~~~~~~~~~ "We are here for only a moment, wanderers and sojourners in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace." I Chron. 29:15 NLT

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Okay, I'm a little late with my Thanksgiving journal, but here goes. (Pictures below) We met on November 15 for my siblings Thanksgiving celebration. Missing were my brother and his wife from Chicago, their daughter from Atlanta, a niece and her family from Las Vegas, a couple of nephews and their families from California, two nephews and their families from somewhere else in Kansas.

My sister-in-law, Edith, hosted our delicious dinner but we all brought food, as usual, to help out. None of us left hungry after feasting on turkey, locally-made German sausage, cheesy potatoes, sweet potato casserole, Edith's home-made rolls, corn, fresh fruit salad, relishes, and pumpkin pies. One traditional item we all take turns making is Graham Cracker Fluff or pudding. This is most often served as a dessert but we can't wait to have it as a dessert so it's included in the main meal. A triple recipe takes no less than one and a half hours to make the old-fashioned way (except we all cheat and use Cool Whip instead of whipped cream). I'm always afraid I'm going to under or over-cook the custard, but somehow it always comes together alright. There is never any left over! Every time we get together we catch up on the latest photos of far-away family. L-R: my sis-in-law, Edith, and my two sisters, Jean & Mary Jane.

My nephew and his bashful son, youngest of three boys.

I like this picture of our son, Mark. I got him laughing for a change instead of mugging for the camera.

Everyone is a little bit lazy after a large meal. L-R: Mark's wife, Tammy; our daughter Amy and husband Dean, and their two oldest, Derek & Alana.
All the girl second cousins. L-R: Hannah, Savannah, Rachel, Alana, and baby April. Hannah and Rachel are sisters. Savannah is their first cousin, and daughter of our nephew who died. They all three have entertained us with their beautiful singing. Alana & April are sisters. It was so great to see the "older" girls play with April.

I love this picture below of my niece, Nancy, and her husband, Corey. They pastor a country church and have the life of a typical pastor's family--sometimes rewarding, other times frustrating, and rather hectic, I think. She and Tim are sister and brother. Their daughters, Hannah & Rachel, with Corey on guitar, my sis Mary Jane on dobro, and myself on bass, sometimes play and sing together.

The cousins set up a cafe in the spare room and served us another round of food (mostly consisting of uncooked red beans--which were recycled after each customer--and corn candy). Their service was quite unique as we picked up free change out of a jar on our way in.

The restauranteurs. L-R: Rachel, Aidan, Alana, and Savannah.

Certainly, in our family, no holiday get-together would be complete without taking at least one picture of the resident pet(s). Here is Edith's spoiled and handsome youngster, Toby. He got along just fine with everyone, thank you. Being the boss he kept everyone in their proper place, but was nice and friendly about it.
On Thanksgiving Day, my sis, Mary Jane (who lost her husband to Alzheimer's last September) came to Newton and went with us to the community Thanksgiving dinner. They serve well over 500 every year. The typical Thanksgiving food was delicious, and the line wasn't too long.

"Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations." Psalm 100:4, 5

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Few Pictures

We were playing outside on a mild fall day when we discovered one of the many wooly caterpillars that were traveling sidewalks, streets & backyards.
"Lost my first tooth, Nana"
Derek was looking over some words that Alana had printed, and a couple days later he was asking Mommy to spell out words for him so he could write them too. He knows the alphabet and does a pretty good job.
Alana's last Fall soccer game. Here she is with her foot on the ball. She enjoys it and is looking forward to Spring when she can resume soccer practice and games.
I had just plugged in this friendly jack-o-lantern and was wondering whether the cats would like it. Koko was the first to pose.
Next time I'll share a bunch of pictures of the baby, April, who was 7 months old yesterday. I'm in a hurry tonight because I've got to get to bed. Going to visit Mark (our son) and Tammy in Topeka tomorrow.
God Bless till next time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Walk In the Woods

I love walking in woods, and the best place to do that is at Sandcreek trail. The head of the trail starts on the Bethel College campus in Newton. Having worked in the library on a different college campus for 12 years brings back feelings of nostalgia and the joy of seeing young people doing what they need to prepare for their life's work.

"We love the things we love for what they are."
Robert Frost, from Hyla Brook poem

I follow the sunlit-dappled path,
and it follows my back;
A cocoon of trees, an experience
like no other.
All five senses awaken, and linger
long after the walk is over.
~Jan Eitzen 11/13/09

I can't tell if this cut was a tree-treatment or if someone tried to cut it down and gave up.

Whatever happened it survived and, though not alive, stands as a strong sentinel in the woods.
"Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord." Psalm 96:9, 12

Can you find the spider? Much as I dislike spiders I couldn't resist taking this picture of one sunning on the "front porch" of its well-built lair.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where I've been

I've been in between here and there. I don't know how I'm going to get caught up to the present.

I'll just start by saying I saw the first snow bird today (Slate-Colored Junco), and snow is forecast to be here in a couple of days. Where did Fall go? Alan would say it's in the 10-12 42 gal. trash bags full of leaves that he has to haul off to the landfill. Most of those leaves are from the Autumn Blaze we planted 3 or 4 years ago. Here's a picture of it to show you how it lived up to its name before it became naked and its beautiful clothes ended up in the bags.
Fall is so glorious, but it's been gloomy more days than not. But the temperatures have been unseasonably warm, although the wind about blows us away. There's plenty to do in the house since I've started my decluttering project for real!
Hubby has been hyjacking my computer to enter pictures and documents of his mother's, a few that go as far back as the late 1800's. Here's a sampling of what he's downloaded to Picassa. We hope to get them on DVD to archive for our son and daughter to have for reference.

Alan's mother was a beautiful young woman in the 1920's.

"You want us to go on our honeymoon in what?"

As long as there have been cameras, there will be those who ham it up.

I like this picture below from long ago of Alan's uncle and aunt

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Life Goes On

So much has happened in the last 2-3 months. Since January, 2009, we've experienced the deaths of ten people in our lives. Some of these were expected, though sudden: my brother-in-law who had been in a home for five years with Alzheimers; an older friend with an inoperable brain tumor, a former 86 yr. old employee with lung cancer, one of Alan's elderly cousins, the elderly wife of Alan's mortician friend. Other deaths were totally unexpected: our nephew, who was only 39 yrs. old; Alan's classmate from high school who died of a sudden heart attack; one of my cousin's husband who committed suicide; and Alan's first cousin (75 yrs. old) who was killed when he stepped out into the path of a passing car while harvesting soy beans on his farm.

I am reminded of the brevity of life and how precious is my time here on earth. More importantly is how I live, and that I live with eternity on my mind. I am a pilgrim here on earth on a journey to somewhere else. When my time comes to leave I'll be in the arms of Christ my Savior as promised in God's word, and hope to see all those I love who have made that journey before me. Because of the gift of salvation death is not the end of life, only life as I know it now. "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." 2 Corinthians 5:1

Saturday, August 08, 2009

"Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it."

Come walk with me through Tim's garden
and see what God and he created.
The Lady greets visitors to the garden
as she guards the vegetables.
The gate above, draped with white organza, and the arbor below made beautiful backdrops for Tim & Alissa's Spring wedding several years ago

Listen to the water trickling from the rock
into a deep pool
The back porch is a serene place to visit with friends and neighbors or watch birds. The porch, from a side view, is the back drop of my blog title.
Behind the garage, hidden from the street, absorb some sun while enjoying a good read, or sip iced tea while cutting fresh green beans or podding garden peas.

Sneak out the back for a walk at dawn

On returning to the house meditate
or make plans for the day

A little garden--just for the birds

A honey suckle---vine or tree?
In the Garden
I come to the Garden alone;
While the dew is still on the roses.
And the voice I hear,
Falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me.
and He talks with me.
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share,
As we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
~ ~ C. Austin Miles

Friday, August 07, 2009

Media Blitz

It always warms me when one of my relatives makes a scene...in the paper that is. Here's a picture of our granddaughter coming in second in the pedal pull contest at the Marion County Fair. Her win qualifies her to compete in the petal pull at the State Fair in September. She wasn't half as excited as her parents and the rest of us. She didn't need to be coerced into doing this nor into doing the calf chasing contest. She says she's growing up to be Daddy's cowgirl. http://www.hillsborofreepress.com/content/view/18090181/31/>

Picture courtesy of Hillsboro Free Press

Our nephew recently made a big splash on the front page with this story: >http://www.hillsborofreepress.com/content/view/18089925/31/

Picture courtesy of Hillsboro Free Press

Picture caption: "As Tim Unruh watches, master chef Lynn Crawford offers cameraman Kristoff Roehon a sampling of Unruh’s cherry mousse during a break in filming for the Canadian Food Network show tentatively titled “Fearless Chef” in the Peter Paul Loewen House." Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

The Peter Paul Loewen House is widely known as the Adobe House Museum in Hillsboro, commemorating the settling of Mennonites from Russia in the Hillsboro area. Tim was wearing a beard for Hillsboro's 125th celebration which certainly gave him the authentic look of an 187o's Mennonite. However, it's not authentic that a Mennonite father would have cooked and baked, nor been a stay-at-home father. He's lucky to live in this era with the right to pursue his talents.

Here are excerpts from the article: "And he [Tim] did it all in the stark surroundings of the Peter Paul Loewen House, the traditional Russian clay brick house built in 1876. The show’s host, Lynn Crawford, most recently the executive chef at the five-star Four Seasons resort hotel in New York, and her camera crew of five were in Hillsboro to film part of an episode for a new show the Canadian Food Network is producing under the working title of 'Fearless Chef.'"

In addition to raving about his baking techniques, Crawford simply gushed as she sampled the Mennonite-ethnic New Year’s Cookies, mulberry-rhubarb pie and cherry mousse he had prepared in advance.

"I’ve eaten pie in some of the best restaurants anywhere, and this is absolutely the best I’ve ever had,” she said between bites.

"Such high praise could be hard to swallow for a person hoping to represent traditional Mennonite humility.
“I guess I was really surprised,” Unruh said about Crawford’s response. “Here you have this five-star chef—in my mind, that’s like the ultimate. She’s experienced everything—she went to chef school and is really well-trained. She was working at a famous hotel-resort.
“For her to compliment me like that... it was a good feeling.

"Filming at the Loewen House was only the first stage of a three-day experience for Unruh. That evening he was interviewed at his home for an additional hour.
But that wasn’t the end of it either. The traditional “feast” was to follow the next day.
“That ended up being at our house,” said Unruh, who also is a veteran horticulturalist who works a few hours a week for The Garden Center in Hillsboro.

"The new show will begin airing in Canada after the first of the year. Director Cheryl Zalameda said they hope they have done enough shooting in the United States that the program will be purchased also by the Food Network or Discovery Channel in this country.
Whatever the outcome, Unruh said the crew promised to send him a copy of the finished episode. But it isn’t likely that Unruh or his family will forget the experience anytime soon.
“For a small-town boy in Hillsboro to have this opportunity to learn something from—or just be in the presence of a famous chef—it was one of those opportunities that you can’t pass up,” Unruh said.
“I love cooking so much, and I wanted to learn as much from her as she was learning from me. It was a huge honor for me to have her here.” (End of quotes from the article).

Tim works parttime at the Loewen house. I hope you'll follow the link to the full article. It's so exciting to have Tim's talents shared with others. He and his wife and three sons live in his parents home, and another story is how they've furnished and decorated it with antiques.

Tomorrow or as soon as I can, I'll post pictures of Tim's garden I took last summer. The picture at the top of my blog is his inviting back porch. I want to sit down in that chair and have a quiet time.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Miserable or Strong?

"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." ~Carlos Castaneda

The last few days have been tough as, besides the ever-present pain of peripheral neuropathy in my feet and hands, and whatever muscles are complaining from fibromyalgia, I've had major back spasms. Thankfully, I'm much better today which hopefully means I'll be able to go see the grandchildren tomorrow or Saturday. I guess the mixed blessing is that I haven't been able to do much else but sit at the computer and bring this blog up to date. Thank God (and I mean that) for naproxen, the only NSAID I tolerate well. Growing older is "not for sissies," as one author puts it. I guess it puts me in a position to empathize with my friend, Kathleen, who is recovering from back surgery to relieve the pain of spinal stenosis. I told her she should have warned me that she was contagious. What is contagious is her faith and positive attitude in life's circumstances.

I've enjoyed tweeking my blog and catching up on the blogs I have in my sidebar. I'm excited there are so many wonderful Christian women available on the internet to interact with. I especially enjoy photo stories as well as the honesty with which most approach life. We all have our joys and trials. We have the assurance of knowing that no matter what happens we have the love of Christ and the presence of His Spirit with us daily.

I'm sharing more pictures I've taken. Photography and blogging are a distraction and a real blessing.

This honeysuckle vine that has twisted itself around the ironwork reminds me of Ecclesiastes 3:12: "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
As I worked to clean up the dried twigs out of the vine, if I picked the strands apart I could easily break or cut them out, but it was almost impossible to grab a twisted bunch of strands and prune them out. That's what church means to me. I'm strengthened by fellow Christians around me with Bible study, prayers, and encouragement, which help me to be strong in my faith. We don't have to go it alone when we have fellowship with one another. (Click to enlarge and appreciate the twisted hold) My little garden isn't much but I enjoy it, and am especially glad to finally have success with the hostas. I want to plant more next year. The dahlias in the wooden planter were blooming beautifully when I bought them but they may not get enough sun to set on new blossoms. The impatiens and tuberous begonias are doing well. The front yard is in shade almost all day, which I love, and so do the birds.
One thing Kansas has going for it is its sunsets.
Papa and his beautiful granddaughters. They certainly love him and his fun-loving ways.

Abandoned Farms and Homes

Here are pictures of the abandoned farms and houses I promised you all a couple of weeks ago. Most were taken in Republic County and, maybe one or two, in Jewel County, Kansas. These two homes, the one above and below, were left to nature's ravages more recently than the others. The one below has curtains still hanging in the windows. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see a lone chair still sitting under the collapsed porch roof.
I love this house (below). It looks like it was a grand farm house for a large family. The land around all these abandoned places is still being farmed. I kept the combine, and large truck that were waiting to begin wheat harvest out of this picture.
There was no house on this abandoned place. Maybe someone bought and moved it, as was the case when my parents sold their farm. I like the way the colors lined up in this picture: the blue sky, the green of a shelter belt, the wheat field ripe for harvest, and the mixed grasses of fallow-land in the foreground. A typical Kansas country scene at harvest time.
I didn't realize I had lined up the V-shaped cloud formation so perfectly with the center of the picture. I think it looks like the wings of a large angel coming in for a landing or flying away from this abandoned farm a couple miles east of Republic, Kansas where my friend lives.
This old house below looks really small compared to the spacious farm houses of today. I don't think the smaller building is attached to the house. My farm home had a little building like this a few yards from the house and it housed our Maytag wringer washing machine with two rinsing tubs, and the milk separator that somehow strained out the cream from the whole milk, or so I thought. We called that little building the "wash-house." I'm still mystified about how the separator worked. Maybe all it did was separate the dust and flies from the milk to make it more salable to Tip Top Dairies who made cheese, ice cream, etc. with it. By the time I would have been old enough to learn to use it, we got rid of all our milk cows except one as our family shrunk down to just my parents and me. My mother painted the separator black and planting flowers in and around it. I've repeatedly heard about the time my sister got her arm in the wringer to almost above her elbow before my mother got the wringer in reverse. Luckily sis didn't have any broken bones.
This isn't a house, of course. But in that spread-out agricultural area in North Central Kansas, I saw these old threshing machines decorating the top of a hill looking like pre-historic dinosaurs. This was the rattling, growling machine that we could hear coming down the road behind a popping John Deer followed by neighbors with their teams of horses and hayracks to help our dad do wheat harvest. I talked about that in a previous post. It was quite scary when I was just a little girl, but also pretty exciting.
The pastoral scene below reminds me of the farm I grew up on. It looks too quiet and serene now. It revived memories in me of waking up to the crowing of the rooster and his entourage of cackling hens, the lowing of the cows as they heard the farmer clanging his way to the barn with clean metal milk buckets. Add to that the clamor of waking birds, cats, and a family of five children, with mother making pancakes and sizzling home-grown bacon in a cast-iron frying pan, and you have the perfect scenario for a 1950's working farm. The memories bring with them the smells of farm life, some of them wonderful, like warm milk, sweet clover, and new-mown hay, and the not-s0-pleasant odors of cow and chicken manure, and the lingering scent of a skunk who paid an overnight visit in hopes of finding a stray egg somewhere. We prayed it had left long before we arrived in the yard.
I particularly like the picture with the windmill next to the barn. We had one that the wind would set to whirling and creaking, but the water it drew up from the well nearby, though refreshingly cold, was fit only for the chickens and livestock to drink. On a hot summer day we would carry water from the stock tank in buckets, up the hill (it wasn't difficult for me to picture the Jack and Jill story) and throw water under the shade trees in hopes that the chickens would stay cool enough not to stop laying eggs, or worse, giving up and dying from the heat.
I hope you've enjoyed the pictures, though they're sad. We've lost a wonderful era to progress and perhaps a lot of greed. I miss the small farm and wish it would still be there to go home to. But, as they say, "you can't go home again." It seems like a dream after all these years.