Sunday, December 3, 2017


 At the front of our property stood a misshapen maple that had been topped by a storm some years back. It was an odd-shaped thing: most of the limbs were on the north side and they hung nearly to the ground when fully leaved, making it difficult for me to mow. Various limbs slowly died.

 The tree had to go. Yesterday it did.

 After removing the top branches, Bob makes the first cut on the trunk. Tom stands in the background beside the lawn tractor and cart which I used to remove logs as they were cut.

 I figured the tree was about twenty feet tall (Tom estimated higher) but Bob soon had it lying on the ground and began dividing it up. He had to stop at one point and drive over to the hardware store and buy a new chain for the saw. The old one wasn't sharp enough to handle to job.

 Cutting the trunk into manageable pieces so they could be hauled away. Even so, the weight bogged down the lawn tractor and at one point I couldn't get it started. I put a charger on it for about half an hour and all was well again.

 This maple was here when we moved in nearly 31 years ago. It was a pretty tree then, shaped perfectly. But some summer thunderstorm took the entire top out of it and it was never the same.

 Just about done ...

 The interior of the tree had a pretty pattern. The wood had a rich warm glow.

 All that's left is to cut the stump off as near to the ground as possible. In the years ahead I'll mow around this spot. In a few decades it will be gone. Tom and I plan on plating a memorial tree near this spot, in honor of both Mom and Dad. It'll likely be an oak, perhaps a French Oak that will hold it's leaves throughout the winter. But that's a project for next spring.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Final Mow?

 It's November 27, just four days away from December, and I actually had to mow. This was the 27th mow of the season (yes, I keep track). Usually there are a couple of dozen mows so we're not that far removed from a normal year. But I don't think I've ever mowed this late.

 The front yard is thick and green, thanks to ample rain this year and also a lawn service I hired for the first time. We're using Lawn Plus in West Alexandria and I couldn't be happier. They made four applications this year (plus an additional one for grubs) and the lawn has responded quickly. The weeds are all but gone and the grass is thicker than ever. Only one downside: mowing.

 Likewise the south lawn looks better than ever before, I still have a mole or two but, armed with traps, I've taken 16 out of our yard just this year. Yeah, I feel a bit guilty, being a vegetarian and all. But my philosophy is "live and let live" and the moles have made a move to destroy my lawn. So it's been open season for me. I won't touch them in the ample fields and meadows that surround me.

 Finally, the north lawn is thick and green, too. When we first moved in (nearly 31 years ago), this area was virtually devoid of grass. There were patches of grass, to be sure, but you could see the bare soil everywhere. Maybe this area was used for a garden?

 The weather has been wonderful for growing grass, too. Through October we had an excess of over 7" of rainfall. And the temperatures have been warm, too. Today, for instance, we had a high of 60°. Even so, with a cold, frosty morning (28°) the day was only 7° above normal.

 So, one final mow to get the grass an even, manageable height and I think I'm really finished for this season. But I thought that in October.

... and the next day (11/28/17) I mowed the back yard. Done!

Monday, November 6, 2017


 It's been eight days since we lost Mom and I hesitate writing about it even now. The memories are still far too raw to think upon. And yet I want to get something recorded while it all fresh, as much as it hurts.

 Up until the past few months things had been going fairly well. Mom had her ailments and there was no doubt that each year added to her age made her a little more frail. First it was the necessity of a cane to get around safely. And then Dad's walker. Finally nothing was enough. On many occasions I had to bodily pick her up and help her to our portable toilet which we moved ever-closer to her chair or bed.

 Her weight dropped steadily. I saw a peak reading at nearly 90 pounds when the edema flooded her feet and legs with water her body could not rid itself of. And then, when the water came out, her weight crashed. One visit to the doctor she weighed 84 pounds. Two week later she was 79.

I told her to eat. But with mouth sores she couldn't. I tried soft foods: soup broth, oatmeal, ice cream, even liquids. She could drink part of a warm beer and I welcomed the calories. Eventually it was all too much. She had no appetite.

 In recent years Mom was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases. A recent blood test showed positive results for a third. Her body was fighting herself. [Note: Mom asked that I not publicly talk about the actual diseases and so I won't, not even after the fact]

 On Sunday October 29 she finally found her mouth pain too much to tolerate, "Agony" she said. I had told her many times in the weeks before that we needed to go to the doctor (we finally did where she was given something for dry mouth; useless)  and then finally the ER at Sycamore Medical Center.

I called the Farmersville Fire Association medics to take her to the ER in their ambulance (10/30). She said she could not possibly get to the car. That was Sunday morning. By late in the afternoon she was given Fentanyl for the pain (it erased it for an hour or two) and told a CT scan showed nothing serious. The doctors said it was likely canker sores, perhaps brought on by a recent Prolia shot at the rhematologist's.

We left to come home just before 4 pm.

 Nancy picked us up while Bob stopped at Kroger's for two prescriptions. The three of us sat on the driveway apron while we waited for Bob to arrive. I got the wheelchair ready and Bob and I carried her into the house.

 But no more did we get her into her chair than things began to change. She could not swallow the new medication. The little she put in her mouth just foamed there, wouldn't go down. "Could you call and ask them how to swallow this?" she said. I told her just like water. But she had suddenly lost the ability to swallow.

 She needed to use the toilet (of course) but could not move her legs at all. Bob  and I virtually carried her there, But sitting there her head began to fall to the side (as though she was asleep). She  also held her head like it hurt.

 Finally she said, "I can't see". I asked her if she meant her right eye, where she had lost most of the vision with one of the autoimmune diseases. "No, I can't see at all," she replied.

 Hearing those words made me think of a stroke. I stayed with her while Bob called the paramedics. They came, loaded her onto a stretcher again, and we headed out to Kettering Medical Center (Tom Wallace, the fire chief, said there'd be more people there to help her on a Sunday afternoon).

 Tom said Mom was talking to him when the trip began.But he also saw small drops of blood in each eye.

 We started out without lights and siren. But by the time we approached N. Miami Avenue and W. Central Avenue in West Carrollton, Tom called out "Lights!" and the driver began driving quickly. I suppose that was about 6:20 pm.

 I was riding up front (Tom and another paramedic were in the back with Mom). Soon I could see frantic activity, even CPR and forceful compression of her chest. Another had a respirator bag on her face. I feel that Mom died on the way to the hospital.

 What can I say that my life feel into a deep, dark hole. Coming home to an empty, cold house was harrowing. And yet it is a life I will have to get used to.

 As sick as she was, Mom stayed mostly cheerful to the end. She was never a complainer but rather an accept-er. She was a good example to all of us.

 I miss that sweet soul desperately. I was indeed lucky to have 68 years with her, almost every day spent in her shadow.

 And for now, it is all shadow.

Courtesy: Sherry Lummis

Monday, September 25, 2017

Puffball for Lunch

 When I was walking in the yard a few days ago I noticed a puffball mushroom recently up and made a mental note to check back. Yesterday, while mowing, I saw that it had grown quite large ... about four inches in diameter. I picked it and decided it would be today's lunch.

A slice of puffball mushroom for lunch

Here's how the puffball looked before I picked it ...

 I washed the mushroom with plain tap water, rubbing any dirt from the rubbery surface. And then I dried it and began slicing it. I made each slice about half an inch thick because they reduce when fried. The first slice (bottom right) I discarded. Puffballs are best when their insides are pure white, Once the spores turn yellow, they are unusable (in my opinion, anyway).

 I fried each slice individually because we have only a  small frying pan. It's just a simple matter to fry the slices in butter. Nothing else is needed beyond the addition of some salt and pepper when finished.

 As the slices fry they take on a creamy golden color. The insides stays soft and creamy, almost like brie cheese. I don't consider this mushroom to have much flavor so the butter is necessary (oil would not make them nearly so good).

 Mom and I ate about half the puffball. Lunch tomorrow is already planned.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Oktoberfest - 2017

 Tom and I enjoyed a warm afternoon in downtown Cincinnati (Zinzinnati is this case) yesterday taking in all the sights at Oktoberfest. While the event officially runs three days (09/15-09/17 this year), it is really Saturday that is the official kick-off. Quite a crowd, too!

 We parked at the Garfield Garage on W. 9th Street and walked to Oktoberfest which is held between 2nd and 3rd Streets at Fort Washington Way). So we had a nice hike getting there. The first beer truck we saw was this one ... close to my heart in a familial way.

 The Schmidt's truck said it was from Columbus's German Village. Oktoberfest is actually presented by Samuel Adams which brews in Cincinnati. The annual event is produced by the Cincinnati Regional Chamber.There are a host of sponsors.

 Just arriving at Oktoberfest ...

 Tom and I saw several German bands playing polka music.

 Cincinnati's skyline makes a magnificent backdrop to Oktoberfest, The weather could not have been better. We had partly cloudy skies with temperatures pushing into the mid-80's. After earlier cooler weather, it seemed as though summer had returned.

Yuengling beer had an inflatable bottle marking their spot.

 This shot was taken at the eastern end of the event.

 Besides beer, various German foods were available, including Bavarian and various soft pretzels. I bought one of these ($3) and brought it home for an evening snack.

 The stage in the distance is at the western edge of the event. A keg was being tapped as we arrived, signalling the official start of Oktoberfest.

The Great American Ballpark provides another interesting backdrop.

 Delectable foods were available from countless booths.

 I suppose we spent about an hour at Oktoberfest and then began working our way back towards the parking garage. Rather than eat the food at Oktoberfest (mostly meats and various sweets) we stopped at Penn Station for lunch. It was pleasantly air-conditioned so we allowed ourselves some cool-down time.

 For more information on Oktoberfest, click here.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park

 Tom and I enjoyed an afternoon at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park in Hamilton yesterday. The weather was perfect: a mostly blue sky with a few puffy white clouds and a pleasant high temperature of 72°. We had not been to Pyramid Hill before but with two free Groupon passes courtesy of Nan McGinnis, we had our Saturday afternoon all planned.

 Pyramid Hill is situated on more than 300 acres and displays "60+ monumental sculptures displayed in a landscape of rolling hills, meadows, lakes and hiking trails". We decided to see what we could minus available golf carts ($20/hour) and found the going a bit strenuous.

 The park calls itself "the largest cultural tourist attraction in Butler county". They boast of having 300,000 visitors annually.

 The Visitor Center and Gift Shop is nondescript and small. We found a parking spot easily but after an afternoon of hiking that small lot was full and a nearby lot was filling fast. Still, parking is ample for a non-event weekend and it's also free. But admission to the park is $8 per person.

 And so we began a foot tour of perhaps half of the area ...

 Tom is dwarfed by this sculpture.

 There are at least six "lakes" (actually ponds) on the property.

 This sculpture has a canoe atop, sawed in half.

 These standing stones reminded me of Stonehenge.

 I would suppose these to have been industrial grade pillars set for architectural work.

 Tom sitting on a bench with a sculpture of Harry Wilks. Read more below.

 A statue of a dog in front of the Pyramid House.

 This large sculpture has natural mica and quartz inclusions. Not so natural is placement of red glass, particularly a large piece set in the top. Below, Tom is looking up at the red glass.

 These remind me of papyrus.

 Harry Wilks "Pyramid House" is a private home on the grounds and is off limits. Finished in 1992, information about the house can be found here. Harry T. Wilks, a Hamilton philanthropist, died in March of 2014. He was called an "advocate for the arts, schools and community" by the Journal-News.

 Close-up of the statue above in a walled garden area.

Bill (l) and Tom

 A map of Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park can be found here.

 The park consists of beautiful rolling hills in a rural setting.One negative is the number of still-standing ash trees which have been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer. Due to the number, it'd be a substantial project to remove them all. But as they stand, they're quite numerous and unsightly. Also, some areas of the park have a severe mole problem (but then so do I). There are hills and runs in large areas. Both of those problems need dealing with.

 I'm told the park has wonderful Christmas light displays. I can imagine that's a stunning sight when there's snow on the ground.