Monday, October 27, 2014


 Only one house in our general neighborhood is surrounded by a chain-link fence. The fence has a big gate across the driveway. The gate is secured by a large padlock.

The fence was there when we moved here 39 years ago. Somewhere along the way the owner added a sign to the fence, “Beware of Dog.” Recently a new sign appeared.

Why this homeowner is so paranoid I do not know. In all these years only one burglary has occurred in our vicinity. That was when a distant neighbor’s nephew broke into his house and stole two shotguns.

I do know this: a sign warning of an armed homeowner does not encourage neighbors to drop by, bringing a plate of fresh-baked cookies.

Copyright 2014 by Shirley Domer

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Best Medicine

 When Carol arrived last week for a five-day visit, she found me with a knee swollen to the size of a small cantaloupe. I hadn’t done much to prepare for her visit, being unable to stand for more than a couple of minutes. Carol stepped in to take over cooking, icing my knee, doing laundry, and cleaning the kitchen. She invited Holmes and Candace and Marianne for lunch. She and Marianne prepared the food. Holmes entertained everyone with his imitations, jokes, and self-deprecating humor. The swelling in my knee began to recede.

The next day five of us trouped to the Nelson-Watkins Museum of Art, where we had a rather boisterous good time, alarming other patrons with our inappropriate behavior. Seldom had they seen an old woman riding in a wheelchair, laughing her way through the exhibits.

We watched three games of the World Series, amused by the ball players’ chewing, spitting, and rituals involving glove adjusting, bat swinging, nods, and grimaces. I was able to discard my cane.

By the time Carol left this morning, my knee had improved dramatically.  I had been dreading total knee joint replacement, but now I will enter the hospital four days from now with a glad heart. A positive attitude makes all the difference. When a fun-loving daughter comes to visit she brings the best medicine – laughter and love.

Copyright 2014 by Shirley Domer

Friday, October 17, 2014

My Drink of Choice

Personal preferences are odd.  Or, as the saying explains, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” For example, I’ve never understood why people like to drink wine. Wine, red or white, tastes like vinegar to me. In fact, I’d rather drink cider vinegar, especially sweetened with honey and diluted with water.

Oh, I used to drink wine and sometimes still do to be sociable, but I never really cared about it. That changed when we moved to Kentucky in 2000.  Prior to moving, we visited Lexington to look at houses and stayed in a small hotel near downtown. We had arrived late, so we checked in, took our luggage to our room, and came back to the small restaurant for an evening meal. All the tables – there weren’t many – were taken so we sat at the bar to wait our turn.

The bartender engaged us in conversation and when he learned that we were moving to Kentucky, he began to sing the praise of bourbon. When said I’d never cared for it, the barkeep poured a finger of bourbon into a glass for me to try. “Well, now,  I didn’t know that bourbon could taste that good,” I said. He replied “You’ve just never tasted real bourbon, Kentucky bourbon,” and poured a different sample for me to taste.

We waited quite a while for a table, long enough for me to have been transformed into a Kentucky bourbon lover. I had tasted, and loved, bourbons from several Kentucky distilleries. Each bourbon had a distinctive flavor, but they all shared the clean, bright taste and pleasant tingling afterglow that mark good bourbon. (Wine lovers might claim that drinking bourbon is akin to drinking mouthwash.) My teacher told me that it’s the limestone-filtered water that makes Kentucky bourbon the best.

From then on, Kentucky bourbon has been my drink of choice. In fact, I believe I’ll have one right now. Here’s to you!

What is bourbon?

The importance of limestone-filtered water to bourbon-making:

Copyright 2014 by Shirley Domer

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Autumn Rain

Autumn rains are different from the rains of any other season. Spring rains, often in the form of turbulent thunderstorms, bring the earth to life. Autumn rains get the earth ready for bed, ready for its long winter rest. Like a little kid, the earth needs a drink of water before settling in for a long night.

We are thankful to have just had a 24-hour constant soft rain – what the Germans call a “Dauerregen.” The chickens stayed in their snug house all day, chatting and engaging in rainy day activities. I stayed inside, too, reading and making soup. Leaves fell with the rain, littering the patio and picnic table with golden coins.

When I turned off my bedside lamp last night, lay back, and closed my eyes, soft patters against the window sang an irresistible lullaby.

Copyright 2014 by Shirley Domer

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Keep it Simple

In 1939 E. B. White journeyed to Walden Pond in honor of the simple way of life described in Thoreau’s book, Walden; or Life in the Woods. White subsequently wrote an essay, “Walden,”* in the form of a letter to the long-dead Thoreau. He said, “As our common complexities increase, any tale of simplicity (and yours is the best written and cockiest) acquires a new fascination; as our goods accumulate, but not our well-being, your report of an existence without material adornment takes on a certain awkward credibility.”

Imagine how much more cluttered with stuff and more unmanageable our lives are now, compared to White’s life in 1939.

Personally, I’m sick of it. Stiffling stuff has taken over my house; the accumulation of 38 years becomes more and more disorderly. The bookcases, and there are many of them, overflow. Materials and equipment for many art forms line shelves in my studio and the basement. My sock drawer is stuffed with panty hose, which I haven’t worn for decades, various unmatched socks, and a collection of old glasses. I could go on, but you get the picture. Something has to be done.

Don’t gt me wrong. I don’t intend to emulate Thoreau, living on forage and beans grown in our garden, but I do want all the things I no longer use or care about to be gone.

Luckily, my daughter Carol is coming to visit. Carol, who has moved many times, is an expert in purging. She will help me clean house, in the sense of ridding out. Oh, I look forward to having the time to gaze upon the beauties of nature 

and to contemplate infinity.

* E. B. White’s essay is included his collection of essays, One Man’s Meat.

Copyright 2014 by Shirley Domer

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Should We Tighten Our Belts?

The title of this post might indicate that it's about consuming fewer empty calories. It isn't. It's another rant about water.

Each summer we drive across western Kansas on our way to Dennis’s favorite fly-fishing spot in the Rocky Mountains. Along I-70 Highway we see grain elevators and church spires marking tiny towns.  Except for the city of Hayes, population 21,038, much of the landscape consists of dry cropland where center-pivot irrigation rigs make rainbows in the dry western air.

 Photo credit U. S. Geological Survey

If not for the Ogallala Aquifer [1] one of the world’s largest natural water reservoirs, farming in this semi-arid area would be somewhere between difficult and impossible The Ogallala is a ”fossil aquifer,” [2] which underlies a deep layer of rock. It stretches from Nebraska to Texas. Water in the aquifer is ancient, much of it accumulated during the time when mastodons roamed these parts.

Our government's misguided push for farmers to produce more corn to make ethanol has encouraged western Kansas farmers to plant corn, the thirstiest of crops. Deep wells that tap the Ogallala Aquifer and powerful pumps enable them to cash in on the ethanol craze. If you have flown over the area, you may have observed the crop circles this irrigation creates.

But here’s the rub: the Ogallala Aquifer is being depleted and cannot be replaced in the foreseeable future. In several parts of Kansas, depletion is more than sixty percent. [3]

From Nebraska to Texas, the Ogallala Aquifer provides fresh water for twenty percent of the wheat, corn, cattle, and cotton produced in the United States. Moreover, 82 percent of the people in the area rely on the aquifer for their water. Obviously conservation is called for, but recently five western Kansas counties rejected a plan to conserve the Aquifer. [4] The plan would have reduced  their usage of the aquifer by twenty percent. [5]

Climate change predictions say that Kansas eventually will become a desert. In the meantime, western Kansa farmers are rapidly using up the only pristine water in the state. It seems important to remember that 82 percent of communities will have no water. Furthermore, let us remember that Kansas produces twenty percent of the wheat grown in the United States. How will failure of the Ogallala affect the price of the bead on our tables? We'd better tighten our belts.

‘Nuff said. I promise not to rant about water for at least another month.

[1] The Ogallala Aquifer
[2] What is a fossil aquifer?
[3] Ogallala running out.
[5] Kansas counties reject water conservation plan.

Copyright 2014 Shirley Domer

Monday, October 6, 2014

Life Is Good

It’s funny how once in a blue moon a day is good from beginning to end. (I’ll admit that I’m not there yet, but I’m nearing the finish line – reading until I fall asleep.) This has been such a day. I was productive, doing laundry and cooking plums for jam. I drove to town, got the good news that my finger fusion has completely healed, and am glorying in the beautiful fall weather and the season’s bounty.

Our dear neighbors Laurie and Greg have a Red Delicious apple tree that has produced a bumper crop this year.  They keep a ladder by the tree for visiting apple harvesters. Today Dennis brought home a bushel basket almost filled with fruit, and many others have done the same. These apples have not been sprayed with pesticides, so they aren’t the perfect fruit you see in grocery stores. These are real apples, warts and all.

For supper tonight we had two of the last tomatoes of the season in a salad with the first picking of arugula from our fall garden.

Then I read a message from Cousin Kyle, who had been perusing this journal. He said:

“Your writings are quite varied.  From the environmental nut case to
painting mental pictures with your words/descriptions of nature right
here all around us.  I seem to like both sides of you.  How's that for
a bona fide non-tree hugger?  Do you suppose, a person softens a bit with age?”

Anytime people who hold different points of view can communicate amicably, that’s a good day.   Kyle's message was the icing on the delicious cake this day has been. 

Copyright 2014 by Shirley Domer

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Our house sits in a grove of black walnut (Juglans nigra) trees. They surround us on three sides and overhang the roof.

This year the walnuts have produced a bumper crop.  Walnuts rain down on the roof and roll, bumping down the roof to hit the ground, They litter the patio.

They make the welcome mat a hazard. (Step on a newly-fallen walnut and you could land on your butt.)

The nuts pile up in corners of the entrance to the house.

As the photo above shows, walnuts come in a green hull that slowly disintegrates into a black mess. Within the mess is the walnut. Anyone who would harvest walnuts must devise a way to remove the hull without staining one’s` hands. Walnuts land on the driveway, where they get run over. This, at least, separates the hull from the nut, but also stains the driveway with blotches of black.

Back in the years when I collected the walnuts for eating, I piled them in the driveway and ran the car over them repeatedly to flatten the hulls. Then I picked the nuts out of the smashed hulls and filled the wheelbarrow with them. Finally, I ran water to clean off the hull residue.

Squirrels are doing their part to dispose of this year's crop. Before they bury the nuts, though, they shuck off the hulls. The rock wall by the front flowerbed is our squirrels’ favorite hulling station.

Once I would have been delighted by this year’s bumper walnut crop. I love the flavor of black walnuts in cookies, cakes, and ice cream, and I was willing to work to extract the nutmeats. Now arthritic hands prevent me from cracking walnuts’ hard shells (a hammer is required) and picking out the nutmeats. The nuts have become a nuisance, and I wish someone would come to collect them and take them away.

Copyright 2014 by Shirley Domer