Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Day in Franklin County Missouri

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt's "mobile office" hour for Franklin County was at Sullivan City Hall today. The room was filled (photo shows one-half of the room); about 50 people. We took turns talking one-on-one in a small room with the Senator's aide, a young woman who took notes about our concerns--5 minutes maximum.

Some people wanted the aide to come out and listen to us all, town-hall style, but "it doesn't work that way" and instead we each chose one issue to discuss with her and took our turns in line. I discussed with her the Affordable Care Act repeal (a done deal, I'm sure) and replacement (where is it?) and the fact that some rural Missourians this year had only one ACA plan to choose from, and we of Missouri are waiting for Senator Blunt (Republican) to do the ACA one better. Surely he can do better. Or the Republican Party told us so anyway. Meanwhile the people waiting made a video to send the Senator. Each attendee who wanted to stood up and spoke for up to one minute about the political issue that concerned him or her the most. Very eloquent people and an invigorating hour. BTW, Senator Blunt does not do town hall meetings. At all.

Thinking all the way about how much I love Missouri, I then drove to Washington MO and deli lunch at Farm to You: roast beef and cheddar on rye, sweet-potato salad and a Million Dollar Orange soda, and took a photo of a beautiful Missouri scene, but understanding better now that Missouri is its people.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Good Things About the Dead of Winter

  • No bugs.
  • No bug bites.
  • Everyone else is flabby too.
  • Heating pad for car seat.
  • Tired of chocolate.
  • No garden worries.
  • Lengthening days.
  • Hats to cover up unwashed or unstyled hair, parkas to cover unwashed and unironed clothes, etc.
  • Big thick anorak-style hoodies with agricultural logos.
  • Sitting in the rocking chair staring into space is okay.
  • Hands encircling warm cups of coffee or tea.
  • Citrus.
  • Having trails all to yourself.
  • No waiting at the pedicurist.
  • People bake.
  • Soups.
  • No bell-ringers.
  • Everyone buys lotto tickets without shame.
  • No one is on your case to go out and have fun.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

We Want Chickens

In the meadow is a remnant of some wooden structure and a rusted wire fence. For 15 years I've imagined it was once a chicken coop. I'd love chickens. A coop, a fence, and some chickens--February is buy-your-chicks time--and my neighbor and I would have lovely fresh eggs from beautiful glossy chickens (I want guinea hens, too, and those gorgeous Polish chickens with plumes that cover their eyes so they can't see) and intense, devoted relationships with each chicken, including the rooster, who'd never chase or bite, and whose voice in the morning I love.

Coop: Easy. Buy it. (Worry later about cleaning and heating it.)

Fence: Not so easy. Friend of mine lost chickens every night until he cut a door into an oil drum where they slept, and even so kept a firearm handy and ran outside barefoot and buck-naked to defend his chickens when he had to. Mine would need ample space enclosed on all sides including the top: raccoon-proof, hawk-proof, coyote- and fox-proof, deer-proof, dog-and-cat-proof, and thief-proof. (Demetrius said, "Everything loves to eat chicken.") Somehow fix it so moles, voles, dogs and prairie dogs can't tunnel in. Failure would mean the trauma and gore of a chicken massacre and I could probably survive, emotionally, only one such event.

Chickens: Easy; buy them. Some of each kind. Maybe buy them mail-order, and get chickens in the mail! (Worry later about mites, diseases, hen-pecking, worms, lice, and weather extremes.) But I vow I will have my own chickens someday.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Don Robinson State Park: First Look

Click on the above photo to see the full horizontal view

Don Robinson, childless bachelor, made a fortune with spot remover and ended up owning 818 acres in northern Jefferson County, MO that before his death in 2012 he gave to the State of Missouri for a new state park that opened at last on January 6, 2017. One of its two hiking loops is 2.4 miles, partly paved, and the other more than 4 miles; the latter isn't open yet. His unusual, hand-built hilltop house (part stone cottage that was already there, part particle board, old boards, old glass, or anything he could recycle) is preserved for a future Don Robinson museum.

Raw-looking orange and red sandstone cuts are the first thing you'll see as you enter from the Byrnesville Road. A steep short asphalt loop leads to Robinson's house, with an Ozark foothills view as far as you can see. A huge concrete terrace was poured to its south and furnished with a shelter, picnic tables, and rocking chairs. It'll be a spectacular view in every season. Some old stone stairs have been preserved, along with the old bench in the photo, the only ornate thing there. Robinson's grave (he was born in 1927) is not far from the house and on a new bench nearby you can sit and say a long thanks that his land did not become a subdivision.

Originally it was said there'd be a campground but there isn't. The property abuts some of the LaBarque Creek-area conservation sites and natural areas. Special features include lots of chinkapin oaks and birds, and hardly any cedars (unlike the formerly cedar-choked Glassberg Conservation Area). Eight hundred eighteen more acres for the people of Missouri and guests. Most of the land is accessible only on foot. I was there late in the day and caught a few rays of sunshine, scarce these last two weeks in January. The land will be fun to explore.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Some People Have Faithful Dogs. . .

I test-drove some shiny new Toyotas--a new-car showroom feels like prom night--but with big ugly grilles instead of solid-metal front ends, and despite their backup cameras and  four-wheel drives I found I had to yank and redirect their transmission levers--just as hard in the Corolla as in the RAV4--like I was Speed Racer or something, and these were automatics. MPG stunk and that's just how it is with four-wheel drive: nice to have in the country, but less so if country living means driving a lot of miles.

The young salesman said he'd managed a restaurant for 10 years and it was a relief for him to sell cars. I asked him about the big ugly grilles and he called it  "more aggressive styling." Yeah, right, aggressive Toyotas. . . what were those people smoking. . .I hated to tell him no sale because I had been ready to deal. "Is pricing an issue for you?" he asked. I said if a vehicle was perfect for me I'd pay whatever, but these were nowhere near.

I drove home in my '07 Corolla with 150K miles ("she'll go double that, easy," my mechanic drawled) and was stunned and humbled by how quietly and well it handled by comparison. The first brand-new car I ever bought, I called her "The Bride," and we have been through camping, weeping, poverty and riches, driving over a boulder, skidding off the road, encased in ice, and many wonderful faraway places and carrying fascinating passengers, faithfully and reliably, and I apologized for even thinking of cheating on her. This is Divine Post #1000, by the way. I haven't changed a bit.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

How to Get the Freaking Ice Off Your Freaking Satellite Dish

Overnight the ice storm coated my WiFi satellite dish: a very serious matter because WiFi is my freaking life. I suited up for freezing rain wondering how to de-ice it. Of course I should have sprayed it with Pam at the start of winter, but I forgot, and now the dish two-and-a-half feet wide and seven feet above the ground with a quarter-inch layer of ice on its face presented a problem. I had to restore my freaking WiFi. Whacking the ice with a stick or garden tool might damage the dish and then I'd have no WiFi for weeks until the satellite people from India got here. I could see myself telling them "I hit it with a rake." I'd have to melt the ice, not break it. Planting a stepladder there would be too treacherous.

My solution: Soak three rags in a bowl of hot water. Take the bowl, plus a worn-out corn broom kept on the porch to chase raccoons with, out to the dish. Wring out a warm rag and lay it over the broomstraws. Lift the broom overhead and rub the rag on the dish for about a minute until the rag loses all its heat. Replace it then with the next warm rag, and the next. Go back into the house, refill the bowl with hot water. Realize that the rags left freezing in the yard should be soaked in hot water too before re-using.

Bring the rags back into the freaking house, soak them in the bowl, bring the bowl back into the yard, wring out a freaking rag, put it on the freaking broomstraws, and keep wiping. The thinnest ice threatened to refreeze. I concentrated on the top third of the dish until it was clear. Went into the house for my can of Pam spray, lifted it overhead, tilted it heavenward, prayed and its spray reached exactly the top of the dish. Each time I melted another sector of ice, I Pammed it. Repeated this activity for 25 minutes, sometimes gently tapping the thickest ice with the broom handle and cracking its thinner edges just enough to broom the ice off the dish, bit by bit. Yay.

Brought rags and bowl into the house, hung the rags to dry, washed the bowl. Crunched across the frozen grass, picked up the broom and put it back on the porch. Tried the WiFi. It worked. It's now 1:30 p.m. and I myself can get to work.

The Ice Storm

Yes, there's an ice storm, but it has sights to offer we can't get any other way. The map, from 11 a.m. Saturday, says "Lake Adelle" which is some miles away near Cedar Hill, because that is the closest transmission tower working. I got lots of emails from outta state relatives and friends whose TVs told them this was a disaster. Felt like a celebrity.

Friday I woke very late because there was so little daylight. Snowfall had turned to ice. I crunched over the frozen grass, fed the birds, and later when they called for seconds even the grass was too slippery to walk on to refill their feeders. I listened to the road all day. For hours and hours there was no traffic, none, a great silence, except the tick-tick of frozen rain on the roof and maybe every three hours the throaty roar of a truck spreading gravel and salt at the intersection and over the LaBarque's little bridge. I was in the kitchen cooking nearly all day. This morning I picked broken branches out of the lane; there weren't many, and broke the coat of ice that had sealed our mailboxes. Roads were clear at 33 degrees (because, they explain, and it's as good an explanation as any, because four days ago it was 71 degrees, and two days later it was 0 degrees, and now you have to drink a shot). There's more precip at the moment, but my neighbor and I are fine.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Better Together

I'm drawn to thick strong old-fashioned restaurant china coffee cups because, I realized, my dad played cards with his friends in our church basement while I sat in his lap, and they drank from such cups, always with saucers. When a friend thought to give me for Christmas a saucer that matched one of my treasured Buffalo China cups shown on this blog, I was thrilled. Aren't they a handsome pair? Bake little butter cookies and it's no longer just a cup of coffee, it's a whole civilization restored. I am so grateful. Who knows what stories this cup and saucer tell each other after half a century of wandering from Buffalo, New York, finally to meet in a cabin in Missouri where someone appreciates them.

The cup is undated, or its date stamp has worn away. The saucer is dated 12-64. So they are not mates but perhaps siblings. The red airbrush trim is classic.

Buffalo China's factory, opened in 1901 and closed in 2013, is still standing, and china is still there stacked up ready to go (see photo) and on the production line, unfinished, so it closed in a hurry. There are more photos of the factory here.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Animal Friend

Hermann here grew up feral, and bit by bit--it took 13 months--my friends Tom & Julia beckoned him onto their porch and gained his trust. They set out a bed for Hermann, fed him, and one day he came indoors and now enthroned on their bed he allows them to pet and hug him. But Rufus, the big ginger cat who rules the rest of the house, is fiercely jealous. So I the cat-sitter was instructed to keep them separate, and every day I entered the bedroom, shut the door, and talked to and played with Hermann, but he wouldn't let me touch him. Then I left the bedroom door open by accident and heard awful hissing and returned to find Rufus in the bedroom squaring off with Hermann for the fight of the century.

I stepped into this violent situation yelling and without thinking. Rufus clawed my left palm, a wound just shy of requiring stitches, and my thumb and forefinger. He retreated looking embarrassed.  Hermann cowered beneath the bed for a day and when he came out for his evening snack he let me pet (with my good hand) his beautiful striped fur and even rolled over for a belly rub. Delightful. There is nothing like making friends with a cat. I took this photo at the last breakfast I would serve him, because his mom & dad were coming home that night.