The United States of Tomatoes

At last, something we might all be able to agree on! Pulled these treasures out of a sack from a gardening friend and had a moment of unity and harmony, gratitude and optimism.

Maybe we could all just agree to agree about one thing.  In our divisive, polarized, obstructionist, toxic political climate could we all just get together behind homegrown tomatoes? I know you know deep in your core that there is nothing finer than a homegrown tomato.

An opportunity to savor the freshness and tangy juiciness, not to mention the glorious color, is just too good to waste with bombastic rhetoric, mud-slinging, or filibusters.  Nobody would hurl that gorgeous fruit at an opponent across the aisle if they could eat those lovely slices instead. Let's pass the globes gently with open hands.

We don't need to agree if the tomato is a vegetable or a fruit*.  The debate would keep us from the moment of bliss. We don't need to agree about bacon for a BLT.  How we each enjoy the homegrown tomato in the privacy of our own home is okay.  I'm just hoping for one simple point of agreement across the extremes. From that one tiny intersection, maybe a new spirit of compromise and constructive collaboration might spark.  

Maybe we could blur the lines a bit between the divisions in our country so that we could move on to cooperative efforts like pasta sauce and tomato/basil bisque. We could be less shrill and more savory.  And when we sit down together for a meal we might be able to agree to be grateful and polite, and then enjoy.

*So, the answer to the question is that a tomato is technically the fruit of the tomato plant, but it's used as a vegetable in cooking.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Buoy, Bowie, pho boy

"I'm okay!"  Even while he's still in the process of falling down, our new student is announcing the upside.  He's just turned three, and he doesn't have very far to fall. Sometimes he's already made his thumbs-up spin pronouncement before checking in with his skinned knees. That leads to post-announcement reassessments reminiscent of  Dubya's "Mission Accomplished" speech, but with cuter Hello Kitty Band-Aids.

Elementary students sitting at the long table are arguing about the pronunciation of phở while they squeeze the salsa from its condiment package and sprinkle faux cheese on their nacho Lunchables.  My sons are  phở -natics, so I know  phở  rhymes with "duh", but not with Homer Simpson's "D'oh!"  

Artist Marc Trujillo has captured the creepiness of a nacho Lunchable, but I won't reproduce an image of his small oil painting.  Please check it out.

Still more pronunciation anxiety arrives via the Wait! I Have a Blog?! post called "Natural Buoyancy". I am transported back to the early Seventies, steering a very small boat around a very small lake. We learned to turn the boat "hard alee" around a buoy.  In Nebraska-speak, that is pronounced "heartily around a boo-WHee".  I still love the sound of the commands, "Prepare to come about; ready about; hard alee!"
ready about
Last warning given by a helmsman before tacking and turning the bow into the wind, notifying the crew that the boom and sail will cross the boat.

Bwoy,oh ,bwoy, what a big can of worms.  Buoy does not rhyme with "La Choy" or "soy", but does rhyme with chop "suey"! According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, buoy rhymes with chewy, gluey, phooey, and screwy

Oy vey!  Oy rhymes with koi, poi, bok choy, hoi polloi, annoy, borzoi, and Troy, my auto mechanic.
Buoyancy is boy-antsy but like you've just consumed a 25¢ coffee from a paper cup dispensed by a machine in the basement near the stairwell to the art history lecture hall while you are in summer school as a sophomore and considering changing your major.

My grandpuppy, Wiley, presents a new pronunciation problem.  His widdle doggie self esteem is in the pits since he did not advance to the finals in a doggie beauty pageant. I so wish I was closer to give a doggy morale boost by saying, "Wiley, good bwooy!"

"Eureka!" comes from the ancient Greeks meaning "I have found it!". The story goes that Archimedes was soaking in the tub so long his fingers and toes were getting wrinkly.  All of a sudden he understood the theory of buoyancy. Wiley never gets sufficiently relaxed in the bath to discover theories.

BOO-ee is the preferred pronunciation for the legendary Alamo defender and knife namesake, Jim Bowie.  But then there's David Bowie:  Although his name is often pronounced as BOW-ee (-ow as in now) the pronunciation that he uses and we recommend is BOH-ee (-oh as in no). He is married to the Somali-born supermodel Iman (pronounced ee-MAN).

So goodnight for now. I'm exhausted from carrying this buoy through the slough.  

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Robots, babies, and proof

What is real?  What has value? What is pre-wired? What is learned? What is hacked? Where are the authorities? Who decides what's authentic? What requires bifocals? ... Hearning aids?

When we pull the cloth out from under the silver and china why is there no table?

I'm on a non-fiction reading kick.  This week I'm tackling Modris Eksteins's Solar Dance, and finding much for rumination. Could be, though, the grass is AstroTurf.  Or the grass could be half-empty. Or the cow might have a stomach porthole:

 In Modris Eksteins’s hands, the interlocking stories of Vincent van Gogh and art dealer Otto Wacker reveal the origins of the fundamental uncertainty that is the hallmark of the modern era.

Wacker's forged Van Goghs did much to popularize the artist's work, and to drive the prices skyward--the faux promoting the genuine. We live in a world of designer knock-offs and bootlegs, where the genuine promote the faux. As happened at Wacker's trial and appeal, the testimony of "experts" got so convoluted it seemed the faux genuine was promoting the genuine faux.  Say, is that a real fake Rolex?

 Behind our daily life skitters a  backdrop of doubt.  We need to check for security updates and run scans.  Our suspicious outlook could be our only salvation.

This morning I listened to an NPR segment about people teaching a robotic baby to talk.  This evening I'm unable to convince the same online story that I am not a robot myself.  I flunked two visual robot tests, then attempted my first ever audio robot challenge. Ouch.  I did much worse sorting and typing the audio robot quiz words amidst the babble. I'm pretty sure I got "fried egg", "Sunday", "rectangle", and "scissors", but that was inadequate.

Coworkers and friends send me email links in the middle of the night. Don't they have to be at work at 8:30?  Why are they up so late? Didn't I just see them yesterday? How could they have already lost their passports and need me to wire them money? Their addresses are not their own.

And you, too. You aren't real. Symantec said so, so it must be so. You must be very popular! Norton will not let me into any of your blogs. Maybe it's a fake Norton protecting me from the real McCoy.

blocked red-x
Fraudulent Web Page Blocked

You attempted to access:

This web page is a known fraudulent web page. It is recommended that you do NOT visit this page.

For your protection, this web page has been blocked. Visit Symantec to learn more about phishing and internet security. 

Well, it is Sunday morning now. The world is washed clean. Your web pages are no longer fraudulent. The experts have spoken.  And they said, "Danger, Will Robinson!"

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Unintentional watermelon/uncooperative lime

Life is good.  Limes are good.  Key limes would be nice.

I received a Key lime tree at the teacher appreciation luncheon, but my patio doesn't have enough pollinators to prod the blossoms toward fruit.

That's why I've been donning butterfly wings and rushing outside with my pollinator paintbrush shortly after sunrise.

So far no baby limes, but citrus hope springs eternal.  That's why I was so dashed when I started seeing green debris on the patio.  And then there was that influx of unwanted rodentia.

Let me just say I'm totally opposed to any rodents in the condo complex setting.  I don't care if it's an escaped gerbil, or a hormonal hamster.  So why are these rodents rushing my patio?  To eat little green things!  The LGTs are not baby limes.  Instead they are falling from the sky to bonk Chicken Little upside the head.

Actually, a squirrel was up in the neighbor's soapberry tree devouring green seeds, and knocking many more to the ground for other rodent marauders.  The soapberry tree is about ten years old.  It volunteered after a nice shade tree fell over.

Ten years makes a lot of winter soapberry mess falling on my patio.  On the upside, it's a lot of red admiral butterflies and hummingbirds, too.  But this is the first I remember of summer LGT mess:

Finally have a result of my pollen fairy dances.  It looks like a watermelon, not a zucchini.  Some rodent will probably bite into it soon.

I'll have to keep hoping for the limes.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Whole lotta nature out there

In the Carboniferous Period of the Paleozoic Era, dragonflies grew to be fifteen inches long with thirty inch wingspans. When I finish my Time Machine, that will be one of my test destinations.

Took the trail to the pond at  this morning, and entered a dragonfly jam. None were Paleozoic-sized. Glad it was  Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, and not Jurassic Park.

Very cooperative turtle sunning and surveying his domain.

Heron on the far side.
Water beetle.

A cute stripey snake.
Hunting for dragonfly lunch?

Ew.  That's a big dang snake in the water.

Time to head back up the trail!
© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Webbed bliss

When I got the spider on the left in focus I didn't even notice the spider on the right. I love that digital photography lets me see things I wouldn't otherwise. Are these two frolicking in webbed wedded bliss?

Trouble with those pesky little b's and d's is rampant as the preschoolers prepare their Father's Day project. I love my dabby!  I love my baddy!

I love these turtles just hanging out in the sunny curve of the creek far below the trail. They seemed pretty blissed. I may need to find my inner turtle today.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


All my travel mugs passed before my eyes

Thought I must be gonna die! It was a seriously bad dream. The mugs were all a-jumble in a cheapo blue storage crate from a Dollar Store.  The oldest wasn't  from the Conoco station at Broadway and W. 15th in Edmond, Oklahoma. There were earlier primitive versions that were supposed to cling to the dashboard before the invention of cupholders. Lots of  blue mugs with advertising logos and leaky lids, the gimmees and freebies. School fundraiser cups with kiddie drawings encased in plastic. Expensive stainless steel ones that got just as moldy as the freebies.

There is the box being lifted down from the shelf, mugs glowing with a mildly radioactive twang. My reading material must be cockleburs in the jammies of my REM sleep. Put all those possessions out there on the front lawn--even the travel mugs. Everything must go.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Long-Term Plan

Long-term thinking mixed with short-term anxiety has gotten me stuck right here. My rut, but not my Jeep.  Lauren drives me home from the car fix-it shop in her husband's old green Jeep. I can barely climb up and into the Jeep, but falling out is easy.

Lauren is very clear on her line in the sand. She would rather live under a bridge than ever teach preschool again. I mention the spiders and bugs under the bridge, Lauren insists preschoolers bite more than bugs. I haven't been bit, but life under the bridge seems likely in my long-term future.

Lauren much prefers being the auto fix-it shop counter gal and sometimes mechanic. She makes me laugh.  Her story reminds me I  need some thinking outside the box to avoid a future under the bridge.

Michael Wollf's excellent heart-rending op-ed about long-term care was syndicated in the Dallas Morning News on June third, but is accessible at this link. Our nation needs, desperately needs, some rethinking on this issue.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


On the trails

The two-week break from school is almost gone, without winding up Dad's estate or doing a heroic house-cleaning. My stay-cation included several wonderful walks and lunches with friends, but also solo walks with my camera.

Bluestem  shared information about this plant,  Illinois Bundleflower.  The seed pods have always intrigued me, but now I'm paying more attention to its growing cycle.  And yes, it makes me sing, "Yes We Have No Bananas." Desmanthus illinoensis may have psychedelic properties.

Leather-flower has hairdo properties. When I first spotted it in May I had just watched Amadeus, and was thinking about those purple powdered wigs. Clematis pitcheri seems to be a hardy perennial vine.

As the flowers opened further I was reminded of my childhood Barbie wig salon toy. I could dip the flip or bouffant in vinegar and watch it turn flame orange or maybe even purple.
This wildflower is adored by bees. When I spotted it in May it seemed to be wearing a crown. I nicknamed it "queen-for-a-day". Now the nature preserve is a sea of these flowers in full jubilee splendor. Plains horsemint is also known as lemon beebalm.

I'm excited to find the Native Plant Information Network. It's much more helpful than my guidebook.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Stile queen reverie

Not crossing over the fence in the photo, but sitting atop the stile. A rare photo of me from that era when I was the family snapshot taker. The SLR camera was new, so '91 or '92, an extravagant gift from my husband who wanted it himself and bought with time payments. First roll of black and white film out at Connemara. Oddly calm, almost bemused, pleased with my aviator sunglasses and bargain tan mohair cardigan, and for one tiny second sure my three sons are not breaking arms or legs or needing stitches. All the anxiety seems to be stored in that skinny, clasping wrist.

A stile is an arrangement to allow passage for creatures smarter than sheep and cows. Today I barely qualify, having left the wrong key when I dropped off my car for service. The stile photo is part of a collage about myself made a few years later while I was climbing over the fence of divorce, so '96 or '97. It hangs on the wall behind a door that's always open, so I'd forgotten the stile collage.

The collage is glued to a blueprint, appropriately.  My engineer parents created my blueprint, and regularly inspected the construction site. It is in heavy-duty laminating done by Kinko's that cost a fortune.  I hadn't asked the price, and was horrified to be spending the grocery money on laminating.  The collage was to be a talking-piece at my session with the therapist, but now I would have the dragonfly encased in amber forever.

Today I would say I'm still not over the fence, but I am not immobilized in amber or otherwise. I've supported several people making their passage to new meadows. I've watched hawks, bats, and scissortails swoop, hummingbirds and herons feed. My wrist is not so bony, and the hand not so clenched. I'm still borderline panicked about the grocery money.

Thanks to Kathleen for the image and poem that provoked this meditation. Thanks, too, to my extrovert sister, the Nebraska 4-H Style Queen winner. What year was that?

stile Look up stile at Dictionary.com
O.E. stigel "device for climbing, ladder," related to stigen "to climb," from P.Gmc. *stig- "to climb," (see stair). An arrangement to allow persons to pass but not sheep and cattle.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


What happens to an avocado pit?

Never have had a speck of luck with Sputnik avocado pit sprouting. Whichever end is up is always wrong, although it would be incorrect to accuse the pit of spite.

Cannas love me by comparison. Pull them out midseason and toss the bulbs over the fence, give them no respect. Whichever, wherever way they land, they are sprouting again within a couple weeks.

Pineapples, gotta love 'em. Lop the top off. Stick the top in a pot of dirt and screw it down a bit like Donald Trump's toupee. The plant will grow handsome gray-green spikes in sun or shade until freezing weather comes. We've had one growing in our classroom for at least three years. True, it would be difficult to plant it upside down. That would be an uncomfortable toupee.

Once or twice since I encountered guacamole in college the pit I've thrown out in dispair has grown a foot and a half with four leaves before dying. In the jelly jar, nada. So I started throwing the pit into the worm composting bin along with the avocado peels.

Red wigglers get all excited about avocado peels. They use them for worm yurts, kivas, and hookah dens. They use eggshells for igloos, or put on thick spectacles and pretend to be Buckminster Fuller, those frolicking eisenia foetida!

What about the pits?  They break down very slowly, aided by the red worms and by harmless white mites that assist the decomposition process. Today I raked the pits out of the bin and threw them into my accidental garden.  I hold no expectations for their future.Maybe this is the year avocado pits dock with the International Space Station, but I'm not holding my breath. Critters have mowed off the volunteer tomato plants AGAIN. The mystery guest from the squash/melon family is taking over the patio and climbing the wire tomato cages. It tried to ensnarl the gas grill. There's a lime the size of a pencil top eraser growing on the teacher appreciation tree. Anole lizards are pleased with the situation.  Life is good, and decomposition is not bad, either.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Decoration Day


HALMA F.                  ADOLPH J..
1891-1981                                            1888-1938
January 25, 1891  Sac, IA               July 28, 1888 Verdigre, NE
December 11, 1981 Pierce, NE         October 5, 1938 Pierce, NE
                             George Burkhead and Clara Lee         Joseph Mastalir and Mary Novak

Last Sunday evening I was trying to find old photos of hanging lamp fixtures in Carnegie Libraries.  Don't ask why. Instead I tripped over this information about my grandparents from their gravestone at the Prospect View Cemetery in Pierce County, Nebraska.

Halma has been an incredible inspiration through my life as strong, smart, hard-working, creative, thrifty,  perfect mother-in-law, generous hostess and cook extraordinaire.  The legendary figure of Adolph has been held up to me in teaching stories of honor and principles, although it has been tough to get a sense of the man who was my grandfather.

My other grandparents are buried in Fort McPherson National Cemetery near Maxwell, NE.  Fred was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in WWI. We shared an interest in polished rocks and western outlaws.


March 24, 1896  Stamford, NE  
November 7, 1977 McCook, NE

October 7, 1894  - February 6, 1988
Daughter of Paul Goss 1869-1951 and Minnie Rachel Wehrman Goss 1872-1959

Although I knew my father's grandmother, Mary Novak, died shortly before my sister was born in 1959, I had never realized my mother's grandmother died the same year. My sister should be glad she was named Mary and not Minnie!

I never knew there were hobbyists known as gravers until I tripped over www.findagrave.com. Just for fun I searched for a few graves of western outlaws, Bob Dalton in Coffeyville, KS, Sam Bass in Red Rock,TX,  and Bill Doolin in Guthrie, OK


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