Monday, September 28, 2009

Small town celebration

Even though this is our busy season - too busy to attend such large functions as the North Idaho Fair - we always try to attend what is grandiosely called the "Southeast Spokane County Fair" in the nearby town of Rockford, WA (population 500).

It's a charming little farming community that throws a great party, complete with a scaled-down parade, midway, exhibit hall, and livestock exhibits. Here are some photos.

The nice part about small-town parades is any kid can be in the limelight for a few minutes. Cute!

Another nearby town sends its impressively-dressed marching band.

Horses and farming themes are, uh, big.

This was the graduating class of 1959 having its 50th class reunion - a hay ride in the Rockford parade. Gotta love it!


Library sale (our favorite part).

Inside the exhibit hall, I thought this display encapsulated everything. Evidently the judges agreed.

Samples of home canning.


Twin toddlers bravely sitting on the back of an obliging sheep.

4H-ers displaying their prize chickens.

A group of older women singing a cappella in a barbershop quartet-style. Didn't catch the name of the group but they were outstanding.

With midway rides priced into the stratosphere, we allowed the girls to go on one ride. They chose bumper cars.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The cash for clunkers farce

A reader sent this.

- A vehicle at 15 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 800 gallons a year of gasoline.
- A vehicle at 25 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 480 gallons a year.
- So, the average clunker transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year.
- They claim 700,000 vehicles – so that's 224 million gallons / year.
- That equates to a bit over 5 million barrels of oil.
- 5 million barrels of oil is about 1/4 of one day's US consumption.
- And, 5 million barrels of oil costs about $350 million dollars at $75/bbl.
- So, we all contributed to spending $3 billion to save $350 million.

How good a deal was that???

They'll probably do a great job with health care though!

Get some Kleenex, this is a tear-jerker

Maybe it's just the aftermath of losing my own beloved dog, but this one hit me like a ton of bricks.

They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly. I'd only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn't hurt. Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn't look like "Lab people," whatever that meant. They must've thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner. See, Reggie and I didn't really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too. Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls - he wouldn't go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes. I guess I didn't really think he'd need all his old stuff, that I'd get him new things once he settled in. but it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn't going to.

I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like "sit" and "stay" and "come" and "heel," and he'd follow them - when he felt like it. He never really seemed to listen when I called his name - sure, he'd look in my direction after the fourth of fifth time I said it, but then he'd just go back to doing whatever. When I'd ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.

This just wasn't going to work. He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes. I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell. The friction got so bad that I couldn't wait for the two weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search mode for my cell phone amid all of my unpacked stuff. I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the "dog probably hid it on me."

Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter's number, I also found his pad and other toys from the shelter. I tossed the pad in Reggie's direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most enthusiasm I'd seen since bringing him home. But then I called, "Hey, Reggie, you like that? Come here and I'll give you a treat." Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction - maybe "glared" is more accurate - and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down. With his back to me.

Well, that's not going to do it either, I thought. And I punched the shelter phone number.

But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that, too. "Okay, Reggie," I said out loud, "let's see if your previous owner has any advice."


To Whoever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can't say that I'm happy you're reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie's new owner. I'm not even happy writing it. If you're reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter. He knew something was different. I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this time... it's like he knew something was wrong. And something is wrong... which is why I have to go to try to make it right.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls. The more the merrier. Sometimes I think he's part squirrel, the way he hordes them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn't done it yet. Doesn't matter where you throw them, he'll bound after it, so be careful - really don't do it by any roads. I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.

Next, commands. Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I'll go over them again: Reggie knows the obvious ones - "sit," "stay," "come," "heel." He knows hand signals: "back" to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up; and "over" if you put your hand out right or left. "Shake" for shaking water off, and "paw" for a high-five. He does "down" when he feels like lying down - I bet you could work on that with him some more. He knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like nobody's business.

I trained Reggie with small food treats. Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.

Feeding schedule: twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in the evening. Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.

He's up on his shots. Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with yours; they'll make sure to send you reminders for when he's due. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car - I don't know how he knows when it's time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. I've never been married, so it's only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He's gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn't bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.

Which means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.

And that's why I need to share one more bit of info with you....

His name's not Reggie.

I don't know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie. He's a smart dog, he'll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn't bear to give them his real name. For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I'd never see him again. And if I end up coming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything's fine. But if someone else is reading it, well... well it means that his new owner should know his real name. It'll help you bond with him. Who knows, maybe you'll even notice a change in his demeanor if he's been giving you problems.

His real name is Tank.

Because that is what I drive.

Again, if you're reading this and you're from the area, maybe my name has been on the news. I told the shelter that they couldn't make "Reggie" available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could've left Tank with... and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq , that they make one phone call to the shelter the "event"... to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he'd do it personally. And if you're reading this, then he made good on his word.

Well, this letter is getting too downright depressing, even though, frankly, I'm just writing it for my dog. I couldn't imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family. but still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me.

That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do something selfless, to protect innocent people from those who would do terrible things... and to keep those terrible people from coming over here. If I had to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so. He was my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that's enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. I don't think I'll say another good-bye to Tank, though. I cried too much the first time. Maybe I'll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from me.

Thank you, Paul Mallory

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

"Hey, Tank," I said quietly.

The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

"C'mere boy."

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months.

"Tank," I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.

"It's me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me." Tank reached up and licked my cheek. "So whatdaya say we play some ball? His ears perked again. "Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?" Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.

And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

If it's free, it has no value

In response to my column of a couple weeks ago, "Preserving Abundance," a reader sent the following observation which I thought was very true:

"It's the tragedy of the commons: If it's free, then it has no value and therefore you don't preserve it."

This line hit me like a ton o' bricks. The first thing that came to my steel trap of a mind (rusted shut) was: the same can also be said of our salvation. Without launching into deep theological discussion, let's just say that people also have a cavalier attitude about God's greatest gift. It too was free; bought and paid for by Someone else. Yet we seldom seem to cherish it and work to preserve it between Sundays.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Should the phrase "In God We Trust" be removed from our currency?

MSNBC is running a poll to get a feel for this idea. Hop on over and give 'em an earful, won't you?

Friday, September 18, 2009

God said No.

Got this from a friend.

I asked God to take away my habit. God said, “No. It is not for me to take it away, but for you to give it up.”

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole. God said, “No. His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.”

I asked God to grant me patience. God said, “No. Patience is a byproduct of tribulations. It isn't granted, it is learned.”

I asked God to give me happiness. God said, “No. I give you blessings. Happiness is up to you.”

I asked God to spare me pain. God said, “No. Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.”

I asked God to make my spirit grow. God said, “No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.”

I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life. God said, “No. I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things.”

I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me. God said, “Ahhhh, finally you have the idea!”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Table of Contents for my ebook

Some readers are curious about the content of the ebook. Here's what's inside:

How We Got Started
Lesson 1: Spousal Support
Lesson 2: Frugal Living, The Means to an End
Lesson 3: Time Management
Lesson 4: Blame the Boss
Lesson 5: When Nobody Wants Your Product
Lesson 6: No-magic Marketing
Lesson 7: It Takes Time
Lesson 8: How NOT to Finance Your Business
Lesson 9: Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Lesson 10: Love What You Do
Lesson 11: Pricing Your Products
Lesson 12: Quality vs. Efficiency
Lesson 13: Wholesale vs. Retail
Lesson 14: Selling Wholesale
Lesson 15: Custom Work
Lesson 16: To Consign or Not to Consign
Lesson 17: Professionalism
Lesson 18: Billing
Lesson 19: Financial Transactions
Lesson 20: The Psychology of Sales
Lesson 21: The Tax Man Cometh
Lesson 22: Crafting in a Bad Economy
Lesson 23: Random Concluding Thoughts

Wow! Look at this!

My new book is front-page news on What a thrill!

It's starting...

I just learned that our electric bill will increase by 13.2% starting in October. That means our average $45 monthly bill will increase by almost $6. While this sounds like a trivial amount, we see it as just the start of a tidal wave of higher prices coming our way. It triggered a discussion between my husband and I as to what we could do to cut our bill.

It was a tough discussion because we couldn't come up with anything appreciable to save electricity. I think most people would agree that $45/month is fairly reasonable for running a home, a farm, and a business.

Some possibilities for trimming: We could replace our ten-year-old 25-cubic-foot chest freezer with a more energy-efficient model, but an outlay of $700 in order to save a few bucks a month seems like a poor tradeoff (at least until such time as the freezer gives up the ghost). I keep nagging the kids to turn off the bathroom light when they're through (our bathroom has no window but we have two 4-watt nightlights in it, more than adequate illumination for brief visits) but so far without much luck. We could unplug the TV/VCR except when not in use, but will that save an appreciable amount of power? We could replace all our incandescent bulbs with CFL's, but I prefer not to bring poisonous objects into my home if possible.

Thoughts, anyone?

March on Washington - some neat signs

I'll add more as I come across them.

And my all-time FAVORITE:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fun song

Here's something by a guy called "Ed Montana" ("Six Pack Music") called Obamination.

Where do you stand politically? Take the quiz.

From an email I received:

So, you think you know where you stand, politically? Think again. The result from this short test may surprise you and give you some food for thought.

You'll be asked just 10 questions, and then it instantly tells you where you stand politically. It shows your position as a red dot on a "political map" so you'll see exactly where you score.

The most interesting thing about the Quiz is that it goes beyond the Democrat, Republican, and Independent.

The Quiz has gotten a lot of praise. The Washington Post said it has "gained respect as a valid measure of a person's political leanings." The Fraser Institute said it's "a fast, fun, and accurate assessment of a person's overall political views." Suite University said it is the "most concise and accurate political quiz out there."

Here's the link. Give it a go.

Chuckle du jour

Okay, I'll admit it: I have a weird sense of humor. I found this to be pretty funny.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I have a book available!

Hey guess what - my ebook "The Home Craft Business: How to Make it Survive and Thrive" is now available!

Here's a description. This ebook came about thanks to the encouragement of the awesome Tawra Kellam, co-founder of website well worth perusing.

Chuckle du jour


A Republican, in a wheelchair, entered a restaurant one afternoon and asked the waitress for a cup of coffee. The Republican looked across the restaurant and asked, "Is that Jesus sitting over there?"

The waitress nodded "yes," so the Republican requested that she give Jesus a cup of coffee, on him.

The next patron to come in was a Libertarian, with a hunched back. He shuffled over to a booth, painfully sat down, and asked the waitress for a cup of hot tea. He also glanced across the restaurant and asked, "Is that Jesus, over there?"

The waitress nodded, so the Libertarian asked her to give Jesus a cup of hot tea, "My treat."

The third patron to come into the restaurant was a Democrat on crutches. He hobbled over to a booth, sat down and hollered, "Hey there honey! How's about gettin' me a cold mug of Miller Light?" He too looked across the restaurant and asked, "Isn't that God's boy over there?

The waitress nodded, so the Democrat directed her to give Jesus a cold beer. "On my bill," he said loudly.

As Jesus got up to leave, he passed by the Republican, touched him and said, "For your kindness, you are healed." The Republican felt the strength come back into his legs, got up, and danced a jig out the door.

Jesus passed by the Libertarian, touched him and said, "For your kindness, you are healed." The Libertarian felt his back straightening up and he raised his hands, praised the Lord, and did a series of back flips out the door.

Then, Jesus walked towards the Democrat, just smiling.

The Democrat jumped up and yelled, "Don't touch me ... I'm collecting disability."

Canning corn

'Tis the season for canning. I know this for a fact because there isn't a canning jar left in any thrift store in the region.

Last week our neighbors "the Jones's" called. They have a large garden they're sharing with other neighbors, but the other neighbors (we'll call them the Smiths) have been so busy they didn't have a chance to pick their share of the corn. And the corn was ready to pick. Did I want it?

You bet! Corn is by far our favorite vegetable. The girls and I went over with every laundry basket in the house and picked six rows of corn. I agreed to share the canned result with the Smiths in exchange for keeping some for ourselves.

Some of the Jones' kids and all of the Smith kids came over to shuck the corn. We saved the shucks to feed to the cows, who think it's better than candy.

This is how much corn we got:

After slicing the corn from the cobs (the cobs go to the chickens, who think it's better than candy), I washed and boiled the corn, then canned it.

We got 42 pints, of which 21 go to the Smiths. I'll exchange empty jars for full ones with Mrs. Smith.

Our own corn isn't quite ripe yet - we're in a race against the first frost - so even if we lose our own corn we have 21 pints in the pantry, thanks to the Jones's generosity.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Random photos

Full moon through the trees.

Neighbor's horses in fog.

Bringing in Matilda on a foggy morning.

Firearms refresher course

1. "Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not." ~Thomas Jefferson

2. Those who trade liberty for security have neither. ~John Adams

3. Free men do not ask permission to bear arms.

4. An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject.

5. Only a government that is afraid of its citizens tries to control them.

6. Gun control is not about guns; it's about control.

7. You only have the rights you are willing to fight for.

8. Know guns, know peace, know safety. No guns, no peace, no safety.

9. You don't shoot to kill; you shoot to stay alive.

10. Assault is a behavior, not a device.

11. 64,999,987 firearms owners killed no one yesterday.

12. The United States Constitution (c) 1791. All Rights Reserved.

13. The Second Amendment is in place in case the politicians ignore the others.

14. What part of 'shall not be infringed' do you NOT understand?

15. Guns have only two enemies; rust and politicians.

16. When you remove the people's right to bear arms, you create slaves.

17. The American Revolution would never have happened with gun control.

The People of Walmart

Okay, I'll blame it squarely on my friend Debra. She's the one who got me hooked on The People of Walmart. (Thanks, Debra. Like I really have time for this....)

But honestly, the gamut of human choices in style and fashion never ceases to amaze me...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Still working hard...

Here's our kitchen yesterday morning, when we needed to ship two large boxes to the Kansas City Renaissance Faire. Unfortunately due to the Labor Day holiday, we needed to ship them Fed-Ex third-day (cha-ching!) instead of our usual FedEx Ground.

More puppy pix

For those needing their "puppy fix," I'm happy to oblige.

And my all-time uber-favorite, "Awoken from a nap."