Saturday, November 19, 2016

5 Minutes You'll Never Get Back

Last night as we were getting settled in bed Gizmo decided he needed to snuggle. He may be all sorts of wonderful but a snuggle dog Gizmo is not... He just doesn't have that soft, squishy, comfortable-to-cuddle-on-your-lap kind of body and he doesn't usually even try but every now and then he decides you are in desperate need of a dose of his kind of lovin' and heaven help you, there's not a darn thing you can do about it. You will be Gizzered!

Gizmo, November 11, 2016
Last night was my lucky night...

He took a mighty leap at my side and ended up clinging for dear life with his front legs wrapped over the top of my head and the rest of his body hanging down past my shoulder. His embrace felt more like being trapped in the clenches of a love sick baboon than something pleasant, but I love my little dude so I endured it. Jack was sound asleep and snoring by my other knee already folded into as neat a little ball as a 100-lb Doberman can get which is, actually, surprisingly compact. And in that moment, for no apparent reason whatsoever, I got the giggles. Like out of control, could not stop, shrieking-at-the-top-of-my-lungs kind of giggles proving once again that I am awfully easy to keep entertained. Anyway, I laughed so hard there were tears running down my face. I was gasping for breath and probably turning blue from lack of oxygen. I laughed so hard I almost threw up. Lightning was so worried! He kept stomping round and round and over the top of me, crushing a lung in the process, and sniffing at my face. His expression was utter confusion about what was wrong with me. I guess I don't indulge in a good hard laugh often enough... I guess that needs to change!

Jack, November 11, 2016
After I finally got myself under control, and Gizmo off of me, I decided I was hungry and deserved a snack for surviving such a most excellent workout. I've been very good and didn't even buy any easy-grab-and-snack-junky stuff on the last grocery run so I had to resort to one of my Mom's standby munchies: buttered saltines. Yeah, I know. Ew! Could there be a food that tastes more like cardboard? And butter "just greases it up so it slides better," as she used to say. My Mom buttered everything. Everything. Even pepperoni pizza. But I digress... We were snacking on crackers (which I don't even like except with chili and then it's more like I have a little chili with my bowl of crushed up crackers) and Lightning burps like a third grader in a school yard contest. I swear if he knew how, that was a burp where he could have got the whole alphabet out. He looked as surprised by it as I was!

Lightning, November 11, 2016
To celebrate his utter lack of good manners and top the evening off, I took on the challenge of getting all 3 boys to howl at the moon with me. Not an easy fete! It's like they know howling is a talent that they missed the heavenly line up to get for this lifetime so it takes some serious effort to get an "owoooooo" going. And they still sound more like strangling goats than anything... Is it sad that I have a better howl than my dog? True story!

If you're still reading you've either laughed with me at least once or I just succeeded in wasting 5 minutes of your life that you've got no chance of ever getting back.  Either way...

Thanks for sharing in my bit of ridiculousness!!

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Several nights ago I was having a hard time going to sleep, and then staying asleep once I found my dreamland, so I spent some of the dark hours looking at the stars.  They are so bright and clear here in Ellenboro!  Even brighter and bigger than I remember from childhood when my Dad would try, with unending patience... even as I'm sure I unendingly tried his patience with just not getting it, to show me how to find the constellations of Idaho's night sky.  During my gazings, and trying to equate what I saw in the sky to what the Sky Map app on my phone told me I was looking at, I started to wonder at the imagination of whoever anciently decided which stars go together in that cosmic scale dot-to-dot we call constellations.  These are the stars of Capricornus.  You don't see that astrological goat the zodiac uses to symbolically describe the attributes of people like me who are born between mid-December and mid-January either?

Now?  Having the lines drawn in sure makes it easier to see...  My mind is still in awe at the idea that another human brain came up with this.  How did they pick one star over another, that our finite earthly sight, looks close enough to keep the same shape? And what inspired them to look for patterns among the stars?  What keeps us looking today?

I fully admit that any time I go outside at night, I look up.  And I can usually spot the Big Dipper, a part of the Ursa Major constellation, and sometimes even its smaller counterpart that features the North Star, Polaris, as the bright jewel of its handle.

That, sadly, is about the extent of my ability without the help of some sort of chart or map or more experienced star gazer.  I fear wouldn't get far if I had to navigate a trip using the stars... Thank goodness today our cells phone offer an app for that!

I was still star gazing at 1:00 am when the dogs decided they just had to go out.  With the door open to slip the lead onto Lightning's collar, I noticed one really bright star just over the top of the hill this little cabin faces.  I took a guess that it might be Sirius.  I was right!!  How appropriate to be greeted by the "dog star" on that particular errand!
When we were all settled under the blankets again, I noticed on my app how many planets were lined up on or next to the line identified as the ecliptic.  I don't know that this kind of planetary alignment has any special meaning or not, or that the planets were even all lined up anywhere but on my phone app, but it reminded me how big and very ordered this universe we call home really is.  And what a small bit of dust I am in it.  And yet my Bible and my experience tells me that I am important enough that the very God who created all this takes thought of me.  Even when I'm questioning and don't really feel like I've got much of His attention lately... Maybe that's the best reminder of all that I could draw from a night spent looking at the stars and wondering about what's really out there.

See how the Moon, Neptune, Mars, and Pluto are lined up?  Uranus was on the
same line beyond this screen capture beyond the Moon on the one side and
both Venus and Mercury were beyond Pluto on the other.  That faint line is noted
as the Ecliptic and points to the Sun.

And how amazing is it that we can see (maybe with the help of a telescope) so many strange and different worlds?  Wouldn't visiting them be an adventure to blog about?

(All photos in this post are screen captures from the Sky Map app for Androids.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sheepherder Potoatoes

Finished dish... see how the water has thickened into a sauce?
Both of my Grandmas were young wives with young families to keep fed during The Depression. They had to get really good at making something out of nothing... My Grandma Clarke made a dish she called Sheepherder Potatoes that fits that description.

By the time I came along, she had a few more luxuries and made them in an electric skillet. That's what I remember and am trying to describe here. Once she had her skillet nicely warmed, she'd thinly slice potatoes and add them to the skillet with enough water to cover about 2/3 of the way and add a pat or two of butter and salt and pepper.  Be generous with the pepper!  Then she'd put the cover on and step away to do whatever else needed doing in her day while the potatoes simmered on low for a couple of hours.  They only need a gentle stir once in awhile when you check to make sure there's still water on them. When the potatoes are soft enough to start breaking apart, the dish is done.  Spoon out a taste and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.  The water will have thickened from the starch cooking out of the potatoes to make a peppery sauce, or gravy.

Everything is in the pan and ready to start simmering away.
Sounds simple?  It is.  And I think that's part of why it tastes so surprisingly good!  It's totally uncomplicated... just honest, simple, down-home comfort food.

I attempted to make some on top of the little Coleman Camp Stove that serves as my indoor cooking appliance on this mostly off-grid adventure.  I didn't achieve perfection with a dull knife, no cutting surface, imprecise heat, and a foil "lid" but I improvised with what I had and got close to what she made.  And they tasted pretty darned good!!

I can't remember now if there was a meat she served these potatoes alongside or not but while I was eating them I had visions of a green vegetable, maybe like sauteed spinach or chard, and a nice pan roasted trout.

Yup.  I'm STILL jonesing to go fishing...

Warning: Political Post

Today is election day 2016... Can't wait until it's over and we can figure out which half of the country is most angry.  It's almost like waiting to see if we are entering a civil war or ushering in the apocalypse if you read much political commentary.  I think both major party candidates are very sad choices... and I just can't make myself choose which is the lesser of two evils because that's still evil.  Meh!

Here in Ritchie County, West Virginia the battle to be settled is whether or not one may hunt on Sunday.  That a personal lifestyle choice like that is even an issue in the 21st century simply stuns me, but it is a very heated ballot issue here.  Hunting is probably not how I would choose to spend my Sunday but I don't feel like I have the right to make that choice for you.  And if you can gauge the feeling in the religious community from the radio ads, that seems to be a common feeling.  I've listened to more than one pastor come out in support of allowing Sunday hunting because "time spent in nature is a wonderful way to commune with God."

And then these signs started appearing alongside the ones urging approval.  The choices are outright approval, approving Sunday hunting on private land only, and continuing the ban on it.

If you had this choice on your ballot today, how would you vote?  Why?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Periods Will Still Happen

This video came up in my Facebook feed awhile back and I just haven't been able to get it off my mind. I'm not thinking about the information in quite the spirit it was presented, though.  This got me thinking in a whole different direction.

The producers, a group called Bustle, make an excellent point about how hard it is to be a woman when you are living on the streets.  I don't want to detract from their message in any way because it's good and valid and something so very overlooked.  I know when I've been part of a humanitarian project supplying sanitary supplies to homeless people, or to refugee families being re-settled in my town or that were being sent to an area with a recent natural disaster, we all thought about things like soap and toothpaste and even toilet paper and disposable razors.  But no one thought to add tampons or pads to the personal care packages. Not even once. As a woman it blows my mind that it didn't come to mind as a need for other women.

If that aspect of the film touches your heart and you feel inspired to do something about it... please, do!

While you are watching, the Mormon girl in me who's heard the lifelong drill to be prepared and have an emergency supply of food and other needs set aside in storage is asking you to think about the setting you see yourself living in after a disaster.  Doesn't it look a lot like today's homelessness?

I think we can take a very good lesson from these ladies who were brave enough to share their very personal stories for our own preparations.  Add feminine hygiene products to your emergency preparedness supplies/food storage.  Maybe you've already thought about it and have some, even enough to take care of your anticipated needs quite well, so think about adding more for these two reasons:
  • You'll have some to share with women who have the need but no supplies.  That will do your heart and spirit good.
  • You'll also have a valuable commodity for trading in an emergency situation.  You can use them to get things you need, or want, but don't have. That will do your survival and comfort good.

If you think trading them sounds cold and heartless...  I'd also ask you to consider other products that will be valuable for trading in that situation.  Even if they don't have a place in your personal lifestyle choices there will be people desperately trying to get their hands on these items so they will quickly become very valuable commodities. For example:

Hard liquor
Coffee (both for brewing and instant)
Coffee Creamer

Thursday, November 3, 2016


If I told you I visited a place that looked like the set of a Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie would you think I was drunk, dreaming or telling you a tall tale?

Well... that's exactly what I'm telling you about Marietta Ohio!  

Middle Island is one of several islands in the Ohio River that
are in some state of being returned to nature as wildlife preserves.
This guide provides more information about the plans, activities
that are available and a map of the islands:
I wasn't sure what to expect when, during Jason's last visit, he suggested we keep exploring after a look around St. Mary's and checking out the 235-acre former farm turning back to nature for a wildlife preserve on Middle Island and headed over their lovely old metal bridge.  

But I surely was in for a good surprise!!  It was getting late enough in the afternoon that we were losing light for photographs, and a good look around, so we made plans to go back the next day.

Bridge between St. Mary's, WV and Ohio
We made that exploration a continuation of a trip to the dog park so the boys got an extra treat of taking a little walk around Muskingum Park right on the bank of the Ohio River in downtown Marietta.  They loved it!  And, even with one or the other them pulling me in 20 different directions all at the same time, I managed to get some pictures...

Muskingum Park
Dedication Marker
The park commemorates the westward expansion of our country beyond the original 13 colonies and is now home to a beautiful walking trail and a thriving arts and music community. The section we explored is situated between the downtown business district and a residential area with a number of historical marker-ed houses and churches.

One of the current arts programs is turning several dead trees into art installations by carving historical figures from the stumps like this one.  I didn't find a marker telling me who it is in place yet but I think it's a pretty neat idea to give these old trees a living voice to the history they witnessed.

Memorial to the Start Westward

Memorial to the Start Westward
Looks like it's time for a little more
restoration work...

We eventually headed back toward the cabin over the "Green Bridge," another of these really cool old ironworks bridges that have me so completely fascinated and charmed.

The Green Bridge between Marietta OH and Williamstown WV

And since I was driving, we took a couple more little side-trips to see stuff that interests me.  One of them was to the old Fenton Art Glass Factory in Williamstown.

Fenton Art Glass factory in Williamstown, WV

Sadly, the company ceased making art glass pieces in 2011 and there's just a gift shop that wasn't open the day we were there.  Seeing the glass production is something I would have loved...  Their wikipedia page gives some interesting facts about its founding and pictures the kind of glass pieces they produced at different times during the company's lifetime.