Sunday, October 28, 2018

Random Stuff

I was sick on Wednesday and the lingering effects mean I have little appetite and feel queazy after eating. I wish I could keep the low appetite for weight loss. :)

Strange thing happened Friday: after work in the evening, my foot started to hurt. On the top towards the outer edge it became swollen and the pain became worse as the evening progressed. At 3 a.m. I got up to take half a pain pill (left over from back pain years ago) being unable to sleep. I had to wear snowboots to do morning chores because shoes were torture. After a day of ice packs and elevation, the pain went away and now my foot is back to normal. Weird.

I just read a feature on the BBC website about the Crazy Horse Memorial here in South Dakota. While Mount Rushmore is worth a visit, unless you want to see the museum, don't bother with Crazy Horse. There has been no noticable progress in the last 20 to 30 years on the monument and it can clearly be seen from the road. The general belief by those of us who live here is that the family have no intention of ever completing it. Originally estimated to take 30 years, it's been over double that.

I am finally digging up my gladiola bulbs for the winter. There are a few other things I could do, but mostly I'm ready.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Three bears...

Too hot, too cold or just right?

Out of curiosity I've kept a digital thermometer out to see what room temps are comfortable to me.


Chilly: 61F/16C
Good: 65F/18C
Warm: 70F/21C

The fire went out last night and it's 61.4F inside this morning. Cool enough to make restarting the fire a priority. Eventually I will have to turn on the furnace to keep pace with the dropping outside temps, but doing so feels like giving in to winter. Yuck.

How warm do you keep your home in winter?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Errant Thoughts Story, Part 29

Susan paused in front of the Job Services building, drew a deep breath and squared her shoulders before entering for the last time. After this week, she would have exhausted the available time on unemployment benefits. So many times she had wished there was a way not to come back to this depressing building that reinforced her feelings of failure, but she needed the money too much to give up on the process.

Today she had an appointment with her case-worker; basically, a pep-talk on keeping on with the job search and all the ways they could still help, except without any money. As she waited in line to let them know she was there, a familiar voice drew her attention across the room. In amazement, she spotted Diane, former co-worker and best friend, turning in job applications. Sensing her gaze, Diane looked up, flushed and shifted so her back was towards Susan.

Mind whirling with conjecture, Susan barely heard a word during her meeting and walked home in a daze. There was no time to go to the library and search for news of her old company before she would have to start Iris's supper. Grinding her teeth in frustrated curiosity, she ran upstairs for a quick shower. It wasn't until she headed back down that she laughed out loud at the realization that Diane had done her an unwitting favor by providing a distraction from her thoughts about the looming loss of most of their combined incomes at the same time.

Meanwhile, Dave finished his afternoon work at the church and went straight to the home of one of the elderly parishioners where he had been helping garden all summer. Most of the gardens had produced bumper crops, but the August heatwave and diminished stamina of the aged gardeners meant that without help, much of the bounty would have gone to waste. This evening he was helping Mr. Haskell with more salsa. Together they had already put up dozens of jars, but the plants were still in full production and Dave had learned that most of these older people considered food waste to be a sin.

Fortunately, between his youth and a summer of constant physical work, Dave had all the stamina needed to spend his evenings in hot, steamy kitchens, following directions and learning everything he could about canning. "Mr. Haskell, what are you going to do with all this salsa? There must be enough to keep you eating it everyday for years."

"Ah ha! That would be telling," waggling his bushy eyebrows expressively, he relented. "Oh, all right, I'll tell you. Everyone knows I make the best salsa so I let it slip I'd have plenty to trade. That way, nobody else bothers making any and cans the foods I don't have. For example, Joe Coutts has a grandson with a farm. He gets all the sweet corn he wants and was ready to can enough for everyone. That's easier to can so I can trade one jar of salsa for three of his corn if it was a good year."

"Sweet corn? I wonder if he would like some help with that."

Mr Haskell nodded in approval, "I'll ask him. By the way, I talked to Hank and he's agreed to pick up all your jars as you make the next food boxes delivery."

Dave sighed happily; he was being paid in jars of preserved food and had worried about how to get them all home safely. The jars of pickles alone would be a big job to move.

The older man's mood shifted and he sounded morose when he said, "I'm worried, Dave. The time might come when the church won't have food to hand out and a lot of people never had to scrimp and save every penny before. I wish I had planted some winter squash or pumpkins."

"I know at least two gardens with pumpkins. And the church is growing acorn squash. Don't worry about that, at least." Even as he spoke the reassurances, a knot of dread tightened in Dave's gut at the thought of any of these good people going hungry.

Part 30

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Well, really

Carrying on with the weather theme: I'm not sure how we were supposed to translate the forecast for 20% chance of rain last night into the reality of two inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground.

Anyway, knowing yesterday was likely to be the only decent day (temps in the low 50s) I'd have off work, I had a list of things I wanted to do outside. I got through everything on the list except for emptying the rain barrel. Including, funnily, clearing the garage so I could park my car inside...which I didn't bother moving and is now draped in snow.

The chore I'm happiest to have done was heaving 300 lbs of chicken feed over the fence and put away. Normally, they charge out of the coop in the morning in a race to find yummies; today I could imagine the dialogue in their little bird brains when they saw the snow, "Aw, hell no!" And they stayed inside.

Knowing today would be colder, I planned out a day of baking. Breadsticks, zucchini bread and maybe some brownies are in the offing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


This is definitely turning out to be an oddball year weather-wise. Here, we had about one week of spring temps before it got beastly hot. Now, what has happened to autumn? The average temp in October should be in the 60s; but it's only 40 something every day for a high.

The farmers are really feeling the pain. Lots of fields still have beans, which means they haven't started on the corn yet. Add in day after day of rain, and it will have to be after the temps stay below freezing before they can finish harvesting.

One bright spot: Saturday is forecast to be in the 50s and I have the day off so will be trying to get everything done outside.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Errant Thoughts Story, Part 28

Susan hummed contentedly under her breath as she kept one eye on the backgammon game Iris and Grace were playing. Knitting needles clicked rhythmically as a hat formed in her lap; word had spread about her handmade goods and orders for hats, scarves, mittens and socks kept her from any idle time. Customers provided the yarn and described what they wanted, she found patterns at the library and payment came in precious dollars or bartered food.

A side benefit from the needle work was the calming effect it had on her nerves; especially important now as the boys prepared to return to high school in the next week. Susan had received a letter from Dave's parents allowing her to act as his guardian and enroll him back at the local school. He still planned on working each day after school and weekends, but the difference in both boys' incomes would be felt.

An exasperated cry marked the end of the game as Grace leaned back in defeat. Susan smiled to herself as she considered again just how sharp Iris could be for someone who seemed to be in a mental fog.

A scene on the t.v. of a semi-truck stopped sideways on an interstate caught Grace's eye and she unmuted it. "I'm broke. None of the loads are enough to cover the cost of diesel and insurance and truck payments. If the government wants it they can come get it and fight the bank themselves."

The reporter asked, "Why are you blocking the interstate? Isn't that just hurting the other truckers?"

"They'll understand. And why? Because someone has to get the word out about who's fault this is before people are going hungry."

As the camera panned across the backed up traffic, Iris pointed out, "He must have warned his friends; there aren't any other trucks."

While they discussed the implications, the news moved on to international events. Conversation stopped with the introduction of the next segment. "Three months ago, the British government began a tough, zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration. Today we get an inside look into the internment camps and interviews with the people living there."

The program proceeded to show two bleak, wind-swept islands off the coast of Scotland; families and single men kept separately. The family camp had a play-room with toys, but both were utilitarian; offering only books for entertainment and a basic, vegetarian diet of beans and rice. Money, tobacco and alcohol were not allowed. Personal possessions were kept locked up on the mainland until the occupants' fates were decided.

An interview with a politician surprisingly didn't show aggression or defensiveness; instead, he just seemed tired. "The system is unsustainable," he said bluntly. "It's gone past the tipping point where taxpayers can support those on benefits. Even with the cutbacks and austerity measures, we can't afford the basics. I was tasked with taking the illegal immigrants out of the equation at a minimum cost. It's not ideal, it's not desirable and I'm not proud of my methods, but it is the best I could do."

Next up was a Chinese family, waiting for permission to return to China. The woman shrugged in response to the questions, "Before, they knew we were illegal, but they left us alone because of the babies. We made good money running the takeaway." She laughed at the idea of paying taxes and, when asked about their future, "We will go back to our families. They will be angry there is no more money."

A young man from Afghanistan blamed Europe for his troubles; through a translator he explained, "Life was supposed to be better here. I paid good money to come. I destroyed my passport so they couldn't make me leave. Now there is no help and I am stuck here. I want to go home. Stupid, useless Europeans!"

As the report wrapped up, Grace pressed the mute button and looked at the others thoughtfully. "I wonder...when the economy finally stabilizes again, however many years that takes, will Europe still be on top?"

Part 29