Friday, October 20, 2017

Moon and Stars Watermelons

     A serious up side to our move to from the west side to the east side of Washington State is the increased warmth and the resultant longer growing season.  This allowed me to grow watermelons in my garden for the first time since 1977.  I grew four different kinds.  One plant was a Sugar Baby, a type of small personal sized watermelon.  I grew that at Linda's request.  I have to confess that I am a little unclear on the concept when it comes to growing small watermelons on purpose.  I misplaced one of the seed packets so I'm unsure of the names of one of the varieties that I grew.  It was a nice round red-fleshed watermelon that ripened earlier than the others.  I also grew an orange-fleshed variety called Tendersweet.  Those melons were medium sized and were somewhat elongated.  However, the obvious  "Star" attractions of the watermelon patch were the red-fleshed Moon and Stars watermelons.  These were the last to ripen, but they were easily the largest melons.  That plant set two melons, the largest one weighing 34 pounds.  The reason for that name is pretty obvious.  The melons start out green striped, but at some point the skin turns darker green and lots of yellow dots appear all over the melon.  The yellow dots are the stars while the big yellow patch on the underside of the melon is the moon. They are really quite pretty watermelons.

     Moon and Stars is an heirloom variety.  Obviously it has seeds. Another trait of many of the older watermelon varieties is a much thicker rind than most modern watermelons.  Obviously some people considered a thick rind to be the sort of flaw that needed to be bred out of watermelons.  Anyone who has raised chickens would disagree.  Watermelon rind is my chicken's favorite treat.  I usually throw all of the watermelon rinds into the chicken pen. The following day the rinds are like curled up pieces of green paper.  The chickens peck out everything except the green skin.

Moon and Stars Watermelon

    Another benefit to a thicker rind is the possibility of pickled watermelon rind.  I remember my mother making pickled watermelon rind when I was a child.  This is a well known pickle in the South.  On the other hand, when the subject of pickled watermelon rind is raised, people from the North will often comment that they had never heard of such a thing.  I wasn't raised in the South, but my mother was.

    Recently my sweet wife gave me a special gift, a book entitled "The Joy of Pickling".  This book happened to have three different watermelon rind pickle recipes.  I tried out two of them.  The first recipe was called Gingery Watermelon Pickles and involved first soaking the peeled watermelon rind in pickling salt.  After a six to twelve hour salt soak, the pieces of rind are rinsed and cooked in a syrup seasoned with lemon, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon seeds, cloves, and allspice berries.  The second recipe was called Minty Watermelon Pickles.  In this recipe the peeled watermelon rind was first soaked in pickling lime (CalciumOxide) for eight to twelve hours.  After rinsing, the pieces of rind were cooked in a seasoned syrup containing the same seasonings as the first recipe.  The only difference was the addition of a sprig of mint to each jar before it was sealed.  Both recipes turned out well.  The primary difference was that the first recipe produced a somewhat soft pickle while second recipe produced a very crisp pickle.  I actually found the pickles made with lime to be a little too crisp.   I will have to try it again with a reduced time soaking in the lime water.

     My mother sampled the Gingery Watermelon Pickles and commented that they tasted very close to the watermelon pickles she remembered growing up in Arkansas.  However, the watermelon pickles she had as a child had more sugar and less vinegar.  I was surprised by this as there was a lot of sugar in the syrup used in each of the two recipes.

Gingery Pickled Watermelon Rind

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mom's Very Well Used Cookbook

        My sister recently shared with me a cookbook my mother had given her.  It was a very well used cookbook that my mother had received as a wedding gift about 67 years ago.  The cover was gone so I don't know the name of the cookbook other than it isn't The Joy of Cooking.  I know that only because that was Mom's other "Go to" cookbook.   Of particular interest to me was the fact that the book contained 5 recipes my mother had added in places where there was a convenient amount of blank space.  That seems to me to be a very good feature in a cookbook, room to add additional recipes.  I thought I should preserve these recipes and some of the stories behind them.

      The first recipe is called quart relish.  This recipe came from Mrs Washburn, the mother of Glen Washburn.  My father met Glen when they lived in Rock Island, Illinois. They were both members of a local motorcycle club and became good friends.  Glen was a large man and owned his own heating and refrigeration business.  He lived at home with his parents until he finally got married in his thirties.  My mother indicated that his living at home wasn't a case of failure to launch, but simply a matter of taking care of his parents due to their limited income.  Glen Washburn had an incredible knack of showing up at my parent's home whenever my mother had just baked a pie or his favorite banana cake. His mother's quart relish recipe is a fitting memorial to their friendship.

      Quart relish gets it's name from the fact that the relish is made from a quart each of the seven main ingredients. The recipe for Quart Relish is as follows;

   Mix together  one quart each of ground Cabbage, Green Tomatoes, Onions, Unpeeled Apples, and Bell Peppers. (However, the apples should be cored)

    Press out the excess liquid and add one quart of vinegar, one quart of sugar, one tablespoon of mustard seeds, and one tablespoon of salt (obviously pickling salt).

   Mix all of this together and bring to a boiling point. Simmer for five minutes and pack into sterilized jars.   Makes approximately 5 quarts.

   I would like top add a few editorial comments.  This recipe is elegantly simple. The only thing difficult about making this or any other relish is grinding up the vegetables in a meat grinder. Note that the instructions didn't include water bath canning of the finished product.   When my mother was a young housewife, this type of open kettle canning of jams, jellies, and pickles was common.  Since the relish contains a fair amount of vinegar and sugar,  chances are good that it would keep well without water bath canning. I don't ever remember any of Mom's quart relish lasting long enough to go bad. All the same, I would recommend processing the finished relish in a water bath canner for ten minutes.   I have not used this particular recipe although I have eaten a fair amount of quart relish over the years.  It is quite tasty and the recipe is worthy of recording for posterity.  My sister and her daughters recently made a batch of quart relish and I was a fortunate recipient of a pint.  I haven't opened it yet only because the flavor of most pickled products improves if one has the patience to wait three weeks after the pickles are made before the pickles are eaten.

    While we are on the subject of relish I think we should list Green Tomato Relish as the second recipe.   I made this relish just a few days ago and I was very pleased with the results.  It came out very close to the store bought sweet pickle relish that I love to put on hotdogs.   Mom was fairly certain that she got this recipe from her grandmother, Lillie Etta Heiskill, the wife of Enos Henry Sinor.   The Sinors were subsistence farmers in Baxter County, Arkansas.  They raised most of their own food in a one acre vegetable garden and as my mother put it, "They weren't the kind of people who wasted stuff."

    I too had a large vegetable garden this year, although I don't think it was anything close to an acre.  It was probably closer to a quarter of an acre. That is still a fairly large garden by today's standards.  I planted about ten tomato plants and they produced profusely.  In anticipation of frosts in the not too distant future, I started pulling up the tomato vines for the compost pile and harvesting the tomatoes, ripe or not (mostly not).   I ended up with three five gallon buckets full of green tomatoes.  Some of them I plan to store and let them continue to ripen.  However, that isn't a workable strategy for 15 gallons of green tomatoes. Therefore, I was very happy to give the green tomato relish a try.  Between the green tomato relish and three other green tomato pickle recipes I've tried, I'm now down to a mere ten gallons of green tomatoes ripening in my shop.

         Green Tomato Relish

   1 cup of salt ( pickling salt of course)
   1 gallon green tomatoes
   1 gallon ground cabbage
   1 dozen medium onions, ground
   1 dozen sweet peppers, ground
   12 to 16 hot peppers, ground (according to taste).  I only added a few JalapeƱo peppers, partly because I only had a few hot peppers on hand and partly because I don't like really hot food.
   6 cups of sugar (or more)
   2 teaspoons of powdered dry mustard
   1 teaspoon of ground cloves
   1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
   1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
   1 teaspoon of celery seed
   1/2 gallon of vinegar.

   Add the salt to the ground tomatoes and let stand.  (The instructions didn't indicate how long to let the salted ground tomatoes stand.  I simply ground up the tomatoes first and let them stand while I ground up the other vegetables.)
   Drain the remaining ground vegetables in a cloth bag.
   Drain the tomatoes.
   Mix the drained vegetables with the tomatoes.
   Add the sugar, mustard, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric and vinegar.
   Boil five minutes.
   Add the celery seed.
   Pour while hot into sterile jars and seal.
   Makes approximately 20 pints.

Green Tomato Relish

     I have a few comments to make about this recipe.  Note again the absence of water bath canning in the instructions.  I processed my relish in a water bath canner for ten minutes.   Also note that most recipes from the 40s and 50s made large volumes of finished product.  Big families were more the rule then.  Also, while this recipe is not complicated, the grinding is a bit of work.  My feeling is "In for a penny, in for a pound."  If I'm going to the trouble of getting the meat grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer dirty, I'd rather do it for 20 pints of relish, rather than for a mere five pints.  Besides, the relish turned out so well that we will probably end up giving some of it as gifts.   If I don't make 20 pints, there may not be enough relish to last me until the next time I have a serious surplus of green tomatoes.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

An Adventurous Trip to the River.

      A few days ago (I believe it was Monday) Linda and I took two visiting grand children to Leslie Grove Park in Richland. It is a nice park on the Columbia River in the north part of town.  The purpose of our visit was to give Natalie (9) and Conner (7) a chance to cool off playing in the river.  As we arrived at the park I noticed the wind had picked up a bit. As I blew up an air mattress (shaped like a sea turtle) I was questioning the wisdom of letting the kids play at the river with this much wind. I knew there was no diplomatic way to be the wet blanket. Just as I was about to tell the kids that it was too windy, I looked down river and saw a big blur that was heading our way. It was like the sandstorm scene in the movie Hidalgo on a smaller scale.  You could see lightning and rain coming our way.

     The front hit about ten seconds later as the wind changed almost instantly from about 15 mph to 40 mph. We were running to the car as we were pelted by sand from the nearby beach volleyball courts. Shortly after we managed to get the kids and our stuff loaded into the car the deluge hit. Richland gets less than ten inches of rain in a year so it is a very rare occasion to see serious rain.  Instead of an afternoon at the river we settled for a bit of an adventure and a trip to Wendy's. 

     Our granddaughter Natalie is a serious cat lover and has been trying hard to win the affection of our somewhat grumpy cat, Mrs Buzz Saw.  It is a source of serious frustration to Natalie that Mrs Buzz Saw spurns her efforts to make friends. It irritates Natalie all the more that I generally ignore the cat, who responds by showering her affection on me. I'm not the one who dispenses kitty treats. I'm not the one who feeds her or calls "kitty kitty".  Yet I'm the person Buzz Saw follows around when I'm working outside. When I sit down to watch a Mariner game the cat always comes to me when she wants to be petted.   Natalie has made an effort the past few days to try pretending she didn't like cats. She was hoping some aloofness would help draw the cat to her. Sadly, she just couldn't pull it off. The cat seemed to recognize that Natalie's apparent apathy towards cats was insincere.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Elk Hunting in Wyoming

   I returned from a trip to Lander, Wyoming a few weeks ago.  I had been invited to go elk hunting by my good friend Quentin, who used to work with me at the Beez Neez Apiary Supply.  The elk hunting didn't go too well because of the unseasonably warm weather. The elk were still in the high country because there had been no snow to drive them down to their winter range.  Unfortunately I had a tag for the area where the elk weren't. I did see a few large herds of elk about 5 miles south of our hunting area.  The elk hunt may have been unsuccessful, but it was still a wonderful trip.  I saw a lot of incredible scenery and enjoyed hanging out with an old friend.  It finally snowed the day before I left to come home.  I had the adventure of hunting elk in a Wyoming blizzard.  The visibility for most of the day was about 20 feet.  An elk would have had to trip over the truck for us to shoot one.

Our view from the truck, waiting for better visibility
    Our hunting area consisted of several hundred square miles of prairie intersected by the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and the Pony Express route.  Our area included the place where the Willie and Martin handcart companies crossed the Sweetwater River and the Rock Creek Hollow memorial site.  We visited the Rock Creek Hollow memorial twice, once in pleasant weather and once during the blizzard.  I am amazed at the faith of the early saints who were willing to endure incredible trials for the gospel's sake.  The weather was miserable with good clothing. I could only imagine the misery of the poor hand cart pioneers who didn't have the benefit of good winter clothing.  I later learned that Quentin had helped build the stone memorial at Rock Creek Hollow when he was 14 years old.  His ward built the memorial as a youth project so Quentin hauled rock and mixed mortar.

Willie Handcart Company Memorial

         We may not have seen a lot of elk, but we sure saw a lot of Pronghorn antelope.  I would estimate that we saw over 1500 antelope on most of the days we were hunting.   Each antelope herd consisted of about 50 to 100 animals and we usually saw more than 20 separate herds on a given day.  Sometimes they stood and watched us, but usually they would take off running.  It was impossible to count them all.  The Pronghorn is North America's fastest land animal. Quentin told me that they can reach 55 miles per hour.  Their horns are quite unique in that they shed them every year.  We stopped at one point when Quentin noticed a pronghorn shed lying in the middle of the dirt road.  After I had picked it up he told me that he had only found about five pronghorn sheds in his life.  Amazingly, I found another one just five minutes later.  They turn grey as they weather and look just like a stick on the ground. I wouldn't have been able to spot it except for the fact that I noticed it was hollow.

Where the deer and the antelope play

      The above photo shows a herd of antelope on the ridge line with a solitary mule deer walking in front of them.  This was one of the few antelope herds that just stood and watched us.  In addition to the multitude of antelope, I also saw numerous jack rabbits, sage hens, wild horses, and one coyote.  We mostly saw the jack rabbits in the evening while we were driving back to the paved road.  The jack rabbits' fur turns white in the winter.  Normally that gives them pretty good camouflage.  It was having the opposite effect because of the absence of snow.  The white jack rabbits were looking pretty exposed. I'm sure they were feeling pretty relieved when the snow finally arrived.

Sage hen hiding behind a clump of sage brush

A white jack rabbit attempting to hide by holding still

       We probably saw about 40 wild horses, usually in groups of 5 or less.   Quentin told me that they used to hold round ups to reduce the wild horse population. I had heard about programs that allowed people to adopt a wild mustang.  That currently doesn't happen because some environmentalist group filed a lawsuit.  I'm not sure what their objection was.  Note how even the hoof print is in the photo below.  Since they spend a lot of time running on rocky ground their hooves wear fairly evenly.  It is all of that standing around on soft ground that makes horse shoes necessary.  Based on the number of hoof prints I saw I'm thinking there are a whole lot of wild horses roaming central Wyoming.

Wild Horses

A Hoof Print for Hannah

Monday, November 21, 2016

Speaking in Church

     A few weeks ago, Linda and I both spoke in church.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as Mormons, we have no paid clergy.  Various members of the congregation are given opportunities to speak each Sunday, usually on an assigned topic. Linda and I were both assigned to speak on recognizing and following personal revelation.  One of my daughters has since requested we provide copies of our talks for her children.  Since communication with my grandchildren is one of the primary purposes of my blog I thought I might as well just include it in the blog.  I'm somewhat inclined to ad-lib so I usually don't give a talk exactly how I wrote it.  However, in this particular case I followed my written remarks fairly closely.  After all of that preamble, what follows is the talk I gave in the Desert Hills Ward on October 24th, 2016:

     Since we are relatively new to the ward I thought I should give you a brief introduction to our family. Linda and I both grew up in Richland and graduated from Richland High School. In fact, we met in the Carmichael Junior High School orchestra.  I served a mission in Northern Italy and we were married about four months after I got home from my mission. We moved away about a year after we were married and then spent seven years in the Air Force living at various times in Monterey, California, San Angelo, Texas, Bellevue, Nebraska, and Eielson AFB, Alaska near Fairbanks.  I then was hired by the FBI and we spent 9 years in Houston, Texas followed by 13 years in the Seattle Division where I retired in 2006. For the past ten years I have owned a beekeeping supply store in Snohomish, Washington which hopefully will be sold by the end of the year.

     We have 25 grand children, soon to be 26 grand children.  I tell people that I am wealthy beyond my wildest dreams. I would refer you to Proverbs 17:6   "Children are an heritage of the Lord....As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man...Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them."  My mother, Cozette Tunnell, has lived with us for the past ten years or so. I keep telling Linda that I should get one of those T shirts that says "I still live with my mother." One of the remarkable coincidences in our family is that not only do I share my mother's birthday, but we have two grand daughters who also share our birthday.  some of this brief bio actually has some relevance to the topic Linda and I have been asked to address, which is  recognizing and following personal revelation.

    I would like to start with a little foundational material, quoting from the second paragraph of the Family Proclamation..."All human beings - male and female - are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and as such, each has a divine nature and destiny."  We can learn a great deal from this short quote.  First note that it says "beloved spirit son or daughter". So we are the spirit children of heavenly parents who love us and we have a divine nature and destiny.  I would offer that divine destiny means there are important things that God wants us to accomplish in this earth life.

   I would also refer you to 2 Nephi 2:25  "Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy."  So not only are there important things God wants us to do in this earth life, part of that divine destiny is having joy.  So God wants us to be truly happy.  Not the fleeting happiness that the world seeks, but that abiding joy that comes when we live our lives in accordance with God's will and do our best to follow his counsel.

    Then I would refer you to the numerous scriptures where we are commanded to pray and to seek knowledge, understanding, and guidance from our loving Heavenly Father.  One of my favorites being James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

     So the basic principles are pretty simple. Let's review them once more.
1. We are the beloved spirit children of heavenly parents.
2. We have a divine nature and destiny.
3.  That divine destiny means there are important things we are supposed to accomplish during our earth life.
4. That divine destiny also means we are intended to have joy.
5. We are commanded to ask God for guidance and direction and we are promised that He will give us wisdom liberally.

     I would suggest that a great place to start following personal revelation is to read your Patriarchal Blessing.  If you don't have one, talk to the Bishop and do whatever it is you must do to be worthy of a patriarchal blessing.  I know that there is a younger age limit in that the Bishop has to determine you are mature enough to be ready to receive a patriarchal blessing. apparently the only upper age limit to receiving a patriarchal blessing is that you aren't dead yet.

     My patriarchal blessing has been very helpful to me in that it has functioned as a road map to important life goals, such as serving a mission and marrying the right person in the right place. Linda isn't mentioned by name in my blessing, but I was promised that I would find a good girl who was willing, able, and prepared to go to the temple.  I feel very strongly that marrying Linda was an important part of my life's mission. I prayed about that decision and realized that I wouldn't find anyone who would be a better mother to my children. That important prayerful decision has payed enormous dividends in my life as so much of my present happiness stems from it. If you have made a prayerful decision regarding marriage it also makes it much easier to persevere through the difficult times that happen in most marriages. I am not saying that it is church doctrine that there is only one right person for each of us to marry.  I just know that I was supposed to marry Linda and my life has been blessed because I followed the Lord's counsel in that decision. My patriarchal blessing also contained important counsel about obedience and following the counsel of church leaders as well as accepting assignments to serve in the church. I have never turned down an assignment to serve in the church and I know I have been blessed because of being willing to serve.

     The principles may be simple, but the application of the principles can be difficult at times. Linda and I have tried to seek direction from God in our lives.  I think in general we have done a pretty good job of getting direction from God in all of the important decisions we have made in our lives and in following His counsel. At times though it can be really difficult. We truly are like little children compared to God. He understands everything while we understand relatively little by comparison.  As a result we often don't ask the right question.  Linda gave one personal example of this regarding our transfer back to the Pacific Northwest.  In that case we got the right answer, but not for the reason we thought.  I'd like to give you another one where I received an important answer to prayer that didn't mean what I thought it did at first.

     Before we left Texas, my oldest son went through chemotherapy treatments for cancer.  The chemotherapy did a fine job of kicking the cancer to the curb, but it was very hard on him and damaged his immune system. Jonathan was a very smart boy. He was a National Merit Scholar and had earned a free ride scholarship to the University of Texas. It was his heart's desire to use that scholarship to attend the University of Texas.  All of this happened and then I finally got the transfer orders sending us back to Seattle.  It was very difficult for us to let him go away to school at the same time that we were moving, but it felt like it was the right thing to do.  A month or so after we left Texas, Jonathan fell ill and Linda flew down to Austin, Texas.  I followed a week later and I was able to see my son right before he died.

     When Jonathan was so sick I had earnestly prayed to my Heavenly Father and asked if he would be okay.  I received a very powerful answer that my son would be okay.  It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket of God's love.  It was very comforting and I assumed it meant that Jonathan would be healed and recover from his illness. But that wasn't the question I had asked.  I later realized that from God's perspective this was not a tragedy.  Jonathan was a very good young man and he was more than okay. Even if I had initially misunderstood the meaning of the answer to my prayer, it was very comforting to feel God's love.  I knew that He was mindful of us and the pain of our loss, but that our son was where he was supposed to be.

    At times I have been inspired to do things that were important for me to do, but I didn't realize it was inspiration at the time.  This is sort of like Christopher Columbus being inspired by the Holy Ghost to seek out the new world.  We know from one of Nephi's visions in the Book of Mormon that Columbus was inspired by the Holy Ghost, but I suspect Columbus may not have realized the source of his obsession at the time. My enlistment in the Air Force falls into this category. Linda's brother had joined the Air Force and I had given him a very bad time about that decision. Then, within a year, I did the very same thing. I could offer no logical explanation at the time for my flip flop.  As I look back on my life I now realize that I was supposed to do that and I can see how it impacted the rest of my life. I went into the Air Force with a guaranteed job as a linguist. That is how I learned to speak Russian, which subsequently helped me get hired as an FBI Special Agent.  I can't take much credit  for making that decision other than I did have a strong desire to do the right thing.  I was living the gospel and doing my best to keep God's commandments. Maybe the Lord knew I wouldn't be able to understand why I needed to do that so He just gave me a desire to do it and let me figure out the why when I was ready.

    So God cares about where we live, who we marry, what we do for a living, how we serve in the church, and a good many more things. He even cares who leads the music in the Primary. I served in the Bishopric for a while in our prior ward.  One of my responsibilities was the Primary.  Staffing is sometimes a problem in Primary as not everyone seems to realize what a special privilege it is to serve the children of the ward.  So one Sunday morning in Bishopric Meeting I was making recommendations to the Bishop regarding staffing the Primary.  I also suggested that I should inquire about a particular sister's music background in order to determine whether she might be a good choice to serve as the Primary Music Leader.  Our Bishop was very particular about making prayerful decisions about callings. He would usually prayerfully ponder names for weeks before making a decision to extend a calling. In this particular instance he surprised me and approved the name on the spot, directing me to extend the call.  When I met with the sister a week later, I extended the call and she readily accepted.  I then asked her about her music background and learned that she knew three chords on the guitar and could play "Hot Cross Buns". However, a week earlier she had the thought come into her head that Primary Music Leader would be a fun calling. She put a lot of effort into learning her calling and was a wonderful Primary Music Leader.  The children readily responded to her kind gentle demeanor.  I consider her to be a great example of a woman of faith.  She had every excuse available to decline the calling, but accepted it without hesitation.  She understood that who the Lord calls, He qualifies.  She had the faith that she could learn whatever skills she needed to serve effectively in that calling.   As I have thought about this since, I think I now realize why the Bishop was inspired to immediately approve the calling when I had merely suggested that I inquire about her music background.  If I had known that she had so little music background, I probably wouldn't have suggested we consider her for that calling.

    When we pray for guidance it is critically important that we pray with real intent.  That means we have to be willing to act on the answer.  He doesn't answer our prayers for guidance because we are merely curious.  With this in mind I would like to tell you the story of how we ended up moving to the Desert Hills Ward.  Linda is the one who received the initial spiritual promptings that we needed to move back to the Tri-Cities. I'm sure the Lord told her first because she was more willing to listen. I was quite content living where we had lived for the past 24 years.  I had lots of friends from church and from the community.  I had a big vegetable garden, my grape vines that I had started from cuttings, and fruit trees that I had grafted. I'm the sort of person who puts down deep roots. I was serving as a family history consultant in our ward which is a dream calling for a family history geek. I felt like I was making a serious difference in that calling.

    When Linda first brought up the idea of moving back to the Tri-Cities I was somewhat skeptical and even a little grumpy about it.  Okay, maybe I was a whole lot grumpy about it. However, she persisted and even pulled out the "I let you buy a bee store ten years ago" card and I had to agree that it truly was her turn to get to do something she wanted to do. However, just because I had agreed to it doesn't mean I had a good attitude about it. However, I also agreed that I would make it a matter of serious prayer. I think I prayed about it for more than a month before I received an answer.  We had come over to visit Linda's sister Liz, who lives in Richland.  While we were there the Spirit confirmed to me that we were indeed supposed to move back here.  With a very clear confirmation from the Spirit my attitude about moving changed significantly.  The move was still very painful and a great deal of work. It is just so much easier to do hard things  when we know that they are also the right things.  I still don't know all of the reasons we were supposed to move here, but I do know some of them. I'm sure I'll understand more with time. I always seem to understand life better through hindsight. However, it is a very good feeling to know that you are where the Lord wants you to be. It is also a wonderful feeling to know that He cares about where we live and that He still has service He wants us to perform and things He wants us to accomplish.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Birdwatching with Ali

    Every day that I am home I start my day by taking Ali on a walk.  A purebred English Setter, Ali doesn't consider these walks to be recreational. As far as she is concerned she is on a hunting trip.  Ali spends most of our walk diligently nosing the ground for the scent of quail, straining at the leash until she smells what she is seeking.  Once she has found the scent, she goes into stalk mode, walking carefully and more slowly, looking for her prey.  When she finds the birds, she goes into the classic "on point" stance.  She takes her hunting seriously and I find her quite entertaining to watch. I would have never guessed she is 13 years old from watching her hunt for quail.  She also pointed at ducks when there was water in the canal and occasionally points at the doves or the herons.

A Grey Heron Roosting Above the Beaver Pond

    A few days ago Ali came to the point position quite suddenly pointing toward a thick brushy area along the canal road.  As I was looking for the quail I thought she had found, a mule deer doe jumped up from behind the brush, not ten feet away.   I guess that is why its illegal to hunt deer with dogs.  The deer rely so heavily on their camouflage and their ability to hide.  With a dog on their scent, the poor deer have no place to hide. A few months back she pointed at a mink on the canal bank.  It really is fun to watch her work.

     I had been giving Ali the freedom to roam our property as she seemed inclined to stay put.  However, she has recently started taking herself for "walks" down by the empty canal.  Her walks have included supplemental activities such as rolling in the dead fish in the drained canal and crawling through the brush collecting cockleburs.  After such a "walk" yesterday afternoon she came home a dirty nasty mess.  I gave her a bath and spent several hours combing the burrs out of her coat.  Wet dog may not be a pleasant smell, but it is light years better than dead fish.



Monday, October 17, 2016

Western White Clematis, also known as Virgin's Bower

      I have finally discovered the name of the most likely source of my unexpected fall honey crop.  A friend from church advised me that the mystery vine, covered with white flowers is none other than Western White Clematis, also known as Virgin's Bower.  Once I had determined the name of the plant, I went on line to learn more about it.  Several web sites listed it as a minor honey plant, indicating that there usually isn't enough of it in one place to make a major contribution to the bees honey crop.  In our location it is quite plentiful along the river and the canal.  Every time I looked at it in late August and throughout September the blossoms were being worked by lots of honeybees.  It is very possible that there were other plants the bees were also working at that time, but I didn't notice any.  I took the dogs on a walk down by the canal almost every day that I was home so I have about six weeks of observations as to how much the bees seemed to like that particular blossom.

Western White Clematis, aka Virgin's Bower
    There is one way I can remove all doubt as to the source of my August and September honey harvest.  I can mail a sample of the honey along with a fifty dollar check to Texas A & M University.  They have developed a pretty accurate method of determining the floral source of any given honey sample.  They first determine the pollen content of the honey.  I'm not quite sure how they do that, but every floral source leaves a pollen fingerprint. When the bees are collecting nectar they can't help but get some pollen in the nectar. Based on the percentages of the various types of pollen found in the honey, the scientists can determine what the floral sources were.  Normally I am not sufficiently curious such that I would pay someone to determine the floral source of the honey my bees had collected.  Due to the fact that we are living in a new place and I am unfamiliar with what is available for my bees, I'm a little more willing to pony up the money to get a definitive answer.

After pollination the blossoms develop a hairy look similar to the Truffula trees in The Lorax 
            Another interesting thing about our new home is that there are lots and lots of praying mantises on our property.  I've found large green mantises and large brown mantises.  I've also found a lot of mantis egg cases in all sorts of places.  A month or so back, I was downstairs talking to my mom when I heard a blood curdling scream from upstairs.  I ran upstairs only to find Linda doing the praying mantis version of the bee dance with a very large praying mantis clinging to her shoulder for dear life.  Apparently,  the mantis had climbed onto her shoulder when Linda had gone out onto the front deck to water some plants.  I think it was a pretty traumatic experience for the both of them. I was able to rescue the mantis and return her safely to the outdoors.

The very mantis which terrorized Linda so much

A Mantis Egg Case