Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In The Dumps

I’ve been in the dumps today, more a vegetable than a woman. A good many things probably have contributed: a health insurance issue that’s proving difficult, a grey, grey sky.

Normally I’m a fairly resilient person, but not right now. I blame the upcoming election and the long, long campaign season. In addition, dread is weighing me down. What if Romney were to win? We would have no idea what to expect of him since he will say anything that advances his goal. He scares me silly.

Ignoring as much news as possible and reading about geological time failed to protect me. But what can I do? Nothing more than I have done.

It’s a funny thing that when I’m in the pits I know that if I went outside and walked around I would perk up, but acting on that knowledge is difficult.

Luckily the sun came out and saved me this afternoon. I went out to visit the garden and chickens and gather the eggs. I was struck again by the perfection of our spacious chicken yard, whose numerous trees provide cooling shade in the summer but let the sun warm the yard and house in winter. The trees also protect the chickens from hawks year round.

Inside the chicken house the Barred Rock hen was in a nest box and the Rhode Island Red hen was standing facing the nest, cackling away. What that was about I’ll never know. I just know that I couldn’t intrude to gather eggs.

On the way back to the house I plucked a stem of parsley. The kitchen god was pleased.

Thank God for sunshine. And may this election soon be over.

Copyright 2012 by Shirley Domer

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Early on A Frosty Morning

For the second night in a row the temperature dropped to 24º – at least that’s what the thermometer read at 6:00 this morning. By 10:30 it had warmed to 34º so we headed to the garden to plant garlic and shallots and to harvest some greens.

Dennis had put row covers on the fall greens a couple of days ago. Now he began preparation of the garlic/shallot bed.

A bit later he stopped digging to uncover the greens. Wow! These plants are very cold-tolerant. We have arugula, kale, turnips, escarole and radicchio this fall.

 The radicchio is beginning to form heads.

Even though I had thinned the turnips before, they still are way too thick. I managed to thin most of a short row before my hands got too cold. I brought a large basket of arugula and turnips to the kitchen. The little turnips are not my main interest; I want the greens.

Here’s a sink full waiting to be cleaned.

To cook turnip greens, I shred them into small pieces.

In a skillet or saucepan soften some chopped garlic in olive oil. Add the shredded turnip greens and a bit of water. Stir, cover the pan and let the greens steam. Stir occasionally and add a few drops of water if needed.

The greens are good served with some pepper vinegar and topped with chopped hard-boiled egg.

Oh, yes, Dennis is still out there, digging the garlic bed. Cleaning the greens can wait; I’d better go lend him some moral support.

Copyright 2012 by Shirley Domer

Friday, October 26, 2012

Strange Seat Mates

On the plane from Portland to Atlanta I sat between a young man who fell asleep as soon as he sat down and a woman in her early sixties whose dyed orange hair, heavy makeup including eyeliner, rhinestone jewelry, fake fingernails and shiny black purse with heavy gold handles could not have been more different than my own attire. She immediately took out a Danielle Steele novel and began reading.

Shortly after takeoff, though, she closed her book and started a conversation with me by asking whether Atlanta were my home. Our conversation went from her former career as a TWA hostess in the days of “china, crystal and champagne” to her recommending that I see a movie about “a bomber.” I’m hard of hearing and in spite of wearing hearing aids, I sometimes misunderstand. Actually, it turned out the movie was about Obama. “It is a documentary,” she said, and proceeded to tell me that he has “sealed all his records,” and won’t release them. Not his education records, nor even his birth certificate.

Uh-oh, I thought, this woman is a Birther! “I’m a Democrat,” I announced.

Then she asked me if Hillary Clinton was going to resign soon. Yes, I answered, I understand she will be preparing to run for the presidency in 2016.

“I would support her,” my seat mate exclaimed. “It’s time for a woman to take charge.”

At this point I was baffled.

The cabin stewards served drinks and packages of peanuts. I struggled to open the peanut packages. She opened them for me.

We read our books for a while. Then I asked her to clarify the message of the “documentary” she had recommended. She informed me that Obama has a Muslim brother “in some country,” and that his mother married men from strange countries. Moreover, “he never talks about religion.” Suspicious, indeed. I said I didn’t want the president to talk about religion and that if I wanted to hear about religion I would go to church. I said, too, that the courthouse in Hawaii keeps busy mailing out copies of the president’s birth certificate.

When the pilot announced imminent landing, we looked at our itineraries and talked about how much time we would have to make our connecting flights.

After deboarding, my seat mate quickly observed the gate I needed to get to for my connecting flight. Then she hailed down one of those golf carts that cruise the concourses, providing rides for those who need them She directed the driver to get me to my gate and said, “My gate is close to yours. I’ll see you there.”

After a visit to the rest room I proceeded toward my gate. Suddenly my seat mate was in front of me, saying “I’ve been watching for you.” She gave me a hug and wished me a safe journey home.

The significance of this encounter, to me, is that although we see things very differently, she is not an enemy. She was kind and thoughtful. Maybe she thought that was the avenue to changing my vote, but I believe she is just a good person who doesn’t know how to check facts.

In some ways it’s good to be out and about.

Copyright 2012 by Shirley Domer

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Country Woman at Heart

The planes have landed but I still haven’t come down from my harrowing travel from Portland, Maine, to Kansas City yesterday.

Travails began just after I had been cleared through security. A guard directed me to take either an elevator to escalator to the lower level and the Delta gate where I would board. Carrying my purse and a tote bag, I chose an escalator. Two narrow escalators were going down side by side.  Both were nearly full of people and carry-on bags.

There was a short line waiting to get on. I followed an older couple, maybe not quite as old as me. The man went first, followed on the next step by his wife who pulled a large double-deck carry-on bag behind her.  The bag sat two steps up from her. I was on the next step up.

Halfway down the flight, the woman’s bag tipped over toward her and a prescription bottle of pills clattered out onto the step. Alarmed, she leaned forward a bit to tell her husband what had happened. Now we were three-quarters of the way down.

The husband turned his head, spotted the bottle, turned his back to the bottom of the escalator and reached for the bottle just as his step hit bottom. He fell in a heap, somehow face forward. His wife tumbled on top of him. The escalator was moving right along. I watched the scene unfold in amazement, picturing in my mind a domino tumble of human bodies as all passengers reached the end. What a heap we would make! I was going to fall on two people and about twenty people behind me would pile on.

While my mind was engaged in this horrific vision, some bodily instinct took over. My body stepped close to the opposite handrail, stepped down into the narrow space between the carry-on and the rail, down two more steps, brushing the fallen bodies, and off the escalator. As I took the last step, a man standing beside the escalator reached out to take my hand. That steady hand felt like a lifeline.

“Oh, Lord!” I heard my voice say, “Thank you.”

I knew people were coming down that escalator behind me and I didn’t want to impede their progress. Shakily, I walked toward a little shop to buy a bottle of water and didn’t look back. In the shop a woman said, “Next time, take the elevator.”

A few minutes later, as I walked to my gate, the escalator was stopped. No people were on it and the fallen ones were gone. I want to believe someone helped them up and that they walked away intact.

From that incident on I saw the entire air travel experience more clearly than ever before. The lines of people waiting to board and the seemingly endless settling in process through narrow aisles, overhead compartments banging, people heaving enormous suitcases that should have been checked.  In the concourses, the swarms of people pulling big bags and pushing strollers going every which way, the shops offering everything from Saworski crystals to MacDonald’s junk food, the din of voices and competing public address announcements.

That’s just a partial list of the tortures of air travel, but why mention the rest? I don’t want to be in an airport. I don’t want to be in a city. I don’t want to be in heavy traffic. I’m just a country woman and that’s where I want to be. What I want is to get my feet and mind firmly back on the piece of earth I love most, my Paradise.

And here I am, safe and more or less sound. While I was gone most trees dropped their leaves, but the sweet autumn clematis is still green.

Now that the leaves have fallen I can see my old friend, the big sycamore across the creek, glowing white as the late afternoon autumn sun falls across Chicken Creek Valley.

Copyright 2012 by Shirley Domer

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fermenting Yogurt

I’ve been in a flurry all day getting ready to leave for a week’s visit to South Portland, Maine, tomorrow morning. My focus was on packing the right things – as few as possible, but distractions pulled me off course.

For one thing, I had a smoothie for lunch and used most of the yogurt. I’ll be gone a week and this yogurt is getting on in age, so I felt obligated to make a fresh batch to insure that the culture remains strong and viable.

Yogurt-making isn’t much of a task because I have a wonderful little appliance made by West Bend. I found it several years ago on Walgreen’s clearance rack for five bucks while I was waiting for a prescription. It’s a humdinger. It makes one quart, just the right size for me.

West Bend doesn’t make them any more. Now all the yogurt makers produce either too much or are cumbersome with six little cups to fill and wash. I know because I tried to buy Todd one for his birthday and found nothing as simple, easy or straightforward as mine. Too bad, because yogurt is so very easy to make if you have the right incubator.

First, I put a tablespoonful of yogurt from the last batch in the bottom of the container. Then I pour milk into a quart measuring cup and microwave it for three minutes. Using a candy thermometer I make sure the milk’s temperature is between 110º and 115º. I pour a little of the milk into the container and stir to mix it with the yogurt. Then I pour in the remaining milk, give it a stir and put the container into the yogurt maker. I plug in the West Bend and walk away. Before I go to bed tonight the yogurt will be set.

Instructions for making yogurt always call for heating the milk to 170º, then letting it cool to 115º before proceeding. That is unnecessary if one uses pasteurized milk. The purpose of 170º is to kill bacteria, but pasteurization does that. High heat is needed only for raw milk.

If you want to make your own yogurt, buy a good brand of yogurt, eat most of it and save a little bit to make the next quart. The culture will keep going for as long as you renew it by making more yogurt. It's a good way to save money (think of the difference in cost between a quart of milk and a quart of yogurt) and cut down on plastic container waste. 

If you don't have a yogurt maker you can mix it in a glass quart jar and set the jar in a cooler with hot water up to the neck of the jar. Close the cooler and drape a towel over it. Check back in a few hours.

So, that’s all I have to say about yogurt. It's time to hang out with Dennis, put my clothes in the suitcase, eat supper, and remember to check the yogurt before I go to bed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Walk in Chicken Creek

Jackson came for lunch today and afterward we decided to visit his favorite kind of tree – the American sycamore. Several fine specimens grow along Chicken Creek, which winds its way through several hundred acres of contiguous woods. Four of those acres are our back yard, but we can walk freely throughout the woods and along the creek.

Today, because of the drought, we were able to walk in the dry, leaf-strewn creek bed to visit this venerable sycamore. Dennis measured its trunk at twelve arm-spans. Dennis and Jackson estimate that it was a sapling before Thomas Jefferson was born.

I was surprised to see an abundance of little green plants in the creek bed. Jackson said he knows this plant as Creeping Charlie. When we got home I learned that it is native to Europe and southwestern Asia, but, having being introduced to America by early settlers, it now grows everywhere in the contiguous United States except the Rocky Mountains. Known by a variety of names, Creeping Charlie has both medicinal and culinary uses. I wish I had gathered some for a salad or to cook with turnip greens this evening.

Kansas having been an inland sea for millennia, its principal rock is limestone. Chunks of limestone form the creek bed and great layers of it are just under the soil. This slab would serve well as a tabletop. Several feet long, it protrudes from the hillside, its protruding tip creating a shelter for small animals.

Limestone is not our only rock, however. Walking further along the creek bed we came upon a long cliff of shale that forms one bank of the creek at this point.

The shale is slowly eroding into the creek bed. Jackson picked up a chunk and showed us how easily the soft stone flakes after it has been exposed to weather. He easily pulled it apart.

Perched on the edge of the cliff is an oak tree that someday surely will slide down into the creek. Most of its roots are already dangling.

Now, looking back on our hike through the woods, the beauty of fallen sycamore leaves lingers in my mind’s eye.

Copyright 2012 by Shirley Domer.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Morning Delights

We had two errands in Lawrence this morning. Just as we got in the car to leave home a torrent of rain began to fall. Puddles formed almost instantly. Rain on the car roof created a great din. We had been hoping for this. It was thrilling.

Both errands were one-and-only chance situations. Off we went.

Our first stop was at Fabian’s Seafood truck in a car wash parking lot selling fresh Gulf shrimp. This was Fabian’s last visit to Lawrence until next spring. Dennis had to stand in line.

 Shrimp safely iced in a cooler, we proceeded to the next event: electronics recycling in the Free State high school parking lot. It was an awesome scene. Cars drove up, the workers unloaded the electronics and piled them on wooden palates.

The forklift guy then moved palates into two huge trailers. All of this equipment will travel only 35 miles to Topeka where it will be disassembled and sorted for reuse. Little children in India will not be involved.

 We were very happy to unload yet another collection of useless objects, moving our ridding out process another step forward.

As is his habit, Dennis took the back roads home. Our first stop was at the Clinton Lake dam, which was formed by damming the Wakarusa River. This lake is the source of our rural water and water for the city of Lawrence. An astonishing number of coots – we estimated hundreds of thousands – dotted the lake and its shoreline. Click the photo to see more coots, which appear in this photo as tiny black dots.

Just after we turned off the blacktop we came upon a recently-harvested soybean field in the Wakarusa Valley. A murder of crows was gleaning the remains.

Now our road turned east and wound along the middle of a hillside. The view was long, with fields being prepared for the planting of winter wheat in the foreground.

Eastern Kansas terrain is only partially prairie. Our neck of the woods is hilly with farms in the valleys between. Although someone logged out all the old oaks from our own woods, the woods along these nearby roadsides have many old oak trees. This particular hillside sports some that have turned deep mahogany.

But oaks turn countless shades ranging from mahogany to bright red or yellow. These and their neighbors were brilliant even in the misty environment.

We made one more stop to check on the progress of the vast field of ashy sunflowers where we intend to harvest seeds to plant in our own pasture. The petals have dropped, but the stalks (brown things) haven’t yet dropped, indicating that the seeds are not mature. We will go back in ten days or so to check again.

This afternoon another storm moved through, leaving half an inch of rain in addition to the inch that fell this morning, and another big cell is on its way now. 

What a fine day this has been: Gulf shrimp, ridding out, autumn colors and rain, beautiful rain.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pfui, Nero Wolfe

Years ago I read Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. Nero Wolfe was a very fat genius who never left his brownstone townhouse in New York City. He often expressed disgust with a "Pfui." His representative in the world was his live-in assistant, Archie Goodwin. Archie gathered clues and interviewed suspects, eventually persuading them to come to the brownstone for group confrontations with Nero, who always solved the case at the meeting.

Nero seemed to love two things: eating and orchids. He refused to discuss cases with Archie during their gourmet meals; they were sacred. His rigid daily schedule called for four hours in the rooftop orchid rooms to work with Theodore, the orchid expert who lives in rooms adjacent to the thousands of plants, all orchids. Nero and Theodore fuss over the plants, carefully regulating humidity and temperature.

Reading these books gave me the impression that orchids are fussy and delicate. It just aint so, I learned quite by accident.

Almost three years ago an appreciative doctoral student gave Dennis a potted white Phalaenopsis, which just happened to be Nero Wolfe’s favorite genus. (This photo is not mine. I pulled it off the Internet. Our orchid has pure white blooms.)

I figured that under my care it would be moribund in a month or two. We put it on a table by a front window where it received plentiful north light. I watered it. It thrived. Its stalk of blooms lasted for five or six months. Winter came, but the dry heat produced by the nearby wood stove had no effect on the orchid.

In the spring I passed the orchid along to a gardener friend, who repotted it and set it in his back yard under a tree. When late autumn came, he returned the orchid to me with two bloom stalks. They lasted for months.

Last week I bought a bag of orchid potting mix, watched two You Tube videos and repotted the orchid, which has grown a new leaf and is working on another. The new leaf has grown an inch since repotting. 

So here’s what I say: Phui, Nero Wolfe, you made a mountain out of a molehill. Orchids are easy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ridding Out Continues

We were back in the basement today, sorting, tossing, filling the donations box, sweeping, dusting, exploring the unknowns of mysterious boxes.

I couldn’t believe what turned up. A grocery bag full of gloves, scarves, hats and mittens that have been missing for years, for example. 

Tablecloths I’ve never seen before and several kitschy knickknacks turned up, along with two china 50th anniversary cups and saucers. A truly ugly hand blown glass clown, whose provenance we cannot recall showed up in that box, too. We think it was a gift. Well, never mind.

We couldn’t bring ourselves to dispose of two old typewriters. Who knows when we might need one of them?

I found a sufficient stash of cleaned and cut gourds to make all the masks I am likely ever to create.

I also found a big storage box filled with small, beautiful (to me) pieces of driftwood.

The sweetest find of all was a bag of eucalyptus pods that Nancy and Zachary, who was two, collected for me when they lived in Monterey. When I opened the bag today, sixteen years later, the wonderful eucalyptus fragrance wafted up, not as strong, but still powerful enough to evoke memories of misty walks on winding streets beneath fragrant eucalyptus trees. More importantly, I remembered the little boy who wanted me to play football with him and who, a year or two later, cut off part of my hair while I was watching the news.

It was two hours of puzzlement, surprise, grouping similar things and pleasant memories. O Boy, does this feel good! Everything looks orderly and there's plenty of room to roller skate if one wanted to, but we have yet to delve into forty boxes or so. What discoveries await us!

Copyright, 2012 Shirley Domer

Saturday, October 6, 2012

First Hard Frost

It happened last night. The sweet potato vines are toast. So are the tomato plants. So is the basil. That's as it should be. Those are heat-loving plants, too delicate for cold temperatures. We knew it was coming so last evening Dennis harvested all the tomatoes, such as they are. Some of the tomatoes went into last night's salad along with chopped red pepper.

This morning some of the row covers had blown off, but the uncovered turnips and escarole are just fine. The sweet potatoes are blackened and dead. We will need to dig the potatoes today. As for the parsley, it will keep going long after all the other plants have given up the ghost.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I was taking bread out of the oven. The dark brown specks are bits of ground flax seed.

Should I post the recipe? Oh, why not! I've been tinkering with it for years and finally have it just right.

Mostly Whole Wheat Bread
2 packages yeast (I use only 1/2 teaspoon)
2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour

Additional ingredients:
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey, brown sugar or molasses (optional)
4 to 5 cups whole wheat flour, using 3 tablespoons ground flax seed as part of one cup

Make a sponge:
Sprinkle yeast over the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a fork until dissolved. Add the remaining sponge ingredients. Beat well until smooth. Cover with a towel and set in a warm spot until light and bubbly, about an hour. (I use my mixer and leave the sponge in the mixer bowl, covered with plastic.) The sponge will have grown and will be bubbly.

When the sponge is bubbly, add the additional water, oil, honey (if used) and enough whole wheat flour to make a soft, workable dough. When the amount of flour is correct, the dough will pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board or cloth and knead until smooth and bouncy, about 10 minutes, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. (If you use dough hook in a mixer, continue kneading in the mixer for 5 or 6 minutes, then turn out onto a floured cloth and knead for about a minute to finish.) 

Place dough in a warm, oiled bowl, turning to coat the top, Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a towel. Set in a warm spot until double in bulk.

Turn dough out on a board and knead lightly. Cover with a towel and allow to rest 10 minutes. Divide in 3 portions and shape into loaves. Place in buttered 8-1/2 by 4-1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise until the dough curves slightly over tops of pans, about 30 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Turn out on racks to cool. Brush with melted butter if a soft crust is desired.

The dough also could be divided in half and baked in 9-inch pans for 45 minutes.

Summer is a distant memory now. I'm not sorry.

Copyright, 2012 Shirley Domer

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Two Extremes

Have I written about weather sickness? (If you say "yes" then your memory is better than mine.) Weather sickness dominates my life in the spring and in the fall, when big weather changes are afoot, when strong cold fronts steadily march out of the north and northwest. I always know two days before a cold front will arrive here because I feel sick. I feel like a zombie. I can barely function. The day before the front arrives my bones hurt and I have little appetite.

So that's how my day started and went on until noon. Then I came to, went into my studio and got back into ridding out. What a joy that is! I have various collections that will be departing: broken metal objects to recycle, Social Services League donations, things to return to friends or give to them. Today I came across a bag of ladies' handkerchiefs, probably from the 1940s or 1950s. They were hand-embroidered and appliqued on fine linen in Switzerland. They are lovely and utterly useless to me.

By e-mail, I offered the handkerchiefs to my three grown-up girls. Two responded quickly: yes. But Nancy predicted that Carol, who seldom checks e-mail, would not want any. I phoned Carol and asked her to look at the photos included in the message. Sure enough, she didn't want any and Mimi and Nancy each get three.

Now, here's the point: it's a lot of fun to give things away while you are living and no fun for anyone if they have to sort through them when you are dead. I was energized by the hankerchief exercise and went on to sort and discard and consolidate a jumble of art supplies and materials.

Finally I made a Waldorf salad for supper. When apple season comes I can't get enough of it. It's a perfect combination of tastes and textures in the mouth and on the palate. Besides that, it's pretty.

Waldorf Salad

2 Red Delicious apples (or some other kind you like), diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
Some seedless grapes – red, green, purple, whatever – halved
Handful of chopped walnuts

Mix those things up. Now make a dressing:

1 1/2 blobs of mayonnaise or, my favorite, Miracle Whip
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Stir it in. Eat it up.

Now a perfect afternoon is over and the evening begins with another ridding out: Evie, a fellow member of the New Boston Buying Club, has come to take our five remaining old hens* to live at her house in North Lawrence. It is time for the older hens to go because they are mean to the new hens and keep them from food, especially greens and grain. They won't even permit the new hens to sleep on the roost, which is big enough for everyone. Now the younger ones will establish their own pecking order and they will be able to eat in relative peace. 

So it's a great ending to the day that went from misery to euphoria. Can't beat that.

*You may remember that raccoons killed seven of our hens last March.

Copyright, 2012 Shirley Domer

Monday, October 1, 2012

Along The Country Roads

Late Sunday afternoon we went for a drive along our country roads – the roads we seldom travel but know well.

Right away we came upon a magnificent display of my favorite autumnal wildflowers, the ashy sunflower. It is far more graceful than the better-known Maximilian sunflower. They are blooming in pastures and filled about eighty acres where the farmer's crop had failed in the drought. These are growing in a pasture.

Close up the ashy sunflower is as lovely as any garden cultivar.

We love the old back roads developed by the first settlers, winding around hillsides and through valleys. Dense woods of oak, shagbark hickory, elms and other trees overhang both sides of this road. In autumn Kansas native woods develop soft colors – yellow for the shagbark hickory and the black walnut, balanced by innumerable shades of russet for the many varieties of oaks.

The road ended at a high hill overlooking farmsteads sprinkled among fields and pasture and woods. This is the final resting place of many early settlers. It is called Colyer Cemetery, established in 1869. Ancient pine trees, many of them now dead, loom over the scattered gravestones.

Heaps of fallen bark from the dead trees littered the ground around their corpses. Up close I could see that the trees had been infested with beetles. Entropy sometimes is beautiful.

Walking around the cemetery, looking at gravestones, I was struck by the number of children buried here. Today the death of a child is unusual but the early settlers here commonly experienced that heartbreak, some families losing more than one child. Someone has replaced the original gravestone at this grave, so the inscription is easy to read. Sara, the firstborn died at age eight; the second, William, died at two-and-a-half; the third, Lillian, lived just eighteen months. Across these 140 years I feel the grief of their parents.

This original gravestone has discolored somewhat, but has not eroded as most of the old ones are. It tells of the death of a preteen. 

Being on that hilltop was utter peace. The air was still and cool, the sky lightly overcast. The only sound was a faint chirping of crickets. It seemed a good resting place. We might have been the only people on earth.

Returning to our car I realized that were were parked on a pasture of native grass and forbs. The pasture had been cut for hay early in the summer just before the drought and heat began. Now, with recent rains, my other favorite autumnal wildflower, blue sage, was blooming all around the area.

Normally blue sage, also called pitcher sage, grows to be as much as five feet tall. These plants are much shorter, less than twelve inches, both because they had been cut down once in the haying and because they had been deprived of moisture and been subjected to intense heat for several weeks. But here they are, casting a blue haze across the grasses. They are just one more example of life's persistent force. These plants, like people, come back year after year but, having a limited lifespan, make seeds that will produce the next generation.

Gosh, it was a perfect drive in the country on a Sunday afternoon.

Copyright, 2012 Shirley Domer