Rare Halloween Trifecta

Today is not just Halloween. It is a Halloween and a full moon at the same time. Now let’s make it a trifecta, It is Halloween with a full moon on a Saturday. What could be more special than that? The last time this happened was 1944, during World War II. Not sure anyone was trick or treating that night either. So a World War, a pandemic, seems like the trifecta of Halloween is just plain bad luck.

The good news is the next time that October 31 is on a Saturday and there is a full moon is 2172. That’s 152 years from now. Although it seems like it makes the perfect Halloween, it appears to be nothing but bad luck to have this trifecta. So I am glad that not only will I not be around, but neither will my child and if I have any grandchildren, they probably won’t be either in 2172. I just don’t want anyone I will ever know in my whole lifetime to have to endure a Halloween like this one. I am not even counting the election is this mess.

In the future Halloween could be moved to permanently be celebrated on the last Saturday in October, which would make so much sense. If that is the case, then we certainly could have a Halloween trifecta much sooner than 2172. But considering how the last two have turned out I am not sure it is something we should wish for.

The good news is this is the first year in 25 that I have not bought and therefore consumed any Halloween Candy. Instead of getting ready for trick or treaters, I made six of my eight raised garden beds. They are actually very spooky because they look like giant coffins in a fenced in grave yard.

I hope when I wake up in the morning there are no skeletons in the boxes. This being 2020 I am not counting that out.

I’m Getting Good at Screwing…

boards together. Where did you think I was going with that? This isn’t that kind of blog. It’s free.

After test screwing yesterday I went into full on production work today. I made one whole raised bed that was 8 foot by 2 foot, but found that once I had it all together it was too heavy for me to lift off the saw horses by myself. Thankfully Russ had a minute between calls to help me move it.

Since he is working twenty hours a day I don’t like to ask him to help me, but I see I am going to need his help this weekend as he will only have work, but no zooms. So to keep moving forward I made the long panels of the raised beds which involved fastening two eight or ten foot board together with a brace in the middle and a brace on each end, which the short two foot pieces will be attached to.

Besides the fully assembled box I made, I completed the long sides for four more boxes. I went to cut the end pieces but found I was not as good with the circular saw today as I was yesterday. I will need to ask Russ what I am doing wrong. But after five hours of screwing I was pretty much done and now need to recover.

Hopefully I will be all done screwing by Sunday and can move on to laying…

Pipe for my irrigation system. Really, haven’t you learned your lesson yet?

TV Eventually Pays Off

When I was a kid I would sometimes get in trouble for watching too much TV. It was really rich since my parents gave me a tiny black and white Sony TV for Christmas when I was 12. I think they just didn’t want my adolescent self around the rest of the family.

Some of what I used to watch was actual crap, ie: the Brady Bunch or the Partridge family, but some was quite educational. I learned quite a lot from the French Chef, Julia Child and I use all that knowledge to this day.

When I met Russ I started watching This Old House with him faithfully. Not only did we watch the current seasons, but we would watch past seasons. This year This Old House turns 40 and I estimate I have seen every episode at least three times.

For as much crap as I used to take for watching TV I am happy to say that This Old House paid off. Today, after the wind and rain of Zeta passed by I decided to start building the raised beds for the garden. It was late in the day, but I wanted to test out my design. So I got out all the needed power tools, the circular saw and the impact driver and set up the saw horses in the driveway and went to work. I happily clamped together my cedar and drove deck screws into the boards attaching them to another piece of wood to act as the corner connectors. Norm Abram would be proud.

Today we have You Tube where you can learn to do most anything, but back in the day it was mostly just PBS. Sure I learned how to change out a toilet, something I hope never to do, but at least I learned that being nice to your plumber pays off in big ways.

For now, I am glad that I can do these things myself. It is next to impossible to find someone who you can pay to do it and then they charge an arm and a leg. Tomorrow I tackle clamping right angles and creating corners. I may need a new tool.

Another Lama Conversation

I was still in my nightgown when Russ looked out the window of his office this morning and said, “Your wood is getting delivered.” I jumped into my clothes and ran outside in time to meet my delivery driver who was already on he piggyback fork lift with my cedar planks on the forks coming down the driveway. I don’t know how they used to deliver construction materials before the invention of the fork lift that could ride on the back of a tractor trailer. It certainly is nice to have my deliveries put in the exact spot I need them.

The driver placed the beautiful wood down and got off the fork lift to hand me my invoice. It should have been a quick job, but he asked me what I was going to use this wood for. That began the long conversation and tour of my garden project.

When I told him that someone suggested I could keep a lama inside the enclosure he told me he used to have a lama. I am so starved for actual conversation with humans that I talked with the driver for a good fifteen minutes. According to him lamas are supposed to live for 25-30 years, but when they get sick they don’t show any signs of feeling bad. I have not verified this information, but found it interesting.

I wish that dogs would live to be 30 years old. It seems like every week I see a posting on Facebook of another friend who has lost their dog. It just is the worst insult in this terrible year to lose your dog too. A few years back I encouraged my Dad to get a dog, but he said he didn’t want to have his dog outlive him. At the rate my Dad is going he could have gotten a dog, not a lama, but at least a hound.

The delivery driver told me he only had his lama seven years because he was older when he got him. He said he still misses him even though he has been gone for years. “Looking at your enclosure is giving me the idea to build one to get a new lama.” I was happy my garden gave someone else an ideal make their lives happier. Oh the conversations I have with strangers during COVID.

Keeping My Mind Off the Election Busy Work

I purposely started this major garden project in September as I was about to lose my mind with this election. The days were going slower than a five year old waiting for Christmas so having a hard labor project seemed like the perfect remedy.

I had timed most of it perfectly. It took me about four weeks to build and fill the garden wall. Another week to build the fence. I finally found a source for the cedar I wanted to build the raised beds and ordered it. Then the supplier delayed my delivery by a couple of days due to not enough delivery drivers.

Rather than move right into that building phase I have had four unscheduled days. I did all the prep work for I could by pre-cutting all the corner supports and dragging twenty-five year old card board out of the attic for the base of the beds. I knew there was a reason I had saved those wardrobe boxes from our last move.

With the days barley eeking by I needed to stay busy or lose my mind looking at data on 538 and rear clear politics. So I used some of the left over block and built a retaining eyebrow next to the driveway where the land sloped down too quickly and thus so did the gravel. I also continued digging up the clay that fell down the alleyway between my garden beds when it got delivered. That sloping path had always been a problem so as I dug up clay I installed steps. I am half way finished with that project, but it is a satisfying one.

I also installed the bunny gates on the backside of the garden. One of the frustrating things about this project is not being able to source the exact fencing I designed.

The fence is to keep out two types of critters, deer and bunnies. Bunnies need tightly woven fence of one inch or less openings and deer need sturdy fence. I wanted heavy gauge wire with large openings at the top going down to smaller opening at the bottom. This does not exist in four four heights. Why? So I had to make my own by putting two fences together. Since I did not want to run two fences on the back side which is four feet off the ground to start I just put little gates so bunnies would not hop on the little runway and slip in under the back.

This project is all about the details. Russ wants me to put a sign on the gate. I balked at those horrible router carved wood signs. I have a feeling designing the sign and what it might say will take me longer than designing the whole rest of the project. Off to Pintrest for inspiration. It’s a good way to keep my mind off the election.

The Rules Should Apply To Everyone

When five people who work as closely with Pence as possible come down with COVID the rules say that he should quarantine. As the head of the Covid task force he knows this. So what does he do? He goes out to an in-person rally and uses the excuse that he is an essential worker. Even essential workers have to quarantine, but Pence is anything but essential at a political rally, let alone ever.

Yes, he and mother both tested negative, initially, but as we all know you don’t always test positive right away. Thus the need for quarantining. I am so tired of people thinking the rules that are for the good of us all do not apply to them.

Kansas had an excellent case study in mask wearing. The state allowed each county to decided if they were going to mandate wearing masks. 20 Counties of the 105 decided they would have a mask mandate and the others did not. Based on cell phone data people in both kinds of counties went out an equal amount of time over the months of the study. But no shock to me, the counties with the mask mandates had half the number of infections.

It could not be more clear that wearing masks and following the rules to quarantine if you are exposed can dramatically cut down on the spread of Covid. If you look at Covid data by state the places that have no mask mandates have higher percentages of infections. Take North Dakota, the worst state to live in if you don’t want to get Covid. They have no mask mandate and their infection rate is 50 people out of 1,000 in North Dakota have already had Covid. It is not like people in North Dakota even live that close to each other. They had to really work to catch the virus.

Just so you can compare, in Vermont it is 3 people out of 1,000 have had Covid. Even in NY a state that was the epicenter of the virus at first has a rate of 27 out of 1,000. In NY they took seriously wearing masks and have gotten their spread way down.

So wear a mask if you go out. Sign up for your states Covid Tracking App. In NC it is called Slow Covid NC. Go find it in the App Store and install it on your phone. And for God’s sake, if you come in contact with someone who tests positive, don’t be a Pence, quarantine. It’s your civic duty.

Yard Sign Time

As you drive around it seems as if everyone has a yard sign or two, a flag or banner declaring their allegiance to a candidate or party. Then there are the “black lives matters”signs and the “I believe in Science…”. Then there are the snarky signs, BYE DON, with a wisp of yellow hair. So many signs declaring so much. Some of them I am happy to see, but others trouble me to know such things about a neighbor or friend.

Our church decided we wanted to get in on the sign game. We have a church Motto which our former Pastor Hayward Holderness declared for us any years ago. Micha 6.8- “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

We simplify it to the essence, Do Justice, Love Kindness and Walk Humbly. It fairly much tells you everything our church is about. So what better could we put upon a yard sign than those words. It this time of such divisiveness it is nice to have a reminder of what is important.

Although we don’t have in-person church services during COVID we did have a drive through day this afternoon to make our stewardship pledges and pick up a yard sign if you wanted one. Russ and I had made our pledge online, but we wanted a sign.

We may not have a sign for a candidate, or an ideology, but I feel that this sign speaks volumes about what we really believe. It also clearly indicates who we voted for, whose lives we think matter and even that science matters. We didn’t have to put a snarky sign out, even though I adore them. I don’t have to piss off my neighbors who don’t believe what we believe, because we love kindness.

I hope to have leaders at every level who also believe these things. Not just in a biblical way, like some evangelicals who can quote the Bible, but don’t live it. I want leaders who live these things. It seems like a small standard to hold any of us to.

Dickinson Day

After spending most of the day working on my garden project I took a break late this afternoon to have a call with a young woman who is thinking about going to my alma mater, Dickinson College. I welcomed this call. Any chance to get to talk about the college I loved attending is a good day for me. It was also a chance to sit down and think rather than do back breaking work.

We started the call with her asking me what were my reason’s for choosing Dickinson. I told her it boiled down to feeling I got from the people I met when I visited and the people I knew who went there. I went on to tell her that those people I got to know while I was there are still some of my favorite people on earth. Some were great friends with me while I was there and some have become great friends since we left, but there is something about how Dickinson chooses people and curates each class that is special.

We talked for an hour. I told her of my self-paced bowling class I started just so I could get that final PE credit to graduate, and my summer study abroad in France because I was terrible at languages and I figured it was the only way I could fulfill my language requirement. Mostly what I told her about were my friends and my professors who became my friends, and people I hardly knew at school, but became my friends later and how they turned out to be interesting and successful and nice people. I can hardly think of a person I went to college with who I would not like to spend time with today and I am don’t always like everyone.

As I listened to why she was interested in Dickinson I was thrilled that she highlighted many of the things that I felt made it special. The welcoming belonging feeling you get when you visit. The sincerity of the warmth of the people. The broad cross sections of interests of the people. It’s the people. Yes, it is a beautiful old campus, with great Professors who get to know you as a student, but also as a person.

After a pleasant hour on phone we hung up. I came inside and Russ had the Bruce Springsteen special on Apple TV playing. Bruce was the soundtrack of my years at Dickinson. It was as if I was transported back forty years dancing to Rosilita. What a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Sending hugs out to my Dickinson brethren. I miss you all.

Fall Flavors Pasta Bake

It may have been almost eighty degrees here today, but we wanted fall flavors. So I put together all our favorites into one yummy dish. I wanted a really sage filled sausage so I made it myself with ground pork and it was yummy. I will include my sausage recipe here, but you can make this easier if you just buy a sage breakfast sausage. Just add a few of the spices I put in my sausage into the dish if you use store bought sausage.


1 pound ground pork

1T. Garlic powder

1T. Fennel seeds

1 t. Anise seeds

1/2 t. Paprika

1/4 t. Cayenne pepper

1 T. Salt

1 T. Ground black pepper

2 T. Ground sage

3 pinches of red pepper flakes

In a dry fry pan put the fennel and anise seeds and toast on medium heat until they start they smell. Using a mortar and pestle grind them up.

Mix all the spices with the pork.

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced in 3/4 inch cubes

2 fennel bulbs, sliced thinly

Giant bag of baby spinach

1 T. Oil

1/2 t. Nutmeg

1 pound of rigatoni

1 cup of Quattro formagi Trader Joe’s cheese

1/2 c. Grated gruyere

1 cup grated Parmensan

Preheat oven to 450°. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with Pam. Lay out butternut squash in single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 25 minutes, until the squash starts to turn brown. When cooked put a pinch of nutmeg on squash.

Put a big pot of water on the stove to cook the rigatoni according to package directions less one minute. Don’t put the rigatoni in water until you have started the fennel.

In fry pan, crumble up sausage and cook on medium heat until done, about seven minutes. Remove the meat from the pan,leaving the oil. Place the meat in a greased 9×13 baking dish.

Add the fennel to the fry pan that has the sausage grease in it and add oil. Cook fennel until wilted, about ten minutes on medium high heat. Salt and pepper the fennel and add to the meat in the baking dish.

Using the same fry pan put the spinach in and cover and heat for 30 seconds and remove from heat still covered until the spinach wilts. Sprinkle with a touch of nutmeg and add to the baking dish. It may take two batches to wilt all the spinach.

Add the rigatoni and the butternut squash to the baking dish and toss everything together. Add the Quattro formagi and the gruyere and toss. Sprinkle the Parmensan on top.

Reduce the oven heat to 300° and bake for 20 minutes, tenting with foil half way through.

Pin-Up Calendar?

Twice this week I received this e-mail from Melania Trump titled, “The Official 2021 Trump Calendar.” I want to know who in the Trump organization thought it was a good idea to have the woman who used to pose nude for a living offer a calendar? I am of an age when I had to endure calendar’s of nude women hanging up in mechanic’s garages when I went to get my oil changed in my car. I never quite understood how it was OK to display those in public places. So when a former nude model offers a calendar that is the first thing that comes to mind.

Of course that might be exactly what many of the misogynist supporters of this President might like and even expect. It is just so bold to offer a calendar for a year that might not be your year, but I have a feeling many Trump supporters will go to their graves loving him. They have to, to stand by a man who can lie more than fifty times a day, according to the Fact Checker team at the Washington Post.

This photo I like, seeing their backsides as they get out of Washington

Now if Melania were offering Trump Dart Boards that might be a product I could get behind and one that could stir up some good rumors about her and her husband’s relationship. For now it’s just calendars. Now that I think of it, no where does she say they are not nude photos, but I don’t EVER want to see a photo of the Donald without a suit on. It’s bad enough just to see him in golf clothes.

Garden Project Halfway Done

Planning out this garden project I chunked it into four sections. The first was expanding the flat surface by 100 percent by building a forty foot retaining wall that was four feet high. This was the most physical part of the project, the most boring and the one I did mostly alone. The building was not that boring, but the shoveling the clay fill dirt was hell. I calculate I shoveled 72,000 pounds thanks to the rainy days soaking the dirt.

The second phase of the project was building the garden enclosure. After looking at hundreds of Pintrest pages of garden fences I designed what I thought would serve me well that I could do myself. I purchased the materials and had a church friend come and help me build it. We did the posts in one day, cementing 13– 10 foot four by fours around the perimeter. We framed it another day. On the third day we attached the wire which included 2×4 inch big wire to keep deer out and 1x 1 bunny wire that runs into the ground. David also built the garden gate on the third day. The fourth day he came back for a couple hours just to do a little finish work to give the enclosure a look that was a step up from a deer fence.

Now that it is done I have had some suggestions about what I can use the enclosure for besides a garden. It could be a chicken coop, a home for a lama, a Christmas village, and the worst suggestion was an internment camp.

I still have to do a little leveling of the fill dirt, but it does not have to be perfect. I still have two more major jobs to do. First, build the raised beds. I am on the search for cedar wood and once I get the right dimensional lumbar I can build those. Then install the irrigation system I have designed. That will involve more digging and actual plumbing. I think I can handle that.

Once all that is done I will have to fill the beds with the right garden soil mix and cover the pathways between the beds with wood chips. So despite my excitement for having the wall and fence done I am still a long way from being done.

A couple of side projects have crept up while I was building. I need to build steps out of block into the the slope next to the garden. I constructed a compost bay since I will need lots of compost for this garden and I may add an additional bay to it and I need to lay some slate for the entrance to the garden. I hope it is not an early or cold winter because I am going to be working on this everyday for a while. At least I have the hardest parts done.

A Surprise in The Mail Today

When my Aunt and Uncle moved into my grandparent’s farm house they also got all the furnishing in the house. There was not much that other people might want, like the metal cots that my father and his brother slept in as children. They were such horrible beds the grandchildren christened them “the dread bedz”. Thankfully as the oldest grandchild I usually scored a different bed, one with a bottle of Old Grandad turned into a lamp next to it. Like I said, not a lot of things anyone would want.

Today my Aunt sent me a package that contained two little cookbooks that had been my grandmother’s, which were part of the contents my Aunt inherited. The cookbooks are little spiral bound books that were handmade. One was a Pawleys Island cookbook put together by All Saints Waccamaw Church. All Saints used to be an Episcopal Church for hundreds of years. When I was a child sometimes we would visit it when we were at Pawleys. Sadly All Saints left the Episcopal church in 2004 to become an Anglican Church of the crazy fringe far, far right. Thankfully the cookbook is from the good old days of the church.

The other cook book is one I am most excited to have. It is from the Tip Top Inn on Pawleys Island. Tip Top was an Inn three doors down from my Aunt Haidee’s house. If you stayed there you got three meals a day included in you room and board. My father would sometimes finagle a table for us to eat one meal there during our vacation as we stayed at our house and not at Tip Top. As non lodgers the only table we might get was the staff table in a tiny side room away from all the fancy guests.

The food was made by the superior African American women who ran the kitchen. These ladies could really cook. I know that the owner Mrs. Dingle put together the cookbook, but I am certain the recipes are just suggestions of what the real cooks made.

It was a good thing we didn’t stay at Tip Top because if you ate all your meals there for two weeks you would easily gain fifteen pounds. Here is a sample of one day’s menu.

My Aunt wrote me that now I am the keeper of these books, but it will be up to me to pass them on to one of my family members who spent the summer at Pawleys with me every summer. I am happy to do that, but first I want to make the deviled crab, which was my favorite Tip Top dish. Thanks Aunt Janie for these precious gifts.

Staying Busy is Good For Me

For the last five weeks I have been working on increasing my garden and fencing it in. As the many neighbors and friends who walk by I hear a lot of comments of encouragement and many questions about why I am doing this myself. One reason I decided to do this myself is because I can. For the record I built the wall by myself with a little help moving blocks from Brandon and Russ, but the actual building was all me. I also moved over 22 yards of fill dirt myself. But I have had the great aid and expertise of David McQuaid to help me build the fence.

I designed the fence and showed David what I wanted. One of the reason I hired him is he was OK with my working with him. I wanted to have my hands on every aspect of this project. He took me literally and I have been a full on carpenter with him. Thankfully he did not make me use the pneumatic nail gun when I told him I would rather not do that.

Spending all day as a full on carpenter is exhausting. David and I framed out the whole fence today and it is ready for wire tomorrow. I am so thankful for his help.

As I thought about why I felt the need to do this it came to me. This project has saved my sanity during the last few weeks of the election. I am not sure I could handle having an idle mind right now. When I work on the project alone I listen to books and when working with David we listen to the radio on a station that plays stuff from my high school years.

I am going to be happy to have something tangible for COVID. Next summer when I am harvesting my crop of vegetable from my new garden I will thank God for the time I had to build the new garden. Being very busy is the best thing I can do right now.

Furnace Came On Today

It has been many months since we have needed heat, but this morning our furnace turned on as the temperature inside the house reduced to the level requiring heat. That familiar smell of the dust burning off the burners in the furnace was the first sign that winter is coming.

The heat was only on long enough to break the chill, but not actually warm the house up too much. The real sign that summer is over was my need for a blanket for my feet while I watched a movie this afternoon. I know that today was the coldest day and that it will be warmer this week, but I see our outdoor life dwindling in the next few weeks.

Normally I am tired of hot weather and looking forward to the cooler temps, but not this year. With Covid we have enjoyed seeing people outdoors. I am not exactly looking forward to those days like March when we stayed hidden away, alone in our own homes. As the rates of infection have shot up I am not letting up on my safety protocols, so I am hoping that fall stretches out for a very long time.

It seems like Mother Nature could throw us a bone on the temperature given all the other crap she has given us this year. Not that I am encouraging global warming, just a nice long drawn out fall like we used to have in the last century.

So here’s to staying warm. I hope you did not need your heat today. I don’t own a fire pit, but maybe when I’m done with the garden project I could get to work on that. Hummmm, wonder where I could put it?

Door-To-Door Skills

Girl Scout Cookies, Burbee seeds, Avon Products, Electrolux Vacuums, Warner -Amex Cable TV all things I sold door-to-door between the ages of seven and 20. I was trained by my Republican father to be a door-to-door selling machine. When I sold cable television I was the franchise expert at selling to the elderly. A lifetime’s of training just to get me ready for today.

Yesterday I voted. Since I am only allowed to vote once, despite what 45 encourages, I felt the need to do more. So I attended a zoom training for Fight for NC to help ensure that all Joe ballots get counted. In NC many absentee ballots get rejected for many arcane reasons. Voters who send in a ballot by mail is supposed to be notified so they can fix the mistake and have their vote count. Each county puts out a list daily of the ballots that are being disqualified.

So today I was given a list of 12 people to go to visit at their home and tell them, first of all that their ballot is disqualified, in case the county had not told them yet and then instruct them on how to fix it. The list I was given was for people in Butner, Creedmoor and Stem, which was a thirty minute drive just to get there.

The good news is with Covid, almost everyone was at home so I was able to talk to 10 of the 12 people I was assigned. The two who were not home had other family members there so I told them. Everyone was as nice as they could be from the old ladies in mobile homes to the couple in a big house. A few had already corrected their ballots, but some had no idea their ballots had been rejected and agreed to go to early voting to fix it.

Of the places I went Stem was the most beautiful country side, Creedmoor had the most Trump signs and I was disappointed I did not have time to stop at the Butner Correctional facility and see if I could speak with Bernie Madeoff. He can’t vote anyway so it would have been a waste of time. If I was not so pressed for time I would have stopped at the Southern States Store in Creedmoor to see if they had any baby chicks.

I may only get to vote once, but helping other people make sure their vote gets counted sure felt good. I am certain that when my father trained me to sell things door-to-door he never imagined that this is what I would use those skills for, but boy am I glad I have them to use for good.

The most disappointing flag I saw was on a house in the middle of Creedmoor. I couldn’t stop and take a photo of it, but I found a photo of it online. I don’t think I had ever seen an official presidential advertisement that used the word Bullshit in it. I can only imagine what parents of young ones have to say as they drive by this house. It is just so unpresidential, and at the same time so laughable because I have never heard so much bullshit out of any person, let alone President, as I have out of Trump for the last three and a half years.

Flag I saw on a house. I could read it two ways.

If you want to go door to door, or answer phones let me know and I can put you in touch with the Fight for NC people who are really nice. This is not the year just to hope things go right.

Home School Help

I am so thankful that I don’t have to teach my child at home. I still have nightmares about just helping her study for the Dynasty section of seventh grade history.

If you live locally and are pulling your hair out and think you need help I have a solution for you. A friend of ours, Burke Beatty is moving back to the area and is looking for teaching jobs. Since he is off cycle to become a high school history teacher he is available to help teach your kid or kids or a pod of kids.

Burke was a member of the national honors society at Carrboro high school and went to Bates College in Maine. He graduated four years ago with a major in French and Francophone studies and a double minor in history and film media studies. Going to a great liberal arts college like Bates means he had to study everything, so he can handle your stay at home school kids subjects.

Teaching has been Burke’s goal job, but he spent the last three and half years as a master scuba dive trainer in Hawaii because you can only do something like that when you are young. If he can teach people how to do things underwater, he can help a kid with zoom school.

Burke got Covid early on and now has a positive anti-body test and is willing to be tested for Covid anytime. He told me that getting Covid was rough and he is very serious about not getting it again. Covid safety is his big priority.

While at Bates, Burke worked in the admissions office and during his senior year he was one of the fifteen senior admissions fellows who interviewed prospective students for Bates. If you have a junior or or senior student who would like to practice interview you might want to contact Burke.

If you are interested in talking with Burke about working with your kids he can be reached at 919-923-3516 or beatty.burke@gmail.com. As he has just arrived back here he is fully available, so you can book him for the times you need.

There is only so much togetherness we can have with our children and then everyone needs a break from each other. Burke could be the answer to your parent/child to much togetherness.

Help Comes to the Rescue

The on going major vegetable garden project continues. Sadly I did not get all the fill dirt spread before we had three inches of rain over the weekend. Since then I have been shoveling very heavy clay to try and level the garden.

My fence building helper, David, came this morning to begin the creation of the Deer fence. It should be called the anti-deer fence. David as the expert builder worked all day by my side as I continued shoveling and filling.

We cemented thirteen ten foot posts into the ground. It was important we get that all done today because rain is due tonight for the next 24 hours. This means I will still be shoveling this weekend to finish the spreading and leveling.

Eight hours of working in the garden is too much for me for one day so I am thankful for a rain day because I don’t think I could do this again tomorrow. I predict I will sleep well tonight.

Join Me To Fight For NC

Did you know that if you sent in an absentee ballot in North Carolina and your signature does not exactly match the one on file from when you first registered your ballot can be disqualified. I don’t know about you, but I am certain my signature has changed a little bit since I first registered in Durham 26 years ago.

In NC if you do a mail in ballot early enough and it gets rejected you can do something called “curing” your ballot, to fix it for whatever reason it was disqualified. There is a group called Fight For NC who is training people to send them out to help people cure their ballots. I am volunteering to do this. The group is supporting democratic voters, so if you want Trump this group is not for you.

The training to learn how to do this is Thursday – Sunday from 7:00 – 8:00PM online. I am doing it Friday night and then will find out how I go help people cure their ballots. If you want to do this in NC you can go to this link. I think the link will let you chose a different day if you want.

I’ve signed up to attend a training with Fight For NC on Friday, Oct 16, 2020. Are you free to join me? Use this link to sign up: https://www.mobilize.us/nc2020victory/event/348138/?referring_vol=3749085&rname=Dana&timeslot=2441331&share_medium=email_link&share_context=email_1

I can’t sit by and let this election happen without my doing everything possible. This may not be for everyone. This group also calls and texts people if that is more your speed. Join me if you feel called to. We need every vote to count.

Chicken Shit

No, this is not a blog about a politician, but composting. As I work to increase the size of my vegetable garden I realize I am going to need a lot more compost. So this is the perfect time to start composting in a big way. Not only will I be making my own good dirt, but I will not be adding to methane emissions at landfills and thus helping to reduce our carbon foot print.

So I am reaching out to any local friends who keep chickens to see if you need to get rid of any of your Chicken shit? I am happy to come pick it up every once in a while. I also could use any old fashioned news paper. We haven’t gotten a real news paper in decades, but if you do I am happy to take a few pre-read issues off your hands, rather than having you recycle it.

Composting is all about balance and I think I will have no trouble creating the “green” portion from vegetable peels and coffee grounds and the the like, but the “brown” portion of tiny twigs, and shredded paper is harder to come by. We hardly create any garbage at our house as it is and this will reduce it to some plastic bags and broken pens.

I have to say I have spent my life trying to get out of shit and now I am in active search of it, but only of the fowl type.

The Good News Is, I Wasn’t Blown Up Today

After three inches of rain this weekend I couldn’t work in my garden today.  Instead I went to Lowe’s and purchased the materials for phase two of my new garden, the fence phase.  Thursday, a fellow church member who builds decks, is coming to help me enclose my vegetable garden so I can stop growing food for wildlife.

Since I was still having guilt over a whole weekend of not working outside I decided I would pull out my zinnia garden on the front of our property whose time had long passed. This was the most successful year of zinnias as we had constant steady rain throughout the summer.  The now spent plants had grown over three feet tall and I was sad to pull them out.

While I was toiling away there were seven men “working” in my neighbor’s yard.  Working is in quotes because most of the time six of them stood around and watched one man run the backhoe.  It was an amazing show of unproductiveness.  I kept working away , pulling out old plants and filling my wheel barrow and moving the dead stalks to my compost behind my house.  

When I came back with an empty wheelbarrow from my first dumping the man in the backhoe jumped down from the machine.  All the other men ran around to the back of my neighbor’s.  The backhoe driver got on phone and walked over to the edge of the road right across from where I was working.  I was wearing my earbuds, listening to a book while I worked so I could not eavesdrop on his conversation.  I kept working.

Another load of the wheel barrow back and forth and then a gas company truck pulled up and three men jumped out.  They scampered around and one of them looked at me and said, “You should probably go inside, these guys hit a gas line.”

Funny, none of those men thought to mention it to me as they ran away to potentially save themselves.  The guy on the phone was 20 feet away from me, you think he could have told me?

I didn’t stick around to look at the name on their trucks, but tomorrow I may do it.  The gas guy came over after all was safe and told me I could resume working near the road.  I asked him if these people had called 811, the number you call for location services before you dig.  He said they had three months ago, but the markings only last two weeks.  He shook his head.  I don’t know who in their right mind digs with a back hoe without knowing where the services are buried.

Thank goodness those seven guys did not blow me up after I have worked so hard on my landscaping.

Rain, Rain, Rain Non-Productiveness

It has been raining mostly non-stop for two days. Doesn’t Mother Nature know I have have a lot of outdoor work. Apparently I can stand quarantine if I am allowed to go outside and work, but being stuck inside looking out over the piles of work I have to do is suffocating to me.

Russ had volunteered to help me do a little shoveling as I only have about 2 of the 20 yards of fill dirt to spread. That offer was too good to be true. He was unable to find an hour of dry time to help. Not that I need him to help me. I am happy to do it myself, but I really don’t need to work in the rain. Plus all this rain has certainly made my clay fill dirt even heavier than it was.

The good news is the rain probably helped with the compression of my fill. Not that I have gone out in rain boots to stamp around on it. Today I got a call from my fence helper, David who told me he would be here Thursday morning and for me to purchase all my fence supplies. Great, another trip to Lowe’s early in the morning so hopefully I can get delivery by Thursday. I need to have finished my grading by then and maybe have moved my leftover block.

At least my garden project is continually moving ahead. As long as the rain, rain, rain stops. I know I was frustrated by rain today because in place of shoveling I mopped bathroom floors. Lord help me to keep my sanity.

Wanting To Appear Rich Is The Problem

Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times that is part of a series about Trump’s finances, based on 20 years of tax returns. The title was, TRUMP ENGINEERED A SUDDEN WINDFALL IN 2016 AS CAMPAIGN FUNDS DWINDLED. I am not interested in rehashing 45’s taxes, but this story highlighted how he was not always as rich as he wanted to portray himself and how he used dubious means to get cash for his campaign.

The picture of 45 is one I have seen over and over again of people who want to appear richer than they are. You probably have some of these people in your neighborhood. They build a house they can’t afford and then when it needs work it sits unfinished or broken because they lived beyond their means. I’m not talking about people who get into financial trouble, just people who like to puff themselves out.

Like 45, those people are not usually generous. When I go looking for donors for a good cause I rarely have any luck with the people who built the gaudiest houses. Even if they want a seat at the table of power they never seem to step up when it comes to helping financially. They have run out of cash trying to appear rich, or richer.

Often times the most generous people are the people who have less to begin with — Those who appear unassuming, but then give outrageously as a percentage of what they have. So many times I have seen this at the food bank. A letter will come in with a check. The note says something like, “You helped me when I needed it, I wish I could give more today,” with a check for $20. If you are someone who needed food from a Food Bank $20 is a huge gift.

I feel like the days of trying to be the showiest are past. If Covid has taught us anything it is that we need to value the simple things. No one is coming to your over leveredged house, or at least they shouldn’t be.

If your goal is to make everyone think you are rich you have the wrong goal. Being rich is great, but worrying about being thought of as rich is toxic. Chasing that image eventually gets you into trouble.

Lamb Curry, the Colonial Way

Back in the mid nineties, when we lived in London, Russ would often ask for a good ‘ole curry for dinner. Sometimes it would be of the Persian persuasion, or the Indian, but often it was a pub version of lamb curry. The pub version was kind of a British mash up from colonial days, and I don’t mean American colonial.

When the days start to get short and the evenings are cool Russ loves it if I tell him I am making him a curry. We don’t have it often because we don’t eat much red meat these days, but when we do I am transported back to London.

Although we lived and worked there for almost five years if feels like those years were a blur. This is probably due the the amount of work and around the world travel we did. It always sounded more glamorous than it was. Work is work no matter where you are doing it.

I traveled way more than Russ as my assignments were all over the place, and he was based almost wholly in London. On the rare times that we were both together in London we almost always worked late and grabbed dinner on our way home. Many nights my Dad was with us and he was always welcomed in our regular haunts because he is the world’s best tipper.

There are a few places I miss like our Fish and chips shop on the way home from Paddington station and our favorite Persian restaurant, Old Delhi. I can never recreate those flavors. But the lamb curry of our “local” The Victoria I can come close to in our kitchen. Basmati rice and Mango and lime chutney help.

I don’t miss working those long hours and sleeping on planes overnight and having to go straight to work upon arrival, but I do miss my British friends. Just having this curry for dinner makes the lack of travel hard. I never should have made such a British dish. I was fine staying home before we had this.

Lamb Curry

1 small bones leg of lamb cut into small chunks (2 1/2 lbs)

4 T. Curry powder

1. T. Ground ginger

2 big sweet onions

5 cloves of garlic

4 T. Oil

4 T. Grated fresh ginger

5 whole allspice

2 T. Fresh thyme leaves

1 seeded jalapeño

1 14 Oz. Can of chopped tomatoes

3 T. Tomato paste

1 14 Oz. Can coconut milk

6 carrots chopped

1 small butternut squash, cubed and roasted

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

Juice of a lime

2 t. Ground cumin

1 t. Turmeric

1 t. Ground coriander

Put the cubed lamb in a bowl and sprinkle 2 T. Curry powder, the ground ginger and 1 T. Salt and 1 T. Black pepper over the meat and stir.

In a blender put one onion, chopped, 2 T. Oil, grated ginger, garlic, jalapeño, thyme a d allspice and blend until nothing is chunky.

Pour the onion sauce over the meat and mix. Cover and let marinate 2-24 hours.

In a Dutch oven, put 2 T. Oil and the remaining curry powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric and heat for less than a minute to just wake up the spices. Add the lamb mixture and Tuen the heat up high and stir often to get some color on the meat, about ten minutes. Add the canned tomatoes including the liquid and the remaining onion chopped. Cook for five minutes. Add the coconut milk and1 t. More of salt, bring to boil and turn the heat down to simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook three more minutes, then add all the remaining vegetables and cook for 25 more minutes, with lid on, stirring every once in a while. Add the lime juice at end and taste for salt and pepper.

Exercise Is a By-product of Working Outside

For the last 26 days I have spent most very morning working on my new garden space next to my driveway, close to the road. Because lots of the time I have been hidden by bushes and not using any power tools that make noise I have had the luxury of observing life going by me on the street.

There are a few things I can count on most mornings. A man will walk by with three tiny poodles that don’t walk as a pack, meaning close together heading the same direction, but more like satellite moons to their human, all with their own agendas. Multiple older women will walk by talking on phones, usually through earbuds, much too loudly and I have learned quite a lot of mostly unflattering things about them.

A few people will run by, but since I am at the top of a long low hill the speed of the running really is dependent on which direction they are going. Same for a few cyclists. All runners, cyclists, phone talkers and little poodle walkers never turn their heads to look my way. They are on a mission.

Then there are the people who know me who walk by and either stop to talk or at least wave. They are a fairly regular group and I enjoy getting to take a break and stop shoveling with the idea it would be rude to keep doing it while we talk.

Then there are the packs of women. Sometimes two, but as many as four, sometimes older than me, but often much younger. They are the ones who need to get out of the house and a walk is the only socially acceptable way to visit. Even before Covid there were lots of these packs in the neighborhood.

Last year, my Dad and his farm man Bill came to work work on our property with one of my Dad’s tractors. Bill has lived his whole life in the “country” and not a neighborhood like mine. During the four days Bill and my Dad spent in my yard they witnessed the similar people passing by that I did. One day Bill asked my Dad, “Where are all those people walking to?” My Dad told him they were just out getting exercise, talking a walk.

To Bill, exercise was something you got working and no one he knew had time just to walk nowhere. I realized that as I was outside, digging and lifting and building I was getting way more exercise than I usually do and I was much too tired to consider taking a walk after doing that for a few hours everyday. Walking is an incredibly privileged thing to have time to do, as well as running or cycling.

Most of the other people I have seen regularly pass by me while I have been working are the army of workers who come in the neighborhood everyday to dig, blow, cut, clean and take care of everyone’s yards. I can bet they don’t go out for a walk when they get home after working all day.

As I look around at all the rest of my yard, which a crew comes to cut or blow every week I see lots of places I could work on to improve. I have decided I like working outside as my exercise rather than just walking to nowhere. The sense of productivity makes the working enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, walking is a great way to clear your head and enjoy the day as well as get exercise, but actually building something makes me want to go out and exercise more.

Last Block

I think I laid my last block on my wall this morning. This does not mean I am finished, but not having to move blocks is great news in my book. I estimate I have shoveled about 15-16 of my 20 yards of fill dirt into the wall cavity. That leaves me 4-5 more yards to shovel.

Fill dirt is heavy clay and is hard to shovel. Now that I have already moved the dirt that was closest to the hole into it That leaves me with the dirt that is farther away. I am not quite strong enough to throw the dirt far enough to get it where I want it. I feel a little bit like a prisoner working on a chain gang. I hope that I can finish with the shoveling in the next two days. I am not sure how good I will be at leveling it out. I mostly hope I don’t need to add another course to the wall.

I still have some blocks left and have a few places I need to put them, especially to make some steps next to the garden. I may never be done with building walls, but building steps will be a new challenge to take on.

The completion of the wall does not mean the end of my garden project, just the first third. I still have to build the deer fence and the raised beds, but nothing will be as hard as building the wall.

Quilting is an Act of Love

When I got the call, later in the evening than I usually take calls, I knew I had to say yes. A friend of mine from church, who is older than I am, asked if I could help her with a quilt she couldn’t finish. Working on someone else’s quilt is usually not a good idea. Saying Yes to a project sight unseen is usually a really bad idea.

Quilting is a highly personal thing as an art and it can also be a very precise thing, so taking pieces someone else has made can be fraught with problems. What if the pieces are not squared, what if there are not enough of them, what if they don’t hang together color wise, what if they are poorly stitched, an the list can go on and on.

The next day Carol emailed me photos of her squares. They were beautiful hand appliquéd Dresden plates made from fabric she and her husband Jack bought on a trip to South Africa seven years ago. She had carefully picked out just the right patterns for the pieces and had lovingly sewn them and then got stuck about how to create a quilt with them. She told me the squares sat for a few years while she discussed the possibilities with various quilters.

The photo Carol sent me of her squares

After following this blog Carol decided she wanted me to finish her quilt. She offered me money. There is no amount of money I could ever ask for to finish someone else’s quilt. It is an act of love to do it and I told her so.

So I took her squares. She wanted a queen sized quilt, but did not have enough squares to make one so big. I came up with a solution and proposed it to her. She gave me free reign to pick the fabric and create the pattern as I saw fit. I told her that getting the quilting done was not going to be cheep as I wanted it quilted in a special way by my long arm quilter Tina at Studio-T. Carol said go ahead. So after I finished piecing her perfect squares with the fabric I picked to frame them Tina quilted it in a way that honored Carol’s Dresden Plates and ensured that the quilt would be usable everyday on a bed.

The finished quilt

I put a binding on the quilt made out of the same material as the frames so that Carol’s work would be the star of the quilt. When I showed it to her she cried. Even her husband Jack appreciated it. It was a wonderful collaboration to work on this beautiful work of art.

Carol kept asking me what she could do for me and I said nothing. Then she surprised me in the biggest way. She and Jack are making donations to the Food Bank and our church fo $5,000 in honor of this quilt. That just blew me away. Then on top of that Carol gave me an envelope with a generous check for me as a gift. She is very stubborn and told me not to argue with her. It was certainly unnecessary, but very nice.

Carol, after crying when she first saw it quilted

Sometimes you just say yes to a project because you want to help someone else have their dream come true and that is what I did. I never in a million years expected anything for doing it. I hope that Carol and Jack love their quilt for eternity. I loved doing this for them.

I Need an “I Voted” Button

No, I haven’t voted yet. I’m planning on doing early in-person voting as I do every year. I always vote as early as possible, but then I feel like I should qualify for some kind of magical button that removes all political ads and messages from my life.

I know that if I could invent this I could become a billionaire overnight. Who wouldn’t pay five or ten dollars to stop being bombarded by political ads. I feel like they are not held to the same advertising standards of truth that other ads are and that’s a shame.

In this very polarized year I am not sure there are as many undecided voters as there are ads. Imagine if all that money could be channeled into something more productive. Yes, in most years there are many races where people have no idea who is running or what positions different candidates take is on the issues, but not this year. It is a good thing that more people are paying attention to who they may be voting for. Even better that more people are voting than ever before.

I heard today that in NC we usually have just over 100,000 absentee ballot requests and this year we have over a million. Some years we are lucky if a million people vote by any means.

There are four weeks and a day until Election Day. I guess I am going to only watch Netflix and amazon for that whole time so I can stop being bombarded by so much false advertising. Don’t bother to show me another ad, my mind was made up long ago.

45’s Joy Ride

While so many in this country, those who like and dislike the President, wish him and the First Lady a speedy recovery, 45 pulls a stupid move today. While convalescing at Walter Reed Army Hospital Trump gets the secret service to drive him around outside the hospital so he can wave to the crowds outside the hospital. For a man who is in the throws of Covid to expose all his secret service agents to possible infection for a joy ride to bolster his ego is the ultimate in selfishness and disregard for human kind.

The rule is if you have been with someone who has tested positive then you must quarantine for 14 days. Do these agents have to now quarantine? How many secret service agents will be out of commission if the President keeps doing this? Could he possibly run out of agents? Do they have any choice about being around this man-child who does not think of others?

Good will from the American people can only go so far. Yes, people are sorry you got Covid, even if you flouted the science, but people will not give you a pass if you keep exposing others to the virus now that you know you have it. Stop acting on your every whim, be an adult. Waiving at people is not an essential act.

Even the Dogs Are Stir Crazy

We are with our friends Lane and Jon and their three dogs. Shay is here too so that makes four dogs. Shay knows Clementine, Petunia and Rosie well enough that they get along fine, but you can imagine when one barks, they all have to get in on the action.

Shay, Rosie and Petunia are dogs that stick with their humans fairly well. Then there is Clementine. If she can escape the house she is going to make a run of it and no amount of cookie promises will get her to come back. Today I inadvertently let her escape and she was out. Shay and Russ went after her, and she would run with Shay back to the end of the driveway and just stand there, defiant in her stance to not be caught.

Lane tried to throw her the ball and nothing worked until Jon suggested Lane throw the ball into the neighbor’s fenced in yard with the gate open and Clem ran in after it and Lane was able to shut the gate and catch her. I promised I will not make the mistake of letting her escape again.

Later in the day we took the boat to the fish store with all the dogs on board in their life jackets. Jon and I went to wait in line for the store, as they only let five customers in at a time. Lane and Russ hung with the dogs in the boat, until Shay demanded to be potty walked. As Russ rounded the store with Shay on a leash from the water side to the parking lot side. Jon and I were standing there was suddenly a very loud and constant car horn honking. It wasn’t a little beep beep, or intermittent, but a heavy handed lay on. Didn’t stop, it just kept on and we realized it was coming from the car right in front of us.

As it went on and on we finally saw that it was a dog in the car who was honking at Shay until she passed by the car and went to the side to pee, not giving any mind to the other dog or the honking. The dog let off the horn and went to the side window to continue trying to get Shay’s attention by barking. Shay still didn’t flinch. She is Lady enough not to let some greaser head dog get her attention.

I think that even the dogs are stir crazy.

Great Day Here

Today we are ignoring all the shit in the world and just celebrating the one and only Russ Lange since it is his day. No amount of crazy news can outshine the importance of the day that Russ came into the world.

Born on an army base he was a real bargain as the bill for his delivery was only $2.75. I clearly think that he is worth a trillion more than that. We are thankful that our friends Lane and Jon invited us to celebrate Russ’ birthday with them. Lane even got Russ a special cake that we were all too full to enjoy tonight.

Another exciting thing happened in our family today. My cousin Sarah’s husband, Mark, who is closer than a cousin to us was sworn in as a district court judge in Wake County today. Due to Covid it was a small ceremony, but it was taped so we could watch it. Russ and I lay in bed watching the ceremony and listening to Mark give his speech after taking his oath of office on his two grandmother’s bibles. I can think of no one more suited to be a judge than Mark. He is fair and reasoned and will serve the people of Wake county well. Congratulations to him on his big day. We will always remember what day he became a judge since he shares it with Russ’ birthday.

So for our family today was not dominated by bad news, but with exciting and good news. Hooray for Russ and Congratulations Mark.

I Tempted Fate and Lost

I have been making good progress on my wall. I ordered 20 yards of fill dirt that were due to come at 1:00 today. The wall is held together by weight of the blocks, a lip on the back of each block and the fact that it is steped into the earth behind it. Back filling the wall as I build is very important. I knew this. I have been doing it using both drainage rock, which is very heavy and shoveling dirt from my existing garden, which is exhausting.

I got too cocky, and as I waited for for the fill dirt to arrive, I just kept building since I was on my last course. You know what happens to cocky people, they fail. (At least that is what I am hopping happens in November). So a huge four course section of the wall fell into the middle. Since I have used adhesive on the last two courses they were stuck together.

It was heart breaking, but not unrecoverable. I replaced two courses and went back to Lowe’s for more drainage rock. I left the blocks that were glued together where they fell as they acted as a good barricade for me to fill in with the rocks. I moved 2,500 pounds of rocks and stacked 1,680 pounds of block today.

Then my fill dirt arrived. 20 yards is a lot of dirt. They did a good job of dropping it where I need it in two different loads. I shoveled about 2 yards worth and felt like the wall is well supported for now. I had worked for five and a half hours non-stop with my only rest being driving to and from Lowe’s. I knew I had to stop or else I would be no good tomorrow.

Tomorrow I will probably just shovel dirt for four hours and not worry about finishing the wall until I have enough backfill supporting every course. If only I had waited I would not have lost basically a day of work. This is what I get for being impatient. Thankfully I have plenty of block. The silver lining is I got an incredible core work out. Unfortunately I will finish the wall before I get look like I worked this hard.