Evelyn's Plant Stand

Dateline: 26 July 2014

click picture for a larger view

My mother-in-law, Evelyn Myers, passed away on July 6. Three weeks later, her house is now cleaned out and listed with a real estate agent. Her material possessions have been distributed to family members, taken to the thrift shop, or thrown away. 

Marlene has taken several pieces of furniture but we have no room in our small house for any of it. So the furniture is being put into storage. The old, round-top oak dining table (that we ate so many meals around), various bureaus, rocking chairs, and such as that, are all packed onto the back porch of our down-the-road house, where my oldest son now lives.

Evelyn's half-round plant stand (pictured above) has been packed into a shed on our property, along with the old Clipper bean sorter I bought a few years ago (I stored it in Evelyn's garage), and various other items. 

I don't have a barn or a garage but I have three sheds on my property and they are full. When a neighbor wants to borrow my chicken plucker, it's a chore to unpack it from the shed. We are storage-space-challenged around here.

Evelyn's plant stand is kind of special. It's special because, years ago, when she could still get around easily, she always had it outdoors in the growing months and full of potted plants. So it has some sentimental value to Marlene. But it's special to me because I made it.

It so happens that Evelyn had another plant stand just like it. An antique dealer offered her quite a sum for the piece. Evelyn didn't want to lose her plant stand, but the money offered was such that she felt she should sell it. Marlene suggested that I could make one just like it. And that's what I did. 

I measured carefully and made a full-size pattern of the legs before the antique dealer took the stand. Then I made two of the plant stands in my workshop. It was a challenging little project. The semicircular shelves were made by splining together mitered sections of pine. I cut the half-circles slightly oversize with a jigsaw. To get them exactly round and to the right size, I made a long compass jig with a router on the end of a board. It was a great little project and I was very pleased with the outcome. 

I would guess I made the plant stands around 25 years ago. Evelyn's stand is dusty from being in a corner of her garage, but it is still in fine condition. 

I made the second plant stand to sell. I was always looking for things to make and sell years ago (to some degree, I guess I'm still doing that). The stand sold easily at a garage sale. I don't recall what I sold it for but I suspect it wasn't enough to pay me much for my time and effort.

A couple years ago I was at the annual 50-mile-long Route 90 Garage Sale here in New York and came upon the second plant stand being sold in the rural town of King Ferry. It was still in great shape. Marlene questioned how I could be so sure it was the one I made.

Well, a craftsman knows his own work, especially with an item like that.

My Clipper bean sorter

Starting A New Job

Dateline: 24 July 2014

I'm pleased to see that all three of my sons are working men. My oldest works for an electrical contractor. My youngest works as a cook at a restaurant. And my middle son, Robert,  starts a new job on Monday (three days from now). He is leaving the maple syrup operation (where he has worked for the last two years) and going to work for the local school district as a bus mechanic. The job is only about ten minutes away.

Robert worked as an auto mechanic at a dealership in a nearby city for awhile but left because he was bored. The dealership didn't have enough work to keep him busy, and he didn't like sitting around. While at that job he acquired a deluxe tool box and lots of tools. For the past two years the tools have been in a shed on my property. But today he and I loaded the box (it's remarkably heavy) on a trailer and he headed off to the bus garage to get set up for Monday.

Robert interviewed for the bus mechanic job last year but another man got it. Then, a few weeks ago, he heard that the district was going to fill the other mechanic position. He interviewed again and got the job. They told him he was the most qualified.

When Robert went to the interview last year, I told him that he should wear a tie. I told him that because I wanted him to make a good impression, and I think it sends a very good message when you wear a tie to an interview, even for a mechanic job. I'm probably old fashioned in this regard. But he wore a tie to the interview. 

Now, you need to know that Robert is not a tie-wearing fellow. He's more on the redneck side. But he listened to my counsel, dressed up nice, and wore the tie. This pleased me to no end.

When the time came for the most recent interview, I asked Robert if he planned to wear a tie. He said, "Yes, of course, you should always wear a tie to an interview."

I got a little lump in my throat when he said that.

When the morning of the interview came, he was here at the house, polishing his cowboy boots and having his mother iron his shirt. I helped him tie his tie. Then I said, "You really should have a pen in your shirt pocket. I think it sends the right message." 

Ordinarily, Robert never has a pen in his pocket… but he did for the interview. 

Several days later, he got the good news about the job. Marlene and I were elated and thankful. It is a job that will provide a steady income that will support a family…. as long as he avoids getting into debt, but he has listened to me on that subject too.

He brought home all kinds of paperwork to fill out for the job. I told him that I thought it would be wise of him to open a savings account at the local bank and, right from the very beginning,  have a portion of every paycheck he gets direct-deposited into the account. Then never touch the money, unless to invest it in some other way. 

I told him that if he did this, he would never regret it, and someday he would tell me it was the best advice I ever gave him.

So… I kid you not… within the hour he went directly down to the bank and opened up a savings account for weekly direct deposits.

Things like this make a father's heart glad.

No Stink Bugs,
No Cucumber Beetles,
No Flea Beetles,
And No Insecticide!

Dateline: 23 July 2014

A view over my cucumber bed.
Sweet potatoes in the background.
(click pictures for enlarged views)

This is the first year in four decades of gardening that I have not had any damage from flea beetles, cucumber beetles or stink bugs. It is something akin to a miracle. I have seen a couple of cucumber beetles, but I've not seen a lot of them, and there is no visible damage.

I planted the cukes in plastic.
No weed competition.

I have a theory about why I'm having such a healthy, insect-free garden this year. Two years ago I mineralized my garden. I took a soil test, sent it to a lab, hired a soil mineralization expert to give me a mineral prescription, and I followed through with the application of the prescribed minerals.

I explain all of this in The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners. But when I was writing the book, I had yet to see if the minerals would make a difference in my garden. Well, I think I'm seeing it now.

A proper balance of minerals is supposed to result in healthy plants, more nutritious food, and significantly less insect damage

I'm a believer.

Squash blossoms in the morning.
Sans the usual infestation of beetles.

I have started to make a YouTube video about soil mineralization. It will be an introduction to the subject.  I'll  read from the chapter in my book, while showing pictures from my garden. 

I also plan to put together a Part 2 to the Four-Day Carrots video I recently posted to YouTube. I'll show how I thin the tri-plantings, answer some questions that have come in, and I'll show the carrot bed at 3 weeks.

Stay tuned.

The Way We Were

Dateline: 22 July 2014

Winnowing away the ephemera of my life brought me back to some of the best memories of my life. Many of those memories center around the sweetness of a young love that has now endured the test of time.

The picture above shows Marlene and I as we were 38 years ago. It was taken in the hall outside the auditorium of our high school. We were voted "class couple" in our senior year. I'm not sure how that came about, as there were much more popular couples in our class. 

That picture was taken for the yearbook, but it never made it into the yearbook. Somehow I ended up with it, and I will keep it as long as I live. 

I'll also keep the girl in that picture as long as I live, or, as the covenant vow we made states: "till death do us part." 

Many of you have read my story of young love, and marriage, and continued love in The Wife of My Youth. That essay mentions Marlene's smile—how it "makes my heart glad and lifts my spirits."

Marlene at Owasco Lake Park in 1977

Well, there it is. That's the smile that, when directed at me, made me feel like I was the luckiest guy in the world. I realize now that I wasn't lucky. I was profoundly blessed.

This next picture shows yours truly in the summer of 1977…

Ed and Me in my parent's yard, just before heading up to Vermont.
My dog's name was Shadow.  

I'm with my buddy, Ed Bais. If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you might recall the story I wrote back in 2005 about the time When Me & Ed Made Apple Cider

Ed and I had been classmates at The Grassroots Project in Vermont. School was over (it was a one-year program) and everyone had gone home. But some of the students planned to go back to Vermont in the summer for the Craftsbury Fiddler's Contest. Ed borrowed his sister's car, drove from Ohio, and picked me up in New York. 

We camped out one night at the fiddler's contest and spent the whole next day there. It was the closest I've come to a Woodstock experience—not what we expected for a fiddler's contest. We decided it would be best not to camp at the contest a second night and, instead, to stay with my friends, Bruce and Patty Womer, in Craftsbury Common.

I had written Bruce and Patty (this was in the days before cell phones and e-mail, mind you) to let them know I was coming back to Vermont, and Patty had written back offering me a job working for them for the rest of the summer. So Ed headed for Ohio without me (and I haven't seen him since). 

That summer of '77, living and working with Bruce and Patty, would prove to be a life-changing experience for me. I wrote about it In This Essay.

It is bittersweet to be 56 years old and look at the fit and trim me when I was 19 years old. I was like a race horse in the gate at the start of a big race. I had a lot of strength, energy, stamina, and determination. 

In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, in the chapter titled Rediscovery and Remembrance, I wrote the following:

I think to myself how strong I was as a younger man. I think to myself how young men delight in the strength of their youth. I think to myself that old men delight in the memory of how strong they once were. And what of middle-aged men like me? We are looking back and looking forward and just trying to hold on to what we have, to not let it slip away.

I wrote that back in 2005. I think I've now moved beyond middle age.

I'm in good health, and mighty thankful for that…. but age is hard to take—especially when I look at the old pictures.

The Ephemera
Of My Life

Dateline: 21 July 2014

The recent death of my mother-in-law has led me to confront some of my past, and prepare for the future. 

First, I asked the undertaker who the person is that I should contact about buying a final resting place for Marlene and I at the local cemetery. It has been on my mind for some time to do this. I got the name and will follow up.

Marlene's parents had a place and a stone all set, years ahead of time, for their certain departure. Most of the old-timers were good about taking care of such things. But the undertaker told me that very few people nowadays buy a plot for themselves.

As far as "confronting the past" goes, I decided to winnow away the ephemera of my life. Ephemera is written or printed memorabilia. For three days, as I've had time, I've focused on sorting through three large boxes of old papers, photos, and such as that. My intent was to cut it down to a single, relatively small box of pertinent memories. I succeeded in reducing the mass of matter to less than 1/4 it's original size. The closed and open box pictured above and below show the results of my winnowing. 

Pictures were selected, sorted, and grouped into envelopes. I wrote on the back of every picture that didn't already have information on it. I put various categories of papers into separate files. What remains will be passed onto our children when Marlene and I are gone. They won't have to sort through boxes and boxes of papers that mean nothing to them.

What did I toss? Well, I threw out three copies of the following magazine…

My children will not need or want three copies of an old magazine with me on the cover. So I tore the front cover off one, removed the pages with my article, stapled them together, and put it in the box. Good enough.

Sidenote: I also threw out the contract for that 1998 article. The magazine took care of my expenses to fly out to Minnesota and stay a couple days, and they paid me $1,300. 

I did the same with my first article for Fine Homebuilding magazine back in 1992. I also saved the acceptance letter I got from the editor for that article. 

After years of doing physical work to make money, it was a whole new experience to get money for just putting words on paper. That magazine article was a turning point in my life. I would write several more articles before writing three books for Fine Homebuilding. It was an exhilarating experience. 

Even more amazing (to me) was when three different magazines contacted me asking if I would be interested in interviewing for a job as an editor (I declined all three).

Some examples of things I threw out

I decided that I did not need to save every cancelled check I wrote from 1976 to 1980, though I did give a last look through them. I had forgotten that I paid my parents $30 a month for rent in the years I lived at home after high school. And there was the check in 1976 to Albert Wayne for $200, which was for my first car (my father made me return the car the next day). Then, two years later, there was the check for the first car I bought and kept ($2,237.50 to Ames Chevrolet).

My grade school artwork was all tossed, as were all my report cards and Cub Scout/Boy Scout paperwork (except for two small membership cards). I kept a few homemade cards and notes I gave to my parents as a little boy. 

I wrote quite a few letters-to-the-editor of local newspapers back in the mid to late 1980s and kept a single copy of each, along with a single copy of a weekly home improvement column I volunteered to write for a local paper.   

I threw out maps, magazines, brochures, church bulletins, duplicate pictures, fuzzy pictures, and pictures I didn't like. I threw out all greeting cards with just a signature. I evaluated all letters and kept only those with pertinent information, or insightful sentiments.

I kept a folder of selected examples of my children's earliest artwork. I saved all genealogical paperwork passed on to me. I kept Josephine Jordan's Diaries (of course), as well as some of my mother's journal writings, and my own. I saved the amortization paper from Jay Myers, my father-in-law, for the $10,000 loan he gave Marlene and I to build our home back in 1983. Jay noted each payment on the paper and that it had been paid in full. I attached a note explaining to my heirs what it was all about.

And so on. You get the idea. It's done, and I feel good about it. 

Now I can die. :-)

Oh, wait, I still need to get the cemetery plot.

And Marlene needs to do her own winnowing. She has a lot more boxes of ephemera than I did.

America's New
Declaration of Independence

Dateline: 18 July 2014

"War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength."
—George Orwell (1984)

As one more evidence that America has fully entered the world of Orwellian doublespeak, I offer the Independence Card shown above. It is the state of Maryland's version of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.

An EBT card is the modern equivalent of what used to be known as food stamps. The government issues the card to people who are needy. The people take their card to stores and use it to get "free" food. A recent statistic I found stated that 20% of Americans now use EBT cards.

238 years ago, when America's Declaration of Independence was signed, the word independence meant something different than it apparently now means in America. According to Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary, this is what the word "independence" used to mean:

"A state in which a person does not rely 
on others for subsistence; ability to 
support one's self."

This brings to my mind an interesting reality…

Back during The Great Depression, needy people in America did not have EBT cards. There were soup kitchens set up to help feed the poor…

In the current form of economic depression America finds itself in, soup kitchens are not necessary because the poor (20% of America) now have EBT cards. And EBT cards can be used to buy a lot more than just soup…

This blog post is not being written to disparage all people who use EBT cards. I know friends and family who use EBT cards, and need the assistance. 

My purpose here is to point out that America is truly in an economic depression. Besides that, I just want to make it clear that people who are dependent on the government for their subsistence are really not independent.

"In a time of universal deceit, 
telling the truth 
is a revolutionary act."
—George Orwell