David, Weeder-of-Tomatoes

July 15 – Since I had lots of work to do in the garden last Sunday, I was up early, had breakfast, and was just waiting to go out to start, the phone rang. Guess who? David said he would drive the 50 miles from his home in Kansas to do what he could to help his old (er) parents get the garden all cleaned up.


[ Grandma Christoph ]

When I tried to talk him out of the job, he very plainly announced that he would be here within the hour! “Mom, did you ever do anything to help Gramma Christoph when she needed you?” Well, sure we did, and I’m sure David remembers those many times we drove the few miles from our house to hers back in Pennsylvania, since both he and Biz, his sister, knew that when Dale and I went down to help Gramma, they would be right there with us. So, what could I say?

Since Dale hasn’t been able to keep up with the hoeing and weeding of our garden due to his recent back issues, lots of weeds had grown since I last hoed and raked the onions, calico beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash. So, I never said another word except that I was thankful I had a caring son!

180715 Bamboo

[ Tall bamboo ]

While we were waiting for him to arrive, I donned my long ragged black jeans, and a beat-up light jacket to keep the ravenous chiggers from enjoying a meal from my legs and arms. On went my big hat to keep my head protected from the bright sun, and I was ready to go. The task at hand? Our big patch of bamboo had been growing outside its planned boundary, some of it right in the lawn, and I wanted it to look as if somebody could keep it looking neat.

Some of the stalks, of course, were much higher than my head, but fortunately I could bend down and cut them off with no trouble except that I often was so mixed up with those canes that I had to be sure I followed my plan of keeping a straight line. As I walked around the corner from the first bamboo, I continued to find lots more that needed to be cut. In some places the canes were light tan and all the leaves were gone. If you have never cut bamboo, you don’t know that the canes can give you some pretty bad scratches, on your hands and arms, even if you do wear a jacket for protection.

Finally, I came to the end of the work on one side of the path, but there were so many bamboo stalks across the path and into the field, that I had lots more to do on that job! When we can finally get rid of the burning pile, I will be more than glad. It is so full of all kinds of stalks like yucca, tree branches, and now bamboo, that it should burn up quickly. Of course, I will NOT be the one to take care of that fire. Plenty of strong relatives in the neighborhood, and I know they can do a great job.

180715 Chris Tomatoes

[ And tall tomatoes! ]

I had almost finished the bamboo job when Dale called out, “David’s here! David’s ready to work!” After David called out, “Hi, Mom!” he started working like a Trojan, moving quickly from one tall caged tomato plant to another. Where do “kids” get their energy? First time this year that the branches were all tucked into the cages. I’m always afraid that if I try to do that job, most of the branches will break somewhere along the line. But Dale and David? They just weave those branches in and out of the cages, and soon there are none lying on the ground.

OK, now for the hoeing. Taking a hoe from the shed, he started off with a bang, asking Dale if he should hoe a whole line of tomatoes on one side and then come back up the row to finish the job before moving on to other plants? Dale says that he should hoe all around each plant before moving on to the next. Sometimes I just stood by watching, wondering why I couldn’t work that fast! (Well, I know why, but I hate to admit it!) Before long, all five rows of nine plants each had been cleaned up, with very few weeds to be found anywhere near the plants.

Then it was time for me to pick the tomatoes. Usually I wait until they are rich and red and ripe, but as I moved down the row with a plastic ice cream bucket, I found that there were many (TOO many) half eaten ones lying on the ground or half eaten on the plants. I decided right then that I would pick ones that weren’t quite ripe. I could keep them in the house until they were. No point in Dale’s planting the seeds, having the plants grow strong and sturdy under the grow light in the basement, and finally in the tomato patch, only to be stolen from the tomato plant!

180715 TomatoOne

[ One slice per sandwich ]

I hated to pick unripe ones, but I knew I had to do something to save the others from the box turtles or the possums. The big ones were huge and the plastic buckets of the small Pearlie Pink were soon filled. Other kinds this year are Jersey Devil, Delicious, Mortgage Lifter, and the small Sun Gold. I always chuckle when I think of that Mortgage Lifter or the Jersey Devil! Out on the counter in the kitchen, those unripe tomatoes have now ripened nicely, with some of them so large that ONE slice is enough for a sandwich. Lately both Dale and I have had two of those tasty tomato sandwich treats for supper, and have enjoyed every bite. – CHRIS

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The Birds and the Beetles


[ Japanese beetle invasion ]

July 4 – Just came in from the front porch where I had been enjoying the coolness of early evening, a real change from the heat all day today. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of weather we are expecting for the entire week ahead. We try to keep a clean surface out on the porch and sweep it often these days because of the Japanese beetles which come in flocks as they pile up all over the branches of the trees they like to devour.

A few days ago as I was carrying some fallen tree branches back to the burning pile, I noticed a couple of flower bushes that the beetles had taken over completely! Not just a few here and there, but so many that they were piled on top of each other. In some spots there was no greenery at all. Just for fun (?) I knocked the beetles off, but they were soon back to get the last of the leaves. Several kinds of trees suffered a big loss as the beetles were racing around trying to get the biggest haul. The Nanking bush cherries, Siberian elm, sour cherries (picked bushels of them last year, but not this year), plum, pear, and others.

I thought of them when I went out to the porch several times this week. The surface has been covered with chewed up leaves as they have fallen because of the work of the beetles. Very strange this year as there are more of those horrible things settling in for a good picnic. I can hardly remember that we had a problem with them last year, or any other year. Back in Pennsylvania, yes, but not here in Missouri.


[ Wren’s nest ]

Dale’s plants, mostly succulents, don’t seem to be bothered by the beetles, so make a good showing with flowers and new little plants making a start. A while ago, he told me that a Carolina wren had made a nest inside the area. So, out came my camera, and I checked quietly to see what I could find. Nothing but a bunch of untidy sticks and straw, but I knew that had to be the nest. The wren paid me back for my curiosity because just as I took the first picture, it flew out of the nest and ended up on the railing of the porch! After I recovered, I took a couple more pictures.


[ Bird of Scrap ]

At the end of the porch the humming birds enjoy the nectar as they try to decide which one gets to enjoy the food first! They are a noisy little group and fly off to the mock orange bushes until they want another drink.

For awhile we had no visitors because we had switched to a commercial mixture that our son, David, bought for us. Since these particular birds had never before sampled such a treat, they just didn’t sip any. However, there’s no doubt they are enjoying it now. Our son-in-law Harvey made us a bird some years ago from pieces of cast-off metal. A strange head and beak and feet that are fastened to the porch railing draw attention to an unusual bird.


[ Top of our new wind chimes]

Down at the other end, we have some wind chimes that we have had just about forever. At one time we had so many of the chimes that the space above the railing was just filled with pipes of various kinds, but each with a song of its own. Finally, we decided to give them to our grandson Rob. David bought us a very special chime about a week ago. In the daytime the head of the wind chimes gathers up a good supply of solar rays. Since the chimes stored up that heat during the day, it makes a beautiful light after darkness has arrived. It is a mixture of white and purple light.

Now back out on the porch again, where the wren was trying to distract me from that nest. Our chairs are sitting pretty close to the table of plants that hold that nest! As I sat reading, before darkness came on, I could sit quietly so as not to disturb that bird. It flew back and forth from the big metal bird to the corner of the porch railing, then up to a branch hanging down from those of the elm tree, and back to the place where he felt safe as he guarded that nest. No sound at all on the porch until the wren called out to me, “Please go inside! I am guarding a very special little one, and I want it to grow up without a problem!”


[ Wind Chime at night ]

I thought it would never happen, but I decided to go quietly to the screen door and tell Dale the story before inviting him to go back out to the porch with me. While we sat in the darkness except for the solar powered light, we could hear the sounds made by the wren and watch it fly here and there on the plant table. I was more than happy that the whole story turned out as it did as I wanted Dale to enjoy watching. Even the cat, after asking for some attention, noticed that we were watching something different. However, when she started to sniff around the nest area, we told her to stop that behavior. She did too as she obviously did not want to be banished to the inside of the house while we were listening to and watching the bird.

We have so often enjoyed birds and animals as they move around on our eighteen acres. Usually happy and contented, they give us thoughts of “Pippa Passes” by Robert Browning, thoughts that I have quoted in at least one other blog. In reading the poem in a season other than spring, I had to change a bit, but the thoughts and the blessings are still the same!

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his heaven—
All’s right with the world!

As I checked on the poem, I found that there is even a city in Kentucky with that name– Pippa Passes. It was named in honor of Alice Lloyd College, with a population of about 640.

Sometimes I wish that I weren’t interested in so many ideas, and thoughts, and writing, and learning, but the whole process surely is fun! – CHRIS

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Snow (Yes, an Odd Subject!)


[ Snow in April ]

June 21 – This is going to be an odd topic for a blog on the longest day of the year, but it can be a cooling reminder of days not so long ago when the temps didn’t reach the 90s every day!

I can remember as recently as April that we were all tired of the late-in-the-year snow! Reading back in my diary, I was reminded of looking out the window and seeing the yard covered with snow, even though nothing was really buried under the white stuff. I said to myself, “When is this going to end!” We had had snow for the past three Sundays at that point, and again, all those Sundays were in April! When I first heard the predictions I thought that maybe those guys were playing an April Fool’s joke! But they weren’t! Every day we heard from the TV weatherman that we were setting new records.


[ Ice cold weather]]

And it wasn’t just the snow – there were cold temperature records as well that were broken. I am pretty sure that even the weathermen who know it all, had to apologize on occasion for their predictions. But they did it quietly! I am really glad that I don’t have a job like theirs.

Dale and I both had to laugh one day while we were in town – we passed a signboard on a church where someone had set up the letters this way:


Of course the inches of snow that we lived through a couple of months ago is such a tiny bit compared to how much snow fell in the eastern part of the US, and even down south. Watching the news reports on TV, we just had to feel sorry for those who barely got rid of the snow from one storm before the next arrived.


[ Snow on the porch ]

Several of our relatives in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts kept in touch with us, and wrote about about the icy cold conditions there and how much snow they have had to shovel before that new storm arrives, sometimes right on the same day. Of course, we were only complaining about our one inch or so! And with the temperatures over the last couple of weeks, I think most of us would be glad to HAVE an inch of snow, even if for only a little while. – CHRIS

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Baseball on the Block

June 12 – As I think back on my early childhood, and my remembrances of being part of a big family in those old days, ninety years ago, I don’t remember thinking that it was strange that there were five boys and two girls in that family. Why? Because most of the kids I knew in school had big families too.


[ One big and happy family ]

One of my classmates, though, didn’t fit the pattern. Betty. She was the ONLY child in her family! Of course, that made it much easier for her to receive what she wanted. Just ask her parents and they went to the store to buy it. Strange, because as I sit here thinking of the old days, I can easily bring to mind several families that had only two or three kids. Why? Because it was so unusual. But I really can’t bring to mind right now the names of any of the “regulars” who had sisters and brothers to spare.

And you can guess whose field was used to set up a baseball game, our favorite game of all! We almost had enough kids of our own, but when those others were added, we had a lot of fun. Besides when my dad was not working so hard and had a bit of free time, and my mom joined us, we enjoyed every bit of family time. Since none of the parents of the other kids ever came over to play at our field down the hill and across the creek, they were amazed to see that our parents played with us.

When I was about five or six and couldn’t really play yet, I still wanted to be where the action was! My brothers tried to keep me out of the area because they were afraid I would get hit with that speeding ball thrown by Pa, the pitcher. Since we didn’t have quite enough kids to make up teams, Pa was usually our pitcher, and Mom the catcher.


[ Even Pop took a swing now and again ]

As I think back about that right now, I wonder how she managed to keep her cool and continue playing—especially since she didn’t even have a catcher’s mitt to protect her bare hands. Well, in those days, nobody used a glove because that was not something we could afford. Sometimes, Mom would drop the ball, the batter would scramble off to first base, and one of us back-up kids would rush off to bring the ball back to her. That ball was hit pretty hard by my big brothers, and wore out before it should have!

Sometimes when the game had lasted for quite some time, Mom would pick up the bat and stand ready at the plate to smack that ball into the outfield. If one of the brothers caught it, we would cheer for him, but most of us felt sorry for Mom if she struck out! One day, when she was standing in position, ready for the ball to come from Pa’s hand, and I was nearby, he threw it just as I was crossing in front of Mom.

Now if you have never been hit by a ball that could knock you out, you will never really understand what happened to me. When the ball hit my head, I sank slowly to the ground (by the way, parts of this story was told to me over and over later by my brothers who had warned me so often not to walk across the plate—NOT EVER!) My brothers rushed in from the outfield, and the bases, Pa shot to the plate and Mom fell to the ground to see if I were still alive.

Those are the times when minutes seem like hours. Finally, when I could, as my dad always said, “see straight,” I opened my eyes and clung to Mom, who was gently running her fingers through my long hair. Pa was kneeling by her, and my brothers, every one was wondering what they would do without their sister!

Several of the neighbor kids ran home to tell their parents about the accident, and they had come over to see how I was. The lump on the side of my head had swollen to a real size! Mom chose a couple of my brothers to carry me up the hill to the back door of our house and on into the kitchen where she took care of me the best she could under the circumstances.

In the first place, we had no refrigerator, which meant there was no ice to put over the lump to take down the swelling and the pain. But, we did have a big well from which we pulled up buckets of water for daily use in the house. (We didn’t yet have running water in the house.) So Mom would send one of the boys to draw the water from time to time to make sure the “hot” water bottle held cold water.


[ Brothers Rich and Pete ]

I remember that Rich, three years older than I, sat by my side as I lay on the couch, reading to me from an old story book or from one of their school books. Not that I remembered very much of what they read. I just wanted to be up and about outside again, ready to watch another ball game, and then take part in one when I was old enough! Dale just reminded me of the story I had told him about my oldest brother, Roy, who was the batter several years later when once more I ran in front of that fast ball. This time it connected with my forehead! I can well imagine that the entire family wondered, as the old song goes, “When will you ever learn?” – CHRIS

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Town Day Mixed With Wire

June 4 – As most of our readers know, Thursday is our shopping day in Pleasant Hill. Our first stop on a recent trip was at the post office, where we met and visited with two friends, both Richards – former and present post masters, and Kim, a third friend who sold us a sheet of stamps.


[ Books from Thrift ]

From there we went up the street for just a block or so, to the thrift store where we browse a lot but buy very little. We already have too many knickknacks in our house! Pat, the lady in charge, told us that a house wren had made its nest in or under an aloe vera plant in her yard. We always used to have house wrens in our yard and they would sing long and endlessly in the summer, but now we rarely hear them and wonder where they have gone. We just have Carolina wrens that like to sing Teacher Teacher Teacher Teacher. They love to find hidden places in neglected rooms in barns and sheds, and build their nests there.


[ Troublesome wire mesh ]

After doing our usual shopping at Price Chopper grocery store, we went home, had a very late breakfast, and went out into the yard to drag away the rest of the cut trees that Robbie had taken care of. Then Chris got down to mowing, and while she was mowing in the garden space where nothing was planted, the mower suddenly ceased to operate. She searched and pried around, and found that a smallish sheet of wire netting had been lying in the grass and got tangled in the mower blades. I went over to help out and after a while we managed to extricate the piece with the use of a prybar and concrete block.

While we were working on the mower, the sound of an unusual aircraft flying overhead drew our attention, and there overhead was the odd shape of a stealth bomber, heading towards Kansas City. We don’t see those very often. Later, as I sat in the living room, I saw through the window a stray cat in the front yard, inspecting the premises before moving on around the house. The next time I was in the garage, there were TWO cats there – our fat cat lying on top of the truck, and the stranger in the back of the truck. The stranger was alarmed by my entrance and quickly exited and left for other regions.

180604_Ornate Regular turtles

[ Regular and Ornate box turtles ]

Another unexpected creature was in our garden, digging a hiding place in my row of calico lima beans. It was an ornate box turtle, which I removed to a distant spot in the yard. Today, Monday the 21st, it was back in the garden again, this time digging a hole near our tomato patch. Took it over to the compost heap and released it there. Maybe it will appreciate the soft composition and dig a permanent hole there.

We are now seeing this season’s fireflies, flitting over the pastures. One came right up to our glass front door and shone its brilliant light to us. Seen through the glass like that, the light is very sharp and bright. On Saturday we saw our first rabbit, on the lawn, and when it ran off, the cat that was on the front porch rushed over to see where it was going. Not to the garden, I hope, to munch on our cabbage plants! At least they are all under wire netting. The cabbage butterflies have not shown up but doubtless soon will and the netting does not deter them. Sevin dust will. I hate cabbage caterpillars…

Until next time, good-bye to all. Have a great week! – DALE



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If It Walks Like a Duck…

May 31 – Friday evening our son David was driving to Branson to join his wife Darla and their daughter Beckie. Since he just about always phones us when he is walking his daily five miles, when the phone rang, we knew it must be David. It was. For the next half hour, we exchanged bits of news and our plans. Since the front door was open, I could see lights in the homes of our neighbors at the end of the road. Several cars drove past too. Just a typical Friday evening. Or was it!


[ Our nighttime visitor ]

Suddenly I saw something that WASN’T really typical. Some kind of bird, but not a wild one. It looked like a duck, a grown-up white duck which had taken over the corner of the front porch where it must have felt safe. I had no idea where it had come from. When I wanted Dale to see the duck, I yelled pretty loudly since he was on another phone way back in one bedroom. As he was coming to see the sight, I quickly ran to get my camera. As usual when something is new or moving, I always take some fast pictures. Then it’s OK to stop and get some better poses!

By the time I had taken about five or six pictures, Dale was still on the phone. That’s the first time I have ever hung up on our son! I know he understood. Dale told me that David was really enjoying the conversation about that duck and that he would tell the rest of the family a good story about it.


[ Yes, I’m still here… ]

Before we went to bed, we stopped out to see the duck. I don’t know if he lost his way and didn’t know how to get home, or if he enjoyed being away from his family if he had one. The next morning, there on the porch right in the same place sat a sleepy duck! Before we went off to church, Dale brought a bowl of water, and broken-up bread for the bird. We wondered if Duck would still be there on the porch when we returned.

He was! But so was the food we tried to get him to enjoy! Before we ate our dinner, we tried to keep the duck happy. A bigger bowl of water, cut up apple, and some canned corn kernels. Our neighbor Bob told us that Joe, the neighbor across the road from him had ducks, five or six of them. Looks to me as if he now has only four or five as “our” duck now boards here! Dale tried to reach Joe three times but got only the answering machine. Maybe he was visiting somewhere over Memorial Day holiday.


[ Joe brings ’em back alive! ]


Joe just phoned to say that he would be over after a bit to pick up Duck! He didn’t know Duck had lived at our house for several days. Joe came with two big long-handled fishing nets and just swooped them down over Duck and caught him first try. Into his four-wheeler with the open top went both the duck and the net, and off they were up the road to let Duck visit with his friends again.

Several days ago, I cleared the weeds and grass from around the front of the porch. The duck must have wondered what was going on because he watched now and again from the porch. Since the daffodils have lost all their blooms and the plants look shaggy and unkempt, I folded the tops down, and put a rubber band halfway to the ground. Great! Yesterday I wondered what both the duck and the cat were eating, enjoying a treat, just chewing up those daffodils!


[ Dale and Duck ]

In the beginning Duck never quacked, not at all. Often as Dale and I would sit out on the porch, the bird would stand in front of us staring with his beady eyes. I talked to him as I do to our cat, even using little phrases like, “Oh, you’re a good little kitty. Yes, you are a good one.” For the first day, Duck never said a word, but just stared. Finally, after he got used to being on our porch, he would say, “Quackkkkk,” and then wait for me to answer him. But never would he turn away. Finally he would speak out, wait for me to answer, and then call again. Talk about beady eyes! Once he was so sleepy that he closed his eyes right while he was standing in front of us!

I find myself wonder how hungry Duck was and if he is now enjoying a typical “Duck diet,” instead of the “People Diet,” we introduced him to over the last couple days.


[ Cat on the bench ]

And our Cat now feels safer as she is master of all she surveys once again. I know she is glad that the porch belongs to her now and that she is not threatened by Duck, an animal twice her size. Several times in the last couple days, she has sneaked on to the porch as she makes her way between the upright posts. Before the duck arrived, her favorite place to be was by the bench, where she could rest in peace. Now since Duck has yielded up her territory and is no longer a threat, she has gone back to that favorite spot. With the rug covering the bench and the quiet spot underneath, she is back to enjoying her position as head honcho!

What a real blessing we receive every day as we sit quietly outside in spare moments (not too many of those actually) and watch what God has given to us to enjoy. Now Duck was a special bird that gave us a show all his own. We won’t forget his hiding in a corner of the porch just waiting for us to arise for the day. And we will remember how he just about fell asleep right as we were talking to him. We have wondered if he is telling his friends some of the things he learned while with us! – CHRIS




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Woodsman, Don’t Spare That Tree


[ Is it PE’oh-nee or Pe-OH’nee? ]

May 29 – Earlier this month I made a request of our grandson Robbie to come over to our place when he had some time, and be our hired man to cut down or trim a number of trees. He showed up on soon thereafter, all ready to go.

Before he came I had spent some time propping up our five peony bushes with stakes and rope, to keep them from lying down when the flowers opened and were heavy with dew or rain. I handed Robbie our chainsaw and in just a minute or two he had it running. That’s something I don’t seem able to do, for some reason.


[ Robbie wields the saw ]

We were most anxious for him to work on our ancient apricot tree. Just a few yards from it stood our 36 inch satellite dish, which provides us access to ten religious stations, but lately all we could get was a big “No Signal”.

It seemed likely to me that fresh leaf growth above was cutting off our signal, so Robbie cut back a number of limbs but we still received NO SIGNAL. Finally he got to a largish limb and down it came, and back came our connection!


[ Taking the rat snake for a walk ]

While pulling two branches over the lawn, Chris called me to come and grab a snake. I hurried over and she pointed out a large black rat snake lying in some grass next to a tree. With no qualms I bent over and picked it up. Rat snakes are very docile and usually don’t try to bite even when freshly captured. It was around six feet long, and I held it up by the tail to have its picture taken. Chris took several photos and then I released the snake and away it went to find a good hiding place.

There were several other small trees that were either dead or dying or just useless – two Cornelian cherries, a plum tree, a thorny apricot tree that never gave us anything but a few small apricots that were usually rotten, and several tree stumps that needed to be removed from the lawn. This all gave us considerable woodwork to drag off to the burning pile.


[ Plants out on the porch ]

I am glad to have all of my houseplants out on the front porch at last. For the first two or three days there is always the danger of the plants getting sunburned but we had several days with cloudy mornings, so no sunburn. I had set out a sheet of carved woodwork from an old Indian display given by friends when they moved, planning to use it to deflect the sunshine which never hit us.

What did hit me was a very prickly cactus that fell over in its pot as I carried it out to the porch, and landed on my arm and hand. That cactus had small thorns that stayed in one’s flesh and were very irritating and difficult to find and remove! I decided to banish it from the house and offered it to Robbie, who also collects succulents, and he accepted. More later… – DALE

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Queenly Things

May 23 – Years ago, back in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe today) where I was teaching, I heard that the Queen would be visiting in a town not too far from the mission, giving me a chance to see her. QUEEN ELIZABETH! I had already been interested in her and her family because she was just about two months older than I was. I thought I might be able to see her for a few minutes as the car in which she arrived in was parked, and she came out to talk with the well-wishers as she moved right along.


[ Queen arrival ]

That morning I left the mission very early and arrived at the viewing area long before the big crowd arrived. Good thing, too, as I have always been too short to see over the heads of other folks who want to get a good view. Now I could stand where nothing could block my view of THE QUEEN!

And of all things, when she got out of her limousine and reached the place where I was standing, she reached out her hand to me and asked where I lived, and what I was doing with my life! Now I wasn’t quite smitten enough that I didn’t wash my hand as the old story goes, but it did take me awhile to get over the fact that I had actually, by her choice, shaken hands with THE QUEEN! I am not positive, but I am pretty sure that this all took place in Gwelo Park.

Speaking of Dale, I didn’t know him yet, so we did not stand in the same area as the queen walked past. He says he doesn’t remember much about that day, but he was impressed.


[ Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip ]

Later, when we were on our way back home to America after mission service, we stayed for a couple days in London. Fortunately for us, we saw crowds gathering along the route where Queen Elizabeth was riding in her carriage on her way to Parliament. Dale and I had been married by then and chose a spot on a little hill, so we could see all of the waves and smiles so easily given by the queen.

Once back in the States again I stayed home with our two children, David and Betty Jean for a number of years before going back to teaching in a one-room school. While we were talking one day about various countries and rulers, I mentioned that the Queen of England would be celebrating her birthday in the next month of April. Up went a hand! “Couldn’t we write to her and wish her a happy birthday?” asked one of my students. Her name was Janice, and her father and family had just come from England to serve our church as pastor. A great chorus of, “Could we? I’ll bet she would be happy to know we thought of her! Please let us use our English time today to write! Please!”


[ Address, please? ]

I couldn’t resist. When a young student asks to write a letter, it’s sometimes amazing to read the outcome! “OK,” I said. “Just remember as you write that I am not going to check your spelling or sentences, or anything. Let’s get to work, then.”

And for the next hour the classroom was even more quiet than the mouse spoken of in the old saying! When the kids had finished writing and correcting, they wanted to read their letters to the class. They had come up with some good ideas and wanted to send the letters right away so that the queen would write back to them. How innocent those students were! They really did think that they would hear from her, and because of their enthusiasm, I thought there was a bit of a chance that she actually would! I wrote a letter too, explaining why we had written.

Well, the students and I were both correct in a way! We did get an answer to our letters, all written by the lady-in-waiting who was close to the queen. One part of her letter proved to me that she had read the letters from the kids! After thanking them for their kind notes, she mentioned by name one of the children who had told her he had a bad cold or something like that (I just can’t remember each detail of those letters) and hoped that he had recovered. You can well imagine how long the kids wanted those letters to be kept on the bulletin board in the hall. How pleased they were, and how thankful I have been for over so many years that Queen Elizabeth would take the time to give all of the children such happy memories.

180523_StampsSo on April 21 of this year, I thought of the queen and wondered how she was celebrating her real birthday. Now as we move on towards June for her second birthday of the year, I will be celebrating with her! She turned 91 last April and I will celebrate near my real 91st birthday on June 21st.

What, then, is the reason behind having TWO celebrations? Over 250 years ago, King George II decided that he would like to celebrate his real birthday in a month other than November since he didn’t enjoy the weather at that time of year and thought it wouldn’t be good to have a big public celebration. So he decided to have a birthday in April where he could have a big parade and other celebrations. And it has since become a royal habit.

My lasting impression of Queen Elizabeth is that she is the kind of person who should just keep going and going, giving her time to help people who need her, even if she is the Queen of England, one beloved by all of her people and others around the world. – CHRIS

NOTE: Unlike most of my posts, I took none of the pictures in this one.

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Royals Weddings and Babies


[ The new royal couple ]

May 21 – The world stage has been growing with all of the plans for the wedding that took place this weekend, with another young lady welcomed into the British royalty! Need not ask what is first to be talked about around the world in most, if not all, countries! Some young ladies wish they could be the one who will become the wife of Prince Harry, giving her the right to become a very special lady all through the British Commonwealth. I have been following this fairy story ever since Markle and Harry first became friends. Know why? Because Harry has always been a favorite with me. The age difference has nothing to do with it since I am over 60 years older than he is. I just think he is a friendly guy who would be happy to help out even a commoner when he can.

Actually, I had better slip in a few words about Prince William, too, as I have always enjoyed reading about him and his family. Besides, we share our birthday, on June 21, as well. He has such neat little ones and a beautiful wife Kate.

Just a few weeks ago, Terri, the wife of one of my much-esteemed nephews who live in California, took a trip with her niece to England. One day when they were walking around Kensington Palace, they were in the right place at the right time! Since the whole country and a good bit of the world were interested in anything at all about the new baby. Terri thought it would be good to check around the area to see if there was a birth notice. As they began searching they found that everything was blocked off from view all the time so they wandered around the side where the various embassies are located.


[ The Baby Range Rover ]

They were on a beautiful street by themselves when a lady with daffodils came running toward them, yelling at her little one on a stand-up scooter. “Hurry! They’re coming!” Terri saw a police motorcycle follower by two Range Rovers and then two more motorcycles, and there was Prince William driving Kate and the new baby home. Right past those two Americans who were the only ones on the sidewalk! They were almost seen in the BBC helicopter news shot as the Range Rover turned down the embassy lane. Totally excited!

They both saw William but did not see Kate in the back seat because of dark windows. They were so shocked and wanted to confirm what they thought they had seen. So they asked the security guard, “Who just drove by?” He smiled and said he could not say, but they were very important. Niece Jen asked if it was someone who just had a baby, and he said “Yes.” It was indeed Kate and the baby. They raced over to St. Mary’s where all the national news was still set up. THEY WERE INTERVIEWED!! (I really appreciate the fact that Terri and Jen agreed to let me use their London experience as a starting place for this story!)

As I read the note that Terri had written to her husband Rich, I was reminded of my thoughts on Queen Elizabeth so many years ago. She was just 25 years old! I know very well that I would not function at all in those circumstances! So how did she become the queen? Prince Edward who inherited the throne from King George V when Elizabeth was just 10, abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, and George VI became king. Unfortunately he became ill and died at age 56, so Elizabeth became queen.


[ TreeTop Resort]

She was not even home at the time but had set out with her husband Prince Philip on a tour of Australia, New Zealand, and Kenya. While at the TreeTop resort in Kenya, a beautiful place among the trees where one could see the countryside, Elizabeth enjoyed watching the elephants and other wild life. Soon she was too excited to sleep and most of the night was spent in enjoying the animals. In the morning at breakfast she tossed bananas to the animals below. They did not hear of the death of her father, King George, until afternoon when a reporter broke the news.


[ Princess Elizabeth]

Well-known hunter Jim Corbett, her bodyguard at the time, wrote the now famous lines in the visitors’ log book: ”For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree next day a Queen — God bless her.”

So Elizabeth was now queen. She and Prince Philip headed back to London and moved into Buckingham Palace. Her coronation was in June of 1953. I am sure that she has always been an example of ability and love for her country and its people. – CHRIS

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On A Clear Day You Can See Forever


[ Our lawn mower trio]

May 14 – Recently did our first mowing of the season on April 24 after Dale got all three of the mowers ready. Beautiful patches of bluets all over the ground in spots. Dale did a lot of tilling after both of us had no success with starting the hand mowers. I had to give up finally and use the riding mower. Five or six hours and still had some to do. I got too close to the fruit tree area at one point and a branch of the apple tree knocked off my cap and my glasses, throwing them about 10 feet, but we didn’t know that distance when everything happened at once!

I continued to duck under the branches until I ended up on the other side of the tree. Before I told Dale, I hunted and hunted, first just standing up and bending down until I found that my legs and back weren’t too happy about that position. OK, down I went on my hands and knees, searching quickly at first then more slowly as I found nothing.

Now I KNEW my glasses had to be right around that tree, so I knelt on the outside, then reached across to the trunk, but became more and more discouraged as I found nothing I wanted to keep!

Finally, when I had to tell Dale about the problem, he came up from the garden where he had been tilling. How did he search? Just like I did, of course. What else would you do? OK, so he quit that and went back to the barn to come up with the big plastic lawn rake. He raked around the tree slowly, round and round, but Dale AND the rake never found anything!


[ Dale out by the mower ]

I had had enough of playing games with the apple tree, keeping secret the whereabouts of my glasses, so while Dale continued to search for them, I went back into the house, not being able to see as well as I could when I first started mowing.

About half an hour later, as I was working in the kitchen. I heard Dale come in through the open garage door. I greeted him with, “Well, you aren’t saying anything, which means that you have nothing to tell about my glasses. Sure wish you could have found them, both for the cost of another pair, and because I need to have them to do close-up work and I don’t feel like getting another pair.”

Just then when Dale stepped nearer I noticed a huge smile on his face. Well! I sure didn’t think that my losing those glasses was at all funny and was about ready to tell him that, when I noticed HE was wearing MY glasses! What a surprise.

Dale then said, “Come on out and I’ll show you where they were. When he pointed out the place, I could hardly believe it! The big old yellow mower sat all by itself several feet from the tree. A little farther on as Dale had scoured the area, he found my glasses, with a little green/yellow covering of the grass I had just mowed. A rich find at ten feet!

So that was six hours of mowing before time to get ready for supper. As if that were not enough for one day, I went outside after the meal to rake up the old stalks from the blackberry patch and the needles fallen from the evergreen trees.

And since I have to live up to the words my brothers always said to me, “Sis, you’ll never learn. If you didn’t try to do so much before you quit for the day, you would be a lot happier!” Well, these days, I am beginning to believe what they said so many years ago, really was true


[ Glasses found! ]

Perfect example. Would you believe that I lost my glasses once again? As I tried to finish up around the chestnut tree with its branches hanging low, off went my cap and glasses AGAIN, and I had to stop the mower so I could get off and do a little more hunting for the same things I had lost earlier in the day! Fortunately, I didn’t need Dale’s help this time as I found the glasses and cap near where I had stopped. Now it was really time to leave the yard and move into the house!

Yes, THAT was a busy but productive day. Before quitting for the day, Dale and I played several games of Rummikub, enjoying the fact that I could at least see the numbers on the tiles. And as I check what I’m writing on the computer, it’s nice to remember that I can see just as well as before that disgusting branch on the apple tree did what it could to make my day sad! – CHRIS

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