Monthly Archives: September 2009

Wednesday Five

I got this meme from Evil Twin’s Wife. I think it’s supposed to be a Friday thing, but she bucked the system and did it on Monday. I asked to play along and I’m going to also be a rebel and post it on Wednesday!  You see, I am eccentric and weird (I’m bald, right…I must be eccentric!)

The way this works is that she gives me five words, upon which I am supposed to ponder and delight you with my expositions on the meaning to life as related to said words…
If you want to play along, leave a comment and I’ll flip thru a dictionary and send you five words. Of course, you can leave a comment even if you don’t want to play…

Salt –  We have our garden in Malden, WV which used to be especially famous for its salt mines.  It is still known by some as Kanawha Salines after the most important mine in the area.  The other cool thing about the area is that Booker T Washington spent several years of his early life in the area (which was, of course, popular because of its mines).

Ballad – I can’t improve on the words of my favorite ballad (which is PG by the way):

Football – by football, I think you must be thinking of “real” football like they play in Europe.  My high school didn’t have that barbaric sport that is so popular in the United States.  Anyhow, I played real football in high  school.  I don’t know that I was ever great at soccer but I had a lot of fun smashing into other people.  My kids both play soccer now and I coach my son’s team…it’s a huge part of our life now.

Tube – I guess you can say I got my start in a tube, but we’ll leave my mother’s anatomy out of this.  Probably more interesting is the fact that we don’t have cable tv in our house so we spend very little time watching the tube, though we do have a pretty big tv.  When we were first married, we couldn’t afford cable.  We had to come up with other things to do with our time…you know, like talk.  Of course, that has gotten old, but we have found other hobbies to occupy our time.  So…not much tube in our house

Escape – Escape is one of those funny words that I always chuckle when I hear.  There is a part in Finding Nemo when Dory reads the word “escape” on a submarine hatch…but she reads it “es-skap-eh”.  So now, every time I see a Ford Escape, I feel compelled to say out loud, “Es-skap-eh” in my best Dory voice.  I couldn’t find that clip but I like this one too so you’ll have to cope:

Me Warren…you Jane

I returned a bit to my primal-ancestral ways this weekend.  Besides the urge I had to dance ’round a fire with a spear, I had an opportunity to swing among the trees.  In Fayetteville, WV, there is a fairly new canopy tour among the trees in some of the most beautiful forest I have seen in a long time.

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Anyone in this area knows that it rained cats and dogs this Saturday.  The tour company cancels for neither man, no beast…only lightning.  I guess the Post Office still has one up on canopy tours.  Anyhow, we arrived in the pouring rain and prepared for our tour.  My preparation involved hitting the restroom one last time and slamming down some health food…a Snickers bar.

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The tour is 2-3 hours in length and there are no tree-side rest areas along the way.  I suppose, since it was raining so hard, we probably did have some options but no one wanted to really go there when it came to going there.

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So, we tied into our male-sterilizers…I mean harnesses and started the course.  It was breathtaking.  We whisked, platform to platform between what appeared to be ancient trees.  At first, we started at near ground level.  As we progressed slowly down the mountain, we quickly ended up in the tops of enormous hemlock and magnolia trees.  At the highest point, we were 85 feet off the ground in a tree…not the top of the tree, mind you.  It was far taller than that.

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Hemlock trees are being decimated by a beetle that destroys entire forests.  A portion of our tour fees goes to treating the trees to prevent their destruction.  After standing high up in the tree, I am pleased they are dedicated to preserving such beauty.  We could see all around.  There were “fields” or rhododendron and mountain laurel.  There were wild, rushing streams and rock formations formed long ago.  It was incredible and a bit spiritual for me.  It just felt like how life is supposed to be.  I mean, the ziplining was a blast, but I think I may have enjoyed just looking out through the forest and seeing nature.  The only noise was the sound of raining falling through the leaves (and down my back) and the rush of the streams.


(I am flying by…the photographer’s timing was good!)

So, as I mentioned, it sort of rained some….I think Noah once said that too.  Anyhow, my pictures aren’t great, but I don’t think they could begin to do this trip justice anyhow.  The Rivermen do a fantastic job and I can’t recommend them enough.  If you have an urge to get outdoors, to have a thrill, or just do something different, try ziplining in WV!

There is a resemblance…

I was looking back at some old pics I had of various members of the family and I found two that sort of made me double-take.  I had to ask my Mom about it and she straightened me out.  I found an old photo of my Grandma in 1928 when she was 13.  I saw another picture of my Mom in 1952 when she was 6.  Before I knew the dates, I figured they were the same person spaced only by a few years.  They are old pics…I mean really really old pics.  Who could tell?!

Jan Wise ca1952

(My Mom)

Anyhow, even more than the similarities between these pictures, I think both pictures look like my Mom as I remember her when she was younger (but that was a looong time ago).  I don’t really know what my point is other than to say it’s weird to see old pictures of people.  As long as I can remember, my Grandparents were old.  They both had gray hair and wrinkles and all of the old Grandma/Grandpa sorts of things.  I love my Grandma tremendously and miss her indeed.  My Grandpa is 95 and still a riot.  I guess he probably has been old for as long as I can remember.

Florence Gardner 1928

(My Grandma)

But it is strange to look back at these pictures and think that my Grandparents were young and frisky and aggravating to their parents.  They rode scooters and climbed trees and played kickball and talked too much in class.  They became teens and twenty-somethings and parents and went through all of the same things we are going through raising our kids.

Does anyone else have a hard time seeing their elders as…well…regular people?  As I age (but I am still dang young!), I think I am starting to understand.  I see a resemblance between those pictures for sure, but I believe I am beginning to see a resemblance between our lives as well…and it’s a lovely picture.

Oh the West Virginia hills, how majestic and how grand

I have told people that we are hilly here in WV.  I think most people don’t really understand what I mean when I say hilly.  You see, there are very few spots of flat land in Charleston, WV and most of those are either in a bad flood plain or are underneath some business.  The rest of the area is hilly.  Some  say you need a longer leg on one side to walk the hills and it’s true.  We take our hills seriously in WV.  I decided to take a video of my ride home from work one day.  There are a couple ways I could go but this is my typical route.  I am not sure that this video even does the trip justice, but I think you’ll get the idea…


(please holler/leave a comment if this video doesn’t work for you…some folks have had trouble…I can reset the webserver which may help)

I love the WV hills for sure and so did the author of our state song…an atrocious song, but one that honors our hills.  Ok, promise me you’ll listen to that song and then I’ll share with you a few more WV songs…go on…have a listen…

(stop it at around 5:15 if you are easily offended…this is the only version I could find)

See what I mean?  It’s a bit painful isn’t it?

Most people are familiar with the John Denver song, Country Roads.  Have a listen to it:

Some folks fuss about this song but I don’t pay much attention to them.  This is a great song and, for me anyhow, a real WV song.

So, John Denver’s song is a WV song, but in my mind, the WV song is this one:

(here’s an audio only version which may be clearer)

Emily and I went to college at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where this song was first introduced to me. Dang, it brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it.

So, I love my WV hills. My wife says they wrap her up and hug her every day as she looks out on them. I can’t think of a better way of putting it. I love my home among the hills!

Meet Steve…he’s green

We’ve been a 2 car family for some time. I typically drove the tan colored Dodge man-van and Emily drove a green Chevy Lumina. The van was fairly new but we had the Lumina for awhile…it was 10 years old and starting to get wrinkles and excess gas. I mean that…the old girl had a few dings and started smelling like gas. We did our duty and took her to the mechanic to find the gas leak problem. They spent all sorts of time (and all sorts of our money) looking for the problem to no avail. We coped for awhile but finally decided that our family going out in a fiery car crash was not the way to go (at least until I get much older).

We started doing our homework and decided we needed a few things in our new car. First, we needed space for Isaac to grow. He’s becoming gigantic with no signs of a slowdown in the near future. He wears the same size shoes as I do (he’s 9) and he’s approaching Emily’s height. I didn’t want the backseat to be too large though. Isaac will be driving before too long. Enough said. We also decided we wanted a car with all-wheel drive. Winters here aren’t awful, but we do definitely get snow and it can be a problem at times. Safety was important because we figured Isaac will learn to drive on this car. By the way, 15 year olds should not drive. It’s crazy! And boys especially should not drive until they are 30. I once was a boy and I remember some of testosterone induced stupidness of 15 to 30 year olds. Finally, I wanted a car that polluted as little as possible and got good gas mileage, etc.

We looked at the Honda CR/V, the Toyota Rav/4 and the Subaru Forester. We didn’t like any of those options for various reasons. While we were at the Subaru dealer, we spotted an Outback that was beside the Forester on the showroom floor. It looked cool.

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We decided to drive the Outback and that was all she wrote as they say.  It had all those things I mentioned above plus heated seats!  There were a few other cool features that made it even better…it is a PZEV car (partial zero emission vehicle) which means there are times when it runs that it release no emissions.  It also has a continuously variable transmission (CVT).  The details are fairly interesting but let’s just say it is heavy on cool and also enhances fuel economy.

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So we drove Steve home.  You see, like many people, we name our vehicles and this one is named Steve.  He’s green and he’s green.  We like Steve!

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And of course, in typical fashion, the man-van (Bessie) started slipping out of gear right after we trade the car.  Mind you, this is not an old van.  We bought it new and have had all of the maintenance done on it since day one.  It is a serious heap.  We’ve had one problem after another but keep thinking, “this will be it…once we fix xyz, it will be fine.”  I will never buy another Dodge again (sorry to all my Dodge friends).  We may go have a look at Steve’s twin Ronny…

Cider Press Plans

Since I made my cider press last year, I have had numerous people ask me for the plans I used to build it.  I couldn’t find any plans either so I sort of just starting cutting and drilling and painting.  I figured that when it finally looked like a cider press, it would be done.

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I suppose I did sort of congolomerate the ideas of plenty of folks and I added a few of my own so I can’t take all of the credit.  My press is made soley of pine lumber.  Hardwood is probably better but it costs more of course.  I do sort of wish I would have had some plans when I was starting though so I will provide a few measurements that might help you build your own…


Click the image above to see the cider flowing.  (Click here for a quicktime version)

By the way…you can see some of our first cider of 2009 over at Not Dabbling in Normal today.

Anyhow, here is my homemade cider press:

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The length between the red and blue squares is 3 feet.
Between the red and green is 3 1/2 feet.
Between the green and brown is 1 foot.
I just added the yellow square because I thought it looked nice

The uprights are 2×4 pine and everything horizontal is 2×6 pine.

Hopefully these additional shots will help it all make more sense as well…

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My sunny disposition

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Even though I don’t care much for fall and winter, the sunflowers in the garden certainly do a lot to brighten my day during this time of the year.  Initially, it’s hard to get over their size.  Sunflowers are huge.  Maybe they are too huge to even really hold themselves up, but, as I have said before, I love the optimism that they seem to symbolize.  I suppose in the wild economic world in which we live, their bold yet simple existence is just what I need.

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(sorry to the box-elder bugs that I caught in a private moment)

Anyhow, enough of that philosophical stuff…I also am fascinated by the pattern of the seeds in their head and the apparently sweet nectar that draws so many bees and other bugs.  It seems like every time that I look at the sunflowers, they have a new bug climbing on them.  In addition to bouying my mood, they sustain insects in a typically difficult part of the year when most nectar sources dry up.

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I love sunflowers…not like I love Edward Cullen or Mountain Dew, but as far as natural things go, they are the tops in my book!


Just as Summer felt like it got started in the last few weeks, here it is falling into Fall already.  We’re winding up the garden and lots of things are starting to just get that look.  I sort of hate that look.  I am a Spring and Summer creature.  I don’t really have the time of day for Fall or Winter.  I get the Winter blues and cabin fever and the croup and the grumps and the uglies in the Winter.

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I am not exactly sure what it is that signals Fall to me.  As I walked around the garden and yard this weekend, a few things just sort of struck me as Fall, but there is more to it than wooly worms (holy cow!  he’s all black…that means a bad Winter!), and corn husks.

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And why exactly does a grasshopper feel like Fall to me?  I suppose that is from the movie “A Bug’s Life” where the grasshoppers come in the Fall to steal the bounty of the ants.  Well, this grasshopper was huge.  I sort of had a tingle in the non-existent hairs on the back of my neck thinking he might be able to take me too.

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Anyhow, I suppose Fall is here and I will have to return to knitting and eating lots of soup to get me through the Winter.  Does it feel like Fall where you are?  What sorts of things make it feel as though Fall has fallen for you?

Now I am experienced

Last night was my first time.  I had held out, saving myself I suppose.  Everyone said it would be special.  I wanted it to be magical…something I would never forget.  I had never been to Chuck E. Cheese.  They just didn’t exist anywhere near where I grew up so that wasn’t an option.  Once we had kids, I was busy…every single time somone had a birthday party there.  Last night, Emily’s school had a fund raiser there and she committed me before I had a chance to make other plans.  So, I got protection (hand sanitizer) and headed inside the place.

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At first, I was pretty overwhelmed by the smell of kids and the number of germ-hiding locations.  In fact, the germs were so bold that they didn’t even try to hide.  They seemed to be flying through the air before my eyes in fact.  Anyhow, we ordered some…uh…I guess you’d call it food.  We ate and then started to play.  Now folks, I never have really grown up…or at least I never grew up right.  We played skee-ball and rode on the rides.  Isaac showed me his expertise at a reaction time game and Abigail pedaled herself into the air on a magic bike.

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I tried to ride the rides but I didn’t fit too well.  The manager finally came over and asked me if I wanted a job as Chuck himself.  “I’ll pass I think…I am part elephant and am afraid of mice.”  She just shook her head and walked away.  Don’t grown-ups understand?  I am playing!

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(I wanted to see if the bucket full of tokens we got were gold)

All in all, it was a pretty good time.  A lot of kids from Emily’s school were there and I am sure they raised money.  I had a pretty good time too.  In fact, I wasn’t really ready to leave.  I did need to take 2 showers and I did a dance with a scrub brush and a bucket full of Mr. Clean!

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It’s Juicy!

My Mom makes the world’s best pies (don’t try to dispute it…) and she always makes us several varieties when we visit. Isaac has convinced her to bake a special pie whenever he comes. You see, he loves cherry flavoring but not the big old snot-like lumps (his words) of cherries in pie filling. Of course, in making the world’s best pie, one wouldn’t dream of buying canned pie filling. So, since my Mom makes her own, she is in a great position to filter out the cherries after making the syrup. That’s right, she makes cherry-juice pie for my son.

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I have to admit, I prefer cherry-juice pie to cherry-snot pie any day. All the flavor remains but you never get the surprise loogie. Now, my boy likes to eat and he is all about cleaning up the last drop of cherry juice. He gets that from his mother who has a similar feeling about ice cream and apple pie. It’s cool though because we don’t have to wash their plates after they do their tongue-cleaning.

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When we eat cherry-juice pie, we don’t talk.  It’s serious business, you see, eating the world’s best pie.  These pictures are taken over a 4 second period so the silence doesn’t last too long.  He devours pie!  So, have you ever had a juice pie or do you like the chunks (particularly in cherry pie)?

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