“Wildflowers” on our highways. October 31, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, wit and wisdom.
Tags: highway plantings, native plants, roadside flowers, wildflowers
When our friend Ben and Silence Dogood visited West Virginia a couple of weeks ago, we were shocked and appalled to see great drifts of cosmos blooming merrily in the median strips of the highways. We probably don’t have to tell you that the scenery in West Virginia is spectacular, and we were lucky enough to be there during their peak fall foliage season.
From the trees and shrubs along the roads to the mountains rising on every side, we were surrounded by the glorious reds, scarlets, oranges, golds, yellows, and purples of autumn foliage. We would have liked to see those colors reflected along the roads rather than the soft and hot pinks and cerise of the cosmos, which struck us as jarring, sort of like ordering chocolate mousse and seeing a carrot sticking out of the middle of it.
We also feel that it would be far more appropriate to plant our roadsides with native wildflowers rather than fake “wildflowers”—garden annuals like cosmos introduced from other parts of the world. Real wildflowers and grasses would be easier to care for, too. Rather than having to be replanted every year like the cosmos and babied along all season, once the natives were established, they’d just have to be mowed each fall.
We would have loved to see a colorful mix of asters, goldenrods, black-eyed Susans (rudbeckias), purple coneflowers, and grasses like bluestem (andropogon) brightening the roads with their fall-friendly hues. But Silence raised a good point. We both have backgrounds in horticulture. “If typical drivers and passengers saw this cosmos, don’t you suspect they’d just think ‘How pretty’?” she wondered.
Just two days later, we had our answer when we went to the Tamarack crafts center with the Hays family. As we passed yet another strip of cosmos, Cindy Hays exlaimed delightedly, “Look! Isn’t that beautiful!”
Hmmm. We still think garden flowers belong in the garden and our beautiful native wildflowers and grasses belong on our roadways. What do you think?
Another game of tag. October 29, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, gardening, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: blog tag, bloggers
Ratty of The Everyday Adventurer (http://everyday-adventurer.blogspot.com/) linked to our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, in a recent post, “In the Spirit of Tag.” Ratty had been tagged by WiseAcre of WiseAcre Gardens (http://wiseacre-gardens.com/). “Tag” in this case meant that the taggee was asked to reveal six things about him- or herself, then tag six other bloggers so they would do the same. And the beat goes on. Ratty, however, perhaps sensitive to the recent blogging backlash to these games of tag, merely linked to six favorite blogs rather than tagging them. Thank you, Ratty!
We here at Poor Richard’s understand that being “tagged” every five seconds could become tiresome, but we think the concept behind the tagging, encouraging bloggers to share information about themselves, is entirely valid. For example, we’d wondered why Ratty had chosen to call him- or herself this for months. Thanks to WiseAcre, now we know. Joy of Garden Joy 4 Me (http://gardenjoy4.blogspot.com/) was also tagged by WiseAcre, and though she’s been tagged bazillion times before, it was fun to read the new things she chose to share about herself.
It’s not just a question of new things, either. All of us who blog regularly attract new readers as we go along. And these readers don’t know the things our “old faithfuls” know about us. Even without tagging, our friend Ben thinks it would make sense to post a little “Who we are” or “Things you don’t know about us” fact sheet every quarter or so, since most of the time, the “About us” sections of our blogs are concise and to the point, leaving out many fun details. This gives us a chance to think about who we are—something we should all do from time to time regardless—as well as thinking of fun facts about ourselves that it might not have occurred to us to reveal. I feel sure that regular readers would forgive us for repeating things about ourselves they already know, and newbies would appreciate the update. Our friend Ben invites bloggers old and new to write a post about themselves and tell us things we might not know, whether they’ve been tagged or not.
In this spirit, we’ll try to come up with 6 things about ourselves that you may already know and, if not, may or may not want to know! Here goes:
1. Our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, was inspired by our blog mentor and hero, Benjamin Franklin, who published Poor Richard’s Almanack annually back in the 1700s to provide the colonists with wit, wisdom, and practical advice. Poor Richard’s Almanack was so successful that if a colonist owned only two publications, they would be the Bible and his copy of Poor Richard’s Almanack. We are humbly trying to follow in old Ben’s giant footsteps in the age of the internet.
2. The adventures of our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders here on Poor Richard’s Almanac are true. There’s so much real-life stuff to blog about that we don’t have the time or inclination to make stuff up.
3. The adventures of our pets are also real. Our friend Ben and Silence wish we could invite all of you to one of our holiday gatherings here at our rural cottage, Hawk’s Haven, located in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, to meet our faithful golden retriever, Molly, our brainless but beautiful cat Linus and his brilliant sister, Layla, our matriarch, the Maine coon cat, Athena, and our parrots, Plutarch the Parrot and Marcus Hookbill, not to mention our parakeet, Willow, and our fish, snails, and shrimp. And of course we’d like to introduce you to our outdoor cats, the baby, Marley, his uncle Simon, Danticat and Beau, Dixie, and Aloysius. And our six heritage chickens and bunny, Amy. Stop by anytime!
4. Urk. This one’s hard to admit. We know we should love everyone equally, but Silence and our friend Ben can’t help but play favorites among our many pets. We both love our dog Molly and she loves us. But among the many others in our household, our friend Ben has to admit to a special soft spot for our incredibly gorgeous and affectionate but not-too-bright (that’s putting it kindly) cat, Linus, while Silence, in her heart of hearts, has a deep, abiding affection for our bright and feisty bronze-winged pionus parrot, Marcus, who clearly returns her affection. But we really love them all, and our hearts of course go out to our motherless infant cat, Marley, with cold weather and his first winter coming on. Doubtless you’ll read more about what we’re doing about that in a future post.
5. If you know our blog, this is obvious, but if you don’t, this will help you figure out what the %$#@!! is going on: All of us write about topics that grab our attention, so you can see a post about anything from any of us at any time. But we also tend to divide up posts by our own personal interests. If you see a post about cooking or domestic arts, it’s likely to be by Silence. If it’s about history, numismatics, or backyard birds, it’s probably by Richard. Our friend Ben likes to write about gardening, nature, the arts, and whatever larger issues strike me. But we’re all perfectly willing and happy to rant about whatever strikes our fancy, and if it’s a humorous post, we’re pretty much all happy to take a turn. For all of us, blogging is fun, so humor plays a big part.
6. Gack! We’re already at our last point, and both Silence and Richard are ribbing our friend Ben mercilessly about going on and on (and on). So rather than state the obvious, OFB will attempt to think of something you all really don’t know about us. Uh… er… (desperately thinking) our friend Ben’s favorite author is Homer. Silence’s is Jane Austen. Richard’s is Ben Franklin (with all other Colonial and Federal authors a close second). All of us love Tolkien, Sherlock Holmes, and A Christmas Carol, and we also love reading Helen and Scott Nearing and books about Tasha Tudor.
We’re shutting this down now, since we each have so many favorite authors, we don’t even know where to start. Silence is pointing out to our friend Ben that alert readers may already know this about us.
So here’s another quick fact: Our friend Ben loves peonies, hollyhocks, columbines, basil, cilantro, sweet potatoes, okra, and potatoes best of all garden plants; Silence loves freesias, nasturtiums, baptisias, rosemary, thyme, onions, and tomatoes; and Richard loves hot peppers, garlic scapes, morning glories, marigolds, black-eyed Susans, beans, green onions, and arugula. All of us love bearded and Siberian iris, roses, Johnny-jump-ups, violets, and violas, clematis, chrysanthemums, hostas, coleus, cannas, bulbs, daylilies, ferns, hellebores, astilbes, heucheras, corn on the cob, melons, leeks, and virtually all fruits, veggies, and herbs. We’re not even going to go into the zillion other plants we adore. Suffice it to say that there are a few veggies and fruits that each of us don’t like (turnips, except for salad turnips; rutabagas; collard greens, beet greens, and turnip greens; mealy fruits like papaya). Maybe we’ll devote future posts to them and why we dislike them.
For now, however, let’s just say that’s enough about us. (Unless there’s something else you want to know!) What about you?
More wacky blog searches. October 29, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Amish friendship bread, funny blog searches, recipes
Our friend Ben is always fascinated by the search phrases people use to find our blog (thank you, WordPress, for sharing them with us), but the last couple of days have produced some real doozies. We’ve had people coming over here looking for “What do white trash eat?” and for “unwilling creampie,” a definite first, as well as for “how to quit the amish bread cycle” (we can only sympathize). (In case you’re unfamiliar with Amish friendship bread and why someone would want to escape from its clutches, check out Silence Dogood’s earlier post, “Amish friendship ‘bread’.”)
Perhaps Silence should write a followup post called “50 Ways to Leave Your Amish Friendship Bread,” but we’re actually more intrigued by two other searches that brought readers to Poor Richard’s Almanac. The first was “rice pudding cooked in rice cooker.” Hmmm. Rice pudding in a slow cooker, sure; rice pudding in a rice cooker, we don’t think so. But Silence is on the case, and you should hear more about this in a future post. And the second was “the sweetest fragrance.” That one really got us going. What is the sweetest fragrance, anyway? We don’t have a clue. So we’ve set our friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders in pursuit of the answer, and no doubt he’ll be posting soon about this.
As always, we’re grateful to all of you for inspiring us to learn things that we don’t know and wouldn’t think of trying to find out if you didn’t prod us through your searches. (You’re always welcome to just come on out and ask us, too, if there’s something you particularly want to know.) And we’re grateful to those of you who search for funny things and make us laugh. It really brightens our day!
Scarfing it up. October 27, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Kathryn Hall, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy, Scarf Initiative
Silence Dogood here. Today, I’ll finish knitting a scarf, cast it off my needles, and put it in the mail. But it’s not just any scarf. It’s a very special scarf I knitted for Kathryn Hall and her Scarf Initiative, one of almost 80 scarves people like me are sending her way.
Kathryn, whose blog, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy (http://plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com/), is a perennial favorite on Blotanical, Stuart Robinson’s brilliant compendium of gardening blogs, decided early this summer to do something selfless for children—little girls in particular—who were likely to be very, very cold this winter. That’s because they’re refugees in the foothills of the Himalayas. Kathryn hit on the idea of knitting scarves for the little girls to help them keep warm this winter, but even more, to know that people far, far away loved them and cared about keeping them warm. She blogged about her dream, and other bloggers like yours truly responded. (Some volunteered—how, I’ll never know—to knit 13 scarves!!! Mercy.)
I went off in search of yarn I thought a little girl would love, and came up, thanks to my local yarn shop in nearby Kutztown, Pennsylvania, with a yarn in all the sherbet colors (hot pink, orange, lime green, yellow). I felt in my soul that a little girl would love the bright, varied colors in this scarf, and I started knitting.
I love knitting, because I’m so bad at it. Uh, say what?! Well, you see, I learned to knit at my grandma’s and great-aunt’s knees. They were both extremely accomplished knitters, but the same couldn’t be said of their eager and worshipful pupil. After many visits and many lessons, I finally got the basic idea by about age 8. But sadly, that was the only idea I ever got. I can knit, cast on, cast off, add or drop stitches, compensate for unintentionally adding or dropping stitches. But that’s the beginning and end of what I can do. I can’t even pearl. What this means is that I can’t make anything more complicated than rectangles and squares. I can make scarves, potholders, afghans. I can’t make socks, hats, or mittens, much less sweaters.
So okay, why do I love it? Being freed from expectation also frees me from pressure. I can go out and buy beautiful and fun yarn and then sit back with my needles and enjoy myself. I can sit, mindlessly knitting, and think about whatever comes to mind. I can watch a movie or nature program while my needles continue to work. I can love the feel and sheen and colors of the yarn, the smoothness of the needles, without having to give a moment’s thought to a pattern.
Last night, while watching a PBS “Nature” program on Arctic wolves, foxes, gyrfalcons, snow geese, and owls, followed by one of our favorite movies, “Galaxy Quest,” I came to the end of my second skein of yarn. This yarn has followed me everywhere, from our home, Hawk’s Haven, in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, through our travels in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. By the time it reaches Kathryn’s mailbox, it will have seen a good deal of the East Coast.
Grabbing a yardstick, I measured the scarf, which Kathryn has specified as 5 feet long and 1 foot wide. I’m still 3 inches short. But Kathryn’s November 1st deadline is looming, so I’ll add those additional 3 inches today before I leave the house, and I’ll drop the finished scarf in the mail as I run my afternoon errands.
Needless to say, I’ve followed Kathryn’s scarf saga on her blog, and I’ve been astounded to see the number of roadblocks she’s encountered while trying to do a simple good deed. (I guess that ironic saying, “No good deed goes unpunished,” is in full effect here.) But unlike many, who’d have simply given up, Kathryn has pressed on, tirelessly working to find a way to get our scarves to the people who need them. Bless you, Kathryn! I want to be able to imagine my sherbet-colored scarf delighting some tiny girl as it gets colder and colder in her village. It’s the best Christmas present I could possibly give myself.
‘Til next time,
RIP Tony Hillerman October 27, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Four Corners, Jim Chee, Joe Leaphorn, mysteries, Navajo, PBS mysteries, Southwest, Tony Hillerman
Today’s MSN headlines let our friend Ben know that one of Silence Dogood’s and my favorite authors, Tony Hillerman, just died. Tony Hillerman is the author of a series of mysteries set in the Four Corners region of the Southwest and starring fictional Navajo Tribal Police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.
Generally speaking, Silence and I aren’t fans of mysteries, unless you’re talking about Sherlock Holmes, where the famous detective is typically solving puzzles, not gruesome crimes. (A blue diamond in a Christmas goose and a fake beggar leap to mind.) Holmes’s mysteries focused on detection. Most of today’s mystery writers feel their novels have to focus on murder, and the more murders and the more horrific they are, the better. For some reason, Silence and I fail to find this entertaining. Even when the novels are wonderfully written and meticulously researched, as in the case of P.D. James’s work, we tend to admire them rather than enjoying them.
Tony Hillerman’s mysteries proved to be an exception. Silence and I collect Pueblo pottery, and we have a small collection of Navajo textiles, Zuni fetishes, Navajo sandpaintings, and Hopi kachinas (now more properly katsinas) as well. We both grew up avidly reading about Native American culture and saving our allowance for the occasional arrowhead, and our friend Ben is also a bigtime fan of cacti, reptiles, rocks, dinosaurs, and other hallmarks of the Southwest.
So when we first stumbled on Tony Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries, we were hooked. We loved his detailed descriptions of the Southwest. (We have been to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, as well as to the ruins at Bandolier, and we have many books on the Southwest with gorgeous photos, some of them written by Hillerman himself, but even without them, we think we’d have been able to see the landscape through Hillerman’s descriptions.) We loved his reverent depictions of Navajo and Hopi beliefs. We loved his colorful characters, especially Jim Chee. The murders seemed almost incidental to the sweep of the Southwest and the Navajo and Hopi cultures.
We read each new Hillerman novel avidly as it came out, and waited impatiently for the next volume in the series. We watched the movie version of The Dark Wind and the excellent PBS versions of Coyote Waits, A Thief of Time, and Skinwalkers. Too bad PBS didn’t film them all! Silence and I applauded the casting of Wes Studi as Joe Leaphorn and Adam Beach as Jim Chee, and we loved the strong supporting cast, including two of our favorite actors, the deathless Graham Greene as Navajo preacher Slick Nakai and Gary Farmer as Chee and Leaphorn’s boss back at Navajo Tribal Police headquarters, Captain Largo. The PBS series escaped the dreadful mistake Hillerman himself made when he killed off his best creation, Leaphorn’s wife, Emma, early in the series. (What was he thinking?!!) Fortunately, Emma remains alive and feisty but big-hearted as ever in the PBS series. We enthusiastically urge you to rent these episodes via Netflix, buy them used through Amazon, or try to find them at your local video store. You’ll be glad you did!
If you haven’t yet discovered Tony Hillerman’s novels and would like to try them, we suggest that you look carefully at the copyrights and choose books from the ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s. Because the life stories of Chee and Leaphorn are told sequentially, it’s nice to start at the beginning (Hillerman’s first Navajo novel is The Blessing Way) and move forward.
We think the last few novels were a mistake and should be avoided. As Hillerman got older and had more health issues, his plotting and research became sloppier. We found his final novel to be virtually unreadable. Tony Hillerman was a born storyteller, and we enthusiastically think he should have continued writing until he died. (We certainly hope we do!) But writing and publishing are two different matters, and those last few books should never have seen the light of print, especially when his publisher apparently couldn’t be bothered to have an editor, copyeditor, or even proofreader look over the novels before they went to press, full of typos, inaccuracies, and contradictions. Shame!!!
Silence and I would have loved to have caught up with Tony Hillerman back when he was at the peak of his abilities. We’d have loved to ask him to go back rather than always pressing forward, to write about Leaphorn and Emma’s earlier adventures, about Jim Chee’s upbringing and what brought such a traditional boy to become a policeman. Perhaps, as in the case of Sherlock Holmes himself, other writers will take up the challenge to keep Chee and Leaphorn alive now that Hillerman is gone. We hope so. And Robert Redford, if you’re reading this, how about finishing the PBS series you produced? It was great!
Thank you, Tony Hillerman, for giving our friend Ben, Silence, and countless other readers and viewers so many hours of pleasure. We hope you’re up there now, enjoying the Four Corners section of Heaven!
Activate now. October 26, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: credit card pitches, humor, spam
Bless Yahoo! Its spam filter is really pretty good. And, though it separates out the spam, it saves the suspect messages so you have the option of reading them if you want. Our friend Ben pretty much never reads them, but I do look at the headlines before hitting delete.
Just now, I was checking e-mail and saw that I had three spam messages. Heading to the spam area, I saw with dismay that one of them was titled “Activate now.” Gulp. Perhaps someone had taken note of our friend Ben’s penchant for napping. Clearly, they felt that I was not adequately activated. Bemused and feeling guilty, I clicked on the message to see what it had to say.
As you market-savvy readers have doubtless deduced, it was actually an offer for a credit card. Gee! Just what I always wanted, especially in hard times: another line of credit, another inducement to spend money I don’t have, another source of debt. Thanks, but no thanks. It all reminded me of that classic cartoon about the Dalai Lama’s birthday, when he opens a big, beribboned box in front of all his monks, who are smiling with anticipation. Looking inside, he exclaims delightedly, “Nothing! Just what I always wanted!”
So, credit-card marketers, please: Don’t call me. And don’t waste your time hanging by the phone hoping I’ll call you.
Just the same, our friend Ben felt a sudden surge of urgency after reading that headline. Maybe I’ll head off and clean the birdcages, change the fish filters, fill the outdoor birdfeeders, sweep the leaves off the deck (for the thousandth time this week), pay some bills, catch up on the news, make some long-overdue calls. Activate now! Words to live by.
The collectors’ graveyard. October 26, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: collections, Goodwill, Salvation Army, thrift stores
Silence Dogood here. Usually, I love going to thrift stores—Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the like. To me, it’s like going on a treasure hunt: You just never know what you’ll find, and often, your treasure costs 48 cents. Even when I’m feeling financially strapped, I can convince myself that it’s okay to spend 48 cents on a new kitchen gadget or a basket for my shells or an attractive picture frame or a colorful multi-strand bead bracelet for my little niece.
Last time our friend Ben and I visited our local Goodwill, we saw two matching sofas that were not just in great shape, they were actually great-looking. The fullsize sofa cost $25; its matching loveseat, $20. We stopped in to the nearby Big Lots after that to look (in vain) for a floor lamp for Ben, and saw that their hideous sofas cost closer to $300. And that’s still a bargain compared to going into a furniture store or buying a sofa through a catalogue, when prices tend to start (if you’re lucky) at double that figure. Good luck finding sofas that look as good as the ones we saw at Goodwill at any price! I was practically in tears when we left the store, but no, we didn’t need any sofas and we didn’t buy any.
One thing we do need on a regular basis is clothes, and thrift stores are a great place to buy them, as long as you’re more concerned about fit and attractiveness than current fashion. Over the years, I’ve bought skirts, tops, tee-shirts, purses, and winter jackets for pennies on the dollar. I’ve found fun tie-dyed tee-shirts, which our friend Ben and I both love, for less than a dollar, and many of Ben’s beloved Hawai’ian shirts (he insists on pure cotton, no rayon) have gotten a second life when we rescued them from the thrift-store racks. Ever since I read that, even if no new shirts were ever manufactured again, there would be enough shirts to clothe all humanity until the end of time, I vowed to buy as many of our clothes second-hand as I possibly could. Why add to the merchandising glut?
So yes, usually I find shopping at a thrift store fun and relaxing. And I especially enjoy it when I also have a bag of things to drop off before I shop. De-cluttering and shopping, all at the same convenient location. Life is good!
But my last trip to our local Goodwill made me sad. That was because I saw three different collections offered for sale. They were all cheap trinkets—miniature mugs with travel destinations emblazened on them, porcelain thimbles, miniature animal figurines. None would have cost their owner much to collect, but it was very obvious that all had been lovingly accumulated and cherished over a lifetime. Now, here they were at Goodwill.
Somehow, I couldn’t convince myself that the owner of these lovingly accumulated assemblages of junk had decided to unload them and move on. No, the collections spoke of loving, attentive accumulation, someone whose desire to commemorate her life was greater than her taste or bank account. I could only, sadly, conclude that the previous owner of these so-called collectibles was now either in assisted living, in a nursing home, or no longer here at all. I could see why her children or heirs wouldn’t want to hang on to Ma’s collections. In fact, I’m sure they couldn’t wait to get rid of them. So here they were, languishing on the Goodwill shelves, where nobody seemed to be rushing to snap them up, either.
This smote me to the heart. It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears, staring at those piles of pointless trinkets. Someone’s life story was lying before me on a cluttered thrift-store shelf. Someone had spent years commemorating every trip, every triumph, with these trinkets, only to have her life put up for sale to the lowest bidder.
Our friend Ben and I are also collectors. We collect everything from Pueblo pottery and cookbooks to rocks, shells, and fossils. No, we don’t think our collections will someday grace a thrift shop’s shelves. But we wonder what will become of them. And we wonder what became of the collector of mini-mugs, ceramic thimbles, and tiny animal figurines. In heaven, on earth, we wish her well.
‘Til next time,
Fabulous easy salad dressing. October 25, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: homemade salad dressings, ranch-based dressings, salad dressings, veggie dips
Silence Dogood here (again). I wanted to share this recipe with you all before I forget. Last night, I took the famous Ultimate Mac’n'Cheese to our Friday Night Supper Club at our hosts’ request. (You can find the recipe by searching our blog for my earlier post, “The ultimate mac’n'cheese,” and can find out more about the Friday Night Supper Club on my earlier post “The Friday Night Supper Club”.) Our hosts had invited a new couple to last night’s dinner, and they arrived with a fabulous salad and a jar of the most delicious salad dressing. Oh, yum!
I of course asked Angie to tell me about her dressing, and her answer was a revelation. “I start out with store-brand ranch dressing,” she confessed. “I use two-thirds ranch dressing to one-third really good olive oil. Then I add the juice from a lemon, cracked black pepper, put the lid on the jar, and shake. That’s all there is to it.”
Geez. That’s all there is to it! While waiting for Carolyn to cook the broad beans, we were all dipping cherry tomatoes and lettuce leaves into the jar of dressing. Let me tell you it made an absolutely delicious veggie dip as well! In my experience, shortcuts, the “almost homemade” techniques, often backfire. But not this time. Try it, you will like it! In fact, I think you’ll be as amazed as I was. I’ve already put store-brand ranch dressing on my grocery list!
‘Til next time,