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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A Year Ago

  It's hard to believe that one year ago today I was 865 miles into my NCT hike. I was in southern Ohio in Pike State Forest. Denali was hiking with me. At that point, I was doing well, but still had no idea if I could sustain the walking. Well, you know I did for another 11 months. Of course, now I'm home waiting for a little less snow in the Upper Peninsula so I can finish the final 450 miles all in one chunk.
Pike State Forest

I am looking back only because I don't have any pictures from today at all. I'm not even going to take the time to scan some things and do a throwback post.

Why? Because my brain went into full creative mode last night. I only slept 1.5 hours and didn't get sleepy at all during the day. Today, I read half of one non-fiction book, watched two movies, and read one fiction book that are helping me to craft the plot for Vacation from Dead Mule Swamp. I also have one fiction book from the library, and another one on order from Interlibrary Loan to see how others have handled this theme (trope- if there is one- the idea is a little off the wall). The details are beginning to sort themselves out in my head.

I've been living with this brain for quite a few years, and when it does this, I really need to go with the flow and take advantage of the storm of ideas that are being generated.

This is a possible opening for the book. Or not, but it's good for a tease.
No doubt about it, I was lost. I could see nothing except rolling sand dunes dotted with scrubby juniper bushes. The sky was overcast, and I had no idea where the sun was hiding behind the dense clouds. Somewhere, the Lake Michigan surf was rolling and I should have been able to hear it. That would have told me which way was west. But I couldn’t hear it.

Don't worry, I won't forget to finish the hike. These "fits" of creativity don't last. Then it will be the slog of just writing the story.

See Pike State Forest

Monday, January 30, 2023

There's Nothing There

  Today's big story is that 8 boxes of paper and cardboard went to be recycled. At least, it's in Omer's car. He'll drop it off probably tomorrow. But it's out of the house. This space was covered except for a narrow aisle to get through to the kitchen.

In other news, I did more puttering and read a book as research for Vacation from Dead Mule Swamp. I have the general plot, but I need a motive, and I need more technical info.

See One More Small Victory

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

  We are switching campgrounds tonight, although that was not my plan until after lunch today. We're going to Bible Club Camp today. See link below for more of that story if you want.

As you may have figured out, some of the sorting we are doing wasn't high on our priority lists, but the the flood in the basement changed all that. Every single thing had to be moved, and now it has to be put back somewhere or disposed of.

Now I need to back up a lot of years and tell you another story. This was somewhere around 1972 or 1973. One of the teenage boys who lived with us off and on was helping me do some things. I had sorted some stuff (does the sorting ever end?) and had made two piles, one to keep and one to burn. I told Dan to take the discard pile out and burn it. He asked me which pile (they were in another room- the basement, actually), and I said, "You'll be able to tell." Well, that was my mistake, and I've had to blame myself ever since.

To his credit, at one point Dan realized he had the wrong pile and he brought the rest of the items back in the house. But a number of letters and some other things were gone forever. One of the things that was gone was the workbooks from all my years at Bible Club Camp.

These had no intrinsic value except perhaps as curiousities of the era. But they had a lot of sentimental value to me. And they had gone into the burn barrel.

Of course, you've now figured out what happened today. I found the whole set of workbooks. They must have been tucked into these shelves for decades. They were even moved from our old house to this one without being noticed. My innards surely did a leap when I saw what these were.
Bible Club camp workbooks

The books always had the theme song for the year, with the music, in the center. I've looked through the books, and I can still sing several of the songs.

Each book also had pages for the daily Bible lessons, words to other songs we sang, an autograph page, and other things to memorize. The center spread was a sticker page. Each year, you got a sticker each day for completing the Bible lesson and one for learning the daily verse. Then there was a sticker for "things you should know" (like the Apostles Creed or the pledge to the Christian flag), one for completing a camp craft during the week, and one for participating in recreation. That was required, so I suppose everyone got that. If you got all the others, you got the Honor sticker. You know me, I got all the stickers every year. I still like stickers and patches.
sticker page

I'm sure the actual situation is that these books didn't get burned all those years ago, and somehow I wasn't aware of that. But it sure feels as if they had walked through the fire with those men of faith and Biblical fame.

In other news: I suddenly got the itch to start getting serious about the plot for Vacation from Dead Mule Swamp. This one will take more research than the others if I can pull off the idea I have in mind. At any rate, I wrote a tentative opening and started rereading the book that gave me the general idea. I also did laundry and puttered a little bit.

See Memories from Bible Club Camp

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Camp Comstock - 1959 - Merrymen Unit

  After Frontier Unit, the next summer, regular campers went either to Viking or Merrymen. I was put in Merrymen. It was 1959 and I had just finished 6th grade. Merrymen had platform tents instead of shelters. I did write down the first names of these girls: Carol, Karen and Judy. But I must never have interacted with them again after those two weeks. I have no idea who they are.
platform tent

My memories of Merrymen are very sketchy. It was camp, so it was great, but I did not really make any friends. We were all on the brink of junior high, but as you know, I had no interest in being a junior high girl.

The counselors, as always, were college girls. This is Sol and Soapy.
college girls 1959

This is Skeeter. I sort of remember her a bit. She wasn't as girly as the other two, so I liked her. Notice the camp uniform: white shirt, green Girl Scout shorts, green knee socks, and the unit tie. Each unit had its own color.

One of the best things about not being in the Frontier (tenderfoot) Unit was that you got to do some more interesting things. Way at the north end of the camp property was a cave. It was called Fossil Cave. Of course, this is New York shale. There were fossils everywhere. I came home with pockets full every year. But it was a full-day adventure to hike to the cave and explore. We went as a unit, with packed lunches, and got to fool around.
cave in shale cliff

Of course, the waterfront was a huge part of the daily activities. I was still stuck in Green Caps (intermediate) because I could not manage to get the "scissor" out of my frog kick. The docks are pretty much the same to this day, although I'm sure the actual structure has been replaced. You can see the buddy board. There were sets of round dogtags that you pinned on your swimsuit. When a buddy check was called, you had to quickly join up with the other girl with the same number as you, hold hands and lift them high out of the water. This is an easy safety check. It could still be used for all I know.
camp waterfront

I was disappointed that Merrymen still had to use rowboats. I really wanted to learn to canoe! Now, I'm glad that I DO know how to maneuver a rowboat, although it's sure not a skill I use very often.

The song of the Merrymen was: "We are the Merrymen, jolly-o, Merrymen. We come from Comstock as you all may know. As for the work we do, we leave it up to you. We're the merry, merrymen. We're not so slow, Ho!"

Just to record it, although I never was in Viking, that song was: "Vikings are we, for we love the sea, and we sing and dance so merrily. And we never mind the weather, just as long as we're together, we are sea-birds of a feather, Vikings are we."

Incidentally, Marie and I did not meet until the following summer, but we just missed each other in 1959. She always went to camp for 2nd session, and I went to 3rd session. She was also in Merrymen that year, but we were staggered by two weeks.

So, what was I like in 1959? Well. Ugh. I was awkward and confused. Because I was so good at school studies, teachers always liked me. But in 6th grade, the teacher that started the year got pregnant and took a leave. She was replaced by a man who did not like me. I guess he thought I was more of a smart aleck than smart. I didn't really know how to deal with that.

We had school pictures taken every other year. This is me in 6th grade. I have the fake front teeth (see link below). I was put back in glasses for a while.
6th grader

Here's another picture of me from the summer of 1959. I'm showing you this one because there is a story that goes with that jumpsuit. Mom had actually purchased new fabric to make that for me. It was off-white with little drawings of people on old fashioned bicyles. I really liked it. That fall, I begged and begged to wear it to school with a skirt over it (of course, we had to wear skirts). Mom finally relented, but gave me a serious lecture about not ruining it. I was really hard on clothes as you can imagine. At recess, I sat on the wooden bleachers and didn't play any games at all so I wouldn't damage that suit. At the end of recess, I slipped getting off the bleachers, caught it on a rough spot, and came home with a triangular tear in the shoulder. You know how happy my mother was. I doubt she ever believed my story, but it was true. It was mended, and seemed fine to me, but I know Mom was sensitive about sending me to school in patched clothes.
thin girl

So, here I was, aged 11, and heading into 7th grade. When gifts were called for, people were giving me gifts for a "young lady." I wanted jackknives, a horse, and books. Sigh.

One other really nice thing happened that summer, though. There was a Fireman's Carnival every year, and I took a bunch of pictures. This one, taken from the top of the ferris wheel, was printed in the local paper. My first published work.
1959 carnival

In other news: I got boxes of stuff lined up to go to recycle this week, and I took a first shot at recording my books for audiobooks. If I have to pay a narrator, I'll never make a cent. I may be able to do it well enough.

See 1958- Frontier Unit
See the entire series about Camp Comstock

Friday, January 27, 2023

Sunrise and Beans

  There was a sunrise worth seeing this morning, and this picture was taken at 7:35, not 8:something. More light in each day is nice.

But when I decided to go to the grocery store, I discovered that we were having enough snow to make the driving a bit unpleasant. Nevertheless, I got everything I needed and empty boxes.

Then I proceeded to make some beans. I can't call them baked beans, because they are made on a stovetop. But they turned out great! I like dark, full-flavored beans, not runny, and these are. I used to have a wonderful recipe, but I can't find it any more. This one looked promising, so I tried it. As you can see, I also made cornbread because, well, beans and cornbread.
baked beans

Even more fun, I got this one from a Nero Wolfe book. No, not the Nero Wolfe cookbook, athough I do own that. If you are a Wolfe fan, you know he is a gourmand. But the recipe is not in the text of the book. This particular set of reprints has introductions by various authors. Some Buried Caesar's intro is by Diane Mott Davidson who writes a culinary mystery series. That particular Wolfe book has Wolfe and Archie eating at a county fair where the orchids have been entered in a competition. They are delighted to discover that the Methodist ladies' food tent serves supurb chicken fricasee.

Davidson is celebrating American farm meals and offers this recipe for Rue Morgue Beans with Bacon at the end of her intro. I used dark molasses instead of the corn syrup.

P.S. I have a really yummy recipe for chicken fricasee that I haven't made in years. That book makes me want to give it a whirl again. Maybe next week or something.

In other news: I spent the morning previewing cassette tapes to figure out which ones we want to digitize.

See In My Natural Habitat

Thursday, January 26, 2023

In My Natural Habitat

  All that happened today was that I worked on finances and bookwork, and I managed to get about 2 square feet more floor space clear in the living room. The amount of stuff to sort here is staggering.

So, I'll play "Throwback Thursday" and amuse you with one of my favorite pictures of me from long ago. This one got nicknamed "Joan in her natural habitat." I believe I was 14 when this was taken. I was cooking dinner for the family on an open fire in our backyard. I am wearing a sailor hat. For some reason, I liked it for about 3 years in high school. You may recall that I detest hats now, and have for my entire adult life. I think that hat got associated with camp, and that's why I liked it.
girl cooking on campfire

I need to get some empty boxes to pack up the video tapes. Maybe tomorrow.

Perhaps I should pick up the stories of Camp Comstock which got put on hold as I got ready for my big hike. They would be more interesting than how many piles of garbage I've combed through.

See Time's Up

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Conclusion of a Science Experiment

  You know the joke about the "science experiments" in the back of the refrigerator. Well, I've had something similar going for several years. Yes, years.

The large glass jar on the left has a hard mess of brown stuff in it. What is it? you ask. Er, um... it's icky. We have had trouble off and on for decades with grain moths. I try to keep everything they can get into in glass jars that have tight screw lids or other air-tight containers. I used to keep whole wheat flour in that jar.

A few years ago, I realized that moths had gotten in anyway. There were four possibilities. I only mention these to sustain the illusion that this was a science experiment, but it is an interesting practical kitchen question because they have also gotten into other screw-top jars. 1. Eggs were somehow floating in the air and settled in the jar some time when it was open. 2. Moths laid eggs along the edge of the lid, and the threads had just enough space between the jar and the lid that the first instar larvae could crawl up that inclined plane. 3. A female moth carrying eggs flew in the jar when I had it open. (But I discount this one because I have become very aware of leaving things open since I've waged full-out war on these moths for quite a while.) 4. There is another possibility specifically for this jar. Along the bottom edge is a tight crack. I've never put anything in that jar that is very heavy because I assume that some day the bottom will just fall out. Moths might have laid eggs near that crack and the instars gotten in that way.

I realize that 2 and 4 seem unlikely, but I think 1 and 3 are practically impossible, so there you have it.

So, the moths hatched, the larvae ate the flour, became moths, laid eggs, etc, for many generations. There were so many moths I decided I was not going to open that jar, inside or outside the house, until the closed system had expended itself. After the flour was all gone, I believe they started eating their own frass, and then each other. Finally, after several years, I could detect no movement inside the jar any more. But by then I was in the prep stages for my big hike.
kitchen jars

All that was left when I opened it today was a hard brown lump that definitely smelled frassy. I had a hard time cutting it into halves so I could actually get it out of the jar. Then I gave it a good washing with hot clorox water. I was especially pleased that the bottom did not fall out when I did all this. I had assumed the jar was not going to survive the cleaning.

Let me just say that I like this jar. It has no sentimental value (I don't remember where I got it), but it has embossed letters on the bottom "McLaughlin's Manor House Coffee."
glass coffee jar

As part of this endeavor, I cleaned off the entire microwave table. Remember I mentioned catching mice last week? Well, you know what nice presents mice can leave, and between them and old dust, this was a worthy project. I think I'll put tea bags in the jar now. The lid isn't quite dry, so it's not on in the picture. But the moths don't seem to eat tea bags. (They eat a lot of unlikely things, but I haven't had them get in the tea yet.)
kitchen jars

While I was messing around in the kitchen, I also re-hung my kitchen lizard who had leapt off the wall, and then I added some hooks to hold up the spring curtain rod that had lost its springiness.
lizard decoration

This probably looks like I did a lot today, but the truth is that I didn't get to sleep until late, and then I woke up late with a neck so stiff that it was giving me an earache. Mostly I sat in my chair with a heating pad on my neck. But midafternoon, I started getting antsy and decided to clean up this space. It feels satisfactory even if it didn't take too long.

See Clear and Clean

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Longest Walk in a Month

  It's been a month since I began my temporary hiatus from hiking the North Country Trail. I knew I was feeling beaten down, but I didn't realize how much so. Today I walked to town and back, just two miles. I did it, but it wasn't fun and it didn't feel good. Here's hoping that things will be much better before March, when I hope to take on the completion of the trail.
small town

The good news is that I did get my errand completed, and I did finish the two miles. Walking has almost without exception been an enjoyable part of my life, so I sure hope all these aches and pains subside so that it will again be enjoyable. I cut out the "vitamin I" when I came home to determine just how "beat up" my body was. Now I know. But I can definitely say that I feel a little better every day, so I think it will be good again.

In other news: just more of the same- sorting, finances.

See So This is Sun?

Monday, January 23, 2023

So This is Sun?

  For one day out of about 18 in the past and upcoming weather forecasts there was/is an icon of sunshine. Today was that day. This is the best the sky could deliver. And people wonder why West Michiganders get depressed in the winter.
cloudy sky

I walked out back and enjoyed some of my familiar haunts. This is the white pine woods that doesn't belong to us. (As opposed to the small one I showed you the other day that is on our property.) I like it a lot and often walk through the middle of it.
white pines

I also went down to the Cemetery Creek. The problem is that with very little snow and the dead of winter, the landscape just isn't particularly pretty. And I'm not interested yet in taking longer walks to find something to catch the eye. Maybe in a few more days.
creek in a valley

In other news: I spent a significant part of the day working on financial records. However, I did also manage to get a couple more square feet of floor cleared, and I did some errands.

See A Tale of Trees

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

  Not so much sorting happened today, but I managed to get to the store, and I baked cookies again. This time they are peanut butter snickerdoodles.

And, I was able to wash the dishes without having to heat the water on the stove! Nice amenity.

I must be getting rested up. I woke up in the night and was awake several hours. That meant I could hardly stay awake in the middle of the day. Annoying. I guess I need to increase my daily energy output so that I'm tired enough at night.

I also finished reading a volume of 5 Mike Hammer mysteries by Mickey Spillane. Hard boiled- written from the 1940s to 1970. I read these more in the line of research than because they are my favorite style.

See Energy and Economy

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Tidbits from Nero Wolfe

  Today I reread one of my favorite of the Nero Wolfe books, The League of Frightened Men. It's the second book written in the series, copyright 1936. You might think it wouldn't hold up very well, given that date. However, making allowances for changes in technical crime detection, the books are fine due to the fact that they have more to do with reasoning than CSI-type solutions. This one is a complex story, and it's almost a psycho-drama.

Much to my delight, I discovered that this book is the source of the essence of something I now say all the time to authors and would-be authors. Nero Wolfe is speaking. Here's the quote:
Take the art of writing. I am, let us say, describing the actions of my hero rushing to greet his beloved, who has just entered the forest. He sprang up from the log on which he had been sitting, with his left foot forward; as he did so, one leg of his trousers fell properly into place but the other remained hitched up at the knee. He began running towards her, first his right foot, then his left, then his right again, then left, right, left, right, left, right...As you see, some of that can surely be left out-- indeed, must be, if he is to accomplish his welcoming embrace in the same chapter. So the artist must leave out vastly more than he puts in, and one of his chief cares is to leave out nothing that is vital to his work.

I also found two more interesting words. You'd think that since I've read these books numerous times I would have remembered these, but perhaps I was more interested in reading the story than looking up words.

The first is debar. Here's the sentence. "A man may debar nonsense from his library of reason, but not from the arena of his impulses." This is another of those goofy words that means the same whether you say bar or debar (like flammable and inflammable). They both mean to hinder or exclude.

The second is vicar. I did not know it could be used this way. Here's the sentence, "Emotionally he is infantile— he even prefers a vicar or a substitute, when the original object is unattainable..." Yes, it has the same root as vicariously, and the vicar who serves a parish. The root means "that which represents something else." A vicar in a church represents the bishop or pope, and to experience something vicariously is to accept a feeling or event in place of the "real thing."

I love words!

In other news, I continued with sorting. Here is one sucess on that front. All our VCR tapes are sorted by category. Some or all will be taken away by a friend who can still watch them in a few days. The rest will go to Goodwill.
VCR tapes

This is the box that sort of hurts to let go. We taped 330 of the 331 episodes (because the VCR malfunctioned) of the TV series ER. Yes from 1994- 2009. You can pay to watch them through various channels, but they are not yet free on YouTube. But we haven't had a functional VCR player for years, so it seems pointless to keep them.

There are just a few family tapes that we will try to have digitized to save. There are some of Steve wrestling and a couple of Omer's mom.

See A Bunny Trail to a Treasure

Friday, January 20, 2023

Hot Water

  Here's our new baby. It's a Rinnai RU160i Super High Efficiency Plus on-demand water heater. All those extra words cost money. But we compared what we were going to have to do with all the other parts as well, and bringing things up to current codes. In the end, this seemed like the best choice.
on demand water heater

The picture is dark because there is currently no "big" light in the utility room. That went bad while I was gone. I purchased a new fixture, but then the "flood" happened, so that is still not done. Maybe soon.

In other news: I continued the sorting projects and went for a slightly longer walk. Same situation- it didn't feel too bad, but it doesn't yet feel good.

See Not the Day I Planned

Thursday, January 19, 2023

A Tale of Trees

  I took my longest walk yet since I came home for this break. At the most it was a half mile, probably less. But it was out back on natural surface. I can't say it felt good, but it didn't feel too bad.

The first thing to note is the larger tree, a white pine, in this picture. (With rain spots on the lens) The first link below shows it in 2011 and points out that I ran over it with the lawnmower in 1992, so I can guarantee it was 4 inches high that year. Now it's pretty big, and it has a Scots pine friend. I don't remember how old this one is. Maybe 4 or 5 years. A lot of those come up in the back field, and a lot of them die soon after they reach this height. We'll see what this one does.
white pine

The other notable change in "my" trees is the grove that I planted around 1990. These trees are now mature enough to create a needle carpet beneath them and a haven of sorts. You can see a picture of them in 2009 at the second link below. Deer and turkeys take refuge there.
white pines

This blog is supposed to be all about quality, but I have to be honest with you and tell you that "my kingdom" (the open space I was free to walk on) has shrunk considerably in the past few years, and we've heard rumors of another coming intrusion.

In other news: I'm using that table top I cleaned yesterday to do a big sorting project. It's not quite done, but there is hope.

P.S. Wow! My grandmother would have been 140 today.

See Report on the White Pines
See The trees are growing

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

One More Small Victory

  To those of you who have been reading my blog for years or at least the past year, I apologize for such a ho-hum post. However, right now, I will take any small bit of progress toward working my way out of the mess the entire house is now in.

I managed to clear off the entire surface of this work table so it can be used to continue to sort other piles of stuff.
cleared work table

We got an estimate today for having the water heater replaced and the adjoining parts brought up to code and blah, blah. Then, Omer and I had to talk about it and some other related stuff. Now, we are already using that table top to begin sorting some of the stuff from the basement that we are willing to get rid of.

Just for the record, Om is much neater than I am. He had the basement really quite orderly before the "flood." But now that everything is moved around, we might as well keep going with getting rid of some more of it.

I also did some paperwork- there's a lot of that to do, since I didn't get any expenses or income from last year recorded while I was hiking, and there will be a tax appointment in the future. Much sooner than I want it, so I can't keep ignoring that pile.

See Energy and Economy

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Energy and Economy

  Buying cookies can be expensive, but of course that's what I've been doing for over a year.

Today, I had a clean enough kitchen and enough energy to do something about that. These are oatmeal raisin.
oatmeal cookies

In other news: I worked on various sorting projects and went to the store.

See Out for a Stroll

Monday, January 16, 2023

Out for a Stroll

  Cathy's penguins are out for a stroll by her little pond.
penguin lawn ornaments

Today, I felt as if I might be willing to walk farther than from the car to a store or the house. But not much farther. I walked five times around the circle of her driveway which is to say, "not far."

Then she taught me how to play a fun card game. It's called Monopoly Deal and is based on the board game. But the card game goes much faster! She beat me both times, but that's OK. It was fun.
monopoly deal game

I went over there to take a shower. We still don't have hot water, but Om and I spent all morning discussing options for hot water, flooring, and other house issues. It was a good conversation, and we agree on several overall guidelines that will make decisions easier.

That's about it. My life is very blah right now, and that's just fine. I'm still reading books.

See Clear and Clean