Friday, May 8, 2015

Our Good Old Cozy Little Country House

Judy and I are totally happy in our
good old cozy little country house.
It's good (for us).
It's old (about 100).
It's cozy (but not cramped).
It's little (but bigger than a breadbox).
And it's country.

When you have a little house and the weather
is beautiful, it's a blessing to have lots of
surrounding land to ramble about on. 
And I did a bit of that today.  Now I get
extra credit for exercising my knee.

This is Royal Fern, found at the stream.

This ocean of Bracken Fern is on the dry sandy land
between our stream and a natural wetland.

Our Orange Milkwort spreads a bit every year.  Once
I identified it, I've been careful to preserve and
nurture it on the path to the stream.

Cinnamon Fern.

A blackberry patch on the path to the stream.
Though it grows larger every year, birds and deer
beat us to the harvest.  But that's okay.

Our 100 year-old pear trees appear to be laden
with a bumper crop of old-fashioned pears this year.
Last year looked good, but they mysteriously disappeared.
We suspected squirrel, but will be observing closely.

These pears are hickory-nut size, quite promising
for this early in the year.

Ebony Spleenwort is a small but sturdy fern.
Like Bracken fern, it does fine in dry areas.
Ferns are quite diverse, including habitat.

The proliferating Prickly Pear Cactus is oblivious
to the fire ants in the midst.  And vice versa.
The cactus will abound with waxy yellow blooms soon.

This blackberry patch is at the roadside, and last year
the deer left it alone.  It helped Judy to a summer of
cobblers and muffins, with a few left over to freeze.

This unusual plant is Cranefly Orchid, which I first
got acquainted with on the Farm Life Nature Trail.
As far as I know, this is the only patch of it on our
property.  The violet or purplish underside of the
leaves aids in identification.  The plant produces a
single leaf each year, and some years, a single flower,
which resembles a cranefly on a stalk.  But to me,
the most interesting thing about the orchid is that it
lives from fall to spring, when the leaf withers, and
the plant remains dormant during the summer heat.

Pipssissewa, or spotted wintergreen, is one of my
favorites.  As nature instructor as Camp Cherokee,
I chose this little plant for my Indian name.
In June, its tiny white flowers will open wide briefly.
 Some of our favorite plants grow right
around the house.
This cool-weather loving plant is Bellwort.
But it's also known as Trinity, due to its trademark
three petals.  I have told the grandchildren how that
stands for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each
of them has taken a specimen home to plant.

Judy adores the Sweet Shrubs that provide a
lovely fragrance to her prayer garden.

We hope to get a lot of blueberries from this bush
in the prayer garden.  But we may have to share
with the deer.

This Coral Honeysuckle is not as sprawling as wild
honeysuckle.  I dug this up in the woods years ago,
and it continues to thrive.

Another of our most fragrant plants is Mock Orange.
We are thankful to be the beneficiaries of past
residents who planted lots of old-fashioned varieties
not available at most garden centers.

Can you blame us for spending so much time outdoors?
At least until it's time to head back in to our
good old cozy little country house.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Some Days are Better Than Others!

And this day was one of the best!  One of
those rare days we had all four grandkids
together.  The chemistry is remarkable, no
matter what combination they arrange
themselves in.

Before Claire and Evan arrived, Bri and Hunter
entertained themselves in the playroom.

In the wink of an eye, Hunter had created this
magnetic machine.  Wow, did he impress me!

Our timing was perfect to see tree cutters across the
road doing some of their most amazing work.

Jennifer carried on a family tradition, reading
Uncle Remus's "Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby"
to the kids.

The boys soon headed out to the swings to try
to set some new records.
 Evan loves to play Roy Rogers, and suggested
that I be Roy, senior; Hunter be Roy, junior,
and Evan be "Baby Roy."
Then I came up with the idea of having "training"
for my boys.

This included learning how to find where
bad guys hide, climbing obstacle courses,
pulling heavy loads (like a cousin in a wagon),
and weapons competition.  I'm not sure Roy
ever used a light saber, but who cares?
Yep, bad guys hide behind fallen trees sometimes.

Roll 'em, roll 'em, roll 'em,
keeps those wagons rollin'.

Eat your heart out Luke Skywalker
and Darth Vader.  You, too, Robin Hood.

Obstacle course, climbing wall, and
martial arts (punching bag).
Interestingly, both boys say they want to
be policemen when they grow up.
They sure pass the "Roy Rogers" test.

Later, the boys re-discovered the colorful millipedes
that populate our water meter.

Hunter captured several and shared with Evan.

The boys are big enough to try out these Nerf hoops.

Part of the afternoon was spent at the tree house
and rope swing area.

The girls, in particular, love this swing.

It was back to lumberjack watching before the
afternoon ended.  These guys were terrific cheerleaders
for the hardworking laborers.  Instead of "Timber",
Hunter called out "TIM-BO!" It was too cute for
me to correct him.

These admiring fans cheered the workers on
to victory.

At times it seemed more like Stoneybrook than a workday.

With just a few minutes left, the boys watch some
vintage Spiderman cartoons.

Jennifer continues the B'rer Rabbit story on the
good ol' porch swing.

Until Claire hears that the Green Goblin is battling
Spiderman.  Then everybody decides to watch!
Yes, days like this are to be cherished.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Now THAT'S Better!

Yep.  That's a lot better.  I had to have
that ring off for a few days due to my recent
knee surgery.  I took advantage of that to have
it re-sized at Honeycutt's Jeweler's in Southern
Pines, where Judy bought it for me 39 years ago.
Now it fits, but not too loosely, and has been
re-engraved and nicely burnished.
It's back where it belongs.

So that's better, and so is my knee!
Since most of you have family or friends
with plenty of surgical experiences (and
quite possibly yourselves), I won't bore you
with a journal type review of my own experience.

But I would like to say I thank God and the people
He has placed in my life that have made this a time
of learning, healing, and thanksgiving.

First, my surgeon, Dr. Jason Guevara, is a Christian,
and member of Judy's church, Grace Church.  So is
Dr. Lupkus, who in spite of still recovering from his
own knee surgery, came in on his day off to be my
anesthesiologist.  Other Christian friends have been
there for me at every turn.

The very best part of all is that I wasn't sent to a
rehab center.  I was sent straight home under the
care of Moore County's best caregiver and cook,
my Judy.

She's still in the midst of helping me with 21 one
days of sponge baths, washing hair in the kitchen
sink, and making sure I get my meds and ice on time.

My appetite has been good, but not big, so our left-
overs are lasting longer.  But every meal since I
woke up from surgery has been a pleasure, and I'm
thankful for that.

They give you plenty of pain meds, and I'm gradually
being weaned from them.  The leg muscles were
strong before surgery, and thanks to the wise
guidance of home therapists from First Health
and now Dr. Teri Walsh of Appalachian Physical
Therapy, the muscles are coordinating better and
better to make the new knee function naturally.

Teri says I should avoid tennis and running or
shooting basketball layups.  Anything with great
impact is a no-no.  But hiking is a YES. She even
said I'll be fine to teach the grandkids Four Square
when the time is right.  I need to ask her about
jump rope tricks.  I know that's high impact, but
perhaps with a cushioned mat I can at least show
the kids some cool tricks when they're about 8.

So I'm thankful, excited, and hopeful about a full
return to my favorite activities.  Surgery on the
second knee awaits, possibly by mid-summer.
If it goes as well as this one, by fall I truly will
feel like I'm liberated by my new healthy knees.

Friday, April 3, 2015

P.S. : I'm Done With That!

Yeah, it will take a little getting used to.
Haven't had it off in probably 25 years,
but P.S., I'm done with that.
That scar won't go away, but I can handle it.

That's not all I'm done with.
I've done "household chores" for the last time.
I'm not cranking that chain saw or lawn mower
again. Splitting wood?  Uh-uh.

I'm done with working on the nature trail
and nursing home singalongs. And after I
play the piano on Easter Sunday, I'm done with
that.  Delores understands and forgives me.
Judy understands, too, and so do some others.

I've washed the car for the last time,
I won't be setting foot in the garden.
And this might just be my last blog post.
We'll see.

By the way, P.S. is my abbreviation for 
Pre-Surgery.  I'm getting my left knee replaced
next Wednesday, and then I'll be done with 
that, too!

And hopefully, soon I'll be able to get back
to all those things that I love so much.
Cutting wood, cutting grass, gardening.
Washing the car-- not so much. Once a year.

I'll be hoppin' down the nature trail like
Peter Cottontail before you know it.
And back at the nursing homes and other
venues to share music with one and all.

And I'll be especially glad to get that
wedding band back.  You know, you can't
wear any jewelry into surgery. But I couldn't
get it off.  I honestly have no recollection of
the last time I ever took it off.

So today, I took it to Honeycutt Jewelers in
Southern Pines, where Judy purchased my ring
(and I, hers). I was there when they opened at
10 and by 10:08 they had cut it off with their
handy tools and measured me for a size larger.
Most likely, Judy will need to pick it up when
it's ready, because driving? I'll be done with that,
too, as of next Wednesday.
And once I put it back on, I'll introduce it to my 
new knee.  The knee is supposed to be good for
25 years.  I guarantee you the ring is good for
longer than that!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

48 Hours of March to April-- no foolin'

A ton of things happened at our house on the
last day of March and the first day of April.
And I'm not foolin.'  Check it out.

Bri and Hunter were delighted with a bucket
balance I got at a yard sale. Throw in some donated
surplus "gram-stackers" and we've instant fun. We
started by weighing and comparing some random
toys they selected.

Sound strategies quickly emerged.
Estimating, comparing, and logic were employed.

We recorded the weight of each object and
at the conclusion, Bri ranked all objects from
heaviest to lightest.  And by the way, this
wasn't school!

Let's listen in on Bri thinking out loud.

We weren't inside long on that beautiful day.
Bri is trying out the constantly improving
Tarzan swing.  Again, she calls it amazing. 

The padded hand grips make a big difference.
No blisters!

Here's what Bri thinks is fun.

Hunter did a million things at our house,
but he was in constant motion and kept
turning out as a blur.  Normal for a kid
who sometimes calls himself Flash.
Lets watch him work with our tepee
(From Uncle Buddy to Jennifer and Amanda
decades ago).

Let's try it like this.

No, let's fold it up and start over.

Uh, what happened?

Grandpa, are you sure all the grandkids like
to wear these handcuffs?

Fast forward to Thursday, April Fools Day.
There was no foolin' around, just playin' around.
Claire falls in love with the improved swing.

Not once have any of the children slipped off.
It's exhilarating to leap off into space, even if
you're only a couple of feet above the ground.

Here's our conversation:
Claire: I really like this swing!
Grandpa: I'm glad you do.
Claire: I'm glad you're glad.
Grandpa: I'm glad you're glad I'm glad.
Moral: You can't out-corny Grandpa.

Let's see what tricks Claire has mastered.
(By the way, Claire spent at least 30 minutes
with me just swinging back and forth in pure
delight.  After we returned to the house, she
insisted that Judy go back with her.  That time,
she swung across the ravine FORTY more times.
And when Jennifer arrived to pick the kids up,
both Evan and Claire had to show off their
trapeze skills many times before they could leave.) 

Meanwhile, Evan and Grandma are waging
dinosaur war on the front porch. How we love
these days when the doors can be flung open
wide and everywhere is a play space.

My camera angle makes it look like Evan is
Superman (he really is, but don't tell anyone).
He's actually demonstrating how to glide down
our ramp on two scooters at once.

But he's perfectly willing to share when
Claire wants a turn.

Claire scoots up to Grandma while Evan
courts disaster.  Rule # 1, Ev-man: No
broken bones at Grandma and Grandpa's!

Here's the Ev-man in action.

Mom will be here soon-- what have we 
not done?  How about shooting soldiers
with Grandpa's cannon?

Right.  We haven't done that since last fall.

Pretty good shootin', sharpshooter.
(Uncle Buddy and I collected these World
War II figures at Woolworth's more than
50 years ago.)

After Jennifer arrived, everyone was inside
except Evan.  I stepped out back and called
his name.  No answer.  I turned and saw him
grinning at me from the dogwood tree. (The
same one Jennifer and Amanda climbed back
in the 80's.)

I smiled back at him and asked, "What are
you doing up in that tree?"
He gazed seriously into my eyes and replied,
"Today is a day for tricking people, isn't it?"
Yes, it was, and for making a lot of people happy!