Atheist Holy Day!

>> Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The following was sent to me by a cousin who lives in Florida.  I thought it was too good not to share.

In Florida, an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover holy days.  He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews and observances of their holy days.  The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days.  The case was brought before a judge.  After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, “Case dismissed!”

The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying,  “Your Honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case?  The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others.  The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.”

The judge leaned forward in his chair saying,  “But you do.  Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.”

The lawyer said,  “Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observances or holidays for atheists.”  The judge said,  “The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day.  Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’  Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool.  Therefore, April 1st is his day.  Court adjourned.”


New Kids on the Farm

>> Friday, March 27, 2009

As I stated in an earlier post, one knows spring has arrived when the baby goats begin arriving.  Our three goats all had their babies this month.  The first to kid was our young goat, Zoe, a first freshener.  She had twins, however, the first one was stillborn and for some reason the “mothering instinct” just never kicked in and Zoe would not accept the second baby.  We were able to hold it up to nurse several times and then gave it to a lady who wished to raise it on the bottle.

Our “old” goat, Annie, also had twins and they were by far the largest ones born.  We were happy she had only two as 3 years ago she had quads.  She managed to raise them all with a bit of help from us and some goat milk replacer.  The last to kid was Brownie and she also presented us with twins.  Her previous 2 kiddings she had had only a single baby.

All 4 of the remaining babies are doing great.  Yesterday Darryl and I disbudded all 4 and “banded” the 2 little males.  The banding does make the little kids quite uncomfortable for a few hours but they are up and bouncing around today and you would never know they had gone through such and experience.

Here are a few photos of some of the new kids.  Just like a lot of other kids it is hard to get them to hold still long enough to get a good picture.

Mar              17th 002 Mar                 20th 018  

Mar                 20th 019 Mar                 20th 024


Azada, Powrah, Changkol, Jembe or Grub Hoe

>> Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Perhaps the most ancient and the most widely used agricultural tool is the hoe. The earliest known hoes were forked sticks. Hoes have been made of animal antlers and shoulder blades, of shells, of flaked stone and of course, various types of metal.

90px-RomanHoeBlade DSC_1839 On the left is a hoe made from bison scapula or shoulder blade. The photo on the right is of an old iron Roman hoe. Some of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas used hoes made from the bones of the animals they killed for meat, from mussel shells and of stone.

hoenotchedsmkaolinrittertrism This photo, taken from an internet site, shows the front, back and side of a chipped or flaked stone hoe. Most of us are quite familiar with the common garden hoe, a light-weight metal hoe used for weeding and digging the surface of the soil.

But, the hoes used by the majority of the people of the world, especially third word countries, is of a much heavier type.

hoe_3 In many areas the hoe that is commonly used has a very short handle, causing numerous back problems. As pictured here, the blade is quite long and heavy. It enables the user to dig deep into the soil. Longer handled hoes make the job much easier for the user and makes for easier digging of the soil than using a shovel or digging fork.

AW005233 The Chinese man in this picture is holding two of this type of hoe. And, as I mentioned in my title they are called by many different names around the world. They are known as azada in Europe and South America. In India they are called powrah, mammoty or mamooty. In parts of Asia they are known as changkol or changkul. And, in Africa it is known as jembe. In Okinawa it is called a kuwa, kue and gawa, where it is also a traditional Martial Arts weapon.

Last summer Darryl, Danny and I all purchased grub hoes. The grub hoe makes digging and cultivating with an easy chop-pull motion that is quick, but is SO much easier and gentler on the back than the stomp-bend-lift motion used with a shovel or spade.

digging_with_arrow-315x199 The above illustration shows the motion used. The following is taken from a web page of a company selling the grub hoe. “

Using a grub hoe (also called an Azada) is very different from using a shovel or spade. Instead of stomping or ramming a
shovel blade into the earth, the heavy-duty grub hoe blade swings from hip height down into the soil using it’s own weight,
gravity, and a little help from your arms. Instead of leaning over to lift the shovel load of soil with your back, with the long
handled azada you use your whole body to pull the thin slice of soil towards you into a previously cleared space.” I have had lower back problems for many years and I can attest to the truth of the above statement. Digging with a shovel or spade causes me a great deal of discomfort, but, although I need to rest occasionally, I am able to work up a fairly large area without having back pain.

The grub hoes we bought are 6 inches wide with a 5 foot long handle and weigh 3 pounds. A lighter weight and narrower version is available. For working small areas and raised beds they are much better than a roto-tiller. In fact, I am able to dig down deeper with the grub hoe than I could with a tiller. That is how I managed to hit the rocks I talked about in my last post.

A related hoe that we also purchased is the Italian grape hoe. The hoe is somewhat lighter in weight and is set at a sharper angle. It is “the fastest, sharpest weeding tool in the world.” It is really great in taking out heavy sod or weeds and grass that have gotten a “toe hold.”

For more information please check out the easy digging web site.


My Garden Rocks!

>> Sunday, March 22, 2009

In a recent post, Please Pass the Dressing, I recounted hauling and spreading “dressing” from the local stockyard on my garden.  As Darryl’s tiller is at the bottom of the hill I decided to work the “dressing” into the soil with my grub hoe (I’ll do a post on that soon).  I also mentioned in the above referenced post that I have rock very near the top of the ground.  Well, some was very close.  I hit it with the grub hoe at a depth of only a few inches in the middle of the area I was working.  I attempted to dig it, or rather, them out.  There was one large flat rock on top of another.  I didn’t get them all but as you can see from the following photos I got several.

IMG_3527 In the foreground is the pile of rocks I had already removed.  As you can tell, I have dug a good sized hole in getting them out.

IMG_3534 Here I’m wrestling another large rock out of the hole.

IMG_3538 And it is added to the growing rock pile.

IMG_3540 Another view of the pile of rocks taken from the one small area of the garden.  When I attempted to fill the hole back in with soil I found that I need more, I have quite a depression to fill in.

Anyone need some rock?



>> Saturday, March 21, 2009

As a boy I spent a lot of time on the creek bank fishing.  As an adult I have not fished often but still enjoy it.  Last summer I told the grandkids I would try to take each of them fishing, one at a time until they learned a bit about it.  I managed to take Jessica but just never did get the boys up to the county lake.  Yesterday morning was quite nice, although cool.  I dug a few worms and asked Ramiah’s mother if he was free to go fishing.  He had to finish his job of replenishing the wood pile on the porch and then he would be able to go.  It didn’t take him long to get that job done.

We drove up to the lake and began our fishing.  However, the fish didn’t seem to know we were there.  They just weren’t biting.  I got one little nibble and Ramiah did finally get a bite.  And, he caught his first fish, not a big one, but a fish.  He was quite excited about it.

Mar                 20th 001


Please Pass the Dressing!

>> Thursday, March 19, 2009

In my profile I mentioned the series of books by Ralph Moody that I have enjoyed reading.  In The Fields of Home written and copyrighted in 1953 he recounts the time he spent living with his grandfather in Maine.  One item that has stuck with me was his grandfather’s way of speaking of various tasks.  When it came time to clean out the barn he spoke of spreading the “dressing” on the fields.  I have jokingly used that phrase myself.

Today I hauled and spread “dressing” on part of my garden and piled up some for Connie to put into her flower beds.  The local stockyard clean out their pens and aisles on Thursdays and gladly give away the “dressing” they pile out in the yard.  What isn’t given away they have to pay to have hauled away.  They gladly load it for you if they are available, although I have used a shovel and loaded my own loads a few times in the past.

Mar                19th 001The “dressing” is well mixed with sawdust that is used as bedding.  Here a bucket load is being taken from the big pile.

Mar                19th 002  The first bucketful is dumped into my little trailer.

Mar                19th 003 With a trailer load of “dressing” I have arrived at home, ready to unload and beginning putting it onto the garden.

Mar                19th 004I shovel it into my trusty wheelbarrow and wheel it to the garden.

Mar                19th 005  You can see in this photo that I have dumped the wheelbarrow loads and it awaits being leveled out.

Mar                19th 007 Now it awaits being rototilled into the soil, adding fertility and humus to the garden.  As there is rock not very far beneath the surface every bit of humus that we add helps with water retention.  And, I believe natural fertilizer is much better that the man-made chemicals that so much of the agricultural community uses.


Five Years!

Today, March 19th, is our anniversary!  No, not our wedding anniversary, but of our move to Kentucky.  Five years ago this morning we met the buyers of our house in Bloomington, Illinois at their bank for the closing and then were on our way.  I drove the moving van and Connie our little truck.  We had our oldest son’s set of walkie-talkies with us to keep in contact.  About 6 P.M. we arrived at the old mobile home we had rented, called Darryl, ate a peanut butter sandwich and it was off to bed,  or rather the air mattress.

Five years has seemed to have gone by quite rapidly.  We are still enjoying life here in the hills of south-central Kentucky.


Oh, I Forgot to Mention…

>> Sunday, March 15, 2009

In my last post concerning geodes and agate I forgot to mention that Kentucky Agate became Kentucky’s “Official State Rock” in 2000.  Numerous websites point out that this may be confusing, because scientifically agate is considered a variety of the mineral quartz.  The Kentucky Geological Survey considers this designation “unfortunate”—not because the organization has anything against this semiprecious gem but because, as I mentioned, agate is truly a mineral, not a rock.  However, agate could not have been named the official state mineral because two years earlier, coal, which scientifically speaking is a rock, had already been named the official state mineral.


Geodes and Agates

Geodes are defined as “essentially rock cavities or vugs with internal crystal formations or concentric banding.  The exterior of the most common geodes is generally limestone or a related rock, while the interior contains quartz crystals and/or chalcedony deposits.  Other geodes are completely filled with crystal, being solid all the way through.  These types of geodes are called nodules.”    Another source states,  “Geodes are spherical or oblong rocks filled or partially filled with minerals.  When a geode is broken the minerals inside are revealed.  Most geodes are completely filled with minerals, most often quartz.”  We here in Kentucky are in one of the few areas of the U. S. where geodes are found in abundance.  The kids pick them up on a regular basis.  They generally look like any other rock, although they most generally are fairly round.  It is when they are broken open that the beauty is revealed.  Most that are found are hollow and thus feel quite light in weight when picked up.

geode1 The photo above was taken from an internet site.  This one was fairly large.  They have been found as large as two feet across.  In Ohio the largest in the world has been found and can be toured as one would tour a cave.

Mar            15th 011 Here is a very small geode that I found sometime ago.  In the next photo I will show you what was inside.  It didn’t feel hollow and when opened it proved not to be but was full of crystals.  Some are much prettier than others.  One geode hunter commented that out of about 100 he picked up he kept only 6 that were quite nice.

Mar            15th 012 By clicking on the photo you can see somewhat better the crystal formations.  Below is a picture of one that was partially hollow, although not especially pretty.  Again, it is quite small.  Most often geodes are found in the small streams in the area.

Mar            15th In Eastern Kentucky, in 5 or 6 counties, solid geodes are found that contain agate.  Agate is a “waxy variety of cryptocrystalline quartz (chalcedony) in which the colors are in bands, clouds or distinct groups.”  Agate is used quite often in jewelry.

Kentucky_2005_tn_190x161 To the left is a photo of an agate geode that has been cut and polished.  No two are alike and the colors vary greatly.  Although they are not considered a precious gem stone they still fetch a bit of money.  I recently found a solid geode that was broken across and I thought maybe I had found agate.  I even found a photo of a piece of agate that looked somewhat like it.

044 Here  is the photo from the internet.  Of course this geode had been cut and the face was smooth and polished.  In the picture below is my find, not so smooth but with much the same color.

Mar            15th 001 I watched a very interesting couple of videos dealing with finding agate, cutting and polishing it and making it into jewelry. The individual high-lighted in the videos gave his e-mail address so I sent him a note along with a couple of pictures.  Sadly, he informed me that I hadn’t found agate at all, but my geode is macro quartz.  Just the same, I think it would be pretty neat to get it cut (which has to be done with a diamond blade) and maybe use it as a paper weight.

Anyway, come on over and we will go hunt up some geodes.


A Bit of Fun!

>> Thursday, March 12, 2009

006Optical_Illusion0013 I found this on another website and enjoyed the challenge—thought you might as well.


A Bird In Hand

>> Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We have had very warm temperatures for the last couple of days and have not needed a fire in the wood stove.  Monday afternoon Connie told me that she and Malchiah had heard noises within the stovepipe and suspected that a bird might have gotten into it.  I listened but heard nothing.  Yesterday I opened the stove up and raked some ashes off of the top of the oven but saw nothing out of the way.

It cooled off over night and I decided that we needed some heat this morning.  When I opened the door to the firebox a puff of ash dust blew out at me.  That was most unusual and made me wonder what was happening.  I got a flashlight and looked into the firebox and discovered a bird.  I wasn’t sure just how to catch him.  I tired putting something over him to no avail.  Then he flew right out of the door almost into my face and began flying around the room.  All of this activity got both Snickers and Precious, our cats, quite excited.

I opened the front door and propped it open, thinking maybe the little bird would fly out.  But, it couldn’t seem to see the opening.  After a bit it landed on top of the kitchen cabinets.  I pulled a chair over in front of the cabinets and stepped up onto it.  The little bird was just sitting there, perhaps quite worn out by the ordeal of being in the stovepipe and stove for 36 or more hours.  I reached my hand over it and was able to capture it.  I quickly took it outside and released it.  The “bird in hand” quickly took flight and was soon gone from sight, hopefully wiser about getting into chimneys and stovepipes.



>> Monday, March 9, 2009

A springtime “ritual” as I was growing up was to dig sassafras roots and make sassafras tea.  I remember I dug roots, cut them into small pieces and sold them to earn a few dollars.  Recently I was visiting with a cousin on the telephone and we got to talking about sassafras.  He also remembered digging sassafras roots and he also sold them.  He said that he no longer had any sassafras trees on his small acreage but would enjoy having some sassafras roots to make some sassafras tea.  So, yesterday afternoon I walked down the hill and located a sassafras tree and dug a root for him.

Mar      8th 001Here is a photo of the root I dug for him sitting on our kitchen table.

For those who are unfamiliar with sassafras it is a tree of the Laurel family.  It is found from small bush size to a height of 50 to 60 feet.  It has many slender branches and the hairless leaves can be of three different types (a smooth oval, a two lobed and a three lobed leaf) sometimes all three being found on the same tree.

sass_08  The bark of the roots, formerly one of the ingredients in root beer, contains volatile oils, 80% of which is safrole.  The FDA banned its use as an additive in 1960, as safrole was found to cause liver cancer in rats.  The root bark extract and leaves are now treated commercially to produce a safrole-free product.  It isn’t possible to make a safrole free extract at home.

The root bark has long been used medicinally by native Americans, and this knowledge was passed on to early settlers.  Sassafras was one of the earliest American plant drugs to reach Europe, having been used medicinally in Spain as early as the middle 1500’s.  The early settlers also fermented the roots with molasses to make beer.  During the Civil War sassafras tea became quite popular. 

The Choctaw Indians first used the dried ground leaves as a seasoning and thickener, and today the dried leaves are used to make file’ powder which is used to thicken and flavor soups and stews in Creole cooking.  You may remember the words to the old song “Jambalaya, crawfish pie, file’ gumbo.”  What is referred to is this file’ (pronounced Fee-Lay).  It is said to impart a delicate flavor somewhat similar to that of thyme.  A spoonful or so thickens stock into the kind of rich gravy that genuine gumbo must have.  One source states that it is a sin to eat gumbo made without file’.

If you are able to obtain fresh sassafras roots here is the way to make sassafras tea.  Cut the root into small pieces and put 5 or 6 into a pot of water.  Bring the water to a boil and keep it there for only 10 minutes.  Then, cover the pot and let it stand for 3 or 4 hours.  After this “sit” the tea is ready to drink.  We reused the roots 2 or 3 times before throwing them out.  The tea can be drunk as it is brewed or with sweetening and/or cream (or milk).  Sassafras tea  is renowned as a Spring tonic and blood purifier as well as a household cure for a wide range of ailments such as gastrointestinal complaints, colds, kidney ailments, rheumatism and skin eruptions.


Nobob, Kentucky

>> Saturday, March 7, 2009

Shortly before we moved here to South-Central Kentucky a friend, whose grandmother was born and reared in this part of the state, told me a story about a nearby community called Nobob, Kentucky. I have since seen various versions of this story which tells of how the community got it’s name.

One story, which gives more details than some of the others, states that, “Little remains of a once thriving 19th century village on the present KY 839, 10 and 1/2 miles S.E. of Glasgow. The name was first applied to the creek on which it is located, a branch of Skaggs Creek. The creek may have been named for one Robert (or Bob) Todd, a hunter for a party of Virginia military land grant surveyors that had made camp near the site of the future settlement. According to tradition, Todd failed to return to camp one night, and for days his companions searched for him only to return each night to report ‘No Bob!’ " All of the stories indicate that Bob was never found.

Nobob is located in Barren County, just a few miles from the Metcalfe County community of Summer Shade. “As the crow flies” we live only 6 or 8 miles from Summer Shade, so Nobob is almost “right next door.”


Making Maple Syrup, part two

>> Friday, March 6, 2009

Our plans are to wrap up our maple syrup making today.  We began by collecting sap on Thursday and Friday last week.  Then on Sunday we began the process of “boiling down the sap.”  We worked at that again Monday and Tuesday.  Due to some cold weather the sap wasn’t flowing and we got caught up with our “boiling” on Tuesday.  Wednesday was much warmer and the sap began to flow again.  We collected sap that afternoon and started the evaporation process that evening, leaving a good fire burning under a evaporator pan filled to capacity, about 50 gallons of sap.  We collected again yesterday morning and a bit in the late afternoon.  Our plan is to collect this morning and then help Gill take down all of the jugs and pull out the spiles.  Our weather has warmed up—to be near 70 degrees today and over 70 the next couple of days, so there isn’t going to be much more flow.

Connie has been “finishing” off our syrup.  Here are a couple of photos.

Mar   3rd 001 Here the concentrated sap is “boiling” on the top of the wood burning cookstove.  There are a few different ways of knowing when it is ready to be taken off the stove and put into jars.  Some use a candy thermometer to check.  At about 218 degrees the sugar content is what is looked for.  At about that temperature the syrup begins to really foam.   Also, one can dip a spoon into it and when it is poured off the spoon there will be some that tends to “cling” to the spoon.

Mar  2nd 003 Pictured here is 5 pints of syrup from the first batch we did.  There was about 1/2 pint more that isn’t pictured.  I “had” to make some pancakes for our supper Wednesday evening so we could try some of that fresh syrup.  Ummm!  It was good!


Making Maple Syrup

>> Sunday, March 1, 2009

For the last several years we have been involved in making maple syrup.  Our good friend, Gill, who lives a few miles from us, has set up quite a system for collecting and evaporating down the maple sap.  He has been quite generous in helping us in previous years and again this year has extended to us his complete set-up.  He said he had made all of the syrup he wished to make and since the sap was still flowing he said he was glad for us to collect it and evaporate it down, using his equipment.

It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.  The excess water must be evaporated away, leaving the sweet maple syrup.  We are still in the process but the following photos will show you what is involved.

Mar 1st 008Each maple tree has had a small hole drilled into it and a short plastic or metal spile is driven into the hole.  Onto this spile is hung a gallon plastic jug to catch the sap.  The sap flows generally when the night has had below freezing temperatures and then warms up the following day.

Mar 1st 005Gill has mounted a poly tote onto the back of his tractor.  It is driven into the woods when sap collection is done.  The jugs from each tree are taken down, the sap poured into a plastic bucket and when the bucket is full the sap is poured into the tote.  Note the old milk strainer on top which is used to strain out any debris that may have gotten into the sap.

Mar 1st 017The sap is transferred from the tote on the tractor to this one which is on a metal stand.  Due to the weight of the sap the tote on the tractor can not be filled completely full.  This holding tank can be filled completely full and since it is on the stand sap can be put into the evaporator pan by gravity.  The transfer of sap is accomplished with the use of a small electric pump.

Mar 1st 002Pictured here is Gill with his evaporator.  The bottom section is a wood burning furnace.  The evaporator pan sits on top and holds approximately 40 gallons of sap.

Mar 1st 003  Sap is flowing into the evaporator pan from the storage tank outside the building.

Mar 1st 013    Evaporation is underway.  As you can see it gets a bit “cloudy” in the building and occasionally even “rains.”  Condensation on the underside of the metal roof drips down and it seems to be raining.

Due to several factors the evaporation is not totally completed in this evaporator.  Today Darryl and I processed about 60 gallons of sap and ended up with about 5 gallons of concentrated sap that still has to have the final evaporation done.  This we are doing in stock pots on top of our wood burning cook stove.  Once it reaches the point of syrup it will be put into jars and sealed for future use.


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