January Review

Rebekah came home this weekend. We were having a potluck at church; she hasn’t been to one in a while, and her schedule won’t permit her to again until who knows when. It was good to have her home. And the potluck was really good as well. She’ll be working at Lake Forest Ranch again this summer. She’ll be on work staff the first half of the summer and then she’ll be a work staff/counselor the second half, which means she’ll be a counselor if there is a need for a fill in. Between sickness and family things that come up, it’s not unusual to have a need for a fill in. She’s excited to be going back.

It has been a rainy, but uneventful January. I did go to Knoxville last week for a regional pastors’ meeting with our denomination (EFCA). Our district superintendent is retiring at the end of the year, so unless I go to a district conference this fall, that will probably be the last time that I get to see him.

We start week 4 of the semester tomorrow. It has gone well, but it doesn’t feel like we should be that far along. Pinwheel tutoring starts up next Monday. I think I am getting a new kid this semester. As I was just a “fill-in” last semester, that will be nice. Lauren led the training last week; she does such a good job talking to a room full of people who are mostly older than her.

While we have burned a few fires in the stove, it has still been a rather warm winter. And the daffodils and tulips are confused as both started coming up last week. We normally don’t see those until February. I think the daffodils will be fine. I don’t think the tulips would like a really hard freeze when they’ve budded, but for now they’ll be fine. It was 22° night before last and all seems well. I’m looking forward to seeing how the 100 daffodil bulbs I planted overlooking the road down in the woods look when they bloom.

Jenna, Jacob, Lauren, Emily, and Evan and some of Evan’s family and friends are going camping and hiking next weekend in the Smokies. There’s a chance of snow this week up there. But the weekend is supposed to be pretty. And we’re hoping to get to one of Evan’s rugby games in Atlanta in February as well.

Maybe we’ll get a good snow in February, but if not, I say it’s time for summer.

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone. We had a wonderful time celebrating with the Baileys as is the usual custom, and as always we are thankful to them for making the effort to come all this way—this time pulling a U-haul that had some furniture we were getting from Dana’s mom.

The usual fun times ensued: puzzles, games, good food, and good conversation. Emily and Evan came up from Atlanta to join us for the weekend, and Jacob and Lauren were around a good bit of the time as well.

We also spent some time outside Sunday after church walking along the old railroad tracks through the woods east of Andrews. And Sunday night we watched I Heard the Bells, the story of Wordsworth’s poem that became the popular Christmas song.

And just like that everyone is back to work; though Jenna did have Monday off as she went to see a friend in Chattanooga. I will start up tutoring again next week, but I am spending part of this week preparing for class. We will also be resuming our time in the Gospel of John after taking a break for Advent. Two of my elders preached through chapter 18 while we were in Texas for Dana’s mom’s funeral and while I was out of the country. So I will start up in John 19 this Sunday.

We’ve had three small—little to no accumulation—snows so far this winter, all right before Christmas. And we’ve gotten down to -1°. But since Christmas weekend, the weather has moderated, and last night the low was in the 60s.

So what’s in store for the new year? I’m hoping to build, sooner than later, a new raised bed, which will be our seventh. If the weather stays above freezing, I’d also like to begin working on the terraces again. There is some more dirt to dig out and some more stones to stack to get ready for spring planting.

My 2023 To-Read book stack is forming already. I got several books for Christmas that I’m looking forward to diving into. But as always, some things worm their way into the stack, nudging out others. This is the, mostly, non-fiction stack as it currently exists.

I’m thinking of doing a reading challenge this year that I found on-line from a literary group. See the pic below, and that is where most of the fiction will come from, in addition to some things I’ll read for class this semester and that I’ll read in preparation for a world literature class I plan on teaching in the fall.

We had such fun getting together with some friends from Temple last year that we are tentatively planning on doing that again this spring. We’ll, of course, plan our annual trek to Texas over the summer, and then Dana and I will try to find some conference to attend together in the fall.

We’re also hoping to get to one of Evan’s rugby’s games in Atlanta in the next couple of months. But as always, we hold all those things loosely, and we look forward to what God has in store for us in the coming months. For now we are enjoying Rebekah being home for one more week before she heads back for the end of her junior year.

Posted in Books, Celebration, Church, Company, Family, Games, Garden, hiking, Holidays, Nature, Reading, tutoring | Leave a comment

Food and Music

Today was tamale making day! We usually assemble earlier than this, but it’s been quite a couple of months. Until about a week ago, I’m not sure there’s been a full week pass since the middle of October that someone hasn’t either been sick or out of town. But we are well and all home—Rebekah got home from Covenant on Wednesday—so tamales need to be made. Garrett came over this afternoon to help out.

Last night we all went to north Atlanta to see the Behold the Lamb concert. It’s the first time our whole family has been in town or not sick so that all of us could go. In addition we took Jacob’s three younger siblings: Garrett, Ellie, and Micah. And I took no pictures of all of us! But it’s such a delightful concert. The folks that put it on: Andrew Peterson, Ben Shive, Andy Gullahorn, Jill Philips, Skye Peterson, Jess Ray, Andrew Osenga, The Arcadian Wild, and Gabe Scott are all wonderful musicians. If you haven’t heard this Christmas album, you should. They start the show with each performer doing one of their own songs, and then after intermission, they play through the album, which is a telling of the Christmas story starting early in the Old Testament.

I have been a fan of Andrew Osenga’s before I even knew who he was as he sang for a band called Caedmon’s Call. But he’s done several albums of his own, and I enjoy his song writing immensely. In addition, he’s done a podcast called The Pivot, and when he released his last album (The Painted Desert), he also released just the instrumental version of the same music. I listen to it all the time if I’m working on a sermon in the coffee shop. All that to say, he walked out on stage after the show to put all his guitars in cases, and I got a chance to visit with him. Icing on a wonderful evening.

We’ve got a fire going in the stove and probably will for the most part of the rest of the week. Like most everyone in the country, we’re looking at a very cold Christmas. And there is a small chance of snow on Friday, which if it happens, will undoubtedly still be around on Christmas Day as it’s not supposed to get above freezing the whole weekend. We have a Christmas Eve service Saturday and a Christmas morning service the next morning. We are looking forward to celebrating the incarnation with our good friends at Christ Community Church.

Dana has off Friday and Saturday from the Thrift Store. Jenna is working all week, but the coffee shop is closed between Christmas and New Years, so she’ll be off all week. And the Baileys are coming again for New Years, which means puzzles and games and food and lots of fun.

Posted in Celebration, Christmas, Church, Cooking, Family, Food, Friends, Games, Music, Vacation | 2 Comments


We woke up and November has almost come and gone. When last we left, we had returned from a wedding in Waco. At some point in time in October we burned our first fire in the wood stove because of an earlier than usual cold snap. Then we got the flu, and then we started racking up airline miles over the next three weeks.

At the end of the month, Dana flew home to be with her mom during her last days. After the wedding in early October, Roberta’s health declined fairly quickly, and she passed away on November 1. Roberta was a wonderful mother-in-law, and in a family of Aggies, she was my fellow Longhorn, having graduated from UT in 53. The weekend of the wedding, we sat down and watched the Texas/OU game together. She loved her four daughters and eleven grandkids (and 3 grandsons-in-law), and she was well loved by them. It was a blessing for her to be able to remain in her home—in no small part to the care of her three daughters in Texas: Beth, June, and Lydia. It was always a joy to sit around and listen to her tell stories—and there was always Blue Bell and Dr. Pepper and Pecan Sandies. She left a wonderful legacy and will be missed by many.

The girls and Jacob and I flew out Friday and came back Sunday. Due to the severe storms in Texas on Friday, we missed our flight from Dallas to Waco and rented a car and got in at 1:00 AM. But we beat Emily and Evan by four hours. Thankfully, all 11 grandkids were able to fly or drive in, from the east and west coast and all over Texas.

The next day, my friend Paul and I flew from Atlanta to Asia for two weeks of teaching to pastors who are part of an organization that plants churches in rural areas in their country. This was our fifth trip, but the first since before Covid. It was a joy to be with all of them again, and it was also the first time they had been able to gather as well. Their excitement in all being together made the trip worth it, even if we hadn’t been able to teach at all. We both think it was probably the best of the five trips we’ve taken. On the way back, we had a 21 hour layover in Madrid (multi-city tickets to save money have their advantages), got to spend some time in the downtown area, were amazed at the number of people out and about on such a cold evening, got to practice a little Spanish, and ate some good food. Upon arriving in New York the next day, we learned our bags were still in Amsterdam (we both got them back eventually). Thankfully, we made our short connection at JFK to Atlanta. So from Friday, November 4th to Sunday, the 20th, I took 12 flights. Spending that much time in the air is conducive to reading: The Mayor of Casterbridge, Silas Marner, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and A Study in Scarlett (all books I’ll be teaching in the Spring) and watching movies: Dune, Belfast, Where the Crawdads Sing, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

It was good to be back home and finished with plane travel for awhile. Rebekah and her roommate were home for Thanksgiving, and tutoring started back up this week. My students took their test on Jane Eyre this morning, turned in their essay, and then we started reading A Christmas Carol out loud. Tomorrow is math and Latin. One of my Latin students has to translate a hymn into Latin. That should be fun!

It was especially good to be back at church after being gone for three weeks. I am thankful for the folks at church who stepped up last minute when we went to Texas for the funeral and then while I was out of the country for two weeks. It is so encouraging to not have to worry how things will go when I am away. I can’t say enough how much we love our church.

Oh, yes, and we put up our tree after Thanksgiving. It’s not quite as big as that one in Madrid, but it’s ours, and now it is starting to feel like Christmas.

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Quick Trip

A quick 1900 mile Thursday–Sunday round trip to Texas for a really fun weekend at Emily and Evan’s wedding where we got to see lots of family.

All the Cousins and Grandma

But now it’s back to work for everyone. We’ll get to see Rebekah again this weekend as it’s her fall break: a long four day weekend.

The colors are coming out in earnest this week. There was a significant change from when we left to when we got back. Such a beautiful time of the year. Up here on our knoll, we’ve had some mid 30s but nothing to nip the garden yet. But we’ll need to pick the remaining peppers this weekend as it’s supposed to be in the 20s next week.

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September Review, October Preview

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. In fact, if it hadn’t been for that post on September 2, I would have messed up the 12+ year streak of having at least one post a month. And this one will ensure I get one in for October.

So what have we been up to? September was sort of a blur around here, so let’s see if I can figure it all out.

Dana and I attended a marriage conference in Chattanooga the second weekend of the month and got to attend Emily and Evan’s wedding shower that Sunday afternoon. We’re excited to be going to the wedding next weekend (more on that down below).

Jenna started a new job. The flower farm work came to an end, and now she is working at the Rare Bird, the same place Lauren worked for awhile. While Lauren was a barista on the coffee side, Jenna is working on the retail side. Here’s one of her displays she made.

The after school tutoring program that Lauren directs is starting up tomorrow. And she’s been busy giving piano lessons as well. Jacob is back to doing fire place work as well as recording/producing records for a couple of people.

Beyond that excitement, it’s been the steady, normal routine. But October is going to be another thing all together. This weekend was the first Folk School Fall Festival since before Covid, and I hadn’t been in several years before that as it coincided with a mission trip I’d taken for the previous three years. And Jenna was always in Mississippi at school or teaching in Texas for the last six years. Unfortunately, Dana had to work, but it was fun to be back milling around with several thousand people looking at all the arts and crafts of some pretty talented people. We also got to listen to some music, including the Junior Appalachian Musicians which includes lots of kids we know from church and the community. Jacob’s younger sister and brother are a part of that group.

Next week we head west for Emily and Evan’s wedding in Waco. Rebekah & Garrett are going with us as is Jenna. Lauren and Jacob already had shows scheduled for that weekend, so they will stay around here. But that also means I have the week off—mostly. I don’t have any tutoring this week, but there is some paper work for the state that I need to file for the non-profit, finish wedding plans (I’m performing the ceremony), do some more prep for the class I’m teaching this semester, and do some more prep work for the mission trip to Asia in November that I get to resume this year after a two year break due to Covid.

Rebekah’s fall break is the weekend after the wedding, and her roommate is coming with her. That’s also the weekend of the Punkin’ Chunkin’.

While it has cooled off significantly around here—we’ve had a few mornings in the 30s—the peppers are still doing well, and we are planning on pickling some more jalapeños tonight. The okra has slowed way down, and we’re only getting a few cherry tomatoes and green beans every once in a while. It won’t be long until the garden is done for another year.

Posted in Canning, Celebration, Culture, Family, Garden, Garden 58, Travel, tutoring, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From Tree to Shelves

You’ve heard of farm to table. This is a story of tree to shelves. Back in November of 2019, some friends helped to cut this 75′ oak tree down.

Over the course of the next several months (with help), I cut and split most of it. By March, the piece on the left (the first 8′ of the trunk) was all that hadn’t been cut and split. And I wanted to save that to get milled.

The same guy who cut the tree down, came and loaded it on a trailer and got it milled into boards. They’ve been drying in his shop. Over the past two Fridays we turned them into two bookshelves.

And today I finished sealing and sanding.

So many books; so little time—but at least now there’s more room.

Last weekend Jacob and Lauren played at the local coffee shop. Lots of fun.

We had gotten behind in picking peppers, so earlier in the week, we picked and pickled 14 pints. But there were still peppers, so we dehydrated three trays in the dehydrator. But there were still some left, so we just put them in the fridge, and will eat them as we go.

Next weekend, Dana and I are going to a marriage conference in Chattanooga. We’ll get to see Rebekah and also attend a shower for my niece Emily and her fiancé Evan. I am looking forward to the break—though I am still tutoring all week.

Finally, last weekend, we installed a new elder at church. I am blessed to be a part of a church with many people who love God and love people really well.

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Junior Year

We dropped Rebekah off for her junior year yesterday. Same roommate, new suite mates. Same job (but with a raise). Only one studio class instead of the usual two (one of the two she had registered for got cancelled over the summer).

The rain has continued here fairly regularly. And the temperatures have cooled off a little—upper 50s this morning. Once I get used to my new school schedule, it will be time to get back out in the yard and finish working on the terrace. One more bed to go. I have pulled up about 2/3 of the zinnias. They had completely overtaken the bed I put them in, and I believe they have done in some of the phlox and possibly the dianthus. Live and learn—zinnias need their own space. I have put in a couple of asters, and will probably do some more as well as some chrysanthemums in that space. It’s all a work in progress.

Jenna had a friend from Australia, whom she met at L’Abri in England, come this past weekend for a visit. It was delightful to get to visit with her. Jenna’s friends have always been such wonderful people.

Jacob and Lauren are playing at the local coffee shop Friday night, so we have our weekend entertainment scheduled.

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Black Mountain Crest Trail

Does doing something two years in a row make a tradition? If so, the second weekend in August will in the future satisfy that same desire Bilbo had: “I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains.” 

Last August, Jenna, Lauren, Jacob, Garrett, and myself hiked 11 miles in the Balsam Mountains. This year, the five of us traveled a little further north to hike in the Black Mountains. While a much shorter hike (between 6 and 6.5 miles), it was much more strenuous. Flat sections were few and far between (and often muddy when they existed) as the hike was an almost continuous up or down as we traveled along the crest trail from Mt. Mitchell to Potato Hill. Despite the difficulty, it was thoroughly enjoyable, and the weather cooperated in giving us a cool, rain-free day. The morning was foggy and views were almost non-existent. On the return trip, the fog burned away, and the sun came out offering some nice views. 

Morning at Mt. Craig
Afternoon at Mt. Craig at the same spot
Section of Ascent on South side of Big Tom
View of Balsam Cone from Potato Hill
A rare, short, but very muddy flat section

In my last post, I included a map of the hiking trail, which noted elevations for each of the peaks we crossed. In looking at lists and information about those peaks, I have discovered that the science of determining mountain elevations is not as exact as I had thought. Some lists use the data from 1929, others from data from 1988, and others from—well—I’m not exactly sure. But, the National Geodetic Society, which I believe uses the “North America Vertical Datum of 1988” gives these heights for the six peaks we crossed: Mt. Mitchell (6684’), Mt. Craig (6647’), Big Tom (6560’), Balsam Cone (6600’), Cattail Peak (6600’), and Potato Hill (6475’). With these heights, these are 6 of the 12 highest peaks east of the Mississippi. But to make matters more confusing, depending upon the definition you use, Big Tom is only considered a sub-peak of Mt. Craig, and thus does not count as a separate peak. But considering there were places on the slope of Big Tom that had ropes to help in the ascent/descent, I’d like to think it’s its own mountain. 

Ropes on descent of North side of Big Tom
The View from Mt. Mitchell

Along the way we picked raspberries and enjoyed the wide variety of flora on the trail. 

Some really cool blue fungus
ghost pipe
Pink Turtlehead
Bluebead lily: The picture doesn’t capture the how vibrant those blue berries are.
Ferns in the fog and sunlight

There were also some humorous moments. For most of the trek, it was just us; though, from time to time we met someone or were passed by some people. One of those instances was by a guy who was long-legged and seemed to effortlessly navigate the steep rocks and unsure footing. He was one of those guys who probably covered the same amount of ground we did in half the time. But he looked down and saw that Jacob was hiking barefoot and said, “Now that’s a whole other level.” 

The second humorous event occurred as an older couple was passing us on the trail. They saw my walking stick and asked if I had had a knee replacement (I guess I look old enough for that!). I said no, I was just hoping to save my knees. They then proceeded to explain—as they zipped by us—that they both had had partial knee replacements and loved their hiking poles. 

The final encounter led to a conversation about Texas pronunciation. A couple saw my walking stick that my dad gave me that said Bogata UMC on it. As this is quite close to Bogota, they asked if I got the stick in Columbia as they had lived in Columbia for a couple of years. I then got to explain that despite the spelling, the little town in NE Texas was actually pronounced Bə goh tə. 

All in all a wonderful trip.

Posted in Family, hiking, Nature, State Parks | Leave a comment

Putting Up

We have been harvesting lots of veggies and putting them up. We’ve pickled 11 pints of okra and 12 pints of jalapeños, dehydrated 13 trays of cherry tomatoes, and canned 6 half pints of apple butter (the apples came from a friend’s tree). And of course there are regular tomatoes that have been blanched and frozen, waiting to be made into spaghetti sauce, and some romas have been roasted and made into tinga sauce.

Rebekah got back from camp last night. Jacob and Lauren got back from their month+ long tour/vacation. School starts for me soon. I have orientation for my history/lit/philosophy class tomorrow. I start tutoring Latin next week, and the history/lit/philosophy class starts the week after.

We’re trying to plan a hiking trip in the Black Mountains for next weekend. Hopefully that will work out. We’ve been wanting to do that for about a year. Our window with college kids in is pretty small. The route we’d like to do runs from Mt. Mitchell (the highest point east of the Mississippi) to Deep Gap—about 8.5 miles round trip. Along the way we’d ascend Mt. Craig, Big Tom, Balsam Cone, Cattail Peak, and Potato Hill. Depending upon which list you look at, that’s five of the ten highest peaks east of the Mississippi. Certainly not the Rockies, but a strenuous hike for sure. Back in August of last year, we did 11 miles in the Balsam Range.

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