Monday, January 27, 2014

Where Unchosen Postage Stamp Designs Go To Play

This is the coolest page I have seen today: Sheaff : ephemera : Stamp Design.   These are postage stamp designs that never made it through the final approval process. Like hiring, sometimes there are just too many good ones and only one job, or in this case, one stamp. So these got left behind. But they are wonderful to see.

 I am a Rockwell Kent freak - the 37c woodcut angel is one of my faves. The various 42c Edgar Rice Burroughs/Tazan are ALL, I think, better than the one they ended up with - it was truly a homely stamp. The technique used to generate Cochise's portrait is fascinating. And dig them cool cats playing Latin Jazz, down toward the last of the list. 

Save this page to end the daily browsing with & sleep on a lighter note. :-)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

January Update on My Winter Garden: Things Learned So Far

 I had a lot of fun planting my first "winter garden" this year. Then, Paul got sick. But God was so good that He watered my garden for me with nice regular rains for two months!  As a result, much of what I planted came up. I was able to harvest radishes and several messes of turnip greens!   With turnips, plant them thickly, then when you thin them, just snip the roots off and they are lovely tender turnip greens. All those little weeds you see around the turnips in the picture are just winter annual things like chickweed and henbit - they are edible too, if you want to fiddle with them.

I just scattered all my seeds down the rows in rather wide swaths.  But I learned that I can't cultivate the rows if I don't plant the seeds precisely. So come Spring, I'll use a seeder and put them down One At A Time. Then I can wheel the cultivator through the rows and take care of most weeds while they are tiny.

 I also learned that most things will not live through the winter, so I better limit plantings to those things I can harvest before the arctic air comes in and it gets down to 12 degrees!  Turnip greens I harvested. Turnips? Not so much. Unless they are still alive under their poor bedraggled and dehydrated dead tops - will report back on that in a couple of months!

 I used scallop shells I collected when we lived on the coast for row markers. Just punched a hole in them with a nail, wrote on them with a Sharpie, and wired them to a stick.  They look cute. People can't tell what they are from the street so they ask me about them LOL

Another almost-miracle was when I came home from the hospital and discovered my Saffron Crocus blooming! I planted those bulbs about 5 years ago, and they have never bloomed, not once. This year, three of them popped up their pretty little heads. Naturally, I quickly took my tweezers and collected the stamens. So now I have home-grown Saffron, nine whole threads of it! :-)

The deer always travel through my garden spot, even though we live in town. So I had planned to put up a barrier of plastic Deer Netting to keep them out.  But these are not deer tracks.  It is a tiny town, and most people let their dogs run around so we know most of the neighborhood pets. I thought at first there must be a new dog because there aren't any that large that come through. But then my neighbor looked at the tracks and told me it was a BOBCAT! The way to tell the difference in that cat tracks never have toenails showing, while dog (or coyote or wolf)  footprints always show toenails, since they cannot retract their claws like cats do.  That is one big bobcat!  They are common in this vicinity, but I never dreamed of them following the deer down Main Street!

My son Nick and grandson came a day early for Thanksgiving, and set T Posts around the perimeter of the garden. My grandson is 14, and is just beginning to get his muscles. He is going to have the same powerful arms that his dad and his uncles Nick and Ethan have. He made short work of pounding the posts into the ground. It made me proud to watch them work together so comfortably.

 The posts are spaced far enough apart that Daddy's tractor will still be able to fit between them. When spring comes, I'll attach the black plastic netting to them before the deer get used to finding tasty morsels inside. This is a very inexpensive solve. We can't afford to fence the whole area permanently, and these are nearly invisible from the street until we wrap them. The plastic netting can be replaced annually. And, if we want to enclose more area, these T posts are easy to remove. Well, they are if you are Nick. It was great fun watching him one-handedly pull up some that had been staking trees - posts I had not even been able to budge with all my weight behind it!

Onion plants are in at the local produce market, so I will buy them next time I am in town, and will go ahead and put them out in a portion of the garden I left for them. I LOVE growing onions. They are so rewarding, since we cook with onions every day: it feels good to raise somethng that is a real "staple" for the table.  We plant the little skinny plants, not the hard bulbs, and this far South we MUST have "Short Day Onions", because we do not get the length of daylight hours they have up North. Onions are very dependent on hours of daylight to make their bulbs. If we plant the regular onions listed in most seed catalogs, they might make good green scallions, but would never make bulbs.

Our winter is moving along pretty much as the Almanac predicted: cold and wet. So other than the onions, I probably won't put anything else out until March. Then I will plant more turnips, mustard, lettuces, etc. The seed catalogues are coming in and I'm having such fun reading them and plotting what to buy.  Right now is the pleasant winter day-dreaming time in the garden and I am enjoying every moment of it!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Marriage in Sickness and in Health: By the Grace of God, My Husband is Alive, and Will Be Well

In mid-October, my husband's back went out on him. This is not unusual, he has bad disks and thus has occassional trouble with it. But this time was different: nothing improved it, and he could not lie down. After trying all his usual methods of healing it, he finally asked me to take him to the ER in the middle of the night. A routine blood test showed he was anemic. Anemic? A great ER doctor in our small hospital knew how odd this was, and ran a CT scan.

Paul had three iliac aneurysms, two of which were 10 cm and one of which had already ruptured*. Our hospital sent him by ambulance to Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, where he had emergency surgery. God blessed us in every way, with top notch care all the way through, and a talented, experienced surgeon who was able to overcome some extreme challenges in the surgery - not least of which was that all were within the pelvic area, so simply accessing them was an ordeal. When his surgeon came out to speak with me after the surgery, the phrase he kept repeating was "it was so difficult".

After 13 days in the hospital and 19 days in nursing care, his Dr prescribed at-home physical therapy and home health nursing visits, so I was able to bring him home.

The trauma of the surgery injured the nerves in Paul's legs, and he has not been able to use them since. They WILL heal, and we see tiny improvements each day, but for now he is generally confined to bed. He cannot transfer, so I have a Hoyer Lift that I use to move him from bed to wheelchair. He can sit for about 45 minutes before he is hurting and needs to go back to bed. For doctor visits, we use the state-funded rural bus that has a lift so that he can be transported in his wheelchair. We have a great therapist who comes 3 times a week and there are several exercises we do throughout the day on our own.

Both of us are Christians, and we know that God has saved his life. Understanding that the only alternative would have been death (most people with this condition simply die - there are usually no symptoms - and even with surgery after rupture, 50% do not survive the operation), our spirits have been buoyed all along with gratefullness for Paul's now-extended life.  We are also blessed with a loving family that have been unflagging in staying in touch and helping in what ways they can. Finally, our church members and friends have shown their care for us in so many ways. During the 32 days before Paul came home, not a single day went by without visits from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Two weeks of that was in a hospital 75 miles from here, but people drove it to visit for 10 minutes, just to encourage  us.

It is at times like this that one learns what one is really made of, and how strong a marriage can be. Because we are good friends, we are able to enjoy the 24/7 togetherness that we have right now. Paul can accept very personal care from me, and I can give it, because our relationship goes beyond our individual selves. Our time revolves around a vast number of new daily tasks and schedules. I've had to learn to do a lot of new things. Paul is having to cope with a kind of helplessness that we never imagined.  We both approach the day one hour at a time, and we don't think too far beyond that. And God has blessed both of us to be able to travel this road in good humor and hope.

I can say that when I try to count my blessings, I run out of numbers. Paul's life far outweighs any possible inconvenience or detour in our plans. The knowledge of that alone makes me wake up happy each day.

There will be much to write about our journey through this part of our lives, but that will come later. For now, I am happy to have a bit more creative energy available to resume blogging, and to start peeping over our own four walls again once in a while.

*There is a simple Ultrasound screening that your doctor can order for you to check for Iliac or Aortic aneurysms. There is a greater risk as people age, and if you have had heart trouble. Paul did not have any heart problems, and he is only 61.  I am guessing the ultrasound is painless, and it can relieve your mind if the results are negative!

[The art is Winslow Homer's "Moonlight", painted in 1874. Winslow Homer was the Norman Rockwell of the 19th Century. He chronicled American life and the Civil War with great realism and beauty. His images of the sea are magnificent. He also produced a fine body of work around the Caribbean islands.]


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