Still Burning

Still burning after three weeks.

Last month, on the 12th to be exact, I decided I would dispose of some old financial records that weren’t needed any more. I also had a stump in the backyard from a tree that was cut down this spring. It seemed to be a good idea to me to burn the papers and possibly the stump at the same time. I started the fire right on top of the stump and probably spent an hour getting rid of the paper. The stump was perhaps two feet in diameter and began to burn a little around the edges so I put some dry wood on it and kept it going.

It did eventually begin to burn all the way to the middle – over the next week! We would think it had gone out but a wisp of smoke would go skyward every time the irrigation would water it, so we knew there was still heat there. A couple of times I would find downed branches (we live surrounded by trees) and throw them on the stump and in an hour or so we would see flames again.

The stump itself was about two feet in diameter but the roots spread out quite a bit more. Today it began to flame again.

We had one really good rain and a couple shorter ones, and still the stump burned. It began to look different, kind of like a volcano that had blown its top. The husband was always looking out the glass doors to see if it was smoking. I was worried that the constant drift of smoke would get the neighbors upset, but maybe, like me, they kind of like the smell of a wood fire.

For the last week the fire has seemed to be out. The caldera, as the husband likes to call it, is huge, black and ashy and surrounded by its rim of large roots. We have been poking it and trying to see if we could make it level with the ground around it, but it was still needing an axe or a chain saw to break it up. As the irrigation ran this morning I was surprised to see it start smoking again. Something in there, underground, was still hot.

I have heard how important fire was to nomads who moved their camps frequently, how they would carry coals in special containers to have a fire starter when they needed it. The longevity of my burning stump must be something like that. Joe came today and cut what was left of the roots in pieces and set them on top of the hot area. Late this afternoon it flamed and our volcano is glowing hot again. I don’t know why fire and its attributes are so interesting to me, but there it is. Burning. Glowing. Fascinating.


Deciding to Change

Do you find it hard? I have held back on making changes to this blog for a long time, mostly because I have a hard time knowing what to change to.  I’m not blessed with strong design opinions that send me searching for an exact thing.  I’m not technically astute enough to know what changes would make the blog more efficient or easier to use.  I’m not into hiring people to do things for me, or looking to pay for premium themes.  I don’t have a lot of time to figure it all out.

Until now…

I’m visiting my Seattle family and am not expected to do much except amuse myself. Suddenly, there is time so I’m making the decision.  The blog will change it’s look starting April 1 with the first post of the A to Z Challenge.  On that day, if you are one of my readers and think you’ve gone to the wrong place because you are not seeing all the swirly, busy, colorful stuff going on in the theme I’ve used for the last century, no, you are in the right place, read on.

It will be simple, easy to read and navigate and full of all the usual.

I’m preparing you (and myself).  Just sayin’…

And I really am interested – what has been the hardest thing you’ve decided to change lately? Or maybe it’s something you wish you were changing and haven’t had the time, like me?

It’s A Jungle…

With all the rain we have been getting, the oneacrewoods is turning into a oneacrejungle faster than I can tame it.  Letting it go too far is a mistake that take twice as much work to correct.  I broke down and got Joe to come help me today and we began cutting things back.  You people who live in other parts of the world have no idea what I’m talking about.  The vegetation that we remove gets hauled back to a corner of the yard where I hope it will eventually break down and disappear but right now it is a giant pile higher than my head.

Vegetation mountain
Vegetation mountain

I was working in one of my pineapple plots which had become a grass plot and suddenly I heard a curious squeaking noise.  So strange, it seemed to be coming from under my feet and I finally located it.  Two small critters about four inches long with big ears were panicking in the dirt where I had just pulled up a big grass plant..  They could barely move and were entirely at my mercy.  I called Joe over to look.  We decided they were rabbits.  I’m not sure if they were just hidden in the grass or in a shallow burrow but I had evidently taken away their cover.  Joe kind of camouflaged their little depression in the soil with some grass plants and we hoped Mama rabbit would come and fetch them to another home.

An hour or so later I was talking to Joe and he said ” di you see billow ge rabbage?”  I am often clueless as to what he’s saying due to his unusual English dialect and rely more on gestures and pointing and good guesses when conversing with him.  He pointed to the pineapple patch and repeated the cryptic message.  I pondered and came up with “rabbits?”  “Yes, big billow take them rabbages.”  And since he was now pointing up in a tree I’m assuming he actually saw a hawk get the baby rabbits.  Like I said, it’s a jungle out there and everybody has to eat.  But I’m sad because they were so cute and had such a short life.

Scene of the abduction
Scene of the abduction

I raise lots of pineapples in the yard and can’t really eat them all when so many are ripe at once.  The squirrels and rabbits help me out and I guess I don’t mind as long as they leave a few for me.  But something I don’t want them to have is this nice bunch of bananas that is nearly the right size to come ripe.  It’s only a few inches off the ground and I don’t know how to protect it.  I’m glad I have a picture of the bananas, in case that is all I get.  Because it is a jungle, and we all have to eat.

Proof that there were bananas in my yard.
Proof that there were bananas in my yard.

Another Interesting Day

It’s July already and I’m having another interesting day.  Thankfully, this one had nothing to do with me visiting a doctor’s office or my health, but it does have a medical component to it.  Remember hearing about the old days when doctors made house calls?  Well, guess what? My daughter, the veterinarian, still does (read about her here). She traveled 275 miles to see this client.

patient sign-in sheet
patient sign-in sheet

We had a restful Fourth of July weekend visiting Doctor Julia ( ) in Jacksonville at her home. Then yesterday the Doc, the grand dog Tess, the husband and I all traveled south to our home. Julia still has lots of friends here and a couple of them breed Dalmatians – the dogs with all the spots. There was a litter of puppies due to go to their new homes this week and they needed their health certificates.  I always love watching the Doc work so I volunteered to go along and help.  I’m a nurse and a good animal holder.

It was kind of like being at try-outs for a remake of “101 Dalmatians”.  There were 10 of the cutest, roly, poly, wiggly pups waiting to be brought out, one by one, and checked out from head to toe.  And the process is not all that different from what I’ve recently been through, although I wasn’t checked for worms (yet).  Listen to heart and lungs, check ears and mouth, temp, stool sample, vaccines and de-wormer, toenail clip… an assembly line that amounted to a good morning’s work.

The Doc at the poop station checking for parasites...
The Doc at the poop station checking for parasites…


Doc, I'm seeing spots before my eyes...
Doc, I’m seeing spots before my eyes…


Today I will think of all the spent hours of your life that translated into food for my body, clothing to cover me and as much security as you knew how to create.  Today I will consider that you started out as a teenage man with little instruction in family life, except that you grew up in a family yourself.  I will think about the times you changed your path and the uncertainty you must have felt as you searched for a better way to provide.  I will think about why you would fall asleep in your chair at the end of all those long days – not from laziness or drunkenness or escapism, but because you were physically exhausted.

I will realize that as a human you probably experienced sadness, frustration, anger (oh yeah), despair and doubt and yet you never bothered us children with any of it.  We had little knowledge of your struggles because you were a man and we were self absorbed children.  You taught us how to work alongside of you, but you always worked harder and longer.  And yet I can remember that you sang in the barn, and whistled and tried to yodel.  You modeled that it was possible, and desirable to enjoy work.  You gave me the idea that sometimes when trouble seems overwhelming the best thing to do is just go out and work at something.  Sometimes the trouble loses interest and goes away unfulfilled.  And at any rate, working is better than worrying.

As you’ve grown older with so many limitations ganging up on you, your persistence to do what you can inspires me (and scares me, but, hey… how can a nearly blind man on a rider mower cause any trouble?)  I see you teaching lessons of humility (when Mom is right and you are wrong), lessons of love (when you rub Mom’s feet and wash the dishes), lessons of trust (when you put those unsolvable things in God’s hands).  And you still whistle now and then and have Pandora playing on your cell phone, announcing your presence as you go.  I honor you for all of that.

Today I will grieve that as a society we have almost lost the concept of honoring our fathers for anything. Temptations are everywhere, expectations are high, psychology focuses on faults and there is nothing that cannot be blamed on a father.  I will remember how hard it is to be the head of anything, particularly a family.  I will be thankful for you – that you have not run away, that you are my dad, my father.

One of my favorite pictures of you, Dad
One of my favorite pictures of you, Dad

Things I Put Off: Episode 2

Busy people (like me) are able to procrastinate in pretty nearly every area of life. Cutting back on my work schedule allows me the opportunity to look for these “put off” things and experience the wonderful satisfaction of getting them done after months of having them on the “to do” list.  If you have never gone through this cycle you are missing out.

Having made great headway scheduling my “every 7 year” physical exam, this morning I turned to the oneacrewoods, which has been… well, neglected at best.  If you don’t love nature, gardening, dirt and sweat go read somewhere else right now because you won’t understand.

It’s the compost bin.  The compost bin is where you can put all your vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, leaves, etc… in the hope of making new, rich soil.  Presumably you are making this soil to put somewhere else where the ground needs improvement.  However, if you never do anything but put stuff in the bin, there is not much point in doing it. Ideally it should be fluffed up, turned over and watered once in a while too but I never get around to that.  And because I have such a big yard I actually have two compost bins to play with. Lately they have been looking full.  I can’t remember that last time I emptied them.  It’s a nasty job.

Did you know that cockroaches fly? Did you know that some of them are actually white like albinos? They love, love, love compost piles and when disturbed they take off in flying, jumping swarms to find some new place to hide (up a pant leg, under a shirt collar, in hair, aaaghh!)  I have absolutely no cockroaches in my house and I think it’s because I provide this much more favorable place for them to live.  I think of it as pest control.

I chopped and shoveled through both my bins (after the roaches left) and there was some pretty good soil in there.  I added it to my small garden area which is fallow – fancy word for nothing growing in it – because we are already in the hot season here. Lots of things do grow in this season but not many traditional vegetables. I’m preparing for September when it cools off.  One more thing off my list, and truly, it was so beautiful outside this morning that I didn’t even mind the roaches, much.


Compost bins after being emptied.  No "before" shot - too gross.
Compost bins after being emptied. No “before” shot – too gross.
New, rich soil layer on this bed.
New, rich soil layer on this bed.
Pineapples are about the only thing growing now that we can eat.
Pineapples are about the only thing growing now that we will be able to eat.

Spring Up North

NOTHING compares to a fully loaded lilac bush
NOTHING compares to a fully loaded lilac bush

flowers seem more exciting and glorious after 6 months of winter

flowers seem more exciting and glorious after 6 months of winter

hello tulips, glad to see you
hello tulips, glad to see you

I’ve been “up north” waiting to see spring come, hoping I had my timing right. I think it’s here. The children have lessening interest in their schoolwork, rain has made greenness appear everywhere and swollen the ponds and marshes. The woods are full of trilliums and fiddle head ferns. Mosquitoes follow us in clouds and dandelion seeds float in the air like snow. The garden is 80% planted and the reliable onions and radishes are already making their rows visible. Tulips and petunias are in place. And the lilacs have purple buds almost to the point of opening up – one of the things I wanted most to experience. The sun brightens up the horizon at 4:30 am and it’s still light at 9 pm, reminding me that the longest day of the year is less than a month away. It’s spring, but only for a little while.


There are no days to waste, no extra hours in the spring. Last night the weather cleared after an all day rain. My brother had bought seed corn and potatoes and was not willing to wait until today to plant – after all, he had to work at his “other business” during the day and there was no guarantee that it would not rain again. Best to get at it. He could hardly sit still through supper. We planted 12 rows of corn and put up the electric fence to keep the deer from eating the tomato and squash plants. I know it works because I tested it accidentally. The gardens have a good start this year, almost two weeks ahead of last year’s schedule. Hopes are high. It’s hard to realize that it still could freeze and one cold night could set everything back.

But today is beautiful and sunny, alive with birds (and mosquitoes) and plant life. Spring up north, how I have missed it and how wonderful it is. Just sayin’…


garden, with precautions for possible freezing weather (No, no, no!)
garden, with precautions for possible freezing weather (No, no, no!)



Change, bring it on…

I have to say that things have begun to change for me already, but  that will continue.  Since last August I have been following an inner directive to be free for helping  my immediate family should they need it.  There are extended times in the ordinary progression of life when everyone  is on the young side, fairly healthy, moving forward and enjoying independence.  And then there are those other times that are not all those same things.  If the family is like a wagon train heading across the plain, there are times when they need  to circle the wagons.  That’s a bit of what I feel.

Time is not a limitless commodity. I want to make conscious decisions where I spend my time and who I spend it with.  As much as I love and appreciate my present friends and my community, I kind of arrived here out of financial necessity.  And time spent here has been good, but I am also blessed that I love to spend time with my family, every one of them.  They are all people  I would choose to spend time with, lots of time. Instead, it’s  been limited to a week here and there while on vacation, a reunion every few years, sometimes a holiday celebrated together.  I am ready to choose a closer connection.

That being said, I don’t really know where I’ll be a year from now.  Hey, but until I’m ready to do it, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going.  I just have to get ready to go somewhere.  The husband and I have made great progress toward this – at least I’m proud of us. Every week we get rid of some of our “stuff” that would not be worth taking with us.  We are both thinking about our present jobs and how our work would continue in a different place.  I jumped the hurdle of signing up for my social security benefits yesterday (believe me, it was a mental/emotional HURDLE).  I am scaling back on commitments I make and not jumping into new ones.  I am waiting to see what God will do with my readiness.  And there is a peace in not knowing the timing but just doing one thing at a time as the possibilities become apparent.

steps toward change
steps toward change


No not now, not ever, never…

…is a home owner ever FINISHED working on his/her home.  As much as we love living in our home in the oneacrewoods we know there will come a day when we will sell, move and downsize. It’s on my mind these days and just this morning it was also on the husband’s mind.  He came to me asking about a list that we should make of all the needed repairs.  The list is in my head – no problem there.  The problem lies in finding the available manpower.

Several years ago when the husband and I were talking about our future goals and bucket lists I mentioned how cool it would be to build a house of our own, with all our ideas for energy saving, all our favorite features, the perfect abode.  He said he was looking forward to working possibly for another decade and wanted to come home each night and avoid stress, rest, watch TV, read. No house building.  No, period.  This is just a clue as to how interested he is in tackling any project involving crowbars, hammers and other such weapons of war.

That leaves me.  I was reading my niece’s home renovation blog,, and remembering how all my DIY projects had nearly ruined important parts of my body. One’s own labor is easiest on cash flow but there are definitely other costs. And of course, in making a decision on where manpower should come from you have to factor in the fun of it all.  Definitely, hire someone.

This is only a partial list, I’m sure. Josh, you know who you are, you need to come over and give us a house inspection so we can get all the rest of the crucial things on it.

ugliest door ever, that never got painted with the rest of the room.
ugliest door ever, that never got painted with the rest of the room.


backsplash area that never got tiled when kitchen was redone...
backsplash area that never got tiled when kitchen was redone…
something has eaten this for lunch...
something has eaten this for lunch…

Oh, and the master bedroom still has only a temporary, painted, concrete floor because we want to renovate the master bath first.  That is the logical order of doing things if you don’t want to mess up a nice, new cork floor.  We decided that four or five years ago when we tore out the aged bedroom carpet.  Waiting, waiting…

It really is a wonderful thing to own your own home and work on it yourself but I’m just sayin’ don’t think you’ll be finished with it anytime soon.

A to Z Challenge: Zenaida

I met her several years ago because her son was needing help with his English schoolwork.  I was a tutor for the “No Child Left Behind” program and arrived at their home one day after school to spend some time meeting the family and assessing exactly what was needed.  Our friendship went from being centered on her son to food rather quickly.  She was always cooking something in large quantities and urging me to take some.  She packaged hot meals and sold them to workers at her husband’s workplace.  

She and her husband were Hispanic and back in Mexico she had gotten a degree in Accounting, I think, but that didn’t count for much here in the States.  She did whatever she could find to do in between her children’s school schedules. Her husband worked in construction but this was in 2008 and Florida’s economy was taking a hit.  They were barely making their house payments, but they had their own place. It was clean and neat.  

Our friendship deepened later on. Hispanic women (and men) have a thing for fragrance and Zenaida signed up with me to sell cosmetics and perfume.  We marketed together, got dressed up and went to sales meetings.  Later still, when my daughter needed an extra hand in her house-cleaning business, I suggested she try Zenaida and it was a good suggestion.  The clients loved her integrity and work ethic.  When my daughter moved on to vet school, Zenaida inherited her business.  

Zenaida is still the friend who shows up at birthday parties and graduations with a full tray of home cooked tamales (my daughter’s favorite). She still wants to help with my cleaning and yard work and is the hardest one to take any pay for her work. She just wants to be a friend, and she is.  And her name begins with Z (for which I am thankful). 

Zenaida is a common name for women in several cultures and is also the name given to the Zenaida dove which is our mourning dove.