Early summer squash blossoms
by Sally Remsdell)
2009 Cultivating Anglo-American Friendship
Canadians have been long-term U.S. friends, and we owe them
gratitude on this, Canada Day. Without their help we could
never have healed our discord with the United Kingdom (UK)
motherland. The Canadians remained faithful to their mother
country, honoring their queen, accommodating the French-Canadian
culture, and helping all North Americans to bury old hatchets and
join together within the world community. Maybe it was better that
the United States and Canada went their separate ways, and that the
larger land mass to our North saw fit not to merge with us as one
nation. As individual Canadians journey south each winter, the
"snow birds" make us U.S. citizens aware that we are related and yet
still distinct nations.
over a span of time, it may be historically more accurate to say
that there is an "Anglo-American Empire" (including the United
States); this "empire" started with the Norman conquest in 1066 and
continued in modified form until today. We could regard the
American Revolutionary War as a separation, but not a total
divorce. We share the same language and culture, and have come to
the estranged motherland's aid during two 20th-century wars. Ever
since the 19th century the United States has had close ties with the
United Kingdom -- if we ever really lost them. It is amazing in
reading American history to see how soon full relations resumed
after the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
Churchill's mother was an American and he felt the kinship between
our countries keenly. In turn, Americans came to respect him,
especially in Britain's finest hour during the bleak days of the
Second World War. President Roosevelt (FDR) solidified those bonds
by bending over backwards to see to it that a number of American
mothballed destroyers were furnished to embattled Britain. The
country stood almost alone after the fall of France in June, 1940,
and before the Soviet Union entered the fray in 1941. Britain was
assisted by Commonwealth members, which included Canada, but it
needed much more to counter Hitler's conquering legions. FDR knew
that we had to supply the UK's needs, even though US isolationists
wanted no involvement in other struggles.
United Kingdom has seen its power wane dramatically within our
lifetime. The largest navy in the world no longer rules the waves.
If the sun never sets on the Union Jack, it is because the few
remaining islands are so scattered that a faded Empire is always in
daylight. Well over 90% of the former UK colonies are now members
of the United Nations -- though most all still cling to a
Commonwealth association with the mother country. Through it all
the US/UK relationship has grown stronger thanks in to Canada acting
as the go-between. For better or worse, we are Anglo-Saxon.
Prayer: Lord, teach
us to learn along with our neighbor Canada and mother England how to
bridge difference among struggling groups to become one world.
A herd of cows, congregating at a pond
2009 Enduring Summer's Heat
preparing to start the long July Fourth weekend, and there are many
loose ends to tie. But let's not overdo the preparations. People
slow down with their need to withstand summer's heat. Most learn to
take it easy in order to survive. Some suggestions for keeping in
spirit with the season include:
Adjust timing. Plan less exercise outdoors in the heat of the
day. Rise earlier to garden, hike, jog, bike or shoot hoops.
Drink plenty of water. This is a must in hot weather for each
of us, along with all flora and fauna, needs proper moisture.
Keep cool (see July 7). Wear what is right; avoid the
Reduce outdoor demands. If you must pick berries, do it in the
morning or evening before the sun is hot or just when it goes down.
When we age it is fitting to simply taste the fruit and not pick so
much; a seasonal taste should be sufficient. Why more?
Eat lightly. It's hard to digest heavy meals. Light cold soups
and salads are perfect for the season.
Relax more. Give more time to soft music and reading; this is
not the time to overdo, and listening comes easy.
Abbreviate everything. Note how short this essay is.
Prayer: Give us,
Lord, a constant reminder to continue our prayerlife during this hot
weather, and to do so in a light-hearted manner.
The Chaplin River, Washington Co., KY
3, 2009 Being Free from Credit and Debt
Indebtedness is modern slavery that is deliberately imposed by
financial institutions with the connivance of governments and
cushioned by the silence of moral and religious leaders. I can
never forget when I asked a person aspiring to open a non-profit how
he was to fund the operation and he raised his credit card.
not use credit cards. Resolve not to have any new credit cards,
to get rid of older ones, and to refrain from using them if carried
as your Linus blanket. Make "credit card free" a motto and
challenge others to do the same.
Reduce existing debts. Make a financial plan for paying off old
debt as quickly as possible. Refinancing is to your advantage, now
that credit is far cheaper and mortgages can be refinanced more
easily. Get proper financial advice on how to be debt-free ASAP.
For some that is a distant hope -- but still it is possible.
Eliminate unnecessary and impulse purchases of quickly outmoded
stuff that clutters people's homes and yards. Remove the unneeded
items and give them away, sell them or recycle them. Take time to
unclutter the place though this takes special will power and
Live a lower level lifestyle and be proud of it. We don't have
to live like the "Jones," and purchase the bigger house, the motor
home, the boat and the extra car. Refuse offered stuff that is
expensive to maintain: "I would not do the item justice," which may
mean, "I will be tempted to keep it around and that costs money."
Join in community yard sales and promote fewer purchases of new
items such as furnishings, utensils, dishes, tools, and lawn
equipment. The problem with material swaps is that you simply
exchange one pile of junk for another. Useless items are costly and
take up space. Share seldom-used items such as lawn mowers, hedge
clippers, and ladders. Learn from pioneer recyclers how to reuse
materials. Recycle unneeded gifts and save the wrappings for reuse;
a respectful gift to you is equally so to another.
Eat less prepared food. Eat lower on the food chain to reduce
costs and the carbon imprint of animal products.
Keep healthy, for indebtedness is often related to paying for
medical treatments. Stop smoking and engaging in substance abuse of
any sort. That may be easier said than done.
Ask education-related questions. Can bills be cut by changing
schools and get less costly but equally high quality education?
Prayer: Help us,
Lord, see the onus of debt enslavement as worthy of liberation that
may require a struggle and the assistance of other like-minded
Five-lined skink, Eumeces fasciatus
(photo by Walter Para, Stanton, KY)
2009 Reflecting on the Declaration of Independence
following apply today to the underprivileged of the world?
the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one
people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them
with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the
separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of
Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights,
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of
the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new
Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and
organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem
most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence,
indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should
not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly
all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to
suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by
abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing
invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them
under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty,
to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their
future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these
Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to
alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the
present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries
and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment
of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let
Facts be submitted to a candid world:
* He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and
necessary for the public good.
* He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and
pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his
Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly
neglected to attend to them.
* He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation
of large districts of people, unless those people would
relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature,
a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
* He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual,
uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public
Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance
with his measures.
* He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing
with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
* He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause
others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable
of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their
the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of
invasion from without, and convulsions within.
* He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States;
for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of
Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their
migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new
Appropriations of Lands.
* He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his
Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
* He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone,
for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their
* He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither
swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their
* He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies,
without the Consent of our legislatures.
* He has affected to render the Military independent of and
superior to the Civil power.
* He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction
foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws;
giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any
Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these
States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us
in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting
us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses: For
abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring
Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and
enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example
and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into
these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our
most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our
Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring
themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases
* He has abdicated Government here by declaring us out of his
Protection and waging War against us.
* He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns,
and destroyed the lives of our people.
* He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign
Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and
tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy
scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally
unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
* He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on
the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the
executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall
themselves by their Hands.
* He has excited, domestic insurrections amongst us, and has
endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the
merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an
undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for
Redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated Petitions have
been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character
is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit
to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren.
We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their
legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We
have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and
settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and
magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common
kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably
interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have
been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We
must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces
our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind,
Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the
Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,
do, in the Name and by Authority of the good People of these
Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United
Colonies are and of Right ought to be free and independent
states, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the
British Crown, and that all political connection between
them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be
totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES,
they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract
Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and
Things which Independent states may of right do. AND for the
support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the
protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each
other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
John Hancock et al
Ephemeroptera, delicate summer beauty
2009 Risking to Be Prophetic
and when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.
(II Cor. 12:10)
often people, even those closest, want to break off conversation on
some issue. Today, the subject of simplifying our lifestyles is a
difficult one to broach with others who have made a deliberate
effort to live affluent lives. They have enjoyed consumption; they
regard it as a patriotic duty; they enjoy the advertising hype;
they want to go with the fashions; and they may even find our
presence irritating. For them, moral and religious leaders are to
make them feel comfortable. They may ask us the unsettling
question: "What are we paying you for, to make us feel
uncomfortable?" The attitude just expressed is far more common
than we would like to admit. The doubly unsettling question for us
may be: is the prophetic word to be comforting or
disturbing? Is the entire modus vivendi of this period
to maximize comfort levels or to arouse some to change their ways?
Is what is needed at a given time the mark of a true or false
prophet? In times of troubles we need to weigh the alternatives
prophesying allows listeners to continue in current ways.
This says what is being done is fine and those who want to shake the
boat are disturbers of the peace. The status quo is good and must
be defended by such stalwarts of conservative ways. The privileges
currently enjoyed may be seen as gifts to good stewards who are
called by God to do proper things with them. Part of this
optimistic comfort picture is a future that does not include any
sign of gloom and doom. Should others like to call attention to our
current practices or to oppose them in violent or non-violent
fashion, we must resist their efforts for the good of existing
privilege and others who are in company with us in this position.
The bad prophet teaches adherence to what we have and refuses to
consider any major changes.
prophesying addresses current questions forthrightly.
The current consumer lifestyle is not sustainable. To continue to
defend it only encourages the aspiring emerging economies to follow
our example and consume as well -- thus dooming the world through
sheer numbers of consumers, to accelerating pollution, resource
depletion and waste, and a growing disparity between the rich and
poor. While some live in comfort, others suffer from lack of basic
food and health care -- and this real situation is not comforting,
only disturbing to those in short-term privileged comfort. If we do
not change, we will surely die. The good prophesy rests in the word
"if" for contained in the message is the real possibility that
change is possible and can lead to benefits to the greater numbers.
On the other hand, the discouraged must be shown compassion for it
takes effort to undergo and gain by the change that is needed.
Prayer: Lord teach us to be prophetic in a good sense even if
such a practice is risky. Teach us to remember the mission before
us and not to forget that Jesus said what had to be said -- and he
was crucified for doing so.
Cloud uplift on a hot summer's day
Lord, what makes people jog,
in sunshine, wind, sleet and fog,
spending time in shoes that clog,
dodging cars, potholes, excited dog?
Why do they endure such pain,
weary legs, muscle strain,
raw groins, ankle sprain,
and yet they seldom complain?
What makes them run the extra mile,
to pass another with a fleeting smile,
or dress just right to be in style,
with the social grace of the rank and file?
How can they keep the furious pace,
turning every day into a prize race,
or heading out to a meeting place,
or just establishing breathing space?
When will they stop ‑‑ in their old age,
or when falls make them turn a safer page,
or when they don't need the center stage,
or begin to earn a steady wage?
Don't jogging questions need reply,
like running gear that one must buy,
when preparing for that runner's high,
that natural way to reach the sky.
Count the steps, meditate;
observe the scene, contemplate;
reach the wall, hallucinate;
call it fun, rejuvenate.
Now good Christians please step aside,
keep the competitor from breaking stride,
and come right up to the finish tide,
step back and overcome perverse pride.
It's time now to call it a day,
when one is unsure of the step or way,
may younger ones continue the play,
fun while it lasted; okay, okay, Ole!
Prickly pear cactus, Opuntia humifusa,
native Kentucky species
Cooling without Air Conditioning
consumption spikes at this time of year when air-conditioners (AC)
hum throughout America and in increasing numbers in Europe and
elsewhere. To cope with this energy consumption spike, more
powerplants are needed to keep the electricity flowing.
Natural cooling decreases AC use.
Resource conservation is
always the best reason for avoiding air conditioning (AC).
shaded by large trees have perhaps the most efficient natural
cooling. Properly placed shade trees can reduce house temperatures
by twenty-five degrees in northern hemisphere Julys. For rapid
natural cooling, plant annuals or perennials (such as sunflowers or
Jerusalem artichokes) outside windows to act as natural sun
screens. Window boxes of flowers, including morning glory growing
on lattices, provide summer greenery and reduce temperatures as
Curbing AC is more healthy, for it is shocking to go from a
super-cooled building to torrid summer heat. My only summer in
Texas, in 1969, involved travelling several times a day from a
super-cooled laboratory building at the University of Texas's Austin
campus to a computer center several blocks away. I think I got
pneumonia out of that exercise but never had it diagnosed. Turning
off AC allows for more fresh air. Domestic ventilating
practices may involve cooling space late at night by opening windows
and allowing the breezes to flow through. A roof with a mounted
turbine ventilator can help; so can rooms equipped with ceiling
fans allowing the warm air to escape during cooler times.
Building design adds to natural cooling. Those structures built
with adobe or heavy masonry or those that are earth shelters are
naturally cooled. Higher ceilings in older houses are helpful.
Porches (my old residence has porches on three sides) certainly help
keep the place cool; so will roofs covered with light colored
roofing materials. Increased insulation is of value provided warm
air is exhausted from insulated space as discussed in the previous
suggestion. Awnings are helpful as are curtains and window shading
devices. Some new window sun-screening covers are highly effective,
either free-standing or as films attached to window panes on the
sunny sides of houses.
people, such as the elderly and those with certain breathing
conditions, justifiably prefer AC -- and this may verge on being a
necessity for them. If one must use AC, use it moderately and at
the highest temperature comfortable. Maintain the AC unit
properly. Cool only rooms in use, by means of modular cooling
devices rather than central units. Acquire new units only after
comparing labeled energy efficiency ratings.
Prayer: Teach us
Lord, to avoid resource intensive equipment that can be substituted
for by practices or devices that are less harmful to the
Indian hemp, Apocynum cannabinum
2009 Keeping Cool through Other Practices
continue the discussion of yesterday about keeping cool during the
current hot summer weather.
Maintain comfort zones. Americans often tolerate cooler summer
temperatures inside air conditioned (AC) space than they tolerate in
heated space in winter. Incredible? Hardly, for I have personally
found this phenomenon occurring throughout the country during
numerous environmental resource assessments. A building will be
cooled to 62-65 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and the same space
heated to 75 degrees in winter. The difference between what is
tolerated in summer (62), if allowed in winter, and the 75 degrees,
if allowed in summer, could save close to one-third of many
heating/cooling bills. One can argue for personal psychological
tolerance, and try to get dwellers to accept, as "natural," 75
degree interior space in summer and 62 degree space in winter -- and
space heating and cooling saving will accrue. Insist that room
residents become familiar with thermometer readings and personal
comfort zones. Withstanding moderately higher summer temperatures
and moderately lower winter temperatures is more healthy and reduces
colds compared to over-heating in winter and over-cooling in summer.
cool stuff. Besides providing seasonal iced drinks and
desserts, how about creating cold soups, fashioning chilled salads
and selecting cold cuts for summer menus? Reserve the cooking to
the non-growing season -- especially those dishes using hot sauces
and needing to be served steaming hot. If summer cooking is needed,
do it in larger batches and utilize the leftovers on succeeding
days; this reduces kitchen cooking time, which naturally cuts
interior heat generation and saves energy as well.
light clothes around the house, at exercise, to bed and on
special occasions. It may come as a surprise, but some folks will
wear the same things in winter as in summer and never realize that
their heating and cooling bills often reflect this desire to have
the same clothes habits year-round. Wearing light colored clothing
outdoors will be helpful as well. Also consider taking a cold
shower or go for a swim when it gets hot.
appliances less in summer and then only in the cooler parts of
the day. This contributes to reduced energy overloads and
ultimately the need for more powerplants. Clothes washing (and
mechanical drying) in the hotter parts of the day add to the
humidity and heat load of the residence. Consider exterior drying.
Keeping computers and recording equipment on standby is
unnecessary. Remember, converting to compact fluorescent bulbs
saves energy, not only in the lighting itself, but also in the
lessened heat load of the house, an added incentive for both AC and
Prayer: Lord, direct us to ways that make life more pleasant for
all and are less demanding on our environment.
Home made mulberry-vanilla ice cream
2009 Celebrating National Ice Cream Day
Celebrating is part of life, and we Americans like to celebrate with
ice cream as has been the custom in our country for one hundred and
fifty years. When ice became readily available (either from ice
storage houses or ice-making machines), the creating of different
flavored ice creams became a national treat -- that soon spread to a
global treat. Let's celebrate all the pleasure that ice cream has
given people for so many years.
guilt hold us back, for those who need to be more watchful have
choices of sugar-free ices and ice creams. For others who are
sensitive to fattening foods, how about fat-free ice cream or taking
off a few calories through some extra exercise today; remember that
a little ice cream well savored is worth more that a massive bowl; a
little of most good things is okay; a lot is not.
youth, half the treat was making the ice cream. When I was a kid,
we did not have ice cream except on Sundays. After church, we would
go to the ice plant and buy a block of ice for a dime; we took it
home, and put the ice block into a gunny sack and beat it into
crushed ice with the flat side of an old axe. A one-and a half
gallon metal container of ice cream ingredients into which was
inserted a long paddle/stirrer was placed in a wooden ice cream
freezer or maker; then the crushed ice was packed round the
cylinder along with salt to lower the temperature so that the cream
and flavor ingredients would freeze after ample churning. A turning
device was attached to the protruding end of the stirrer and the
turning of the lever to stir the slurry gradually required more
effort as the ice cream thickened and became a frozen slurry.
Finally we turners judged that the ice cream was ready and begged
Mama to let us test the results. We removed the metal lid and there
it was -- a site to behold! One and a half gallons of Ice Cream,
and the stirring paddle dripping with ice cream "firsts" for the
turners to clean off. Then the whole family was alerted to taste
the Sunday homemade treat, that occasional treat. Too much of a
good thing does not taste as good -- and can be unhealthy also. Our
family ice cream treats were flavored by the fruit of the season
(cherry, strawberry, peach) or standard flavors (vanilla, pineapple,
butterscotch, banana, and chocolate). In winter we made a Christmas
treat called "tooty fruity," which had dried candied fruits along
with a touch of bourbon to give flavor, but not enough to prevent
the mixture from freezing.
cream is almost universally liked. We may have an opportunity today
to take out someone and treat those who are financially strapped;
they may not get ice cream too often. They may require a low-carb
substitution or frozen yogurt or a soya substitute for cream.
Whatever, ice cream under any form is a treat.
increase our enjoyment of life's good things.
The basil plant, repellant for flies, mosquitoes, and
2009 Discouraging Pests through Interplanting
July, plant growth slackens and insects look for plant hosts. For
the organic gardener the challenge of discouraging these unwelcome
pesty visitors becomes greater. We search for effective substitutes
for the commercial and guaranteed pesticides that kill; these
pesticides leave their unhealthy ingredients around to contaminate
garden produce, cling to soil and harm wildlife for a long period of
time. However, on searching about we discover that certain mulches,
herbs, flowers and other plants can kill or repel pests
effectively. By interplanting these, we obtain the additional
benefit of beauty, for the variety of plants adds to the garden's
growing artistic mosaic that changes by the day:
helpful plants Insects repelled
bean -- plant lice and also vole and mole
-- varieties of potato bug
Colorado potato beetle, potato bug
-- weevil, aphid
beans -- Colorado potato beetle
Horseradish -- potato bug
Lavender -- moth
-- many insects if densely planted
black flea beetle, cabbage worm butterfly, moth
Nasturtium -- aphid, squash bug
mulch -- cutworm, slug, June bug grub (also
Pennyroyal -- ant, plant lice
-- Mexican bean beetle
-- striped cucumber beetle
-- malaria mosquito, cabbage worm butterfly
Spearmint -- ant, aphid
nettle -- black fly, aphid, moth
ant, common fly
cabbage worm butterfly
Geranium -- Japanese beetle
Wormwood -- black flea beetle, common fly, mosquito
Interplanting the herbs just mentioned proves more effective than
planting a cluster of these herbs at a distance from the insect
castor or mole bean, familiar in American and European gardens,
produces beautiful green and red foliage and stalks in summer and
autumn. However, the bean cluster is highly poisonous; if you
choose to use this effective pest retardant, the castor bean should
be kept out of the reach of livestock and children.
Prayer: Lord, help
us to create our own balanced environment where natural plants
assist in keeping the grounds pest-free.
Canis latrans, a mother coyote,
Washington Co., KY farm
Pests with Friendly Insects and Wildlife
the publication of Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, in
the 1960s more attention has been given to commercial pesticides
that harm wildlife. When I first wrote on this subject three
decades ago, two of the ten rare peregrine falcons known in Alberta
province, Canada, had had the egg shells of their offspring broken;
the thin-walled shells resulted from small amounts of DDT along with
the degradation product DDE in the mother. With reduced use of this
highly toxic pesticide, in recent years fewer bird losses have been
observed. Wildlife has been protected -- and well placed natural
flora and fauna can help with the protection.
human animals can move through the garden and manually pick and
destroy the culprits. I killed thousands of tobacco (or
horned-tomato) worms in my youth. Also when gardening I find that
by interplanting evening primrose in the garden, I can attract the
Japanese beetles to that plant first before they eat any veggies.
With ease, the gardener can collect the day's beetle cohort by
shaking the stalks over a wide mouth jar. Certain insect pest traps
can be more effective than others. Attracting and drowning slugs in
beer has always sounded quite expensive to me, but gardeners say it
works. Many sex attractants simply invite more of the insects from
the surrounding countryside; some of the increased numbers are
caught, but more are now present, exhibiting greedy appetites.
Ringing pest-targeted trees with a sticky ribbon can help.
fauna can help the human garden protector. One favorite is the
ladybug, an insect that lately has become almost invasive; ladybugs
feast heavily on aphids in gardens and greenhouses. The praying
mantis (named for the way it holds its claws) can devour a number of
pesty insects. Various wasps and the non-threatening mud daubers
should be tolerated as much as possible. Spiders are also friends
to us and enemies to many pests. Among less well known friends are
ground beetles, aphid lions, assassin bugs, centipedes, ant lions,
and dragon flies.
larger pest-reducing animals include birds, which generally avoid
chemical pesticide-laden lawns and gardens. The Cherokee Indians
invited purple martins through the use of nests made from gourds
hung at strategic locations; they recognized that these martins
could keep a human living space essentially mosquito-free. Bats
have the ability to do much the same and should also be encouraged.
Frogs, toads and lizards have an appetite for many of the garden
insect pests, and should always be tolerated and encouraged. Snakes
can remove varmints that might hurt the garden. Non-poisonous
snakes should be tolerated and respected. The list of friendly
animals also includes skunks, shrews and weasels, but these are not
always welcomed by neighbors.
Prayer: Lord, who
gives us protection in all matters, help us to find and encourage
the protectors of our own quality of life.
Western salsify, Tragopogon dubius
2009 Ministering Lightly
instructed them to take nothing on the journey but a walking stick.
speak about travelling lightly on ordinary trips (April 4, 2009),
though never as lightly as Jesus did in his instructions to the
ministering disciples. Not quibbling over whether to take a second
tunic (no) or sandals (yes), let us see value to spreading the Good
News in a light or "low overhead" fashion. Are there advantages?
Urgency and mobility:
First, we are more able to act with spontaneity, for we do not have
to wait until we have the backup resources assembled to start
acting. Sometimes speed is of the essence, and those who assemble
too many things are caught up in the assembling details. Baggage
needs tending to at all times, and more baggage takes extra time.
Furthermore, if we bring too much, we find it more difficult to
abandon one project and go to another.
Lowly are able to be leaders:
The poor are the ones who are
to take a lead in bringing Good News and they are the ones simply
unable to furnish a lot of background materials. Simple equipment
allows the poor to have an opportunity to move forward in ways to
which they are better accustomed. Today, the Internet allows
low-cost travel of ideas and words to all parts of the world -- the
equivalent of St. Paul's being blessed by the excellent Roman order
and road system in his day. The Internet is Good News.
Cultural handicaps avoided:
Too much baggage indicates cultural differences and personal and
distracting needs that cannot be furnished by the end destination,
and thus ties one back too tightly to the place of origin. On the
other hand, the lightly traveling one is accepted and integrates
more rapidly into the receiving community.
Jesus as an Example:
Christ worked in simple ways and so ought we. Our imitation of him
is of the essence. He could have come in the world as the head of a
massive army and with regal pomp but God does not work that way.
Jesus had a power to attract those who want to hear the Word and
follow it. Through the power of prayer we can be like him in
Divine Power: Light
travel shows the power of God working within us. We think that
gimmicks and other gadgets, sound boxes and slide shows are going to
turn people on. Such catering to materialistic people obscures the
spiritual message that is empowering through its source and content
-- and is meant for those seeking faith.
The Good News involves simple and spiritually-empowered delivery as
well as content. The message is given more directly when lightly
Prayer: Lord, teach
us to travel ever more lightly.
Pastured cows, grazing
2009 Reconsidering "Captive Nations Week"
designated week, which once had such pertinence during the pre-1989,
USSR-era, outmoded? Hardly. Certainly, numerous nations such as
the Baltic and Eastern European states and Central Asian nations are
now independent along with dozens of nations that were part of
pre-Second World War colonial empires. Still some nations remain
captive to tyrannical rulers, to extreme poverty or to the condition
of a "failed state" that does not allow for maximized freedom of its
citizens, e.g., North Korea, Zimbabwe and Somalia. What about
those who are captive within an existing state such as the people of
Tibet, or the Kurdish (parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria), or
the residents of the Gaza strip?
However, our view of captivity is a condition that is outside of us,
in a distant captive land. We tend to overlook the subtle ways
"captivity" can envelop us all. Yes, we can be captive but neglect
to see subtle forms of enslavement. Our creative spirit is
restricted by overtaxation; our freedom of movement is hindered by
over-regulation; our voice in speaking out is muffled by peer
pressure and the tendency to conform to the hidden wishes of rich
benefactors; our powers to concentrate are weakened by the
instantaneous distractions that crop up all about; our struggle to
pursue spiritual pursuits is broken by gimmicks and allurements;
our weakened human condition allows us to be taken prisoner by a
host of enticing materialistic substances.
Captivity can come in what appear to be legitimate ways. We are
always finding comfort from pain and distress with a host of
over-the-counter and prescribed pills and medicines, advertisement
for which bombard us on television. Credit cards along with the
pervasive cell phones and cable networks have all taken their toll
and left us with overwhelming indebtedness and growing dependencies.
Even the effort to escape by better education has ended with
substantial debts. Add to this car payments and home mortgages and
soon we are enslaved and totally at the mercy of credit agencies and
bank collectors. Trillions of dollars owed become chains that wrap
around our necks bowing us down for lifetimes and our children for
break these bonds, or is this week simply an acknowledgment of our
condition? Does this week witness to the liberation of some people
from Soviet imperialism, and yet neglect the imprisoning nature of
western materialism? Is our democracy a false front, a facade
imposed by a capitalistic financial system? In some way, all people
are captive people and need redemption. In acknowledging this we
become receptive to receiving the Good News that all are being
liberated, but we must believe that liberation can be achieve though
our effort and God's help. Only in such an acknowledgment can there
be true solidarity among all captive people and a movement to
Prayer: Lord, You
come to bring liberation to captives and to overthrow the bonds that
chain us. Help us all to be truly free.
A very, very small mushroom, species
2009 Learning from the French
Bastille Day it is fitting to consider France, our first and
primary US ally. If England is our American Anglo-Saxon relative,
in more ways France is the godmother, for without her support we
could not had become a nation. We can learn from the salient
aspects of French culture and grow in our mutual understanding of
the democratic spirit that binds us together. Allow this
Franco-American the opportunity to highlight a few:
French know how to rest and enjoy themselves. On Sundays they take
off from work and have a weekly sabbatical -- and we can only hope
they don't follow our example in having 24-7 stores (though small
stores open on Sunday morning). They believe in holiday periods
when much of work life ceases, and people take time off and even
enjoy their high speed rail system.
French have an understanding of being a cultured people, who enjoy
good food and spend time at a meal for the betterment of all
concerned. They eat fresh young vegetables and grow as much as they
can in local circumstances. They enjoy food variety with good
salads and soups along with meat and dairy dishes, appetizers and
desserts. (However, the young have begun to favor fast food). The
French extend that taste for variety and freshness to flowers and
houseplants and to gardens and parks.
French are coming to face the need to preserve their religious and
artistic culture as a living heritage. They have put a major part
of their current 26 billion euro stimulus package into a thousand
projects such as repairing their ancient gothic cathedrals and
museums. On one visit several decades ago I was shocked at how the
Chartres Cathedral's facade had eroded due to air pollution. The
French are aware of the toll of time, pollution and neglect and are
doing something about it on several fronts.
French consumers do not bear nearly the debts of average
Anglo-Saxons; they save more, and the household debt load as a share
of the GDP is less than half that of the United States or Britain (The
Economist, May 9, 2009).
French see a need to assist poorer nations in Africa, Asia and the
Middle East to become stable. Most French are patriotic almost to a
point of sentimentality. This has a good side; however it can
foster a radical nationalistic reaction involving fear of language
loss, or the replacement of church bells and organ music by the
mullahs calling the faithful to prayer. While the French take their
democratic spirit seriously on Bastille Day, the nation does have
problems: greater demands per worker, high jobless rates, heavy
taxes, dependence on nuclear powerplants, and a growing body of
unprotected short-term employees (temps and interns). We need to
continue mutual interaction.
Prayer: Lord, let us neither be overly enamored nor neglectful
of the qualities of different cultures.
Watering system, home-brewed
to Water Plants
According to an English tale, if it rains on St. Swithun's Day,
it will do so for forty consecutive days. We want enough rain to
break a drought and never too much to harm growing plants.
Delivering just enough moisture to plants in July is a challenge.
best preparation is to expect that garden plants will need watering
and to prepare a good rain water source, if that is possible -- for
it avoids local restrictions on use of municipal water. Periodic
water shortages and restrictions call for some sort of water
catchment, whether it is a water barrel or a cistern.
in dry times, application of waste water to growing plants is not
prohibited. Save the dish or wash water and use on the plants that
will tolerate such detergent-laden water.
in the evening after the sun has receded or, if not then, early in
the morning before the sun beats down. The moisture is more
effective in the evenings, for the thirsty plants have a longer
opportunity to benefit before daytime evaporation occurs.
Practice a form of medical "triage" by which wounded soldiers during
battles get more or less attention depending on their condition. In
the garden "triage," the highest attention is given to newly
planted vegetables and tomatoes even though all garden plants should
be mulched; the second level includes plants needing more water such
as cucumbers, melons, greens, celery, and many herbs. Among those
at the lowest level are sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes, and
drought-tolerant okra, garlic, onions, and mint, and what remains of
the brassica family and root crops.
with larger amounts on fewer days, rather than with smaller amounts
on a daily basis. The amount of water applied depends to some
degree on the actual water supply. Simply keeping a crop from dying
until the next big rain takes far less than actually irrigating a
growing crop from start to harvest.
watering, try to direct the water stream at the base of the plant
rather than scattering water over a general growing area. Crops
sowed in rows rather than over areas lend themselves to efficient
irrigation techniques. Trickle methods of irrigation are highly
effective, but are hardly worth it for small garden plots where
intercropping is practiced.
Diluted urine (one part to four parts water) can be used on tender
fall greens. If the July drought is prolonged, concentrate on the
summer moisture-sensitive vegetables and delay starting a fall
garden until the rains come. For late melons and cucumbers, soak
the seeds before planting. For autumn vegetables, rows are
preferable over area sowing, because watering can be concentrated.
remind us once more that You are the Living Water that
is needed for our spiritual life.
An evening hike, approaching sunset
2009 Hiking in Summer
ex-joggers, hiking may be a substitute. Its acceptability depends
on a number of factors: convenience, comfort, satisfaction of
health and exercise demands. When properly undertaken, hiking gives
us needed exercise, fresh air and a wider view of the world than the
auto-bound sightseer is able to experience. Besides some local
trails, I can remember certain hikes vividly, including those on the
Appalachian Trail, on the Kabob Trail in the Grand Canyon, in
British Columbia, in Puerto Rico and in the hills of Alsace. Hiking
indelibly imprints something on our memory, and we recall trail
features and the flora and fauna we encountered years later.
Part of this
implanting requires advanced planning for a hike:
Carry necessities, but only those. For my last hiking venture I
forgot a hat and sun screen, but remembered the water and walking
stick. Every ounce counts. In my regular day hikes in the Daniel
Boone National Forest, I leave my water bottle after a good swig at
about the half-way mark, so I won't have to lug it the entire
distance; I retrieve it on the way back. Longer hikes require more
items such as foods. Pack dry fruits, nuts, nutrition bars. Eat
the bulky stuff before you launch out. Travel as light as
Know where you are and where you are going. I remember we got
lost by misinterpreting a trail in the Blue Lakes region of
southeastern Colorado and did not find the right path until after a
night lost in the woods. While such an experience is an adventure,
a proper interpretation of maps and maybe a compass or GPS device
will help when unfamiliar with the territory.
Provide sufficient time. Hiking needs a certain leisure
atmosphere in order to be enjoyable, for it is to relieve and not
create more stress. Somewhere, and I don't recall exactly where, I
wanted to say that I hiked a trail, and so I jogged the walking
trail for a piece since time was short. While many places remain in
memory, I can't recall much except a sweaty quick visit.
Prepare for eventualities. Day hikes can be easily overdone,
since we don't normally need to bring along snake kits, cell phones
and ponchos, if we know the territory and expected weather
conditions. The walking stick, water, good shoes, adequate clothes,
and the food snacks are sufficient. If mosquitoes are possible, put
on repellant before starting. If hiking alone, carry
Record if you like. Some hikers carry cameras; others prefer
just to take in the scenes with the eye and limited memory. Spring
flowers and autumn leaves are missing on July walks, but those with
an eye can discover many summer subjects. Describing the hike
afterwards in written format can be a valuable future reference.
Prayer: Teach us,
Lord, that summer hiking resembles our faith
journey through life. The unforeseen can happen,even with all our
preparations. Allow us to both plan and trust.
A visit to Mount Hebron Methodist Church
cemetery in summer
2009 Realizing Mortality in Endless July
youngsters who enjoy summer vacation dream, as I did when young,
that the summer will never end. The locust and cricket songs
together with the burning rays of the summer sun seem to be
unchanging. Freedom from school ran through my bones. This is
generally not a mood conjured up in fresh busy June when the
previous year's academic activities are closing down; nor is it an
August phenomenon when the summer vacation ends and school starts up
with fresh expectations and frenzied activities. Rather, time's
seeming endlessness arises in the July of youth but can continue
under different guises long after youth abandons us. Why do good
things I now experience have to end? What if they lasted forever?
world resources as though July is endless. This fiction extends to
all ages, even to elders whose mortal life spans shorten at ever
quickening speed with each passing day. The middle-aged and the
healthy retirees think vacations will last, good health will last,
their life situations will endure. Hasn't the recent mood of
bankers' bonuses and average citizen borrowing binges been somewhat
a reflection of the July dream? Good times are here to stay, but
are they? Isn't there a certain theological aspect to this dream
and wish -- a longing for what will endure in eternity, a vague hope
for endlessness, and yet a momentary vision of a future that is
right now present?
daydreaming atmosphere is entertained but somewhat haunting for
folks of all ages. The realities of school ahead, of an upcoming
medical report, or of a home crisis this evening brings us back to
our senses. Rather, the hope for present endlessness is a
temptation not to regard this life span as it really is --
terminal. But is that persistent dream of endlessness so very
foolish? Is the caution, "Don't even think about such things" on
target? Are people correct in the admonition, "Don't talk about
death, but rather about the unfortunate person's 'passing'"? How
many times at a wake have we heard visitors say how much the corpse
seems to be asleep? On the other hand, have you ever gone into the
funeral parlor and in viewing the coffin wondered if you are in the
hear that a terminally ill person goes to pick out the coffin, we
regard it as unusual, quaint or, at best, heroic. It resembles life
insurance, something that must be considered though the task is
disdained. Preparations are for survivors and really acts of
charity. Unforeseen accidents do occur, and that causes much
consternation on the part of survivors who are already saddled with
grief and a host of funeral details. I occasionally update my own
funeral arrangements folder, even though it is an uncomfortable
task; some regard this as weird -- but is it? July will end as will
our current status in life. As surely as we live in July, August
will follow. So will endless life follow this mortal one. The wise
person knows this, and finds July a happy reminder.
Prayer: Lord, teach
us to see the shortness of life.
Aluminum pie plate on string, deterrent
for wild turkeys at berry patch
2009 Implementing Wildlife Controls
hot July, various wildlife looks at our gardens and lawns hungrily.
The phenomenon is widespread as exemplified by a friend, "You talk
about wildlife protection, but we are inundated with deer and
rabbits and groundhogs; what about lawn and shrub protection?"
Such a question occurred in various forms over and over, until I
became convinced that wildlife control is a major urban and suburban
problem. It was not enough to simply plead that increasing wildlife
populations (deer, geese, rabbits, and wild turkeys) lack sufficient
numbers of predator species for natural wildlife control. Most
likely, excess wildlife will be controlled to some degree by the
coyote's US advance and its filling the absent predator's niche.
These animals have an appetite for smaller wildlife, and if foxes
and wildcats were to expand in number they would also devour the
shrub and veggie eaters.
coyotes cannot act alone; we have to help do more. In the past I
have protected my garden produce by fences, hot pepper spray and
keeping dogs near the area where sensitive beans are grown, and more
recently through growing specific plants that wildlife avoid. Much
of our current wildlife problem has been the result of the
deliberate introduction of game species such as deer and wild
turkeys, which invade areas in search of foliage. Better game
control would reduce this problem. Double fencing to keep out deer
has been highly effective, but many do not want to construct two
expensive parallel fences just to prove that other wildlife controls
are not sufficiently effective.
Wildlife is selective in what it eats. I have learned to grow crops
that local wildlife dislike, adjusting my human tastes to wildlife
tastes. Obviously, this has its drawbacks, and so one finds that
certain vegetables liked by wildlife can be interplanted and hidden
within a larger garden. By putting garlic and mustard greens around
the border you can dissuade rabbits from searching beyond the outer
boundary to find what they would like beyond. Hot pepper solutions
applied to plants in some semi-permanent soap or emulsion form can
be quite effective against rabbits and deer, but rains can wash them
critics say that the deer population in America is out of control
and that we have more than when the first white settlers came to
these shores. When performing environmental resource assessments,
we encouraged all who eat meat to consider eating their local
produce -- and that includes nutritious and organic venison -- and
perhaps their geese and turkeys as well. That is one ultimate
control that should be considered in a world that should not be
patronizing corporate cattle, chicken and hog operations. Think
locally; think deer sausage. This culling operation replaces
livestock-raising that has a heavy carbon footprint, and helps
control wildlife at the same time.
Prayer: Lord, teach
us to protect and help balance the treasure of the wildlife that
An abandoned home, fading into history
to Lead the Floundering
pitied them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he
began to teach them at great length. (Mark 6:34)
before we take up the discussion of the Eucharist in the coming
weeks, let us develop a context, a setting in which we search for
and find the Lord's words of advice and guidance. What Jesus says
and does is what we are to say and do in our own lives.
compassion on the crowds, and thus is willing to take off time that
could have been spent in rest and leisure. Instead he chooses to
devote attention to these who are in obvious need.
expend time and resources on those in need demands a sacrifice. We
do need to take sufficient care of ourselves, so we can be good
instruments as other christs to our fellow human beings. Still we
must be open to human needs and adaptable in order to change course
and assist others. Jesus shows a sensitivity for those who are his
followers and students, those who can become exhausted through the
work before them. "Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place
and rest a little." While Jesus is solicitous of the disciples, he
is also aware of the needs of the crowds who keep coming and seeking
him. While the disciples rest, Jesus takes on the arduous task of
teaching the people. He sacrifices for both disciples and for the
Remotely, we are to become other christs, taking on a leadership
role. This requires a sense of solidarity in order to perceive the
need, prayer because we cannot do it all alone (for the task is
beyond our ordinary abilities), a willingness to help as best we
can, and the enthusiasm that allows the Lord to work within us
helping through our unique gifts. Taking on a difficult task
requires preparation and pacing in order to avoid over-exertion and
burn-out. Resting is part of pacing. We find in the passage that
the disciples report back to Jesus all that they have done and what
they have taught, an enthusiastic learning process.
the shepherdless stand out in our shaken culture. Many ordinary
consumers are at a crossroads; for years they have been badgered by
advertising, peer pressure and a national policy to borrow, buy, and
consume -- and go back and do it again. This unsustainable policy
is ultimately destructive to the planet and individual inhabitants.
Nevertheless, many of the leaderless consider it unpatriotic to
refrain from such practices and to conceive of saving, burning
credit cards and forsaking advertisements as wrong. The consumer is
adrift and a consumer's ship is sinking in a sea of red ink and
rising oceans from melting glaciers. It is unchristian to abandon
these wandering souls and expect that they will fend for
themselves. Being leaders means we must advance a service-based
economy, energized by compassion for others, not a consumer-culture
based on greed.
Prayer: Lord, teach
us to be shepherds to our wandering and indebted consumers.
Almost full moon, July 2009
2009 Recognizing Light Pollution and Moon Day
then the moon, always punctual, to mark the months and make division
moon it is that signals the feasts, a luminary that wanes after her
month derives its name from hers, she waxes wonderfully in her
phases, banner of the hosts on high, shining in the vault of
(Ecclesiasicus 43: 6-9)
we observe Moon Day and regard this, our nearest heavenly
body with special attention. We know that the moon shines brightly
in certain rural places but that is not the case everywhere on the
Earth, especially in urban areas. I once camped in Montana, "Big
Sky Country," and was amazed at the expanse and clarity of the sky;
it rivaled only another sight I had the privilege to observe in the
Peru/Bolivia border regions on a clear night in the southern
hemisphere with virtually no electricity to create a glare or "light
conditions affect visibility on any particular night. However, in
populated modern urban areas the glare of street, business and
residential lighting along with vehicular lights makes the heavenly
bodies fade into a misty distance. The clarity of the brilliant
outer space and the Milky Way is not visible to many nature-starved
urban residents who would love to see the heavenly glory known to
ancestors of old; the ancient Greeks and primitive tribes had such
a scenic vista denied to many people today.
pollution is a major problem in areas such as Tucson, Arizona, where
urban telescopes and observatories are located -- and the city is
trying to take steps to reduce light pollution. That problem
extends to observational equipment in many metropolitan centers.
The places are lit well, too well, as we can observe when flying;
the lights of a distant city send a glow that is seen for miles from
an airliner. This lighting was highly restricted during war, as in
the famous blackouts during the Second World War, when drivers drove
about with dimmed lights, street lighting was curbed, and windows
light pollution be restricted without blackouts? Reflection shields
can direct light rays downward. Unnecessary lighting, especially on
highways, could be reduced, though some drivers may complain. We
have come a long way from the old street lamps of the 19th century,
and some expect night lighting of sufficient illumination to allow
them to read a book anywhere at night. In order to reduce crime,
the trend is for increased lighting of streets, parking areas,
practice fields, and campuses. One university plant manager said
during an environmental resource assessment that I was the first to
complain to him about too much lighting; he said most parents and
students want more lighting.
Prayer: Lord, You
are the light of the world. Help us to bring this light to others.
Ripened mulberries from garden tree
2009 Fighting Hunger in America in 2009
approaching the end of the month, and the number of those coming to
my door for food is starting to pick up. Our parishes give out bags
of dried and canned food to tide people over until the next month.
However, I often suspect that many could live within their limited
resources (food stamps and WIC food allotments) provided they
apportioned their food stamps according to the right types of foods,
and stretched these carefully throughout the month. When I inquire
about how much people receive, most tell me it is more than what I
budget resources for my food (I budget three dollars a day and share
this with an orphan in India). I wonder just how well these people
are working to budget food needs properly, and to seek to improve
their own lot according to the limited resources at hand.
Variation is possible.
Some complained that my style of living is not for everyone, since
it consists of nothing but the traditional Appalachian beans and
cornbread. While these are food staples in this region, I have
attempted to modify the non-varied diet in several way: cooking new
dishes, gardening with variety of vegetables and herbs, and doing
some gathering of tasty natural flora. The cooking must be done,
for there is simply not enough low-cost food from a supermarket to
sustain a person through a month on a low budget. However, in a
special issue in this website is my refutation of that lack of
variation argument by naming all daily soups I intend to concoct
this year -- a new one for every day. Today's is the 205th
soup-of-the-day for 2009 (organic butternut squash, tomatoes and
garlic served cold).
Supplementing by gardening is possible.
Along with cooking, one can raise different vegetables, which many
of my neighbors are now doing. It does not take much space
(flowerbeds and pots can do, along with backyard garden plots).
Gardening adds otherwise costly vegetables to the dinner table
during the growing portion of the year -- and this addition can be
organically grown and of known quality. From April to October I
have a garden salad meal, with tomatoes being the mainstay between
July and September. By using seasonal extenders fresh vegetables
can last to the year's end.
gathering is possible.
A second approach is to gather goods from the natural world around
us. This is more easily done in rural areas than in urban ones, for
the practice includes both gathering flora and hunting fauna to
supplement our diets. That task is quite difficult in congested
areas. For those of us near forestland, it includes gathering
spring greens, summer berries, autumn fruit and nuts, and winter
roots. We are pestered by a host of wildlife (see July 18).
Thrifty hunters turn the deer into venison sausage, which I
distribute to the hungry who are willing to cook with it. All of
this gathering and hunting yields food that is very low in cost and
very high in nutrition.
Prayer: Lord, teach
us to eat simply, locally, and nutritionally and to encourage others
to do the same.
Sunset over rural Kentucky land
2009 Observing Space Week 2009
Space Week involves the great "out there" -- the unexplored
vastness beyond which no human has ventured. It is hard to imagine
that much of Earth was part of this unknown until about the
sixteenth century, and frigid portions remained unexplored until a
century ago. Ocean explorers speak of the vast unknown marine sea
bed. Looking outward, we see today that outer space is the vast
space measured in light years, and only a hint is known of the
millions of heavenly bodies that astronomers are discovering.
want to reach beyond the current limits, and so the legitimate
search for the unknown is part of our very nature.
current space program goes beyond the Cold War contest between the
Soviet Union and the United States. For those of us who remember
the Russian Sputnik challenge of the 1950s, the space program became
a game of material and technological advancement and who could prove
a greater claim to preeminence. Billions of dollars have been spent
and other nations (Japan, the European Union, China, even North
Korea) seek to enter the exclusive space club. While this is being
written, the Hubble Space Telescope has been refurbished by another
team of space adventurers. The EU space program continues with
missions to outer space. China has plans to go beyond weather and
communications satellites and to become a space leader. Exploration
and scientific research at the International Space Station have had
programs have had their down side; space probes are expensive in an
age of limited resources needed for such down to earth problems as
world hunger and AIDS. Space pollution (an assortment of debris
from launch equipment and spent parts) is emerging as a problem for
existing weather and directional satellites and could be harmful to
future space mission vehicles. The amount of such junk is growing
and requires some degree of international regulation.
Furthermore, a few super-rich have taken advantage of the
hard-strapped Russian space program, and they have hitched rides as
a form of exotic tourism, thus diminishing the basic purpose of the
programs. One gets an awful feeling that taxpayers are expected to
pay for such nonsense. Venture capitalists are striving to develop
a private traveling vehicle that could carry the super-rich tourists
out to the reaches of moon and planets. Again, it is a program
conceived for the elite, while impoverished people down on Earth die
from lack of sufficient food and medicine.
emerging question that we hardly want to mention for fear this might
cause it to happen: "Will a combination of permissiveness by
taxpayers, imperialism by leaders, and greed by the defense industry
give birth to space weapons? Are we so "spacey" as to lack common
Prayer: Lord, keep
us down to Earth through proper use of limited resources; help us
explore the unknown in a moderate way.
Countless droplets of dew, jewels from
2009 Skygazing and the Perseid Meteor Showers
Tonight, in the middle of Space Week, we realize that the Perseid
Meteor Showers are beginning. This is a natural night light
show that is entertaining for all ages. We stop and gaze to the
heavens in a sense of wonder. What about the rising and setting of
planets, the appearance of comets, and the beginning and end of the
cosmos? We have the example of the mystic, St. Ignatius of Loyola,
who would spend night time gazing at the heavens in a more
pollution-free Roman environment; he would find this an ideal time
to converse with the Creator through prayerful meditation.
eager potential sky-gazers are hindered by light pollution from
viewing heavenly spectacles. However, the degree of hindrance
varies depending on weather conditions, the local topography, which
can shield areas from night glare, and the magnitude of night
lighting in the vicinity. The hope is that all who are hindered
will have opportunities to travel to areas with clearer skies;
maybe they can be part of a low-budget camping trip and spend the
time seeing sky wonders that are hidden from where they live. As
noted in Monday's reflection, the percentage of the world's
population who can truly skygaze declines each year through
urbanization and increasing light pollution. Curb tv and video
games and seek simpler forms of night pastimes.
Primitive people were keen observers and developed sophisticated
knowledge of the heavens. They learned about the changing
constellations through the seasons, the exact position of stars with
reference to local directions, the rising and setting of the
planets, the phases of the moon, and the position of the sun in
summer and winter, the length of day and night. Skygazing was thus
more than an entertainment; it was an opportunity to refine one's
observational skills. The star formations led to tales woven
according to various cultural traditions. We westerners learn the
ancient Greek names for constellations; the bodies of the heavens
became gods and goddesses for Greeks, and the deities interacted
through the imaginative weaving of stories. For these earlier
peoples, the heavens were their easily available national libraries
and the source of their oral and written traditions; they observed
that the heavens were in dynamic motion seasonally.
ancient traditions recorded extraordinary events in the dawn of
human awareness, when an unexpected heavenly body came close to the
Earth on its journey to the sun. The close call caused the possible
breaking up of a planet in our solar system, and affected our
Earth's polarity and rotational patterns, as well as created a
violent wind, water, volcano, and earthquake super-phenomenon of a
magnitude never before or since recorded. Read the well documented
book Cataclysm: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in
9500 B.C. by D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair (Santa Fe, New Mexico:
Bear & Company, 1997).
I look into the heavens, made by your fingers, at the moon and
stars you set in place -- (Psalm 8: 3)
Morning comes to rural Kentucky farm
2009 Assisting the Landless
need space to live, reside, recreate and enjoy life. Both as
individuals and as social groups we seek our own places, whether a
room, garden plot, or farm. Our physical and psychic well-being
demands privacy, a chance to contact the soil, and some ample moving
space. We often have to be satisfied with a small room, a potted
plant, a short walkway, a frequented park.
Population pressures deny some folks the space essential for a
higher quality of life. This leads some to be usurpers on others'
"property." Landless folks do not have the privileges of their
ancestors to purchase low-cost farmland on the Great Plains for one
dollar an acre. While many suburbanites have space, half the
American people do not. Maine's two thousand miles of coastland are
privatized to such an extent that only a small fraction of shore can
be enjoyed by the landless citizens. This privatized condition
extends beyond beach rights to vast tracts of interior lands. The
Earth contains over fifty million square miles of surface land (36.8
billion acres or about six acres per person). A sizeable portion of
this land is uninhabitable, but only a relatively small amount is
needed for supplying basic human needs. Unfortunately, productive
land is often used for livestock raising, golf courses, and lawns,
or is cluttered by urban development.
beings have a right to land, to the commons in order to meet
basic needs. In many primitive cultures, land is held communally
and is distributed through community authorities. The Creator
intended land for all. These programs may help:
homesteading of unused, mismanaged and abandoned lots, buildings and
Turning over of excess private, religious and non-profit
landholdings for the use of the neighborhood for community gardens
and recreational space;
Making state and national forestlands available for meeting
non-destructive recreational needs, and forbidding the logging of
such lands by special interest groups;
Regulating foreign agricultural land investment by food- importing
countries like China and South Korea, and guaranteeing that local
growers are not driven off of their farms but are party to the
Helping support Third World redistribution projects and assistance
with tools and basic supplies for pioneer families as well as
small-scale growers; and
Encouraging backyard gardens and use of available public free space
for urban gardening projects.
Prayer: Lord help
us to reclaim the commons for the landless.
Learning to cook by using an online
2009 Starting a Cooking School
People come to our
door in increasing numbers, both because of hard times and because
it is getting near the end of the month.
practices, poor budgeting and minimal food preparation cause them to
run out of food before the next food stamps or WIC cards. At the
start of the month some buy soft drinks and resell that and some
food to others. Non-food-stamp people complain that those on
welfare can afford better cuts of meat and other foods than they can
-- and do not deserve to be given supplementary food at the month's
end. These are tough times. Granted some folks fall through the
cracks; they go without food because someone in the household sold
their food for drugs, or they are unable for one or other reason to
obtain government handouts. Others who could live more modestly are
not helped by church handouts that cause them to stop trying to
improve their budgeting and home economics.
of my parishes (Our Lady of the Mountains in Stanton, Kentucky),
Sister Mary Jane Kreidler, the parish life director, has initiated a
"cooking kitchen" program. She has gathered seven or so, mostly
young mothers, with few food preparation and purchase skills and
moved them patiently through a process of astute buying and
cooking. The class plans a menu; they go together to the grocery
store and purchase basic nutritious food ingredients; and then
return and split the food into two portions: one they use for their
own prepared lunch according to a traditional recipe; the other
portion is allotted in individual sub-portions according to the
number in each household. After finishing the lunch and conversing,
these homemakers return to their families and cook the ingredients
for supper in the same fashion as done earlier in the day at the
shared lunch in the church hall kitchen.
process certainly excels mere charitable giving of actual food items
(never money because of lack of control), for that food is limited
to use by those who cook the basic ingredients given. The churches
never give market cards either, for fear the cards will be used for
junk food or cigarettes. The basic problem in America is not lack
of food, but lack of willingness to purchase nutritious food and to
prepare meals at home. Many are food junkies along with other
substance abuse problems. Confronting bad food habits goes beyond
distributing food that could be sold or wasted.
church becomes a good steward. All the needy who are able to bake
their own bread, prepare their own main dishes and create nutritious
desserts are able to stretch food stamps and WIC money -- and do
not need to beg for additional food except in rare circumstances
(e.g., tragic occasions of natural disaster or need to feed
visitors). Far better in these difficult times is to furnish money
and supplies for class work, and to teach people how to properly
purchase and cook nutritious items.
Prayer: Lord, show
us how to be teachers who follow your example and multiply food
supplies, so others can eat their fill.
Fruit from a volunteer squash from her
(photo by Sally Ramsdell)
Today's reading (John 6: 1-15) parallels that of the other Gospels
(Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17). The various
passages contain some common elements: the basic trust in Jesus and
in what he says; distrust by disciples and followers as to whether
there is enough food; a miracle of either physical multiplication of
the food or the opening of the stored food by the many for others
who are nearby (a miracle of charity); the example of a youth who is
willing to risk radical sharing of what are his bare essentials; the
gracious God giving us well above what is needed to feed the hungry;
the ultimate satisfaction on the part of believers; and the need not
to waste the gifts given.
story is told about a concentration camp in the Second World War,
where a Jewish lady was given a vial by a priest on the way to his
death. The lady was asked to distribute these bread fragments to
all who asked her, and she observed that the vial never went empty,
though she did not recognize the importance and the miracle at the
time. Truly, it was a miracle, but it was only years later that
another priest explained the significance to her. The vial never
went empty; it contained the Bread of Life, the Lord's presence to a
journey of faith we need energy to sustain us for we are spiritually
hungry. Without nourishment we will lose heart, for the tasks ahead
of us are immense, and only God's presence can sustain us.
Certainly the world's poor understand the pangs of hunger, and they
can vividly picture the kingdom of heaven where there will be no
want, only plenty; however the spiritual hunger is just as deep and
real. We may ask whether we will feel comfortable in any banquet,
when we are forgetful of the hungry folks around us. We are blessed
to satisfy our spiritual hunger, and doubly blessed to share concern
and compassion for those who are so often forgotten and overlooked.
Eucharistic Feast is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Thus we
extend thanks to God for the gift given, the time to partake, and
the energy to respond and use gifts properly. The disciples
gathered the fragments left over so there would be no waste, and
these filled twelve wicker baskets -- one for each apostle, an
over-abundance from the hand of God. We resolve to waste less time
and fewer opportunities, talents and resources. Leftovers show the
plentitude of God and must be reused as tomorrow's gifts. Partaking
in the Eucharist is connecting ourselves with the sacrifice of
will not understand and will even ridicule our faith in the Body of
Christ, Others will believe for a moment and then fall away, for
the saying is too hard; and still others will allow the great
mystery to grow and then they will enter into the Lord's sacrifice.
Multiplication of the loaves continues unto today.
Prayer: Lord, help
us to believe.
Spiders' webs, naturally green building materials
2009 Building with Green Materials
people today want to build green, but they hardly know what it means
beyond using more insulation or installing energy efficient
windows. However these are good starters. A major consideration in
either hot or cold climates is to save the domestic air whether
heated or cooled. The heat and cooling sources are of prime
importance for long-term savings and carbon imprint. Building green
is not as much a matter of the materials as of the size of the
structure. An oversized structure tarnishes the luster of the
entire project even if it is made of the greenest of materials.
Non-toxic building materials are obviously desired, but compared to
structure size and location they carry little weight as factors
the site. The
primary green determining factor is where the structure is or is to
be located. A desert site would favor certain construction
materials differing from those used on a wooded mountain side or a
north country valley or seashore urban home. The degree of heating
or cooling required calls for different construction, and wind or
water protection techniques for winter or summer should determine
structural materials. The specific site may be well or poorly
protected and some berming or shade-tree planting may be in order.
The way the structure faces and where windows are located are part
of this primary green planning phase. A Florida design is not meant
for the Alaskan woods. Most of all, the site may be near some local
building materials and at a distance from others.
what is available. The builder may look about and talk to
commercial outlets about standard building materials. The owners
may soon feel quite limited due to differences in prices between
asphalt or metal roofs and tile roofs, or between wood and brick.
They may hear about non-traditional building materials such as cob
walls or straw bales (see Special Issues at this website for the
latter). Still the bold do-it-yourselver may want to use cordwood
or field stone or pressed earth for the walls. While these
materials help define the type of structure, the building materials
are generally only a quarter of the total home cost.
The green builder needs to know that recycled or "deconstructed"
materials of quite high quality and at bargain prices abound in many
places -- for there are four million unoccupied homes in America,
some of them awaiting deconstruction. A first-time builder is
cautioned that obtaining these materials without proper assistance
can be dangerous work. However, demolition materials are abundant
and of high quality; builders can get bargains in the quality of
older framing, flooring, logs, brick, block, plumbing, windows,
doors and even trim. If building with virgin materials, hunt
locally for stone, rough-cut timber, cordwood or locally produced
Prayer: Lord, give us right judgment so as to properly plan,
and not attempt to build a "green" structure on sand.
A skyward view above marsh vegetation
2009 Traveling by Air
travel by air less and less each year. I used to find this form of
travel quite exciting. Now in post 9-11 days and through getting
older, I find air travel worrisome. Granted using small airports is
nice, but generally one or other terminus is in a big city, where
the rush and bustle of hoping flights stay to schedule and standing
in line for ticket clearance prove disconcerting. Seasoned
travelers are more accustomed to taking off shoes and sending
everything through the x-ray machine -- and they don't crack jokes
with the inspectors either. I'm getting better with those
inspections, but they still demand severe concentration and present
the possibility of a thorough search.
to take our annoyances out on neighbors. Check-in or parking
delays, plane delays in boarding or departure, or delays in arrival
and deplaning at the terminal gate can be immensely frustrating,
especially if the time span from one operation to the next is
limited. After some flying, we are supposed to get used to the
unexpected, but I find surprises more intolerable with age. I would
prefer to drive to a destination of less than five hundred miles
and, if accompanied by another in the car, can arrive just as fast,
far more conveniently, and actually using about the same amount of
fuel. It takes me longer to travel to an airport (60 miles away),
go through ticketing, waiting, boarding, flying, disembarking,
getting transportation and arriving at the final destination than to
drive 500 miles. Carrying more auto passengers allows for still
more savings per person-- but maybe it is less comfortable.
Traveling by train and bus is greener still.
the air travelers can be quite annoying -- as I'm sure we all are
for others. Maybe it's their looks or gestures or way of acting or
talking. The cell phone user next to you will cut loose in a loud
voice and continue the generally innocuous conversation right in
your face. Or maybe it's that difficult moment when the fellow in
front decides to lean his seat back into your own limited space. Or
it is that last arrival with far more packages than can ever be
placed in the already filled overhead rack. Maybe it is the
anticipated difficulties clearing or just thinking about clearing
customs. Frustrations in scheduling changes are balanced by
reaching a destination goal rapidly and in relatively good
travel hints are worth remembering: travel light, super light;
limit the number of loose items, for you only have two hands; know
the terminals by studying the particular layouts found in available
airline magazines; wear identification tags around your neck instead
of fingering into pocket or purse or billfold each time; attempt to
use automatic ticket machines for convenience; carry snacks in your
pack; take good reading material; and smile.
Prayer: Lord, help
me to be satisfied to stay at home and communicate electronically or
through other means.
Gardener's helper - the lady bird bettle
(photo by Walter Para)
2009 Learning about Medicinal Herbs
rural Americans grew up knowing the benefits of certain native
plants, and especially culinary and medicinal herbs. Over the years
many of those knowledgeable about these varieties and remedies have
passed from the scene without conveying their expertise to others.
Modern sufferers prefer to run to the pharmacy or the caregiver for
a prescription that is not necessarily better. We often forget that
the origins of many modern medicines such as aspirin are traditional
herbal treatments. At this time of year, when the garlic is
harvested, we remember that many of the world's people highly favor
it and tout its medicinal effects, many of which may actually
exist. Elderly people have a common love for garlic -- and everyone
in the household has to love it also, in order for peace to endure.
Garlic is one of many medical herbs used by Appalachians. Others
cohosh -- used for hot flashes;
Comfrey -- used as an overall cure, and as tea for coughing and for
wounds, burns and ulcers. Overuse causes complications;
Damask rose -- brewed and used as a mild astringent tonic;
-- brewed to relieve flatulence, colic and hiccups;
Elderberry -- juice taken for flu and colds;
Fennel -- same as dill for flatulence;
Ginseng -- root and leaves taken whole or as teas for a wide variety
Horseradish -- simmer roots with sugar water for allergies;
Jewelweed -- bruised leaves for relief of rashes and irritated skin;
Mullein - well cooked leaves used as cough drops;
Parsley -- bruised fresh leaves for relief from insect bites and for
improvement of mental powers;
Pokeberry -- swallowed whole for arthritis/rheumatism;
Rosemary -- brewed alone or with other herbs for relief of colds,
colic and nerves;
-- brewed to relieve coughs and cold symptoms;
burnet -- leaves for diarrhea and hemorrhage;
Sassafras -- brewed with damask rose for relief of inflammation of
basil -- brewed as tea to relieve vomiting;
-- rubbed on the body or hung in the room to repel flies, mosquitoes
and ants; leaves are used for inflammations.
listing is intended to be informational, rather than to present
recommendations. Some of the herbs are quite effective as
recommended, but all ought to be used only in moderation. They can
save money, but differ in effectiveness. It is always best to talk
herbal practices over with your primary health care provider before
launching into their regular use. Non-professional self-diagnosis,
even in hard times, is often faulty.
Prayer: Lord, give
us the patience and ability to listen to the wisdom of the past and
to accept it in a balanced manner.
Monarch on joe-pye-weed
2009 Pirating and Corporate Accountability
the earlier part of this year we read with somewhat increasing alarm
about the small-time Somali ex-fishermen who were working in teams
and attacking the massive shipping off the coasts of their homeland,
a failed state. The western media stood solidly on the side of the
shipping companies, some large, some struggling, and some even
bringing food relief to Africa. Hijacking of major oil tankers has
occurred, been thwarted, and even in some cases pirates killed or
brought to some resemblance of justice in Kenya. But the piracy
story is often quite a one-sided saga.
fact, widespread sympathy for the pirates is building in the Middle
East and other countries. A number of pirates are ex-fishermen,
because the corporate factory fishing vessels from richer lands have
drained the fish resources of their normal fishing grounds, and the
pirates can not compete on corporate ground rules. The factory
ships send their hoard of fish to the tables of the world's
affluent; pirates return to their homeland where half the Somali
people today face imminent starvation due to drought, lawlessness
and lack of governmental structure. The case is certainly two-sided
and calls for a multi-faceted approach including shipping
protection, control of factory ships and policing of the Somali
Corporate Accountability International (CAI), a nonpartisan
membership organization, seeks to hold corporations accountable for
their actions. For twenty-five years, CAI, formerly known as
Infact, has pressured such corporations as Nestle, General
Electric and Philip Morris/Altria to change business practices. The
group seeks to stop the human and environmental toll wrought by
transnational corporations. The CAI is concerned about the human
right to water (against privatization of public water supplies by
corporations) and challenges the food giants such as Cargill,
Monsanto and Dow, corporations that control the world's food supply,
promote and use dangerous pesticides that poison people and the
natural world and increase our dependence on biotechnology and
genetically engineered crops and food.
suggest here that CAI is well equipped to handle this quite complex
corporate accountability issue that involves water and food. Piracy
is in low regard because it threatens the "business as usual"
approach to modern commerce. Thus navies of a dozen countries are
contributing to protecting the shipping and apprehending pirates.
Who is challenging the factory ships that are robbing the locals of
needed protein sources as well as depleting the fisheries of the
world? If you agree, apply pressure within the public interest
movement for those with proven records to take up this complex
issue. Piracy is now spreading to other poor regions and these
folks may be less gun slingers than modern day Robin Hoods.
Contact: CAI, 46 Plympton Street, Boston, MA 02118-2425
Prayer: Lord, teach
us to see all sides of an issue.
Black-eyed susan in summer's garden
2009 Defending Human Rights
difficult times when foreign trade is haphazard, markets are iffy,
unemployment is high, and protectionism is raising its ugly head,
the rights of minorities in individual nations are often
overlooked. The temptation on the part of national policy is to
wink at human rights violations "for the greater good" and to be
silent in order to further the good will of commercial partners. Is
it right to deny the inhabitants of Gaza the basic construction
materials to rebuild their destroyed housing? Is it right to go
easy on Tibetan human rights for a cozier trade relationship with
economically powerful China? Is it right to forget about the
oppression of certain minorities in various Indian states? What
about Kurds or Christian minorities in parts of the Middle East?
In many parts of the world human rights are being violated in large
and small ways, but in none of these is this justified.
country is trying to recover from torture accusations and possible
misdeeds in prison camps at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Human rights advocates asked searching questions as to
whether it is morally right to flaunt international laws about
treatment of prisoners. Don't these prisoners have a basic right to
fair trials and hearings in court? If these are combatants in war,
how could we as a people ignore the demands of the Geneva Treaty for
proper treatment of war prisoners? This seemed to go counter to our
long tradition of liberty. Terrorist suspects were held
indefinitely without fair trial. Reports circulated involving
torture, water boarding and other means for making supposed
that such actions are officially out of place, the question is
rising as to who knew about it and when. Human rights are often
overlooked in at times of combat. In past times of lapses, such as
the internment of Japanese Americans in the Second World War, the
actions afterwards were recognized as temporary and needing some
form of compensation for victims. We cannot excuse our past
failures such as the Alien and Sedition Act of the 1790s, and yet in
troubled times people will tend to look away from restrictions on
liberties and actions that step on the human rights of people caught
in the cross fire.
is a home of the free and the brave, and at times like these we must
bend over backwards to do the right thing. Our record must be
consistently for people whether they are those at home or in foreign
lands. Other governments may be angered, if we focus on their human
rights violations, but that we must do if we are to be true to our
constitutional guarantees and defense of freedom. Civil liberties
and freedom are always at stake, and thus we must go the extra mile
in human rights matters.
Lord, teach us to speak up for the rights of individuals and never
to let the risk of economics or political considerations hold us
back as a nation.