Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Are the persimmon seeds telling the truth?

I have put off reporting on my persimmon seed-reading, because I didn't believe it.
Take a look at the photo at right. The seeds you can actually see to read all are spoons and knives.

I don't trust the seeds any more.

They lied to me for the last couple of years. They were like this year's reading, but the last two winters here were mild. Especially last winter. It was so mild that the municipal utility company's kilowatt-hour sales were down.

Nobody says it is going to be a cold, snowy winter this year, except for my seeds. And everyone else's. Plus the few people I've talked to who have seen woolyworms, or woolybears, say the caterpillars are solid black, no banding, so around here, we read that as a rough winter ahead.

But The Old Farmer's Almanac says it will be a mild winter.

"Winter will be milder than normal, with above-normal precipitation and snowfall. The coldest periods will be from late November into early December, from late December into early January, and in early February. The snowiest periods will be in mid-November, early to mid- and late December, and early February," is what The Old Farmer's Almanac says on Page 229 of the 2018 edition, which I bought last month. I buy it every year, and have for as long as I remember, because that is the almanac Grandpa always bought.

Well, The Old Farmer's Almanac was off this year, for sure. It has been even milder than they predicted, Late November into early December was moderate or warm. Some days I didn't wear a coat or sweater to work, and I get up and arrive before dawn. We got no snow in mid-November, and none in early or mid-December. Here it is in late December, and we finally got the first one of the season.

That is why I opened the seeds, took their picture and then laid them aside. I didn't trust them enough to share them with you, my readers throughout the Heartland and across this great nation.

But now, given recent events, I'm a little concerned. If The Old Farmer's Almanac is this far askew this year, maybe we'll have one of those old-time winters that hit hard on Jan. 1 and blast us all the way through St. Pat's. I remember one of the heaviest snows of my life was on the Ides of March back before I graduated from high school. That was old-timey; maybe we're going to revert to that.  Lord, I hope not.

We got a little bit of snow this past weekend, and it was still cold yesterday, Christmas Day. The National Weather Service says it is going to be below freezing the rest of this week. Maybe on Jan.1, the seeds' prediction will start in. Again, Lord, I hope not.

Well, hunker down and stay warm, folks. Throw another log on the fire.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Cold Christmas

Last night, my wife said, “Is this going to qualify as a White Christmas?”

“Well,” I said, thinking about it. “We didn’t get much snow, so it is not a pretty blanket of snow. With the sky overcast, it looks pretty desolate. Still, though, I guess it would indeed qualify as a White Christmas. It will be your first one.”

She is a Texan and she doesn’t mince words.

“Sure not what it’s cracked up to be,” she said.

She had never had snow on Christmas. In fact, growing up in Houston, she rarely saw snow at all.

I asked her, “Do the radio stations play songs like ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ down there? Does Bing sing ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” on Houston radio?

“Well, of course,” she said. “It snows in some places in Texas.”

She told me how when she was a kid, her mom and dad would pack the family up and drive north of Houston some 50 miles to Cut and Shoot whenever there was a little bit of snow at Uncle Bubba’s and Aunt Sissy’s place.

“It’s a little farther north, so they would get snow, a little, when we didn’t,” she said.

I remember a few years ago when her niece emailed some pictures of her kids’ snowman in Austin. A closer look at the snowman showed that it was next to a child’s sand bucket. It was a cute little miniature snowman made from snow that the kids had scraped off cars and scooped off the ground with the bucket. They had managed to get enough snow to make a little snow feller, though.

My wife wants to move back down to that warm place.

I don’t blame her.

God bless America, God bless Dixie and Merry Christmas to all our readers here in the Heartland and across this great nation.

Weather data
Here is the Rolla weather data for the 24-hour period ending at 7:30 a.m. today, Dec. 25, 2017, Christmas Day:

High temperature: 28 degrees F.

Low temperature: 17 degrees F.

Current temperature: 19 degrees F.

Precipitation: 0.01 inch.

Precipitation for the year: 42.87 inches

Precipitation for the month: 1.01 inch

Snowfall/frozen precipitation: 0.2 inch.

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the 2017-2018 season: 1.9 inches

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the year: 4.5 inches.

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the month: 1.9 inches.

Relative humidity: 86 percent.

These figures are courtesy of S.R. Fraley, National Weather Service cooperative observer up on the campus of the Missouri University of Science & Technology.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

First snowfall of 2017-2018

The snow fell overnight and yesterday morning. I just took this a little while ago.
Yesterday morning, my wife got up to let the poodles out in the backyard.

It was 5:45 and the weekend, so I was still sound asleep.

I did not hear her first word: "Ugh!" followed by something that I can't print here.

I did not see what she saw: snowflakes coming down.

By the time S.R. Fraley, the weather observer up at the university campus in town, took his 24-hour measurements at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the snowfall measured 1.5 inches.

Here are his official measurements at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 23:

High: 40 degrees F.

Low: 26 degrees F.

Current temperature: 27 degrees F.

Precipitation: 0.71 inch

Precipitation for the year: 42.86 inches

Precipitation for the month: 1 inch

Snowfall/frozen precipitation: 1.5 inches

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the 2017-18 season: 1.5 inches

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the year: 4.1 inches

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the month: 1.5 inches

Relative humidity: 99 percent.

It snowed a little more in the morning, and again this morning, I saw some large flakes coming down. It all added up to 0.2 inch more snowfall.

Here is the Rolla weather data for the 24 hour period ending at 7:30 a.m. today, Sunday, Dec. 24, Christmas Eve:

High: 34 degrees F.

Low: 26 degrees F.

Current temperature: 27 degrees F.

Precipitation: Trace

Precipitation for the year: 42.86 inches

Precipitation for the month: 1 inch

Snowfall/Frozen precipitation: 0.2 inch

Snowfall/Frozen precipitation for the season: 1.7 inches

Snowfall/Frozen precipitation for the year: 4.3 inches

Snowfall/Frozen precipitation for the month: 1.7 inches

Relative humidity: 92 percent

So right now at 5:55 p.m. Sunday, the temperature on my front porch (not an official temperature) is 22.8. The relative humidity, according to the gadget I bought at the hardware store, is 67 percent.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ozarks entrepreneurship: Smokerbuilder.com and The Mid-Mo Smoke Show

This morning I am listening to the Mid-Mo Smoke Show on the local ESPN radio station, and they are talking about what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers.
Right now, they are talking about making gumbo. That is not quite an Ozarkian dish, nor is it made with smoke, but it is the weekend after Thanksgiving, so I an understand why they have set aside the usual agenda of smoking meat.
The description of the dishes they have talked about so far this morning have sounded delicious and the hosts, Frank, Pig Daddy and The Czar, have indicated they will post recipes on their show site later this week.
You can, of course, access that site from anywhere with your computer device, and you can listen to the show live, or on its archives, from anywhere.
The Mid-Mo Smoke Show is the radio voice of Smokerbuilder.com, an Ozarks company based right here in Phelps County.
There was an interesting story about the Smokerbuilder.com Fall Gathering at the Phelps County Focus newspaper website, and it includes quite a bit of history about the company that started when Frank Cox merely wanted to find a good smoker to cook meat for gatherings of family and friends and his home.
He couldn't find one to his liking, so he built one, and now he helps others build their own or modify their current smokers. It's a matter of finding a need, figuring out how to fill it and then provide quality products and service.
That's Ozarks entrepreneurship.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

It is the best holiday of the year

Today is Thanksgiving Day, the best holiday of the year.
Yes, I know some of you, especially children, will say Christmas is the best holiday of the year because you get presents. Plus, it celebrates, for some of us, the birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is one benefit of it; it brings attention to Jesus Christ. People who don’t know him, if they pay attention, will hear the gospel, at least in part, and if they have any curiosity, it might lead to their seeking him. That’s one thing to pray for.
The problem with Christmas is that it has become cluttered for many people. Not for me. I’ve got no problem with Black Friday sales or gift-giving, but for many, maybe most, that kind of activity takes preeminence, instead of Jesus. Never has for me. I guess most people are more prosperous nowadays than my family was. Christmas was a big spendin
Here is the beautifully roasted, golden bird my wife fixed today. Fine, mighty fine.
g season for my family, spending for new socks, underwear, T-shirts, pajamas, bathrobes, maybe shirts for school and a new pair of blue jeans. And maybe one toy.
One time my Grandma gave me a couple jars of dill pickles because I liked them.
Christmas never cluttered for us back in those days, and it is not cluttered for me now. I’m as poor now as we were then. So Christmas is still important to me, especially the church activities, but I think for most people, it’s a big pain, so I put Thanksgiving above it.
And Easter is the best holiday, some would say, because it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an unnecessary holiday, as far as I am concerned. I don’t need it. At my little country church, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ every Sunday; in fact, we celebrate his birth, life, death, burial and resurrection every Sunday. We talk about Jesus a lot in our little country church. So Easter is unnecessary for us. All of the traditions, like eggs and rabbits and the like, are pagan-oriented, so I wouldn’t care if we ignored the so-called Easter holiday.
Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, aren’t they more important than Thanksgiving? Well, not in my opinion. The birth of the nation, the veterans who have served, the service members who have died--all of that is important to me. And that is why in my Thanksgiving Day dinner prayer I thanked God for all of that, the nation, our republic, our veterans both living and dead. I thanked God for all of his blessings on our family, our friends and church. I thanked God most of all for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who offers us eternal life.
There is a lot to celebrate, but there is more to be thankful for, and that’s why I like Thanksgiving Day best of all.
I hope you've had a great day of gratitude.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Are you interested in homesteading? I always was

Growing up on a five-acre homestead in Southwest Missouri, I was eager to get away from the place and the chores. In my junior year at the university, I ran across a publication called Ozarks Access Catalog or something similar. I discovered the "back to the land" movement, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Well, I was, but only in my imagination. After the university, I took a job as a small-town reporter/photographer/editor, and that took a lot of hours every day for seven years. Then I moved to another paper, just a little bigger but not much, and that took as many hours or more. I worked about seven days a week for that paper for 20 years. Then my wife and I started our own little publication and that took a lot of time for three years before it went broke. For the past dozen years or so, I have been working in retail full-time and journalism part-time, plus occasional blogging, so I guess I have three jobs and they take up about 13 hours a day.
As much as I'd like to have a homestead, I can't afford it and I don't have the time to work it.
Oveer the years, I had a huge collectionof Mother Earth News and similar publications. I always dreamed about having five acres  or so to have a small orchard, a big garden, ssome bees, rabbits and chickens, and room to fatten a steer every year.
Alas, none of that has come to pass and likely won't now.
But perhaps you have such a dream. If so, here's an interesting item I ran across from the University of Missouri Extension office in Springfield.
Five acres of land, a small pond and a desire for schedule flexibility does not sound like the typical path to success for cattle producers.
However, land in southwest Missouri can provide a reasonably priced home for a cow compared to other parts of the nation, which is why Missouri ranks number two in beef cows behind Texas according to Andy McCorkill, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
Cattle are also a great option for people with small acreages and flexible schedules.
"I would encourage people in that situation to look into running some aged cows that you would buy bred, calve out and then sell as pairs. Another option is to keep them until the calves are ready to wean and sell them separately. Running young growing stock would probably be the best way to get some experience," said McCorkill.
With growing cattle, a producer is hoping to profit from efficient gains of weight. That is doable on small acreages.
"In most years, October and early November mark the softest point of the year in the calf market so it is usually a good time to buy lighter weight calves if you can keep them healthy. You would then sell them at a heavier weight in the spring," said McCorkill.
In this scenario, a person could buy back a set to summer that would be sold in July or August which would give the land some time to rest and stockpile grass until October or November when you would do it all over again.
"It would take good management of the grass for things pan out at that intensive of a level, but it is what many folks do," said McCorkill.
Water is, of course, a very important factor for cattle and for many people it can be a limiting factor. With a small pond, a watering tank is still going to be necessary.
According to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with MU Extension in Lawrence County, says not expect huge profits from beef operations. A lot depends on what you include in your costs.
"Backgrounding operations rely on buying and selling skills plus market shifts for profits. A $100 per head profit is a goal of many backgrounders," said Cole.
Running beef cattle is viewed by many as a desired lifestyle and a great way to introduce children or grandchildren to cattle so they can grow up with an appreciation for agriculture. Getting them involved with 4-H may be an outgrowth of this lifestyle choice which can mean making a profit is secondary.
"The first consideration before you buy any cattle is to have something for them to eat and drink. The best cattle producers are the best forage managers. One beef cow and her calf require about three acres per year," said Cole.
If southwest Missouri has a comparative advantage over other areas of the country in producing an agriculture product it is probably beef cattle, specifically cows, and calves.
"Even though our land is not overly fertile and seems high priced, we can still provide a reasonably priced home for a cow compared to other parts of the United States. This is the reason Missouri ranks number two in beef cows behind only Texas," said Cole.
For more information, contact any of the MU Extension livestock specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Lawrence County, (417) 466-3102; Andy McCorkill in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551; Dr. Randy Wiedmeier, in Douglas County at (417) 679-3525; or Dr. Patrick Davis in Cedar County at (417) 276-3313.

 My homesteading today is limited to five 4x8 raised garden beds. I don't have livestock, but we have three poodles and a cat, plus some feral cats that wander in sometimes. I guess that will have to do.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Listening to the Opry, just like Grandpa

For years, we had a great public radio station here in town. The broadcast studios for the station, formerly KUMR and then later KMST to reflect the university’s name, were located in the basement of the campus library. The station played a range of music, folk, blues, classical, big band and bluegrass.
I especially liked the bluegrass programs, Bluegrass for a Saturday Night from 7-10 p.m., Sunday Morning Sounds from 7-9 a.m.
Five hours of bluegrass every weekend from the public radio station were joined with five or six hours on Saturday morning on a commercial station. The host of that show was named Ray Hicks, and when his station sold, he was quickly snatched up by another commercial station, although his program was cut to three hours every Saturday morning. Sadly, Ray had a stroke and was unable to continue; he passed away a couple of years ago.
The public radio host was Wayne Bledsoe, a history professor who had a long involvement with bluegrass going back to his North Carolina childhood. He played a good mix of traditional and contemporary bluegrass tunes on Saturday night and good bluegrass gospel with a dab of Southern gospel on Sunday morning.
I said once or twice or more in my newspaper column that Wayne’s Sunday morning bluegrass show was better than a sermon when it came to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Well, the university got tired of running the station after many decades, I reckon, and they sold it to St. Louis Public Radio, who immediately killed the gospel program, let go all the local folks who worked there and eliminated the local programming, such as the Backyard Birder feature. If Rolla people are interested in what’s going on in St. Louis, though, KMST is the station to turn to.
Before much time elapsed, Wayne announced his retirement and he played his last bluegrass tunes a couple of months ago. Sad time for us bluegrass fans who for years and years had listened on most Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.
Now there is plenty to listen to on the radio these days, especially if you have a Smartphone, I have discovered. I bought one of those Tracfone pay as you go Androids, and I hook iinto our home internet service so I don’t use any minutes. I can listen to just about any radio station in the country, I guess, thanks to apps like Tune-in and I Heart Radio. Plus, I have some Pandora channels that I have created.
So I have plenty to listen to. My favorite stations are KFWR-FM out of Fort Worth, which plays Texas and “Red Dirt” artists; KTXR-FM out of Springfield, which has changed its easy listening format to outlaw country, and several bluegrass outlets, like WAMU, I think, which is from somewhere east. On Pandora, I listen to my Flatt and Scruggs channel and my Don Edwards cowboy music channel.
On Saturday nights, I like to use one of the apps to pick up the Grand Ole Opry on WSM, the legendary station from Nashville.
I heard the Grand Ole Opry quite a bit when I was a kid, for we didn’t have television, and you could hear it well on an AM radio back then because there wasn’t near the clutter on the airwaves there is today. Also, we would drive three hours to central Missouri every 4-6 weeks to see my grandparents, and that is what we usually listened to on the Saturday night drives after my dad closed his barbershop and came home and got us. That was where I got my love of Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs.
When we got to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, they’d have the Opry on, too, until they finally got TV some years later.
So on Saturday night, listening to the Grand Ole Opry, I figure I’m turning into my grandpa.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A present from my Mama in 1972

If my memory is right--and at my age that is doubtful--my Mama gave me this Bible for Christmas 1972.
I was a sophomore at the University of Missouri, and I lived off-campus with a bunch of guys in a two-bedroom apartment. Breaking the rules to cut our rent share, we moved in two or three more guys.
I will not lie to you. I was not leading a Christian life. Now, I wasn’t as wild as many college students, because I worked my way through school. On most nights and every weekend, I was at work washing dishes in the kitchen at the restaurant at Stephens Magnolia Inn, an old motel on the business loop.
But occasionally, when I had a chance, I would cut loose with the other fellows.
My mother has always been a well-grounded Christian, as has my Daddy. Every time I did something I shouldn’t, like cutting loose on a rare weekend off,I worried about disappointing them, not Jesus. She gave me this Bible for Christmas that year, I guess to keep me mindful of my upbringing. For the most part, I think, it worked. As I say, I was not the best Christian in the world, and, to be honest, I still am not.
But I read the Bible as often as possible, and I think about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ a whole lot. Mostly, I think about how unlike him I am.
I’d like to tell you, and Mama would probably like for me to be able to tell you, that this book, The Living Bible paraphrase, changed my life and made me a wonderful Christian.
Well, it probably did change my life. It was so easy to read that I read and reread passages of it for many years later. It did not make me a wonderful Christian. Reading the Bible makes me more curious and more aware of how much I need and rely on Jesus Christ. So I keep stumbling along in life, reading and worshiping and trying to be Christlike (and failing), and I think this Bible had a lot to do with my current state of spirituality. I read it regularly, well, fairly regularly after my mother gave it to me for Christmas, and I have carried it with me everywhere I have lived since she gave it to me. Had she not given it to me, I might have just chucked the whole business of Christ-following.
It was a new edition in 1972, which is the copyright date in it. It is The Living Bible paraphrase, and it has notes at the beginning of each Bible “book” that make the World of God relevant to the early Seventies. I always skipped those parts, and still do, to read the Bible itself.
I always liked the plain paraphrase of The Living Bible. Years later, I heard criticism of it from learned theologians, but I’ve always had a bad attitude toward theologians, so I ignored them, as always.
This Bible was packed away for awhile, then it was laid on a shelf for even longer, for I have a New International Version that I’ve been reading, as well as my good old King James Version.
Now that I’ve taken it off the shelf and paged through it, I think I might try reading through it again in 2018. I will need to get a head start tonight.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Feed the birds this winter--and year around for fun--Part 4

Seriously, that water is clean, not muddy like it looks in this picture.
One last thing in this birdfeeding series, and this could be the most important thing we tell you:
OK, we’ve discussed where to feed the birds, what feeders to use and what to put in those feeders.
That’s all there is to it, right?
Well, no. When you eat, you like to have something to drink, don’t you? And you like to have something to bathe in, too, right?
We don’t bathe in our drinking water, but some creatures do, and they need a plentiful supply of it.
It’s up to you to provide that necessity, H2O, along with the food.
In fact, my good friend, Mike Doyen, who I believe is the state’s leading birding, for he devised the Great Missouri Birding Trail, told me that providing water at times is more important than providing food. They can usually find a little food in nature, but sometimes, water is so scarce that they can’t find it.
We’re heading into one of those periods, winter. Water turns to ice in winter, and sometimes stays that way for days, weeks, maybe more than a month. Oh, heaven help us, if it gets that cold and stays cold.
Mike showed me his watering trough, an big old skillet out back that he kept filled with water.
My wife had a concrete birdbath when we married, so we use that at The Ozarks Almanac. I even went to The Family Center a few years back when we got real serious about the birds, and I bought a heater that stays warm enough to keep the water thawed in the birdbath.

OK, that does it for our series on bird feeding and watering.
You can buy whatever blend of food you can afford and want to buy. You can do whatever you want about watering. There are all kinds of contraptions to buy, and I’m not opposed to doing so, I just don’t have the money for all that. I’ve seen a mister for hummingbirds. It isn’t expensive, but I’m on city water here, and I don’t want to add on any more gallons that I have to.
You do what you can afford and like to do. Or do nothing. Let the birds fend for themselves this winter. I hope, though, that we’ve created some interest in most of our readers to try caring for the birds. They can use the help, but most of it, it is just fun to have them around to look at.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Feed the birds this winter--and year around for fun--Part 3

Here is what we've been feeding the birds lately.
Yesterday, we talked about what feeders we use. Now here's what we put into those feeders each week.
For years, we bought and fed black oil sunflower seed only that we got from Sands Farm and Home, but Sands shut down. It was a great little store.
Then we started buying a mix from The Family Center, as well as thistle seed for the finches. We fed that for a few years.
Last year a new farm and home supply store opened here, Dickey Bub, which is a funny name that is combination of family names. It is a good store, and the price is right for wild bird seed. It is a True Value store, and we buy a 40-pound mix that contains cracked corn, milo, white millet, sunflower seed, calcium carbonate, white, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement.
I know you’re going to tell me that is a lot of fillers, and perhaps so, but they eat it. They congregate in here and eat it. I fill the feeders on Saturday or Sunday and have to refill them in the middle of the week.
I told my wife that I thought we needed to go back to the black oil sunflower seed, so we bought a 50-pound bag of it. I put the sunflower seed in the cylindrical feeder and the mix in the red barn/schoolhouse feeder. The birds preferred the mix.
So I added sunflower seed to the rest of the mix, and they liked that. I think I will try to convince my wife to continue buying both, fortifying the mix with several scoops of black oil sunflower seed.
We still buy the thistle seed for the finches at The Family Center, because they sell it by the pound, and we bag it ourselves. My wife prefers that, so I do, too.
You can do a lot of research on what to feed. Go online and you’ll see all kinds of seeds that birds like including something called, of all things, rapeseed. What in the sam hill is that?
For The Ozarks Almanac, it boils down to this: What is available here? What can we afford? So far, we have found affordable seed that the birds eat, so that’s about all we care about.
The suit cakes we buy as we can find them on sale. You can spend a lot of money on suet cakes if you want to. We don’t want do and won’t. The birds eat what we place before them, unlike some children.

Tomorrow: Wrapping it up with the most important thing to do for the birds

Monday, November 6, 2017

Feed the birds this winter--and year around for fun--Part 2

Throw a scoop or two on the ground for the ground-feeders.
Today, we're going to tell you about the feeders we use at The Ozarks Almanac. You can see a picture of three of them in yesterday's post, which was Part 1 of this four-part series.

We want to appeal to the range of birds, so we have a range of feeders. I’m just missing one that I want, but I’ll have to build it, and I haven’t found the time yet.
For the finches, we have tube feeders and sock feeders that dispense the tiny seeds they like.
For the woodpeckers, we have suet feeders that hold the suet cakes.
For the cardinals, blue jays and others, we have a large cylindrical feeder with a perch around the bottom and holes that give access to the seeds. We also have a large feeder shaped like a red barn or a red schoolhouse, I’m not sure which. It has spring-activated perches on both sides that are supposed to keep squirrels out of the food.
We also use the ground to feed birds like large and beautiful mourning doves. They feed on the ground as do some other birds. I usually throw a scoop or two of bird food on the ground when I fill the feeders. Then as the birds feed on the feeders, they move them and knock down more seed to the ground.
What I’m missing is a platform feeder. All I need to do is sink two posts and then nail or screw a 1-by board  across the top. I’m not sure how wide it needs to be, 1x8, 1x10, 1x12. Not sure. Simple to put up, just haven’t got around to doing it, for I work another full-time manual-labor job and a half-time reporting job in addition to my sporadic writing here at The Ozarks Almanac.

Tomorrow: What we put in those feeders

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Feed the birds this winter--and year around for fun--Part 1

Three of the feeders we use at The Ozarks Almanac, located next to a hedge.
We feed birds year-round at The Ozarks Almanac. I don’t know if that is good or bad for the birds. Is it making them dependent on us, raising up a generation of birds expecting handouts from us birdwatchers? I don’t know, but right or wrong, that’s what we do.
If you don’t feed the birds at your place, think about doing it this winter. Get started on it now, in fact. They are fun to watch, and they probably need the food in winter.
I am no expert on birding, but here’s what we do at The Ozarks Almanac.


The bird feeders are on the east side between the house and the neighbor’s hedge that he doesn’t take care of very well. That may be a good thing, for birds like to have a refuge they can fly to after eating. They go back and forth from the hedge to the feeders at feeding time.
If there’s a problem with too much vegetation in the yard, it is probably from our side, not the neighbor’s hedge. We’ve got a big Nine Bark bush. It’s something my wife likes, but it has grown unruly. That and the Golden Currant bushes provide refuge for the birds during feeding, but they also provide shelter for the neighborhood cats.
We’ve got one cat that is ours, Buddy, but there are four feral cats that hang around The Ozarks Almanac, too, because they know they’ll get a free meal from time to time. I’ve found some feathers and twice I’ve seen a feral cat with a dead bird in its mouth, so I guess our bird sanctuary is a banquet hall for the ferals. I’m going to have to get out and trim back the Nine Bark, the Currant and some of the neighbor’s hedge so the birds have a clearer viewing range.
Despite all that, I think the location is good, for it is sunny the biggest part of the day, protected from the prevailing wind and provides good protection, as long as the birds stay out of the range of the cats.

Tomorrow: The feeders we use

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What kind of a construction worker was Jesus?

Sir John Everett Millais' Christ in the house of his parents, 1850

Just about everything you have read and believed about Christianity has been revised, and I might talk about that from time to time here.
One thing that has changed is Jesus’ occupation. I’m not sure what the truth is now. I grew up hearing that he was a carpenter, and the stories and illustrations that I heard in Sunday School as a child indicated that  Our Lord and Savior grew up working with his earthly father, really step-father, I guess, as his Father was Jehovah, in a woodworking shop. I always imagined them making furniture, like baby cradles and such.
Then I was watching  The History Channel a few years ago and there was a show on there that claimed Jesus was actually something called a “tekton,” which is the Greek word for a laborer, very likely helping the Romans build a new city close to Nazareth, a city called Sepphoris.
The show said he likely was a stone-cutter or a stone carrier or someone doing a lot of work with stones. The show pointed out that there was not a whole lot of wood over there, as there is here, so Jesus probably was not a woodworker, certainly not a carpenter, but probably a stone worker of some sort.
Well, boy howdy, that sure changes the picture.
I thought Jesus grew up quietly in Nazareth, him and Joseph working together sawing and planing and sanding all those baby cradles. Ever now and again, Mother Mary would bring out a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea to the workshop and say something like, “How are my boys doing?’ and then give them each a peck on the cheek.
At lunch time, she’d holler out the back door of the house, “Come and get it, but wash your hands first,” and Jesus and Joseph would go to the bucket of water at the back door and pour some in a pan and wash their hands and face and then go into the house and eat themselves a bowl of soup or a grilled cheese sandwich or something. Then they’d thank Mary for lunch and go back to the workshop and spend the afternoon making some more baby cradles before heading back to the house for supper and then an evening of study of the scriptures.
And I figured that went on from the time Jesus was 12 and got left at the Temple until the time he was 30 and headed to Capernaum and beyond to go into business for himself as a rabbi, or teacher, having done all that scriptural study.
But, according to The History Channel, the incarnate Word was actually a construction worker, and he and Joseph probably spent a good many years on a work crew in Sepphoris building the city.
What was Jesus like as a construction worker around all those other construction workers? That can be a rough crowd. They tell dirty jokes, talk about getting drunk and getting laid. When a good-looking woman walks by they stop and stare, maybe make a comment, hoping  she’ll stop and flirt a little while.
What did Our Lord and Savior, who was sinless, do while all that tomfoolery was going on? What is a sinless person supposed to do around that kind of baloney? Ignore it? Say nothing? Say “tut-tut” or “tsk-tsk” and keep on working? Preach about the sins of the flesh? What if someone tells a dirty joke and it is really funny? How does a human, and Jesus was 100 percent human as well as 100 percent divine, not laugh at a funny joke, even if it is off-color?
I got reported at my day job for telling an inappropriate joke in the break room. The HR manager called me into the office and told me a complaint by a female worker had been filed for an inappropriate joke. I said, “The only joke I know I told recently was this one“ and then I told her this joke: Old boy goes into a bar and there is a big, fat girl in Daisy Duke shorts dancing on the table. Guy watches a while and then says, “Great legs.” The fat girl giggles and says, “Really? You think so?” And the guy says, “Sure, most tables would have collapsed under the weight by now.” The HR manager laughed out loud, told me to get out of her office and quit telling jokes in the employee break room.
Jesus would not have told a joke like that, nor would he have laughed. He is probably pissed off at me now for telling it again. No, wait, he doesn’t get pissed off. I get pissed off, because getting pissed off is a sin, and I am a sinner, but Jesus is not.
Wow, it must have been difficult being The Word Made Flesh, Divinity living amongst us sinful humans, and going to the cross to die for us, because we all deserve death, but he wants us to have eternal life.
I guess I don’t care whether he was a woodworker, a rough-in carpenter, a hod carrier or a skilled stone cutter.
I know that he was the Word of God to us, God in the flesh, who came to teach us and to die for us to atone for our sins. Because of him, we can live eternally, if we recognize our inability to save ourselves, recognize that he alone is the way to God, believe he died for us to cleanse us of our sins. He rose from the grave and now he offers us grace, mercy and peace. All we must do is receive him into our daily lives and worship him and follow him as the true expression of the Father.
That is truth that has not changed.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Politics and media haven't changed a bit over the years

It was on this date, Nov. 3, in 1948 that the Chicago Daily Tribute ran a banner headline declaring that "Dewey Defeats Truman."
Talk about fake news.
Well, it was just a mistake, kind of like the declarations a year ago leading up to the election, and even on election night, as the media boldly declared that Hillary Clinton was going to defeat Donald Trump.
"That ain't the way I heard it" is what someone said President Truman said a couple days later at Union Station in St. Louis when he was on his way back to Washington, D.C., from his home in Independence.
Someone handed him a copy of the paper from earlier in the week, so he held it up and the photographers started snapping pictures.
Truman was a Democrat, Thomas Dewey, who was the governor of New York, was a Republican. The Chicago Daily Tribune was a Republican paper, something you don't hear of much these days.
The Tribune had called Truman a "nincompoop," so that goes to show that not much has changed in politics or the media over the years. It's all a bunch of baloney, best ignored if you can do it. It's far more productive to spend time planning your garden, planting your garden, working the soil in your garden, harvesting the produce from your garden and putting up the fruit of your labors for the winter.
That and taking care of your chickens--and any livestock you might have.
And also read your Bible and pray.
The media and the politicians can just go to hell.
This is the 307th day of the year, The Old Farmers Almanac says it is supposed to be rainy and cool.
Tonight after midnight, 23 minutes into Nov. 4, in fact, the moon is supposed to be at its fullest. It is called the Beaver Moon in the almanacs, hearkening back to the colonial days in North America. That's what the early settlers apparently heard that name from the Indians, called Native Americans nowadays, although it seems to me that anyone born in either North America or South America is a native American.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Two weeks later, the bananas were almost as green as the day she bought them

 These bananas looked much greener in reality.Why did they never ripen?
My wife carefully monitors what I eat, and she buys wholesome food for me. Under her watchful eye and refusal to allow me to eat sweets, I have lost several scores of pounds.
Most important, the doctor says my A1C sugar number (I think that is what it is called) is trending downward instead of upward as it had been.
She encourages me to eat fruit instead of Snickers or Butterfinger or Cherry Mash.
My lunch box usually carries an apple, orange, banana, or sometimes all three.
She does most of the shopping at the local Aldi store, and she usually buys the bananas a little green so they won't go to mush quickly.
About a month ago, she brought home some name-brand bananas that were green, real green, green as goose poo, or greener.
And hard as rocks.
I checked them every day, because I wanted to take one to work
Literally two weeks later, the bananas were still green and rock-hard.
I told her that even if they did ripen, I would not eat them, because there was something mysterious and ungodly about bananas that did not ripen in two weeks.
I accused the banana grower of either injecting them with some strange chemical or genetically modifying them. Or both. Whatever kind of black arts had been practiced on those bananas, I wanted nothing to do with them, so she threw them out.
Later, I got to looking on the internet,and maybe there is another explanation. Some sources say that bananas are picked before they are ripe so they will ship. Then they are ripened in the warehouse using a gas. Without that treatment, they will never ripen.
So I guess it is entirely possible our bananas simply didn't get the gas treatment.
I'm still leery, though, and a bit concerned about genetic modification or some other witchcraft.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Starbucks does not match up to House Blend, in my humble opinion

The House Blend at Motomart in Rolla is a superior cup of coffee.
A Starbucks coffee shop, or restaurant, or whatever you call such an establishment, has opened in our small Missouri city.
Opening day was about a month ago, and I still have not gone in and ordered a cup. Likely, I never will.
From what I have read and heard, to experience Starbucks you must order something exotic called a cappucino or something like that with a Mafia-sounding name. And you must be willing to pay a premium price.
I prefer to make my coffee at home and pour it into a Thermos jug. Or, if I am going to buy a cup, I want black coffee with free refills. Or, if I'm out driving, I am perfectly willing to stop at a convenience store and buy a cup of whatever they have.
When you are in Rolla, Missouri, I recommend you stop at MotoMart (I always stop at the one at the junction of US 63 and Missouri 72, which is close to the house) and pour yourself a cup of the House Blend. Unbeatable.
One Saturday my wife and I had been out running errands when she decided she wanted to stop at the Starbucks counter in the new Price Chopper supermarket, not to be confused with the new Starbucks coffee shop, restaurant or whatever you call such an establishment. She also wanted to shop at the new supermarket and see what it was like. I said, "OK, but first stop at MotoMart, so I canget a cup of better coffee." And so we did.
When we got to the Price Chopper, she got in line at the counter, put her order in and then went over to the pick-up window. I stood off to the side, supping from my Mojo's cup that I got at MotoMart.
People kept asking me if I was in line, which I clearly was not. Finally, a yuppie couple came in and asked me the same question. "No," I said. "I'm waiting for my wife who is over there waiting on her fancy-pants coffee. I'm here drinking superior gas station coffee."
Goodness gracious, how they looked at me with disdain.
Oh, well, the House Blend from MotoMart is a superior cup of joe, and I doubt Starbuck's has anything to beat it. That's the humble opinion of The Ozarks Boy.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Time to see what the persimmons predict for winter

It has been a tradition for me for several years to open up some seeds from the persimmon tree in our yard to find out what they predict the winter weather will be.
Then, I often write a column about the findings. If you root around in here, you might find some of those previous winters' prognostications.
Maybe you will find last year's that predicted a harsh, wet winter. It turned out to be quite mild. No snow accumulation worth mentioning.
As you can see from the picture, I have gathered some fruit, seven of them.
I chose seven because that is the number of days it took Our Almighty Father God to make the universe, and rest up from the effort.
I try to keep my persimmon work biblically based, because s fellow employee at the newspaper where I once worked asked, "Is this witchcraft?" I told her, "No, it is Ozarks folklore." So, to make sure it is not witchcraft, I keep it biblically based.
The seeds have been removed and are in a plastic sandwich bag on the kitchen counter.
I will get around to opening the seeds and reading them this weekend, so check back. And tell your friends.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

No action taken on councilman’s fireworks complaints

Managing Editor/The Ozarks Almanac

Councilman Kelly Long tried again Monday night to cut down the number of days people can shoot fireworks in the city limits, but he didn’t have enough help from  other councilmen to get the job done.
“Independence Day is the fourth of July,” Long said. “Why allow it (discharge of fireworks) on July 1, 2, 3 or 5?”
Long, Ward 3 representative, has in past years tried to persuade council members to diminish the days of celebration, owing to complaints from his constituents, in particular one neighbor who goes to work at 3 a.m. weekdays.
“As my neighbor pointed out to me, July the fifth is not Independence Day,” Long said. “It (was) Wednesday.” And Wednesday was a workday for most working men and women in Rolla like the neighbor.
Long said other holidays are not extended with nuisance celebrations.
“I took my children trick-or-treating on Halloween,” he said.  That is Oct. 31, not Oct.28, 29, 30 and Nov. 1, 2 or 3.
Using sales tax figures and industry spending figures, Long presented a case that, at most, just 1,890 people bought fireworks in Rolla during the selling days allowed by city code, June 30, July 1-7.
The city code, specifically Chapter14 allows the discharge of fireworks on July 1-5.
Long said he would be willing to allow it on July 3 as well as July 4, but he indicated he wouldn’t stop there. Although he emphasized that he does not want anyone to think that he is completely opposed to discharging fireworks, he said, “My goal is to celebrate the Fourth of July on July 4 from 9 a.m. to midnight.”
There was some push-back from the mayor and other councilmen.
“People enjoy it,” said Mayor Lou Magdits IV about the discharging of fireworks on and around the fourth day of July.
Councilman J.D. Williams, Ward 5, noted that the purpose of allowing the sale of fireworks after the holiday itself is to get rid of stock inventory.
And Councilman Don Morris, Ward 4, said the sellers collect sales tax that is remitted to the city.
Councilman Long said he received complaints, in addition to his working neighbor, from pet owners and combat service veterans.
“One veteran told me that he can go to Lions Club to see the display and it doesn’t bother him,” Long said. That’s because the display is staged and the discharges are expected. The intermittent, unexpected and relentless explosions, especially at night, are disturbing to the veteran.
Regarding sales taxes collected, Long said the amount of taxes is relatively minor.
Councilman Jonathan Hines, Ward 1, said that although fireworks fans discharge the explosives for five days of the year, “there are 360 days they don’t.” He indicated that he could live with that.
But Long continued, and entered a motion to limit the sale of fireworks to July 1-4 and the discharge of them to July 3-4.
Councilman Matthew Crowell, in the discussion after the motion was entered, asked if it might be more logical to limit the sale of high-decibel fireworks rather than all of the explosives. That led to a discussion of the need for additional manpower to go into the various vendors’ tents and selling places--there were apparently six of them--and check each item.
That was judged too time-consuming and expensive.
The motion failed.
Long then attempted another motion, limiting the sale to June 30-July 5. That, too, failed to pass.
In other council action or discussion:
* The council held a public hearing and heard first reading of an ordinance that would rezone some lots from C-1 to C-3 between Faulkner and Rucker avenues, east of Bishop Avenue (U.S. 63) and south of Black Street. The rezoning would allow for the construction of an “enhanced Sonic drive-in,” said Steve Flowers, city codes enforcement officer, who presented the request from Sonic owners to the council.
Final reading and a vote will take place at the next council meeting, the first Monday of August.
* On a related ordinance proposal, first reading was heard on the vacating of Faulkner Avenue for 100-plus feet to tie in the lots fronted by Bishop Avenue with those fronted by Faulkner. This would allow a future replatting of the lots into one lot so the main building, a storage shed, a playground and volleyball court can be constructed without being separated by a street or crossing lot lots. The preliminary site plan puts a building squarely on what is now Faulkner Avenue.
* The council set aside the final reading of an ordinance to allow an agreement with the College Hills West Sewer District,
* A Complete Streets Policy was approved.
* First reading and final readings were heard and an ordinance was passed to authorize and agreement with the Missouri Department of Transportation to amend the airport business plan.
* First reading was heard of an ordinance to limit parking on 11th Street between Jimmy Johns and Infuze Credit Unit.
* Fire Chief Ron Smith presented a city Life Saving Award to firefighters Dillon Barnes and Dalton Hayes for saving the life of Kent Summers at Route 66 Summerfest.

Editor’s Note: watch for more details about the council meeting here at the Ozarks Almanac/Ozarks Chronicle this week and in the first issue of the Phelps County Focus newspaper, which will be published Aug. 2.

Get up, look up early every morning

I wish I had a good camera, for I would like to take a picture of the morning sky from time to time.
Today, for instance, when I let the poodles out at 4:45, I wanted to take a picture of the moon and Venus against the eastern sky that was starting to show some blue. Unfortunately, my Tracfone, while good for pictures in bright sunlight, does not do well in the twilight.
Here is a link to Earth and Sky's excellent website.
The sky changes throughout the year, of course, so I use that website frequently, as well as other resources, to keep track of what is going on.
If you get up early, as I do, step outside and take a look upwards.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sonic seeks property rezoning for new restaurant

Managing Editor

Rolla City Council Monday night will hear the first reading of an ordinance to rezone three lots and half of another, all between Faulkner and Rucker Avenues mid-block between Black Street and Highway 72.
Owners of Sonic have asked for the rezoning from C-1 (neighborhood business district) to C-3 (highway commercial district) zoning.
In addition, the Sonic owners have asked for a portion of Faulkner Avenue to be vacated, so the three lots in the area to be rezoned can be joined to lots between Faulkner Avenue and Bishop Avenue (U.S. 63), to make way for a new and expanded Sonic restaurant.
“The current Sonic would be closed,” Michael Calkins, a part-owner of the local Sonic franchise, told The Ozarks Chronicle/Ozarks Almanac after the Rolla Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday afternoon. “We plan on more parking bays, a drive-through and a playground.”
Calkins said the plan is to make the restaurant a “destination spot.” He said the expanded restaurant would, for instance, be a place to hold children’s birthday parties.
Asked if there is a timeline for the project, Calkins said, “It all depends on what happens next.”
What happens next will be decided by the Rolla City Council on the rezoning and the street vacating. That will likely take at least two council meetings.
The council will take up the commission’s approval of the rezoning request at the Monday night meeting, but council policy is to hear only the first reading (except in emergency situations) to give the public time to hear about impending ordinance changes and offer opinions to their ward councilmen. That means final reading and a vote on the rezoning change won’t take place until the meeting on the first Monday night in August.
There will be a public hearing on the rezoning change at the Monday night meeting. It is likely that the public hearing at the council meeting will be a lot like the public hearing at the commission meeting, with neighbors offering no opposition to the rezoning but questioning the need and the fairness of the vacating of the street.
City Codes Enforcement Officer Steve Flowers presented the requests to the commission, a task that usually fell to the community development director. John Petersen retired from that position at the end of June, so Flowers will fill in until a successor is hired.
Flowers noted that D.L. Rogers Corp., of  Grapevine, Texas, a suburb of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex,  was the primary applicant for the rezoning and the vacating.of the street.
The legal description of the area to be rezoned is Lots 3, 5 and 6 of Block 7 of Cowan’s Addition and the west half of Lot 4 of Block 7 of Cowan’s Addition.
Flowers said there are some buildings on those lots currently; they will be demolished. He said the vacating of the street will not include placing a curb across the street. The Rolla Fire and Rescue Department has asked that no curb or obstruction be placed there that would make it difficult for emergency vehicles to enter.
The site consists of 0.88 acre, excluding the street right-of-way that could be vacated. That is 34,397 square feet. The main building will be 1,817 square feet, There will be a 256 detached storage building. The rest of the property will hold landscaped areas, 57 parking spaces, a 1,500-square-foot playground and a 2,250-square-foot volleyball court, according to the current site plan.
There was no opposition to the rezoning from the audience during the public hearing. Some members of the audience asked about expanding the rezoning to all the lots between Faulkner and Rucker avenues on the west and east and Black Street and Missouri 72 on the north and south.
Flowers explained that the people with a vested interest in the other lots had not applied for the rezoning, and commission Chairman Don Brown briefly outlined the procedure obtaining a rezoning.
What concerns a couple of the neighbors is the closing of that short section of Faulkner Avenue. Tom Lin and Sundra Lin, owners of a lot between the property in question on the south and Zane’s Tires on the north, both spoke to the commission.
They explained that they plan on building a business on their lot, which fronts Bishop Avenue and has Faulkner Avenue on its other side. Tom Lin noted that customers of whatever business they build will have to turn north only, going to Black Street if the Sonic vacating is granted. If that request is not given, customers could turn south and go to Missouri 72 (where they would have to turn west only, due to an esplanade dividing the traffic.
Sundra Lin questioned the fairness of closing the street, noting that leaving the street open will help all of the driving public while closing it will help only the owner of the property, the Sonic franchisees.
Commissioner William Lindgren asked Flowers if the city would be reimbursed by Sonic for vacating the public right-of-way. Commission Chairman Brown interjected that he remembered no remuneration for any vacating of any street.
Lindgren said that it was his opinion the commission should go ahead and follow Flowers’s recommendation that they approve the vacating of the street to “put it in a larger forum.” That is what they did with only Commissioner Monte Shields voting against the approval.
Approval by the commission, an advisory body, is actually a recommendation that the council approve the measure.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

It has been a hot day here.
Right now at 8:33, it is 82 degrees on the front porch. High on that porch was 91.7. Relative humidity is 61 percent.
From the NOAA Co-Op weather station over at the Missouri S&T campus, here is the Rolla weather data for the 24 hour period ending at 7:30 this morning, July 9, 2017.

Maximum Temperature:                                                              90° F

Minimum Temperature:                                                               69° F

Present Temperature:                                                                 73° F

Precipitation:                                                                               0.00"

Precipitation for the year:                                                            30.27"

Precipitation for the month:                                                         3.80"

Snowfall/Frozen Precipitation:                                                     0.0"

Snowfall/Frozen Precipitation for the 2017-18 season:               0.0"

Snowfall/Frozen Precipitation for the year:                                  2.6"

Snowfall/Frozen Precipitation for the month:                               0.0"

Relative humidity:                                                                         72%