Monday, July 30, 2012

Buried Alive

This year the theme of our fair booth was "Daniel in the Lions' Den." I've started decorating the whole booth to convey a Bible story so that even if kids don't pay much attention to the crafts or coloring pages, they still get a bit of Bible just from walking past. It turned out pretty nice, though of course I ran out of time to finish all the details I had in mind. Oh, well, there's always next year!

We tried several new elements that I was really happy with. Not the most flashy of elements, but VERY helpful. One was having a small storage area. I brought over a set of shelves from the church and covered the front with brown paper. It was SO nice to have a little corner to tuck away supplies in. The other was a trash can, something that seems rather obvious but we've never managed to have one before. Next year we must remember to bring a mirror too, since all the kids want to look at their faces after they get them painted.

We had a great turn-out in the booth this year.Caleb said at one point he counted 17 kids in line at once to get their faces painted. A lot of the kids are becoming familiar faces since they come and see us every year. It's fun to watch them growing up, and it's great to be developing relationships with them. It's also special to be able to do all this for free just to make them happy. It's my prayer every year that God will use our booth to bless them in a way they will always remember.

The kids' booth.

Our craft table. I finally used up enough of those
crowns to justify buying a new craft next year!

The coloring and painting table.

Our stunning portcullis that Caleb helped me make.
After the fair it became a stunning tomato support in my garden. 

Fair time is a lot of fun, but it's also very tiring, especially when the days are hot. This year, Thursday was perfect---very comfortable and mild, but the weather made up for it the next two days. Sabbath was 96 degrees, and we were in a building that was even hotter. Everyone was melting until late in the afternoon when a thunderstorm rolled through and dumped a waterfall of rain onto the fair. After that, it was a little cooler, but I did have to redo a bit of my face painting since I was using watercolor paints this year.

By the end of a day of stewing in my own juices for hours, there wasn't a whole lot left in me to tackle other jobs when I got home. So it was that my garden was left unsupervised for 4 whole days. An unfortunate mistake, since it spent the entire time developing a plot to grow monster zombie vegetables and take over the world. I arrived just in time Sunday and stole all the prototypes. Sure, I saved the world, but who's going to save me from being buried alive in squashes?

But don't worry, folks, I have a plan. I am hoping to partner with some entrepreneurial spirited young people who have one thing I don't. OK, two things I don't. Time....and cuteness. I will provide the vegetables, they will provide man-hours to sell them, and we will split the money. I feel it's a win-win for both of us. Most importantly, it's a lose for the vegetables!

One of my pickling cucumbers.
Dill pickle, anyone?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Caleb and Tiggy's Portraits

I think my two most recent career paths might just be mutually exclusive---cat herder and songbird rehabilitator. I could have made a chicken by now out of the feathers I've vacuumed off my carpet, but sadly, those birds were beyond rehabilitation. Every once in a while we get a live one, though, and that's what happened last night.

Esther had a blackbird pinned down in the front yard when we got home. I could see it breathing from the car, so I leaped out and rescued it before she could take off with it. (For some reason she thinks every time she has a prize I am out to steal it. Too lazy to hunt for myself, I guess.) It had a deep cut by its neck, but other than that was in OK shape so I put it up for the night.

This morning I let it go after packing the wound with antibiotic ointment. Both wings seem to be working OK, but the cats can just stay in the house for a few days and give it a chance to recover. I'd let it heal in the house, but I don't think I can offer an atmosphere conducive to convalescence! Something about 7 cats staring at you while licking their chops.....

Anyway, that's what I've been doing this morning---now back to blogging.

One other thing we did on our trip to Fargo was take portraits of both Caleb and Tiggy. Caleb wanted some for his birthday and Tiggy wasn't going to rest until she got graduation portraits. There was a cute little town on the route, so we stopped there for about a half an hour and took a few shots. I would have liked to spend more time, but we got into Fargo after 10:00 as it was.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Because They Won't Let Me in the Fair

I live a very sad, unfortunate life without purpose or meaning. Everything I do is in Westby, but I live just across the border in North Dakota. This means I can't enter the Sheridan County Fair because I'm not a resident. I could enter the Divide County Fair, but they hold theirs in early June and I'm always busy then. So every single year my poor, sweet photography just sits in my camera instead of heading off to fame and fortune by way of the arts and crafts department. Long-time readers will recall I whine about this every year.

The fair starts in two days, so to make myself feel better, I'm going to post a bunch of photos I've been taking lately of our gorgeous summer surroundings. Prairie country in the summer is like living in TeleTubby, green grass and blue, blue sky as far as the eye can see.

The day begins with a beautiful sunrise...

The prairies are covered with a soft mist...

The mist burns off, leaving green wheat fields under a blue sky...

Waterholes are surrounded by wildflowers...

God's country....

All Work and No Play....

It just wouldn't be summer without at least a little fun. Not that Vacation Bible School isn't fun, you understand. It's a special kind of fun that looks and feels an awful lot like work and leaves you exhausted afterward. But I'm not talking about that kind of fun. I'm talking about the kind of fun that doesn't leave you feeling like last week's wet noodle.

I Come in Peeeeeeeeeeeeace!
Right after VBS we had a church picnic and swimming trip for the teen staff. It was such a nice change of pace to sit, chat, and relax before heading off for a refreshing swim. It's amazing the things you learn about others and yourself while you socialize. I learned I'm a lot more buoyant than I used to be---floating used to be more of a challenge than it is now. I learned Tiggy needs more practice with her underwater swimming and that Devon looks like an alien with a swim mask on. So does Tiggy for that matter, but I'm not posting a picture of her---she knows how to log into my Facebook page!

A couple of days later, it was time for our epic 3 day road trip. We were heading down to Fargo to see Laura and this time Tiggy got to go along. They hadn't seen each other since last September and have been very whiny about that. My mom came along for extra adult support (she was the Depends of the trip), and just so we wouldn't get lonely we brought Finley and Jackie.

They're truly multipurpose dogs, since not only did they provide hours of entertainment and frequent opportunities for exercise, but they also kept us from being cold. Just in case we got cold in 96 degree weather. To ward off that possibility, they kindly shared their hair with us. And our clothes. And our pillows. We had to shave before we went out into public or we might have started rumors about the mythical North Dakota Sasquatches. Next thing you know, those super-annoying people from "Chasing Bigfoot" would have been skulking around the state, talking to each other in exaggerated whispers audible from space.

We had a nice time and a nice visit. The two hick dogs had never stayed in a hotel  before, so they had to smell EVERYTHING, but they behaved themselves reasonably well. Nothing was watered, if you get my drift. You can't trust the big, wicked city, however, and Jackie stayed on the alert constantly. At one point she spent over 5 minutes defending my mom from a menacing man in the next car. The creepy guy kept staring at her, and no matter how much Jackie bristled, growled, and barked, he refused to back down.

Because "he" was a shirt and tie hanging in the window of the car.

We headed home mid-morning on Thursday. It was a hot, HOT day, and my car has a charming little foible. The AC works when it is fair to middlin' hot, but anything too hot and it overheats the car. So if it's comfortable already, I can run the AC. If it's hot, we have to turn it off. We drove across the state with the windows open, periodically scraping our melted bodies off the seats to head into a convenience store and get  cold drinks and ice. The dogs' tongues were so long they were mopping the floor with them and every time they turned their heads, drool would fly off like water from a bikini model at a photo shoot. Only a lot less "oooooooooooooh" and a lot more "EEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWW"!

We stopped at Steele before heading north on the little known scenic Highway 3.Steele's claim to fame is the World's Largest Sandhill Crane statue. Of course we had our pictures taken by it. I say "we" in the sense that I was in one of them, but I looked awful, so you won't get to see that one!

We also stopped at the World Famous Sinclair Dinosaur statue. The dogs seem underwhelmed.

Since we got back we've had a little break from life's hectic pace. I've actually gotten to work in my garden some. The heat's been great for the vegetables if nothing else, and they're about to take over the world. I didn't have enough cages for even half of my tomatoes, and they've been vining about like creatures from a horror movie. Desperate times demand desperate measures, so I've gotten rather creative about supports. Besides sticks and branches, I've been raiding the trash pile. Turns out that old TV antennas work very nicely in a pinch.

Now everything looks so nice and neat. At least the parts of it I've done. The rest looks like Tarzan's jungle! My mom's taken to whimpering every time I head through the door with another bowl full of squash. Yesterday I caught her digging a moat, but that's just her way of expressing delight at all the delicious bounty I'm bringing her.

Fulton Montmorency III, the Formerly Feral Feline

Monday, July 23, 2012

Strike Me!

July has been one hot day after another. It's been meltingly hot in a region where air conditioners are few and far between, but at least it's been good for the garden. Caleb has heard me say that so many times he can finish my sentence before I start it!

The heat means a lot of things....uncomfortable working conditions, hot children begging for swimming trips, an increase in fan and Popsicle sales. But most of all, in Prairie Pothole country, it means thunderstorms. Lots of them.

Potholes are the little ponds of water that dot the rolling hills of North Dakota and eastern Montana. Minnesota may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but we're the land of 10,000,000 puddles. All that water sits around with nothing better to do than evaporate and feed huge thunderstorms that roll through later in the afternoon. We've had some nice ones, which has fueled another summer activity...obsessively trying to get lightning shots.

The one time I had my best chance of getting some good pictures I was much too busy trying to make it to safety to care. We were in the middle of a severe thunderstorm warning, with lots of cloud-to-ground lightning when I decided I'd better get back out to my house. The storm seemed to have moved on a little, and I was worried one of my cats might be trapped out on my roof (she does that sometimes).

Stupid move.

Once I left the shelter of town, I was able to observe that I was ringed by VERY active cells which were having lightning strikes several times a minute. Storms aren't so bad in town, but out in the country you quickly become aware that YOU are the tallest thing out there. In fact, one long stretch of the road doesn't even have power poles as decoys. Just you and your little tin foil van with a big "Strike Me" sign taped to the back of it.

That was a storm, but until I got to the shelter of my house there was no way I was stopping to take pictures. However, once I got there, out came the camera! Oh, and the cat was snug inside the house. She's not stupid!

I wasn't about to leave the house, so I had to put up with water drops on the windows and ugly power poles smack in the middle of my shot, but that was a small price to pay to keep from being fricasseed. And it was this storm that finally gave me my first "good" lightning picture. This was taken as another cell rolled in from the south. In about a minute my view was completely obscured as it dumped a waterfall of rain on us, but for a moment I had a good shot.

The weather service was warning of quarter-sized hail, but I didn't think we'd end up with anything the size of quarters.

I was sort of right.

Our hail was even bigger than a quarter. Thankfully it didn't hail much or our garden might have suffered just a bit! 

We've had lots more storms since then, some big, some small. A good thunderstorm can be so refreshing after a sticky-hot day, but I do like it when they behave respectably. Nothing worse than a pushy thunderstorm with no social boundaries.

The VBS Zone

I don't know how it is, but there lurks in the innocent bosom of Vacation Bible Schools the capacity to suck up entire months of your life like some super-absorbent black hole. There you are, innocently strolling through June and suddenly, without warning, it's almost August. You have some vague memory of children singing and some sort of program, but other than that, it's like July disappeared!

We were doing the same program that we did for campmeeting, so there wasn't quite as much work ahead of time as usual. Which is a good thing, because I literally didn't start my main preparations until TWO days before VBS was to start. Every year I have VBS nightmares about waking up on the first day of VBS with no preparations done, but this year came entirely too close to that in my opinion!

In spite of an incredible short-fall of my human effort, God blessed as usual. What worries me is that each year I tend to give a little less preparation time than the year before. If this trend continues, somewhere I'm going to cross the line from faith in God's power to presumption!

I had a great group of helpers, including quite a few teen staff since these kids insist on growing up and all but one of them has aged out of the system. No problem. You turn 13, you're staff now. Tiggy is always a great group leader, and this year the two boys were the leaders of our Manly Craft station. They weren't too thrilled about hemming their masculinity in with crafts, but they pulled through OK, and did a great job in the process.

The theme of our program was "Truth Seekers", a look at how science and archaeology confirm the Bible account. Noni was Super Archaeology Girl, so I got to be the Science Person. I don't hate science, but we don't have a passionate love affair either. But it was fun to do the simple experiments up front each night. Well, that is every night but one.

That was the night we had a guest scientist.

Noni was supposed to do it that night, but she had a migraine. I don't work with fire...hey, I'm the person who was well into her teens before I'd light matches.... but my mom came to help us out because she is a professional. The idea is to take a flammable powder and hold it in your hand. If done correctly, a match can be extinguished in the powder. The lesson is that when we are in God's hands, we are safe, even when  fiery trials come into our lives.After making that point, she always contrasts it with what happens when someone is out of God's hands and confronted with those same fiery trials. A small amount of the powder is dumped over a lit match in her hand. When the powder is air-born, with ample oxygen supplies, it makes a controlled flash explosion always exciting to those who aren't expecting it.

And sometimes to those who are, as it turns out.

We had to get new powder this year because my mom hid hers during the move so no kids could find it and get into themselves into trouble. Now she can't find it either, so she ordered some new stuff off the internet. On the big night, she got up front and did her usual bit.  We're safe in God's hands as the match extinguishes in her hand. But if we're not in God's hands, when trouble comes......


She dramatically dumped the powder from her hand, but because of the fans blowing, it dispersed too rapidly and nothing happened. Hmmmmm. That didn't help the lesson any. She tried it again.


A small sizzle, but nothing of the dramatic nature that she was going for. Well, that was easily fixed. Instead of putting a small amount in her hand, she took the entire bottle (which was small, thankfully), prepared to dump until she got the effect she wanted.


I was standing off to the side, so I could still see my mom as she leaned back to escape the wall of flame stretching from her knees to above her head. She jerked the bottle away, but the flame followed her hand in a graceful arc. Sadly, I have no pictures. Even more sadly, I have no video. Not knowing it was going to be anything out of the ordinary, I wasn't prepared. It was all over in a second, but what a memorable object lesson. Not only will the kids always remember about God's powerful protection and being safe in His hands, but the adults will never forget, either!