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Archive for June, 2012

Today, the high temperature is expected to be around 102 degrees.  *PHEW*  The sun is expected to shine hot and bright all day with few clouds to intervene.  In spite of this, our garden needs attention every day just like most other gardens.

When gardening on a very hot day, there are a few things to remember.  Stay hydrated.  Stay as cool as possible.  Stay covered.  Do not work in the hottest part of the day.

Plants need water, so do people.  In hot temperatures, it is best to water plants at night.  This allows the water to soak into the soil rather than evaporate.  Also, water on leaves can cause the plant to “burn” in the sun.  The water droplet acts as a mini-magnifying glass.  For people, drinking plenty of water can be the key to life or death.  Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are nothing to play with.

Heat exhaustion starts with a heat rash or prickly heat, which progresses to heat cramps and finally to heat stroke.  Heat rash only involves the skin.  Heat cramps involve muscles.  Heat exhaustion involves the entire body.  Symptoms include low grade fever, profuse sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache and dizziness.  The person can become confused, lethargic, and even have seizures.  If these symptoms appear, get inside.  Drink plenty of fluids and cool off.  Do NOT allow a cold shower because the person could go into shock.  Let the person drink water and cool off before getting a luke warm shower.  If the person had a seizure or vomiting prevents fluid intake, then a visit to the Emergency Room is necessary.

Unlike heat exhaustion, heat stroke is a condition that requires medical attention NOW.  Heat stroke can be fatal.  Get the person under shade while waiting for the Rescue Squad or ambulance. People who are most at risk for heat stroke include young children, senior adults, athletes, and those who work or exert themselves under the sun.  Common symptoms and signs of heat stroke include: high body temperature (104 or greater), 
the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin,  rapid pulse,  difficulty breathing, strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, disorientation,  seizure, and/or coma.  These symptoms require medical treatment as soon as possible.

When in the garden on a hot day, stay covered.  Work in the shade if possible.  Wear a hat.  Wear long sleeves….what?  Long sleeves on a hot day holds your sweat close to your body allowing the evaporation process more time to cool you down.  It also helps to prevent a sun burn.

If at all possible, get up early to work during the cool of the morning.  I’ve gotten up a 5 a.m. to work in the garden.  I get my work done and avoid working in the hottest part of the day.  *Woohoo*  If that is not possible, wait until the evening to work outside or in your garden.

Remembering these simple rules will make gardening much safer and more fun.  If you have to work in the heat of the day, please be careful.  Watch yourself and others for symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Give the appropriate assistance to the individual effected by symptoms of either heat stroke or heat exhaustion.  Stay safe out there.

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Lottie was an old, mountain woman. She was midwife, farmer, dentist, veterinarian, and whatever else she needed to be. She dressed in long skirts with many layers of slips and petticoats, long sleeve shirts, and bonnets. The number of layers depended on the weather. Her steel gray hair was never seen just hanging down her back. She always kept it up, most likely because of the need to do hard work, which she did every day of her life. Like many Native American children of her generation, she worked in the tobacco fields alongside many adults. She grew up seeing the adults pick off imperfect leaves which were then stuffed into their mouths. Lottie was soon doing the same. And, Lottie cussed…with finesse. Lottie was quite capable of out-cussing a shipload of seasoned sailors.

Lottie lived in a little, weathered, gray house that was not far from her huge, weathered, gray barn. The house had a large eat-in kitchen with a wood cook stove and a handmade, large table with benches. In the living room, there was a well-used, treadle sewing machine along with the usual furnishings. Her bed was taken up by a large, handcrafted bed and chest of drawers. The house did not have closets, instead she used a wardrobe with drawers on one side and closet on the other. Upstairs was a sleeping loft for children. The only way to get there was up a ladder than was permanently attached to the wall. The front porch extended across the front of the house and was large enough to sit comfortably in rocking chairs or the work bench. Beside the bench sat a butter churn that showed signs of regular use.

Not far from Lottie’s house was a small garden. Rhubarb put up red spikes alongside the fence that surrounded and protected the plants. Inside the garden there were the usual tomatoes, peppers, squash, green beans, peas, and the like. The corn grew in the upper meadow and was used to feed the chickens as well as people.

One hot, muggy August day, Lottie was sitting on the porch snapping beans. Beside her, she had a glass of lemon aid. In her mouth, she had a bite of braided rope tobacco. Even though she was under the shade of the porch, she still wore her bonnet which was tied so that the knot was on her chest rather than under her chin. Beside her on a short stool was a bucket of green beans. Two others and a basket were nearby. A large bowl was in her lap. Off to the other side, two paper grocery bag awaited the snapped beans. The scraps were immediately given to the chickens who were waiting just off the porch which they learned to stay off because of Lottie’s broom.

When Heather arrived at Lottie’s, she parked in front of the cattle gate that provided the only entrance onto the property. After exiting her car, she climbed over the gate and started toward Lottie’s house. She was hot after the drive. Even the open windows proved no relief from the sweltering heat. Getting out of the car was not any better. Her tee-shirt clung to her back. Her blue jeans were required when visiting Lottie, since she knew work would be involved during the visit. There was always work to do at Lottie’s, and Heather had learned long ago that wearing shorts was stupid. Heather’s long hair hung down her back in a ponytail, which was about as far up as Heather tended to put it since she had decided long ago that buns were for old women. Heather approached the house and saw Lottie sitting on the porch.

“It sure is hot today, Lottie,” she said. Lottie looked up, took a spit over the side of the porch, got a sip of lemon aid, and went back to snapping beans.

“Don’t you think it’s hot today, Lottie?” Another sip of lemon aid and back to the beans.

Heather swiped the back of her hand across her forehead and announced loudly, “Phew! I sure it hot today, Lottie!”

Lottie looked up, “I wisht I was a cow.”

Heather was confused, “Lottie, why would you want to be a cow?”

“I just wisht I was a cow,” Lottie stated.

Heather looked at Lottie for a moment, “Lottie, that don’t make any sense. Why on Earth would you want to be a cow?”

Lottie took a spit before answering, “That ways I could stand in water up to my tits and not get my ass wet.”

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My tea glass is empty. My mind is empty too. Or maybe it just seems that way.  The fan is running, so is the air filter.  My son’s truck is running, too.  It sounds really good.  There’s still a lot of work to do on it.  The oil looks good.  The transmission fluid and filter have been changed.  The radiator needs to be flushed.  That’s the next job.  Then, there’s the tires.  I will soon be rebuilding the carburetor, without the boys watching my every move.  It’s been a while since I’ve done such things, and I really don’t want the distraction. The water is running in the greenhouse.  The plants look great.  The broccoli is getting new heads on them.  The cauliflower doesn’t have heads yet.  I wonder if that’s normal.  The tobacco needs transplanting, so do the tricolor sage, chamomile, thyme, and lavender.  The asparagus beans, which produce yard long beans, are growing very well.  I have loads of carrots coming up in the raised bed.  The beets are looking good, too. In the garden, the sweet potatoes are looking really good.  The tomatoes are also.  We still have loads of lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and kale.  Nice salad makings.   The green beans are growing nicely.  The corn didn’t do much this year.  I think the chickens got in and ate them.  We started new corn seed, so we’ll see what happens. The tadpoles in the toad pool are doing very well.  There are only about a hundred or so that haven’t finished changing yet.  The other thousand or so have changed and are out and about in the world.  I wish them all the best.  I’m looking forward to them all being done so we can put up our new pool.  This one will be a hard side pool, rather than one with an inflatable ring.  Our cat, Salem, liked to walk on the ring.  He fell in one day and poked a lot of holes in the ring while trying to get out.  Of course, we also discovered that he poked holes just by walking on it, too. I just had a bowl of ice cream.  I let Thor, one of our dogs, lick the bowl when I was done.  I think I’ll get more ice cream tomorrow.  Come to think of it, I want some more tea.

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Commonkin

A novel by

Michele Rice Carpenter

 

Floyd is a small town is rural Virginia.  Floyd is also the name of the county.  There are not many people here.  The residents of this county much prefer it that way.  Even people who moved to Floyd twenty years ago are still considered outsiders, but not by everyone.  The native people here are nice enough.   They are also helpful to the newcomers.  As evidenced by the fact that there are many transplants; that is they moved here, rather than being born here.  Floyd is one of the few places where a redneck, a hippie, and a pagan can live side by side and get along.

The town has two main streets.  Route 8 comes up beside the courthouse.  Route 221 comes up in front of the courthouse.  Route 221 is called “Main Street” probably because it goes north to south and runs in front of the courthouse.  Where these two roads meet is the only stop light in the entire county,…unless the Virginia Department of Transportation, better known as VDOT, is working on a bridge.  All directions given in this county that include going through town include THE stop light.  For example, to get from Check to the library in Floyd you would go straight through THE stop light, but to get to the fabric store you would turn right at THE stop light.  Having only one stop light makes giving directions a lot easier, most of the time.

The courthouse with its war veteran memorial and flagpole sets opposite of the hardware store.  The hardware store is one of those stores that you are compelled to enter just to see what is there.  They have almost anything anyone could want, cast iron cookware, tools, fishing rods, lures and bait, paints, birdseed, grass seed, and much more hardware store type stuff.  Out front they even have Radio Flyer wagons and, in the winter, sleds of all kinds including the old fashioned wooden deck with metal runners that have to be waxed sleds.  Now, whatever the hardware store does not have, Wills Ridge or Ingram’s or one of the country stores probably does.  InFloydCounty, you just have to know were to look to find what is needed.  Places like those huge mega-have-everything stores do not hold a candle to the variety and quality of items that can be found in Floyd.  That is just a fact that Garlan Revani, Sr. quite enjoyed.  Floyd having everything he needed meant Garlan did not have to leave the county to get anything.  The DMV van that came once a month took care of everything else he needed, except for his driver’s license, which meant he had to go to Christiansburg.

Garlan was born in Floyd County, out in Willis.  The old family home was out on Firehouse Road.  On quiet, winter nights, Garlan could hear the fire truck’s sirens as the truck was leaving.  Garlan had needed the fire department once when his chimney had caught fire about twenty-five years ago.  He, his wife and kids had spent many hours cleaning the soot left behind by the fire.  Some of the wallpaper had needed to be covered over with newer wallpaper, but that was okay…it had needed it.  The house was an ancient two-story farmhouse built by his father for his new bride just before he married her.  It sits on 240 acres that had once been more than 500 acres.  The chimney was rebuilt after that fire.  At least they had had good insurance, so replacing it had not cost them much of anything.  The old chimney was stone; the new one was brick.  That year the house had gotten a new coat of paint and the windows cleaned, upstairs and down.  It got new siding put on it and replacement windows installed last year.  His son, Junior, had paid to have it done.  Garlan had not liked the idea until he saw it completed.  Everywhere Garlan looked in the house, he saw his and his family’s history.  He had brought his own new bride home to this house.  His children had been born there.  One had died there shortly after being born.  He had thought he would loose his wife, too.  It took her a long time to recover.  The baby boy had looked so perfect.  He had a head full of almost black hair and cobalt blue eyes.  He smiled whenever Caroline fed him.  He had reminded Garlan of his Caroline’s father, which everyone who saw the child had commented on.  Then, one morning the boy just did not wake up.  He had let Caroline sleep the whole night through.  In the morning, she was concerned but not overly so.  She went into the baby’s room to check on the boy.  Garlan would never forget her screams when she found the boy that morning.  He would never forget that scream….

“Oh, Caroline,” Garlan whispered.  The day Caroline died was another thing Garlan would never forget.  His beautiful Caroline had been in the hospital with cancer.  When the doctors told him that she could go home, he had misunderstood.  He had thought she was going to be fine.  The doctors, seeing his thoughts on his face, had told him that she had about a month to live.  They had just blurted it out, like it was nothing.  Well, it was not nothing…it was the biggest SOMETHING in his life.  His Caroline was going to die.  That was not supposed to happen.  They had promised each other they would die together on the same day.  The morning that Caroline died, she talked about the son they had lost and that she could see him.  She had said she knew she would be with him and that they would be waiting for Garlan.  She had said that they would spend forever together.  Garlan had waited a long time for that forever to come, and he knew his wait was not over yet.  He was still very healthy for his age.  He still managed to work the cattle and the hay fields even though Junior had wanted him to stop years ago.  Garlan, Sr. was stubborn.  He would keep working until that forever came to take him to his Caroline and their baby.

Garlan drove his truck between the courthouse and the bank.  He drove straight through the joint parking lot to East Oxford and turned left toward Rt. 8.  At the stop sign, he turned left and drove back toward the stop light.  He parked his truck in the last space closest to the light.  Then he got out and walked to his destination.

On most days, Garlan can be found having breakfast at the Blue Ridge Restaurant in downtown Floyd.  Blue Ridge had the best sausage gravy and biscuits in the county in Garlan’s opinion.  His wife had made better, but since her death of cancer a few years ago Garlan had had to find a new best.  Blue Ridge Restaurant’s version of biscuits and gravy had quickly filled the hole in Garlan’s life.  Garlan knew that he really ought to eat at home.  His daughter-in-law, Judy, took good care of him, Junior and her family.  She was a gifted baker and cook, but Garlan just could not eat breakfast there.  He needed to…well, he just could not eat Judy’s breakfasts without thinking of his Caroline.  She had made breakfasts so special from the start of their marriage.  Garlan was not sure just what exactly had made breakfasts so special, but he knew it could never be there without his Caroline at the stove.  Garlan had gone into the Blue Ridge Restaurant for breakfast the first time the day after Caroline had died and it just became part of his morning routine.  The waitress was a middle-aged woman who had worked there since leaving high school to get married.  She always gave good service, mostly by keeping up with his coffee cup.  Her name was Annie.  Garlan liked Annie because she didn’t look anything like his Caroline.  Annie was good at small talk like the weather, but she also knew a far amount about most other topics.  Garlan and Annie had agreed long ago not to talk about politics.  They just left that topic alone.  They did talk a far amount about weather, cattle, hay season, holidays, and stuff.  Garlan liked Annie and Annie liked him back.  Not in THAT way, but as good friends like each other.

On this morning, Annie met him at the door with coffee and greetings.  “Good Morning, Garlan, how are the cows,” Annie asked.

“They didn’t sleep well last night.   Coyotes kept ‘em mooing most all night,” Garlan answered.  He walked in front of the counter and sat in front of the big window.  He looked around.  Nothing had changed in the Blue Ridge since they had removed the large round table with the lazy Susan in the middle.  Every once in a while some of the art would change.  There was a chair rail with bead board below and wallpaper above.  The tables were rectangular or square with anywhere from two to ten chairs.  The Blue Ridge had the unusual feature of having a wall in the middle.  Virgil remembered when it used to be two different store fronts, and the restaurant had expanded.  They had to leave the wall because it was load bearing.  There was an archway cut toward the back.  It had the waitress station on one side and the kitchen on the other.  Up above on the archway, there was the Lord’s Prayer on a plaque.  Behind the L-shaped counter was a set of shelves that had coffee mugs and t-shirts and books and such, many with the restaurant’s logo.  One of the unique features of the Blue Ridge Restaurant is the bathrooms that are tucked under the stairwell.

Annie always noticed what Garlan wore.  Actually, she noticed what everyone wore.  Today, Garlan wore faded blue jeans that bore evidence of the hard work that Garlan had done while wearing them.  He wore red plaid shirt over a pocket- tee shirt that used to be black and was now an unnamed shade of gray.  He always wore his work boots.  Garlan had been polite and taken off his baseball cap as he entered the door.  His short hair showed his ears, which had a bit of a point to them.  Annie had noticed over the years that this feature was normal for most of the Revani clan.  Garlan smiled at her as she brought him a menu, not that he needed one.  His bold green eyes twinkled with the smile.  That smile was one that could win over almost any woman.  “You know what I want, Annie, why bother with the menu?”

“Oh, take it anyway, Garlan,” Annie laughed, “Who knows?  You might see something else you want besides sausage gravy and biscuits, hash browns, and coffee.”

“See,” Garlan exclaimed, “You do already know what I want!  You must be a mind reader, Annie!”  Garlan joked.

“It don’t take a mind reader to tell you what you’ve been eating every morning for the past twenty years,” Annie joked back as she headed to the kitchen to pick up another table’s orders.

“How you doing this morning, Garlan,” Virgil asked from the next table.

“I’m fine, how ‘bout you and the misses?”

“Can’t complain, I don’t reckon!’

“How’s the family,” Virgil’s wife, Mary, asked with a smile.

“Busy, all the time…’cept the grandkids.  They’re always watching TV or playin’ those video games,” Garlan said.

Mary and Virgil both nodded their understanding.  “I don’t know what it is with kids these days.  They just keep getting lazier all the time.”  Virgil said.

“Funny, but that’s just what my daddy said about our generation!”  Garlan said with a chuckle.

“Yup, mine did, too, come to think of it,” Virgil said.

Annie returned with Virgil and Mary’s order.  She joined the conversation, “You know, it seems that every generation is just a bit lazier than the one before.  It’s all those gadgets that people have now.  Microwaves, cellular phones, all those game systems….”  Almost everyone in the restaurant had nodded agreement to her statement.  “And, just look at the way kids dress now,” Annie said about the time Mary took a bite of her food.

“Oh, now Annie, don’t you go getting Mary started on that,” Virgil said.

“Sorry, Virgil,” Annie apologized.  “Sorry, Mary, I know how you feel about that.”

“It’s all those magazines and so-called role models,” Mary said.  “Life was much better before all those nasty magazines came out.”

Annie disappeared into the kitchen again.  Garlan looked out the window.  He saw the traffic going by in front of the restaurant.  He was hungry this morning.  “It’s from all that hard work yesterday,” Garlan thought with satisfaction.  Junior and he had been busy moving the cattle to their winter field.  It was closer to the barn and would make feeding them easier this winter.  “There’ll be plenty of calves come February,” Garlan thought.

Just then, Annie came out of the kitchen and put a plate down in front of him.  “Here you go, Garlan,” Annie said with a smile.  “Ready for more coffee, yet?”

“Now, Annie, you brought this plate out before you even took my order.  What if I’d wanted somethin’ different?”

“Oh, Garlan, don’t tease me!”

Garlan smiled and chuckled, “I’m just sayin’…”

The biscuits were fluffy and the sausage gravy hot and peppery just the way Garlan liked it.  All he needed to do was add a little salt, which was normal for several of the  patrons of the Blue Ridge Restaurant.  The door opened as Garlan put the saltshaker down.  “Hey, Garlan,” said Joe as he entered.

“How you doin’, Joe?

“Be better once the deer stay out of the garden.  Say, you and Junior want to hunt on my place this year,” Joe asked.

“No, we got to thin ‘em on our place, too.”

“Seems the deer are a problem all over the county,” Annie said as she returned from the kitchen.  She walked over and put the plate down in front of a man that Garlan had never met before. “Is it cooked alright this time,” Annie asked nicely.  The man nodded, and Annie said, “Okay, then, I’ll be back with more coffee.”

“He and the misses must be visitin’,” Garlan thought.  The man and woman looked back at Garlan.  The man grinned slightly.  At least, Garlan thought it was a grin.  It kind of looked like the man was grimacing in pain or something.  Garlan turned back around just as Annie filled his coffee cup.  “Thanks, Annie.”

“Anytime,” Annie replied with a generous smile and a pat on the shoulder.

Garlan ate and listened to the conversation for a while.  Joe was complaining about the deer and the damage they had done to his garden.  Virgil was suggesting blood meal spread around the outside of the garden for the hundredth time.  Then, there was talk about traffic.  Which led to arguments about the need for a second stop light.  Then, Virgil started talking about fishing and stocking the local trout streams.  He also talked about a new lure he had seen advertised on television.  Then Joe started talking about the problems he was having with his old tractor.  Everyone gave suggestions on how to fix the danged thing, again.  It did not take long for talk to turn to politics.  “Now, Joe, you know those democrats are just messing things up,” Virgil said.  “They always do.”

“I voted for the best candidate, and he just happened to be a democrat,” Joe stated matter-of-factly.

Virgil scoffed and said, “He wasn’t the best candidate.  You voted for him because he was a democrat.”

“So, what’s wrong with that?”

“Hey, Garlan, who’d you vote for,” asked Virgil.

I voted for the best candidate,” Garlan answered.  “His name was Mickey Mouse!”  Everyone had a good laugh at that one.  Then Garlan added, “Heck, he’d probably do a better job than the lot of ‘em.”

“No arguments there, Garlan.  Besides, why are we talkin’ about elections that happened eight months ago,” Joe asked as the door opened and a group of six came in.  Two tables near Garlan were pushed together for this group, which was loud and boisterous.  The others in the room talked quietly with their tablemates or ate quietly rather than try to talk over the loud group.

Once his plate was empty, Garlan did not see any reason just to sit there.  Work needed to be done back home.  He left a nice tip for Annie and went over to the register to pay.  Then, Garlan had walked out into the middle of Floyd’s idea of rush hour, which happened every weekday morning as the kids were headed to school.  Floyd County has five schools, but only two are in the town of Floyd.  Garlan saw buses with young’uns who were headed toFloydElementary SchoolandFloydHigh Schoolwhich was next door and up the hill from the elementary school.

Garlan waved at the Willis bus that held his grandchildren.  He walked over to the crosswalk that went across to the bank and waited for traffic to stop for him.  He was glad that the town had put up the sign reminding drivers that folks who were walking had the right of way to cross the street, at least when they used the crosswalk.  The drivers were hurried, but they stopped anyway to let Garlan cross the road.  Garlan waved his thanks. The drivers waved back.  He knew most of the folks in the county and gladly waved at most anybody, even strangers who often visited the town of Floyd for the music and the artisans.  He walked between two cars that were parked in front of the courthouse and turned toward Rt. 8.  Once at the cross section, Garlan had to wait just a minute or so before the light changed allowing him to walk across to his truck.  He waved his thanks and stepped off the curb as the front driver waved him across.

A blue, Chevy truck ran the red light.  It hit Garlan and kept on going.  It all happened so fast.  Without the traffic camera, the color and make of the truck might have remained a mystery.  Garlan’s head hit the edge of the curb.  The truck sideswiped the first car in line at the light.  Garlan’s day to forever be with his Caroline was finally here.

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The drums of South Helm played the sounds of four heartbeats, one for each member of the family.  King Beargi stood on the ledge again.  This time the atmosphere was much more somber All of South Helm knew, without a doubt, a Hunter killed Aldin Southgate, his wife and his two children.  Everyone looked up at Beargi as Aldin’s closest relatives came in procession to take their seats on the ledge with Beargi.  There were four urns on a table beside the King.  He looked at them sadly.  Funeral pyres were normal, not urns.  The drums faded but continued to play.  There was no need for Beargi to raise his arms or his voice to quiet whispered conversation.

“Aldin, Valerie, Bethak and Daled Southgate were Commonkin to all of South Helm.  Aldin was the son of Katherine and Duregar Southgate.  From the beginning, Duregar and Katherine’s children walked the line between worlds.  Katherine gave birth to Aldin here in South Helm.  Katherine’s love for her new son was obvious from the moment she laid eyes upon him.  From the first moments of his life, we knew that he would grow taller than most of our Commonkin. Aldin was sixteen inches long at birth!” There were murmurs around the Hall. “Katherine was an excellent mother and wife.  Duregar brought his family here often.  He taught his sons, Aldin and Rivar, the art of blacksmithing.  They also went to the mines to see the tools that they made in use.  Duregar taught Dwarfish to his family.  Katherine taught them English.  Their children attended classes in the local public school.  They also attended classes here in South Helm.  They had more homework in one week than the average child has in three!”  Through her tears, Belle nodded her agreement.  “Their education has served them well.  Aldin attended university where he earned a Doctorate’s Degree in Architecture.  He met Valerie in one of his classes.  He told her about his Otherkin family on their first date, a very unusual move that proved to be the right choice.  Valerie came here to South Helm on their third date.  Valerie loved the forges, and they loved her.  She made some lovely jewelry from the smelting pot of the forge while Aldin worked metal for his swords.  She quickly learned Dwarfish.  She also mastered the art of cooking many of the foods that she first encountered here.  Often, Aldin and Valerie would walk through South Helm discussing many of the architectural features of South Helm.  Together, they built the only existing model of the Bridge of Tharin.  That model is in our archives, if any wish to see it.  Aldin and Valerie married shortly after they graduated from the university.  They started an architectural firm down in Roanoke.  Although it was not the ideal time to start a new business, the firm did well enough to pay the rent and utilities, but only for the firm itself.  Aldin and Valerie requested and received permission to live here in South Helm while they got the firm on its feet.  They worked many long hours at lower rates than their competitors.  Their hard work paid off when Aldin won nationally recognized architectural award for his design of a single-family dwelling that boasted some of the features of South Helm.  Later that same week, Valerie won recognition for her design of a modern office building.  After that, their firm was on solid footing.  Aldin and Valerie, for a brief time, rented a house in Roanoke to be closer to their business.  After less than a month, they began to design their own home.  Land not far from South Helm came up for auction.  Valerie attended the auction without telling Aldin.  He found out when he went with Valerie to the attorney’s office for the closing!  They came here after the closing to share their news with their Otherkin.  Aldin was explaining the features of their home with me, when Valerie excused herself.  She went to see Argrid and discovered that she was with child.  She rejoined us soon after we sat down in the Great Hall for supper.  Valerie stood up and when all was silent, she made the announcement.  Aldin stood up immediately and kissed her, in front of all of South Helm!”  There was laughter and giggles.  “After that, we surely did have a feast!”  He paused, remembering the look on Aldin’s face.  “The construction of their current home began almost immediately, and their business grew.  Aldin and Valerie both designed homes, apartments, businesses and industry.  During the months of Valerie’s pregnancy, their business grew from two architects to five full-time architects, three designers, and four office staff!”  There was scattered applause, since Dwarfs do appreciate hard workers.  Beargi paused for a moment.

“Valerie wanted to give birth to Bethak here in South Helm, but an auto accident changed those plans.  Valerie was on her way back to the office, when a drunk driver hit her in the passenger’s side door causing her car to roll down a hill.  It took emergency workers four hours to cut her out of her car.  Aldin, who was in North Carolinaon business, got the news and rushed back to Roanoke.  He called Asabelle who came here to South Helm with the news.  Many Commonkin went to the hospital to await Valerie’s arrival by ambulance.  Asabelle was the first to see Valerie.  She signed the papers for Valerie’s surgery.  Bethak was born by Caesarian section during the first part of that surgery.  Bethak was almost four pounds at birth.  Valerie was in surgery and Bethak was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at Community Hospital.  Asabelle followed the ambulance that transferred Bethak.  Many Commonkin waited outside the operating room during Valerie’s surgery.  They gave Aldin what information they had when he arrived.  Aldin spent the hours of Valerie’s surgery traveling back and forth between the two hospitals.  Aldin was not alone in his vigil.  All of South Helm prayed for mother and child.  Aldin cried the first time he saw Valerie after her surgery.  He held photos of Bethak up before her closed eyes.  He told Valerie all about Bethak.  Aldin left her side only to go see Bethak.  On the fourth day, Aldin returned from visiting Bethak to find Valerie looking at the photos he had taken.  Asabelle, Aldin’s sister, held the photos up so Valerie could see them.  Aldin hurried to Valerie’s side with the new photos that he had just picked up.  He stood there and told her all about Bethak.  Then, he went to Valerie’s doctors to convince them to let Valerie see their daughter.  Bethak was sixteen days old the day Valerie visited her.

“The doctors had told Valerie that she probably would not have another child.  They did not spoil Bethak in inappropriate ways, but there was not doubt that that child was indeed spoiled rotten!  So, you can imagine Valerie and Aldin’s surprise when almost four months to the day that Valerie found out that she was again with child.  All of South Helm celebrated the pregnancy that doctors were convinced could not happen.  Shows what modern doctors know!  Our healer, Argrid, did more for Valerie and Bethak than those doctors ever did!”  South Helm cheered this statement.

“Valerie’s second pregnancy was more difficult than the first.  Almost ten months later, Valerie birthed Daled right here in South Helm.  Daled was also almost four pounds.  Unlike the human doctors, our healers know that this is normal for our Commonkin.  Daled was strong, and loud!”  Laughter erupted at this statement.  Daled’s cries were already legend in South Helm.  Never before had the cry of a child echoed throughout awakening all of South Helm.  “Aldin and Valerie stayed here in South Helm while Aldin oversaw some much needed renovations.  When Daled left South Helm, he went home to this new house, the house his parents built.  The walls were sound-proofed just for Daled’s cries!”  Many laughed at this statement.  “In their new home, the family thrived.  Bethak and Daled attended classes just as Aldin had, in both public schools and here at South Helm.  Bethak took up jewelry making with Valerie, and Daled joined his father at the blacksmith anvil.  Both children grew quickly and grew well.  They thrived under the care of their parents and their Commonkin babysitters.  Bethak’s talent for jewelry surpassed that of her mother.  Many here wear jewelry that Bethak or Valerie made.  Bethak recently discussed with Argrid the possibility of learning the healing arts.  She also spoke of earning a degree in medicine with a specialty in alternative therapies.  Daled was more playful than his sister.  He was a master prankster.  His practical jokes are as much legend as his cries as an infant!”  Many laughed including Beargi.  “I remember the one and only time he played one of his jokes on me.  He spent a month in the kitchens peeling potatoes!”  The crowd guffawed.  “Two weeks ago, Daled had begun his second apprenticeship in blacksmithing, and Bethak had sold her first piece of jewelry in Floyd. Last week, Aldin designed a multimillion-dollar condominium for a man in Washington, D.C.  And, just one day before the fire that claimed their lives, Valerie discovered that she was again with child.”  This statement sent a shockwave through South Helm.

“The fire that took their lives was not the act of the Gods, but the act of a man known as a Hunter!  This act must not go unpunished!  Vow with me to avenge the deaths of Aldin, Valerie, Bethak, Daled, and the unborn child!”  All of South Helm stood and roared.  “Death to Hunters!  Death to Seekers,” King Beargi yelled.

“Death to Hunters!  Death to Seekers,” South Helm answered.

King Beargi went over to Asabelle, who was in tears.  He gave her a hug and kissed her tearstained cheek, as the drums beat louder. Then, he led her to the urns.  With shaking hands, she picked up Aldin’s urn.  Terence picked up Valerie’s as he followed his wife.  Argrid and Gdar carried Bethak and Daled’s urns.  They followed King Beargi to the Bridge of Tharin while all of South Helm settled on the over-seeing balconies and tiers.  The drumming echoed throughout South Helm.  The family walked silently behind the King with all of South Helm moving to positions around the Bridge.  Once in the middle of the Bridge, Beargi stopped and turned to the west.  The family stopped and turned west.  Asabelle took the top off the urn.  She held it over the abyss and allowed the ashes to flow out.  Once empty, she let go of the urn.  One drum stopped playing.  Terence opened Valerie’s urn and held it over the abyss.  He turned it over.  Once empty, he let it drop into the abyss.  The second drum stopped beating.  Argrid opened Bethak’s urn.  She held it over the abyss and turned it over.  The ashes flowed out.  Once empty, she let the urn drop.  The third drum stopped beating.  Gdar opened the urn of Daled.  He held it over the abyss.  He let the ashes flow out of the urn into the abyss.  As the ashes disappeared, Gdar swore he would avenge their deaths.  He dropped the empty urn as the fourth drum stopped beating.  When Daled’s drum stopped beating, another faster and fainter drum was heard.  It was the heartbeat of the unborn child.  It faded to silence. All of South Helm was quiet.  The silence was deafening.  No one moved.  King Beargi took the first steps.  The others followed him back to the hall where a feast awaited them.  The feast was to celebrate the lives of Aldin, Valerie, Bethak and Daled.  It was to mourn them as well.  Some would use the time of the feast to plan their revenge.

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Expecting Rain

It might rain today.  It might rain tomorrow.  It’s a maybe, not a for sure.  Isolated thunderstorms and scattered thunderstorms are no guarantees.  So, the sky is cloudy.  It doesn’t mean it will rain anytime soon.

Life has many expected storms.  Some arrive; others don’t.  If we spend our time waiting for storms to come, dreading them, then we don’t truly live.  If we spend our time regretting storms of the past, then we don’t truly live.  To truly live, one must be in the present.  That is the only way to truly live.  In the moment, in the present.

Everyone looks to the future.  Everyone reminisces or ruminates about the past.  But, what does that accomplish in the present?  It doesn’t.  I’m not saying to forget the past.  There are many lessons to be learned from the past.  I’m not saying not to look toward the future.  What I am saying is to spend most of your time in the present.  Enjoy the moment, then you will have few regrets.

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I read a blog post about using white vinegar as an herbicide.  Being a natural researcher, I looked up more information.  According to the research, vinegar works by drawing the moisture out of the plant at the leaves.  It does not work on the roots, so some plants with strong roots will show new growth days later.  A few sites recommended pouring vinegar straight from the bottle onto the roots in order to kill these plants.  Other sites recommended repeated application.  Many sites spoke of the fact that vinegar would affect the pH of the soil by making it more acidic.  This would cause an unknown effect on microorganisms in the soil.  To return pH balance to a more neutral range, sprinkle lime over the area.  Then either wait for rain or set up a sprinkler to help it work its way into the soil.  To help the vinegar stay on and work on plants with fuzzy or waxy leaves, add dish soap to the vinegar (about 1 cup per gallon).  The soap makes the vinegar stick to the leaves and stem of the plant thereby allowing it to work.  Vinegar works best on sunny days.  It is not recommended for application on rainy days since the rain will wash it off the plant.

So, armed with this information, I decided to try it on some weeds growing near my porch steps.  I put straight white vinegar in my spray bottle and sprayed these plants liberally.  I went outside a few hours later, and the plants were dying back.

Next, I used white vinegar on the fence line of our garden.  I stood inside the garden and sprayed to the outside.  This made sure that I didn’t accidentally spray the veggie plants.  It took a while and many gallons of white vinegar to spray all of it.  The results, however, were well worth it.  It killed EVERY plant that was sprayed, except for the milkweed.  We will not have to worry about trying to mow or weedeat the fence.  Further, we won’t have to worry about grass seeds from the fence line making it into our garden and causing problems later.  Yay!

Yesterday, I tried straight vinegar on poison oak with no effect.  Today, I will add dish soap to the white vinegar to try again.  I’ll let you know the results in an update.

REMEMBER: Vinegar is non-discriminant.  It will kill EVERY plant that is sprayed.

Disclaimer:  Now, I’m NOT recommending that you use white vinegar large or small scale on your weeds.   Instead, do what I did.  Research first so that you have as much information as you can before using vinegar as an herbicide.  Be careful when using vinegar as an herbicide.  Be ready for the consequences of using it.  Although vinegar is natural and not man-made chemical, there are safety issues.  PLEASE, do your own research.

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