RIP Eric Carle

Sad news in the world today.  Eric Carle, the prolific and colorful children’s author has passed away at the age of 91.  He was born in 1929 in Syracuse but moved to Germany when he was six; his mother was German and missed her homeland.  He eventually returned to the States as a young man and his first job was graphic designer for The New York Times. 

In 1967 Bill Martin, a children’s author, noticed Carle’s illustration of a red lobster and suggested that they work together. Brown Bear, Brown Bear became and instant and runaway best-seller and Carle’s career as a childrens book author and illustrator was on its way.

Even if you’re not very familiar with his many books, you might recognize his very distinctive style.  Using hand-painted paper, he did collages in startlingly bright colors and his favorite themes involved animals and nature.

I’m too old to have had Eric Carle books when I was a kid but I discovered him when I was working at the bookstore and I was happy to add some of his titles to YA’s collection when she was little.  Like many children, her favorite was The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Carle wrote this in 1969 and it’s been his most popular title every since.  It has sold almost 50 million copies worldwide and has been translated into at least 40 languages.   YA also liked Brown Bear, Brown Bear – it’s very lyrical and the repetitions made it easy to memorize.

Of course, MY favorite is Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?  I still have it in my collection.

Did you have any books memorized when you were a kid? 

Infernal combustion

Husband has always considered it his job to mow the lawn. Most of the yard is flower beds, vegetable gardens, and strawberry and raspberry patches. There isn’t much to mow.

I usually mowed the lawn when I lived with my parents after about Grade 6. It was easy. The lawnmower was always well maintained by my father, who loved tinkering and was very mechanically minded. I, too, am very mechanically minded and love to tinker, but while he taught me basic car maintenance, like how to change the oil on my car, Dad never taught me the finer points of small engine maintenance.

My husband is a very scholarly fellow who can write and reason with the best of them, but who was never taught how to fix things. His father was very unhandy. So was his uncle, who somehow was an engineer in a nuclear power plant in Ohio. (He had trouble replacing blades in his own razor.)

We have not had good luck with our mowers. I imagine sitting in the garage all winter without any preparation or winterizing, and then being expected to burst into action in the spring with just a little oil added isn’t the best way to deal with these engines. Last weekend, Husband tried to mow, but the thick smoke pouring from the mower was so noxious for us and the neighbors that he stopped in disgust. We had even had it looked at last fall by a small engine repair guy, but it was not helpful.

We made a trip to Menards and Husband bought an old fashion reel mower, what I would call a push mower. Today he assembled it all by himself while I was at work, and mowed our lawn. No more smoke. No more anxiety every spring if the lawnmower will work. We just have to figure out how to sharpen the blades.

How are you at fixing things? How do you maintain your lawnmower? What are your experiences with reel mowers?

Planting Corn

This week’s farm report comes to us from Ben.

Been having some nice rain the last few days. Over an inch now, plus the heat and humidity and we’re almost 200 Growing Degree Units (GDU’s) above normal. I figured we were behind, but we got that warm weather back in April. Crops have almost all emerged, and things are off to a good start.

Back in Blogworld, It’s the end of April and I’m just about to start planting corn. The wild leeks are up so I’ve been nibbling on them. Oats is just coming up, anhydrous fertilizer (nitrogen) is done, planting is next. My brother, Ernie comes out and drives the 8200 tractor and the soil finisher to get fields prepped. He says it’s the first time he’s driven a tractor since he was 18. He joked it was still just as boring going around and around. Plus, it’s hard to get run over by the tractor when you’re in a cab. (Hold that thought.)

I’ve been clearing edges of the fields with the 6410 tractor and loader. We have so many box elder trees and brush and weeds that come in from the edges, it’s a constant effort to keep the edges open or we lose them back to nature. Every year I go around and knock down the big branches, but sometimes I spend time literally pushing back everything, 7’ at a time, (the width of the loader bucket) back and forth, back and forth. Ernie thinks fieldwork is boring? But it’s good to get it done.

Back in the fall of 1968, Ernie was using a John Deere 720 tractor and a 3 bottom plow and his long jacket got caught by the tractor tire and pulled him off the tractor. The 720 is an open tractor and we’d often stand up when driving them. He got pulled off the tractor into the freshly plowed ground, right in front of the rear wheel. The rear tire went right over his chest, and he rolled out of the way before the plow got to him. My parents had just built the new house that summer and they were working on that and painting the roof trim when someone commented that the tractor was going in circles and Ernie was chasing it. Dad ran over there and somehow, they caught the tractor. Took Ernie to the clinic and he was fine; doctors couldn’t believe he was really run over, but he had the dirt on his shirt to prove it. They figure the soft dirt is what saved him. Plus, the tractor wasn’t that big or heavy. Another instance of luck or miracles to grace our family.

I took the loader off the tractor, order the corn starter fertilizer, get corn planter out and greased, get the fertilizer wagon ready, and make a trip to Plainview with Amelia and the dogs for the headlight bezel on the 6410. Pushing the trees off is hard on the tractor; I’ve broken a lot of little things doing that. And sometimes some pretty major things. But this year it was just the plastic bezel around the lights on the cab.

About 4:30PM I get out to plant. I have made some dumb mistakes in my life. Here’s another. The middle fertilizer tank auger is backwards. (My dad taught me to only put a little fertilizer in to start to be sure everything is working.) The tanks hold about 750 lbs each, so I fill it maybe half full or so. When planting corn, there’s a monitor to tell me seeds are coming out each row, and when I lift the planter on the ends, I look to be sure fertilizer is coming out the tubes. There’s a shaft I watch to make sure it’s turning because that’s what makes the fertilizer come out.

But if I put the auger in backwards fertilizer will not ever come out. At the end of planting season, I pull the shafts and augers out, clean and oil everything, and put them back. I try to keep everything lined up so it goes back the right way. And normally, I look in there and make sure they’re all going the same way. Clearly, I forgot that step this time. So, I made 2 rounds to use up some fertilizer, then use 5 gallon buckets to shift some fertilizer from the middle tank to the right, and put the left fertilizer in buckets, because I have to slide the left auger out, and then the middle one out through the left tank to reverse it. Remember back on oats and the shaft broke and I dropped too much fertilizer in a row? Well, now these two middle rows won’t have any fertilizer and I’ll be able to see that too; the corn will miss a boost this starter fertilizer gives it.

A lot of guys are using liquid fertilizer these days. I still use dry; it’s just what I’m set up for. I have a 6 row planter. Small these days of 12, 18, 24 row, or bigger planters. So, I have three fertilizer tanks, each doing two rows

Kelly and Amelia and the dogs take a walk, when they come back Bailey comes across the field to find me so she can ride in the tractor. She’s such a sweetheart. 

Kelly comes out in the field with the gator and gets in the tractor and makes a couple rounds with me. There’s not an extra seat in the 6410 so riding along isn’t that comfortable. The 8200 has an “instructor seat” and it’s more comfortable riding along. Humphrey goes back home. I spend some time checking seed planting depth and spacing; all critical things to a good final yield. You want it about 2½” deep and about 6” apart.

(It’s not 6” deep, that’s just the way the ruler is laying).

The seed is treated, that’s why it’s blue / green to prevent bugs like corn root worm, soilborne and seedborne pathogens, and to keep it healthy if it sits in cold ground for a few weeks before it gets enough GDU’s to emerge. (It takes 100 -120 GDU’s to emerge) and this year it took a few weeks before it finally came out of the ground. The random red color seeds are the ‘refuge’ seeds to prevent corn borer resistance.  

I finish planting at 9:30 PM. Out of both seed and fertilizer. I had added six bags of seed, each bag holds 80,000 kernals. So, 6 times 80,000 kernels equals 480,000 divided by the 14 acres I planted means 33,500 seeds per acre which is a good planting rate.

After they start to emerge, if you measure out 17’6”, that will be 1 / 1000th of an acre and you count how many plants are in that length and that’s your final stand population.

Ever had a seed of an idea that blossomed into something?

Yawning Portal Biscuits

You all know that my choice of reading matter can sometimes be a little… eclectic.  But I bet most of you would still be surprised to see Heroes’ Feast Dungeon & Dragons Cookbook sitting my kitchen.  I know I am.  I don’t even remember when I first saw this title, but clearly on a whim I added it to my waitlist at the library.  It’s a new title, so it sat with “On Order” status for about five months and then suddenly with no warning last week, it was waiting for me!

It’s unbelievably well-done.  High quality construction, beautiful photos and very well written.  For those of us who know NOTHING about D&D, it has nice introductions to each section (Human Food, Elven Food, Halfling Food, etc.) that describe the different kinds of beings and their foodie bent. 

The food itself has fun D&D names; the fare itself is nothing extremely exotic, so the names are really key to making this cookbook a lot of fun. 

I was having a friend stop by on Saturday morning and had my regular biscuit cookbook sitting out.  The night before I was flipping through Heroes’ Feast and I came across the Yawning Portal Buttermilk Biscuit recipe.  If you are a D&D fan, then you know that The Yawning Portal is a very popular tavern located on Rainrun Street in Castle Ward, one of the wards in the city of Waterkeep.  If you aren’t a D&D fan, now you know.

I’m not going to put the recipe here – it’s a fairly straight forward biscuit recipe.  The one difference is that instead of cutting individual biscuits, you pat all the dough into a pan, score it and then bake it.  I also brushed melted butter on the top as it suggested.  If I do say so myself, when I pulled them from the oven, they looked just like the photo in the cookbook. And they were excellent with homemade jam.

If I were a D&D player, I would HAVE to have this cookbook.  As a non D&D’er, I’ll appreciate it for a couple more weeks and then back to the library it will go.  But I will copy out just a couple of recipes so that I have them on hand whenever I want to make something with a really fun name!

Do you have any “exotic”/theme cookbooks?  Or exotic recipes?

Red Cross Day

My phone pings me every day with a “this day in history” note.  Yesterday’s was about the founding of the American Red Cross in 1881.  I already knew that Clara Barton was instrumental in the beginnings of the Red Cross, but didn’t realize that she had worked with the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian war and that she began lobbying for an American organization when she came home after that.  She headed up the Red Cross well into her 80s. 

This tidbit of history caught my eye because the very first charitable work that I headed up was for the Red Cross.  I don’t remember what was going on in the world and I also don’t remember how I got interested, but when I was in the sixth grade, I started a drive to make care packages that were sent to the Red Cross.  My school let me mimeograph some flyers and kids brought items that we used for our kits:  soap, washcloths, socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste.  We had two or three meetings to put the packages together using paper lunch bags.  I don’t remember how many we made, but it seemed impressive to me at the time.  I felt very proud when my mom drove me to the Red Cross center to turn them in.

Like I said, this was my first organized good work but not the last of my support of the Red Cross.  The following summer a friend and I went all over the neighborhood (repeatedly) with a wagon, collecting pop bottles from people.  Then we carted them up to the Kelloggs store and collected the refund, which we donated to the Red Cross.  It wasn’t very much, but it felt like we were doing something important.

Do you have a cause that you’ve been passionate about?

I Can’t Remember What I’ve Forgotten

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been donating blood for many, many years. And for many of those years, I did not know what type blood I had coursing through my body. I asked a couple of times and then promptly forgot it. When I decided that I just wanted to have it in my brain when I needed it, I figured I’d better come up with a good mnemonic.
It turned out to be pretty easy. I have type “O”, which is the most common. (It’s also the only blood type that doesn’t have an antigen, which means I can donate to any other blood type.) So I thought, “O = Ordinary”. I’ve never forgotten since then.

I use mnemonics quite a bit but I’m having trouble finding a good one for my new car license plate. Not that you need to know your license plate all that often, but every now and then it comes in handy. My last license plate was pretty easy. It was RDJ 430 and I used “Return to Darling Jenai at 4:30”. 4:30 is quitting time at my company.

But the state in all its wisdom decided in January that I had to have a new license plate. I’m not sure why they do this; it’s not like they wear out. Anyway, my new license is MZZ 798 and for the life of me, I can’t of anything good to help me remember it. I suppose I could just write it down someplace and not try to come up with a good memory jog, but knowing myself, I’ll forget where I wrote it down!

Any thoughts to help me remember?

In The Same Vein

YA and I gave blood last night.  I’ve been a blood donor for decades and YA has ponied up a few times herself.  Normally when I get an email from the Blood Center, I think “oh I should do this” and then forget about it.  However when they call me on the phone and I pick up, they’ve got me; I talked YA into going with me.

It was clear that the nurse assigned to me was at the end of a long shift – she had NO sense of humor.  I’ve been in a customer service kind of job for decades and I like to think that I’m pretty good at putting people at ease.  When I do encounter someone in a particularly bad mood, it normally doesn’t take much to get them in a better place.  But this woman was tough.  And it didn’t help that I could hear YA and her nurse in the next room, chatting away. 

I didn’t get frenetic about trying to humor this woman but I wanted to be myself, so I made small remarks when I felt like it.  Eventually, when we got to the “now’s the time to look away” and I told her I didn’t need to look away, she warmed up.  She never got really chatty like YA’s nurse, but she at least responded to comments and asked a few questions of her own. When she asked me what color wrap I wanted on my arm and I said “well, purple”, she smiled and said “of course, what other color is there?”  I felt I had scored a small victory.  I was her last appointment before they closed so I hope that I lifted her spirits a bit before she headed home.

Are you chatty at appointments?  Do people like me tick you off?

Play Date for VS

When I was little we didn’t have “play dates”.  Nothing was ever organized; at some point most days my mother just said “go play outside”.  It seems like every mother and father said the same thing to their kids because there always seems to be kids out and about.  We banded together to play all sorts of games and wander all over.

These days if you want to have fun with the kids in your neighborhood, you have to set up a play date.  Last weekend we had a few folks over to celebrate YA’s graduation from her MBA program.  She wanted the festivities but was extremely opinionated about what she would allow.  For example, no theme plates/napkins/cups, etc.  Luckily I had already ordered the graduation cupcake liners and decorative picks.  She also didn’t want a whole lot of décor but did agree that I could put a chalk message on the sidewalk.

Nobody love using chalk more than the little girls who live next door so I asked their mother if they could come over on Saturday morning to help decorate.  She said “what time” and when I said that around 10 would be good, she put it in her phone.  I had a playdate!

We ended up with parents helping and another little girl from up the street came down to join us as well.  It was my first “gathering” in over a year and even though it was just chalk on the sidewalk, I had a fabulous time.  I’m thinking I should set up more playdates now!

What would you like included in your next play date?

CRP & Seed

Our Farm Report is from Ben.

Mid May and the corn is struggling to emerge through the crust that was created on the soil from the quick heavy rain we got back in late April. Beans haven’t emerged yet. Oats is looking good. Haven’t gotten our garden going either yet.

Back in blogworld…

I have 11 acres of CRP, Conservation Reserve Program, ground planted to wildflowers. I have it burned about every 5 or 6 years. I hire a local prairie restoration company to do that. I was in town when they started. Kelly said it was pretty interesting to watch them get going; A lot of prep work and back burning first. There was one guy with small tractor and water tank, then 5 or 6 other guys with shovels and backpack sprayers.   I could see the smoke from a few miles away.

Last fall I mowed around the edges so that makes a good buffer for this and it went well. I had 3 fiberglass markers in the middle of one piece to designate a line. I wasn’t sure if I had to move them or not. I knew the fire really wouldn’t get that hot. The boss, Jon, came to tell me I lost one flag because he wasn’t willing to throw his body on it. He said it’s not the flames, but the residual heat that gets it. I expected to find an orange puddle of plastic, but nope, just 6” of the fiberglass pole melted, which, in fiberglass, just leaves “strings” and the rest of the pole laying there. I cut that part off and put it back in the ground. Good as new, just 3’ shorter. (The part underground and the melted part.)

I picked up soybean seed from my dealer, Meyers Seed. They were busy unloading a semi of seed. A pallet had tipped over inside and was leaning against the wall. Plus, it had punched a hole in the bottom of a bag. So, they had to strap the leaning tower of beans to the forklift, and carefully drag it out. The hole making a trail of soybeans… they said it’s not the first time that’s happen and it’s always a pain to deal with.

I get 60 bags of seed on two pallets. It’s 30 bags of ‘treated’ seed and 30 untreated. (more on treated seed in a later blog) The guys are a little concerned with how tall my stack is, I should have used a trailer; which comes with its own issues because my trailer has short railings on the sides, so they have to push them in from the back. And with the pickup, even a full bed, two pallets won’t fit end to end so they’re stacked. I didn’t really think of all this at the time. I got home with no issues and used the forks on my tractor loader to take the pallets off and stack on my seed wagon.

Meyers have not started planting yet, ground is too cold. I have seen a few people planting. Really, it’s early yet.

I have found 3 deer antlers this year. ‘Sheds’ they’re called when the male deer shed their antlers. These are three separate deer, not any matched. They can poke a hole in a tractor tire, so you don’t want to run over one. Many years I don’t find any so kind of unusual to find three this year.

Next up; we start planting corn.

What have you seen leaning? What mess have you cleaned up lately?

Woodpecker Spa

A few weeks ago, Husband decided to water the strawberry bed with a rotating sprinkler that watered the strawberries as well as a section of the lilac bushes. It was terribly dry then. The backyard birds got very excited and flitted in and out of the bushes through the water. One bird, a Hairy Woodpecker, just sat very still in the lilacs letting the water fall on it, luxuriating in the shower.

One other occasion many years ago in yet another drought we had a flock of Cedar Waxwings sit for a long time in the lilacs as an oscillating sprinkler went back and forth over them. I guess we have a bird spa in our backyard!

I have never been to a spa. I have never had a massage. I know lots of people do such things. I think I fear the intimacy of such experiences. I would rather watch the birds.

What are your spa experiences? How about massage? Any good bird stories?

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