It Snowed in Smithville Texas in Dec 2017

I woke up to a real treat this morning. Snow. I rushed to wake Catherine (she was the only one of my kids here). “It snowed… snowed… Come see before it disappears” I yelled.


I was pretty young and did not think deeply when I left Alaska to marry a Texan. I had a lot to learn. One thing that surprised me was it NEVER SNOWED.

We lived in East Texas for several years and one day while shopping for groceries, I heard yelling, “It’s Snowing!”.

There was a rush to the front of the store to see out the picture windows. I looked and could not see anything. Then a few wisps of snowflakes were visible for a few seconds. Everyone chattered about it, satisfied they had seen snow.

I shook my head remembering that I left Alaska right after a blizzard. The snow was piled up over my shoulders around our house. I barely made it to the airport.


It was a few more years before snow came again. We had three kids. This time the snow was big flakes and stuck to the ground. I rushed around getting the kids into warm clothes. We had no need for winter boots since snow wasn’t probable, I got six plastic bread sacks and wrapped the kids feet in them to keep their feet dry. Then I herded them out to play in the wonderful stuff.


For years following any threat of snow I watched for signs. Even if it came in the dark of night, I would round up sleepy kids out of bed and outfit them for snow. I could not resist. We made snow men and had snowball fights until we were exhausted then we went in for hot chocolate and a warm bed. My husband watched this peculiar behavior of mine with the comment, “Gees Mary, sometimes I wonder about you.” In later years he joined us to check out the icy creek and explore.

This behavior did not stop when the kids were sick with colds. I lined them up in front of the window in the living room so they could watch me build our snowman. I often wonder what these kids, born Texans, think about this now.

I know I have aged. It always surprises me in odd ways to find this out.

I did not go out in this snow this time. I was content to see it out of the windows and doorways. Catherine went exploring with Pepper, our dog and brought pictures back.



Yes I have aged. Bud,  I still get a kick out of seeing the world transformed to a wonderland of white.

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Potential Disaster to our Aquaponics Building


We are again faced with a potential disaster. We have a small Aquaponics building that we have kept running after my husband who designed the system died. We felt we had learned enough to keep the system running.  We had harvested some vegetables and fish and began to think we had things working.

Today while showing an interested visitor who wanted to see how Aquaponics could work…we noticed our “thermal wall” of water filled 55 gallon drums WAS LEANING DANGEROUSLY TO ONE SIDE!!!



Catherine had to go to work and we could not address the problem right then but both of us are really worried. If we can’t empty the water from the drums and reset them right away, they could pull over the whole house wall on that side. Catherine and I  hope to get started on our rescue of our Aquaponics building tomorrow morning. (I am not much help due to health issues but I offer support when I can.)


I will give you an update as soon as we attempt to save our little building.

12/3/2017 Aquaponics 55 gallon drums shifted.

Posted on our blog: Darn, Darn Double Darn if it is not one thing it is another…always unexpected.

Lisa F offered to help and Will volunteered his son, Landon. (I hope Landon won’t be surprised!)

Thanks a lot for the offer to help you guys it is great to have friends..

When Bud, Catherine and I put the Aquaponics building together this was going to be a trial for a larger one later. We did not intend this to be permanent.

When Bud died Catherine and I decided to try to make this small building provide the two of us with veggies and fish. It seemed we were on the right track. We did not anticipate this problem.

The building is very small and full of STUFF. The space to work is very tight even for the two of us. Here is our plan for a solution.

1. We will siphon water from the top 55 gallon drums until we can remove them.

2. We will then siphon the lower drums.

3. We will try to stabilize the ground to prevent this shifting when we reinstall the drums.

This is a project that will take time if we can save the building now. Siphoning is slow work but safe. Stabilizing the base at ground level will require some study.

We begin siphoning this morning. I will keep you guys posted.


Day 1

We started emptying the barrels with a siphon hose. One barrel took about 45 minutes (our hose was ½ inch dia) Since Catherine had to work we just put the siphon in the next barrel on top and let it run on its own.

Day 2

Almost removed top layer of barrels. The 3rd one gave us a mystery. We began siphoning and while we waited we began cleaning the grow beds. I checked the progress of the siphon periodically and became aware that the water had quit flowing in the hose. Catherine came over and decided that there must be a blockage in the 20 foot siphon hose. We tried to flush the hose to no avail. We even tried hooking up a water pump to clear the hose. Several tries of a variety of possible solutions and we were stymied! Catherine accidently leaned on the barrel and it moved. It was empty. We felt foolish as we removed it from the top layer. We laughed at the thought that we never considered that the reason no water flowed was that the barrel was empty.

Now we are siphoning the last top barrel.

Day 4

We examined the extent of the damage to the building. Several times in the past three years we almost gave up trying to keep things going. We always pulled back from the decision each time. Now…we had to decide.

It has been 3 years since Bud died. Catherine and I have decided that we cannot keep the Aquaponics building working. Without Bud it just keeps going under. This morning we decided to shut it down. I am crying because it meant so much and I really wanted us to make it work since it was Bud’s last project.

Posted in Aquaponics, loss, Observations, The constant is change | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Seniors and Youth-Something Old, Something New

When I was young the people around me were my Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, Mother and Father and cousins of various ages. I never thought this was something that would change radically when I became an adult. I never gave it much thought to the way my life was becoming segregated away from my extended family.


I married and moved from Alaska to Texas, my sister married and moved to the Eastern Coast of the United States and my brother raised his family on the Western Coast.


Since my Texas family was young and I was busy with keeping house, providing schooling both for my kids and myself and later working a 9-5 job I had little time for contemplation.

Traveling was very expensive so I did not see my Parents, Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, Brother or Sister for many years and even then not often. My brother, sister and I had entered the era of the “nuclear family”- described as a Mother, Father and children


Individuals moving away from extended families was part of decades in which American society became stressed in new ways because of this physical and social isolation. Not having members of your extended family meant that you and you and your husband were responsible for all things that happen in any family. There were no Grandparents or other relatives to help when emergencies arose. You could not be guided by advice from your elders or other family members. You as parents were really on your own.

Many of the ills of American society are rooted in this isolation of families. Children became “latchkey” kids who spent time without adult supervision while adults rarely had time to spend communicating with them while trying to keep a household running.


People who wrote the commercials were well aware of the children’s need for guidance and were ready to step in to provide commercials that told children how to be happy by buying more, bigger, brighter and expensive things. Kids left home seeking the brighter more alluring life seen on TV and in movies. Kids often found themselves really on their own.

Now I am over 70 years old. I look back on the paths of my life and see how breaking ties of families make individuals easy to manipulate by media and predatory people. I see kids trying to go to college with rising costs for housing and classes while old folks are becoming more and more lonely. I ask myself, how do we solve these problems?

As I have often done, I turned on my computer- and found some suggestions and answers.
Intergenerational programs around the United States try to break down many of the physical and social barriers between the generations, and provide activities for seniors and youth that offer opportunities for mutually beneficial learning.

Just Goggle “seniors and youth programs” and you will find many possible solutions.




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Texas is a big state and things are spread out. Emergency preparedness is required.

My daughter and I were on the way to an adjacent town about 30 miles away to shop.  I was just remembering how I handled three small kids years ago on long trips like this.  I noticed a woman with three kids in her car next to us.

imageWe were on a highway with nothing for miles on either side of the road but weeds and trees.

Thick vegetation  made the areas look dark and I certainly would not seek shade where snakes, scorpions, and other “wee beasties” sought the same shade. image

Texas is a big state and things are spread out. My kids constantly tell me that somewhere I am interested in is “Just down the road, not far”. I soon find my self in a car for 45 minutes to get to this “Not far place”. I realize the kids were raised in this large state of Texas and many things are relative to them that I consider excessive. My husband began to think of distances the same way as the kids.

I continued this train of thought about possible problems on the road as we speed on. Once a mother-always a mother so I always worried about flat tires or other emergency events while seeking these “Not far” destinations.  I.  usually had presentable clothes but decorative shoes only good for walking on flat, clean floors.image


I remember thinking…Boy, would that be horrible if I had to walk a ways for help in blazing sun or pouring down rain in the cold winter with my three small kids if these problems arose.

Once my husband and I had such a problem on a rural road with our camper truck that had a failed fuel line. We tried to think if we had seen any gas stations or buildings but often you just don’t pay attention. Fortunately the weather was mild, but the distance was quite far with nothing on the road to help us as we walked to find help. The kids started ok, but began to fall back soon. We all wondered why there were no cars passing us. Finally we saw a small market that sold a few food items and ran a gas station and repair shop. The kids were so happy and we all collapsed in the shade of the buildings drinking water that seemed so wonderful. The people that ran the establishment went and towed our vehicle to the shop.

Another time a flat tire caused my husband to have to change to the limp tire in 109 degree full sun. The highway was blistering hot.  Fortunately I had a bottle of water and could pour it on his head to cool him with evaporation and prevent heat stroke as he worked to change the tire. I decided to have my husband show me how to change the tire if I was on the road with the kids by myself.image

These events got me planning. From then on I had emergency equipment in a box in the trunk of each  our cars, my husband’s truck or our camper. I had walking shoes, light jackets, rain ponchos, a hat. I planned to carry a lot of water, especially in summer in Texas. I made sure the kids had good walking shoes.

When the family got older, I was teased about my emergency kits. When I went to work 30 miles from home, I continued to have the equipment and that gave me confidence that I would not be “stranded and helpless”.

I wondered if the woman with three small children in the car next to us had made such emergency plans? I hope so.

Posted in Central Texas, Chickens, Dangerous Country living, Observations, Personal | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tiny Living Quarters are Not New



Tiny houses are becoming a popular reaction against “Mac-Mansions”.


My husband converted a small school bus that was originally from a small Texas town into an “RV”. The converted bus became part of our family for over two decades and we all loved it.

It was our “tiny house” with stove, refrigerator, convertible table/bed, toilet, hammock and storage for all our gear. My husband was a genius in space planning. Our family of five survived living in this small home, sometimes for months while taking trips to Alaska and all over Texas. We drove to visit relatives in both the east and west coast of the US. We handled the restricted living area by exploring the world outside every chance we got.  I suspect living in a tiny house, we would spend most of our days out in the world exploring our environment only staying indoors for storms or eating and sleeping.


Posted in Memories, Observations, Personal | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

You Can Die of a Broken Heart

My Mother died exactly one day less than a year from the day my Dad died. I was 14 years old. My brother, 18 years old, said to me the day before that morning, “We need to be home with Mom tomorrow. Come straight home from school and plan to stay at home the whole night. Tomorrow will be one year since Dad died”.

Around 3 in the afternoon, the school Principal, Mr. Rose came in and whispered to the teacher. She walked with him to my desk. I was writing a report on heart disease because Mom’s Doctor said she had the problem. I was trying to find out what that meant.

My teacher said, “You need to go with Mr. Rose”. I was puzzled, and gathered my books as it was near the end of the school day. Mr. Rose waited patiently and led me out of the room. I wondered if I had done something wrong.

In the Principals office, I saw my older brother with his back to the door, gazing out the window. Mr. Rose left. I stood undecided what I should do as I couldn’t imagine why my brother was there. My brother, turned toward me and bent to pick up a piece of paper he dropped. When he stood up, he was crying!

He choked out, “Mom died today.”

I did not think this was unexpected somehow. After Dad died, Mom had asked me to sleep with her as she did not want to sleep alone. I heard her several times say under here breath so I would not hear, “ take me. Let me die.”

Now I stood, numb and unable respond. My brother was weeping and I just stood there.

For the rest of the time including the funeral, I did not cry because I felt stunned.

Many people thought if two people were married for a long time and one died, the other would follow within year. Whenever I thought of it, I tried to accept this common wisdom I had often heard as a child growing up. I never understood but accepted this as truth as it happened that way with my parents. I was stunned for decades.

Over 50 years later, I am still trying to understand many things. I have had a lot of time alone and had time to think deeply about things in my past. I  now know why my Mom died as she did. My husband died and I had to try to cope. Memories of Mom’s last year kept popping up in my head.

After over 50 years of marriage, my husband died. I was sure my time was up also the same way as my Mother, so I sat and waited for my year to end.  I did not die in the following year and I have had lots of time to think.

I see my Mom clearly for the first time. She was meek and shy. Dad was full of life and loved to laugh. He was her joy. He died and my brother was leaving home to join the military. I was going to leave in very short years also. I can picture her staring at the walls, alone.

No TV back then, she was not a member of any church or organization, she could not work due to health problems, she did not read for pleasure and she had moved from her home to another town to be close to her siblings.

Now I understand why she willed her own death. She was alone without her husband and kids who were leaving to have lives of their own.

At last I can  grieve, deeply with understanding for my Mother who died, lonely and of a broken heart.

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What is a “Den” and “Parlor”?

I have wondered about a curious practice I experienced since I have lived in rural Texas. Often, actually always when we visit neighbors we are met in the yard and the visit entirely is conducted there, outside the house.


This was never done when I was younger and when I first come to Texas. I vaguely felt this practice of not inviting us into the house was a kind of slight.


Looking back in time I realized things began changing about 1960. Before that houses usually had a “Den” and a “Parlor” in the layout plans . Anyone remember these terms?

The Den was where people lived and sprawled out with clutter and the mess of active lives. The Den was often at the back of the house or off to the side.


The Parlor was usually at the front of the house and was forbidden to the household occupants. My neighbor had fine furniture in her parlor. It had “tasteful” ornaments and pictures all around. Children were threatened with punishment if they dared to sit in this room.


Since the parlor was kept orderly, people were invited in to visit. They would be seated and offered refreshment.

Today Dens and Parlors don’t seem to exist. We live in the front “Living Room” and create the clutter and mess of our active lives. If we expect someone we stash the clutter and straighten up the mess so the place is “fit for company”. However, if someone appears unexpectedly-we certainly do not want them to see the actual way we live daily-so we hurry to the door and come out to greet visitors.

Meeting us outside is not meant to be any comment on our suitability to be invited inside?

Do you think I am right about this? Please let me know what you think.

Posted in History, Observations, Personal, The constant is change | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

I Never Want To Go Back

My doctor recommended some exercise therapy after I told her I saw a local exercise place that had aqua therapy. That appealed to me as I loved swimming. I learned to swim when my kids took lessons at the Red Cross local city pool classes. image

My three kids and I were hooked and went to the local pool a lot for several summers. We even had season tickets. We loved the sunny days and often stayed from when they opened to closing.


Soon the kids, one by one, began fleeing our nest. When all three were out of our home, I got busy with other things and rarely went to the pool.

Years later (decades) after I retired, I began having health problems and one solution was to put me on oxygen therapy. I hated the look of the plastic tubes in my nose, but it was unavoidable.


I became aware of the way people, adults avoided looking at me when we went shopping. Kids on the other hand would stare trying to see why I looked different. Often they would smile or even wave. Eventually I got used to the apparatus.

Feeling sorry for myself one day and said, “Oh, I miss swimming, I guess I will not ever be able to do that again.”  (a bid for sympathy).


My youngest daughter tried to make me laugh and suggested I take up scuba diving.  The image seemed preposterous. We shared a laugh.

No sympathy there!

So back to my Doctor’s recommended exercise therapy. She agreed it was a great idea and arranged for me to go to the local exercise place. My daughter and I went to check it out. No swimming pool. I don’t know how I ever thought I could use one anyway. (one could always hope that I would find a way.) Oh well.

The pool they had was a small water hole with a treadmill in it, You would get wet waist deep. I was assigned a young woman to show us around and I was told she would be my therapist. There were not many people there and they did not look happy.


The therapist whizzed us through the facility (she was FULL of energy).

and assigned me a prepared sheet with two exercises on it…  Homework.

We left and I was so relieved. “I never want to go back there, the rooms were dark, the water feature was disappointing and worst of all the therapist was full of brisk energy.  I doubted if she had any idea how to help a 75 year old out of shape woman. I did not think the prepared homework took into account my current rundown condition.

So I will just do a few things like tai chi and yoga  with the help of the internet at home and on my own.  At my natural speed.

Slow, quiet, deliberate movements. Ahhhh.


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Saving Sauces

Catherine and I buy sauces and once open,



they may be used in only small amounts, so we leave the jars of opened sauce in the refrigerator. Often we do not need the same sauce again for a long time. Then, when we open the jars in the refrigerator…

we find…



Here is our solution. We found some great ice trays with silicon flexible bottoms making removing ice easy. They make some that are all silicon but they are floppy and do not hold their shape well.


     DSCN3069We filled one of the trays with salsa and another with basil  pesto.

After they froze we removed the cubes into containers and put them in the freezer for later use. Now when we want just a little salsa or basil pesto we can get what we need.


Posted in Basil, Cooking Notes, How-to | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Hiding in Plain Site

I have a Doctor’s appointment with a Rheumatologist, a specialist to have my conditions looked at. I have a bunch of issues that I collected in my 75 years. Most I just ignore and try to get on the best I can.

Yipes. I hate going to doctors and especially specialists. You know they will find something terrible wrong with you. They will recommend an awful regime to regulate my daily life or insist on my taking pills.

I think I will go in disguise, my appointment is on October 31, Halloween.

021-BanditShucks, that probably won’t work…

This is is better!



I plan to tell this Doctor what is wrong with me.

Cat in the Hat-aging

Wish me luck.

(after my appointment)

OK, I went to the Doctor appointment in my Troll disguise. The receptionist didn’t see the odd presence as I stood at her window. My daughter said, “She is a Troll for Halloween”.

The receptionist said, “Oh, I didn’t notice.” She just asked me to identify myself.

I went and sat to wait to see the Dr. The woman who took my weight, lead me to a waiting room and began checking my blood pressure did not say anything about my disguise. I said, “Say, does this look normal to you?” She laughed and said, “We see all kinds.”

Later the Dr. told me she saw me come in and was curious about her new patient so she paused, “I thought you were either eccentric or it was Halloween…” she said, smiling.

As I left the office, we passed some young people and my daughter felt it necessary to explain my odd get-up. She said, “She is a Troll for Halloween!”, One young person said, “I love Trolls.”

So my adventure into Halloween disguising at age 75 was over.

Posted in Aging, Defeat terror, Personal | Tagged , , | 3 Comments