Archive for July, 2012

Jeopardy Question: What is seven linear feet?

Answer:  The distance a thoroughly burnt chunk of egg can fly when all the water in the pan in which it’s being hard-boiled boils away, and it and its three fellow pan-mates explode all over the kitchen.

Although all is well, the house smells like smoke, the stove, counter, walls, and floor of the kitchen are a mess, and once things cool down, I will be cleaning for quite a while.

Irony #1 – This morning, I cleaned the kitchen very well and even mopped the floor.  There is absolutely no evidence of all that hard work now.

Irony #2 – Some years ago, our then nine-year-old daughter turned on the faucet in the attic bathroom, in preparation for cleaning said bathroom.  While waiting for the water to get hot, she went into her bedroom to read a book.  (She couldn’t stand to waste time that could be used for reading.)  Let’s just say that it was QUITE a while before she returned to the bathroom, and the ensuing flood was. . . umm. . . extensive and impressive.

I put the eggs on to boil for tomorrow’s salad, and I knew it would take five minutes or so for the water to boil.  I didn’t want to waste that time, so I went up to the bathroom, where I picked up a book, which I read several pages of, and that reminded me of an order I needed to place with amazon, so I went to my desk and searched for the book I needed to order, and in researching that I ended up looking up some other stuff, and when I finally got ready to hit “place my order,” I realized that there were a bunch of old shipping addresses in my account which I needed to delete, and I kept wondering who was cooking what in the middle of the afternoon, and why hadn’t Josiah eaten more at lunch, for crying out loud, so he wouldn’t have to be COOKING at 4 PM, or was Jessica pre-cooking something for our supper tonight, although I thought for sure she was on a Skpye call, and whatever they’re cooking sure does smell good, and whatever they’re cooking really, really smells good, and whatever they’re cooking smells like it’s burning, so why aren’t they watching it more closely, and it sure does smell like something’s burning. . . something’s burning. . . something’s burning. . . something’s BURNING!!!  THE EGGS!!!!!!!!   AAARRRGGGHHH!!!

So, maybe it really is “like mother, like daughter,” after all.  I’m off to clean the kitchen, again.

Jeopardy Question: What is 38?

Answer:  The number of half-pints of plum preserves prepared in the past 24 hours by Grandma, Jessica, Andrew, and me.  We feel a great sense of accomplishment!

Our two trees have been producing like crazy this year, and we have not been selfish with our plums.  A couple folks have came by the yard a few weeks ago, I told them they could take however many they wanted.  I’m assuming they’ve done that.  Then there are the deer that have been eating the downed ones off the ground.  In addition, we think squirrels have been enjoying fruity desserts, as well.  Even given all that generosity, I estimate that we have picked (mainly off the ground) an amount of cherry tomato-sized plums that would fill a five gallon bucket to overflowing.

Yesterday, we made three batches, and when I went out to walk this morning and saw more plums on the ground and a lot of ripe ones hanging in the trees, I decided I just didn’t want them all to go to waste.  I asked Andrew, who was practicing the piano, to come out and climb up into the larger tree and shake the branches.  He did, and it rained plums onto Grandma and me.  That “precipitation,” plus what we had left over from the day before, gave enough for a fourth and final batch.

The process goes like this:

Collect four to five pounds of plums.

Clean ten half-pint jars and place them upside down on a clean towel.

Wash ten lids and rings and place in a pot of hot water.

For each plum, cut it open, remove the stone, and chop it into small pieces.

Begin heating the canner, half full of water, to a boil.

Put six cups of chopped plums and one-half cup of water in a large pot, and simmer five minutes.

Gradually stir in one envelope of fruit pectin.

Bring it all to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.

All at once, dump in eight cups of sugar, and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.

Boil hideously, stirring constantly, for one minute.

Remove from heat.

Skim off as much foam as possible.

Ladle hot preserves into jar, filling to within 1/4″ of the top.

Wipe off rim with clean hot wet cloth.

Place lid on jar and apply ring, only till it’s initially snug.

Using jar lifter, place each jar in the canner of boiling water.

Position canning lid on canner loosely (to keep water hot enough to continue boiling).

Boil jars for ten minutes.

Remove jars from canner and place on clean towel.

Leave jars undisturbed until they cool.  (Lids will pop as they seal.)

When completely cool, wipe jars down (to remove lime debris) and make sure rings are snug.

Take pictures of your produce and the project participants!

Store jars in a cool, dry place.

What does a deer eat for lunch?

Emphatically NOT, tomatoes, thankfully!  One day Scott looked out the office window at about 11:00 AM and saw a deer in our side yard.  Concerned that it might be eating my precious tomatoes, Scott called down to us.  When Andrew and I looked out Jessica’s bedroom window, we saw a very young deer, standing under our plum trees and lucking the fallen ones off the ground.  In fact, it was eating them one at a time, and dropping the seeds!  We tried to get some pictures through the window, but they weren’t the greatest.

Two days later, Jessica told me that when she was out walking early in the morning, she saw a deer eating plums off the ground in our yard.  Clearly this deer likes our plums for breakfast, too.


Gary Zahner bought the house at the top of  Smart Lane.  That would be the house that Frank and Libby Smart built in 1996, that Jerod and Carolyn Hill lived in for a few years, and that crazy Gene Forrester most recently owned.  The place was repossessed some time back, and over the past year, various official-looking people have been out, asking questions about the house, venturing to drive their vehicles up Smart Lane, and always taking pictures.  Several of them have been “from the bank,” whatever that means.

Mr. Zahner seems like a really nice grandfatherly type.  He was out at the foot of the driveway one day – waiting to flag down the electrician, I believe, so we introduced ourselves and talked a bit.  At the time, he was in the process of having all the electrical, plumbing, and sheetrock replaced, having a new A/C unit installed, and having carpet laid – pretty much in that order, as I recall.  Mr. Forrester and his animals had totally trashed the place, and it basically had to be gutted and re-built in order to be habitable.  A couple times, Mr. Zahner came down to ask to use our outside faucet to clean up after painting, because he didn’t yet have water at his place.

Oh, he also asked about mail delivery and we gave him some information about that.  Rural free delivery is a complicated thing.  It’s just not intuitive to have a Walnut Shade mailing address, mail your out-going packages from the nearest post office in Rockaway Beach, know that your incoming mail is received and processed at the Forsyth post office (by your carrier who lives in Taneyville), and realize that all your outgoing mail is postmarked Springfield, but gets to your neighbor – whose house you can see out the kitchen window – via Kansas City.

Well anyway, imagine my surprise when a VERY nice, VERY huge pickup pulled into our driveway yesterday, and a man I’d never seen came to the door.  It seems his company had been hired to PAVE Smart Lane, and he had several pieces of large equipment that it would be pretty inconvenient to park at the Mexican restaurant, and would it be okay if they parked them in our driveway area while they were working.  I’m generally nice that way, so I said yes, and Andrew moved cars around to give them more room.

Throughout the afternoon there was much clanging noise of large trailers hauling heavy things up the hill, followed by bulldozer-ish scraping sounds as the road bed was smoothed.  Most of that was happening far enough up that we couldn’t see it.  Then around 3:15 PM, the man came back to the door and said that his supplier had run out – whatever that meant – and could he park his big trailer in our driveway overnight; that they’d be back in the morning and finish up.  Being the neighborly type, I told him that would be fine.  I didn’t bother assuring him that I wouldn’t mess with his tractor-trailer truck, because Scott had driven to work in the Honda, so the man couldn’t see what had happened the last time I tried to back up a trailer.

Their gang of some six or eight strong guys plus a variety of vehicles showed up today at 9:00 AM.  They worked till 2:15 PM, at which time their little steam roller finished smoothing out the black asphalt that is now Smart Lane.

For the record, I had told the man that the one thing I didn’t want (well, since I wasn’t paying for the job and it wasn’t occurring on my property, he probably didn’t give a flying rip what I didn’t want, but he was polite enough to listen) was all the rainwater racing down the pavement, sloshing across our driveway(s), and flooding our yard – and possibly re-locating our driveways in our yard.  He assured me that the run-off would be about the same as it had always been, and maybe less.  They were making the road like a vee, lower in the middle (although I always thought roads were made higher in the middle. . . hmmm. . . ?), so that all the water would be funneled out onto the highway.  May that be exactly what happens!

It occurs to me now that I probably should have taken some before photos of Smart Lane, its ruts, its ditches, and its convergence with the foot of our driveway(s), but I didn’t think that fast. I’ve only had 16 years to take those kinds of pictures; clearly I am not one to rush into things.

I can only imagine the joy Antony and Joan (our next-door neighbors who live partway up Smart Lane) experienced tonight as they came home from work and did not have to get a running start from the mailboxes, did not have to bounce their compact cars in and out of the ruts, did not have to scrape their tailpipes, and did not have to pay a dime for the privilege!

We didn’t have to pay for it, either, and we don’t get to drive on it, but it sure is definitively black and smooth.  Smart Lane looks classy enough now to live up to its name.

Never before seen

A tomato picked this morning weighs 20.5 ounces.  It’s a German Giant.  I guess so!


It rained – at times heavily – for the better part of two hours this afternoon!!!!  It was super windy right before (nearly taking out the center stake of our “Truck” Pennel for Assessor sign), and we even had thunder and lightning.  We three (Scott, Josiah, and I) stood out on the porch watching the rain and cheering it on, while the entire porch carpet got wet, as did our lovely new porch swing cushion cover.  We did not care in the least!

We have not had rain since May 21, and that was 47 days ago.  WOW!  Prior to that, it had rained a tiny bit on May 7 and 8.

A side benefit of today’s rain was that the temps dropped from 96 to 72 degrees.  Time to open the windows and turn off the air!

14 ounces!

Unlike 2011, when I worked my buns off to produce about half a dozen tasteful but tiny tomatoes, 2012 looks to be a very satisfying year on the tomato front.  I’ve done a few things differently this time around and maybe those changes have contributed to my seeming success.

For one thing, I grew all my ‘maters from seeds this year.  I purchased them from, after reviewing their truly stunning print catalog.  I selected four varieties from the dozens (could it be hundreds?) they offer:  Bush Early Girl, Floralina (which seems to have been discontinued now), Big Beef, and German Giant.

For another thing, I used the high-dollar, name-brand Miracle Gro potting soil in all the containers our front, and I only put two plants in each side barrel, as opposed to my usual four or five.

Despite my earlier efforts to kill them all with my NEEM oil fiasco, all the plants seem to have recovered, and all but two have already produced tomatoes.  The Bush Early Girl and Floralina are both determinate (they bear all their fruit at one time and then they’re done, while the German Giant and Big Beef are indeterminate (they’ll keep bearing fruit till frost, if the conditions are right).

So far, the Floralinas, which were most adversely affected by the NEEM oil concentrate, have not produced pickable tomatoes, although there are a few ripening on the plants right now.  The Bush Early Girls have been fairly small and not too flavorful, although still better than the store-bought ones.  They were our very first tomatoes of the season, ready to eat on June 26.  All my seedlings went in the ground on March 30, and they probably would have given me ripe tomatoes around June 14, had I not been so very angry at my coagulated NEEM oil.

But the big news o day here is that I currently have 12 tomatoes on the windowsill and two in the fridge.  The two smallest are about 6 ounces, and all the rest are huge – 12 to 14 ounces!!!  I am really proud and happy.  I have NEVER grown tomatoes this large, and the Big Beefs and German giants taste great, too.

This is the way tomato growing is supposed to be.

Never mind that it’s 100 degrees here and has only rained one day since before May 8.  We are eating homegrown tomatoes!!!


Three for three

I’m pretty sure this must’ve happened just so I could blog about it.

I got in the van this afternoon to drive to an appointment in Branson.  It was 95 degrees hot outside, so I had spent the whole morning inside in the AC.  I needed to stop at the bank on the way, and I rarely allow myself as much margin as I should, so yes, I was skidding gravel as I pulled out.

Just a few feet down the road, something very large and very black slapped against my windshield, almost completely obscuring my view.  This was startling and disturbing, to say the least.  As I tried to see around whatever it was, it dawned on my lightning fast mind that what was plastered to my windshield was, in fact, a floor mat.

Gradually, over the next four seconds, the light in my brain came on, and a long series of thoughts tumbled through my brain:  When Scott took the guys down to Big Rock to swim after the tennis match yesterday morning, he used the van (our only vehicle with marginally enough clearance to negotiate the gravel down there), and they probably put the rubber-bottomed floor mats on the seats to keep them dry on the way home, and since their wet swim suits soaked the floor mats, he probably put them up on the hood of the car to dry out.  And they probably stayed there overnight on the 4th and were forgotten, what with our cookout, and playing bridge, and shooting off fireworks.

Then, when I got in the van, I didn’t see the mats, because I never see the hood of the van when I drive.  Either I’m too short, or the van slopes down away from the windshield at too steep of an angle, or something.  In any case, I was suddenly seeing floor mat now, and in a very big way.

It occurred to me that I really needed to get that floor mat off the windshield, and that to do so, I would need to pull over and stop.  However, as anyone who has been to our house knows, there is NO shoulder on our road due west of downtown Walnut Shade.  I decided I would continue on to 176, where I could pull off and retrieve my mat.  Just as that thought zipped through my brain, the floor mat flipped off the windshield!  I had no idea which way it went (I was driving 50 mph at the time), and just as I processed the thought that I would now need to stop somewhere and go back on foot to find the beastly thing, a second floor mat flew from the hood to the windshield and bounced off into oblivion.  Wow!

I only spent two seconds deciding that I would not stop to look for the mats on my outbound trek.  For one thing, I had to get to the bank and to my appointment. For another thing, in order to stop to look, I’d need to park somewhere around 176 and hike back, and that would result not only in a lot of lost time, but also in a lot of uncomfortable and unsightly sweat.  No, the Great Mat Search would have to wait.

After my various errands that afternoon, I returned home several hours later, hoping (against hope) that I would see the mats in the road and be able to retrieve them. No such luck, so after parking the van in the driveway, I set out on foot for the Great Mat Search.

I walked on left, facing traffic, which put me on the south side of the road, where there’s anywhere from one to four feet of grass, debris, and unevenly sloping ground beside the road.  I walked to the far side of the cemetery, scanning the rocky downhill for black mats.   Did I mention that at 5:00 PM today it was about 102 and sunny?  It was so hot it was hard to see straight, and seeing straight is vitally important when the cars are whizzing by only a couple feet away.

Nearly to 176, I crossed to the north side of the road and headed back.  Note that on the north side there is a grand total of anywhere from zero to six inches of weeds between the white line of the road and the ditch.  Also, there’s a steep hillside there, which makes it impossible for westbound cars to see Mat Searching pedestrians until both the vehicle and the pedestrian are occupying the same space.  It was a bit scary.  Not only that, I had to keep glancing down for the mats and up for the cars, and anyone who wears trifocals can tell you what a joke that is.

Less than a quarter of a mile from the house, I found the large mat!!!  Hooray!  And less than 100 feet from our driveway, down in the ditch, I found the small mat.  Hooray again!  Dripping to the skin, I inserted each mat into its associated floorboard, thanked God for protecting me and keeping all western Taney County Mat Thieves from stealing our goods, and called Scott to say that we were three for three on floor mats.  “Three?” he asked.  “I thought there were only two mats on the hood.”

“It is true that only two mats came home,” I replied,  “but so did one wife, so I think we’re three for three.”

Glorious Fourth

Katie and a group of her PHC friends spent the day in D.C., where they watched our nation’s Independence Day parade, complete with many marching bands and some Macy’s-ish balloons.  While awaiting the start of the parade, she went into the American History Smithsonian Museum and saw THE Star-Spangled Banner (the actual one from Ft. McHenry) on the 4th of July!  WOW!  That really made me smile.  When she called me mid-afternoon, she was sitting on a blanket under a tree on the ground of the U.S. Capitol, a spot from which they will be experiencing a concert and fireworks tonight.  How very special.

Sadly a one of the guys from church who is Andrew’s age was swimming in a nearby lake this afternoon, and the person he was swimming with drowned.  He has to pull the person’s body from the water and is quite upset.  We are praying for him and for the person’s family.

Having already done our major fireworks-watching a week-and-a-half ago at C of O, we had a quiet day at home.  Well, Scott and Josiah played tennis this morning with Pastor Barb and Bob, one of Scott’s P.K. teammates.  They had a good time and went straight to the creek to cool off afterwards.  The high today was about 100 degrees.

We had a very delicious supper of grilled top sirloin steak, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, garlic rolls, and watermelon.  Ron Gray joined us, as his family was out of town.  We played two of the all-time saddest rubbers of bridge – sad because Scott and Josiah got all the points and shared none of them with Ron and me.

Chuck Pennel came by to put a massive yellow sign in our yard and we had a great visit with him.  He is one special guy, and I do hope he makes assessor.  I also got his input on a number of candidates in our upcoming primary.  He loves God so much it oozes out of him!  May it ooze out of me, too!



Goundhog waddles

As I approached the bridge this morning, something low and furry waddled quickly over the constructed rock embankment and disappeared between some of the rocks.  I am 99% sure it was our groundhog friend – the one who was seen on more than one occasion wandering through our backyard and frequenting the spaces under our propane tank and/or the smokehouse.

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