Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

How does your garden grow?

I'm sure all of you have been wondering this. What was the fate of all those seeds started so hopefully last March. Well, it's been a struggle. I lost at least half of my biggest, most healthy seedlings to a creeping fungus, in part because they had to stay indoors so long due to the unseasonably late rain and cold. The ones that survived have thrived, and now that I got some weed eating done, you can actually see them!

My flower garden by the side door of my house.

Part of my herb garden. Lots and lots of herbs (8 varieties), and I absolutely love cooking with them. I made a delicious pesto for potluck this last week, and will be using up the rest of my two freezer bags full of basil in making more pesto sauce to freeze for winter. And I'd better hurry, because it is almost time to cut the plants back again!

The vegetable garden isn't quite as bountiful yet as the flowers because I had to wait several weeks more for the ground to be plowed. I could dig the flower beds myself. But it is coming along and I have already harvested 3 yellow squash and two cherry tomatoes. I've gotten a turnip and a radish, too, but they are a little underdeveloped, so I'm not really counting them.

I am growing onions, turnips, radishes, carrots, eggplant, broccoli, 4 kinds of tomatoes, 3 kinds of peppers, yellow squash, and zucchini. Then I have several more varieties of tomatoes at my parents' house, plus jalapeno peppers.

Hard Work on the Prairie

Now that both VBS and the fair are over, it is time for me to get a bit of my backed up work done. The PLAN is to work hard this week and take next week off to play, since it is one of my character weaknesses that I never take time to do anything fun. I have the personality of a workaholic hummingbird and my children are all Boxer puppies. Both sides need to stretch and grow in their own particular weak areas.

Today, after a summer of growing despair, I got my first weed eating done. I haven't been able to cut grass all season, except for one time I got a beater mower to work for about 30 minutes. And the grass has been getting taller all the time. The whole property looks quite derelict and it's been a constant source of low-level stress for me.

I'm using a borrowed weed eater, and it is quite a new experience for me. I have mostly used more modest ones, designed for the gentlewoman gardener. This one is more of the Super Destroyer 5.0 model, with an inadequate shield to boot, so it constantly kicks up debris. After a piece hit my ear and made it bleed, I wore a scarf and hat. No need to pull a Malchus!

I do think I may need to wear pants that reach all the way to my boots next time!

After weed eating, Laura and I hauled trash from our 6 month old trash pile to the trailer my dad just brought out in the last week. That will be another large thrill---having a yard that doesn't resemble the local landfill quite so strongly! It was almost 100 degrees today and nice and humid, so by the time we finished we were drenched in womanly glow.

Now it was time to play. Skjermo was too far away for the advanced hour, so we drove just down the road to one of the most heavily flooded roads. Most of the flooding is gone around where I live, but this place is so deep it's not budging till at least next summer. Not exactly a place to swim, but it was wet and pretty, and fun to wade in. The path of the roadway is lined with the pink water lilies that grow in the wetlands around here.

Laura and I had fun goofing around with the camera and enjoying the coolness of the water. The little tickles from mosquito larva and small fish were a little disconcerting, but it was totally worth it. We didn't wade all the way across, but that's one of my summer goals and I'm determined to get to it.

I took some more serious pictures, too. I'd love to go back with my sister's camera and do a serious photo shoot there. It's too pretty a spot to waste.

Don't forget to click on the panorama so you get the full beauty of the spot we were wading in.

Friday, July 29, 2011

No Tornado Tonight (I think!)

Doplar radar indicated the presence of a tornado about 40 miles south of here, moving east, with the possibility that the storm would veer to the north somewhat. Doesn't look like that's happening (at least not in the daytime when I can see it coming!), but we have had some interesting sky today.

These next images were taken 5-10 minutes apart. There was a cute little thunderhead reaching for the larger clouds above, but as soon as it reached them, it ballooned rapidly into something slightly less than cute! But still very interesting.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How I am Fairing

As soon as VBS was finished, it was time to focus my energies on a brief sprint to the finish line of the fair. A booth is a lot less work than a whole church program, but with only a few days to do it in, it was still a little crammed.

Our church has two booths, one a get-to-know-you booth for the adults, and for the last two years, a booth for kids. We have crafts, pages to color, and of course, Bible story atmosphere. It's provided a nice, quiet stop for kids that are pooped, and lets their parents wander the other booths without whining---at least from the kids. Husbands are another matter.

It also has been popular with the carnival kids, who spend their whole summers traveling from fair to fair, and for whom the atmosphere of a fair is no longer very novel or exciting. A lot of kids have to watch their younger siblings so the parents can man the concessions, and our booth gives them somewhere to plunk them down.

This year, the theme is the Creation story. We have some creation themed crafts, a creation roulette wheel to spin and get a prize (OK, that part's not in the Biblical account, but we like to give each kid something fun). I have been able to recycle all of my animals from VBS, plus I painted 3 more and Noni made some very pretty paper flowers. (She may run to excess during the fair, since she will have nothing to do for hours but sit in the booth and make more!)

I will be unable to stay at the fair much this year, but I am pleased with how nicely everything turned out, and I'm sure that God has another great experience in store for our church family.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

OK, I'm Back

The last couple of weeks were crazy busy as I tried to cram a month's worth of preparation for Vacation Bible School into, well, a LOT less than a month. Now VBS is almost over and I can heave a big sigh of relief and gratitude for another year.

The theme for our program was The Most Amazing Race, a world-travel experience that bore only coincidental similarity to a certain reality show. Much too coincidental for any copyright lawyers to be alarmed. Actually, given that I ran out of time, the resemblance was pretty sparse, but the idea was that our Christian life (compared to a race as per the Apostle Paul) is even more incredible than a race around the world.

The different VBS stations were decorated like different parts of the world, so the first order of preparation was to create some wild animals to populate the spaces. I started with insulating foam board, common at any building supply store. I found images on the internet to look at while I drew them on the board in much larger scale.

To cut the foam board, I heat a knife on the stove burner, then cut as far as I can before the knife cools. This creates a melted, smooth edge instead of foam crumbles all over. There are some downsides to this method, however. One is that the whole house fills up with the most atrocious fumes; I'm sure it's not healthy, and I probably should borrow someone's pet canary to have on hand when I do it! The other is that the knife gets coated with foam residue that has an alarming habit of bursting into flames at odd moments. This gave me quite a thrill at first, but it soon became so commonplace that I scarcely noticed.

Then it was time to paint my creatures. I gave each of them a base coat,then added detail with cans of spray paint. After the basics were blocked in with the spray paint, I added the finishing touches by hand with acrylic paint. Whew, done! Now on to the church.

I painted a couple extremely hasty murals the night before VBS, done on bed sheets from the thrift store. One was for Australia, and one for the jungles of South America. Or a South Sea Island. Or something. Take your pick. The front of the sanctuary was decorated as an African Savannah, the snack area was set in Asia, registration was set in a customs office, and Bible story time took place at an archeological dig in Egypt.

That came about in an accidental fashion. Late in the game I decided that since we were having the story of the Exodus and the subsequent journey to Canaan as our story, that I should make an Egyptian themed area for story time. Noni was the story teller, and she loves Egyptology--nothing could be more perfect. But I absolutely and completely ran out of time.

Noni and I brainstormed together and decided that we could tell the kids the first day that it was an archeological site and that we'd be making discoveries each night, so make sure to tune in tomorrow night to see what we'll find next, that sort of thing. Only problem, we didn't get anything done for the second night.

Creativity, driven by desperation and God's merciful promptings, had the answer once again. We were in the middle of an atrocious heat wave (as was most of the US) and it was meltingly hot in that westward facing room, so we decided to tell the kids that our air pump had quit working and it wasn't safe to be in the tomb that evening, but we'd have it fixed tomorrow.

The next night saw a hastily constructed cardboard "tomb door", painted while the song service was taking place, with the paint fumes still lingering for the first group, giving authenticity to the "unsafe air" pretending of the night before. The last night had the tomb walls, hurriedly hung with brown paper and sprayed with vague brick shapes only a half hour before the start of VBS. All the kids got to help put hieroglyphics on the tomb walls, and I'm sure that all of them enjoyed the ongoing transformation of the room. Some of them may even have thought it was done that way deliberately!

I have to include a shout-out to all the great help we had from the church family. Everyone was a real trooper and came faithfully each night. I'm especially proud of our 3 teen helpers---Tiggy was the group leader for the 4-6 year old group, Damon helped in games, general construction, and Bible story, and Laura was the game leader. They all did phenomenally well! (big round of applause)

Now for some photos of the VBS setting, which turned out nicely, if I do say so myself.

Now all I have to do is get ready for the children's booth at the county fair next weekend. The theme for that is the 7 days of Creation, so all my animals will be recycled back to the Garden of Eden for another go-round of use.

Maybe someday I will be so well organized that I can direct a VBS without having a room hidden away that looks like this!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Peg-leg Pete, the Pirate

Last Thursday afternoon I took Theodore to the local vet again. His leg was looking so bad that, in spite of the vet's previous assurances that everything would be fine, I wanted him to take a look at it. And look is just what he did.

He took a look at it, said that it was self-amputating and would fall off on its own. I had no trouble believing it was about to fall off, but I was skeptical that the bone wouldn't pose a problem once it did. The Plentywood vet seems to be a strong believer in letting nature take its course. Nothing left to do but take Theo home for what would turn out to be his last 8 hours as a 4-legged individual.

Friday morning Theo was acting a little funny, but I didn't think much of it. He voluntarily went and sat on his pillow o' pain where I always cleaned his wound. Not his favorite place in the world! A few minutes later, Laura walked into the room.


Turns out it was sitting nicely on his pillow o' pain, right where he'd left it. Now he tripped blithely along with an inch of naked bone sticking down from his open wound. Did that slow him down? Not hardly, though he did become a little more sensitive to having it raked with the claws of psycho Snickers when they were wrestling.

I left his leg alone over the weekend, hoping that the vet's confidence would not prove misplaced. One day his leg would look like it was improving, the next it would start weeping and look awful. On Wednesday of this week, I gave up on nature and took him down to Williston to the vet there. Somehow sensing what was in store for him, Theo was very tense on the trip down.

The Williston vet took a look at it, said it would be a constant infectious source, and the only thing to do would be to amputate higher up and close the wound. And all it would cost was $300! I suppose that is a very reasonable price when you consider all the highly-skilled labor involved, but its not what I was planning to do with that $300, let me tell you. Gulp.

I left young Theo for what would turn out to be his last 8 hours as an individual with 3 legs and the stub of a 4th. Friday morning when I came to pick him up, I found that they had removed the entire leg and all he had left was a little bald butt with one leg sort of tripodded underneath the middle of it.

But, not to be defeeted (that's a bad pun right there...) by that small detail, he spent the evening galloping around with his buddies, making up for all the time he'd lost at the vet. The next day he was a little sorer after the pain meds wore off, but he still doesn't behave with the propriety one would expect from a full amputee.

About the only way to get a picture of Theodore in action is by video, since he is either running around like crazy, coming too close to you in order to get attention, or curled up with his stubby parts underneath.

I'm glad that I went ahead and did the surgery. Maybe given lots of time, the wound would have closed over after a fashion, but I didn't have the stomach to wait for it. Now he's neat, clean, happy, and no longer smells like a carcass. These are all, as Martha Stewart is fond of saying, good things!

Theo can do just about everything with three legs that he could do with four, tree climbing included, though he is a little rough on tree UN-climbing!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Good-bye, Cruel World

Last year I had no allergies all summer long. It was great! This year started out the same way until about a month ago, when suddenly I was seized with the worst allergies of my life so far. (hopefully this is just a bad year for pollen after all the rain) The last month as been a wheezy, sneezy, runny, insomniac blur.

Wednesday I went to the doctor and got some medications to deal with the disaster in my respiratory system, and I've been steadily improving since then. And so it was that on Sunday I was finally alert enough to realize that THIS IS THE LAST WEEK BEFORE VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL!

Now, I am not trying to imply that I would have been prepared in a timely fashion if only I hadn't had allergies. Everyone that has ever worked with me knows that I save everything until the last minute. What I am saying is that if it weren't for the allergies I would have realized that last week was The Last Possible Minute.

So if you don't see much of me this week, you'll know why! Thankfully, I have a wonderful support system of people, and the unlimited power of a truly compassionate God that doesn't abandon me to the consequences of my chronic procrastination.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kitten Lollapalooza

I didn't know that July would turn out to be "Month of the Kitten", but that seems to be its destiny. Mr. Theodorable is still with us and improving daily. He accompanied us to church yesterday so we could keep an eye on him, but it turned out to be a good thing anyway. He gave the three other kittens someone to play with.

Turns out that our friend has been kitten-sitting over the weekend for her neighbor. The babies are still on the bottle, so they came along to church, too. And is just so "happened" that the three kittens were a perfect match for our three families. My mom wants a small, all-black kitten, and of course one of them matched that description. I've been wanting a calico, and one of them (the tiniest) is a little calico baby. The other kitten was a live-wire tabby, the perfect companion for a certain twitchy nephew of mine. He just has to convince his father of the perfection.

Hey, when things line up this perfectly, you know God is behind it, and if Devon's dad wants to be like Jonah and run away from God's plan, well, there aren't many whales in Montana, but I'm sure God can come up with something! Resistance is futile, give into the kitten-side.

The kitten I want , Miss Elsie Belle.

As I was sharing in Sabbath school the story of Theodore's miraculous rescue, Beverly, a fellow Westbian, gave me some more information. It turns out that the whole event was even more of a God-thing than I could see from my end. See, I have been praying for several months about finding a kitten. I wanted one of my own and even though I am in a land of plenty as kittens go, somehow it never worked out for me to get one.

Once, I was about to buy one at the pet shop, but went to finish my shopping so it wouldn't have to wait in the car. By the time I came back, the little calico had been sold. Ever since then, the kittens haven't been ones that I wanted, or there weren't any available, or something. I was getting a bit disgruntled.

It may come as a shock to you, but my life currently has a lot of problems, er, I mean, opportunities for faith development. And it seemed to me that it wasn't too hard of a thing for God to give me a little kitten to cheer my dreary way. I was getting quite petulant about it. All the while, God had a better plan for me, a perfect match waiting in the wings (good thing I can't get husbands at the pet store or I probably would have seriously messed this thing up by now!).

Last Sunday, a very nice lady in Westby went out to feed the family of wild kittens that lives in her garage. The cute little tabby that always poked his head up to watch her was there, but that was the last time she saw him. She spent the rest of the week worried, praying for the kitten, thinking he was probably dead, but at least wanting to find a body, or someone who saw what happened, so she would know.

Wednesday, a wounded white tom cat (who doesn't have a collar choking him, just a neck wound) led me down the alley behind her house, and a little kitten's cry caught my ear. For the rest of the week, while his former mom wondered and worried about his safety, King Theodore rode around on a fluffy pillow and lived off the fat of the land.


"Oh, did I hurt your leg? Here, let me put you in a more comfortable position!"


"Are you hungry? Let me get you some kitten chow! After all, you were hungry for soooo long!"


"Do you want me to wake up and play with you? It's the least I can do after all you suffered!"

By the end of the week, Beverly had read about the new kitten on this blog and was able to let her friend know that her kitten had likely been found. Sabbath morning when Bev told me where her friend lived I was sure of it, since I found the kitten right behind the lady's house. How neat to find out that not only had I been praying that God would bring me a kitty of my own, but this lady had been praying that her lost baby would find a good home and be safe.

And all of this faith-affirming experience would have been skipped if I had MY way and gotten an "ordinary" kitten when I wanted to. God's ways are always best, even when they aren't according to my time-line. Hopefully, I can remember this lesson for a while, because chances are God knows I'm going to need to trust His timing on other issues pretty soon. That's usually the way things work. If God sends you a lesson, there's usually a test coming behind it!

Our robin is more likely to meow than chirp at this point! If you didn't notice it in the photo earlier, it is snuggled down right along side all the kittens in Devon's lap. This morning I brought Theodore to snuggle alongside Laura when I had to get up.

A short time later, I heard Laura awaken with a gasp.

"Where's my robin?!"

Turns out that, like many sleep-deprived new mothers, she had taken the robin back to bed with her after its morning feeding. I didn't see it in the dark, but not to worry, Theo and the robin had snuggled happily for a half hour before Laura awoke. Theo was giving it little licks, and I'm not completely comfortable that his motives were wholly disinterested, but it was sweet anyway.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dr. Dolittle's Menagerie

Our little family is getting not so little, one creature at a time. Of course we still have Snickers, Laura's cat. We got him from my parents' neighbors when he was still quite wild. I think he's pretty much over his fearful stage!

The baby blackbird (somewhat of a misnomer since it is an adult now, at least physically) is getting more independent, but still comes in several times a day for a feeding. In a way it's kind of nice since it cuts down on the housefly problem.

We have a new addition to our avian dependents. My mom almost stepped on this little robin that had fallen from its nest. It was too small to be a fledgling and even though we located the nest, it was too high in the tree to return the baby in safety.

It turns out that baby robins are MUCH cuter than baby blackbirds. They have a mouth that could swallow the Titanic, their feeding chirp is much more delicate, and they slurp their worms like spaghetti. It's cute, trust me on this. We had two other short-staying guests, one a baby blackbird that died overnight and the other a robin that was old enough to be out on its own so we returned it to where it was found.

We did not keep this creature, but it was a fun encounter last Sabbath on the way to church. The turtle was crossing the road and I stopped to take it the rest of the way across. It is so strange to me, but lots of people think nothing of deliberately running over animals that are in the road. I always try to help the slow-moving ones out when I can.

But these are not the most exciting and wondrous new additions to the family fold. On Wednesday Laura and I were driving home when I saw a feral white cat sitting in an over-grown yard. As I drove past, I saw that it had a large wound on its neck from a too-tight collar put on by some long-ago owner. We stopped, not that I had much hope it would let me get close, but you gotta try.

The cat wasn't terrified of me, but wouldn't let me come too near to it, so I followed from a distance just to see where it might go. As I was tailing it down the alley, I heard a baby kitten crying, the kind of cry kittens use when they are lost and trying to find their mama. I answered back and talked to it until I located it. It was standing on an old, partially fallen over fence and I thought it had climbed up there and was scared to come down. I knew that mama was right across the street, so I left so she could come get her baby.

The thicket of bushes where I saw the kitten. The fence can be seen on the right side of the frame.

When Laura and I drove by a minute later, I stopped just to make sure it was OK, and before we even left the car we could still hear it calling. Hmmmm. That was odd. Better go help it down. I had Laura climb back in there and as soon as she could see it better she started to cry. Someday she will become level headed in an emergency. Someday. The kitten's leg was bent backwards and trapped in the tiny crack between the two fence boards. It took the two of us, but we got it free, then rushed back to my parents' house for an emergency session of food, water, and an examination.

It had tried to chew its foot off (or maybe the mama did), so the toe-tips were gone and it had a large opening on the inside of its foot and a compressed, abraded line on the opposite side. But its spirit was undimmed, and it's been eating and drinking well, and exploring vigorously between naps.

While it was a wild kitten when it got stuck, it was not when it was rescued. After perhaps several days and nights of being stuck there, meowing for help, hearing its siblings and mother across the street, but unable to go to them, terrified of danger, and unable to rest because it had to support its weight on its front feet to keep the pressure off its trapped leg, it's so happy to be with somebody that it doesn't matter WHO that somebody is. Of course, I think it likes me a little better than everyone else, but that's because I'm so deeply intuitive.

Then came the business of determining the sex so it could be named. Yep, definitely a boy. He only needs a bottle of root beer and a football game on to complete the moment. As for the name, he is Mr. Theodore Abel Cat, Theo for short, or Sweetie, or Snoogums, or Babyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, or whatever else he gets called. Makes no difference, he answers to any appropriate name.

Both Laura and I are very grateful that we were able to help little Theodore. If I had not stopped for the injured white cat, this little baby probably would have lasted another day or two before dying a lonely, miserable death from dehydration in the summer heat. I know that God led me to him, and I'm thankful that I was listening to His voice at the moment, since I don't always. Even if young Theo passes on due to his injuries (which doesn't seem likely at the moment, but he did go through a terrible stress), at least he is spending his time in comfort and plenty.

Laura mounted a short-lived campaign for a little bit of heavenly peace on earth before I pointed out that it wasn't good for the robin to get used to cats that snuggled instead of trying to eat it.