Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bird Free Zone...

Our wood stove has a shiny new insulated stovepipe that goes up and through the roof and extends above the ridge of the roof. The pipe has a shiny cap on it to keep out rain and birds but it has small exhaust holes [more like slots] to let out the smoke.

But, even though the exhaust holes are small, nasty black Grackles [icky black Starling-like birds] decided to try to get in there to make a nest. Who would have thought?

A couple of weeks ago I came into the cottage and saw that the glass of the stove  was all messy. That was weird because I had cleaned it the last time I was out. So, I open the door to clean it again, and there was a very large, dead, Grackle in the stove. Apparently it squeezed in through one of the holes and then got caught in the pipe and couldn't get out. It eventually fell into the stove and died there. The messy glass was from the bird flapping around and doing birdy-doo at the same time. GROSS!

Oh, and I could hear another one flapping around in the pipe, which sounded creepy and was very unsettling--those claws scratching the inside of the pipe was like something from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

I felt bad, but I picked  up the dead one and tossed it into the weeds. The next week there were two dead birds in the stove. I wasn't freaked out or sad, I just put on a glove and tossed them both over the balcony into the weeds. The next week there was another.

This past Monday, while Bob and I were in the living room, one squeezed through the slot/holes, tumbled down the pipe, fell into the stove and was hopping around looking at us through the glass.

That was creepy. I figured I would just go outside so I didn't have to look at it and then toss it out next week after it expired [Can you see I am becoming hard-hearted?]. Bob, however, had other plans. He waited until the bird wasn't paying attention, and then put on the fire glove, threw the door open and in a flash reached in and pulled it out. I opened the door to the outside and he tossed the bird off the balcony and into freedom.

So, as you can imagine, we decided something had to be done. Cliff, our contractor, came to the rescue [again!] and made our stovepipe bird-proof.

See the nice wire inserted at the top of the stove pipe? That should do the trick.

I thought about making some allegory connection to this story about sin sneaking in through tiny cracks and then stinking up your life [or wood stove, as the case may be], or the value of not always getting what you want, or of fools rushing get the idea. But, they all seemed kind of corny.

So, none of that. Just a thank you to Bob for saving one birdy life [even if I hate those Grackles with their beady-reptilian eyes] and a thank you to Cliff for constructing scaffolding and making our stove bird free.

Take care,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Inverse Parenting

This is something I have posted before, but because I have had several people tell me it was helpful to them, I thought I would post it again here. 

Something has been bothering me for a long time and it is what I call "Inverse Parenting." You see it all the time, but I don't know that it really has a name. I thought about this when my kids were little but felt like I needed to try it for a long time to see if my theory was correct. I am not sure this is scientific at all, but my kids are 21-33 [four sons, one daughter] and it has proved true with us.

Good parenting should look like this...Hold your babies close and as they become aware of more, make sure to impose limits and teach right from wrong. Make sure they will mind know when you say they need to do something they do it, they don't say "no" and get away with it. You will have to be diligent as "folly is bound up in the heart of a child." But you must be in control, and they must learn to be under your authority. They will likely be under some authority all their lives, so they may as well learn when they are young. I don't mean for you to be rigid and mean, but to be consistent and firm when it comes to discipline. Your motivation should always be for the greater good of the child, and to lead out of love, but many times this requires you to tirelessly work with them to stay within the rules, treat others with respect and so on.

As the children grow you can begin to let go; so by the time they are in their early teens they have more privileges, they can make more decisions and have more freedom. This should increase with age until the child is an adult. At that time, they become accountable to God. This is important--with age comes more responsibilities and more freedom.

But, what I see is INVERSE PARENTING. This looks like the whole world revolving around the child. The parent asks the child's opinion on many things, lets the child say things that a child ought not say, like "I hate you," or "You can't make me," or "I won't eat this," and so forth. Many children do this, but they should not get away with it. But, in inverse parenting the parent looks the other way, or tries to talk the child through it, or thinks it is cute.

As time passes, the child usually becomes more demanding, less respectful of all authority and the parent finds that when the child becomes a young teen they are harder and harder to manage. At this time the parent tries to pull in the reigns, be more strict, set firmer limitations at the very time when they should be letting go. I have seen this over and over again with so many families that I know. And rarely does it work.

These children usually go through a very rebellious teen time, and many times do come out OK in the end, but they sure upset the family in the process. It is so much more enjoyable for the whole family and society in general when the child is obedient in young years. Good parenting is much more likely to produce likable teens and responsible adults than inverse parenting.

I know it is not easy to be consistent with young children. I know it can drain you to correct them and train them-but the rewards are great and I think you owe it to your children.

Take care,

Cottage finally graded...

This  has been a long time coming. We, like most of the country, have broken all records for most rain in a month. Violent storms have beaten down not only this month, but for a few months.

It has been raining, and raining and raining. This means it has been impossible to get the final grading done, so it was impossible to plant grass, put in the underground gutter drainage and basically to finish the cottage up.

So, yesterday was the big day. We wanted to be out there so the little problems we wanted addressed, were done right. We headed out around 9:00 am  and you can see we finished at sunset. Bob was finishing up the underground gutter drainage as the sun set.

We wanted to get it done, so we could seed the whole yard surrounding the cottage at the same time.

We were surprised to see that we had a marvelous store of great top soil--Dale, the grader, knew where to look.  Look at that nice black dirt. When he finished he dug up an nice pile of it and set it aside, so I can make some awesome flower/vegetable beds.

Here he is spreading the dirt over the clay soil. You can see Bob's tractor-cut path going over to the nut grove behind the little dozer.

We were excited as he worked taking down the big pile of dirt that was next to the basement deck.

What took Bob [and I helped a bit] 2-3 days to shovel out in order to make the deck [not all day, but over a course of a few days] he spread out in a matter of minutes.

 While Dale's assistant continued to use the Bobcat, Dale worked on the driveway. I should have taken a before shot, but I didn't.

It was in REALLY bad shape after all the gulley-washing storms we have had this past month or so.

But, not only did he put down cement-like gravel, he widened the whole driveway so Bob can mow down the edges of it with the tractor. He also made a nice little juncture at the bottom so we can go down the hill and turn right to go to the road, or left to go to the barn.

Before this, we could not go to the barn from the house on the driveway because at the bottom of the hill, there was nothing but a small wall of rock on the left and it prevented us from making that turn.

When we came up from the barn, we could not go to the house unless we drove on a grassy path. I have a genetic defect which prevents me from backing up without hitting something--I think I must have gotten it from my mom, because my dad was an amazing backer-upper.  Because of the flaw, if I come from the barn and want to go to the house, I have to go out to the road and drive down to the neighbor's house and turn around there.

So you can see how much this grading job meant to me.

  After a rather long day, the back of the house was done and spread with our home-grown black topsoil.
 Here is the view from the right front.

And the left front, with Bob working on putting the gutter drainage underground. I plan to make a rain garden or something where the gutters drain out. Gail suggested a bog garden, so I will have to do some research to see what would be most practical. 

  I bought this awesome new whirly-type seeder. I remember my Dad having one and thought it would be much easier to use than one you hold and have to crank a million times.

I was right.

This went fast and was so easy and no tired hand. I put in rye, silver vetch and fescue. Between them all we should have some grass and some great roots to prevent erosion.

 Here Bob is getting the pipe ready to lay in the trench he dug.

The next photo shows him digging a bit more to get the slope right.

 After this, we cleaned up the tools and then we headed for home.  It felt good to get the seed in. Hopefully it will take root and not be caught in another violent storm and end up at the bottom of the hill.

It was a great day!

Take care,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Two stories of Hope...

 My daughter is an Americorps Volunteer this year--spending 10 months of her life working to help to better America. She has worked in New Orleans, Hattiesburg Mississippi, off Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, Memphis and a few other places that I can't remember off the top of my head. She has done new construction, worked with non-profit organizations that help people get back in their homes, others that are committed to planting trees or fixing up hiking trails. She has done remodeling, office work and a lot of just plain hard work like loading hundreds and thousands of pounds of dry wall and planting thousands of trees.

But, yesterday she was pulled off her current assignment and was assigned to Chattanooga, Tennessee where she will work with the Red Cross in the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes which swept through there last week. As I was thinking about this, and about how little one person's influence seems to be, I couldn't help thinking that each and every one of the volunteers has hope. They have hope for the future, hope for America and hope that they can make a difference. Kari said they will be working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for the couple of weeks they are stationed in Chattanooga.

Why does she do it? Why do any of them do it?
I think they believe they can make a difference.
And they are right.

That led me to think of my small town. It is a 21st Century Mayberry. We have a soda fountain in the drugstore, a barber--kind of like Floyd--a few banks and hair dressers, one fillin' station minus Goober, and a little grocery store that looks like it did 50 years ago.

The owner, Leonard Fitch is probably the nicest man you will ever meet [Leonard is on the left]. But, with Walmart, Kroger and Sam's to compete with, the way of the family owned IGA is fast becoming extinct.

Well, an Asbury Seminary decided that he would spearhead a plan to save the local IGA from extinction. You can read the article here, but basically, using Facebook and enlisting locals and college and seminary students, Jay Leeson [the student] has started a one man  campaign to save our grocery.

Why does he do it?
I think he believes he can make a difference.
And I think he is right.

He has hope that if he can bring like-minded folks together, we can keep our local grocery. He has an expectation for what he can't see. He has hope and it is changing how we view our local grocery. Rather than looking at it like a convenience store, Jay is challenging us to see it as part of the community's heritage.

I am in awe of people like Kari and Jay--people working unselfishly for the good of others. People with Hope.

Take care,

If you would like to keep up on Kari's life in Americorps you can go here:
If you would like to keep up on the Revitalization of IG you can friend the group on Facebook by goingt to  Fitch's Neighbors