Saturday, October 31, 2015

Get your Allhallowgivingdebtmas on! Happy Holidays, Y'all!!

"A soul cake is a small round cake which is traditionally made for All Hallows' EveAll Saints' Day and All Souls' Day to commemorate the dead in the Christian tradition. The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, are given out to soulers (mainly consisting of children and the poor) who go from door to door during the days of Allhallowtide, singing and saying prayers 'for the souls of the givers and their friends'. The practice in England dates to the medieval period and was continued there until the 1930s by both both Protestant and Catholic Christians. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes continues in some countries today, such as Portugal (where it is known as Pão-por-Deus), and in other countries, it is seen as the origin of the practice of trick-or-treating. In Lancashire and in the Northeast of England they are also known as Harcakes. In the United States, some churches, during Allhallowtide, have invited people to come receive sweets from them and have offered 'pray for the souls of their friends, relatives or even pets' as they do so." ~ Wikipedia 

And don't forget to turn back the clock. I think I'll set mine back to about 1967!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Natives vs The Invasives

The Natives vs The Invasives:
Whose turf is it, anyway?

The instant I thought,


I should have known I was popping the top off a can of sacred worms!

Now, I'm a naturalist, say, I'm a naturalist, say, I'm always proud to say. Why, the hours I spend with organic compost in hand are golden. Have you ever tried to give yourself a wildflower meadow with no more than a pinch-penny packet of low count seeds? Just as I say, it takes judgement, brains and maturity to walk this road with old Mama Nature.

Grandson Demetrius Combs, 14,
begins a Mow No Mo' internship.
Some months ago I launched a one-yard Mow No Mo' campaign to show River City that nasty ol' water-guzzling, fossil fumes farting turf grasses are not the only way to do "lawn". There ARE alternatives ~ even for a couple of codgers on fixed incomes.

Our first objective was to remove all the khakiweed with its near-microscopic pricks from the yard. This has left considerable square footage of bare baked clay all across the patch.

The original plan was to power rake the bare spots and reseed with the Texas/Oklahoma Wildflower Mix (ITEM # 3341) from Wildseed Farms. Unfortunately, October ran out of money before we could order the seed. We may try again for November, but I fear that is pushing seeding back a touch too late, I don't know.

Meanwhile, on the back side of the house, the war on khakiweed was being pressed forward with even greater vigor and by strictly mechanical means, mainly a wickedly sharpened, straight-bladed spade that is sublime at scalping off the top eighth to a quarter-inch of former turf.

With reseeding to wildflowers stalled, I began thinking about alternatives to cover the bare patches. That's when my blind eyes were opened to Liriope! I call it my "burning ground cover" moment, you know, like Moses and his bush.

What a powerhouse ground cover! Extremely low maintenance in the drought- stricken Southwest and a champion at going forth and multiplying when offered the narrowest margins in which to spread. Best yet, I have an island of Liriope anchoring the back corner beneath our native redbud colony.
Experimental "diversity" garden tests both native and
non-native species for sustainability. 

The not so good news (in certain circles) is that the mighty monkey grass is a native of Asia, not Texas.
Some folks can get downright hostile at the mere suggestion of admitting non-native species onto Texas dirt.

That native vs. non-native issue did give me some pause. About 15 seconds worth. Then I realized sustainability within a community is totally dependent on diversity.

The diversity plot pictured above is my current holding bed for Liriope as well as moss rose (South America), sedum (Northern hemisphere) and native Texas blue mistflower.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

"What kind of games do you like to play, gran'pa?"

"What kind of games do you like to play, gran'pa?"
California fashion fairies squatting in
the Tree Garden Tiny House.

Lord, if anyone is gonna make that "gran'pa" tag stick, this girl's it. Bless her heart.

She's 12, the merest wisp of a girl, and we had not set eyes on one another since she was 4 and I was too busy rushing over the hill to be bothered.

"What do you mean 'games', girl? What kind of games?"

"Oooooo .... you know .... board games ...."

Mind you, it doesn't help that she speaks with the tongues of Tinker Bell and of angels.

".... uh, do you l-i-k-e Monopoly?"

Well, East coast girls are hip
I really dig those styles they wear
"Monopoly!" I actually snorted. "Girl, I'd have you for snacks over a Monopoly board!" I thought to add that I'd beat her like a red-headed stepchild at the game but caught myself.

"Really! Do you have a Monopoly game we could play?"

And it didn't help that I had lifted her up, if only for a moment, just to slam her face down into disappointment.

"No, I don't have one anymore. I haven't played in years."

"Awwww, that's too bad," she said, genuinely feeling sorry. For me!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Great Divide, "Us" v "Them"

A new study proclaims that as much as 20 percent of California’s critical four-year-drought may be blamed on the shifting climate. Common sense seemingly would dictate that as temperatures rise and as rainfall patterns shift across Earth’s face due to climate churn, areas of drought like California and Texas and huge swaths of Africa also will increase in severity, intensity and duration.

What struck me in this report, however, was language; specifically, how we talk about our role in spinning Earth’s climate into whole other parameters never before experienced by a human species.

Park Williams is lead author of the study. An assistant research professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Williams noted,

“We can’t just ask the Earth exactly what’s been human-induced and what’s natural.”

What is “human-induced”, and what is “natural”. Do you see the rub?  Feel ~ as some of us do in our bones ~ the friction of “human” grinding against “natural”?

Here lies our Great Sin. Divorcing ourselves from Nature. Evicting ourselves, as it were, from the Garden.  

"Warlords of Ivory"

This week's Quick Pick Flick Warlords of Ivory airs Sunday, August 30 on a National Geographic Channel near you. Consider yourself a turd if you miss this film.

What are you doing to keep Texas Beautiful?

A shadow of his former self
Saturday ~ Sept. 12 ~ Sikes Lake ~ The Falls

It is time once again to clean up lovely little Sikes Lake. All are welcome to meet at 9 a.m. behind MSU's Wellness Center (east side of the lake).

After the clean up, hang out for the FREE LUNCH!!

Shout out to this event's community sponsors:
Rolling Plains Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist
Midwestern State University
American National Bank & Trust
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

By the way, if you can't be bothered to come out and help us clean up the lake, don't bother to bitch all over the Interweb about how trashy it looks.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Paula, we hardly knew you

 Paula Bruno at the Wichita Falls Creative Writer's Meeting
photo stolen from Nicole Grabner
Paula and I found one another on Facebook over back yard chickens. She had some. I don't. But AnniePie and I had beat around cracking into the egg business. Then I learned she was a writer. Over a silly FB post, we were One! She even has a BLOGGER page, Lookin Out My Backdoor, similar to mine.

That was ..... oh, I don't know. A month or so ago? We swapped posts and comments across the cyber divide from time to time, comfortable in that zone where constant contact is not necessary and to be avoided at all costs.

She invited me to her writer's group. I told her I wasn't big on meetings. She understood what a blessing NOT doing face-time meetings can be at our age.

We "spoke", as it were, just Wednesday; briefly, over her latest blog post. Thursday morning I read she had left us.

Damn, girl!!

You go. Lord knows, I could not be happier for you. Your late husband is 'late' no longer. Never will get that grin off his face, now that his best girl is back.

Of course, we miss you. This hole in our chest is gonna smart awhile, but we'll get over it, just as The Eagles sang.

Journey well, Paula, and thank you for being a 'Friend',


Sunday, July 19, 2015

"Life is just a bowl of butter beans"

Life is just a bowl of butter beans
Pass the cornbread, if you please
I don't want no collard greens
All I need is a bowl of butter beans

And so It begins ....

Ma'maw Cordie's black-skillet cornbread with Not'cho Daddy's dirty beans.

.... with a pan of Southern cornbread and a pot of beans.

Original FB post, July 16, 2015 ~

Something I had never -- as in NOT EVER -- done before; made my Ma'maw's Southern Iron skillet cornbread. This is traditional, down-home cornbread of corn meal, a touch of flour, baking powder, salt, pinch of white sugar, an egg, buttermilk, bacon fat and butter.

What's your favorite cornbread recipe?
 — with Annie Miller..

Lifted from Doug McCoy
This summer of 2015, I tell you, is not the best of times for a Son of the South. Often times I imagine sitting down with my Elders going back to Knoxville, GA, in the 1830s. The crooked little man with the bushy beard is John Sanford Saunders, Great Grandfather on Mom's side, CSA combat veteran, and my oldest Patriarch. Next to Old John is his last-born boy Wiley Preston Saunders, my Grandfather; and at his right side, his last-born baby girl, my Mom, Gracie Ellen Saunders.
We all know "The Look", don't we.

As I was saying .... That little post on cornbread and beans provoked more than a few comments:

"I like a buttermilk recipe, too. It's very close to yours, but I've never added bacon drippings before. I, too, use my grandmother's cast-iron skillet."

"Martha White (lol) with a bit of sugar and chopped jalapenos. Pour half batter in a hot iron skillet, spread shredded cheese, then pour rest on top & bake."

"I have my great-grandmother's skillet," the widow Vernon allowed. There's a character! Regular readers will, no doubt, be reading more from Liz by the by.

"The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and
fried chicken." ~ Maya Angelou

 Elise over at Simply Recipes offers this take on Southern cornbread.

2 cups cornmeal OR 1 1/2 cups cornmeal and 1/2 cup flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp bacon drippings

This is a solid base from which to set out and explore, but keep in mind these two essential points:
     1. No two cooks make the same cornbread, and 
    2. No cornbread baker worth his salt measures.

I like the three-to-one (3-1) cornbread-to-floor ratio; makes for a good crumb. Really old school cooks will insist on leaving out the flour altogether. This harkens back to cornbread's early people .... <Cue the Dream Weaver music!"

First Cornbread was whooped up by Native American Peoples using only ground corn, salt and water many moons before there was a Columbus to dream of a New World. Different regions of the New World to-be had differing varieties of corn. Blue corn, for instance, was favored in the Southwest, while yellow corn grew best up North. Down South folks, naturally, were used to white corn. White corn likewise would give The South grits, hominy and that shameful feeling of white supremacy.

No sooner had the White Eyes arrived to discover a plethora of great cornbreads when they went to monkeying with the indigenous, native mixes. Northern insurgents soon were fortifying native cornbreads with honey, molasses, even white sugar when they could get it. Below the as yet undiscovered Mason/Dixon, however, no backwoods redneck would be caught dead with sweet cornbread in his poke.

Sweet vs Not Sweet remains the basis for many a Great Unpleasantnesses to this day! Note the "(optional)" appended to the "1 to 2 Tbsp sugar" in Elise's recipe above. Even in a Southern savory bread, a pinch or two of white sugar helps make the other component flavors pop without a sweet taste coming through.

Now, Mom's people were all solid South. Dad's folks, on the other hand, were Upper Midwest, right along the Ohio-Michigan line. So my own personal favorite cornbread mix is 3-to-1 yellow cornmeal-to-floor and a healthy handful of sugar. Yeah, it's sweet, and Mom always swore I never got it from her!

Buttermilk by all means. I mean, buttermilk to drink ain't worth the spittin' out, but it is essential in cornbreads, biscuits and all kinds of cakes.

To my way of making it, the egg is NOT optional. Don't skimp on the butter, neither! If half a stick is good, the whole damn stick is better!

Now to the bacon drippings. Do NOT add this fat to the mix! Every precious last drop of it goes into that large, black cast-iron skillet you should have prepped before you ever started mixing up a batter. So set the oven on 400F, put the bacon fat in the skillet, and set the skillet in the oven. NOW go to making a batter.

Dry mixes with dry and wet with wet. Combine wet and dry in a large mixing bowl (prefer glass) just until the blend is uniform and a bit bubbly. Don't over-stir it.

When -- and not until -- your skillet is screaming hot, carefully remove it from the oven and dump all the batter straight way into the smoking fat. Yeah, it's gonna bubble and sizzle like Satan's own tea around the edges, but never you mind that. Get that skillet back into the oven immediately, if not sooner.

Figure on 20 minutes, but your oven will vary. Keep an eye on it, but don't go opening that oven door no sooner than 15 minutes. We're looking for a rich golden brown top. Once out of the oven, let it set off-heat in the pan for another good 20 minutes.

IF you can wait that long ....

Photo stolen from Rick Ross

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Simmer Down Saturday, Fourth of July Eve Rag

gimme a A.
sound of a G chord strumming....

We're on the bed, there, like we NORMALly are
She's Hulu hoppin', I'm on the Umpteenth Plain of KLONDIKE
Wishin' I had a car. Not sure why. A car would be totally useless up
on Klondike Falls except to rhyme with "are"!

Waitin' for it to come around again like Arlo taught us to....

.... wishin' I had a car.
A Ford, a Lincoln, ev'na Merc'ry would do
Will chop and stroke and bore it into a Rescue
For Wayward Sensi Plants and Homeless Hemps, too

When 'cross the street the bombs start bursting in air!
The dogs cut loose, of course, givin' Cisco a scare ~
A foster dog, transient in the pack who'se never before seen nor heard tell of carryin' on like this before ~
We're up and at our windows; glad it's so dark
Save for the Rainbow Glow over Hamiltion Park!

and that's a whole 'nother song I haven't wrote yet,
the Rainbow Glow Over Hamilton Park
love me some scotus, HONK! HONK!

THEY're getting off, over at the Country Club.
THEY're shootin' a wad with rockets in the air!
The SWELLS are gettin' it on over at THE Country Club
While the Law allows we commoners cain't do that!

2 bee, or knot too B
by keeping it going
add a verse, a line, an aside
tag me back,

By Dawn's Early Light

Two hundred, thirty-nine years and counting of We, the People striving for a more perfect union.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Throw It Out Thursday

Throw It Out Thursday

I’m looking at three big boxes, side by side by side.

Box #1 is marked, “SELL.” Box #2 is labeled, “GIVE,” and the third simply says, “BURY.”


Donald Trump bounces into Bin #3 for all eternity or until I leave this world, whichever comes first. Bless his heart.  Needs his hardened human model replaced by a baboon's heart, provided said baboon died of natural causes unrelated to heart diseases. Maybe then he’d find some compassion.

Call it the 3-box solution to clearing out clutter. As you move about your particular enclosure, grab crap at random and ask yourself, “When was the last time I used this?” If you cannot answer immediately, if you have to think about it more than a couple or three seconds, whatever it is goes into a box. #1. #2. or #3.

If nothing else, you'll soon learn to look and think before touching!

Speaking of looking and thinking better: How long has it been since y'all've dropped in at Juanita Jean's, The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc? Might wanna think about gettin' yourself in there, now that the political season is a simmering.

Friday of the Fourth

Friday of The Fourth ~ I'm hearin' Sgt. Joe "Justh the facths, ma'am" Friday with a lisp

It’s dark out, yet, at ten to six of a morning. Both windows, north and south, reflect on the black beyond with ghostly, shadow-like images. There’s my shadow self, looking for all the world like Gollum in an electric yellow tee, pecking away at his precious.
"Gollum" courtesy
 Dragonstooth Miniatures.

Good Friday morning, good friends and neighbors. Can you tell I was listening in on LR, The Liberal Redneck, yesterday? Normally I am not a fan of talk radio, because I've usually got my own channel booming through my head, making it difficult to hear someone else's bullshit above my own. But LR's hour yesterday with that Pee Dee, The Pagan Goddess, was an ear opener, to say the least.

"The Christian Right is gulping down the Kool~aid!"

"This must be the end of times!!"

"God cannot possibly allow this to pass!!!" 

But He has.

Once upon a time, Friday of the Fourth kicked off Camping Season, usually somewhere on Arrowhead ~ the state park or the backside of Hippie Beach, Pawnee Point in a pinch or all the way out to Tree in the Middle of the Road Park (TMRP).

I could tell ya where TMRP is, but then I'd have to get you into a witness protection program.

You know you're getting old when your youngest cub says, "Dad, it's too damned hot, muggy and buggy for that shit! 'Sides, NASCAR's on the TV!" I think that kind of let down The Kid, #2 "He Tries Harder" grandson, who's been looking forward to Camping With the Guys since landing back in his native state. He'll get his night out with the boys all in good time, but on the old men's terms. Don't tell The Kid, but I'm thinkin' somewhere down in Brewster County, maybe out around Christmas Mountain, some weekend come this fall.

Photo courtesy Sam Houston State University

Of course, I knew by a couple days ago, at least, we weren't going camping. Not this weekend of all weekends. I'm just relieved the boy backed out first.

Finally...maybe...if I don't run across something else. You HAD to know this was coming:

Photo courtesy Paws In The City

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Study Finds Chocolate Good for the Heart

"Chocolate Heart Blues"

Well if I had money,
I'd tell you what I'd do,
I go downtown buy a pound or two.
Crazy bout the chocolate,
Lord I'm crazy bout the chocolate,
I'm gonna buy me some chocolate & eat it ever’day from now on.

Well the girl I love,
I found her by the Bay.
Took me down to Ghirardelli’s, and here I stay,
Girl knows her chocolate..
Lord she's crazy bout the chocolate..
I'm gonna buy us the chocolate & share it with her ever’day.

Hey now mama, is that special dark?
Put it in a blender with some coffee bark.
Crazy bout the mocha now
Lord I'm crazy for a choc’late cow!
I'm gonna buy a ton of See’s & eat it ‘till the cows come home!.

Well my baby went out
To the local Sugar Shack,
Got the chocolate shakes, and brought ‘em home in a sack.
She's crazy bout that chocolate,
Yeah she's crazy bout the chocolate.
Lordy, we’re high on the chocolate & cruisin’ up & down the road.
(Ahhh cruise now)

Well if I had money,
I'd tell you what I'd do,
I go downtown buy a pound or two.
Crazy bout the chocolate,
Lord I'm crazy bout the chocolate,
I'm gonna buy me some chocolate & eat it ever’day from now on.

Friday, March 20, 2015

TGIF First of Spring International Happiness Day

Welcome to Spring!

According to Peggy Browning, it is also International Day of Happiness. Whoop-dee-do-dah day I still gotta go to work. But it is Friday, Bay-Bee, so all in all, it's a damn fine day to be thrivin' an' jivin' above ground.

Grand Duchess Maura J

I really should be getting The Writer's Room switched out to Maura's Studio Crib. Princess Diana and Her Grand Duchess arrive in Brook Village April 7, y'all, and I am hardly ready to be formally introduced to Ms Maura Jane Sodeman, daughter of my daughter's daughter, my one and only blood great grandchild. Talk about having skin in the game on CLIMATE CHANGE, Florida!

Room re-purposing aside, The Journal would be remiss not to mark this TGIF first of Spring International Happiness Day. Put that in you Holy Trinity!

We have been seed collecting, starting seeds in pots and in ground, and just this morning learned of a new-to-us plant for the butterfly beds. We're out to make a milkweed crop from seed to seed...successfully...for the first time. Should that project come through, look for guerrilla milkweed gardens to begin exploding everywhere!

Why milkweed? she asked. Oh, honey, go do your Homework!

"Save your pill bottles!"

Is the rallying cry of Jan Herzog, Wagon Master for The Falls' LOW Riders, as it is Fecal Test Week for the next batch of dogs heading North to New York March 30.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dinner With the President

Washington's Who's Whos, Wannabes and Waistrels attending the 130th Gridiron Club Dinner Saturday night heard this from the President of the United States.

"Despite a great performance tonight, Scott (Walker) has had a few recent stumbles.  He said he didnt know whether or not I was a Christian.  And I was taken aback. But fortunately my faith teaches us forgiveness.  So, Governor Walker, as-salamu alaykum.

"Scott also punted on a question of evolution, which I do think is a problem.  I absolutely believe in the theory of evolution," pregnant pause, "When it comes to gay marriage.

"And, finally, Governor Walker got some heat for staying silent when Rudy Giuliani said I dont love America. Which I also think is a problem.  Think about it, Scott. If I did not love America, I wouldnt have moved here from Kenya."
It's like Barack's speech writer guy was stealing off Bob Hope! The good Bob Hope. When he was funny.
We here in Texas might have some small call to be upset with the President's remarks. The late, great, longest-serving governor of our state, Dick, I mean Rick Perry was all but overlooked. What's that? He's...he's not dead yet? Wishful thinking on my part, sorry.
Congratulating Gov. Walker on whatever "great job" Gov. Walker did at the dinner Saturday night--I wouldn't know; I wasn't there--President Obama said, "Governor Perry, don't you think he did a great job tonight? I noticed you weren't clapping that much."
That's three solid jabs to Walker with hardly an elbow to Perry. Seems the POTUS doesn't think much of Perry's potential for 2016, what?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Everett Miller Turns 20 Today

Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise topped Billboard's Hot 100 that year. Couldn't prove it by me, so I'm taking Google's word for it. 1995 I was cruising the streets of River City playing rent-a-cop and listening to the likes of David Lee Murphy. Couple years later, grandson Everett Miller lit out for Colorado and I went to explore the Pacific Northwest. Our paths again converge here in River City on his 20th birthday today. Some of us are a bit surprised you made it this far.

Everett Miller at his father's knee (left).
We held a simple yet manly celebration in Everett's honor Saturday afternoon; "we" being this writer, Brian Miller, Ev's dad, and Uncle Dean Porter. Libations were shared, six-string guitars were picked and passed, Birthday Boy was appropriately and thoroughly ridiculed as "The Rookie", and required burnt offerings were made.

His Sunny side!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Where there is Despair, HOPE

From "A New Hope for a New Wild"
In the New Wild ranchers are learning that livestock can improve the health of grasslands. Courtesy
"The New Wild is upon us. It's a place where livestock can be good for grasslands. Where humans value every part of the ecosystem. It's a place where these fragile landscapes work because we are a part of them. Join us in the New Wild, where humans and nature are thriving together."
And DON'T miss the PBS companion series, EARTH A New Wild starting tonight at 8 pm on KERA, public media for North Texas and the World.

Mongolia's Nomads

Mongolian pastoral herders make up one of the world's last remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the lush grasslands. But today, their traditional way of life is at risk on multiple fronts. Alongside a rapidly changing economic landscape, climate change and desertification are also threatening nomadic life, killing both herds and grazing land. Due to severe winters and poor pasture, many thousands of herders have traded in their centuries-old way of life for employment in mining towns and urban areas. Most herders who stay on the steppe push their children to pursue education and get jobs in the cities believing that pastoral nomadism is no longer a secure or sustainable way of life.
Read more about these herders at Global Oneness Project. TEACHERS! Find more stories and free lesson plans on the Global Oneness website as well.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Longing for the Dark Side

Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine
Used to a boy could slip off to the back yard after evening chores and stretch himself out under a Texas sky. There, with a soft summer breeze or biting arctic breath, she could watch and wonder at the Greatest Show Above Earth.

Earthling Ancients were lousy at dot-to-dots. A seasoned veteran of countless dot-to-dot books before I was 6, the figures I found overhead were far better than the classic constellations.

Explosive urbanization this last half century has robbed kids today of a back yard full of stars. Our artificial light is eating away the last of the dark places.

But not quite all of Texas' best night spots are losing to the light. Just up US-287 N 'bout an hour and a half is, to my mind, one of the best little state parks in Texas, Copper Breaks State Park

"Texas state parks remain among the few public places where the starry heavens can still be viewed in all their glory with minimal intrusion of artificial light," Rob McCorkle writes in the cover story for the current issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine.

Just this past summer Copper Breaks and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area were the first two parks in Texas to be designated as International Dark Sky Parks by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).

What say we slip off to Copper Breaks for a little dot-to-dot after dark?

“Some praise the Lord for Light,
The living spark;
I thank God for the Night
The healing dark.” 
Robert W. Service