Friday, December 06, 2019

A Mouse in the Garden

I took out the last tomato vine and composted it.  Actually, I took the opportunity to turn the compost, something I haven't done in a couple of months.  In one bin I found a giant ant colony.  In the other was a mouse nest.  The mouse was little brown and afraid.  I didn't kill it.  I don't think it's hurting anything. All that is growing in the garden now is garlic and onions.

It seems that St. Nicholas visited my boys and Kathleen's kids early this morning for there were chocolate coins found in shoes.

A Christmas Gift List for Women Who Buy Presents for Men

One of my more popular posts (Like the Fall of Constantinople and Egg Nog it gets millions and millions of page views.) is the Christmas list for the man who has everything.  So, I'm going to make another Christmas list. If it is popular as last year's I'll probably make it an annual event.

10.  What is that sound, you ask?  It's the sound of majesty!  When your man wakes you up in the morning by playing these beautiful bagpipes you'll feel like Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral Castle. 

9. Remember that time you and your man got lost while taking the tour at MGM Studios, and how you walked in the wrong door and got to see George Cukor berating Angela Landsbury for stealing every scene she was in?  Well, did you notice the chair?  Your man did, and he wants a director's chair just like that one, but made of leather.

8. Your man looks Irish but he is very in-touch with his Native American ancestors. His mother's mother's mother was a Cherokee so you just know he would cherish these Trail of Tears bookends.

7.  He's never ridden a bull.   He's never been on a cattle drive.  He's never worked on a ranch.  But he has a cowboy hat and he likes to eat at Harris's and Alexander's.  So get him what he really needs:  A steer horn chair. Just think of the hours of enjoyment!

6. When he joined the church you thought it was just another phase, like fly fishing or pasta making.  But now, decades after they let him in he's been elected to be parish warden.  He has the broom for sweeping up after services.  He has a plunger and a wrench for fixing the toilets.  Now all he needs is this gorgeous churchwarden pipe.

5.  His tools were given to him by his dad and he can tell you all about the many things he's built or maintained with those tools.  But they are all in a pillow case in the corner of the garage.  Give him a worthy home for those tools.  Give him a leather tool roll.

4. He was Colonel Potter's favorite author and he'll be your man's favorite author, too. Just as soon as you give him a a copy of one of Zane Grey's books.

3. He hunts. He cooks.  He camps.  He likes to play with fire.  Bring all his hobbies together with this wonderful memory-making dutch oven and tri-pod.

2.  He's wanted them ever since he saw Grease when he was a kid.  Get him what he always wanted but was too practical to buy for himself:  Fuzzy dice!!!

1.  The Leg Lamp

Sunday, December 01, 2019

An Advent Wreath Service for the Domestic Church

We Orthodox (I still call myself Orthodox even though I am unable to commune for the past few years; a situation that will be rectified before this time next year) don't do as much during the Nativity Fast (In the west it is called Advent) as we do during Great Lent.  Pretty much, all we do is,  beginning on November 15, abstain from wine, oil, meat, fish, dairy, and sex.  Positively we give more secret alms and there are the two services on the two Sundays preceding the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ According to the Flesh. (In the west it is called Christmas).  Oh, there is also the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple but other than that there isn't much that is different about this time of year; very unlike Great Lent in the Spring which is totally jam packed with stuff.

So, what can a person do to get the most out this time of year.  Well, if you have little children there are many books you can read to them.  My children are not little anymore so

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Two Good Bakers

Today I taught two little girls how to make the Cranberry-Walnut Pie.  The little bakers did  a very good job on them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


I took the morning off from work ( I am working later tonight though) to go turkey hunting.  I got my limit so the season is over for me.  I got two toms with one shot of Federal #5 steel shot. I was only aiming at the big one but at 40 yards the shot pattern is pretty wide and I got the smaller one by mistake.  They are, after plucking and gutting, 14 and 17 pounds.  The gun is a Stevens Side-by-Side 12 ga. made in1943.  It looks like I am all set for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Water Temple and Pumpkins

Anselm at the farm

Basil wore his plague doctor costume
I had my 90-day review at work tonight.  They said I am doing well and will keep me on.

Yesterday Anselm and Basil and I went to Bob's Pumpkin Farm over by Half Moon Bay and then to the Water Temple.  It was their first time at the Water Temple since they were little boys but we go to the pumpkin farm every year. Anselm says he is planning on moving to Texas or Alaska next spring when he turns 18 so I suppose this will be his last year to go to the Pumpkin farm with me.

We each got a pumpkin for carving and I got two for cooking.  I still have two out in the garden that are almost ready to pick.

Each each year since 2006
The Water Temple

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Navy Chiefs

I have a couple of jobs right now.  In one of them I keep crossing paths with old U.S. Navy chiefs.  My grandfather was a soldier.  I was a soldier.  My first son was a soldier.  But these Navy Chiefs seem to be drawn to me.  These old men of the sea, we talk and they tell me their stories.  I tell them about my grandfather and my son.  They ask many questions then say something like "They would have made good Chiefs.  I wish they'd been in the Navy."  Wow!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Fishing at Coyote Lake

In the early 1990s my parents used to go to Coyote Lake in their motor home.  One summer, I remember, they stayed there for a couple of months with my two oldest sons, Billy and Devon.  (I miss them greatly.)  I went down and saw them at the lake several times during that summer.  I had to work but I got down there when I could.  Weekends.

This morning, about 20 years since the last time I at that lake, Anselm and I went fishing down there.  It was strange for me.  I loved being with Anselm (He caught a bass on a crawdad lure but it was two small to keep). but I was also sad because of my first two sons.  We saw three different flocks of turkeys (one was mostly Gould's variety but the others looked like Rio Grand variety.  I was surprised to see such sharp distinctions.) a covey of quail, several mule deer, and a bobcat.  but no coyotes.

Sometimes, it seems like I have had too many lives.  Everything and everywhere is full of memories.

Anselm and I are going to make a regular thing out of Thursday mornings, I think.  I am able to arrange my work schedule so that I don't have to be anywhere until 2pm on Thursdays, and that is fine for fishing.  I am very happy about that.

Monday, October 07, 2019

A Fourteen Year Old

Basil Wenceslas turned 14 today.  It is amazing.  I can hardly believe it. It seems like yesterday that I wasa driving his mother to Good Samaritan Hospital, that Fr. David was naming him, that Bishop Benjamin was baptising him, that he was going to his older brother's cub scout meetings, then becoming a Cubs Scout himself.  I loved reading to him.  Blueberries for Sal was one of his favorites.  It was given to him by an old woman who lived next door to us when Basil was still in a stroller.   For this birthday I gave him a Koine Greek curriculum.  I hope we get to read it together.  He is even taking a college class now.  He is doing so well compared to where he was a couple of years ago.  I am proud of him.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Nematodes, Tomatoes, and Hornworms

The good news is that the nematodes worked!  All the grubs are dead and the tomato plants are producing again. Cucumber and squash are recovering, too. We are very pleased.

The bad news is we now have tomato hornworms.  Kathleen has recruited neighborhood kids into an anti-hornworm task force.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Nematodes and a new Life Scout

I want to plant garlic seeds before November but not with all those nasty grubs in the soil.  So Kathleen bought 40,000,000 nematodes and I treated two of the raised beds.  She said she is going to buy more so I can treat all our other growing areas.  Hopefully the nematodes do their job and we will have lots and lots of garlic in the spring.

Anselm (AKA the little boy) had his board of review for Life Scout tonight.  He passed.  Next step is Eagle Scout.  I can hardly believe he is almost there.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


There are only three pumpkins left on the vines.  I ate a couple.  I gave one to some neighborhood kids who like to play in the garden but never hurt the plants.  They were pretty excited.  It took two of them to carry it home.  I hope their mom cooked it for them.

In addition to the Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good I have roasted pumpkin then cooked beef stew in it.  It was pretty good.  I think I'll make it again.  But sometime this week I want to make pumpkin soup.  It is something I've never made but I want to try out a couple of recipes before Thanksgiving.  If I like any of them I might make it for that great day.

Oh, about the powdery mildew.  It killed most of the pumpkin vines, but what it didn't kill is very healthy.  It is even flowering again this morning.  Amazing.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Cherubic Hymn

A couple of Sundays ago son #4 heard me explaining to someone what the Cherubic Hymn (It is part of the Divine Liturgy) is all about. He became unusually excited and said, "How come I'm just now hearing this?" At that time I thought, "What is he talking about? It's all I've talked about with him for thirteen years?" But later, I began thinking about it and it dawned on me that if one doesn't know everything that that is going on during that part of the service, the Cherubic Hymn really is the most boring and pointless part of the liturgy.  I think it really helps one to stay engaged if it is remembered that the liturgy of the catechumens has just ended, that the liturgy of the faithful has just begun, and that the faithful are mystically present in God's throne room and are offering worship in the place of the cherubim. Additionally, while the faithful are singing the cherubic hymn, the priest is at the altar quietly praying this prayer:
"None is worthy among them that are bound with carnal lusts and pleasures, to approach or to draw nigh, or to minister unto Thee, O King of glory, for to serve Thee is a great and fearful thing even unto the heavenly hosts themselves. Yet because of Thine ineffable and immeasurable love for mankind, without change or alteration Thou didst become man, and didst become our High Priest, and didst deliver unto us the ministry of this liturgical and bloodless sacrifice, for Thou art the Master of all. Thou alone, O Lord our God, dost rule over those in heaven and those on earth, art borne upon the throne of the Cherubim, art Lord of the Seraphim and King of Israel, Thou alone art holy and restest in the saints. I implore Thee, therefore, Who alone art good and inclined to listen: Look upon me, Thy sinful and unprofitable servant, and purge my soul and heart of a wicked conscience, and, by the power of Thy Holy Spirit, enable me, who am clothed with the grace of the priesthood, to stand before this Thy Holy Table, and to perform the sacred Mystery of Thy holy and immaculate Body and precious Blood. For unto Thee do I draw nigh, bowing my neck, and I pray Thee: Turn not Thy countenance away from me, neither cast me out from among Thy children, but vouchsafe that these gifts be offered unto Thee by me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant: For Thou art He that offereth and is offered, that accepteth and is distributed, O Christ our God, and unto Thee do we send up glory, together with Thine unoriginate Father, and Thy Most holy and good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages."

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Two Jobs, the Boys, and a Diploma

I have two jobs now.  My main job is as a hunting outfitter at Bass Pro Shops in San Jose.  I advise people on scopes, binoculars, guns, ammo, knives, decoys, and stuff like that.  It's fun.  Not much money but fun.  My other job is for Golden State Property Management.  In that job I drive around and show vacant apartments and houses to prospective tenants.  Its more money per hour but unpredictable.  For example, last Thursday I had six showings but today I have none.

Basil (Son #4) is spending two nights a week with me now.  That is because on Mondays and Wednesdays he is going to class at Evergreen Valley College.  That is where Kathleen works, and she drives him to school.  Right now he is only taking one class but that class meets the UC and CSU degree requirements.  My hope is that next semester he will take three, and by the time he gets a high school diploma already have the first two years of college knocked out.  He is the most academically inclined of all my children.  But my real joy is lighting the candle and incense, and singing the morning and  evening prayers with him when he is here.

Anselm (Son #3) is a qualified welder but isn't old enough to work as a welder.  No one will hire him until he is 18.  Until then he is working at Starbucks, which pays good money.  He is also taking advanced TIG classes.  Last week he survived the Ordeal and achieved the Brotherhood rank in the Order of the Arrow.  He is progressing toward Eagle Scout. He says that as soon as he turns 18 he is going to move to Alaska or Texas to find work as a welder, I'm hoping for Alaska; there's a higher percentage of Orthodox there.  Oh, how fast these years have flown by!

Perhaps, if you've read this blog for a long time, you remember that I began working on a masters degree in ancient and classical history about 11 years ago.  Well, I finally finished all the work and paid my bill but I took longer than allowed so I don't get the M.A. (One only gets 7 years from start to finish to earn a M.A. degree in the U.S.)  Instead they are mailing me a "Graduate Diploma".  So, that's something, I guess.  It's not an M.A. but it's something.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Radio, part two

When I was 6 or 7 years old my brother Mark got a job selling Bison vacuum cleaners door to door.  It was the same year I caught both the mumps and the chicken pox.  He gave a teddy bear or a transistor radio to everyone who let him do a demonstration.   He gave me one of the radios.  The cool thing about it is that it was attached to a wristband like a watch.  My mom, following the watch theme, tuned the radio to pick up the signal of KLOK 1170 kHz AM.  She said they would announce the time.  That was the first time I ever thought of radio doing something useful.  It was also my  first exposure to "Oldies", rock music from the 50s and early 60s.  One thing I remember about the Bison is that it messed up radio reception.  I guess the FCC is stricter now about electrical tools interfering with radio signals.

Meteor Shower

I got off work at 10 p.m. 5 hours ago and I went to the boys' house where I picked of Basil to go see the meteors.  It was the third or fourth time we have watched the Perseids. On the way to the San Antonio Valley (we summited Mount Hamilton to get there) we stopped and bought It's It.  I took the opportunity to tell Basil about the first time my Dad bought me an It's-It

The moon was very bright tonight, so even though we were far away from the city light we only saw 6 or seven seven meteors over 2.5 hours of watching.  Basil brought his mother's camping chairs.  I drank coffee from the thermos Kathleen gave me.

Oh, speaking of Kathleen, I had to work Sunday and was not able to go to church.  She went without me and picked up Anselm on the way there.  I bought her an Icon of St. Katherine last week.  Anselm had the priest bless it for her On Sunday, that i was two days ago.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Working and healing

Well, I've been working 30 ours a week as a hunting outfitter for Bass Pro Shops.  It's kind of fun.  Mostly, I help people pick out range finders, scopes, binoculars, and knives.  I am astounded every day by how much money people spend on hunting equipment.  But, I guess, if you are flying to Alaska to hunt moose, or to Kyrgyzstan to hunt ibex you don't want want to miss the shot because of not having the best possible equipment.  I enjoy my co-workers.  Politically, it is exactly opposite from working as a teacher.  Instead of gay pride flags and coexist stickers I am now surrounded by American flags and Don't Tread On Me stickers.

Yesterday, I accepted a job with a real estate/property management company.  I'll be serving notices, inspecting properties,  and showing vacant properties to potential tenants.  It is only about 20 hours a week but the hourly rate is jut insanely high.

My thumb is healing. The other day I saw my doctor and she took the cast off my arm and made a plastic brace for me instead.  It only covers my thumb and half my hand.  My left thumb is longer now.  And it barely moves.  I'm doing the exercises.  The doctor said It should be back to normal in 8 more weeks.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Radio, Part One

When I was a kid I travelled all over the country with my parents.  There were Bible conferences, conventions, board meetings, and sometimes a vacation and we almost always went by car.  The first long trip I remember taking was to Missouri when I was 4 or 5 years old.  We drove from Palo Alto, California to Springfield, Missouri where we visited Mammy, my dad's mother.  I don't remember much about the trip: her flowers, the manual water pump in the front yard.  Very green thick grass.  On that trip I remember hearing Paul Harvey on the radio.    I don't remember anything he talked about, but I remember hearing the sound of his voice two or three times a day while we were driving.  He always began his broadcasts with "Hello, Americans!" And I remember noticing that he always said the page numbers when he was reading the news.  I thought it was funny.  That trip was the beginning of my love for radio.  He read the news several times a day, did the famous "Rest of the Story" (though I didn't hear it on that trip to Springfield.  I remember hearing it on a later trip to Dallas Texas in 1978.) program, and commentaries.  Later, when I was a teenager, my parents gave me Paul Harvey's book.  I devoured it in one day and night.  He died about the same time my parents died.

Here is an example of his commentaries.  It is titled From Freedom to Chains.  (Is it any wonder I am a conservative today?)

Thursday, August 08, 2019

The garden

The garden has had a rough go of it this year. We had aphids and thrips.  We have subterranean beetles that killed some tomato plants.  We had a cold and cloudy spring.   We had an outbreak of powdery mildew in June that damaged the cucumber flowers and resulted in less production.

The cure for powdery mildew is a mixture of vegetable oil, water, baking soda, and dish soap, but it is a cure for powdery mildew like radiation and chemotherapy are a cure for cancer; it hurts the patient almost as much as the disease.  So, now we have powdery mildew in the pumpkin vines, in the yellow summer squash, the butternut squash, and half of the cucumber vines.  Since it is so late in the summer I'm going to let the disease run its course, hoping to harvest before it kills the plants.  I think next spring I will treat the whole garden with copper sulfate and lay down barley straw as prophylactics.  (I tried the milk cure last year.  In my experience it does not work.)

Even with bug, weather, and disease working against us we have harvest a lot of food.   We planted more this year, and harvested less than last year, but it is still more than enough to eat all summer.  Not enough to pickle for the winter, but enough for now.  And that's okay.  I just hope I get those seven pumpkins in before the vines die.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Pumpkin, Camps, Bones, and Jobs

Today's harvest from our garden
Today I harvested the first pumpkin from our garden; no easy feat with only one hand.  It makes be happy.

Basil, Kathleen, and her children have been camping up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for the last 5 days; first at San Jose Family Camp then at Yosemite National Park.  I couldn't go with them because of job interviews.   I had an interview for a great job.  I am pretty sure I got the second interview.  And I was hired for a thank-God-I-got -the-job-offer-because-I-don't-have-anything-else job.  I start on the 27th.

I got a message from Anselm.  He's been working as a life guard and swimming instructor up at Camp Hi-Sierra all summer.  Somehow, he's managed to find the time to earn three merit badges when he was scheduled to work.  And, he's been having a lot of fun.

I was hoping that the hand was almost healed, its been over a moth since I broke it, but I saw the doctors the other day and was disappointed when they took off the cast just to put a new on on.  The cast and the pins holding the bones together will stay put for another month.   The good news is that even if the broken bone hasn't yet healed, at least, the dislocated carpals have stayed in place since the surgery.  The side of my toe is numb to the touch (nerve damage?) unless I bend it, in which case the bones hurts quite a bit.  I can hardly believe I broke both a hand and a toe.  How clumsy can one man be?

Monday, July 15, 2019


My Dad seems to have had two careers. Prior to 1977 he had one message, a message designed to advance his reputation in his denomination, as my older siblings can attest. I didn't hear it. I have but a few sermon notes from that period of his life. In 1985 he destroyed all his notes and sermons from that period of his life. After 1978 and the Jesus movement his message seemed to change. He preached a lot from Judges, 1st and 2nd Kings, the Gospel of John, and Ephesians after that. In my life I am constantly reminded of Judges and the sermons my Dad preached from that book; probably, not the best thing for a Christian. I should be beyond Judges at this point in my life with Christ. Nevertheless, right now, I am living in Judges 16:4-19. I hope I will live to see in my life Judges 16:28-29. There are no guarantees. Kyrie eleison.

First Aid Kits

Several injuries in the past month (I broke my hand a few weeks ago, I broke a toe yesterday, Kathleen got all scratched up in the pumpkin vines today, and a few other things.) have me thinking about the perfect first aid kit.  I looked on Amazon to see what they offer but they range from the almost useless (a red plastic case with five sizes of Band-Aids) to the simply bizarre (a very nice canvass bag containing gauze bandages, a Leatherman tool, and fishing hooks.)  Most of the first aid kits were very basic, and seem to anticipate getting the sick or injured person to a hospital within 5 minutes.  I think I can put together a better first aid kit.

This is what I think should be in a first aid kit.

- A triple antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin for minor abrasions and cuts and after-suture deep wound care. (Don't put it into to deep wounds.)
- A double antibiotic ointment to use on people who are allergic to neomycin, one of the antibiotics in triple antibiotics.
- Zinc-oxide cream for mild abrasions, rashes, chapped skin.  It increases the speed of healing.  It has some antibiotic properties but those are ancillary to the promotion of healing.  It is also used as a sunscreen but I don't know how effective it is.  What I do know is that my Mammy (my Dad's Mom) put it on every little scrape, rash, and cut I ever got.  Most Zinc Oxide creams come in 10% to 40% concentrations.  For example, Balmex is labeled for care of adults but only has 11%.  Desitin Maximum Strength, on the other hand, is marketed to parents of infants to treat diaper rash but it contains a 40% concentration of zinc oxide.  So, even though it has that funny smell I'd use Desitin Maximum Strength over other products of which I am aware. 
- Petroleum jelly.  A chemistry professor told me it is the same molecule our skin makes that causes our skin feel healthy, and if we have dry skin, probably, all we need is a little petroleum jelly.  (Ladies, don't waste money on expensive lotions.  Petroleum jelly is all you need.)
- A bar or bottle of pure soap.  In most cases you do not want to put antibiotics into deep wounds but you do want to clean out any dirt that is in them.  It is hard to find a pure soap. All soap needs to contain is oleic acid (usually from vegetable oil), potassium hydroxide (or sodium hydroxide), and water.  It is really difficult to find pure soap, even though almost all soaps you see for sale claim to be pure.  The best I have found in stores is Dr. Bronner's unscented.  For the first aid kit I recommend a small bottle of the liquid, just because it is hard to keep the bar soap sterile after it has been used.
- Adjustable arm slings.  Sometimes you need to elevate and immobilize your hand because you've fallen while feeding humming birds and have broken your hand.  
- Instant cold packs for breaks, sprains, or anything else that is swelling.  You can make your own, but it is easier to just buy them.
- Benadryl liquid, Zyrtec pills, and epinephrine to treat histamine reactions to things such as pollen, poison oak, and bee stings.
- Sterile pads for bandaging minor wounds.
- Cervical collar for immobilizing the neck.
- Adhesive bandages of various sizes.
- A few rolls of gauze.
- Clotting pads, Israeli bandages, and a tourniquet kit to stop bleeding.  You might be asking, why a tourniquet kit when all you need is a stick and two shoe laces to make a tourniquet?  Well, then just put those in a plastic bag, label it "TOURNIQUET" and put it in your first aid kit.
- Bottle of alcohol.
- Bag cotton balls.
- Penlight or other small flashlight
- Butterfly bandages for closing small but deep cuts.
- Sutures for closing big wide wounds.  You'll have to use veterinary sutures because human sutures can only be sold to licensed physicians. (It's a stupid law.)  But don't worry, they are still very high quality. (Watch a video on how to use them before you need to use them.)
- Hemostasis forceps for stopping bleeding while suturing.  Lets hope you never need more than three or four.
- Needle holder
- Scalpel handles and blades
- Inflatable splints to immobilize broken arms and legs.
- Kocher tweezers
- Medical scissors for cutting bandages and clothes
-A topical anesthetic for when suturing is necessary.
- Motrin, aspirin, and tylenol (one bottle of each) to control pain, fever, and inflammation.
- Though it might sound like something out of an old movie or a Sherlock Holmes novel, smelling salts are useful and should be included in the kit. They can mask a concussion but there are times when a person needs to be awake and alert to move away from danger or to help.
- Ace bandages to support sprained/broken ankles, knees, wrists, and elbows.
- A squeeze bottle of distilled water for cleaning wounds.
- Mylar emergency blanket and sugar cubes for treating hypothermia.  (FYI: When I took the California hunter education course a few years ago I learned that more hunters die from hypothermia than from gunshots.)
- It might be too big to fit in a reasonably sized first aid kit but a neck brace might be a good thing to have around after a serious fall or a car crash.
- Duct tape.  Because it works better than surgical tape.

That, just off the top of my head, is what belongs in a first aid kit.

Something that absolutely does not belong in a first aid kit is a snake bite venom extraction kit.

Friday, July 12, 2019

A Broken Hand, Powdery Mildew, and a Door

I broke my hand on June 20.  It happened when I fell off a step ladder while filling Kathleen's humming bird feeders.  I think I, probably, would not have broken my hand had I not attempted to avoid landing on the mop bucket.  But I did.  And I fell hard on my extended left hand and it broke.  I I knew it was hurt but I didn't know it was broken until 10 days later when I went to the doctor.  Then, on July 5 I had surgery to pin the bones back in place.  It is now 21 days since I broke it, and 7 days since surgery, and it still hurts pretty bad.  They gave me hydrocodone but I am taking 1/2 of what is prescribed for each day because I dislike the side effects.  I have no idea how anyone becomes addicted to opiates.  It's just a yucky feeling.  So I'm taking a lot of ibuprofin and gritting my teeth.

Basil Wenceslas, who at13 years is taller and stronger than I, came over today and helped me do some things I can't do because of my hand.   We went to Home Depot to get a sprayer.  It's a HDX 2 gallon hand pump sprayer.  My son used it to treat the pumpkins and squash for powdery mildew.  The infection was pretty bad but we caught it before there was much damage.  We put 1 quart of vegetable oil, 1 cup of baking soda, and a table spoon of dish washing liquid in to the sprayer, filled it the rest of the way with water, then sprayed it all over he infected plants.

Then, when that was done, Basil and I rehung the door to the room beneath the stairs.  It was fun.  I taught him how to repair the door with wood putty. Then he used my new German screwdrivers to hang the door on the hinges.  It makes me happy to see him doing and learning new things.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

9 Good Books About History Any High School Student Should Read

I am worried by how little the young people with whom I am acquainted know about the past, even my own sons.  This lack of knowledge has been demonstrated recently as people in the United States have been busy taking down statues of the U.S. Presidents, early explorers, and Civil War generals., and unfairly criticizing Catholic missionaries (They can be fairly criticized for other things.),  Just a few ays ago the school board in San Francisco decided to cover up some 80 year old murals that have become a casus belli for the mis-educated.   The murals were painted by a communist-leaning painter who's work was a criticism of westward expansion, slavery, and the idolization of George Washington  but some modern viewers think the work is doing the opposite; glorifying slavery, westward expansion, and George Washington.  This is just craziness.  It is as though these removers of statues, paintings, and street names have never read what Moses wrote about Noah: He was righteous in his generation.  From our modern point of view he was a drunk.  But he was the best it was possible for a man to be in his generation. I doubt that you or I would have been as righteous had we been his contemporaries.  Yet, the statue removers are judging Presidents and explorers by todays societal norms. (Not to be confused with God's unalterable Law.  That never changes and we are all violators of it.)

 To help with this situation I have put together a list of books that will relate facts of history, show how historians do their work, and also demonstrate why history is important.  The list covers several different countries, different kinds of events, and different times.  It is in no particular order.

1.  The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision by Henry Kamen.  This British author mines the written accounts of people who lived through the Inquisition.

2.  The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson.  What caused the civil war?  Why was it necessary?  How did some of the people who fought the war think about it?

3. The Old West.  This series of books tells the stories of the American West, which is are the stories of the making of modern America. (As a Californian I might be biased.)  Of all the books I am recommending the volumes of this set are the only ones that, I think, might be a stretch for high school students;  they assume a lot of prior knowledge, and the writing style of some of the essays is pretty dry.  But I am including them because they cover so many different experiences and a lot of different points of view.

4.  The Histories by Herodotus.  The first book that we can think of as a modern history.   It tells the history of events that happened in living memory, discloses sources, and expresses the doubts the author has about his sources, ("that's what they say but I don't believe them.").  Interestingly, this book explained not only why the Persians lost when they waged war on the Greeks but also foretold why the Germans would lose both World Wars.

5. A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War by Victor Davis Hansen.  Lately, Hansen, who is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, has become a political columnist but this book is not like his columns, it is history based on all the primary sources; of course, Thucydides, but also Andocides, Aristophanes, and Plato. It is eminently readable.

6.  A Child's History of the World by V.M. Hillyer  might seem old and out of date at first (it was published in the 1920s), and it does not always agree with what the Bible says about certain ancient events, and it says more about prehistory than a history book should.  Nevertheless, it is a vey good survey of all the important events on the globe up to the beginning of the 20th century.

7.  Adams'  Synchronological Chart or Map of History by Spencer Adams can best be thought of a a graphic representation of everything people have ever done.  It shows changes in royal dynasties, church councils, the emergence of new nations, the decline of old nations, the line from Adam to Jesus, and much much more.  I can not recommend this highly enough.

8.  History of the World Map by Map is a good idea that is beautifully rendered and mostly accurate.  My own introduction to history was in the Bible and the maps in the back pages of that Bible; the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel and The Missionary Journeys of St. Paul are the names of two of the maps I can remember.  Those maps were very important in helping me understand what was printed in the text.  Later, when I was 8, my mother gave me a map of Civil War Battlefields.  I don't even think I knew what the Civll War was when she gave me the map, but on that map I saw the names Shiloh (a battle so horrible the people of that town refused to fly the American flag for 83 years), Chickamauga (27 thousand killed or seriously wounded in 3 days of fighting) , and Gettysburg (where the tide was turned) for the first time.  History, whether Biblical, American, or world happened on the surface of the Earth; and to a large degree, the features of that surface dictated the events of history. History of the World Map By Map is a set of 140 annotated maps that explain most of the major events in the story of mankind by showing where they happened.

9. A Renaissance Tapestry: The Gonzaga of Mantua by Kate Simon.  The ancient Romans taught their children the history of Rome by teaching them the histories of their own families.  Similarly, Simon teaches her readers the history of the Italian Renaissance by teaching them the history of one family who lived through it.  It is beautiful and engaging.  And proof that even in modern times,  when university professors dominate historical writing, amateurs can still write gorgeous history.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Fatherhood and the Garden

In 9 hours Anselm leaves for Camp Hi-Sierra where he will be working all summer. He is driving himself  (n the car he bought with his own money earned from working at Starbucks.) up into the mountains. I'm worried. I keep reminding myself that when I was his age (17) I had thrown hand grenades, jumped out of towers, and survived a barracks brawl. But I'm still worried about him driving into the Sierras by himself.  It seems like just yesterday I was having to correct his behavior in restaurants.  How did he get so old so fast?

In other news, I pulled out that yellow pear tomato plant.  In its place I planted 6 butternut squash seeds.  I know it's kind of late but, I think, we should be able to harvest them in the first week of November, before it gets too cold..  It will, I hope, make good soup.

A squirrel got one of the smaller pumpkins.  I wish that hawk would come back.

Also, Kathleen wanted a tomato plant in a washtub that has a couple of sunflower in it.  (Basil had planted some carrot tops in the tub back in February but when I pulled them up last week they looked like crazy misshapen mutant carrot creatures from Mars.)  So I planted a Bonnie Original.  It is about 15 inches tall and already has some flowers on it.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Garden

Today's Harvest
A cucumber arch
The garden is going well.  We started to have some good tomato harvests.  Kathleen loves the little sun gold tomatoes.  I think she stops in the garden each morning on the way to the gymn to pick a couple.  The little yellow pear shaped tomatoes are soft and fleshy. We don't like them very much.  I'll probably use the canner Kathleen gave me at Christmas and make them into tomato sauce.  The romas taste like I imagine Italy: Rich and warm and friendly.  We have other varieties growing but I don't know what they are since that kid removed all the signs.

We have been eating yellow squash for a few days but last night a squirrel got into the plant and ate what we were going to pick today.  You'll remember that I planted several seeds but only one came up.  So a couple of days ago Kathleen and I went to a nursery to buy some green house-started summer squash plants.  They wee sold out so we bought zucchini.  We didn't have any room left in the planter boxes so we planted them in big pots.   I think I am starting to regret not planting any butternut or acorn squash this year. 

The cucumber vine survived the thrips.  Sadly, the cucumbers on the vine were shriveled and had to be composted.  But there are lots and lots of new flowers on the vine so there will be plenty of cucumbers later.  Oh!  Speaking of cucumbers:  We have been watching a British gardner named Monty Don on Netflix, and have followed his advice to "cram them in there".  So, between some of our tomato plants we planted more cucumber vines.  They came up last Saturday, and yesterday we used rebar and garden hose to make arches for them to climb. Altogether, we have 11 cucumber vines growing amongst the tomatoes in the three raised beds.  I foresee a lot of pickles in our future.  Oh, that reminds me:  The dill is taller than I am now.

The marigold seeds I planted never came up.  I'm a little bit disappointed by that.  The camomile seeds I planted around the onions sprouted but most of the seedlings died in the heat of the last three days.  Speaking of onions; Kathleen talked me into pulling one up a few days ago to see if they were ready to harvest.  It was still small, about the size of a large head of garlic.  But I used it with butter and herbs de provence to cook some squash and it was marvelous.  I do not think I have ever tasted a better onion.

We had an infestation of spider mites so last week we released 3,000 ladybugs in the garden.  They ate all the spider mites in two days and flew away to find more food.  Only one tomato plant seems to have been seriously damaged.  We caught the pests just in the nick of time.  Ladybugs might be my favorite bugs.

We haven't seen many pollinators in the garden.  A few carpenter bees.  A few wasps.  I think I've only seen 2 butterflies.  Only one honey bee.  no mason bees.  I think I might have seen one bumble bee.  It is worrisome.  Next February, I think, I'll buy a bunch of bumble bee queens and set them loose in the neighborhood.  Maybe, I can get a good population going.

The pumpkin patch is going crazy!  Its only June and we are trying to figure out what to do with the vines.  There are two vollyball-sized pumpkins and several softball sized pumpkins, and many many female flowers which, I hope, will grow into pumpkins.  It is growing in the bit of ground my youngest son and I broke up a few months ago.

The Pumpkin Patch
 The ground is mostly dense clay.  To that we added some of our compost and an ammonia & phosphate fertilizer.  I know, some people will freak out that it isn't organic, but ammonia is a naturally occurring molecule and phosphate is dug out of the ground, so I am not worried.  We also have some red onions and volunteer beets and tomatoes, growing in the patch but I think the pumpkin vines are going to take their share of the sunlight pretty soon.  None of the sunflowers I planted along the wooden fence at the back of the patch came up.

I also planted a pepper seed in one of the raised beds.  It sprouted and is now about 8 inches tall.  But I can't remember if it is bell pepper or jalapeƱo pepper.  Either way, I'll be happy at harvest time.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Abraham., Isaac, and Jacob

Every day I see my Dad's wedding ring on my hand. He was married to one woman from the age of 21 to the age of 82. (83?)
Every day I see my son's medals (thrice decorated for bravery in combat) on the wall.
There has been a parade of women in my life. My time in the army was honorable but not distinguished.
I feel like Isaac stuck between Abraham and Jacob.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Woman at the Well, Gardening

2,000 years ago St Photini met Jesus at Jacob's well.  She was living with a man to whom she wasn't married.  Jesus said go and sin no more.  Where did she go?  Did she become homeless?  We know from other sources that she had two children.  Did she make them homeless, too?  Did she have any responsibilities to the man who sheltered her?  All of these questions are left unanswered in the Bible.  To mix history with a parable, are all of these things the thorns Jesus talked about in the Parable of the Sower.  (June 25 Update:  Whoops!  I conflated the woman at the well with the woman caught in adultery.  I hate when I do stuff like that.)

This has been a cold and wet May.  In fact, at 3:30 p.m. today it was 58 degrees and raining.  I heard this is the coldest wettest may since 1949.  I believe it.  Last year we were gathering baskets full of tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash by mid-May.  It has been so cool and cloudy all spring that, as of yesterday, we've only picked three tomatoes and three squash.   This afternoon I planted camomile seeds around the onions.  (Whenever I think think of the word camomile I am reminded of this story.) I planted English daisies at the feet of the sunflowerrs, which are not blooming yet because there is no sun.  And I planted marigolds at the end of one of the tomato beds.  They should all germinate in 5 to ten days.  One of the cucumber vines and one of the pumpkin vines were infested with thrips.  I used an organic pesticide on them but I am worried it will harm the bees, butterflies, and lady bugs.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Welding, gardening, job update, and a list of things I'd like to do

Today is a big day for Son #3 (aka the little boy aka Anselm).  He takes his welder certification test.  He has many hours of practice behind him and his instructor says he's ready.  So, hopefully, tonight he will be an AWS certified welder.

The garden is doing okay.  Lots of squash, cucumber, and tomatoes are growing but everything seems kind of slow this year.  Too many cloudy days.  I have learned the big advantage of raised planter boxes:  No snails.  We have no snails in the boxes but the one plot of dirt that we broke up for the garden - well, it is a constant battle against snails.  Before I figured out where they were hiding (in the leaf litter) they did a lot of damage.  Now I go out every morning before work and kill them.  The population is much reduced and the plants are doing well.  The grapevines are just crazy huge.  There have been some big black bumblebees in the garden.  They make me happy.

I have an interview for a job in the city traffic department next week.  I'm pretty excited about it.  It isn't a lot of money but it is enough money.  Also, it is low stress.   Really, enough money and low stress sounds pretty good to me. 

I don't know if it's just me, or if everyone is like this.  I seem to need to be working toward something big or else I feel discontent.  Ever since I decided to not be a teacher and give up on the the teaching credential and the M.Ed. degree I have felt kind of rudderless.  I've spent more of my adult years in school than out of school so I've been feeling like I don't have a purpose.  That's an exaggeration, I mean I know "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever" so I'm not talking about any thing that big, more like "what am I going to do right now".

So, I'm making a list.

1. Help my son get a fictitious business name, insurance, and a business license.
2. Help Kathleen roll over her 403(b) into self-directed IRA.
3. Finally use my veterans benefits to buy a 4-plex in Sacramento, Fresno, Sonora, or Modesto. (A few years ago I got approved for a 6 unit building but my wife at the time kind of freaked out over it so we didn't buy it.)
4. Take the motorcycle licensing safety class.
5. Build a raised bed in a partly-shady area of the garden for blackberries.

That's probably enough.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Resignation and Paskha

I resigned from my job today.  I am not cut out for either middle school or science.  I'll stay there till the end of the school year but next year, I hope, I'll be teaching history in a high school.  I've had to work late every night this week preparing lab activities for the next day. (You have no idea how much prep work goes in to teaching 150 middle school students how to potassium hydroxide from charcoal then test its pH.)  I've missed all the Holy Week services.  All of them.  Well, its 10:30 at night.  I got the paskha cheese in the flower pot and the pot in the fridge.  Good night.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Spring Break

The week that is just now ending is my school district's spring break.  So, I took the boys, Anselm and Basil on a road trip to the Grand Canyon.  At 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday we left San Jose, heading south on U.S. Highway 101.  Our first destination was the cemetery in Paso Robles where their oldest brother is buried.  Every time I go to his grave I find flowers, or beer, or a flag someone has left there.  This time was no exception.  There was a flag left by someone.  I don't know who. 

We prayed for Billy and then ate sandwiches I had prepared for the journey. The sandwiches were tri-tip I had grilled with a garlic/salt/black pepper rub on Monday, dijon mustard, blue cheese from Point Reyes, and pickled peppers on an Acme sour baguette.

From Paso Robles we drove east on state road 46.  Its the road James Dean died on. Our destination , on the other side of the San Joaquin Valley, was Bakersfield.

In Bakersfield we stopped at the church my Dad built in 1953.  It was good to tell my boys about their grandfather and show him one of his accomplishments.  I told related to them a sermon I heard him preach in the 1970s in which he told about having a nervous breakdown while pastoring there.  It head to do with a self winding watch.  While he was strapped to the hospital bed he couldn't move and the watch stopped running.  The point he made in the sermon I heard, and what I related to my sons was that the Christian life requires exercise.  If we do not exercise the faith God gives us it won't do what it is supposed to to.

From Bakersfield we drove over Tehachapi Pass  and across the Mojave Desert on 58.  We stopped in Barstow, passed the giant boron mine and 20-Mule Team Road, got stuck in a sand storm and had to pull over at a rest stop, then into Nevada. It was the first time Basil had been out of California.

Just across the state line we took a little detour down a side road, pulled over, took out a rifle, and shot at a red solo cup about 40 yards way.  I  guess we went through about 100 rounds.  It was fun but we had to keep going so we hopped back in the car and headed to Las Vegas.

We checked into our hotel, The Eastside Cannery, dropped of our bags, put the rifle in their safe, then went to the big Bass Pro Shops on Las Vegas Boulevard where we saw a sturgeon leap out of a tank and taxadermied everything, even a giraffe.  We took advantage of the more relaxed legal environment of Nevada and bought a bunch of ammo.  I bought several boxes of buckshot while Anselm bought 1,000 rounds of .22 hollow points.

Then we went to Cracker Barrel for dinner.  I hadn't been to a Cracker Barrel since the mid 1980s.  It was the boy's first time.   Of course, I had chicken livers and I introduced the boys to hashbrown casserole.  I think they fell in love.

The next morning we checked out about 7, went to the Longhorn for a breakfast of pancakes and country fried steak, then on to Hoover Dam.  We wanted to go on the tour but they wouldn't let us park the car because of the rifle in the car. (I called the White house to complain about that.)  So we just went on our way.

In Kingman, Arizona we stopped for a while and went to the Route 66 Museum. (Yes, I know. I've talked about Route 66 before.) and looked at some turquoise jewelry.  I really wanted a Navajo-made bolo tie but I din't want it as much as they wanted to charge for it.

Then we headed to the Grand Canyon.  On the way, as the terrain turned from desert to forest, we hit a hail storm.  The hail was blowing across the highway like snakes. We checked into the Yavapai Lodge, then went a looked at the canyon.  Then it started snowing.  While walking around on the top of the canyon we saw many elk, some were just a few feet away from us, one big cow was close enough to touch, but we were smart enough not to try.  After a looking at the canyon and going to the geological museum we went back to the lodge were we ate elk for supper.  It was good.

The next morning we checked out at 6:30 and began the drive home.  We stopped in Kingman again, but this time to eat breakfast at another Cracker Barrel, where I bought divinity and a pecan log for Kathleen's children.  As we approached the Colorado River we took a little detour up to Golden Shores to buy gasoline before crossing into California and having to pay much higher tax.

One of the fun things about this trip was seeing all the trains.  Some of them had 5 or six engines and a hundred or more cars.  Most of the cars were flatbeds loaded with containers nearing the names of big ship lines such as Cosco and Maersk.  I guess they had been offloaded at the Port of Long Beach or the Port of Los Angeles and were bound for all points east.  I encouraged Basil to think about becoming a locomotive engineer since the best training program for that career is right here in California, and it is a perfect job for people who don't enjoy having to interact with a lot of people.  I hope he gives it serious consideration.

We didn't drive all the way over to Hwy 101 but turned north at Interstate 5 (Lots of new orchards have been planted.!) so the boys could see Harris Ranch (aka Cowschwitz) where their food comes from, and then went over the Diablo Mountains at Pacheco Pass.  It was late so we didn't stop at Casa de Fruta.  We were home before midnight.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Scouting and Gardening

Anselm Samuel (aka the little boy) turned 17 two days ago.  Its hard to believe that that same little boy who used to race snails after the rain now towers over me, is a high school graduate (two years early) works full time,  and goes to college part time, has his drivers license, and is progressing through his welding certificate requirements.

After the divorce he lost interest in scouting for a couple of years. I guess it was hard with me not having a place to live near him.  I don't know.  And when he got back involved he didn't want to do the stuff required for advancement, he just wanted to go to troop meetings and go on all the camping trips.  But last spring her really jumped back into it with both feet.  All last summer he worked as a life guard at Camp Hi-Sierra, became a patrol leader in his troop,  and decided to go for Eagle Scout rank. He was awarded Star Scout rank a couple of days before his birthday and has to advance two more ranks before he turns 18, which is the cut-off age for earning Eagle.  So, he went by the Scout store yesterday and bought all the books, got his Scout Master to sign off on the forms, has contacted the merit badge counselors and has begun work on the remaining merit badges.  Its going to be a lot of work, and he has no time to goof off.  I hope he can do it.

The garden is doing well.  We lost two tomato plants; the Cherokee Purple and a Big Boy.  Kathleen really likes the little yellow tomatoes so I replaced the dead plants with Yellow Pear and Sungold.  Altogether we have 11 tomato plants.  It looks like the summer squash has decided to come up.  4 of the five seeds I planted have sprouted.  None of the sunflowers have come up.  The parsnips, onions, and carrots are doing okay, I guess.  It's hard to tell since they grow underground.   In other news, a red-tailed hawk has begun perching on top of the oak tree behind the garden.  I heard his (her?) cry when I was planting tomatoes.  WOW!  it is loud!  Other than that one cry the only evidence of it's presence is an absence of squirrels and, every few days, a scattering of pigeon feathers in the garden.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Banana Bread

I slept in until 10 o'clock this morning.  When I awoke Kathleen was gone.  So I started in on a couple of baking projects.  The first was a berry pie.  I used strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. And I put a top crust on it.  This bight sound silly, but I think that the crust is the best part of most pies.  When the pie was in the oven I set to work making banana bread.  It was the first time I had made banana bread since I helped my Mother make it when I was just 15 or 16 years old.

My recipe (adapted from someone else's)

2 cups of flour (I could find my measuring cup so I used a pint jar)
1/4 pound butter (softened)
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas
2 AA large eggs
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F.   butter a 5" X 9"  baking pan.  Cream the brown sugar and butter together.  Add the eggs and mix them into the butter and brown sugar.  Next stir in the mashed bananas.   in another bowl mix the salt, flour, and baking soda.  Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture.  Stir it thoroughly, until you can not see any white flour.  Pour in the chopped walnuts and stir until evenly distributed.  Pour the batter into the baking pan, put it in the oven for 65 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before slicing it.

Kathleen came home just as I was putting the bread in the oven.  So we had just enough time to run to the nursery.  We bought a bunch of plants.  Tomato varieties include Big Boy, Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, Sungold Cherry, and Husky Cherry Red.  We also got some cucumber and rosemaries.

We got home just as the bread was coming out of the oven.  Kathleen's niece is staying with us right now so she was keeping an eye on it while we were at the nursery.  I turned the banana bread out to cool and then went out to the garden. 

We harvested all the garlic, planted all the tomatoes, cucumbers,
Holding up some garlic
 and rosemaries ( I use a lot of rosemary in the kitchen so we really needed more than the one plant we already had.)  we bought today. Kathleen also transplanted the onions I started indoors a few weeks ago. 

I am a bit worried about the squash seeds I planted in the ground last week.  I don't yet see any sprouts.  I think I might need mix in some better soil and reseed.  The parsnips are looking really good.
Some of the tomato plants
I wasn't feeling well in my stomach so, though I cooked dinner for Kathleen, her niece, and her kids, I didn't eat.  After dinner some neighbor kids came over to play games.  They ate the berry pie.  I had a little slice, too.  It was good.  The banana bread is still resting on the counter top.  Kathleen said something about taking it to her dad's house tomorrow.