to their limits. It is not just long hours. A lack of respect is my biggest concern. The world needs to wake up to the reality of this pandemic. Mental illness is taking a big toll as well. Conspiracy theories abound regarding the vaccines. In at least one case, a sibling is accused of killing his brother-a health care worker. (Only click here if you need proof.) Over a vaccine. So very sad.

Big Brother

There is great division over mandated vaccines. I am a big believer in gray areas. Some people cannot and should not get vaccinated. Personally, I know two individuals that fall in this category. Their health needs preclude any vaccination.

I don’t believe the government needs to mandate vaccines. If private businesses, including health care facilities want to require certain vaccinations, I am okay with that policy. But non-complying employees need time to consider the ramifications. And to find another place to work.

My personal stance is to encourage vaccines. I think they make a positive difference in this world. For those who are non-risk takers and even later adopters than I am, non mRNA vaccines against Covid-19 are available.

Of course I am biased. Multiple family members died before the vaccines became available. Friends and acquaintances as well. My heart cringes each time a helicopter flies overhead. The hospital landing pad is nearby. This is not new. Flying people out is not something taken lightly. Unfortunately many have Covid-19.

Respect for Health Care Workers and Decision Makers

It is a tough time to be in charge. Decisions of utmost importance are being made on a daily basis. Not everyone is in agreement. Unfortunately, mutual respect is breaking down.

In my little part of the world, the hospital board has decided to mandate Covid-19 vaccines. As a patient from time to time, I respect this decision. This decision is not popular. Almost ten percent of the staff is unvaccinated. I do not know how many asked for exemptions, either medical or religious, but only one was granted. Perhaps this is too low a number.

Our community is divided. There have been letters to the editor and lots of donut shop talk. All is good as long as there is respect. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. I live in a county where the majority of citizens have not been vaccinated. Twelve percent of the population has tested positive for Covid-19. Even if there were no overlapping, we do not have herd immunity. Overlapping occurs.

Divisiveness-The End Result

Unfortunately, I see a long winter ahead for this rural area. One replete with divisiveness. I encourage anyone not vaccinated to talk to their primary health care doctor. If still not convinced to join the vaccinated, please practice other measures. Stay away from crowds. Limit the number of people in your circle of contacts. Wear a protective mask correctly. Protect yourself in the best way possible. This virus is real.

We need to all remember this: We are responsible for our own actions.

References and Reading Recommendations

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7264614/

https://www.denverpost.com/2020/03/29/pandemic-1918-spanish-flu-colorado-coronavirus/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jeffrey-burnham-killed-pharmacist-brother-covid-vaccine-shots-poisoning/

Books of Interest:

Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

1984- George Orwell

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused it– Gina Kolata

The Great Influenza- John M. Barry

Breathtaking: The UK’s Human Story of Covid- Rachel Clarke

Populism: Before and After the Pandemic- Michael Burleigh

Finding Inner Peace Twenty Years Later- A 9/11 Memorial

Sudden Loss

Finding inner peace after a loss of life is difficult. Even expected death takes time to process. But sudden, unexpected loss of life is a trauma unto itself. Individual loss is hard and permanent. Community loss and national loss take years to process and years to manifest. Thus, this reflection.

September 11, 2001

The immediate reaction to the 9/11 attacks was one of national unity. Since then, the United States of America has been anything but united. Were the attacks the catalyst? I do not know. But I miss the unity and detest the divisiveness.

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the unprovoked attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C. and indeed the entire country. Therefore many events marking this collective tragedy are scheduled for today. Parades, assemblies, and memorials-in big cities and small towns. Families will gather and many will spend time reflecting on loved ones lost.

I was half a country away from the East Coast on that fateful day. But I took the attacks personally. I knew people in those buildings. Visits to the twin towers were always an event. The bustling offices full of life. The exquisite dining experience at Windows on the World. For me, the towers represented NYC. And I know how hard the survivors struggle on a daily basis. Twenty Years Later. My hope is those directly affected have found a modicum of inner peace.

The attack on the Pentagon evoked similar feelings. I was fortunate enough to experience a personal tour of this iconic building during my teenage years. The brigadier general guiding us was a friend of the family. Massive, wide hallways filled with purpose and industry fill my memory. This fortress was penetrated but fortunately not destroyed.

Anger and Dismay Precede Inner Peace

After the initial shock wore off my feelings turned dark. I was dismayed by those countries that blamed the United States. One in particular bothered me because of how many American lives were lost in the two World Wars trying to free its’ citizens from tyranny. So, on my one visit to Europe in 2008, the bitterness kept me from visiting this important source of culture.

I was also angry that certain religious leaders condoned the attacks. Perhaps, fringe elements, but still leaders of a mainstream religion. For an individual who believes religion and forgiveness are entwined, this continues to be a personal struggle.

Inner Peace

The passage of time may not heal all wounds. But an inner peace can be reached. At least on a personal level. Water and nature are keys in my family. At home, our fountains provide the sound of moving water. The movement is a subliminal reminder of time. It flows on.

For this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I have retreated to my favorite mountain town. Four generations are gathered adjacent to the gurgling Gore Creek. Windows are open to the mountain air. Thanks to the pandemic, remote work can be done allowing more participants. As the day unfolds, my wish on this day, the anniversary of such an infamous event, is a focus on inner peace and outward harmony.

Fountains at Night

Fire glowing in outdoor fireplace

Gore Creek

View of Mountain Creek

Gore Creek Again

View of Gore Creek

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.

The Heat is On

Triple Digits

Here in my little corner of the world the heat is on. The days of triple digit heat are bearable only by getting outside work done by 9:00 A.M. and staying inside the remainder of the day. Air conditioning is a help.

The critters are also reeling from the heat. Box turtles and garter snakes are seeking refuge on the shade of the porch. The startle effect is great even when you know they dwell in the garden. The toads look forward to the watering cycles and seek hiding spots under the portulaca and cucumbers.

The heat is on high this time of year. Noon lunches no longer happen outside as temperatures edge closer to the triple number. Nor do evening dinners as the cool down often occurs after bedtime.

Indoor Activities

Central air allows me to work in the kitchen after the heat chases me indoors. Canning tomatoes, grape jelly and processing beans for the freezer is doable with the cool air. I am thankful for living in the time of electricity. And sympathize with those across the world without reliable energy. Rolling brown outs would make life difficult. No electricity even more so.

Other activities take place in the basement. The craft room is a combination of sewing space, book shelves and garden planning area. The underground aspect provides a naturally cool place to hang out. I can see why early settlers to this part of the country lived in dugouts.

Ways to Combat Nature when The Heat is On

When we first moved to this small town on the High Plains we lived in a house built shortly after the First World War. Naturally, the house did not have air-conditioning. We were fortunate to have a row of mature evergreen trees on the west side of the lot as well as a towering poplar tree on the southwest side of the house. This experience gave us ideas for when we were finally able to build our present house back in the early ‘90s.

Deciduous trees planted to the south and southwest of a building will provide shade in the summer and at the same time allow the sun to warm the house during the colder months. Porches also provide a relief from the sun.

Windbreaks also help. Trees can act as windbreaks as can hardscape fences. A twenty mile an hour wind can be brutal at extreme temperatures-such as triple digits when the heat is on. Those southwest winds can create an oven effect. Not a pleasant experience and why this time of year is my least favorite.

Back in the days of no air-conditioning, we cooled down in two ways not related to nature. The first was to take the kids to the community pool on nights it was open. The second was to frequent the town’s lone cinema. Both provided relief.

Last but not least is drinking plenty of liquids. Non-caffeinated, sugarless are preferable. And that means a heavy concentration of water. Staying hydrated combats the intense heat.

I am counting down the days until September 22nd, the first official day of fall.

 

Providing Natural Cooling

Trees providing natural shade when the heat is on

Celebrating Life

Mom

A Celebrating Life event as a memorial to my Mom occurred this past weekend, approximately six months after her death. Celebrate is the proper term. She would have loved attending such a send-off. Much laughter, great food, music and dancing, with just a touch of solemnity and maybe a tear or two.

WOTM

Mom enjoyed being a member of the Women of the Moose (WOTM). She contributed regularly to Mooseheart, a very worthwhile program. And she travelled with my Dad to the annual conventions of Moose International. In her later years, as her dementia progressed, I joined her local chapter so I could attend the conventions also. This gave her a couple additional trips to enjoy. I am grateful they allowed us to do this since I live over a thousand miles away in an area without a chapter representing the organization.

The WOTM provided the ceremonious aspect of the day celebrating life. The dignified account of her involvement and their recognition was touching and brought a few tears to eyes. The opening ceremony gave way to a splendid afternoon.

A highlight was the wonderful spread spearheaded by the WOTM. Shrimp, salmon and snow crab were the stars for the seafood lovers. Fresh fruit and berries attracted the young children. Salads, breads, croissant sandwiches competed heavily with a variety of desserts for room on the dinner plates of the attendees.

Music

Our family loves music. All kinds of music. One of the things Mom and I had in common was our love of dancing. The duet hired for the occasion played lots of my Mom’s favorites. Songs from artists like Roy Orbison, Crystal Gayle and the Village People prompted dancers to fill the dance floor. Of course Mom’s favorite, Elvis, was showcased as well.

The performers were acquainted with my parents. This may have helped with the perfect song selection. I am so appreciative of their work. I needed closure and the afternoon provided! If you live in the Orlando area and desire live music, consider contracting Mark Good and/or Jody from Jody and The Trouble Brothers. I am thankful these two teamed up for our celebrating life event.

Celebrating Life with Family and Friends

Looking through old photos, it is common to find family photos at both weddings and funerals. Traditionally, the occasion could be determined by either smiles or somber faces. The Covid-19 pandemic did not allow a funeral to take place immediately following Mom’s death. So the photos taken are full of happy faces.

Identifying family members from old pictures is difficult. We were fortunate to have one of Mom’s cousins in attendance to fill in the gaps. Since one of the “greats” (great grandkids/grandnephews) is of college age maybe decades from now there will be the knowledge of the nature of the event. And someone to fill in future gaps.

Mom loved playing games with the youngsters. She also loved buying individual Christmas ornaments; Many Disney themed. I like to think she will watch over the little ones from the hereafter. Especially the one born shortly after her death. The little one that shares a name.

Six Months

Growing up, I celebrated half-birthdays with my mother’s side of the family. Born in the middle of winter and living half a country away did not lend itself to maternal grandparents celebrating the actual day. My cousins lived close to my grandparents. So they also participated in marking my half-birthday.

Ironically, Mom died the day before my birthday. And we held her celebrating life memorial close to six months later. Those same cousins honored their aunt by making the trip. They are spread across the country now so the journey is not easy. My aunt with whom I share a birthday also attended. I am so grateful for the family support.

Much Needed Closure

Everyone grieves differently. I tend to withdraw. My creativity is also affected. I actually stopped playing the piano after the death of one family member I was particularly close to. Something I regret now. So, I have struggled to continue writing. However, I plan to make every effort to fight the malaise.

Celebrating life in a non-traditional way was a perfect tribute for my mom. She would have loved the event. Surprisingly, I loved it too. Operating out of the comfort zone can be beneficial. I finally feel closure. We did indeed celebrate her life.

Four generations in a family photo

Summer Travel; Random Thoughts

A Few Rambling Remarks

The year 2021 is full of Summer Travel; Random Thoughts follow. Like many Americans, I am hitting the road after a year of little travel. In addition to conferences and work trips, newborn babies and wedding planning call for many trips. Of varying length. So I am throwing out some observations.

Masks

As the summer wears on, I see fewer and fewer masks. The exception is among children and young adults. The children make a lot of sense to me. Under 12 are not eligible for vaccines. Less so the young adults. But perhaps they are taking extra precautions. Now that I am thinking about it, some of the very elderly also have face wear.

Crowds

Groups are beginning to gather again. While I felt quite comfortable at a conference of two hundred, I am still a bit leery of inside gatherings. However, so far so good. Outdoor gatherings make me a little less apprehensive, but I have never been one to enjoy standing cheek to jowl. From the Ohio River Valley to the High Plains of Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming, people are getting out and about.

But some crowds cause concern. Especially in areas where the delta variant is present. Mesa County, Colorado is far, far, away from me. But, the county hosted a country music jam in late June. At the same time, the delta variant was rearing its’ ugly head in that locale. Repercussions are just now coming to light. Numbers are trending up.

Similarly, parts of the Southeast-next on my travel agenda-are experiencing huge upswings. I will be staying with family. All elderly, all vaccinated. So I will travel, but cautiously. Drive through eateries along the road will become the norm on this next journey.

Summer Travel Cross Country Style

Late May and early June trips went without any hiccups for my spouse and me.  The trip to Kansas was quite easy. Traffic is returning, but the roads were not clogged. The same for the Rocky Mountain highways of Colorado and Wyoming. And gas prices were reasonable.

Travelling in late June was another story. This was a much longer trip to the Ohio River Valley on a journey to Cincinnati with tours of Bluegrass Country wrapped around the conference destination. My travelling companion thought I was a tad bit weird, filling up the tank at each stop vs. when on empty. That is until we stopped in Columbia, MO and hit a gas station totally out.

I had been reading about shortages in various locations. Of course press coverage exacerbated the problem to the point small sized cities ran totally out. The explanation is not a shortage of fuel, but a shortage of labor. Not enough people to drive the fuel trucks. Thus, a labor shortage created a fuel supply shortage.

Labor Shortages

Long Haul drivers are not the only labor shortage. Restaurant staff is also in short supply. On the aforementioned Ohio Valley trip, a stop to get some lunch ended in a return to the Interstate. The two restaurants were closed. One had a help wanted sign. Many other places also had help wanted signs.

I think a combination of factors is driving this shortage. Many people are out and about making up for the year of isolation. Some Baby Boomers have decided to go ahead and retire. While the Federal unemployment has ended, some states have continued the unemployment payments. Thus no incentive to work.

Furthermore, the younger generation is looking at things differently. When talking to one of my offspring, I was asked why one would enter a career of long haul truck driving when autonomous trucks are already in the testing stage. What would be the upside?

Other conversations include a chance to move beyond entry level jobs sooner because Baby Boomers are leaving the work force. And a concern about the possible resurgence of the virus due to the inability to reach herd immunity.

Summer Travel Concerns

My summer travel plans are centered mostly on visits to family. A year apart was difficult. Other trips revolve around business interests. Maybe next year I will travel just to travel, in other words take a vacation. My bucket list of places to see hasn’t had much ticked off lately.

But there are some concerns. First and foremost when travelling by car is the availability of fuel. Next of course is the price levels. (Those of you participating in the inflation check challenge, this is the month to re-check.) Of course weather is a constant concern.

This next trip will be solo. Nothing new for me. But I will follow the precautions listed in this post on travelling alone. I am thankful last year’ riots have simmered down. My journey through the southern states is familiar territory. Stomping ground from my youth. I am looking forward to visiting family and driving some familiar roads. The United States of America has many, many beautiful places within.

Summertime Hail Storm

Zero Chance of Rain

A summertime hail storm struck this past weekend even though the chance of rain was nil. Thunder and lightning broke the quiet evening and lit up the skies to the north. I checked the forecast and the radar-zero chance of the storm coming south.  So, the bedtime ritual complete, I turned in for the night. Or so I thought.

An hour later pounding overhead woke me up. Immediately, I left the comfort of my bed and checked the backdoor to see if the racket was heavy rain or dreaded hail. At that point, it was hard to tell. So, I opened the front door. Tiny balls were bouncing off the driveway.

Next I checked the radar. A red cell was directly overhead. Not moving. And the pounding increased. Another peek outback and large peas were dotting the grass. Then the peas turned to small marbles. Perfectly round with the exception of one odd shaped ice cube. This hail stone was almost clear while the rest were opaque. Much like a perfectly formed snow balls. Just miniaturized.

The storm lasted thirty minutes.

Damage to the Big Garden

Naturally, my first thought upon awakening the next morning was the garden. The Big Garden was checked first. The lettuce row was shredded. The single potato in the middle of the root row was damaged as well. But the potatoes and sweet potatoes in the metal rings both inside and outside of the fencing fared better.

The tomatoes had whiplash, but most of the stems were intact and the flowers still open. However, the mallow was denuded of its beautiful purple blooms. Carrots and beets are still too small to show much damage.

Anything with a support was barely touched. This includes the peas which are bearing pods. Likewise, smaller leafed plants did ok. Unfortunately, the squash with its broad leaves show damage.

Raised Boxes

The raised boxes at the back of the property bore the most damage. The tomatoes there were not on supports. Now they resemble little trees sliced down by a tornado. The summertime hail storm showed no mercy.

The clusters on the Concord and Niagara grapes are so small and hard, I am hoping they escape the damage so readily seen on the leaves. On each side of the boxes are asparagus patches. One looked downtrodden and the other as if nothing but rain had occurred.  Such is the nature of hail.

Summertime Hail Storm and the Side Garden

The side garden should have sustained the most damage. But it didn’t and I am not sure why. I have the slicing tomatoes planted here. They have supports. The damage was greater than the Big Garden paste tomatoes but not nearly as devastating as the boxes.

The side garden is half produce and half flower.  (I plant flowers everywhere to entice the bees, but usually the ratio is much more lopsided.) The roses are budding out and show some damage. The peonies were protected-but still no flowers. This is year three since transplant. The peach trees shredded many leaves. The hail could not damage the fruit since the hard freeze took care of that first.

Container Plants

In hopes of a greenhouse, I increased the number of tropical plants in planters. While my potted flowers did well, the various tropicals did not. Severe damage was noted to the banana, turmeric, and artichoke. Minor damage to the avocado. The lime tree was somewhat sheltered by the house and showed no damage.

The zero chance of rain played into the mix here. All these planters could and would have been pulled onto one of the porches if I felt they were in danger.

High Plains Summertime Hail Storms

This part of the country experiences many hail storms. The last major storm was just four years ago. You can read about it by clicking here. The storms are hit and miss. Furthermore, they are unpredictable. This particular storm came from the north, but farmer friends less than five miles north of us had the rain without the hail.

Crop insurance plays a big part in farming operations. And Mother Nature still rules. Fields side-by-side can vary in how a storm affects them. Sometimes the change is within a field with corn stripped on one side but not the other.

Home owners also need coverage. Between the length of the storm and the tiny black specks under the roofline, there is a chance our roof sustained damage. An inspector will travel out from the Front Range next week.

My appointment is scheduled for first thing in the morning. I asked if he knew how far and he replied he hadn’t been out here in a long time. But he had used Google maps. He will either start out at 0’ Dark Thirty, or possibly come out the night before. Such is life out on the plains.

Summertime Hail Storm

Summer Hail Storm 5 Star Lettuce

Faith, Friends and Family

Faith, Friends and Family An Important Trio

Faith Friends and Family. Anyone over a certain age knows that life is full of challenges. Many different kinds of challenges. And those difficulties are met with varying success. I have discussed successes and failures before. But today, I am expressing my belief that the hardships we face as we travel through life are best met when enveloped with faith and surrounded by friends and family.

Faith

The definitions of faith are straightforward. The secular definition is: a complete trust in something. Many examples come to mind. A toddler’s trust in his parents. A patient’s trust in a doctor. Perhaps a lack of faith could explain a reluctance to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The religious based definition of faith denotes a strong belief in God or another deity as well as the principles of a specified religion. This type of faith needs no proof. There are numerous religions on this planet of ours. Unfortunately some conflict greatly with others.

On a personal level, my faith is a combination of belief in both Christianity and science. I know I am not the only person that can accept seemingly conflicting dogma. Truly, there are things that cannot be explained by science. Miracles happen.

But, a belief in science is critical. A few years ago, I was not remembering short term things, like where I put my car keys. Since I had a family member with dementia, this was quite concerning. So I began researching brain health.

The science is a bit more complicated than use it or lose it. Nonetheless, studies indicated new brain connections form from new experiences and processes. Econogal is one. My new hobbies including the Big Garden, another. Finally, the not so simple concept of mindfulness is also helping with my short term memory.

Spiritual Faith

I have a difficult time discussing my religious ideas. Beliefs present on Earth run the gamut from atheist to the most devout. For those believing in a deity, prayers are a component of that belief. However, not everyone prays the same.

In my greatest times of crisis, my prayers are quite simple. I ask for help in accepting God’s Will. Twice I have had children near death. On both occasions, I prayed for the ability to accept whatever the future held. Did I want them to live? Of course! Did I seek the best medical help available? You bet I did! But life is finite for all of us.

As a child, I was a voracious reader. The fables of Aesop and of the Brothers Grimm were favorites. Perhaps these influences explain my inability to pray for specific outcomes for myself. Stories such as The Invisible Life of Addie Larue (click here for review) reinforce this belief. Yet, I have no trouble in praying for the healing of others. Both body and soul. And I always pray for the acceptance of what life holds for each.

Friends

The second component of Faith, Friends and Family centers on friendship. Relationships are complex. It is hard to differentiate between friends and acquaintances. Often we spend much more time with the latter. Yet, friendships are among the most important bonds available to us.

Early Friends

I can still remember the name of one of my first playmates even though I never saw him after the age of four. Perhaps the fact our parents exchanged Christmas cards for many years reinforced the memory. But I also remember a schoolmate from kindergarten, one not seen since we moved in second grade. This was not the child of a parental friend. Both must have impacted my life for the memories to hold.

Thus, I can understand the concern created by the pandemic forced isolation. Only children may face the biggest impact. Even the fact that parents were also isolated at home may not have helped.

Childhood friends may not stay friends as adults. But I think the interaction is key to developing relationships later in life.

Shared Experiences

Recently, an evening was shared with college friends not seen in almost ten years. We picked up right where we left off. The bonds formed long ago stay strong even through absence. Conversation flowed, memories shared and much catching up was done. Hopefully, the next gap in time will not be so long.

For many, social media bridges this gap. My problem with these online entities is the inability to share privately. As well as the time delay. There is much to be said for being in the present. Another problem I have with social media is the lack of honesty. Seldom is life presented with all the warts.

Creating new shared experiences is key to maintaining friendships. It is also key to defining generations. I have been alive for many decades. But the last twenty years contain the most shared experiences. From 9/11 to the Covid-19 pandemic, the pages of the history books will be full.

Friend for Life

Many people say they married their best friend. I can relate to that. Anyone married for a length of time understands the work that goes into a marriage. And the many stages of a life together. Crisis can strengthen a relationship or tear it apart… I am one of the fortunate ones.

Faith, Friends and Family

Last but certainly not least in the concept of Faith, Friends and Family is family. A strict definition confines family to blood relations created through marriage and births. I am sure many would disagree. Blended families are an integral part of society. Adoptees and foster families have replaced orphanages. Family units are a key part of the culture I live in.

It is quite difficult to put into words just how important family is to me. My immediate family is quite small. However my spouse was the youngest of five. Farm families are decreasing in size but still much bigger than those of most city dwellers.

Covid-19 and 2020 marked the first year of just two of us for the important holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The meals were low key. Even though the traditional festivities were gone, the days were meaningful.

Many of my family will gather for a celebration of life this summer. I am looking forward to seeing all of my offspring, my Dad, and many of my cousins. We will honor my Mom’s life in a way that she would approve. Finally having some closure will be good.

The other big family event of the year will be a Labor Day weekend wedding. The bride and groom picked this date so attendees could have a chance of vaccination prior to the ceremony. They are looking forward to a wedding and reception sans masks. We will attend with great joy.

Family gatherings need to be filled with joy and happiness, not stress. Communication is key to making this happen. Another secret to a pleasant gathering is pitching in without asking. My best tip is to use empathy. It is true that until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, it is difficult to understand where they are coming from. If someone is obviously having a difficult time be part of the solution.

Family Dynamics

Each family has its own idiosyncrasies. As any parent can tell you, each child is unique. The differing personalities are the beginning. But it is the individual life experiences which really affect family dynamics. Siblings may share some things, but not everything.

One of my goals is to be able to agree to disagree within the immediate family. This task can be daunting, especially in an election year. And I will admit, agreement on a topic does make life easier. But the agreement should be independent, not coerced.

The ability to communicate differences is key, in my opinion, to keeping function in family relations. This takes work. But the reward is great. None of us will live forever. It is important to keep bridges strong and to always, always have a gate in the wall.

Life is short. Faith, Friends and Family make life noteworthy. Make time for all.

Springtime in the Garden: A 2021 Update

The Big Garden

A Raised Row Garden
The rows run North to South

Spring 2021

Springtime in the garden varies from year to year. Some springs are over in the blink of an eye. Freezing temperatures give way to triple digits in a fortnight. But Spring 2021 is more like a story tale. Cool evenings are followed by warm afternoons. Rains have been gentle and frequent. This is a delightful change.

Early Harvests

Green onions and lettuces lead the harvest production. But the asparagus crop is not far behind. I plant onion bulbs early and often. Two to three green onions are consumed per day in our household. To be honest, leaving enough in the ground to develop into winter storage bulbs is a challenge.

Early herbs include Italian Parsley, chives and oregano. The first pesto of the season is made from a combination of these three. In addition to adding these herbs to our evening dishes, they add color to the spring garden.

Early blooming herbs include chives, horehound and sage. Of these three, the sage is the showiest. The sage buds are full and I expect them to be in full bloom by Memorial Day. In contrast, the horehound has small white flowers that are easy to overlook. I include all in small flower arrangements.

Successes This Springtime in the Garden

For the first time, I have successfully transplanted strawberries. Instead of small pots, I bought some bare roots from a local greenhouse. They have rooted in well-perhaps because of the good moisture.

Other garden additions include a beautiful Pink Lady apple, a plum and an apricot. The apricot arrived just two week ago and has not leafed out yet. One of the new blueberry bushes is also thriving. Unfortunately, the other was mowed down. Accidents happen in the garden.

My seed starts from this winter are just recently transplanted. Most look good. The tomatoes have doubled in size and the peppers and eggplant have added new leaves. The peanuts are holding their own and probably will not take off until temperatures turn hot.

Plants from direct seeding include beets, cucumbers, beans and carrots. All but the latter have poked their heads out of the soil. The raised beds have kept the growing area from being mired in mud. I truly believe in the raised row concept posited by Jim and Mary Competti. Read a review of there book by clicking here or visit there website here.

A Failure or Two…at Least

Winter kill was expected after the negative 28 F temperature recorded during the Arctic Freeze this past winter. This extraordinary cold took a toll on my figs and my almond. Neither has leafed out. Another mixed result came from relocating a small cherry tree. Only half the tree flowered.

I also failed in my attempt to grow sweet potato starts. Early leaves and roots failed to thrive. So, I will research more and try again next winter.

Springtime in the Garden: Wonderful Rains

The High Plains of America can be dry and windy. Much of the area was part of the Dust Bowl of the thirties and indeed, the past decade has had at least three years with less than ten inches of moisture for the entire year. But so far 2021 is different.

A minimum of three inches of snow fell in both January and February. Then the moisture really kicked up in March. Mid-month a three day rain event dropped 2.65 inches from the sky. Just over a week later, five to six inches of heavy wet snow fell.

April brought wind and a few small showers. I was worried that the faucet in the sky might shut off. The night temperatures stayed above the freezing mark from mid-month. This is very unusual.

Fortunately, the rains picked up again in May. Less than three weeks in and 3.3 inches of rain have fallen. The end result of all this moisture is a good base for the 2021 Springtime in the Garden.

Significant Milestones

Spring Arrival

So far April has spotlighted a variety of significant milestones. Both sad and happy. Definitely a rollercoaster of emotions to open one of my favorite months of the year. Spring is a time of rebirth in nature as well as in the religion I adhere to.

Easter 2021 Brings Significant Milestones

This Easter was a bit more social than last. We celebrated with one of our offspring and my mother-in-law. So double the number from Easter 2020. Much of the family is reluctant to travel at this time.

But the four of us enjoyed the fellowship and the good food. We missed seeing the little ones. Easter egg hunts last for hours at a normal gathering with various kids taking their turn to hide the eggs. Hopefully, next year will be a return to normality.

The Easter season brings memories of those who have left this earthly world. I am still absorbing the loss of my Mom. Two significant milestones relating to her fell just after Easter. Her first birthday after her passing. This was difficult. Additionally, it would have been my parents’ sixtieth anniversary. So, sadness and a few tears marked the week.

Significant Milestones

Several significant milestones were joyful. Most centered on our oldest grandchild. The little one has embraced her newborn sister. Furthermore, she is grasping the difference between a newborn and herself. Just shy of two, she has decided to use her little potty. I am sure this will be beneficial for her parents as well.

The little miss is also increasing her vocabulary by leaps and bounds. She can tell you her own name. Plus she pleased her grandparents immensely by learning Grandpa and Grandma-in that order. It is amazing the joy a youngster can bring in life.

We are also pleased that after a few sputters, the U.S. is rolling out the vaccines. While we are not all clear yet, there is hope we can put this stubborn pandemic behind us. Historically, we should be near the end of the virus lifespan. But, many outbreaks remain from Covid-19. I hope those of you who wish to be vaccinated are able to.

Looking Forward

The last few weeks have been marked by both writer’s and reader’s block. I may need to put aside the lengthy book I am reading in favor of a shorter, lighter piece. Just writing this post has helped with respect to the writing. Spring marks a renewal of life and faith: A season I am so grateful for.