Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Take that, Alexa!

This Husky epitomizes how I feel about Alexa and other sneaky listening devices:

Go Maya!

(Hat tip to SurvivalBlog for the link.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

No really, TODAY is the release day....

I received an email today from a cyber-friend in Maine, who said "Congrats on today's release date. I hope you sell a ton of books!!"

I was puzzled by her remarks because I thought my latest Amish Inspirational, "The Amish Animal Doctor," had been released a month ago. I even put up a blog post to that effect.

But my friend is right – the official release date is today. Duh, how did I get that mixed up?

Evidently release days make a difference. Here's a screenshot of my book's Amazon ranking from March 2:

And here's a screenshot from an hour or so ago:

Better numbers for sure!

Here's the back-cover blurb: "Will she give up what she loves – for who she loves? Forced to return home to care for her ailing mother, veterinarian Abigail Mast must make an impossible choice – between her career and her Amish community. And handsome neighbor Benjamin Troyer isn’t making the decision any easier for her. When an opportunity to stay in Montana presents itself, can Abigail come to a decision that will yield the greatest rewards?"

Here are some links to the book:




I got a lovely email from a reader who said one scene in particular made him cry because it hit him on a personal note. (Yes, him. A male reader.) I was so touched!

So today's my release date. Go figure. Clueless, that's me.

Spares are good!

Back in September of last year, I put up a post on the subject of eyeglasses, and how my eight-year-old glasses were finally too scratched to be worn. I've been wearing my backup pair ever since.

But you, dear readers, gently scolded me for going eight years without a checkup. I knew you all were right, so last month I took myself to the optometrist and had a thorough checkup (including for glaucoma).

At that time I also sprang for a new pair of lenses. Hmmm, decisions decisions....

Interestingly, after looking over every frame as well as other frames the technician pulled out of drawers for my perusal, I went with literally the first pair I picked up.

Also, I made sure to get my prescription. Older Daughter knows how to measure pupillary distance, so next time she visits, I'll enlist her aid and order a couple extra (and cheaper) pairs online. What are your suggestions for the best online sources for prescription eyeglasses?

Meanwhile, spares are good. I'm glad to have an extra pair of glasses. I can't see without them.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Okay, this takes chutzpah

We got a letter in this week's mail from a "land company" out of Seattle offering to purchase a portion of our property from us (our new homestead consists of two smaller adjacent parcels rather than one chunk of land – their offer was for the undeveloped pasture).

The undeveloped parcel is about 3.75 acres. For this, the land company is willing to pay the curiously precise sum of $22,520.38. Never mind that I've seen similar undeveloped acreage in our area for sale at ten times that amount.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not reading too much into this "offer." I fully realize it's a generic shoot-from-the-hip phishing letter. But the "chutzpah," in my opinion, was the enclosed Purchase Agreement.

Hey presto, all we had to do was fill in the form to get the ball rolling! What could possibly go wrong?

I guess what amazes me is how anyone can fall for this. Yet they must, or the company wouldn't send out phishing letters like this.

P.T. Barnum allegedly said there's a sucker born every minute. Maybe he's right.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The wonderful world of weeds

Last spring, our first spring here in our new home, we noticed a lot of thistles growing. Nasty things, thistles.

So I started digging them up using a hand weeding tool. It's laborious on-your-knees work, and it was also an exercise in futility. There were zillions of thistles scattered hither and yon. Trying to lever them out of the ground one by one was impossible. We didn't want to go around spraying poison, but I can certainly understand why people do.

It wasn't just thistles. Having now completed an entire growing season, we discovered the horrors of hound's tongue. Not only does this plant have nasty burrs that take great delight in leaping across the space-time continuum for the simple pleasure of clogging one's socks or matting a dog's fur, but the leaves are poisonous to livestock as well. ("Ingestion can cause severe illness and possibly death in horses, swine, and cattle. The alkaloids are potent liver toxins that under some conditions can be carcinogenic...")

Here's a close-up of the hound's tongue nutlets, not yet dried out. Nasty, aren't they?

So weed control is on our radar.

Last May, rather impulsively, we purchased a four-claw stand-up weed puller made by Fiskars (a brand associated with high-quality scissors). To be honest, I didn't have a lot of hope for this product, but I was anxious to tackle the thistles, and at $56, it wasn't going to break the bank.

Their product description seemed ideal for what we needed: "The Fiskars® stand-up weeder makes it easy to permanently remove invasive plants without sore knees from kneeling, back ache from bending or harsh, costly chemical herbicides that need to be applied multiple times. Just place the head over a weed, step down on the reinforced foot platform, and the four serrated, stainless-steel claws will grab the weed by the root for clean removal. An offset hand reduces wrist strain, a viewing window in the pedal makes claw placement mistake-free, and an easy-eject mechanism clears the head between uses for quick and easy cleanup."

Here's the foot-pedal and the claws.

You can see how the claws are serrated.

Simply put, the claws grab the plant at the base, and the foot platform levers the plant out by the roots. Sounds simple. But does it work?

Yes. In fact, it works phenomenally well.

Here's the process. Place the claws over the center of the weed:

Step on the foot pedal to make sure the claws are as far down as they can go:

Then lever back and let the weed puller pull the weed.

Voilà. Notice the taproots? This thistle isn't growing back.

This is the gizmo to eject the weed from the claws:

Using this tool is actually quite fun, and it's immensely satisfying ("Die, hound's tongue, DIE!!") to pull up a noxious weed and see the long taproot follow.

Here's some young hound's tongue:

Moments later, it's out of the ground.

Here's another one:

Take a gander at that taproot:

And here's a nice fat thistle that met its demise. Again, notice the taproot:

It even works on young blackberries. A few vines had sprouted near the base of our porch steps.

On impulse, I tried pulling them up with the weed-puller. And it worked! Look at those roots!

This weed puller has its limitations. Since we purchased it in May of last year, by that point many of the thistles were already too large and/or the ground was too dry to sink the claws into it. Nor does it work well in rocky soil, where the claws can't be pushed into the ground. For obvious reasons this tool works best in damp soil when the four claws can be centered over the exact middle of the plant (impossible to do when the thistle is already two feet high).

But here in March, with the snow just off the ground and early weeds starting to grow, it is the absolute perfect time to use it.

We've started parking the weed puller by the gate on the deck, and grab it whenever we take Mr. Darcy for a walk. As we go, we casually lever out any hound's tongue or thistle we see. I've also started taking solo (meaning, without the dog) excursions onto the steeper wooded parts of our property where the hound's tongue is more likely to grow. It's a bit too early in the season yet, but you can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to be vigilant about eradicating this weed from our property.

So there you go. Another tool in our arsenal.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Pastor: A love story

When we first moved here to our current home, we found a church to attend in a nearby town. Solely by coincidence, the church had hired a new pastor literally the week before we showed up. In other words, we just missed his installation by one week. He came to our church all the way from Florida.

He's a fine pastor: godly, knowledgeable, compassionate. He has a ringing bell-like voice, an easy smile and laugh, and a gentle, kindly demeanor. But he has something of a handicap as a pastor, where he must often counsel married people: for a variety of reasons, he's still single at the age of 42.

Last autumn, this pastor got together with some other pastors for a regional conference. While meeting an elder from another church, our pastor introduced himself and included the initial "S" for his middle name. "The 'S' is for 'single,'" he joked to the elder.

And then the other man uttered four words that would forever change our pastor's life. "I have a daughter...."

Yes, this other man had a single 38-year-old daughter living and working in southern Idaho. Would our pastor be interested in meeting her?

And so commenced something of a long-distance romance – so long a distance, in fact, that hardly anyone in the church has met the lady. It didn't matter. As Don put it, every woman in the congregation was rooting for them. Once in a while the pastor would shyly admit things were "going in the right direction," but he didn't elaborate much beyond that.

Until today.

After the service today, the pastor – as usual – gave announcements to the congregation. After finishing up with church business, he paused on a solemn note and gave sorrowful news: He and the lady had decided to stop dating.

There was an audible gasp of dismay from everyone in the sanctuary.

Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he added: "Because we became engaged." The church erupted into cheers and applause.

I can't even begin to tell you how happy this made the congregation. Here are two lonely souls who found each other relatively late in life. From the sounds of it, neither can quite believe his or her good fortune.

The wedding is tentatively set for September. There's even talk about them trying to start a family.

We wish our pastor and his new fiancée every happiness.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Old-fashioned solution to modern problem

We had a power outage the other day, for several hours. This is nothing unusual. We have power outages when it's snowy, rainy, windy, a Tuesday...

That's why we keep oil lamps handy at all times.

But this time when the lights went out, I was in the middle of doing our taxes. No problem. I just continued with what I was doing (particularly since I always do our taxes by hand).

An old-fashioned solution to a modern problem.

(Update: One reader asked why I do taxes by hand. Short answer: Because I'm a Luddite. I tried tax software years ago and hated it. Too much stress. Doing taxes by hand is much easier for me.)

(Second update: A reader expressed concern about doing our own taxes, and recommended we use a CPA. My apologies for not being clearer; that's precisely what we do. First, however, I have to crunch the numbers and document all our income and expenses for our various Schedule C home businesses (which is what I was doing in the photo above), and then hand everything over to the CPA, who then waves a magic wand before having us affix our signatures to the results. Worth every penny, in my humble opinion.)

Friday, March 18, 2022

Vanity, thy name is ...

I was brushing my hair a few days ago, when I came away with this:

In case you're wondering, that's a looooong gray hair (resting on my computer mouse pad). I have long brown hair, and now some of it is long gray hair.

It's hard to argue. I mean, I'll be 60 years old on my next birthday. I may feel 40, but my brown hair is slowly and relentlessly turning less brown.

Vanity, thy name is  .......

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The only (American) casualty of Japan's earthquake

As you may remember, Younger Daughter is currently stationed in Japan with the Navy.

When I heard about the recent 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit the nation, I was concerned but not worried. That's because Younger Daughter actually wasn't home – she had been sent to another ship for about two weeks for a training mission.

As it turns out, she arrived back in Japan shortly after the tremor. Thankfully she was able to make it back to her apartment without too much issue, where she managed to photograph the only (American) casualty of the earthquake:

I sincerely hope the rest of Japan has similarly mild damage.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Turkey tales

We looked out our window yesterday and saw this:

Oh my, this fellow thought he was hot stuff – strutting and turning in front of some monumentally indifferent ladies.

At this stage, the toms always remind me of Spanish grandees: proud, showy, impressive.

I dunno, do the ladies seem impressed?

The flock passed under our balcony and out the other side.

The tom packed away his feathers for a bit...

...then fluffed them out, ready to impress once more.

Something spooked the flock, and they took off down the valley, landing near another flock. Oh no! Competition! Suddenly tails were fanning out everywhere as the toms strutted their stuff.

Ah spring, when a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. It always amazes me this display impresses any of the females (I always picture them chatting with each other as follows: "Mabel, I just love your hairdo. Where did you get it done?"), but I guess it works. We have lots of turkeys around us.

Meanwhile, a few days earlier we had a flock pass through with their "babies" in tow.

Ha ha, I lied. Look carefully. The "babies" are a separate flock of quail.

The quail passed among the flock of turkeys, like galaxies passing through each other with nothing colliding. One flock went one direction, the other went another direction.

Turkeys always strike me as prehistoric-looking birds. It's like having little herds of dinosaurs passing through.

So these are your turkey tales for the day. You're welcome.