Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Chelsea Michigan

Mrs ERJ and I made a day trip to Chelsea, Michigan.  We are still getting the hang of being retired and this seemed like the kind of thing normal, retired people ought to do.

Chelsea is fifty minutes from Eaton Rapids.  Chelsea is an upscale community that is fifteen miles from a major University city.

The shop that caught our eye was a Toy, Book and Music store called 'Just Imagine'.

Bill Harris is the proprietor and he graciously spent twenty minutes chatting with us when he really wanted to be catching up on his paperwork.
This is a five second video showing a kids book where the picture animates by tilting the book.  It made me think of the animated photos (in newspapers) in the book Harry Potter.

Mr Harris carries a large line of Melissa and Doug toys and educational materials.  Mrs ERJ assures me that Melissa and Doug materials are famous for good quality and reasonable prices.
His materials are skewed toward "manipulative" toys that can activate kinesthetic learning.  Mr Harris is currently stocking toys/games that develop fine motor hand skills.  The local teachers told him that the kids now showing up in Kindergarten knowing how to use iPads but not able to properly hold a pencil or crayon.  Just Imagine to the rescue.
If I understood the packaging, one of these packages has magnetic glitter.  It makes clean-up a breeze.
Music.  More of that kinesthetic learning and getting the brain to knit together.  Plus, being able to play a musical instrument is a great way to woo a lady.
As we chatted with Mr Harris, it became clear that he relied heavily on various members of his family and community to give him guidance regarding the best materials to stock.  For instance, his wife manages the Inspiration Materials shelf.  He relies on one of his daughters to give him "hot tips" on children's books.

He includes old favorites (like books by P.D. Eastman) and books that are likely to become classics.  How does he know which books will become classics?  He picks books that he enjoys reading to children:  Good artwork, engaging story lines, appropriate reading level and sturdy construction.  He is also highly responsive to local teachers who pop in and talk with him.

If you are passing through Chelsea, Michigan and have some grandchildren or nieces/nephews who need spoiling, consider stopping into Just Imagine.  His phone number is (734) 562-2040 and his Facebook page is HERE.  Many more pictures on Facebook and, frankly, they are better photos than the ones I posted here.

Old Stone Building
Chelsea has many examples of outstanding, dressed field stone buildings.

The George P. Glazier building.  Glazier was a big name in wood stoves and went belly-up in 1907.  Vanity buildings are the 1900 versions of sports stadiums.
The United Methodist Church.  Large amounts of pink granite.
The regular masonry buildings were also pretty well executed.
And you may be thinking, "I know I have seen that name, "Chelsea, Michigan" but I just cannot remember where.
Chelsea, Michigan is home to Jiffy Mix.  Each one of those triple silos is twenty feet in diameter and about 120 feet tall.  That is about 800,000 bushels of total capacity.  Figured another way, that is about 20 million packages of Jiffy Mix muffins.
I think we did well for a couple of country mice visiting the big city.  We may have to do that again.

Update on my brother

My brother had surgery for cancer last Wednesday.

Yesterday, we were surprised and pleased to hear that the doctor intend to release him today.  The usual stay after his type of surgery is ten-to-fourteen days and he was going to beat that very handily.  It was heartening because it means he is healing well and the sooner you can get out of the hospital, home of super-germs, the better.

By yesterday, noon they had removed all of the drain tubes except for one, the painkiller pump was out, everything was good to start processing the out-transfer paperwork at 9:30 this morning.

And then the doctor did not like the amount of discharge that was still coming out of the final drain tube.

My niece, who is a sophomore in college and took Psych 101 quickly diagnosed the problem:  The Doctor was having "suppuration anxiety."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.
Doesn't "rod" and "staff" seem redundant?

A quick trip to the internet suggests some differences.
This Basque sheep herder is holding a rod in his right hand and a staff in his left.

The rod is more than a 33" long walking stick.  It was used for defense and for discipline.  As in the phrase "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

The staff is more than a 72" long walking stick.  It was used for defense and also to gather, to scoop up lambs from ledges and to "hook" ewes that would otherwise flee in their mindless, animal panic.  Sheep are not very smart.
Just as sheep are some of the dumbest animals on the planet, sheep herders are some of the toughest.  Modern shepherds are likely to have a Winchester 30-30 or an SKS.  They have more range than the 33" rod.
The author of Psalm 23 is telling us that we do not need to fear evil because God defends us AND because we willingly submit to God's discipline (a key marker of being a member of any organization) AND because we know that God will be there to collect us should we do something stupid that would lead us astray.
The shepherd leads his sheep.  He goes where they go.  He lives where they live.  It is not a "commuter" kind of job.

Key point:  AND, not "or if".

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Welcoming Visitors

We had visitors in our pew this Sunday.  They sat to Mrs ERJ's left.

Last Sunday they sat in the pew in front of us.  I had never seen them before last Sunday.

By all appearances they were two disabled, adult men and a young woman.  One of the men is clearly mute because he used American Sign Language to communicate with the young woman.  The other man was not very reactive.  I suspect that they are from an adult foster care home and the young woman (25?) is their caretaker.

I am impressed that the young woman took them on a "field trip."  I am glad she chose our church and I hope we made all three of them feel welcome.  I take Matthew 25:40 seriously,
"...‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’" 
And from Luke chapter 18
"People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”
The man who is mute looked very happy to be in church.  Last week he actively tried to engage us in conversation.  He seemed surprised that we did not understand ASL. It is kind of funny.  When we were not able to answer he made larger gestures.  He was shouting to help us understand.  I think the young woman coached him on "proper" church deportment during the week.

Today he was whispering to the young lady.  That is, he was making his ASL movements small and close to his body.  The other man mostly stared at the railing in front of him but I did see a little bit of head bobbing during the music.  While the calendar might indicate that the two men are adults I suspect that they are children in many ways.

A minor crisis averted
The woman who was sitting to my right is quite old.  I suspect she becomes easily confused.  During the Mass she helped Father Dwight out by saying his parts rather than sticking with the responses.  Father Dwight was too far away to hear her but I doubt that he would mind.  He is has a firm grasp on what is important.

The three visitors stayed in the pew during Communion while the rest of the pew went up to receive it.

The older woman who had been sitting on my right did not recognize our pew on the way back and kept marching up the aisle.  I was a bit behind her because I partook of both forms of Communion, both the Body (bread) and the Blood (wine).  Part of what threw her was the fact that there were three people sitting on the end who had not gone up to Communion rather than an empty pew. 

She had turned around and was heading back by the time I arrived at "our" pew.  Her eyes were scanning, looking for her coat and purse or some other clue.  The three new folks were oblivious of the older lady's confusion.

I shook the mute man's hand (a gesture generally discouraged during communion to emphasize the gravity of the Sacrament) and made a motion like a signal corpsman directing an F-18 on the flight deck to indicate where the older woman needed to go.

The three newcomers pulled their feet back.  The older lady scooted past them like a spry youngster. And the mute man gave me a small, quick, circular (2" diameter) rub on the back as I shuffled in front of them.  I had seen the young woman give that same back rub to the less reactive man the week before.  I think it was meant to reassure, to say "calm down" or "it is going to be OK" or maybe just "you are OK".

I may have to pick up a few phrases in American Sign Language to help them feel welcome.  I want them to know "they are OK".


I was planting violets in the orchard today.  This clone is Viola odorata
A handful of the clump.  Hand included in photo to give a sense of scale regarding root length.
This is  about one handful of a clump after washing out most of the dirt.
Same handful broken into plantlets.
Clone two.  Assumed to be V. sororiaNothing special about this violet except it can grow in sand and shade at the same time.  The flowers have no fragrance.
The roots are much less impressive than the V. odorata, but perhaps that can be expected when growing on the north side of a building.  The card is 6" by 4".
Clone three.  This has flowers that are blue-and-gray flowers so it is probable V. sororia priceana.  This clone is growing in heavy shade beneath an apple tree that was planted to attract deer.  Like clone two, the flowers have no fragrance.
It has fewer roots and they are shorter than the other V. sororia clone.  Between the three clones I planted about sixty starts.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


One reason that the common, orange daylily ( Hemerocallis) is a good choice as a ground cover in the orchard is because the roots, while dense at the surface, are not that competitive with tree roots.  These two plants are on top of 4" by 6" cards.  As you can see it has massive roots and almost none of them penetrate deeper than six inches.

Doesn't look like much.
They don't look like much now, but they will spread by rhizomes to form a mat.  One key point is that you do NOT want improved varieties like Stella de Oro.  The improved varieties form clumps.  You want the unimproved variety that carpet the bottoms of ditches.  The unimproved variety is a triploid, has sterile seeds and spreads with abandon.

Another attribute of this plant is that it thrives in light shade.  I have seen solid colonies beneath Black Locust and Silver Maples.

A final point is that harvesters are going to walk all over these plants when picking fruit.  They will likely damage a great number of growing points.  The plants will not care.  They will fill back in in the spring.

This approach to planting between the trees is Darwinian.  I don't care if any one species or any give individual fails as long as something more useful than nettles or motherswort fills the ecological niche.

There might be a little dust on the bottle...

Not a picture of Mrs ERJ.  Image from Huffington Post
One of the things that I like about Mrs ERJ, heck, I LOVE about Mrs ERJ is that she likes hanging on to things that work.  She sees no need to "trade-up" when an old dishwasher, or minivan, or dog, or husband has served her faithfully.

She gives me atta-boys when I can make the dishwasher go a little longer or I fix the hose on the vacuum cleaner with Gorilla Glue and an old medicine bottle.

I was thinking about Mrs ERJ the last time I heard this song on the radio.  Country Music fans will recognize the title of that song as the title of this post.  When it comes to Mrs ERJ I don't think there is an "up" to trade to.

I suggest you give your sweetie a kiss if he/she has a little dust on the bottle.