Thursday, October 15, 2009

Making Bierochs

Today I made bierochs (beerocks - a German cabbage and hamburger filled roll). I once told my grandson they were called that because the dough has beer in it which was, of course, patently untrue but a deliciously wicked fiction as they do taste yeasty. I love the way these smell when they are baking and relish the fact that this recipe will feed a kitchen full of hungry folks plus a pan of sweet rolls for breakfast the next morning since the dough is a sweet one and I never seem to have enough meat filling for all that dough. Dried cranberries replaced the raisins in this batch of cinnamon rolls. Yummy.

These frugal satisfying rolls are not new. Along with hard red winter wheat and industrious, peaceful ways the Molotschna Mennonite immigrants brought bierochs to Kansas where they were often brought out and served to the men in the fields by the farm wife.
The history of these Mennonites is the old, old story of our nation, the story of a christian group of people seeking refuge here from the persecution not just from other religious groups but from other christian groups, seeking the peace to worship as they believed right, seeking the freedom not to bear arms against another human, seeking asylum from the persecution of a state ordained church (Czar AlexanderII had a slogan, “One Czar, one religion, one language.”)and most especially looking for a government to protect them as they exercised their liberty of conscience.
I'm thankful, once again, that our forefathers chose to protect this liberty for us all by agreeing with Locke that the care "of every man's soul belongs to himself, and is to be left to himself ".

Saturday, September 5, 2009

First let me say that, mostly, I'm a just "live and let live" kind of person. Generally, I accept that the one thing in life that you can count on is that things are going to change and I can deal with change most of the time. Politically, I'm a centrist; I'm not any party's loyalist. I didn't vote for H.W Bush (although I did later vote for G.W.) or support his policies but in 1991 I didn't see a thing wrong with him addressing students and having that address broadcast nationally. Frankly, I was delighted that the President of our country was taking the time to tell our kids that a good education was important for them and for our country. Today I feel the same way about President Obama speaking to our students - just delighted that he would take the time to tell them that education matters, not just for their own sakes but for our country. As it always has.

Unaccountably, to my shame and regret, in my part of the country I apparently hold a very quiet minority view! Many, many people are vitriolic in their wrath that the President of this country would dare to speak to their children without their consent. Without their parent's consent.

Is the paranoia so great, so rampant, so free floating in this country that some people are saying we must protect our children from the bogymen of a fairly elected President of United States? A man accorded respect for the office that he holds all over the world but here, at home, in his own country, he needs permission from parents to speak to students. I thought working in conjunction with the Department of Education was probably all the sanctioning an event like this needed. In the country I mistakenly thought I lived in it was.

Have we, as parents and grandparents, so little confidence in our own ability to instill our individual patriotic values to our own children that we fear their corruption and doubtless irreparable indoctrination from one 30 minute speech from President Obama? Have we raised a whole generation of students who can no longer reason for themseves at all but are so subject to manipulation that we must protect them from any thought delivered to all of them at the same time that might deviate from our own dogmas least they fall into the clutches of..of..of what????? A Vulcan mind meld?

This might be funny if it were not so absolutely pitiful - please excuse me while I weep.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Walk Your Kids To School

There is truly nothing new under the sun is there? The CDC is now promoting a "new" program KidsWalk-to-School under the umbrella of their Nutrition and Physical Activity Program.This isn't a new concept - the I Walk To School organization has been around since 1997. October was designated as the International I Walk To School Month in 2007. This year October 7th has been chosen as the I Walk To School Day in the US. In August 2005, federal legislation established a National Safe Routes to School Program that provided $612 million towards Safe Routes to School from 2005 to 2010.

The program's objective is to get groups of kids accompanied by adults (preferably parents?)to walk or bike from home to school and back again as was done back 'in the day'. I say Hoo-ray! By working with the community, creating safe routes and encouraging participation this fun healthy activity could once again become the common routine it once was. Probably the biggest stumbling block is going to be some parents. Parents who do not want to spend 15 to 30 minutes, twice a day, walking to and from school. The good news is that with all the lay-offs there may be a greater number of parents actually at home, who will not have the excuse of 'I'm at work and can't' and who will have the added incentive of needing to save that gas money. The healthy benefits of a brisk walk apply to parents as well as to kids. Back 'in the day' no one rode buses but farm kids and most farm kids had been up since dawn doing chores before school. Few of them suffered from lack of exercise.

Let's reclaim some of the simplicity of the past. Let's not fall into some of these urban traps. If you are thinking of relocating any time soon here's a list of the 25 best cities for walking.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Humming Bird

Patrick Lawler says of hummingbirds that he's never certain if he's 'the burrowing or the blossom'.
Not my photo BTW

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Weatherman says it's going to be this kind of week-end here in East Texas

Monday, June 1, 2009

Let's all scream in the name of Silence.

People who only see the world in terms of black and white, who make no allowances at all for the multitudes of grey that black and white produce, who are apparently incapable of divining any hint of the true technicolor world we live in, just scare me to death. Truely.

For some there seems to be no truth at all in nuance.

This little black and white tale has just enough color to make a point.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Three of my girls are coming to help me paint my kitchen this week -end. So I'll have a houseful of 'hens' and many cackles too I bet.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sticks and Aliens

Today I'm learning to use the stick among other things. A stick is a multi purpose tool. It can be used to lean against, to steady yourself when walking over rough ground; it can be used to poke holes in the ground for seeds to grow and become a garden, it can be pushed out to someone sinking in a river, pulling them out, then up the slippery bank. It can be used on a drum to make a lot of noise, or as weapon to whack an enemy or beat off a dangerous animal. Multi purpose - very useful.

Ever felt just invisible; like an alien looking for even a small friendly "hello"? We all have days when we feel like a stranger in a strange place don't we? And most of the time we are hoping to run into someone who'll say "you are welcome here" wherever you are on your journey. Well, those kind people and those caring places are sprinkled all over this great land of ours. Is that because we are a 'Christian nation'? More importantly, are we a 'Christian nation'?

James Watkins makes an excellent case that historically, no we are not, beginning the argument with this :
"True or False: The Founding Fathers of The United States were Christians who formed a government based on godly principles.
That's a more complex answer. The "revisionist left" would like to make them secular and the "religious right" would like to make them saintly. Let's take a look at some of the more prominent Founding Father's beliefs . . . in their own words."
And ending with this note:
"I am a subscriber to the Apostles' Creed (I've had a "subscription" since second grade). I would love to document that the most prominant Founding Fathers were orthodox Christians.
However, I'm also a journalist who is committed to being an OAF (Objective, Accurate, and Fair), so I have only included quotes where I could find at least two collaborating, reliable sources."

James Madison said "The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity" (Letter to F.L. Schaeffer, Dec 3, 1821).

So yes, while we are a nation of primarily kind caring Christian folks, 62% at last count, as President Obama said, in 2007 and again in April of this year, we are not just a 'Christian nation'.

  • "I think that where -- where there's the most promise of building stronger U.S.-Turkish relations is in the recognition that Turkey and the United States can build a model partnership in which a predominantly Christian nation and a predominantly Muslim nation, a Western nation and a nation that straddles two continents -- that we can create a modern international community that is respectful, that is secure, that is prosperous; that there are not tensions, inevitable tensions, between cultures, which I think is extraordinarily important.
    That's something that's very important to me. And I've said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is -- although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."
    from The White House Press Office

Anyone interested in doing more research on their own will find a wealth of information on Beliefnet and The Separation of Church and State

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back.
- Special Quotes for Mother's Day by William D. Tammeus

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Sissy Farmer

Joel Salatin calls himself a sissy farmer because he is interested in healing the earth and getting back to working in harmony with the natural order of things. He says he is in the redemption business. That he is also something of a rabble rouser as well as a prognosticator is evidenced by the two statements (below) that he made in an interview published on line on The Tennessee Farmers and Freeholders site in 2008.
  1. An old law says, “Nobody’s thrown a ball so high it didn’t come down.” I don’t think anybody believes that an economy can just grow and grow and grow forever.
  2. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I get so frustrated when I speak at a seminar and the first question is “But is it legal?” Who cares if it’s legal? If it’s right, do it.
My maternal grandmother, though not a farmer, knew something about working with the natural order of things. She raised nine children while her husband worked the railroad as a section crew foreman. After she was widowed she became mostly self sustaining. She put in a huge garden every spring, did all the hoeing and weeding and harvesting and put back, by canning, those vegetables that could not go into the root cellar for the winter. On the years she couldn't hire a man with a horse to break up the garden plot she did it herself, pushing her own smaller plow. She raised chickens, White Leghorns for eggs and for 'trading' for egg money on Saturday, for Sunday dinners and Bantum roosters because they amused her. She'd always made her own clothes, crocheted doilies and booties, embroidered pillowcases and used up the left-over supper gravy on the next morning's biscuits. But for all of that (and even with a small pension) she still needed additional income so she cooked lunch at school, worked in a nursing home, rented out rooms to subsist. She knew about subsisting and sustaining and living an optimistic, independent life.

Thinking about subsistence farming could lead us to crofting -in Scotland or Kentucky or Finland and then inevitably, when thinking of redemption and working in harmony with the natural order of things, when thinking of being self sustaining, to Wendell Berry (you may remember he will not buy a computer) and to his Mad Farmer poems. One of my favorite lines is from his poem The Man Born To Farming - " He enters into death yearly, and comes back rejoicing."

Sustainable agriculture won't make anyone rich -that isn't the goal. Sustaining and subsisting so often go hand in hand.

Still, "He enters into death yearly, and comes back rejoicing."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Poem Of The Day for today (April 8th,2009) is called How To Read A Poem: Beginners Manual and it's by Pamela Spiro Wagner.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ukranian Pysanky - A Story

What is Psyanky anyway?

Well, Pysanky is derived from the Ukranian verb pysaty meaning "to write". Pysanky are a special type of easter eggs that have been decorated using beeswax and dye; it is a very old art form. Traditionally. eggs were decorated uncooked and only fertized eggs could be used. These eggs are decorated with a batik technique - a design is writtten on the eggs with a Kystka (or electric stylus) containing beeswax then the egg is dyed. Traditional dyes were made from dried plants or other vegetable matter by the women in each household who passed the dye 'recipes' on from mother to daughter as they did with the designs used and the accompanying forlklore. Successive layers of beeswax and dye are added until the artist achieves the desired result. Pysanka designs are usually geometric using traditional symbols such as triangles, circles, straight and curved lines to tell a story. Deirdre Le Blanc uses the term Sacred Geometry in describing the practice.

The process of making these beautiful and complex eggs (each egg may take from 3 to 11 hours to complete) is described many places but the most comprehensive site (over 400 pages ) on pysanky was built by Luba Petruska.

This wonderful, well organized site is just full of the most interesting pictures of all types of pysanky, it also contains a how to section, history, traditions, easter cards, post cards - you name it this site has it.
She also has a What's New page that is more 'blog like' if you are more comfortable with that format.
If you ever have whole afternoons or evenings to spend making exquiste easter eggs that will someday be heirlooms here's how.

Martha Stewart also has a very good how to page that includes a supply list as well.

Pysanka is the singular form of pysanky. The biggest non chocolate easter egg in the world, the Vegreville Pysanka , is a wonderful ode both to math and to art, achieving nine mathmatical, architectural and engineering firsts when it was completed in 1975. Sitting at a 30 degree angle, on a massive steel and concrete base, turning in the wind like a weather vane, it remains a testament to the vision of Ron Resch. and a tribute to the Canadian Mounties whose 100th anniversary it commemerates.

If you'd like to know more Dr. Myron Hlynka, has an extensive list of links here:

Pysanky - Hope and Change: A Tribute to Obama

Hope and Change: A Tribute to Obama
Originally uploaded by so_jeo

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Egg Group 3
Originally uploaded by bcompetent

Folk Art at it's best!

Pysanky - Group Picture

Group Pic
Originally uploaded by bcompetent


Pysanky by the carton

Originally uploaded by stu_spivack


Pasanka - Raven and Otter Egg

Raven and Otter Egg
Originally uploaded by dandylioneggs

An stunning outdoor motif.

Pasanka - Rainbow Rooster

Rainbow Rooster Angle 1a
Originally uploaded by so_jeo

How cheerful is this?

Pasanka - Hummingbird Honeysuckle - Turkey Egg

Hummingbird Honeysuckle Turkey 4a
Originally uploaded by so_jeo

What an intricate design! I wonder how many hours of work this represents.

Pasanka - Circus Egg

Circus Egg
Originally uploaded by dandylioneggs

Does this remind you of a circus or a carnival?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April and The Time Of Yellow Smoke

April is National Poetry Month, established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to draw attention to the work of American poets, to highlight the many dimensions poetry brings to our lives and to increase it's visability and appreciation.

This year's poster features these lines from the T. S. Eliots poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" "Do I dare\Disturb the universe?", which also contains these lines, of which I am quite fond :

"And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea."

In addition to participating in A Poem In My Pocket Day , or the Free Verse project, there are more than 30 other ways to join in this celebration.

So, for all the questions dropped on your plate, for instance yesterday , remember poetry and dare to disturb.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tea and Trivia

Do You know

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Urban Legends and Other Deceptions

There has been an e-mail circulating about a prayer the minister Joe Wright delivered to the Kansas House of Representatives. Or the Kansas Senate depending on whatever version you are reading. I see that it's now dancing the cotillion through several blogs these days as "This Pastor Has Guts". (I got over 250,000 hits on google.)

I Snoped this when I first got it and again when it started showing up on blogs recently. Few of these blogs tell you this is not exactly a current event but is rather a historical one.

Isn't that a little deceptive?

The prayer was actually given by Rev. Wright in 1996. Not this year, not at the start of a new legislative session in Kansas this year but in 1996 -13 years ago.

And according to newspaper reports at the time only one legislator, not many, walked out during the prayer although several did criticize it after the session closed. Who knows if 'The Rest of the Story' story is accurate or not but based on the above I'd say it's doubtful.

The prayer itself is pithy, brief, full of truth, enjoining us to engage in self examination and repentance, powerful enough to stand the test of time, un-gilded. And yes, that pastor did have guts in delivering the prayer.

The question is who has guts today?

I'm reminded of the story of the two little old ladies in church, who one Sunday morning were loudly seconding their preacher as he denounced cheating (Amen Brother), swearing (Amen Brother), stealing (Amen Brother), coveting (Amen Brother), dancing(Amen Brother), smoking (Amen Brother), dipping snuff - Now hold on a minute here, one said as she turned to the other, He's done quit preachin' and started meddlin' .

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feeding Our Wolves

A book review in today's NY Times of a book by a guy known as Cadillac Jack reminded me of this little story a friend had e-mailed me some months ago:

The Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride,superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grand son thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."


I wonder if these were "The Wolves at Evelyn" ?