Tuesday, June 21, 2016


I wish I were like the Buddha. I wish I had reached the transcendent state and felt peaceful, smiling, and liberated from the troubles of our world. I wish I didn’t worry about Donald Trump and our family miscreant, about climate change and our unwillingness to change in response to it. I wish I could forget about the increasing ocean acidity that is going to destroy all sea creatures that live in shells. It would be nice to take good health for granted or at least to accept my inexorable physical decline as the years pile up. This is just a sampler of the things I’d like to change about myself in relation to the world, but you get my drift.

The question is what is to be done? I’ve done my best to make the world better, but failed for the most part. How can I rise above it all? I’ve tried thinking in geological time, especially during the 2012 presidential campaign season. It worked pretty well then, but reading about geology this time around (currently Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa), geology isn’t cutting the mustard.

That’s why I’m looking to the Buddha and taking up meditation in some form. I’m not ready for closing my eyes and intoning “Om” with my index fingers touching my thumbs, but I could lose myself in natural beauty and its evanescence. There’s much to meditate on. Take, for example, this male luna moth that visited me last week.

I could pay a visit to Cousin Kyle and meditate on his native prairie ablaze with black-eyed-Susans.

I could just sit on our patio, studying the moss that grows in the spaces between stones, forgetting about my self and all the things that trouble me while waiting for nirvana.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Gooseberry Fools

Wild gooseberries grow in the woods and along the woods’ edges. Because the bushes get so little sun, they produce very few berries. Remembering going gooseberry picking with my dad when we found a bush with lots of berries in a pasture, I asked Dennis to move some plants from the woods’ edge into the yard where they would get lots of sunshine.

He kindly transplanted three little native gooseberries He has heaped fertilizer in the form of horse manure on the plants. They, in response to sunshine and fertile soil, have quadrupled in size and this year they are heavily laden with the biggest wild gooseberries I’ve ever seen. Every morning for the past two weeks Dennis has gone out to pick our berries.

In the afternoon, when it’s too hot to work outside, Dennis clips the beards and stems from the berries. We rinse them and pack them into one-quart freezer bags. So far he has brought in two gallons of berries, and there must be at least another gallon still on the bushes.

When I was a girl my dad spent one day each June picking wild gooseberries in the woods. He always picked them green, and he picked them all at once. Everyone believed that if gooseberries ripened they would have no taste, so we ate green gooseberry pie.

Last summer Dennis hit on the idea of letting the berries ripen a bit before harvesting, and the results were very good.  Instead of eating green pie, we had beautiful reddish-purple pies. We also made lovely jam, tart but sweet.

Yesterday I made a gooseberry pie for my pal Barb’s birthday. She said that although her father’s favorite pie was gooseberry, she had never tasted it, possibly because of its unappealing color.

Now Barb’s a convert. She said, “I can’t believe I waited 74 years to eat gooseberry pie.”

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Monday, June 20, 2016

Connectivity in the Woods

Country dwellers don’t have the Internet options that city folk enjoy. For several years the only connection we could get was through HughesNet, an expensive and unreliable service provider whose customer service reps all spoke with us from India.

A few years ago another option showed up – Mercury Wireless, a Topeka, Kansas company put up a radio tower just a mile from our house. We immediately signed up, a technician came to install a small radio receiver on our roof, and we were on line for a fraction of what we had been paying. Mercury’s service was excellent and if a problem arose, a technician came from Topeka to set things right.

We were happy surfers until this spring. Our connection was slow and would unexpectedly cut off.  Three times technicians came to work on the problem, but eventually we got no connection at all. Finally Dennis called Mercury and chatted with a fellow who said, “I see that your signal was initially strong, but year by year it has grown weaker.”

Like a light bulb turning on, Dennis realized that every year the trees around our house have grown taller and broader. He drove to the radio tower to get its precise location by using the compass on his phone. Thirteen degrees North, he determined.

Back home, he stood below the radio receiver on our roof and sighted 13 degrees North. The sight line was blocked by two large walnut trees, an ancient redbud, and one big branch of an elm. Steve Grammer kindly came with his chain saw and the two men cut the trees. Immediately I was able to access my email!

Steve took the cut=up logs home – four pick-up loads – to burn as firewood and he and Dennis spent a few hours cleaning up the debris. And everybody’s happy.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summer Begins

The rains have stopped and heat has set it. We’ve been over 90º for several days.

Heat, of course, puts an end to the spring greens in our garden. Lettuce, spinach, collards – all will rush to reproduce. In gardener’s parlance they will “bolt.” Tall stalks will arise and blossoms will appear. All the plants’ energy will go into reproduction mode.

Knowing that, Dennis has been harvesting lettuce like mad. Our refrigerator is stuffed with bags of romaine and buttercrunch, but mostly romaine, which just happens to be the best of all lettuces.

How timely! Tonight we’ll be eating tabbouleh, red pepper hummus, yogurt, and homemade pita bread along with Athena melon.  In Lebanese tradition tabbouleh is scooped up and eaten with a spear of romaine lettuce.

I like it when a cloud actually has a silver lining.

Copyright 2016 by Shirley Domer

A Kansas Road Trip

I’m of an age when it’s best to start checking items off my bucket list, so Dennis and I took a short road trip into central Kansas last week.

First, I wanted to visit the Stafford Milling Company in Hudson, Kansas where Hudson Cream Flour is produced.  Before I switched to baking with organic flour I favored Hudson Cream, because it is a regional product and not shipped long distance. The trip to Hudson was a big disappointment because all we got to see was the outside of the grain silos and the mill. Instead of a tour we got to watch a twenty-minute DVD of the milling process. Driving away from the mill we did admire the Hudson Cream wind turbine that supplies the mill’s electricity.

Wind turbines are an increasingly common sight in Kansas, along with fields of wheat, oil pumps, and oil storage tanks, often in the same spot.

Another item on my bucket list was to visit Coronado Heights, near Lindsborg. A view from the hilltop shows how prevalent wheat fields really are.

If not for a grove of trees at the north edge of the hill, one could have a 360º view of the surrounding landscape. During the Great Depression the Works Progress Administration (WPA) put stonemasons to work erecting a castle atop Coronado Heights so that visitors could get above the trees and see for miles in every direction. Ensuing years of neglect left the castle in such poor condition it was no longer safe. Today, the castle is being repaired, surrounded by a chain-link fence.

WPA masons also several built picnic areas around the hilltop edges, using the Dakota limestone that constitutes the hill. Unfortunately these, too, have been neglected. It isn’t even possible to access them, the steps to them having completely eroded,

On a whim we ended our excursion with a visit to the Sandzén Art Gallery on the Bethany College campus in Lindsborg. The art was amazing, and it more than made up for my flourmill disappointment.

He apparently painted this oil with a palatte knife.

I learned that sometimes what we think we want doesn’t turn out to be what we expected, but the unexpected can be a delight. There’s more to be enjoyed than we can imagine. All we have to do it venture out.

Copyright 2016 Shirley Domer