Thursday, August 30, 2018

Backyard Pears = "Pear-fect" Salad

Not long after moving to our home 33 years ago, Randy planted pear and apple trees south of our house. He'd heard my stories about my Grandma and Grandpa Neelly's fruit trees. And though he never got to enjoy my Grandma's Green Apple Pie or her Pear Honey, he is a believer in planting trees for the future.
For some reason, the apple trees never flourished. But the pear trees have produced fairly well throughout the years. Sometimes, the pears never make it to our table. In 2010, while I was waiting for the bumper crop of fruit to ripen, every single pear disappeared. I'm not sure whether it was varmints or people who helped themselves.
Every year in April as the trees bloom with buds, I wonder if we'll send up with fruit to eat. The challenge with pears is to know when to pick them. I Googled that, too, and found a publication from Oregon State University Extension. (I love Extension.)
"To tell if a pear is mature, a general rule of thumb is that, while still on the tree, most mature, ready to ripen pears will usually detach when "tilted" to a horizontal position from their usual vertical hanging position. 
"Unlike apples, which are ready to eat from the day they are picked, pears must go through a series of changes before they can deliver their full splendor. Pears do not ripen on the tree to our liking. If allowed to tree-ripen, pears typically ripen from the inside out, so that the center is mushy by the time the outside flesh is ready."     
David Sugar, Oregon State University
Commercial growers refrigerate pears right after picking. So, for the past several years, that's what we've done. Randy picked some a few weeks ago and put them in a big brown paper bag in the basement fridge. He also left some on the trees.

I guess we should have picked them all. The bandits returned and not a single pear remains. This time, Randy's detective skills have deduced that the thieves were squirrels. He watched a squirrel race across the road with a pear in his mouth. I'm not sure they will "save" like acorns.

Thankfully, we still have some to enjoy. This week, I tried a salad recipe using our homegrown pears. So, whether you have pear trees in your yard or whether you have to purchase them from the farmer's market or the produce aisle, we recommend this tasty salad! Enjoy!
Pear, Walnut & Gorgonzola Salad
10 oz. mixed greens (I used romaine hearts)
1 large or two small pears, chopped
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, lightly roasted
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. poppy seeds

Combine salad ingredients in a large salad bowl. Combined dressing ingredients in a container with a lid. Shake well. Pour dressing over salad and toss. (FYI: I didn't use all the dressing for this amount of salad. Refrigerate the leftovers and use another day.)

Notes: There are some people in my family who find gorgonzola too strong. If I were making this salad for them, I would substitute feta. Another tasty substitute could be cubed sharp cheddar or white cheddar cheese.

The original recipe called for 1/2 cup diced red onion. I didn't have red onion on hand. If you like the "bite" of red onion, feel free to add it to the mix.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Flights of Fancy

"Imagination is more important than knowledge.
For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand,
while imagination embraces the entire world,
and all there ever will be to know and understand."
Albert Einstein, 1879-1955
Nobel Prize for Physics, 1921

Fairies are living in a housing complex at our farmstead. If imagination is important to the likes of Albert Einstein, surely I can get away with a flight of fancy, can't I?

I know Albert had that whole genius thing going on. Me? Not so much, but at least I'm in good company.
Our August rains have spawned a "fairy housing development" in our driveway. Every time I see them, I think about elves and fairies hiding in the grass underneath.

Before anyone calls for my quick committal to the loony bin, I will plead my case: Doesn't my version of toadstools sound more enticing than the true definition?
"A toadstool is a name given to many umbrella-shaped fungi, mostly of the genus Agaricus. The species are almost numberless. They grow on decaying organic matter."
Yep, that's my yard - decaying organic matter.

So is it any wonder that I prefer to see things a bit differently? Instead of seeing fungi, I see fairyland apartments.
Here's the duplex unit. 
Tiny homes are in vogue these days, as evidenced by multiple HGTV and DIY network shows. Tiny homes seem a natural fit for fairies.
Speaking of newfangled trends, yurts also have their own home improvement show, so it's only right that Fairyland has that accommodation available, too.

Some are high rise buildings. (Surely there is a fantastic restaurant with a 360-degree, panoramic view on the top of this fairyland structure.)
However, even fairy developments can have a little neighborhood blight.

It's not what you look at that matters,
 it's what you see.
Henry David Thoreau

Fellow Stafford County blogger Lyn Fenwick wrote about Fairy Rings on her blog last week. Our County Line fairytale neighborhood is not in cul de sac (or ring) form. Check out her blog here. I really wasn't copying Lyn. We were at a Salina golf course on August 20 and saw lots of toadstools, including some in rings. Since Randy was golfing, I didn't take photos of them. (I should have and could have. He is the most patient person I know.)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

August and Rain Puddles: Unexpected Blessings

August and rain puddles? They don't usually belong in the same sentence.
We are thankful for the unseasonable rain this month. Our gauge has topped 6 inches this month.
The weeds are out of control in our fields and in the neighbors', too.
But that's a better problem than bone-dry fields.

A Time to Think

The more I study nature,
the more I stand amazed
 at the work of the Creator.
 –Louis Pasteur, French chemist

A Time to Act

Be mindful of the simple everyday blessings
God showers upon you.


A Time to Pray

Open my eyes, Father, to Your world filled with surprises.
Email devotional from

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Exploring with Kinley and Brooke: Kansas Staycation

A new school year was about to commence
So a short trip to Wichita made perfect sense.
Kinley was counting the days 'til first grade.
So it was high time more memories were made!

Brooke would soon move to a new school as well.
So some time with the family would really be swell.
Grandma and Grandpa and Mommy went, too.
There'd surely be plenty of fun things to do!
Across a big bridge, our group took a walk.
To this big statue, the people do flock. 
Keeper of the Plains rises up in the sky
Its hands lifting upward. It surely is high!
Photo from Kansas Travel
Learning doesn't only take place at a school
Visiting a museum is always real cool.
We'd spend a few hours at Exploration Place
It was a science-filled, adventurous space!
One of the rooms featured some sharks
Those big, ugly teeth would surely leave marks!
Thankfully, these teeth were no longer attached.
Their power and size left human's unmatched.
Swimming with sharks is not in our plan
Even though Grandpa may think that he can!
Into a cage, we'll leave experts to dive
We'd rather keep Grandpa Randy alive!
Next we searched high and then we searched low
Looking for shark's teeth, it was a slow go.
We dug through the box. 
We looked left and right.
For these shark teeth weren't big. 
They were really quite slight
The museum lady helped us to look
Sharp eyes and some patience is all that it took.
We put all our finds in a pile to our right.
And then went on looking again with the light.
A puzzle with shark parts was next on our list.
Playing with puzzles? We couldn't resist!
It seemed that the sharks were out for a swim
Keep your hands in the "boat!" A bite would be grim!
Kinley and Brooke gave the screens a long look
While standing around in the oceany nook.
There were tons of facts for two girls to learn
Punching the buttons, they each took a turn.
Then they took crayons and started to trace
It's great to spend time in a really fun place!
Over our shoulders was danger. Oh no!
We'd better get moving. We'd better go!
The girls went on to a place "Where Kids Rule"
A castle? Some horses? It was really quite cool.
A puppet playhouse was a place for Miss Brooke
She really did like that play-acting nook!
Though she wasn't in trouble, Kinley still posed.
We sent Daddy a picture: Do you think he supposed
That Kinley deserved her time in the rack?
No, I think he would want his biggest girl back!
Aviation was also a theme of the day
Into an airplane, the girls went to play.
Paper plane building requires some skills
Folding the paper? It gave us some thrills!
Launching an airplane into the sky.
We hoped it would soar. We hoped it flew high!
Then we examined the life lived by bees.
A magnifying glass made that a breeze.
Brooke thought getting close with her eyes
Would help her learn all of the hows and the whys.
Water provided some ebbs and some flows
With some channels and dikes, the water it slows.
Playing with water for Grandpa and girls.
Left behind rivers and eddys and swirls.
Stafford County was on one display
It made Grandpa happy. That made his day!
In our state of Kansas, water plays a big role
Conserving the aquifer is part of the goal.
Tornadoes are also a part of our state
Really, they are a part that we hate!
We spent some time in a tube with the wind
Eyes squinted, hair blowing, we had to contend.
While Kinley held onto the hair on her head
Brooke leapt with glee while the wind waled and sped!
Kansas in Miniature Photos from the Exploration Place website
Another display showed some really small places
Kansas in Miniature lit up our faces.
Scenes from the '50s provided the theme.
A train glided past and we started to dream
Of living and working in such tiny space.
Oh, it was a beautiful, magical place!

Our time at the museum had come to an end
What an adventurous day we did spend!
Til' next time, when the grands we will meet
Time with our family? It surely is sweet!

Note: Our trip to Exploration Place was August 9, before school started. It takes a little time to edit photos and write in rhyme. It is another installment in my Kansas Staycation posts.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Broken Open: Thoughts at Sunset

In a video clip at Sunday School, we listened to a young mom talk about the death of her premature son. Though the interview was taped a few years after the baby's death, the loss was still visibly raw as the mom talked about the experience through her tears. Since I'm the facilitator for the class, I'd watched the video clip more than once before sharing it. It wasn't easy to watch - even the third time around.

In it, she talked about being "broken open" rather than simply "broken."  She acknowledged that she would never be the same. At first, she tried to be the same Amy she always had been. She tried to be the same at home, at her job and with her friends. But she soon realized that she was changed and she had to grow and evolve with that change. She said that being "broken open" had forced her to give up her own agenda. It had given God a chance to fill the empty spaces with His Light.

Sunday evening, Randy was baling alfalfa. He called me on the phone.
"Hey, the sunset has the potential to be really pretty," he told me.

He rarely steers me wrong, so I grabbed the camera and left the air-conditioned house for a twilight drive down country roads. And as I looked for places to capture the day's end, I again thought about the young mother's story and her thoughts about being broken open.
A crystal clear day doesn't produce a spectacular sunset. It just doesn't.
Adding a "frame" formed by a pasture gate.
It's the clouds that paint the evening's colorful canvas with texture and variety.
As the light played peekaboo with the clouds, the scene shifted with each passing minute. 
A look to the east provided a whole different perspective on the evening's light show.
Most of us would prefer our lives to be "cloud free." But it was not that kind of week last week around here.
Looking east over a neighbor's soybean field
But maybe - just maybe - those "cloudy" days can have some beauty after all if we're open to letting the Light shine through them.

I likely have a different perspective about clouds anyway. And, as a farm partner, all the rain clouds this month have been welcome. Though we aren't out of drought conditions, the rainfall this summer has been beneficial after a dry winter and early spring. So the rumble of faraway thunder was a welcome accompaniment to the full-screen picture show.

A Time to Think

Without faith, we are as stained glass windows in the dark.

FYI:  The video clip is part of Scott J. Jones' The Wesleyan Way: A Faith That Matters.