Thursday, November 28, 2013

"My Parents Brainwashed Me" Video

I love this video.  "My parents brainwashed me."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to You, With Love

I hope you're having a wonderful Thanksgiving!

For many this is a time to gather with family and friends.  For others, it's more complicated, or this season is a difficult one.  Or maybe it's a little of all of that.

Some of those dear to me have taken hard hits this year.  If you're reading this and you're one of them, you know who you are, and that we are praying for you very often.

Some folks get to be with loved ones just now, and for others it's a hard time, or a time to decide how to make the most of time alone.

I've had some of all of those before, so this season is filled with mixed feelings.  I lost some precious friends and clients in this past year's cycle, some to old age and some to illness.  My heart is heavier and it is richer.  It's easy to say that, but I'd just as soon have those dear ones back again.

There are times I remember from long ago, from childhood, from my first marriage, from days being a single mother.  What a hodge podge of memories and emotions those bring!  I feel replete with the memories of times I never knew back then would mean so much later.  I feel a sense of loss at changes that have happened through the years, too, sometimes.  Even though I'd like to grab some of those moments again to savor, I wouldn't wish to travel back again to stay.  If there is anyone out there who can truly say they don't have any regrets, I kind of wonder if they're very invested in the "examined life" at all...I've learned from my regrets and I still find it hard to always balance the different people and areas of my life correctly and meaningfully...meaning being fully in the moment and attentive to all those I love, while still able to juggle "outside" demands (job, etc) and the fact I'm so much slower physically with this knee situation.

I'm not melancholy just now, but I am both happy and sad, and very very grateful.  I've been told my dear friend, who used to be my client for the better part of the past two years and now lives with family out of state, has declined to the point hospice has been called in.  Walking up and down the aisles at the store the past few days for this and that surprised me with unexpected tears and happiness both.  So many things remind me of my loved ones recently departed, or of my grand lady who may soon join them.

I want to continue to be a better wife, mother, friend, and not miss a single second that might otherwise slip by.  A set of circumstances is keeping me from having Thanksgiving with my daughter, and I really miss her.  She is growing and maturing so fast, and I'm so proud of her.  I also want her to always feel a rich sense of home and place and sometimes I try to balance my nurturing genes with letting her call the shots...I can remember enjoying my independence at that age.

I don't "have a village" parents in my life, our old ones already gone, and more than a decade of my prior marriage invested in those in-laws, only to be lost to me after the divorce, something I never saw coming.  We have a very dear circle of friends about an hour away from here, and they are the family we have all made from scratch, the wonderful way God does when he brings like-minded people together as kindred spirits.  They are precious kindred spirits who love God and encourage us in Him so often, and we are so grateful.  And I will always always have the golden few from the past, my can-count-on-one-hand friends far away who have been there through thick and thin, my laughing and commisserating and sometimes crying buddies.  And my dear dear friends I know through this crazy medium of the internet, and truly love.  The internet without which I would never have met my best of all friends, my beloved Jack, to whom I've been married now for over 9 years, and grateful for every day!

For Kim...I miss you so much.  The space you filled here is not being filled by anyone else.  Your generosity is still giving, somehow, even though you're gone.  I have nothing but happiness thinking of your wit and quick humor and intelligence and how you met the real person in whomever you saw, not preoccupied with appearances.  You embraced beautiful things and you worked to make people feel loved.  Your mother is wonderful and I'm so happy to know her through  you.  I feel so very ripped off that you're gone at such a young age.  We were supposed to have so many years to see both sets of our girls grow up and see how our own stories "turned out."

For Miss Dottie...I miss you, too.  I can hear the phrases you used all the time, in all kinds of situations, and I just cackle with joy!  You are a piece of work, and you know it.  I know you had a long life and you lived it your way.  You also noticed people, remembered the names of their children and even their pets and always asked for updates.  You remembered to thank people, you raided the sales aisles, especially the candy aisles, to take candy to your favorite medical folks the more you had to go to the doctor for this and that.  You never forgot to thank anyone with a little box of candy, especially those dang bags and bags and bags of Caramel or Chocolate or Butter Rum "Nips" we toted all over creation, ha!  I miss you bossing me around as I tried to navigate your huge van into little parking spaces or cut across three lanes of traffic in rush hour.  I miss your delight in plotting new things to see or places to try (especially to eat out, you loved that).  And how you always were opinionated about particular sports figures, either loving or hating them, and knowing every gossip rag report about their private lives...ha!  I can NOT watch any golf with Tiger Woods playing without hearing your voice saying "MISS...MISS the ball!"  And you certainly made election year the most commented-on and memorable one of my experience, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  I could go on and on, but it's not the same with you gone.  I'm only glad you're out of pain, that's the only thing I'm glad about in it all.

For Miss J...I'm not ready for you to go, even though you say you are.  I can't even find the words to type why right now, because I'm not going to cry all over my keyboard.  But I did cry at Sam's club when I saw chocolate covered pretzels and remembered how you love those so much you tuck them down into the side pockets of your recliner till they pooch out like chipmunk cheeks.  Even when you didn't feel up to eating much of anything, you'd nibble chocolate and have a moment of bliss :)   I can't think of old hymns without thinking of you.  And so many other things.  I'm stopping now.  But I won't stop remembering, ever.  I miss your face and and grateful for every moment to talk by phone now that the days are numbered.  They always were, but...well anyway.

For my daughter...I love you.  You will make it through the roughest of spots because God has a special purpose for your life.  We don't get perfect lives and you've had disappointments.  That's part of life a mom can't change for her daughter even though I sure wish we could.  We've had to patch together a family that's not as big and extended as we had in the past, and we feel that sense of loss.  But we have each other, and that's more than a lot of people ever get.  We have today and hopefully a lifetime of more todays to make family through determination, loyalty, and our wonderful Father's help.  I have a wonderful husband who loves being your stepfather.  You are rare and precious and FUN :)  I would not have anyone else as my daughter but you, and I'm so glad God chose you to be mine.  I'm going to work harder so we make the most of our time, even though you're all grown up and busy and sometimes we simply have to steal some hours together.  I enjoy every one of them.  There will always be plenty of things to continue working on with ourselves and areas to improve.  Be gentle with yourself and kind with others.  When things get down, look around and see the people no one else wants to see, and you'll never be lonely.  You have all the stuff of a great friend.  I'm praying for God to surround you with firm friendships and one day a husband who is hand-picked just for you.  You know if He can do that for me, He can for you, too.  Did I mention I love you?  Psalm 139 is your psalm.


So...I believe it's time to finish up the few lagging Thanksgiving dishes that had to wait till the last minute.   The house smells wonderful.  And that sink full of dishes?

I'm grateful for them!  They mean there was wonderful food to cook!

We did not know if we would have money to buy Thanksgiving special ingredients, but on THE day we needed it, we got just the right (modest) amount back from the mortgage company from what was left of the escrow after their paying the yearly property taxes.  God is my beloved Father, and whatever lack I might feel from wishing I had blood relatives like the Norman Rockwell pictures always show, I have no complaints in the God department.  He has always been there, always been kind, and always kept me from being drowned by circumstance.  TRULY my deliverer.

Loving God, my husband, my daughter, my sweet friends near and far, including my internet friends here (you!) and loving having a day when we remember to give thanks in a big way, even though we daily give thanks as well.

I hope your Thanksgiving is the best possible!

With much love from our household to yours,

Robbyn and Jack <3 comment-3--="">

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Posts Post

Jack's been clearing brush and some stumps where the fence will go; marking off fence post spacing with orange spray paint.  We really don't know what we're doing!  Jack is doing most of the labor and I'm the go-fer and tool caddy.  We can't bring the generator on the same day as the mowers since they won't all fit into the truck bed, so he worked on this on different days depending on what tools were needed.  He's used everything we have on hand to clear it...from a brush cutter, small mower, electric weed eater and hand power saw.  Oh and a sling blade and machete.

You may be tired of seeing just a few fence posts, but this is Jack's first attempt at using barb wire.  He wanted to put some around this for added support, even though all the posts are notched and screwed in, caulked and tarred.
Here's the road view of the center posts we put up the last couple days.  They are caulked but as yet not tarred.  Posts are not perfectly straight when we put a level on them, they have natural curves.  Jack is digging all the holes by hand with a shovel and post hole digger.  He is also drilling and screwing in the screws that connect the poles by hand on this particular set of poles.  Getting the holes dug by hand is lot of work, but much easier in Florida sand than I remember it being in Mississippi growing up, when there was just really thick clay.  The upright poles are 8 foot poles and are being put in about 3 feet deep.  It takes a while to position the poles as level as possible both horizontally and vertically.  One of the horizontal poles had to be put a little higher than the other in order to have a place to put in the connecting screw.  We want enough "up top" for a 4 foot woven wire fence with an additional strand or two of  barb wire on top.  We think.  See?  We really don't know what we're doing!   Any advice is welcome!
This line of view above is where we are preparing to put the first fence section.  We marked off spaces ten feet apart, and Jack will reinforce this center brace with more barb wire.  If we had ever fenced anything before, this may all be as easy as bam, bam, bam.  But we haven't, it's all new, and some days when we're out here Jack hasn't yet become fully un-jetlagged from his night shifts.  And with my gimpy knee, I'm not much help in the manual labor department, though I do backfill holes and pack down around the posts with a metal pole, do the caulking, tarring...some holding this and that.  So it's reallyyy slow, but it's all good.  It seems like if we ever can get this property completely fenced, that will be a MAJOR feat and some of the other things will seem really easy in comparison.
Above, one of Jack's experiments with the barb wire.  It's his first time working with it, ever, and with no one to show him what to do.  So he's watched a lot of youtube videos and read as much as he could beforehand.  He's enjoying figuring things out.  Sometimes it takes a while just to get the hang of what a new and unfamiliar tool actually does.  It was fun watching him use the wire stretcher, if that's what it's called.  And he has a hand tool that does several things...cutting, clamping, etc.  He's got the wire diagonally here for support.  We have no idea if it really needs that support, but he figures the more support for the upcoming fencing, the better.  Jack is like a kid in a candy store when he has a tool he's figuring out how to use, so this has actually been fun for him, and I'm glad!

So far, we have put in partial days at the farm this past week.  Most days it was overcast with a slight chance of rain.  The temps were in the mid 80s, up from the mid 70s of last week.  We really felt the heat the first day out because there was sun with no wind and boy, that was tough.  I know we sound like wimps, but we're pretty hardy when it comes to weather.  It just starts cooking when it's sun and you and nothing in between.  Thankfully as the week progressed, there was a lot of cloud coverage, and with that came a steady breeze, which was great!  PERFECT weather :-)

There were a few splashes of raindrops but no rain till Wednesday night, when it poured.  Boy, did that make a difference in the road...ugh.  Even with just an overnight rain, the road went from pretty passable to rough.  Any more rain and it would be a mud pit again, just like it was for about four months this summer.

We have to weigh our limited resources and the timing of it all...put down shell for the road holes, or fence the property?  This is the dry season (comparatively) here, so we decided after a lot of back and forth conversation  to try to get the fence done, or as much of it as we can, during what dry season we hope we have.  Let's see...
Not only is that a handsome man, I think the black tar paint looks kind of sharp on those posts, woo!
And see all those palmettos?  As beautiful as they are, they can't all stay.  We will leave "islands" of them, but much of the rest will have to be cleared, as it's impassable and full of rattlesnakes.  It's not just talk, either.  We've already seen two snakes up close and personal, and this week I got on the computer and positively identified them both as pygmy rattlers.  Supposedly they do make a warning rattle, but it's too quiet a sound to usually ever be noticed by a human.

I do not look forward to the part of this all where we have to clear this brush by hand.  I'm praying for God to help us with any equipment we need, when we need it.  At this point, a tractor or a bobcat seem to be what most folks out this way use.  I have no idea how we'll manage that, since renting and hauling those to the property are truly cost prohibitive, as are the quotes we've gotten from private individuals who hire out to do clearing and leveling.  But either of those are tools I know we'll need at various times in the future, so I'm being bold enough to put it on the prayer list :)
Here's how overcast with rain clouds it was yesterday.  Do not be fooled by the apparent clouds...there WAS sun, somewhere --- enough to give me a sunburn to last me the weekend.  I was a tomato!  (still am, but am glowing in the dark a little less by now)    More to report later, but since this blog is our journey, this is where we are at this point.

What can't be seen in the pictures is how HAPPY we be able to get to the land, to have schedules that most times this past couple weeks have  meant days together to head to the farm, to have finished something, even if it's the gate, a few posts, some clearing, some further prep with plans laid out for weeks ahead.

It is FUN being with my beloved/hubby/best friend, and even just the ride out there makes me HAPPY.  We stare at the gate as if it's a talisman...something of actuality after so much waiting.  It makes me HAPPY to see Jack learning about new tools, for us to dig in the dirt, to sit on breaks listening to the whispering pines and the rattling palmettos and the sighing of the swampland on the other side of the street when there's wind.

We've met a few other folks who have land near here.  Everyone, the few who are ever out here, stops when passing by and chats for a few minutes, catching up on any news or making first introductions.  I really really like that.  So far we haven't met anyone we think of as sinister.  It seems like the folks who venture out this far are ones with some overlapping similarities in what they intend to do with their land, too, or just the enjoyment of being out here with the huge huge sky and the slower pace, the nature and the lack of interference from outsiders.  The sky here seems HUGE because there are few or no power lines and mostly sunny days, with skies often as blue as a robin's egg and dotted with beautiful white cloud cover.

We love to sweat and work towards something outdoors.  Somehow it feels more actual.  It helps me get through long, dragging days when we can't be out there, until we can again.  Whatever "it" is about being out there, it makes us both so happy.  I know part of it is our being together and doing something we love together.  We also believe God gave us this land and will help us use it for good things.  I love and appreciate my husband more every day, and especially on those days in the sun and at the farm.  We thank God, a lot...lot...lot.  And then some more.

Shabbat shalom, and I hope you'll share what's going on in your world :-)

Friday, November 15, 2013

We Have A Gate!

We get so excited about every step!  This is Jack's latest handiwork...I'm his gopher and post-holder.

It took two days because we schlep everything in the truck bed (no trailer) in small loads.  And because Jack does all the heavy labor and paces himself.

The gate had to be strapped to the top of my Jeep (thanks, Donna, for the DIY "Cliff's Notes" !)  Remind me to get Jack some ratchet straps for whatever special occasion is next...he tied that thing up there with bungee cords and what looked to me like boot laces, hmmm.

The weather was in the low 70s and surprisingly there was quite a wind blowing both days.  The swamp was singing again, as it does when there's any wind.  It makes the sound empty bottles make when you blow across the openings.  Some might thing it's eerie, but I think it's lovely.  The second day, as Jack had just gotten the equipment unloaded, I heard a decided squeal from up the road.  The wind was loud enough to obscure the sound near the running generator, but at my Jeep there was no mistaking it what it was...wild pigs!   Sure enough, just up the road, time and again, I kept hearing it and it was getting closer.  Of ALL those hundreds of undeveloped acres beyond our small property, they were headed straight down the road to us, ha!  So we came up with a "pig plan," which was just basically "get into the truck and stay out of the way till the herd passes," if need be.

I saw two boars in plain sight, and the others were in the thick palmetto scrub.  They were using the overgrown ditch on the other side of the street as their personal turnpike.  The first was a fine sized male, all black, trotting down the dirt road about a hundred feet away, towards us.  The second was even bigger, black with a ring of dirty gray hairs around his neck, really big boy, squealing and going back into the ditch.  They are so noisy and the squeals are so distinctively pig-like, there's no mistaking it.  Didn't manage to get any pics of them, though.  The squeals traveled gradually across from us, then down from us, then back into the swamp.   Didn't see any snakes this time.

It's so exciting when things align so that we have enough time together to get some work done!  Even though I can't  do nearly the labor Jack can (my knee still is our liability) I'm so far a decent gal Friday, and most of the tasks require two people. It was absolutely lovely the past two days, the skies overcast, the sun still strong enough to be warmish, the wind constant enough to warrant long sleeves.  My face is sunburnt tomato red...oops! 

The unseen players in the equation lately, and just as important to the farm endeavor, are the tools we've had to purchase.  Some of them are critical, others are Jack's choice for the long term.  We looked for a used generator, but Jack ended up buying a new one under warranty.  He could do a lot of the things by hand, but he has electric equipment for much of it, and so on.  The generator certainly came in handy this week, and operated right in the truck bed.  He used it for some drilling and for the saw that notched out spaces for the side posts to be attached.  The plug on the extension cord has a habit of falling out of the socket so he'll replace this hopefully before we're back out there again.

The road is still really un-level.  Thankfully it's still dry right now.  If we get neighbors down the street at the house that's for sale, I hope they can help maintain the road.  However, if there is no new neighbor, there will be hardly anyone using it besides us, so less wear and tear.  I guess we'll have to see how things work out.

Having the gate up feels like we're a farm now...funny, eh?  It's kind of an official threshold, and it's pretty hilarious seeing it there, locked up, with no fence attached yet, heh :)

Next up is to begin fencing the road frontage, or "the front."  We'll probably put middle support posts first and then all the regular ones.  Since we can't store any supplies out there yet without risking theft, we'll just do loads of posts in the truck, whatever it can hold each trip.  With no other laborers or means to hire them at this point, it will be just our speed anyway.

I'm so excited!!  Little steps that we can SEE...feel like big steps!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cooking With Green Papaya: Round Two

Our papaya tree this year was laden with fruit.  We ate a couple that had ripened right on the tree, and they were sweet and delicious, better than what we get at the store.  Hooray!  There were 14 or so more papayas clustered on that same tree, and they are the big oblong ones, for the most part (a few are more roundish).

One day last weekend I went outside to put some banana peels underneath one of them (lazy composter, I) and was dismayed to find it leaning all the way to the ground, downward on a slope.  A really ripe fruit was smashed and had been nibbled on by some animal, but the others were still attached to the stem and were intact.

It was impossible to raise the trunk back up with the fruit on it..they are heavy.  So I had to trim a couple leaves off and cut the rest of the fruit off.  I had nothing on hand with which to prop the trunk back up, so I went to The Elephant Graveyard (currently our back porch, usually the storage room) and found something to over-the-toilet standing metal storage rack.  I angled it in the slope to anchor against the trunk and it's holding pretty well.  (Keeping it

And now I have 14 green papayas to contend with.  I have no idea they'll keep without spoiling, so I'm surfing around for internet ideas (have any, anyone??)  I know from last year they'll cook up like a bland squash, but I'm hoping to go beyond bland squash this year. 

Round One Experiment was last night...I went  Southern (veggie+cornmeal+skillet with hot oil = soul food).  I peeled it, rinsed it really well, sliced into apple wedge-sized slices and did the dip-and-dunk with beaten egg/milk plus cornmeal (actually leftover cornmeal mix) plus a little plain flour and then fried in a little oil in a skillet.  It was actually good, and I think next time I'll run a little squeeze of lemon over the slices beforehand to add some acid and tartness.  At any rate, there were none left from the experiment.

Round Two Experiment was tonight.  I sacrificed 1/2 of a second papaya to the cause.  Since the green papaya has a texture similar to that of certain apples, I went for the Mock Apple Pie Filling experiment.  I sliced it up, squeezed 2 lemons over, added white sugar, pinch of salt and cinnamon and baked it with a few pats of butter.  The baking time takes longer, about 1 1/2 hrs, I set the temp at 350F.  It came out with NO appley taste, but with a pleasant mildly tart and cinnamony apple pie filling but missing some depth of flavor, not insipid, though.  But definitely good enough to eat!  And it even LOOKS like apples when cooked.  Good texture!  Next go-round I think I'll opt for the addition of some brown sugar, maybe a little vanilla (??), some nutmeg, and maybe either some finely chopped raisins or something.  I'm still thinking.  I'd definitely cook the filling first and then top it later with crust...the longer baking time would probably wreak havoc on the crust otherwise.  Let's see!  I bet without any crust and maybe with a few cinnamon red hot candies it would make a nice "candied apples" type side dish.

Oh, and I'd thicken it for sure.  It did well for a first stab.

The experiments continue, but this has promise!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

...a little blue, Florida style 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Looking Into Purple Loosestrife

Lythrum salicaria, Purple Loosestrife.  It's my homework of the day.  I'm putting together a notebook of useful local herbs based on what I see blooming or growing right around me or at the farm to have a hard copy of respected sources, many of which I can find on the internet, especially from my favorite herbalists.  Because of the really wet season this year, the ditches along the farm road were full of loosestrife, even though during last year's drier year I never saw any rear their beautiful spires.

I understand that in many places this plant is considered invasive.  I've changed my opinion of many invasives after several thorough forays through the book Invasive Plant Medicine by Timothy Scott. At any rate, our own purple loosestrife does not appear en masse as it does in other areas of the country where it proliferates.  When I see a thriving wildflower or "weed" rear its head these days, I scurry to Google it and see if there is any mention of medicinal or edible uses.  It appears this plant has a long history of medicinal use, though it's fallen from use in the past century. Respected herbalist Jim McDonald has a good page on it, if you click for the link.

It appears to have uses for potentially treating blood sugar imbalances, inflammation, diarrhea, and as an eye restorative.  It also appears to me at this point to be what I'd consider a safe herb rather than a low dose herb, which means I will feel free to test it myself in various ways and combinations.

So I harvested a bunch!  I harvested the flowering tops and leaves and allowed them to dry the only way I presently know how to in this climate, which is indoors on a big beach towel under a constantly-turning ceiling fan, turning them often to insure even drying.  When the leaves were crispy-dry and the stems were dry enough to snap smartly when bent, I considered them dry enough.  A good handful of the flowers were put into 100% alcohol to tincture, and I'll check back with that batch in about 6 weeks to see if it's ready to bottle up.  The tincture is something I'll try myself, starting with a few drops at a time, for its potential blood sugar regulation assistance.

You really start to fall in love with plants so beautiful as well as clearly beneficial in so many ways!  The safe ones are a joy to play with, the fun of "herbal alchemy"!  :-)

I go now to do my homework.  I've just noticed the crownbeard is putting out blooms, too.  I "discovered" it last year when not sure what those really tall dusty-whitish flowering weeds were that were so prolific.  At the time, they were at the end of their season, so I'm determined I'll try my hand at seeing what can be done with them this year.  They, too, are a plant with past uses that have fallen out of practice in modern American times.  They, too, offer promising explorations!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ponce de Leon Park

One misty day stopping by tiny Ponce de Leon Park to stretch our legs before doing rental equipment recon.  It was yet another day my leg was not working well, but well enough to at least walk, and a beautiful walk it was.  There are a lot of pics I didn't include here, but the lovely part was hearing the lapping of the gulf waters against the tangled mangrove roots.  October, and some plants are still blooming...


"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy... but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

Harper Lee  To Kill a Mockingbird

This is the guy peering at me from above our parked truck on a day when Jack was inside a store getting rental quotes for land-clearing equipment.  My leg decided not to work that day and I was secretly feeling sorry for myself having to sit still so long until this fellow (or gal?) began to fuss, then to serenade.  A music break!