2022

Celebrating the Christmas Cactus & Its Friends

The Christmas cactus is now in full glory, red and white blossoms popping out all over, blooming about a month earlier than its name indicates. It sits on an antique wooden chair in front of my desk, alongside a plant called a painter’s palette, or anthurium. That plant’s bloom is also exquisite, very shiny, almost as if it were shellacked. Both plants were presents from one of my Beautiful Mystery Companion’s brothers. They have lasted, indeed flourished, for years thanks to my BMC’s talent with plants. If it grows, she knows how to care for it. I simply follow orders, lugging plants here...

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Another thankful day, and a new addition

Now it's all I can do just to get out of bed There’s more in the mirror than there is up ahead I smile and I nod like I heard what you said every time So run another rack Pour another shot You don't get it back so give it all you got While you still got a more or less functional body and mind — If It Don’t Bleed, by James McMurtry   The Friday before Thanksgiving, I walked Pancho’s pasture, spreading more ryegrass seed, this time with a borrowed hand spreader. It consists of a canvas sack that can hold 25 pounds of seed, a hand crank and a shoulder strap. I am trying to thicken...

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A Mule on Wheels And a Balky Chainsaw

Now that mowing and bushhogging season has largely ceased — likely one more round of bushhogging around the fence line in the back 50 acres — I have turned my attention to cutting up and burning fallen tree limbs. This task ought to keep me occupied until it is time to start mowing again. Every thunderstorm or afternoon of brisk winds seem to send another bevy of limbs crashing to the ground, landing on the fence, blocking the tractor’s paths. Or that of the newly semi-acquired Kawasaki Mule. I say semi-acquired since it belongs to my brother-in-law, Jim. The Mule, what is known as a side-by-side,...

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From ‘New Kids” to Restoring Farmhouses

We just finished watching a couple of seasons of Farmhouse Fixer on HGTV. It stars Jon Knight, who first gained fame in the 1980s as a member of the boy band New Kids on the Block. It turns out Knight’s other passion is restoring New England farm houses. A recent episode featured the John Proctor home in Peabody, Massachusetts, built in 1638. Peabody adjoins Salem, which, of course, was home to the infamous witch trials. Both John Proctor and his wife, Elizabeth, were accused, tried and convicted of being witches. Elizabeth’s execution was stayed because she was pregnant. John was hanged, along...

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Country Roads, Take Me Home

My favorite month has arrived. November brings fall foliage, predictably cooler temperatures, Thanksgiving and the end to Daylight Saving Time. I awake at first light unless there is a reason to set an alarm. Since I largely work an afternoon/evening shift at the library, there is seldom a reason. That means I don’t awaken at the tail end of DST until 7:00 or so, sometimes later. This makes me feel like I am already running behind on my morning routine — working out, writing, researching — all the activities I try to get done before heading to work. Now it will get dark earlier, but sunrise...

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Desperate Pleas For Campaign Cash as Election Nears

Early voting is well underway for the Nov. 8 general election. Hence, the number of email and text message fund-raising pleas filling my inboxes has increased exponentially in the past week. Clearly, I somehow landed on a mailing list that was shared with folks running all over the country — Pennsylvania, Arizona, Iowa, Wisconsin and Florida, to name a few. Nearly all of these go into the promotions inbox of my Gmail, so each morning I hit “select all” and send them all to the trash. For grins, I decided to let them accumulate, not so I can actually donate money, but to collect the subject...

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Discing and Seeding After the Rain

The rain at last returned on Sunday, the first appreciable moisture in about seven weeks. I have been waiting on another bout of wet stuff before planting ryegrass in Pancho the Donkey’s pasture. Since we had the pond built, that roughly two-acre plot became mainly bare soil, since the dirt guy spread the excavated soil around the pond. Pancho subsists on a bit of grass at the front and back, and the square bales of hay we supply regularly. Plus, there’s the breakfast buffet my Beautiful Mystery Companion provides a few times weekly: a bucket of shredded wheat, apples, grapes, bananas and carrots....

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Show & Tell In A Photography Class

I held Old Camera Show and Tell for my photography class at LeTourneau University the other day, dragging a box of old gear to campus to explain what using a camera was like in the dinosaur days. This is the fourth fall semester I have taught this class. It fills to capacity each time offered. That is not because I am a great teacher – or even a particularly good one – but because it is an attractive elective, especially for the engineering and aviation students who are looking for something a bit less onerous to add to their courseload. I enjoy interacting with the students, who are intelligent,...

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Tick Seeds & Hobby Farming

Finally, it feels like autumn in East Texas. The air is crisp in the morning, the afternoons tolerable. Our yard is graced with hummingbirds darting about, drinking from the feeders or feasting on the rosebuds. Soon they will head south, and the blackbirds will arrive, if last autumn and winter were any indication. We are hopeful waterfowl will find our pond this winter. Some rain would be helpful, as an unusually wet August has been followed by cloudless skies for several weeks. I am holding off planting ryegrass until rain arrives, though I plan to hook up the borrowed disc harrow and get the ground...

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Mollie and Max, Her Unwanted Suitor

I hopped out of bed Saturday morning and stumbled to my closet to grab some clothes. Our master closets each have a window looking out on the front porch and the pasture beyond. This sounds strange but is actually quite a pleasant feature of this house on a hill – a view of stately oak trees, verdant pasture, white cross fence along its edges, the occasional squirrel, birds splashing in the bird bath. A Peeping Tom would have to commit serious trespassing to spy me in my underwear, such as walking onto our front porch from the highway a few hundred yards away. The sight would likely cause an intruder...

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