Monthly Archives: July 2008


Woot-offThis is sort of silly but there are a few websites I check every day…even on weekends.  One of the first is  They typically sell one item per day.  If/when they sell out of the item, the site is locked until the next day.  Now, that may seem pretty dull but the deals are typically pretty great.  They also have hilarious product descriptions, a funny podcast and goofy comments on the blog.  But the really exciting part is when they have a woot-off (usually once a month…you’ll see the sirens and the yellow progress bar during a woot-off).  During a woot-off, which can last 1or more days, they sell one item until it is gone, and then they move on to another item.  I suppose it is a purging of the items left in the warehouse that either didn’t sell during normal woots or were purchased in smaller quantity.  Anyhow, it is a ton of fun for me to watch the progression of items for sale during a woot-off.  The problem is, many items sell out in a matter of minutes.  I can’t sit at work all day refreshing a webpage waiting for the next item.  Of course, I can’t sit all day at work during a woot-off and miss any items either.  Faced with a problem, I thought, “hey, I am a computer programmer…I own this!”  From that, “woot watcher!” was born.  I wrote a little application to check the site every 30 seconds and look for changes.  When it finds a change, it pops up a message with the item title and cost.  I can choose to ignore it or view the item.  Now, there are others who have written similar applications, but I like having control over how my version works. 

You can download my program here.  When you click the link, it will prompt you to run or save.  Just save it to your desktop (or wherever you want) and have it ready for the next woot-off!  Please drop me a comment if you download.  I am just curious if anyone else likes woot or “woot watcher!”.  Of course, you download this at your own risk.  I make no warranty for the program or your system.  Please feel free to virus scan it.  It works well for me but I can’t be responsible if it sends your Windows 95 machine over the edge!


I mentioned in an earlier post that the bees were really working the corn tassels a couple of weeks ago.  I got some pictures (click on them…they are pretty neat when full size!) of


honeybees as well as a bunch of
blue orchard mason bees that were around.  It turns out that the starlings were really working the
Blue orchard mason bees on corn
corn too.  This weekend, we had to harvest a bunch of the corn before the birds did.  We ate some for supper this weekend and Emily

Blue orchard mason bees on corn

froze most of it still on the cob.  She blanched the ears for 6 minutes then let them cool.  Once cool and dry, she then wrapped them in cling-wrap and put the ears in freezer bags.  We probably harvested half of the corn so we’ll see what the birds left us later in the week!

Emily with corn husks

Popaw shucking corn

Marbles and Saturdays

Lately, I have been thinking about how I use my time and have been debating about some changes but an email from a friend made me consider things a little more clearly.  I have been the treasurer for the WV Beekeepers Association for about a year now and it has become a task that takes a good bit of time and has not been especially enjoyable.  I resigned from that position today.  It has nothing to do with the organization, the people, the work of the group, etc.  I just don’t like worrying about other people’s money.  I don’t like calling people on the phone.  I don’t like going to Saturday meetings.  Instead, I am reclaiming a few more of my Saturdays.

More changes are coming though I am not as clear on the form of those changes. 

I never forward emails like this so it is odd to me that this one stood out.  I have no idea if any of this story is true but it made me think for some reason (sometimes it seems like I don’t do that very often).  Anyhow, here is the email:

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it’s the
quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the
unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours
of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of
coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a
typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems
to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:
I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in
order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came
across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden
voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting
business. He was telling whom-ever he was talking with something about “a
thousand marbles.” I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to
say”Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they
pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your
family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty
or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It’s too bad you missed your
daughter’s “dance recital” he continued. “Let me tell you something that
has helped me keep my own priorities.” And that’s when he began to explain
his theory of a “thousand marbles.”
“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average
person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some
live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.
“Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900, which is the
number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime.
Now, stick with me, Tom, I’m getting to the important part.
It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any
detail” he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over
twenty-eight hundred Saturdays.” “I got to thinking that if I lived to be
seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went
to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having
to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and
put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack
next to my gear.”
“Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it
away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the
really important things in life.

There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to
help get your priorities straight .”

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my
lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble
out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then
I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is
a little more time.”

“It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family,
and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 Year old Man,
K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I
guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the
antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to
work on the next club newsletter. 

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey,
I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast” “What brought this on?” she
asked with a smile. “Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a long time since
we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy
store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.



honeybees flying at front of hive

We were working in the garden this weekend and had to walk by the bees a number of times.  They were very active and I really enjoyed hearing the sounds of the hive.  The honey flow should be done until this Fall so I don’t know what they are so busy doing.  We have noticed them in great number on the corn tassels but it seems strange that they would be so active for that.

honeybees at hive entrance

Anyhow, we need to harvest the honey soon so I will know better then how this year has gone for them.  Press the arrows below to hear some sounds I recorded near the hive. You may have to adjust your volume.

[audio:] [audio:] [audio:]

Congratulations Emily!

Emily - Character Educator of the YearEmily was nominated for the Paul Morris Character Educator of the Year by her principal this year and she won the award!  I read the nomination letter and it was absolutely beautiful.  She loves working with the kids at Piedmont and I know she deserves this state-wide award.  Congratulations Emily – I am very proud!

By the way, don’t tell her this picture is on here.  I made her stand by the sign for the picture.  She was so humble!

Abigail tied her shoes…by herself!

Abigail about to kick

Abigail tied her shoes all by herself yesterday morning! This is the first time she did it completely un-aided! I was so excited that I just had to mark the occasion with a picture. Isaac tried to explain how to double knot the laces but we’ll have to demonstrate later today. Anyhow, she was incredibly proud and so am I!

Proud girl
muscle man

Big Kick Soccer Camp

big kick soccer logo
Every year, our church sponsors a soccer camp/vacation Bible school known as Big Kick Soccer Camp.  This year we have around 150 kids, aged 4-12 years and 20 or so coaches, aged 250-300 years…or so it feels.

Abigail about to kick

Anyhow, my kids are surely having a ball playing soccer, getting really muddy and hearing Bible stories.  These pictures are from last night, a perfect soccer evening!
Isaac in the net


Abigail and her handsome coach
Team Portugal

More on the pressure canner

We canned a bunch of green beans last night with the new pressure cooker. I really enjoy using the All-American pressure cooker for a number of reasons. It seems to come to temperature very fast. This could really be a perception thing since it has a temperature gauge.

Emily with Beans


With a normal weighted-pressure cooker without a gauge (see pic below), I always watch the pot never knowing if it is almost at pressure, if the heat is actaully climbing, etc…and, of course, a watched pot never boils. With this canner, I can see the temp and pressure as soon as it boils. I also like this canner because it does not have a rubber gasket to break down and fail. The All-American is formed in a shape such that a metal-to-metal seal is formed. It is also American made (of course) which I appreciate.

All American Canner

Now, the bad stuff…you have to get the lid and base of the canner lined up just right or a seal will not form and the canner will not get to pressure. We ran into this problem last night on our second load of green beans. I didn’t realize it was not sealed until it got pretty hot. I couldn’t just open it and try again (it was still very hot, even though not to pressure). We’ll recan the beans tonight since it was almost midnight when we figured it all out. We’ll just put new lids on the jars and try again.

All American Gauge

Most times this canner seals fine but I always have to gently pry the lid from the base after it cools.

It forms a very tight seal. The manual says that a screwdriver placed just right will break the seal (and it does) but I wish I could just pop the lid off every time. It is possible that I am not aligning the lid right when I screw down the bolts that hold the lid and base together. I think that task is nearly impossible though. This is a small issue but an issue nonetheless.

Finally, the All-American is very heavy compared to other canners. This is good and bad. It has a substantial feel to it for sure. The problem is that it is not recommended for glass top stoves and it is heavy to move when full. the price is fairly high but it should last a lifetime. It just has a quiality look-and-feel which I really appreciate.

All American Canner

Pressure Cooker...not a canner


I sort of like the sounds of canning so I recorded some of what we were doing last night with the canner. I hope you enjoy this “sound-seeing tour”.  Click the arrow below to hear it :

Canner sounds

Our Anniversary – 14 years!

My Bride!

Fourteen years ago today, Emily and I were married in Charleston. It’s hard to believe how fast the time has flown. We have lived in 3 states, have 2 beautiful kids, a great place to live, jobs we like and we love each other more than ever. I never dreamed that life would work quite like it has, but through ups and downs, we’ve mostly had a lot of fun and I couldn’t imagine it any other way! Thanks wife!

Now, on to the other part…we got each other some interesting presents this year. Actually, we each bought our own, but we had the other’s blessing. Emily got me a new All-American pressure cooker and I got her some aquamarine earrings.  This is a good arrangement!Emily's gift
My gift

Green beans have started

My parents were in town last weekend and helped us harvest from the garden. Most of out time was spent picking beans. There were 6 rows of tenderette bush beans to pick. All together, we harvested 44 pounds of beans on this first picking. A bushel of beans of 30 pounds so we picked about one and a half bushels all together. We expect to harvest again this weekend and we may get another harvest after that. Once we picked, we spent a good deal of time snapping the ends off the beans and breaking them into pieces for canning. With two pressure canners going, we canned 30 quarts of beans on Saturday/Sunday. Beans are simple to can. We fill the warm jars nearly to the top with beans, add boiling water and a teaspoon of canning salt and pressure can them at 240 degrees for 25 minutes. Of the 30 quarts, only one didn’t seal. Aside from the beans we canned, three families had a good helping of fresh beans to boot. Emily’s grandfather mentioned and I have read that beans near tomatoes do better than beans alone and that certainly was true of our first harvest. We have one row of beans between two rows of tomatoes and they are larger, healthier plants and produced more beans than the rows that were away from the tomatoes. Next year, we will plant tomatoes and beans, every other row.

a 5-gal bucket o' beans

Dad processing beans

Momaw processing beans

Mom and Abigail doing beans

beans ready for the jar

beans to be canned