Monday, August 30, 2021

"This year just feels different"

A reader, commenting on the "Calling Fall" blog post, left a comment about the conclusion of her gardening efforts over the summer:

I picked the last of the blueberries yesterday and pulled up a seconded batch of carrots. I am going to can the carrots today. It was 43 degrees last night and cloudy this morning.

In the garden I am still getting green beans. I think the potatoes are ready to dig up and the brussel sprouts are FINALLY coming on. In September I always get my "Get ready For Winter " list out. there was a nice list on Lehman's blog back in 2016. It is so hard for me this year to say, get ready for fall. I love fall, it truly is my favorite time of the year. But this year just feels different.

Just a nice chatty post about her fall plans, right? But it was the last line that caught my eye: "But this year just feels different."

Yes it does.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Fog dome and moon pix

Early one morning a couple weeks ago, after a bit of rain the day before, I took Mr. Darcy out on his morning walk.

I was startled to see this dome of fog on a distant hillside. I'd never seen anything like it. The hilltop at that particular spot is flat, not domed, so the fog was making its own dome.

Way cool.

A couple days later, I got up very very early and saw a beautiful full moon just setting. Following are the shots I took as it progressed.

Added bonus: a bit of sunset color.

Despite chaos and strife, war and loss, it's still a beautiful world. Sometimes it's hard to remember that, but it's what keeps me going.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

How many chickens do you want?

Saw this online. Cracked me up.

Swap "cows" for "chickens" and you'll know what life is like with a bull on the farm. Somehow calves just keep comin'.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Tell me again how this is a waste of money?

A few days ago, I stumbled across an article on the Wall Street Journal called "The Biggest Ways People Waste Money." I'm always interested in issues of frugality, so I read the piece with attention.

As is typical for these kinds of articles, the piece addressed financial leaks from small (daily coffees) to large (mortgage payments). The author interviewed several financial experts to seek their advice, including someone named Robert Shiller, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and Yale University professor.

It was Dr. Shiller's advice that caught my eye. Here's what this expert had to say: "Big houses are a waste. People are still in a mode of thinking about houses that is kind of 19th century. As we modernize, we don’t need all this space. For example, we don’t need elaborate kitchens, because we have all kinds of delivery services for food. And maybe you don’t need a workshop in your basement, either. You used to have a filing cabinet for your tax information, but now it’s all electronic, so you don’t need that, either. And bookshelves, for people who read a lot. We have electronic books now, so we don’t need bookshelves anymore."


Okay, I get his point if he's talking about the wasted space and massive mortgage of a typical McMansion. But is he implying a kitchen, a workshop, a filing cabinet, and bookshelves are economically wasteful? I don't mean to sound insulting, but this logic is so astoundingly urban.

"We have all kinds of delivery services for food." Really? Constantly eating takeout food is economical? What about those of us who live far away from restaurants? What happens if food delivery is unavailable due to weather or pandemic lockdowns?

"Don't need a workshop in your basement." So, presumably, says a man who is likely unfamiliar with tools and how they can save untold thousands of dollars in standard repairs or modifications.

"You used to have a filing cabinet for your tax information." A file cabinet is a waste of money? I've done our business and household taxes by hand since 1993. I need somewhere to store the paperwork since I sure as heck ain't putting our sensitive financial information in the "cloud."

"We have electronic books now, so we don't need bookshelves anymore." Um, no.

It makes me wonder what Dr. Shiller's home looks like. Does he live in sterile, minimalist space with no home comforts? Does he live in a tiny home (in which I understand space concerns)? Frankly it sounds like he's doing his best to strip away anything that makes a house a home. Home-cooked meals, a workshop for everything from a woodcraft business to DIY repairs, a file cabinet to keep critical paperwork in order (forget the "cloud"!), and the comfort and beauty of bookshelves – how are these things a waste of money?

Of course, I could be completely misinterpreting Dr. Shiller's point, but it seems his ideas of economy are at odds with our ideas of what brings us economic freedom.

Yes, economic freedom. There comes a point where purchasing the goods or services of outside providers is more costly than the slightly larger home space necessary to provides those goods and services for one's self.

I'm not the world's greatest cook, but a kitchen of sufficient size to get a job done is critical. I think of the endless cooking and canning projects I've done in our kitchen over the years, and wonder how Dr. Shiller can think food delivery is somehow a better financial choice.

As for a workshop, this is essential for those with a self-sufficient mindset. Not only has Don supported our family through the woodcraft business for three decades, but the number of things he's built, fixed, repaired, improved, or MacGyver'd over the years is astounding. It has also saved us a stinkin' fortune. When we were getting ready to sell our old home, he did all the improvements himself – because he had the right tools. It would have cost tens of thousands of dollars to sublet out those skills. Believe me, a workshop is not a waste of space or money.

Filing cabinets? I've done our taxes by hand since we started our woodcraft business in 1993. Over the years I've gotten compliments from various professional tax preparers on how I can always find whatever I need at a moment's notice to document whatever deduction we've taken or justify any financial decision we've made. I keep every possible receipt for every expenditure we make. Sorry, I'm not about to change my ways over the space needed for a file cabinet.

And anyone who claims bookshelves have no place in a home is just plain nuts.

Look, we just moved from a 3600 square foot to a 1400 square foot home. There certainly comes a time in life when downsizing makes sense. But it would be fiscally absurd to give up the space and the things that allow us to live a frugal, non-wasteful lifestyle simply because some economist apparently can't grasp how having room to do things is cheaper than hiring someone else to do those things.

But maybe I shouldn't be too harsh on Dr. Shiller. He predicates his advice by reminding us, "People are still in a mode of thinking about houses that is kind of 19th century." Maybe that's the difference between urban and rural. Most people in rural America are very 19th century by preference.

The only reason I can fathom for why Dr. Shiller gave this kind of economic advice is because he's never had the opportunity to step outside his ivory tower bubble and see how Middle America lives. It would be an interesting academic exercise to invite this Nobel Prize-winning economist to visit us and tell us why our kitchen, our workshop, our file cabinets, and our home library are a waste of money.

But it'll never happen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Birdie headache

A bird smacked into our window a few days ago, a female Lesser Goldfish. She knocked herself out cold. I picked her up and put her on top our chest freezer so Mr. Darcy wouldn't seize the opportunity to crunch her. I even put a crate over her temporarily in case she "came to" and started flopping around.

Within ten minutes or so, she woke up and hobbled to her feet, swaying unsteadily. Notice her "pigeon-toed" stance. This is a bird with a bad headache.

She was utterly fearless during this dazed interlude, and I wonder how much she had scrambled her brain upon impact...and if she would survive it.

She seemed to go through periods of sleep or pain. Poor little thing.

Dusk fell, and she stayed on the freezer, making no effort to move.

By morning she was gone, although she'd left several droppings behind, indicating she stayed on top the freezer for several hours. I even checked below the deck where the freezer is located, wondering if she'd fallen behind it and died or got stuck, but there was no sign of her.

I know birds who smack themselves unconscious often don't survive due to concussions or other head injuries. I wish this little lady well. I hope she made it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A new home for encyclopedias

During the happy time we set up our home library, the one thing I was ambivalent about was getting rid of our 1990 World Book encyclopedia set. We purchased this set for $1/volume when our old library was upgrading to a newer version, and they'd served us well during our homeschooling years.

We didn't have room for them anymore, so we weeded them out along with four other boxes of unwanted books.

But I had very mixed feelings about jettisoning this set. I knew in advance no thrift store would take them, but it always seems seriously sacrilegious to throw away perfectly good books, you know?

The day came when I ventured into town for errands, with plans to drop some items at a local thrift store for donation -- a pair of shoes and four boxes of books.

On the way, I stopped at the dumpsters. Many rural counties in Idaho do not have garbage service, but instead have dumpsters where locals can drop off their garbage. If anyone has an item in good shape they want to pass on, they frequently leave it outside the dumpsters.

That's what I did with the encyclopedia set.

I put a sign across the top: "Full encyclopedia set -- take me home!"

By the time I returned home an hour later, they were gone.

I can't tell you how absurdly pleased I am someone took the encyclopedia set. I hope they grace another homeschooling family's educational years.

Fire update

Don wrote the following.


Patrice asked me to give you all an update on our GoFundMe efforts to help out our friends, Dallas and Susie, who lost their home in a wildfire. As of this writing, we're over $20,000 – not too shabby for one week! Thank you to all of you who have donated. Dallas and Susie are incredibly grateful to you all.

Older daughter (who lives closer to our old neighborhood than we do) traveled there to take some pictures. She was quite disturbed to see so many of the places she's known since childhood looking like moonscapes.

Here's a before-and-after of a portion of the road. Despite walking this section hundreds of times, I can't figure out exactly where that second photo was taken. I think that shook me up more than anything.



Here's a photo of what's left of Dallas and Susie's place. I don't have a "before" photo, so you'll just have to imagine a snug one-and-a-half story cedar cabin with an amazing canyon view out the north windows. Inside on the first floor was a living room/kitchen combo, with a bathroom and small guest bedroom. The second-floor loft was their main bedroom.

The living room was filled with years of memories: Pendleton blankets, comfortable easy chairs, numerous cowboy hats (Dallas is a cowboy – yes, really), western posters, and a bear skin rug with a story behind it.

The kitchen had a big wood cookstove, and Susie's father – as a gift of love to her – made the hickory cabinets before he passed away. There was a chest freezer filled with venison and elk steaks, and a large pantry filled with canned food put up by Dallas, who loves to can.

All gone now.

Nothing can bring any of this back; but thanks to your generosity, and that of the neighbors and community, they're starting to get back on their feet.

So thank you again for all your prayers and support. We'll let you know more as things develop.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Calling fall

I'm trying to get back to some semblance of mental calm after the fire that hit our peninsula earlier this week. We've been deeply involved in fundraising efforts, as well as catching up with neighbors to assess the damage. It's frustrating to be so far away at a time we wish we could be closer to help.

The following is a post I was assembling literally as we got the phone call to tell us about the fire. The subject seems trivial in light of the week's drama, but frankly I need a break from the drama. So here goes....

Every year, Don has a little game he plays. He likes to "call" the first day of fall.

He's been doing this for years and years. Clearly his "call" has nothing to do with the calendar (autumn equinox). It's more of an indefinable feeling, a ghostly sense that summer is ending and autumn is on its way.

He called it last week, despite the 96F temperatures...

...and despite the thick smoke that has ringed the region for weeks on end.

I asked him to clarify how he "calls" fall. He says it's almost a spiritual attunement. He was walking to the shop and heard a heavy silence. A pregnant pause. A frozen moment in time. The sky was pale blue with wispy pastel clouds. Some leaves, dry in the summer heat, rustled in a faint zephyr. Despite the silence, small noises were crisp and sharp – the crunch of gravel, the rattle of leaves. He said it's a gut feeling, as though a page has been turned – as if the world just let out a sighing breath, "Okay, now comes the sleeping time." ("Your mileage may vary," he adds.)

Now that all the poetic stuff is out of the way, there seems to be some truth to his sense. The day he called fall was hot, but a dramatic weather change took place the next day. This was the temperature drop between one day and the next.

To that end, I've been observing signs of autumn. A few leaves on the ground...

A few dramatic clouds at sunrise...

And a lot of young bucks with velvet on their antlers.

The baby turkeys are growing up.

So are the baby deer.

And the fruit is ripening. Dear heaven, do we have fruit.

Black hawthorn.

Wild plums.


In fact, apples galore.

And blackberries. Lots and lots of blackberries.

Mr. Darcy has become a blackberry aficionado. He'll stop and graze on our walks.

The hummingbirds have been incredibly active. Over the next month or so, I'll start weaning them off the feeders so I don't artificially delay their migration.

I won't be unhappy to see the end of summer and welcome fall. It's been months of dramatic heat, drought, and fire. Millions of others in the tinder-dry west are looking forward to the change of season as well.

Bring it on.