Sunday, November 20, 2016

Let's Save Humanity - NOT!

Don't ask me why but I've been watching several 'end of the world' type movies.  I am seeing a similar story line in each one. Basic story line:

  • World is going to end 
  • We can only save X number of people
  • Hero is NOT on the save list
  • Hero sacrifices and saves those who didn't want to save him or her
  • Various endeavors to make a new world
That's the general gist of each story - more or less. BUT... BUT!!!

This is the part that always gets my goat.  We save the heads of state. The politicians!  Why??  What is so special about them that they deserve to live and others don't?  Also, there is always that 'only those under X age will be allowed to be save' syndrome. 

Uh, has anyone actually taken a good look at Congress?  Or any government body of leading officials?  We're talking next door neighbors to the nursing home for most of them... and for some, I think a nursing home would be a better location, but that's a different rant.

That's right. We're always going to save the Queen of England and Parliament. We're going to save the President of the United States and all of Congress.

Oh, wait!!  We're not only saving them, but also their families.  Let's do a little math here.  We have Congress which is a group of 535 + the President and Vice-President.  Hmm?  That is a total of 537 people. Now, we add their spouses or significant other - another 537, plus some family. Of course, many of them are too old to have children living at home, but let's just average another 2 per Congress member.  Uh, that's another 1,074.  Hmm?  The way I see it, we're over 20% of the 10K people we can save... just with Congress.

Did I mention that we have to save scientists, engineers, and a few other specialty people, like doctors who will somehow miraculously have all the best equipment to save these people in the future when our planet has been ravaged? Of course, we must not forget the rich!  Those people who will offer up a couple million dollars, maybe more, to reserve a seat on the 'saved' list.

Using the math mentality as above for Congress - I'd say we've got more than 50% of the allotted space already used up... and we haven't even gotten to the average man.  You know, the guy who is going to work his ass of for all those who have been saved.  The farmer, the mechanic, the garbage collector, the salesgirl, the fast food counter help, the librarian, the ditch digger. Yeah, the grunt!

Now, stepping back and looking at this 'end of world' reality... with reality being the key word.

Do we really need to save every state Senator and House of Representative?  Uh, exactly what - WHAT? - are they going to represent and serve? 

Yes, I can see saving the President and Vice-President.  They are focal point, the stability of our past to help us face the new future.  Sure, save the Queen of England and the Prime Minister, too.  Even the President of France and sure, let's save the Pope.  But do we need 228 Cardinals?

Let's face facts.  If we don't save the blacksmith, the farmer, the mechanic, the pharmacist... who is going to do those jobs in the new future?  For somebody who has studied the quirks of law all their life and spent time on 'the Hill' - they aren't gong to be hunting, fishing, and definitely not going to out collecting the garbage to help society move forward.

Just once I'd enjoy watching a movie where we really consider humanity and how to save it.  Notice I said humanity?  Saving the POTUS and Queen is not about humanity - that is about society.  We're more concerned about saving 'our way of life' than saving life.

They always want to make the age cut-off be somewhere around 50.  Why 50?  If you want to save life, save the young - those who are under 30 or 35.  Yes, we will need a few 'seniors' who know a little more, but they would be advisers to teach the young.

Besides, do we really want to start a new world with an old mindset?  Why force politics into the saving.  Let the new generation figure out what they want.

We had our chance, let them have theirs, free of our thoughts.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, September 26, 2016

Just A Health Update

The last week has been HELL... no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

My wife was sick and two weeks ago I took her to the doctor and she got an antibiotic shot, a Z-pak, an inhaler and cough syrup. One week later, she is actually worse. She gets another "different" antibiotic shot and antibiotic pills plus an x-ray. She is return 24 hrs later.  X-ray shows her lungs as clear but all indications are pointing at pneumonia. They put her in the hospital.

So, one week ago (Sept 24) they do a cat scan to validate the x-ray. Plus, they have her on an antibiotic drip in her saline solution, a daily steroid shot, another different antibiotic shot, plus a lot of of other meds.  She comes around and on Tuesday late afternoon, they release her.

During this time, I'm coming down with a hack, congestion, runny nose and... yeah, I don't feel well.

So, they gave her some antibiotic pills.  They don't want her to take them. I bought them and I'm not about to just toss them.  That's right.  I took them in conjunction with a cold/flu capsule every four hours.  Talk about coming down from that high six days later - what a headache... but I'm feeling pretty good now.  A slight hack to break up the congestion but no real phlegm - I'm good.

Of course, I have to have a blood draw during this time since I have my diabetes doctor appointment after three months to see if my new medication is helping.

When I get up in the morning, my blood sugar is running about mid-70s to low-90s.  Sometimes it will drop below 70, but only 3 times. It is running over 100 in the morning, but not that often and I know why when it is - like drinking OJ at 2 in the morning.

My A1C went down.  I was hoping for below 6.  It was 6.8 and I wasn't too thrilled until I found that my dietitian and my doctor was quite happy with that number.  Anything below 7 is considered good. Plus, my weight is now a solid 245 - I've come down 6 pounds since June's appointment.  I was lower before June but the dietitian's diet was a lot of carbs and my weight went up and up. I decided to go back to my old diet plan and my weight has dropped.  And, with me now taking Victoza, my cravings and over-eating seem to be more controlled.  I prefer small meals, light meals and about every 3 to 4 hours - so I'm getting smaller meals, but more often.  My blood sugar is doing good.

Now, back to my wife. They never really figured out what she had and decided to call it a form of pneumonia.  She is still very weak and just getting out the chair is a major accomplishment.  Like she said, "Getting out the chair is so tiring, I just want to sit back down which defeats the purpose of getting up!"  She sleeps a lot and doesn't eat too much.

I'm now the guy who cooks ALL the meals and is supposedly keeping the house clean. The chickens aren't helping - they're laying 17-20 eggs daily. WalMart is causing issues - they're selling eggs for $.65/dozen.  I've lowered the price of my brown eggs to $1 but still not selling any.  In fact, I'm having trouble giving them away!!  Last week I had 10 dozen eggs to give away.  By the time I feed the chicken, give them water, collect the eggs and get back in the house, I'm whipped. Then I need to figure out a meal and cook it.

We've been eating pretty good - having made Pork Fritters, Chicken & Broccoli, Spanish Rice, Egg/Cracker Hamburgers, Salads, Twice-baked Potatoes, Cottage Fries, Stuffed Cabbage Balls, Cheesy Cauliflowers, and Cheesy Broccoli/Chicken Rice, I even made Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Homemade Tomato Soup (I mean, using tomato juice as the base and jacking it up with spices!) and other healthy from-scratch things.  So far, I haven't stooped to potato chips and/or PB&J sandwiches, but I may consider them down the road.

I'm going to get some of the freezer meals we made a month ago and use some of them. Maybe the next day or two will be Green Pepper Casserole and another day with Egg Rolls.  I'll have to see what is in the freezer.  I know there is some shrimp and I will definitely be using that!!  Maybe a roast, too.

The garden has decided to come to full harvest. I have tomatoes on 8 plants out in garden and there seems to be more red than green.  I green peppers are going crazy with a lot of peppers.  And the green beans for the last couple of months - lots and lots of flowers, but no beans.  NOW?  There are beans on those vines that would choke a horse.  I just don't have the time to get all of it done.

I attempted to start remodeling the RV just prior to my wife getting sick.  So, the RV toilet has been off for over 3 weeks.  I just need to get a couple of pieces and put it all back together - but I need to go to an RV center for the parts and that is an hour drive there and an hour drive back.  So that is going to wait until my wife and I are back to health.  Obviously we don't need it fixed right this minute since we're not traveling.  To put it back together will only take a couple of hours - I just need the time.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, September 18, 2016


There is a Bible verse about faith and the mustard seed. I'm not going assault you with religious beliefs or spout Biblical verses... only enough to say, sometimes it takes determination, too.

Why and how does determination fall into the same category as faith?  Glad you asked.

I live in NW Ohio and see the miracle of the mustard seed.  I really don't believe there are that many farmers in this particular area who are raising mustard as a cash crop, so to see those fields of yellow when the mustard plant is in bloom ... all the way to the road, I might add ... is a beautiful thing to behold, even if it is weed.

But I wanted to talk about determination.

Ever planted morning glories?  I did.  Oh, about six years ago.  My wife and I thought it would be amazing to see blossoms spiraling up the trellis on each side of our front porch entrance. It would allow some shade and look gorgeous. We talked it to death and finally decided to do multi-colored rather than "discuss" (btw, that's also known as argue) which color, sky blue or purple, would be better.

So, the spring of 2009 I purchased a packet of seeds and spread a few of them on each side of the steps leading up to the porch, in front of the trellis entrance.

I'll admit, they were stunning. Beautiful parasols of sky blue, shades of lavender and purple, whites and creams, pinks, reds and even stripes or ribbons of mixed colors. They bloomed all day long and filled the trellis... and then some.

Good soil means good roots and good roots means strong plants and strong plants means vigorous growth.  Yup! Those morning glories filled the trellis and I had to string fishing line along the front of the porch for the vines to continue growing.  Otherwise it would have appeared I was attempting to grow Jack's Bean Stalk.

My front porch is twenty-four feet across the front with the four-foot wide steps in the middle. Hence, ten foot on each side.  Those morning glories grew from the raised flower beds in front of the porch, twining around the trellis and finally almost to the very ends of the porch on the mangle and tangle of fish lines I'd created.

Being retired, we tend to sit on the front porch and enjoy the cool breezes, listen to the birds fly and chirp and laugh at the antics of the hummingbirds.  The vines had seeds and I gathered as many as I coiuld, trying to make sure I got the red and blue ones.

But, all is not well nor content.  The overgrowth of morning glories - a two-foot wide trellis which now encroached to almost four-foot wide... and all the dangling vines across the top.  The view of the front yard, traffic, neighbors walking walking the country road, etc... was almost non-existent!!

"We won't be planting morning glories on these trellis next year!!"

"HUH?" I almost dropped my plastic bag of about 3 bazillion seeds.  Maybe I exaggerate a little, it was only like about two pounds of seeds.

"If you want morning glories, plant them at the end of the wall. I can't see out and I want to see."

Hm? I have an eight-foot retaining wall. Morning glories on that could be quite attractive. "Okay."

"In fact, you could tear them out now - it won't hurt my feelings at all."

Two weeks later, about the last week of September, found me ripping out the roots of the morning glory plants and trying to get the tangle of vines out of the trellis.  Needless to say, seeds were popping out of their pods and going everywhere.  I got the "most" of it out and threw the vines over the edge of the retaining wall.  The seeds could grow there next year.

Leap forward in time to Spring/Summer of 2010.

Dear Diary: Today  ripped another 200+ morning glory plants out of the raised beds. I think that makes it over 1000 plants I've weeded so far this year.

Leap forward in time to Spring/Summer of 2011.

Dear Diary: I can't believe I'm still pulling out morning glory plants from in front of the trellis.

Leap forward in time to Spring/Summer of 2012.

Dear Diary: Still pulling some morning glory plants out of of the raised beds. Found some blooming ones on the ground by the retaining wall.

BIG leap forward in time to Summer of 2016.

Yeah, I'm still pulling morning glory plants out of the raised bed.  So far this year, about 8 plants.  Last year, in desperation, I used RoundUp and put down three inches of mulch.  I can't believe the persistence of these seeds.  I also did RoundUp at the retaining wall and from what I can tell, those no longer grow.  Of course, this could be a "psych" year for them and they'll be back next year with a fervor to put out even more seed.

Now, the interesting thing is this.  I don't have any mustard plants in my yard, but if you are interested in a morning glory plant - I bet I might be able to find you one come next year if you decide to stop by. Just let me know you'll be coming so I don't tear it out before you get here.

Oh, and why did I want to discuss persistence?  I almost forgot.  November is coming which means National Novel Writing Month will happen.  It's also known as NaNoWriMo.  Anyway, you must write fifty thousand words in thirty days.  Now, there is persistence!  You need to write 1667 words each day as an average.  I have learned over the years - yes, I've done this for FOURTEEN years now, almost from its original inception, you must focus and have persistence... like a morning glory. Sure, you can have faith like a mustard seed, but it will take the persistence to keep you on track.  So, now is the time for you to outline your story, do your research and develop your characters.  Come November 1, you can plow into the frenzy and enjoy a month of writing a novel.

Remember, have the persistence of a morning glory.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

Once more, as we speed around the sun, National Novel Writing Month AKA NaNoWriMo approaches. Yes, November is coming and coming fast. Are you ready?

Of late I have repeatedly said, I'm not going to do it this year.  And, of course, each year I plunge into extravaganza event, thrashing about, ignoring sociability and family in my pursuit to write 50K in 30 days.

Seems this year will be no different except I've decided early on to engage in wild abandon.

How many years have I entered into this pursuit?  I can proudly say I started participating in 2000. That was the 2nd year of its existence.  I'll be honest, I attempted to do a cookbook. Let me tell you a little about that - DON'T ever try to write a cookbook for this event.

The following year my father passed away in October and I considered attempting it but realized I had too many obligations to ignore... so I didn't participate.

Okay, first year I failed to complete the 50K words, but I did get 35K written.  Good attempt. The following year I skipped out for personal reasons.

Since 2002 I have participated and completed the challenge.  That's right, folks.  I have 13 novels written.  And, yes, some of them have been published... not only self-published, but also via other publishing companies.

Now for the sordid truth. Some of those novels are so bad. In fact, once of them I went back and deleted almost 35K words. There are those who would claim that the effort was an obvious waste of time if I deleted all that text. Not really. I got the story down. I know what I want it to be. I deleted what I don't want and now need to rewrite what I do want.

Call it editing. I have several of those novels that have some text deleted that I wrote just to get my 50K words in. They were finished stories. They weren't the best stories. BUT they are being edited to make them better stories. Four of them have been published. So that leaves me with 9 novels to be edited. Let's just say they are in various stages of completion at the current time.

So, how to prepare for this event?

1. Get your research out of the way. Do it now. Get it all saved, printed, stored, whatever - so you can access it quickly and not waste a lot of time. Make copious notes.

2. Prepare you mind. Going in with the proper mindset is critical. You have to know you can do this. Thinking you can will work against you. If you want to win, you have to see the finish line and that means you have to know you will do it.

3. Realize that each day you will need to write a minimum of 1667 words. I set my goal at 1700 words each day with a final word count of 51K.  That allows for some gravy on the word counting app to verify your winning at the end.  I made myself a little word counter printout that I'm willing to share, if you're interested. It is 1700 word per day. Simple to use. Know today's date? See the number of words you should have written to be on target. Get It Here! Print it out and give copies to your friends. I've had mine taped to my desk hutch upright for about 8 years now.

4. If you fall behind, apply yourself and catch up.

5. If you're having a good day writing and can actually write more than the required word count, by all means, do so. I've had days where I was able to write 5, 8, even 10 thousand words. Now, if you do have a great day like that, don't sit back on your laurels because you're ahead - stay ahead. The next day, write the required words.

6. Remember that Thanksgiving Day (that's for all U.S. residents) is during the month. The family will expect you to come out of the cave and socialize. Be sure to shower and cleanup before doing so and enjoy the day.  Of course, there is a two-fold blessing to the holiday. If you work, you most likely will have off that day and maybe the Friday, too.  Use them to your advantage - WRITE.

7. Now this is the one that really is hard. Don't edit. Don't go back and fix. Don't . Don't. Don't. I mean it. The object is to get the story down - bad or worse... uh, er, I mean, good or bad. If you need to correct something - make it a note and continue on. I changed my main character's name about half way through - I typed: (RSN-NAME CHANGE - Mark is now Daniel, go back and fix) and continued writing.

8. When stumbling for a name of a character or place that you can't remember - do as I do. Type your initials and what you want.  For me that would RSNFirstName, RSNName or RSNCity and continue on.  When it is time to edit, the first thing I look for is "RSN" and see what I need to fix.  Did you note the RSN in my #7 rule?  Whenever I need to make a note, I toss my initials out there, that way they're easy to find later on.

9. Some writers will suggest that you lock yourself in your room or designate a certain amount of time at a certain time of day. That doesn't work for me. My life is hectic and varied. I write when I have the free time and free time means sitting at the doctor's office, riding to work or home on a bus, late in the evening, early in the morning, during lunch. You'll be amazed how much writing can be accomplished in 15 or 20 minutes. When I worked in the big cities and would get caught in rush hour traffic or an accident snarl, I would dictate into a small cassette recorder. (I know, giving away my age here.) Use your cellphone and when you get home, type it into your laptop.  Of course, if you have your laptop with you, depending on the situation, you 'could' attempt to enter it direct, but I'm not really suggesting that. Much easier, safer and conscientious to dictate.  Oh, I don't recommend dictating while driving. You want 50K words, not 50K words of spoken eulogy.

10. Enjoy yourself. If you don't succeed in the event, don't beat yourself up. Remember, if you only have 18K words when November 30th arrives, that is 18K more words than you had one month earlier. If you do succeed, congratulations, you now have a novel that needs an immense amount of editing, re-editing and maybe another set of eyes to review before you edit yet again.

Now, I need to get busy on my research. I have a great story to write this year. Getting excited. In fact, I think this novel will easily reach 80K without any trouble - maybe even bigger!  I won't give all the details right now but I'll tease you - it will be somewhat historical and is based on a segment of "Aliens" I watched on the History Channel. Giorgio Tsoukalos and that gang can get my imagination jumping and then, can I write fast enough to get it all down?

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Quick Cooks

Somebody once asked me how I come up with my recipes or how I get a meal to come together and will I share a simple recipe or two.

I never really thought about it.  I just cook what sounds good and planning is critical for large meals.  I say this because I've cooked or overseen others cook for large groups of people.  What exactly does that mean?  I have cooked for 60-70 people on campouts with the Boy Scouts.  I've managed Boy Scouts who cooked meals for the sponsoring club - The Ruritans - and it was about 30 people.  I've also watched and minimally assisted them when cooking for family events involving upwards of close to 80 people.

First, know how many you are going to cook for.  Second, make sure you have your recipes and how much they will feed.  Remember, some recipes will say 1/2 cup is a serving... and you know there is always that person who heaps about 4 of those servings on their plate.  Also, consider seconds for some people.  Watch your time and calculate accordingly for your schedule.

When offering multiple choice - like Swiss steak and Bacon-wrapped Chicken, most people seem to want both. You cannot assume it will be an either/or situation.  I calculate 75% each.  If serving 50 people, I will make sure I have 40 steaks and 40 chicken.  At one meal I watched a gentleman take 2 steaks and 1 chicken... the woman behind cut a chicken in half and the woman behind her cut a steak in half.  You can only guess — make it your best.

Now, as to recipes.  One of the best and simplest of recipes is my Couscous Soup.  That base is two basic items: broth and couscous.  From there, the possibilities are limitless. First, decide if you want chicken or beef — that will decide your broth flavor, if, indeed you wish to have a meat in the soup. I've used beef with finely diced steak, and chicken shredded in chicken broth. To give you an idea of portioning, I used one chicken breast, baked in the oven with basil, rosemary, and thyme. I shredded that one breast and made soup for 10-12 people. Here is where the flavors blossom. If you want an Oriental flair, add a little ginger, soy sauce, shredded carrot, bean sprouts, celery, onion, and garlic. If you'd prefer a more European taste, add basil, rosemary, (of course, if you did up the chicken like I did, you won't need to add the basil and rosemary), cut up green beans, celery, shallot, and garlic. Now, for a Moroccan experience, use chickpeas, cinnamon, cumin and carrot and of course, garlic,

Remember, this is a soup, a broth-type item. It is NOT a stew. When I said chickpeas, I mean, maybe 2 or 3 chickpeas in a small cup of soup.  Even the couscous is limited.  When I make it for my wife and I, I use 2 cups of broth, maybe a 1/4 cup of couscous, a couple of bean sprouts, maybe a half (if that much) rib of celery diced up real small, and a baby carrot shredded.  It's about the broth and the flavors, not about filling you up.  Think — wonton soup. It's not loaded with eight or ten wontons but usually one lone, maybe two wontons in a rich, flavorful broth.

Again, this soup is what you make it. I usually cook the couscous ahead of time. It's so difficult to make — one cup hot water, 3/4 cup couscous, cover and let sit for 5 min. Voila! Done!  By the way, that is a lot of couscous. As stated above, for the two of us, I use only a 1/3 cup of couscous to cook.

As to other recipes.  Really, the internet is full of wonderful ideas and a plethora of recipes. Give it some thought and then go searching for something out of the usual.  I found a great way to "up" the ante on carrots.  Chop up raw carrots any way you want, give them a flair even.  Then boil them until crisp tender, drain and put butter (not margarine) to melt over them.  Add a little cinnamon, a pinch of brown sugar and a dash of nutmeg.  Now you're cooking.

Potatoes?  One can have the same-o, same-o mash taters or take it a little of out the ordinary and add cabbage to the mix... or cauliflower... or even carrots.  I have taken potatoes and cabbage, boiled them together, added some glazed diced onions and minced garlic, and mashed it all together.  Just remember the cabbage won't mash completely down to that silky smoothness, so you don't have to try to attempt that with the potatoes.  Sometimes lumpiness is nice.  When I added the carrots, it was just a few and of course, the mashed potatoes took on a nice orange color.  Now, for the potato and cauliflower, that whipped up nice and smooth and it had that difference to keep the guests on their toes.

Cooking is about taking the ordinary and moving it into the extraordinary in the simplest way.

Green beans. Everyone boils them and tosses some bacon bits on them. Voila! Sidedish - done. Now, take it to the next step. Rather than boiling them in water, use chicken broth. Right before serving, add a dash of sesame oil (just a couple of drops) and let simmer in the bowl on the table. If you want to throw bacon bits at the mixture, you can, but they really will stand on their own without them.

So, what is my secret to cooking? Read the recipe.  Read the recipe again and figure out what it is doing. Read the recipe yet again to understand how it is made. Read the recipe once more to see how it can be improved.  Make it according to directions.  Taste it.  Next time, adjust it to make it yours.

I once asked my chef mentor - a well-known TV chef of the 70s - how much wine to add to a recipe. He told me: Enough to make it feel wanted.

That is true of all ingredients. You add enough of each to make it compliment the others.  A pot of water tastes good by itself. But, if you add a potato, it tastes better. Add a carrot.  Add some corn. Add some meat.  Add some...  Each ingredient is great on its own but together, like a symphony, it will make a beautiful mixture.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Tiny Home Syndrome

My wife is hooked on all those cute, quaint little homes - you know what I'm talking about. Those homes that are maybe 200 to 500 square feet in space. I think they're neat, built on a frame with wheels so they can be moved as wanted or needed.

But the prices!!

I watched a show where the couple was adamant it had to have wheels, be no more than 250 square feet in size and, this is the clincher for me, be under $110K.


They picked one. It was cute, about 210 square feet and cost a mere $119K - just a tad over budget.

My wife thought it was perfect.  I had to give her a wake-up call.  We own an RV.  Yes, the driving kind. It is a 28 foot Allegro. Okay, a little older, it is a 1998 model but I've had it for 10 years and it suits our needs just fine.  Our 28 x 8 traveling home has 224 square feet of living space, plus it has all the "basement" storage under it along the sides outside.  I'll be honest - I spent $25K for our used RV.

We've considered upgrading to one with a slide or two and maybe a tad longer, but not over 32 feet, though.  That would give us a lot more space - almost 300 square feet.  Again, that does not include all the storage space underneath.

Even if a person considered a camping trailer or 5th wheel, they'd be further ahead and saving money rather than buying a tiny home.  Better yet, buy a manufactured home aka a trailer.

Take a close look.  A tiny home is nothing more than an over-glorified trailer that is too heavy for most vehicles to move.  They need to hire a semi.  That costs money.

An RV can be driven where you want it and it won't cost you $10K or more to move.

Have you seen some of the RVs??  They're stunning with full-sized stoves, dishwashers, refrigerators and washer and dryers.  I mean, some even have ice-makers and wine-coolers.  And don't forget the fireplaces, either.  I looked at a used RV that offered 2 bathrooms and all the counters in it, that would be the bathrooms and kitchen, were solid granite.  In fact, the 'master' bath had 2 sinks, a shower, AND a tub, not to mention a walk-in closet.  The recessed lighting and the recessed 50-inch flat screen television was awesome.  The place was magnificent with double slides n the living room.  I should note the price was under $100K... in fact, it was under $75K and was only 2 years old.

No, I didn't buy it but I wanted it.  My RV gets about 10-14 miles to the gallon and that is really, REALLY good mileage.  I calculate my trip costs at 10 mpg and usually have excess cash when I finish the trip.  That RV was heavy and only got ... as the salesman said, About 5mpg if you've got a good tailwind and going down the hill.  If you don't know RV sales code, that means, don't expect to get 5mpg too often... more likely 2 or 3 miles per gallon.  It had a 150-gallon tank.  That would mean I'd get about 450 miles per fill-up.  My current RV is 60 gallons and I can drive well over 600 miles on a fill-up.

But, I digress.  After explaining all the above to my wife, she agreed.  If we're going to downsize, we'll move into an RV and live full time that way. For $50K-75K I can have a mansion.  So why put out so much money for a dinky tiny house?

I'm including pictures of  an Allegro RV. Look at that spacious living space w/ one slide-out.

And a great bed and on the other side is a wall of closets with mirrors to get full-length looks.  There is also a nice bathroom with a shower, sink, and toilet.

And here is the inside of a tiny home... looking at the entrance. Don't you love the blue "couch?"

If you look under the bed, the double doors are probably the pull-out potty.

Both of these are probably in the $60-$75K range.  Which would you want to live in on a full-time basis?

Until next  ramble on...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Harvest Time Goodies

Harvest time has hit the grocery stores.

My garden is a wee bit slow on coming to harvest. I mean, the peas were great early on but, as of now, nothing else has really come to fruit.  There are plenty of tomatoes on the vines - they're loaded but nothing red, only green.  Trust me, I'm fighting the urge to pluck and fry them.  The garlic has once again done its disappearing act and the onions are struggling to grow.  Guess I'm not to grow onions and garlic.  Not going to even try next year.  The beets are still growing.  My son's mother-in-law has huge beets growing in her garden. Me?  They look like baby beets.  Oh, I noticed yesterday that the pole beans are finally starting to blossom.  Yay!

Of course, I'm in no big rush to get out there and harvest since it has been hotter than Hades around here the last few weeks.

Me? I'd prefer to go to the state park and camp.  Yup, enjoy the cool lake breeze waft through the pines, maples, oaks and other trees. (I'm rambling...)

So, anyway, the grocery stores have started to lower prices on produce.  I went to the store last week and they had cabbage for 19¢ a pound. At that price, it was time to make Cabbage Balls.  I made about 20 of them and they are now residing in the freezer for a yummy winter treat.  Of course, I'm not that dumb, we had some that same night - just to make sure they were good. They were!

Peppers (the green ones) which normally go for upwards of 89¢ each, well, they were 5/$1.00.  And they were HUGE!  That can only mean one thing - Stuffed Green Pepper Casserole. I normally make stuffed green peppers, but found doing a casserole stores easier.  So I made up a huge pan full, uh, my wife baked cakes and we still have the 12x18 sheet cake pan.  That's what I used.  We froze up 6 quarts.  And again, we tasted the fruits of the effort. I can't believe I'm saying this - C'mon snow!!

Using the above two ingredients, my wife, the expert at making freezer slaw aka Sweet and Sour Coleslaw, used one head of cabbage and one large green bell pepper. She made up 8 freezer bags of this food of the gods.

Another use for cabbage?  Egg rolls.  I love egg rolls.  So, I made up some egg roll filling and wrapped up a total of 36 egg rolls.  I put them into hot oil to parboil them, sort of. Then I placed them on a cookie sheet and into the freezer.  Once frozen, they got shuffled into gallon bags.  Notice I say bags. My daughter-in-law, granddaughter and great-grandson came over the next day after I made them — to make sure they were of the proper quality.  Okay, my great-grandson is only 10 months old so he didn't really test them. My wife, my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter and I did.  And they passed the test with flying colors.  Delicious, a perfect filling — nice tight roll, not greasy, great chicken/pork/cabbage ratio and flavor.

Broccoli was on sale. Not the ones with the huge stem still attached.  No, these were the crowns, the florets with only enough stem to keep the florets together as a head.  And they were huge, too. I bought a lot of them - uh, six. So, I made Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole using the above mentioned cake pan. Froze up 6 quarts of these beauties, too.  Needless to say, yummy.

Also, cauliflower was on sale and we couldn't pass it up.  We got 4 heads of cauliflower and my wife broke them up into small florets, parboiled them and onto a cookie sheet to freeze they went. We now have two gallons of cauliflower to use with broccoli and/or carrots for veggies during the winter.

I guess I should mention that we also found chicken breast, sausage, ground pork, and ground beef also on sale at different local groceries.  We made the rounds to a total of 5 stores - 2 farm markets for the veggies and 3 grocery stores.  Actually, the one farm market was 60 miles away from our house and is what got us started on this adventure.

We were coming home from visiting our sons up north in the Detroit, Michigan area.  As we came through Toledo, my wife thought it would behoove us to stop at Monettes, a fresh farm market. We did and found some of the veggies.  The rest was history as we stopped at the local farm market day which is held twice a week around the square in Bryan, Ohio.  Then it was a stop at our Chief Supermarket and Wal Mart.  (I think there is a Wal Mart within 20 mi of anyone in the U.S.)  And then off to Montpelier, Ohio, where Miller's was having a huge meat sale.

Sure, we spent more on food this month than usual, but then again, we have more food in our freezer for us to eat.  We'll be able to cut back on food costs during the winter.

Is this method practical?  Let's see.  Sweet and Sour Coleslaw is $3.49/lb at the store. I bought a cabbage head for 83¢ and a green pepper for 20¢ — so basically about $1.  I got almost 5 pounds of coleslaw.  I would say, offhand, I saved about $15.  Yes, there is sugar and vinegar to add in. Let's be conservative on savings and say I saved $10.  Uh, that's ten dollars in MY pocket.  To make this on a whim at some point down the road at say, 69¢ a pound for cabbage and 89¢ for a green pepper? Sure, it is still cheaper than buying, but the cost has gone up almost $3 just on those two ingredients. Go ahead, call me a tight-ass, but a penny saved, even a nickel or a dime, is money for me.

When my tomatoes start coming in, we will be making diced, stewed and sauce.  Also a lot of my wife's famous salsa which I snarfle down during the winter months.

Sweet corn is coming to harvest around here, but it is still the early rush. I'll wait and when the price drops, I'll go get some and we'll freeze up some of that golden delight.  Wal Mart had some for 12¢ an ear — that works out to be $1.44/dozen which beats the crap out of $2.75 for a half dozen at the farmer's market right now.

Lest we forget, the orchards are coming to harvest, too.  Peaches and apples.  Yum!  The next couple of months will be busy as we scurry around like chipmunks, burying our treasures in the freezer or canning jars for the coming winter.

Okay, this one will probably flabbergast you.  Eggs.  Remember my chicks?  All 18 of them?  Well, they are now full-sized hens and laying eggs.  Yes, I'm getting about 12-17 eggs daily.  In other words, about 9 dozen eggs a week.  They've been small but as the months have progressed, the eggs have gotten larger on a regular basis.  My 4 sons have been taking some and enjoying the harvest but even now, they can't keep up with the production.  I'm going to have to put up a sign and start selling some.  Now for the flabbergaster. You can freeze eggs.  One only needs to crack the eggs and put them in ice-trays and freeze.  When frozen, pop them out and toss them into a gallon bag. When you need an egg or two, grab out what is needed.  We're considering this.  Anyone ever done it?  I have six dozen eggs in my frig at this very moment. The boys are all coming this weekend (so I've heard) and that will bring down the stock, but…

I guess I should mention we have two freezers.  One (chest type) is for meats. The other (upright) is for non-meats, okay, for everything else.  Both are getting filled right now.  I'm hoping I can find shrimp and crab on sale again. My stock is running low. As to fish, I have some salmon and steelhead stocked. I want more cod, catfish, orange roughy and perch. Now, I've heard through the grapevine that one of our local grocery stores will be having a huge meat sale within the next 30 days.  I see meatloaf, chicken tacquitos, lemon-garlic chicken, chicken pot pie, cranberry pork, chili, potato soup, beef barley stew, orange ginger chicken and a plethora of other recipes being made en-mass for the freezer.

I think the hardest part of winter this coming year will be deciding which meal to get out of the freezer to heat up and eat.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, July 31, 2016

False Hope

Just returned from an author's event.  You know the type - somebody organizes the event by getting a bunch of author's together to hawk their book(s) and allows them to meet/greet the public. It's just like a book signing, except in a larger scale.

There is a lot of work getting prepared for one of these. It isn't just a matter of slapping the book on the table, sitting back and raking in the do-re-mi as buyer after buyer throws cash in your face.

Okay, I do stand corrected. There was one gentleman who came to the affair, had a whole table to himself - an eight-foot-long table.  He had ONE book title, three copies spread out in a small arc in the middle of the table.  He sat back in his chair, feet up on the table, and rested for the remainder of the event. At the end, he picked up his 3 books, put them in a satchel and left. Done.

Others, like me, put up a display with books tastefully displayed, colorful announcements, handy business cards, and 'gimmicks' to draw the attendees to the table.  I normally use candy but am thinking of something else... maybe I'll discuss that further on.

Here's a picture of one of my events just a few weeks ago at the Findlay Author's Fair.

You can't see them, but there are about 100 small LED lights under the white cloth.  I used battery operated ones, not knowing if there would be an electrical outlet handy.  Do you see the white-on-white conduit against the wall?  Yes, I would have been the only one with electricity in the room.  Since then, I take along the electric LED lights that can change to any color of my choice, and/or rotate colors and/or flash, too.  No electricity most of the time, but they don't weigh that much.

As stated, the Findlay event was almost a month ago and there have been two other events since. 

The attendees come through, browse the books, talk and talk and really seem intrigued and very interested in the books.  You'd be amazed how many "gush" about how they just love a good Amish story to read.  Uh, but no purchases.  No, but they do ask if it is available online. They want to purchase the electronic version.

Of course, it is online!  Well, DOH!!  No, I don't say it that way to their faces but smile and give them the link(s) to the book(s) for them to check out at a later date.

Okay, not a book purchase at the show, but a potential purchase via Amazon or elsewhere online. It doesn't matter, it's called royalty and it all counts.  I'll take electronic purchases.

I keep checking my online stats for my books - both those I published and those of my publishers. I'm a hybrid author, having some books via several different publishers and some books I have self-published on Kindle/Create Space and at Smashwords.

Need I say?  Yes, the numbers continue to plummet into the abyss.  No online purchases.

Ah-ha!!  Call it the lightbulb going on above my head... OR getting hit by lightning.

It is a ruse by the potential customer.  By stating they want it online, they're not caught in the dilemma of telling me no to my face.  They can give me false hope of a sale and continue on their merry way without feeling terrible.  Maybe they will buy a copy online, but more likely, they won't.

I'm open to suggestions of how to get an event attendee to commit to a purchase.  I've offered beautiful metal bookmarks,  I even had some crocheted bookmarks.  I've offered buy one, get another one at half price. And, I attempted to lure them with candy. Oh, yeah, and I smile a lot.

About the candy.  Someone suggested gum cigars, similar to those the proud dads buy at the birth of a new baby.  They can be purchased, specialized with events or other words to denote, let's say, a book.  Of course, one could buy specially marked M & M candies.  

What else could be given away?  My friend offered a free book drawing. She would give away a copy of her latest book to one of the attendees.  She got four people to sign up.  Not what would I call a real good return on the investment since she didn't sell any copies, either.

Short of knocking the attendee to the floor, ripping the purse open or pulling the wallet from the hip pocket and digging out the money for the book ... any suggestions to help with sales?

My Amazon ratings continue to plummet.

False hope sucks.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Raped At The Farm Market

We've all been to them - those quaint, little 'ma and pa' farm markets where you get all those great farm-fresh vegetables and fruits.

In our little community, they have one set up on a corner of a 'chain' drugstore parking lot.  Yes, they've got the big tent and tables with all the produce and some nice Mennonite young ladies to serve you.  I think that is part of the wholesomeness one expects.

My wife picked up 3 nice tomatoes since we both had a hankering for some and our tomatoes are still just a tad too green ... okay, they are just green rocks right now -- to eat.  And we got a baker's 1/2 dozen of what they call Indiana sweet corn.  Some of the best around.  For seven ears of this sweet ambrosia, the price was a mere $2.75.  Cough. Hack. Cough.  Our local WalMart is selling sweet corn for $.12 an ear.  Hm?  7 X $.12 = $.84.  Not even ONE dollar.  And, yes, the WalMart sweet corn is usually pretty good and fresh.

But, this was Indiana sweet corn and I'm willing to fork out a few more dollars for ambrosia.

The young lady smiled at me and said, "That will be $9.25."  Without thinking, I forked over a $10 bill and graciously accepted the 3 quarters of change.

As we drove away my mind started thinking and my wife also came to the same conclusion... uh, exactly how did 3 tomatoes and 7 ears of corn come up to over nine dollars?

Seems the tomatoes were selling for $2.65 a pound.


I remember when I could buy three pounds of tomatoes for a single dollar.  Now it is almost three dollars for a single pound.

Suddenly, I knew what it felt like to be raped.  That young Mennonite girl smiled at me and took my money with not so much as a blink.

Now I like farm-fresh veggies and all.  I'm not a fanatic where it has to be all organic or anything like that, screaming for pesticide-free veggies.  I just wanted fresh - something that hadn't been packed 2 days ago in a state maybe 3 or 4 states away and then transported to my local store to make me think it was plucked from the vine/tree/ground/etc only moments before I got it.

I like to think I live in the real world.

Uh, is $2.65 per pound for tomatoes too much?  I mean, if that is a 'fair' price, I've got a literal gold mine growing in my garden.  Next year I'll plant even more tomatoes and should be able to make my first million by October 2017.  Whoo-hoo!  My tomatoes are grown from seed.  I have about 100 seeds left ... uh, that could easily be 100 plants and at almost a pound per tomato... you do the math.

As I have had a small amount of time to reflect on this incident, I think I've realized why the pricing is the way it is.  They allow senior citizens to use free tickets from the government to purchase fresh products to eat.  As I see it, once more, it is the case of the $200 Army hammer that anyone else can buy at the local hardware store for $5 to $8.  Government money abuse.

Think about it.  The senior citizens get the tickets for free.  It didn't cost them anything.  So the vendor, Mr. Happy Farmer, can charge whatever he wishes ... somebody else is picking up the price of the tickets.  I'd like to say the government, but in reality, it will be you and me via our taxes.

As many people don't realize.  The government is not a real business.  It hands out free money to people but that money is not profit from some business. Uh, for those who really don't understand, every government employee - including your Senator and House Rep, gets her/her salary from your taxes.  Yes. It is tax money collected.  It is ALL tax money from somewhere - either via a large/small business or each person.  The government does not earn profit  (money) but they give away money as if they were printing it.  Oh, wait, they do print it.  My bad.

But, I digress.

Enjoy the harvest of fresh veggies from the farm - just be sure to watch the prices.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Doing Nothing

We went camping a week ago and had a great time. While I was sitting there, near the awning, and in the shade of a lovely maple tree and by the firepit, I had an epiphany.

Doing nothing while sitting at a campsite and doing nothing while sitting on your front porch are two totally different forms of relaxation.  Actually, one is relaxing, the other is more of 'taking a break' event.

What do I mean?  The answer is simple.

When I sit on my front porch, doing nothing, relaxing (or so I think I'm relaxing) I tend to let my mind wander to different things like...

  • Moving the yard
  • Weeding the garden
  • Taking care of the chickens
  • Trimming the bushes
  • Running the weed-whacker
  • Cleaning the shed
  • and the list continues...
When I sit in my chair at the campsite, doing nothing, relaxing, I tend to do... well, nothing. I relax. I enjoy the breeze and the heady scents of other campfires, listing to the birds, watching and talking to other campers as they walk the campground, passing by my RV.  I let the mottled sunlight caress my face, I might snooze, daydream about a writing project or just let my mind wander.

Did you notice the difference?  I'm retired, I basically run my life like 6 Saturdays, 1 Sunday.

BUT, it was a shock to realize that when I'm camping, I actually do relax more than I do at home when I attempt to do nothing.

Of course, I do have a 'busy' lifestyle on my Saturdays. LOL.  I have my 18 hens which are now giving us a daily total of 10 eggs.  I'm expecting that number to increase over the next couple of weeks to an assured even dozen or more every day.  I'm discovering, much to my wife's chagrin, my hens enjoy watermelon.  They really enjoy the red fruit but most of the time they get the rinds which I cut up into small 1.5" X 3" pieces.  This way, everyone gets a chunk to peck at.  They still like their grass and leaves.  My wife swears I'm spoiling them since they hear me come out of the house, yell "Here, chick, chick, chick" and they all come running like little raptors from Jurassic World.  She can come out and call them and they ignore her.  Maybe it's because I give them treats and she usually comes out to collect the eggs.  Okay, we'll call her the meany. LOL.

Regarding the 'ranch' as we have it.  We're thinking of downsizing.  That's right, going smaller. Do we, a 'maturing' couple need a home of 1840 square feet AND a basement of the same size?  I've been looking at lakeside cottages in Indiana.  My wife is enamored with tiny houses - and these cottages, even though they are year round - are only about 700 square feet.  BTW, I am talking by the lake, not on the other side of the road or a couple of blocks from the water. I want to have some beach area and a dock for a pontoon.  I will be able to go fishing as often as I want.  Yes, I know I will have to give up some of my farmer aspects like the chickens, but I can still do a little gardening.  Of course, I could be just daydreaming.  We'll see.

What else do I have planned?  I don't know.  I guess I will need to go camping and just let my mind wander as I sit by the campfire.  Heaven knows I can't think on the front porch... too much to think about what to do around the house. I won't have time to think about what I want to plan.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Cooking Experiments

First, a little health update.  This morning (Thursday) when I got up, as standard, I drew a drop of blood to see what my overnight fasting number would be.  Surprise!  It was 108.  That, folks, is in the normal range.  I'm ecstatic.  Of course, that means I have to watch my sugar a little closer today making sure I don't plunge too low.

The doctor put me on Victoza and I'm still working my way up to the full dosage. He told me to finish off my Januvia and he upgraded my metformin pills by 50% so I"m now at 850mg.  My Januvia will last through the end of the weekend... so, by the time you're reading this, I'll be off of it.

Now, about my cooking experiments.  I found a recipe somewhere and they made "hotdog" hamburgers.  I attempted them and now call them "Doggers" and they are amazing and yummy.

Prepping the "Doggers"
I took a pound of hamburger (should have used about 1.25 or 1.5 pounds, but...) and made 4 equal balls. Then I flattened the balls into rectangles. From a chunk of cheese (I used sharp cheddar) I sliced 4 equal size pieces.  I placed the cheese in the middle and very carefully rolled / wrapped the meat around the cheese. Note I have excess on the ends - that is to seal it good since the meat tends to contract when grilled.  Also, make sure to really seal the seams all around so the melting cheese doesn't ooze out.

Above is the finished product ready for all the yummy condiments to be added.

Okay, I'll be honest.  I've made this a 2nd time, didn't take pictures, but should have.  While still open, I added chopped onion, garlic and a little jalapeno with the cheese before wrapping it all up.  OMG!!

The mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup and relish were literally, just topping to an already fantastic burger... uh, er... dogger.

My next experiment was for a breakfast.  I love... no, LOVE... hashbrowns.  And I mean, I've made them with taco meat, baked beans, broccoli. cauliflower... I really have experimented.

BUT, potatoes are a high starch, carbohydrate food and my diabetic meals don't allow things like that. Okay, not in the quantities I enjoy eating.  I mean, who can be happy with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of hashbrowns?  For somebody like me, that's nothing but pure, unadulterated torture.  I  mean it.

Therefore, I decided to attempt sweet potato hashbrowns.  I've only done it once, so far, but I know I will be doing this again and again in the future.

I used one medium-small sweet potato.  Peeled it.  Then shredded it on a box grater using the largest opening.  I had maybe a cup+ of grated sweet potatoes.  I finely chopped a little onion into this.  Then I heated a skillet with olive oil and butter mixture - about 2 tablespoons and when the butter started to bubble, I placed a couple of heaps of the sweet potato/onion mixture on the skillet, tapped it down to make like a pancake and let it sizzle for about 3-5 mins on each side.  Unbelievable.  So scrumptious.

That is NOT burned but butter sizzled
I was able to get about 5 small patties from that one sweet potato.  Now, as you can see, they aren't large.  That is a pie plate and a normal-sized fork.

Next time, I plan to add cinnamon and maybe (not sure yet) some nutmeg to the mix.  It was suggested to add marshmallows and/or some brown sugar.  Hm?  I don't think that would work with my diabetes.  Now, I could consider a small amount of finely chopped pineapple or even some grated apple. This is a whole new playground for me to experiment in.  I mean, who would have thought left over taco meat, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and refried beans would work on regular hashbrowns?  Uh, that would be me!  Or bacon, broccoli, and cauliflower?  Yup, me, again. LOL.

On the garden front... harvest is starting for the peas.  Just look at those pods!!

Here's what my garden looks like right now, almost the end of June.  In the background, you can see the pole beans are starting their journeys up the fish line trellis. In front, 7 tomato plants are filling out their space. Hidden between are beets, a couple of pepper plants and in the extreme right (out of the picture) are my red, yellow and white onions and garlic.  The garlic, so far this year, has been coming along just grand.

Of course, veggies aren't my only thing I grow.  I have several flowers, both annual and perennial coming up.  Here's my yellow trumpet lily.  One of several, but, alas, a severe storm came through and beat the crap out of most of them and they are down on the ground.  Of course, winter wasn't nice, either.  I lost, I would estimate, over half of all my trumpet lilies.  I don't think I have any red ones left - at least, I haven't seen any bloom on the ground or in the air. 

My day lilies are coming into bloom.  Maybe I'll show them next week.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Eggs! And More...

To paraphrase Scotty from Star Trek IV The Voyage Home:  Admiral, there be eggs here!

Finally, after several months of watching my chicks grow and mature, I proceeded to the chicken coop to feed and water - my daily routine - and was surprised to discover an egg scurried in the corner on the floor.

Uh, that was about 2 to 3 weeks earlier than I'd been told to expect eggs.  Almost everyone had told me not to expect any eggs until sometime in July. Well...


It was the cutest little egg.  All brown and smooth.  But, oh, so small.  About 1/2 the size of a normal egg.  Still, one of my 18 chickens decided to give me an egg.  I proudly carried it into the house and presented it to my wife.  She was ecstatic.

Now, one must remember, she was the one who wanted to have chickens.  I wanted to raise about 25 for butchering and stocking the freezer.  She wanted eggs.  I have been the one who goes out every day to feed and water the hens.  Uh, not her.  Also, I don't eat eggs because they make me sulfuric and you don't want me like that - trust me, but that's another story.

Since the first egg's discovery, my wife is more involved with the chickens.  Well, sort of. Okay, she only goes out (about 2 or 3 times a day) to check for more eggs.  I'm the guy who still has to feed and water the chickens... oh, and clean out the coop, etc.

With the egg discovery, my #1 son made us 4 nesting boxes.  I've put some straw in them.  The hens use the boxes for roosting at night, throw out the straw, and continue to lay their eggs on the floor AND NOW, even outside on the ground.  I am going to paint some plastic eggs tan and put them in the boxes to see if that helps.  If not, I will lock them in the coop temporarily in an attempt to get them to lay the eggs inside, at least. Hopefully, at some point, they'll realize they have nests.

It looks so lonely, all by itself on the counter for the picture.

This is what it appears in size against a regular-sized egg.
Also, so you know it, there have been more eggs laid since the first one appeared.  We have a total of nine eggs now.  My wife, in her modest brainstorm, has been saving all the used egg cartons for this adventure - much to my surprise.  In fact, I think she has all the kids saving them, too.  She has a huge stack of empty egg cartons.  But, here is what the eggs in a carton look like...

The darker ones are from the Red Cross hens, the two lighter ones are from the ISA Brown hens. As the hens mature and continue laying eggs, they will get larger. I'm told all the lighter eggs will get darker with time and size.

There are 18 hens.  Egg production should increase with time, as well as size.  Right now, we're getting about 1 or 2 eggs per day.  As stated, I don't eat eggs but do look forward to a lot more angel food cakes to munch on.

In other news, my garden is coming along well.  The peas have really done well and the vines are loaded with pea pods.  My wife figures she will have to consider ambling out to harvest them.  I can't believe we only have about 2 cups of frozen peas left from last year.  I'll probably use them in the next week or two.  By that time, I would say the new peas should be coming in.  Mmm.  Fresh peas in a cream sauce over new baby potatoes.  YUM!

My tomato plants are doing well, growing strong in their wire cages.  Can't wait to make this year's salsa.  I only have 1 qt of salsa left.  My garlic and onions are coming along.  Two days ago I put up the lines for the pole beans to grow on.  Amazing how fast they latched onto the lines and started growing up them.  I'm sort of excited to see how the fish line trellis works this year.  I've always used the tee pee pole method and my loving wife wanted something a little easier to deal with.  We'll see.

The flowers I started are coming along beautifully.  The orange petunias aren't quite the exciting, electric shade as shown in the magazine.  Still, they are pretty, but not so much orange right now, as more coral-colored.  They look good against the white petunias, purple sweet alyssum and lime-green sweet potato vines.

Has anyone ever attempted to grow that large foliage plant, Elephant Ears? See picture.

I've got 3 bulbs that I've planted. It has been 3 weeks now and so far, nada.  Last year I bought a package of 5, planted them in a moist, but not soggy, area, with shade and sun.  My granddaughters, 4 of them, helped and there was one for each of them, plus mine.  None of them grew.  I figured it was something I'd done wrong... or the ground wasn't good.  This time I bought another 5, gave 2 away, and planted the 3 in huge pots, hoping for a fabulous tropical look.  So far, I'm disappointed.  I planted them as shown on the instructions - uh, all the dirt basically washed away in the first rain, leaving the tops exposed.  I figured that was what it was supposed to do.  I'm probably wrong. HELP!

To finish up, a little health update.  My dietitian has me on an 1800 calorie diet with 40-60 carbs per meal and 15-30 carbs per snack.  I gained weight.  NOT GOOD.  She wanted me to have an intake, at minimum, 165 carbs, preferably closer to the high end at 270.  Yeah, I gained weight.  Went to the doctor and explained the circumstances and he agreed, I should go back to my diet, lose the weight and see if we can get me off a lot of these diabetic medicines.  So, I'm now eating small meals, about 4 a day, cutting out carbs but not completely, and, of course, exercising.  I've cut out the biggie carb monsters: rice and potatoes; plus I've given up pop.  Okay, I cheat. I have ONE diet pop at night along with a bowl of popcorn.  Sorry, but I was born in Iowa, the corn state, and I love my corn, especially popcorn.  I use a dribble of oil in a microwave popcorn popper just so the small amount of salt I put on - stays on. LOL.  Of course, I'm consuming more veggies, fresh and raw veggies, not from cans.  Plus, now that fruit is once again in season, I'm checking those out.  My sugar was up a tad when I went to the doctor, but with the new meds (got rid of Januvia, now on Victoza) and new diet, I'm seeing the numbers come back down and that's what I want to see. Yes, I know. Victoza is an injection and I fought to avoid this, but it is NOT insulin. The doctor assured me if I can get my weight down, more than likely the sugar will also come down and I can stop Victoza. It better!

Finally, I'm writing again.  Back to my sequel for "The Secret Voice."  I now have Daniel Yoder, my Amish character, in New York City.  He is following a dream, testing Rumshpringe.  I can't believe the trouble he has found himself in, plus I know a few little secrets that should keep him off-balance and the reader turning pages.  More about "The New York Voice" as time passes.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Just A Rant


This week has been one of desperation and exasperation. I went out, an innocent lamb to the slaughter.  Okay, let me tell you tales of horror. LOL.

I went up near the Detroit area last week to visit my youngest son and his wife to babysit their twins so they could attend a dance banquet for the eldest daughter - a six-year-old

It is summer time and of course, every road is under construction - for miles! I can take the south route (low road) or the north route (high road) but... wait.  They are both under construction at about the same area so the idea of taking one to avoid the other is a moot point.  Oh, wait, I could slip around the whole mess by taking a road headed north before I got the construction.

Silly me.  That road was under construction, too.  Well, I was committed to this road when I discovered the construction. Therefore, a quick dido might be the best answer. Wrong again. A left turn here, a right turn there, a couple of each and finally I was in an area I recognized. A little further and I was able to eliminate another construction area and I was clear of the big city and headed on to my destination.

Wait.  This road was taking me back away so I had to cut across the countryside to catch another highway to get me up to Detroit.  No problem. (So he thought.)  Speeding down the backroad and I see the flashing lights.  No, not the police.  In front of me is a tractor on the country road. It was chugging along at a snail's pace and there was NO way to get around it.  Did the young driver think to look in his rear-view mirror for traffic?  Nope!  He was getting down in the cab with his headphones on so the loud tractor with the immensely wide row of plows didn't bother him. No on-coming traffic and I couldn't pass him - the plow went from side of road to side of road. He really should have had them tipped up, but...

THREE agonizing miles at the breakneck speed of almost 10mph, he finally turned off into a field.

We finally got to my son's house before they had to leave.  We allowed almost 3 hours to make a 90-minute drive.  It took over 2 hours.  Therefore, visiting with them before they left was a lost cause. They assumed the banquet would be over early and they'd be home by 8pm, 9pm for sure.  They didn't get home until almost 10pm.  For us, no biggie since the twins, 14 months old, decided to call it an early evening and went to sleep without too much effort on our behalf.

We headed home the next day after an enjoyable visit.  We had a 1pm meeting and again, we allowed ourselves 3 hours to travel the distance.

About 40 miles from home, I thought we had it 'in the bag' ... we'd arrive almost 30 minutes before the meeting - but I was wrong.  I turned onto a connecting highway between the "high" road and "low" road.

Are you ready?  More flashing light.  Still, not the police.  Seems they decided to 'sweep' the highway and the big rig was moving along at ... okay, it was so slow we were passed by a kid on a bicycle as he cycled leisurely down the road licking a popsicle.  Actually, we were going so slow I was on idle - my foot was on the brake, not the gas, and I had to keep applying the brakes because I was moving too fast.  YUP!  It was THAT slow.  There was a county or state truck behind the sweeper with its caution lights flashing.  Behind that (and in front of me) was another truck who, for some reason, felt it unnecessary to pass.  The road is 3 lanes.  The lane going north, the lane going south, and a turn lane between them. For the one-mile strip, there is absolutely NO place to turn left or right from the highway.  Why is there a turn lane?  I have no idea, but it was there. But I figure, at about 1mph, no faster than 3mph, I had the right to pass.

Exasperated, I finally gunned my motor and, using the turning lane, passed the two trucks and sweeper at an outrageous speed of 20, almost 25mph.  Was it legal?  I don't know.  I might get a ticket in the mail and, if so, I will address the issue at that time.

I was ahead of schedule, but due to the sweeper, I fell behind and we were 5 minutes late for our meeting.  Not so bad, but we'd called to let them know we were running late.  I didn't mention that I was racing through the countryside in an attempt to gain back some time. If I hadn't raced, we probably would have been about 30 minutes late.

Oh, I forgot about the one car I had before me on the country road. She would stop at the stop signs. That's a good thing. She would left, look right, inch ahead, look left, look right, look left and finally cross the intersection.  Of course, I could not pass her due to poor timing of on-coming traffic. She did this at 3 different intersections.  Even my wife wondered why she spent so much time looking left and right to ascertain traffic.  Uh, you could see left and right at these stop intersections for over a mile in each direction. There was nothing coming either way.  We only had on-coming traffic and never met one of those vehicles at any intersection.

Yes, it was a trip of tension.  The only trips I can claim to be worse is when we decide to travel through Houston, Texas.  For me, my last 4 trips through the construction there have all been white-knuckle events. We (my wife, her brother and his wife, and me) now plan our trip to Corpus Christi to avoid Houston. I'm the only one 'dumb' enough to drive through Houston. They won't even attempt it.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ignorance Of The Law

First, Happy Memorial Day as we honor those who died for our right to a free American life. As you picnic and celebrate, remember to give thanks to those who are no longer with us, allowing us the liberty we have.

How often have you heard that line?  Now, for the salt in the wound - I retired from the federal court system.  You have NO idea how many times I heard that cliche phrase: Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

As a "happy" farmer and proud owner of 18 chickens and a brand new chicken coop, you'd think all is well.  Unfortunately, to quote Professor Hill of "The Music Man" - You got trouble right here in River City. (BTW, if you click on the link, you can hear the song from musical.)

Yup!  I ran into trouble - not so much with the city as the township.  Seems I crossed the line with the building of my chicken coop.  I was told by several friends, family, and other people that if you put up a temporary building, you don't need a permit or approval.

Ah, yeah. About that. Seems I was being ignorant of the law.  MY township has rules and codes and one of them is a simple thing.  ANY structure needs a permit.

Seems simple enough.  Take my hand slap, buy a permit, and apologize for my ignorance, promising not to do it again.

Oops!  Seems the building is "in front" of my house slightly and not off the property line by a minimum of 5 feet.  Oh, also, it needs to be 15 feet from the house.

Since it is a 'temporary' structure, it can be moved.  Supposedly, the contractor built my home 35 feet from the property line.  That's plenty of space to move the coop back a foot, keep it 15 feet from the house and still remain over 5 feet from the property line.

Hm?  Seems the online satellite image of my property shows the house a mere 25 feet from the property line. Doing some quick math - 15 house offset + 5 foot property line offset gives me a whopping 5 feet to work with.  Uh, the coop is 8x12 with 6 inch overhangs for a size of 9x13. Anyone with a feeble knowledge of math can quickly realize this isn't going to work.

So, my sons are bringing over a laser sight to show the property line and we'll work from that information.  If the line is 35 feet from the house, we will move the shed.  If the distance is truly 25 feet - the only place available to maintain the chickens will be the floodplain and that is not a feasibility since it is also close to the woods - which will tempt all the woodland critters who enjoy chicken dinners as well as I do... and snakes that enjoy eggs.  Not a good working environment.

Again, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.  I have a beautiful 8x12 structure that may soon be nothing more than smoke and ash if I can't resolve this.

Don't even consider the word variance.  When I bought my permit and we discussed placement of the structure, I uttered the word variance.  The guy was nice enough but assured me the trustees have a simple way of handling all variance requests - deny.  I guess they haven't approved a variance in years.  I know the night (over 10 years ago) we got approval to change our property from farmland to residential, they denied a variance request unanimously.

Uh, that might be another issue.  I'm considered residential.  Chickens might be frowned upon.  I figure I will cross that bridge this week when I know the guy who approves permits comes out to check on the property lines since there seems to be a 10 foot difference.

On a brighter note - my tomatoes are planted outside, my garlic is coming along quite well - so far and I finally got my onion sets planted.  I also planted 2 green pepper plants.  I went in search of a couple flowers to plant to accent my orange petunias.  I decided white would do it.  My wife thought yellow would be pretty - so I got some yellow ones, too.  Then she found a deep purple with small yellow throat petunia.  She no longer cared about my orange petunias and wanted the yellow to surround the purple one.  So she won that battle and it is now growing in the large planter on front steps.  I put the orange petunias with the white petunias, a light and dark purple sweet alyssum and lime green sweet potato vines on the ends.  So far, they look pretty and the orange petunias should start blooming in the next week or two.

I still have the green beans and beets to plant in the raised garden bed.  I decided to casually throw the sweet corn in the old backyard garden, along with cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash.  I know that sounds silly but raccoons don't line vines so maybe they will leave my sweet corn alone.  I don't plan to weed the patch.  It may work - it may not work.  Hopefully, I'll get something out of the patch since the ground is uneven and my lawn service (#1 son) doesn't like to mow it with his rider - which I understand.  So much experimental gardening this year.

On the writing front, I decided to make a major change to my next Amish novel.  By doing so, I'm now psyched to get writing on it again. In fact, the idea energized me so much, I want to write and write but realize I have other obligations to address - like an edit job for another client.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Proud Farmer

This was an exciting week. I didn't plan to transplant my seedlings and hoped to just move them into the final spots in their dinky little 2-inch peat pots.


I noticed roots spreading along the sides of one of the pots, took another look and noticed that several had roots showing.  Not a good sign... well, yes, a good sign of healthy plants, but for growing, it is like discovering your pants are two inches too short, or the sleeve not reaching the wrist... or worse yet, buttons being stretched to the full bulge limit.

My baby plants needed bigger homes and needed them sooner than I wanted to admit.  We're still having nights that get a little brisk and tender seedlings like tomatoes just wouldn't make it and since I'm not an early riser - uh, 9am is early for me - having them covered and protected from the harsh night would mean under covers that would overheat them in the bright morning sunlight.

So, like a good parent, I transplanted my seedlings into bigger pots.  The tomatoes all went into 5-inch peat pots where I know they can grow sufficiently for the next week or two with no repercussions. The geraniums, petunias, and impatiens moved into 3-inch peat pots.  So far, everybody seems happy in their new homes.  Take a look:

Most of the seedlings in their new homes - tomatoes (Roma, Rutgers, Beefsteak and Mortgage Lifter) along with mixed geraniums, impatiens, and petunias

A couple of the 10 geraniums, don't know the colors - yet.

My two impatiens, colors unknown. Notice the size difference, same day planting. Hm?

Two of the 4 petunias - African Sunset, a true orange petunia. To see the color,Click This Link
And, I promised pictures of the finished chicken coop and as promised, here they are. The coop is basically an 8x12 building and the fenced chicken run is 10x16 and about 5 ft high at the peak. The run has fence on 3 sides, along the base of the coop and, of course, over the top.  There is a door on the side of the coop nearest the RV and another one to access the chicken run.  The run door is originally a display sign at a local hardware chain store where we purchased the windows you see in the pictures, two on the front and a larger side window.  My son cut a small section from the base to make it fit and with the 4x4 base to help secure it, the door is great.  All the fencing is secured with tie-strips about every 4-6 inches to keep it 'critter' proof.  I still need to add the fencing for the base to completely enclose it, but I need to find somebody to help bring in a truckload of pea gravel to pour over the fence when I put it in.  I want about 2 inches of gravel so the chickens don't have to walk on the wire - plus the gravel might invite some "live" chicken food.

Some of my chickies - two types: Red Cross (bigger ones in brown) and ISA which are light brown and white and about 4 or 5 weeks younger.  But everybody gets along - for the most part.

Another angle of the chicken run

The door I described, and to the left, the white-ish chicken is "Snow" as my one granddaughter named it.

We had a lot of rain and I had some rubber mats out and worms and other bugs collected under them for protection.  That was short-lived.  My sons, while finishing up the coop decided to have some fun. As the #2 son worked on the coop chicken door inside the fenced area, #1 and #3 decided to pick up the mat and grabbed several worms and bugs to throw into the chicken run.  The chickens had a field day with the delicacies. #2 happened to see it and yelled "Sure, go ahead, teach them to be carnivores while I'm still in here! Just what we need, Killer Chickens." They all got into a fit of laughter until I told them, due to the height of the roof of the run, I was going to have my youngest grandchildren and then the great-grandkids go in when needed.  Suddenly it wasn't so funny to them. "No way, dad!" they exclaimed. "Not in the pen with the Raptors! Have a heart!  They'll be pecked alive!"

Needless to say, farming can be fun.

And, on that note, so can writing... and editing.  Right now I'm editing a story for a client. The story is really exciting and I get reading and forget to edit until I read a really blatant mistake.  Edits are going slower than anticipated but I love the storyline.

Hoping all the mothers, young and old, had a great Mother's Day.  We have four sons - they all checked in for the day.  In fact, one brought over t-bone steaks to grill. My darling wife had a great day and I topped it off by taking her out to Burger King, using a coupon to get us 2 Whopper Jr burgers, 2 small fries and a big cup of icy cold water to drink. Okay, I also got her an order of onion rings that she so loves.  I'm such a romantic and expense was no issue, obviously. LOL.  We ate our meal as I drove around on some back roads enjoying the scenery, even going almost 20 miles to the church where we got married and it all started.  It was just an enjoyable evening.

Until next I ramble on...