Harvest Moon Saturday

Harvest Moon Sunrise
Sunrise for Harvest Moon Saturday (click image for slideshow)

I woke up an hour later than I normally do, just a bit past six o’clock.  I knew I had a lot of things to get accomplished on this first Saturday of fall.  I looked out the bedroom window and spied Venus, shining very brightly through the leaves of my black oak tree.  A few wispy clouds lured me outside with the camera and tripod.  Apollo looked accusingly at me when I headed towards the door, so I grabbed the leash and brought him along for a chilly pre-dawn photo shoot.

I let Apollo jump in the back seat of the Bonneville, while I put the camera bag and tripod in the trunk.  I drove up the hill to the dead-end street in front of City Hall.  I hadn’t taken the time to put on my walking shoes, instead I just slipped on my flip-flops.  At least I remembered to grab my hooded sweater, because my toes were nearly numb by the time the sun rose shortly after seven o’clock.  I walked Apollo around the dead-end street a few times, snapping a photo every time I passed by the camera.  Two young deer emerged from the tree line to the south of us and we both stood very still for several minutes watching them graze.  Apollo couldn’t contain himself though, and made a leap towards them, nearly pulling me off my feet in his desire to hunt, herd or play (not sure which).

The batteries in the camera started failing with just five minutes left before the sun rose.  I decided not to change them out, because by the time I had finished that task, the sunrise conditions would have switched from pink/orange/gold to bleached out whites and greys.  I nursed them along for a couple  more photos, then packed everything up and returned home.

My favorite tea in my favorite mug.As soon as I walked in the front door, I headed to the microwave and put two cups of water in to start boiling.  I needed tea to get warmed back up.  One of my many tasks on my Saturday to-do list happened to be a trip to downtown Leavenworth to Queen’s Pantry to fill up my tin of Irish Blend loose leaf tea.  I had enough left in my tin for another two or three cups of tea.  I found my favorite mug on the shelf above my stash of tea.  I received the mug (shown above) as a gift from an author and artist friend for Christmas a couple of years ago.  In fact, she’s the one who painted the original scene that’s displayed above.

While reviewing and uploading the forty-five sunrise photos I took earlier, I received a phone call from my uncle and aunt.  They wanted to know if they could stop by for a visit a day early, on Sunday afternoon, instead of Monday evening.  I enthusiastically agreed.  We spoke for a few minutes and made tentative arrangements for the visit.  He needed to call his brother (my father) to let him know about the change in plans.

Sad state of local plazaTen o’clock arrived sooner than I anticipated.  I quickly changed clothes, made sure I had my shopping list and reusable bags and headed north towards Leavenworth.  I stopped at Queen’s Pantry, drove by the farmer’s market (but didn’t stop), dropped off my mortgage payment and went inside the nearly empty and neglected Leavenworth Plaza shopping mall.  I had two gift cards from Catos that Terry bought for our anniversary and last year’s birthday that I needed to use.  I found a couple of shirts I could live with and wiped out all but about seven dollars on the gift cards.  My last stop before returning home for lunch was through the grocery store to purchase what we needed to feed the visiting family members Sunday afternoon.

Yummy in my tummyI decided to re-heat my leftovers from the previous evening’s dinner at a local Italian restaurant (Mama Mia’s).  Terry treated me to a Friday night out as an early birthday date.  Lucky for us, the owner was celebrating his 50th birthday, so we were treated to free slices of German chocolate cake for dessert.  I asked our waitress if they had baked the cake, and she assured me that was not the case.  I wanted to know, though, because that slice of cake was melt-in-your-mouth exceptionally moist and wonderfully delicious.

I had just started eating the pasta side dish from the night before when Terry made his way gingerly down the stairs with Apollo and Lexy in tow.  I asked him if he felt well enough for the afternoon jaunt to Johnson County for even more shopping.  He just needed time to wake up and shower.  I checked my sourdough starter, which I had fed earlier in the morning, and prepped the bread machine for dough making, so that when I returned from our southern shopping spree, I could shape and bake a loaf of Rustic Sourdough bread.

Terry drove us down K-5 to I-435.  I noticed several trees started to turn already, mostly yellows and browns.  This part of the country doesn’t lend itself to fiery red maples.  The trip south to Shawnee Mission Parkway and PetSmart was uneventful.  We picked up sixty dollars worth of dog food (two varieties of Iam’s Naturals) and continued eastbound on Shawnee Mission Parkway until we found Metcalf.

I detoured north to Johnson Drive to drive through Burger King to grab some lunch for Terry.  I stumbled upon a construction mess that required me to get back on Metcalf and cross over Johnson Drive (not my usual route).  I continued southbound until we found the Whole Foods Store at 91st street, where I bought a couple of pounds of white arborio rice so we could make an authentic risotto Sunday afternoon.  Because we had other shopping yet to finish, and we had not brought a cooler with us, we refrained from buying anything else at Whole Foods except dark chocolate covered espresso beans.

Early birthday presentAfter eating a handful of delightful zingy coffee beans, we drove west to the mess that is 87th street and I-35.  We almost missed the exit for Marshall Drive, the road we needed to reach the Bushnell Outlet store.  Thanks to various health and wellness promotions by my employer, I had accumulated several gift cards by participating and successfully completing a program each quarter of the year.  I planned to purchase a pair of 10×50 binoculars as an early birthday gift to myself.  I researched a couple of models online earlier in the week and thought I wanted a PermaFocus set, but after trying a pair out at the store, I instead liked the PowerView model more.  I bought the optional tripod mount accessory and requested the discount available as a member of the ASKC.

What's wrong with this picture?Just one more stop remained before we could return home.  We headed back west to I-435 and then north to the Legends.  I needed to find a pair of workout pants.  I signed up for a lunch-time exercise class and wanted to look through Penneys and perhaps Target for a pair that were made with wicking fabric.  We parked the Bonneville and walked past this SUV improperly parked near and in a handicapped parking spot.  I almost called the police to report it.

Penneys’ selection of activewear disappointed me.  Frustrated, I told Terry I just wanted to go home, but he convinced me to take a look at what Target had available.  I did find one pair that I hope will work.  I left Target as quickly as I could and drove west on Parallel to K-7 and north to Lansing and home.

SourdoughThe bread machine still had over thirty minutes to go before I could transfer the dough to the bread pan.  Terry asked me to mow part of the back yard, so I put my sunglasses back on and began what turned out to be about an hour’s worth of mowing.  Once I finished the back yard, I mowed the side yard.  Terry attached the bag to the mower and I mowed the front lawn, sucking up the leaves that had already carpeted the ground underneath the black oak tree.  I took a short break to get the sourdough into the bread pan and on its final rise before baking.

Harvest Moon Rising
Harvest Moon Rising

I sat down to compose this blog post and realized I’d probably missed the rising of the Harvest Moon. I jumped up from the dining room table and ran outside to look east. As I suspected, the moon had risen and just started peaking over my neighbor’s rooftop. I ran back inside, got the camera and tripod, and took several mostly disappointing photographs. The moon is always a challenge to shoot and one mired in haze even more so.

I preheated the oven, found my spray bottle of water, sprinkled the risen sourdough with a seeded topping mix and scored the top of the loaf thrice.  Once the oven was hot enough, I placed the sourdough on the rack and sprayed the walls of the oven with water to simulate a steam-injection oven.  I repeated this process every five minutes for the first half of the baking time.  About a half hour later, out popped this gorgeous loaf:

Sourdough under the Harvest Moon
Sourdough under the Harvest Moon

Tomorrow I’ll make Rosemary Sourdough and an apple pie with apples from our tree.  Also on the menu, our Honey Garlic Chicken, risotto, grilled asparagus and an appetizer of stuffed green peppers.

Stepping Through September

My New PedometerI started wearing my new pedometer the day I received it, on the third of September.  Almost a month has passed since then, and I’ve enjoyed and been encouraged by the ease and usefulness of it.  I love that it’s rechargeable.  I love that it lights up so when I’m walking Apollo during the evenings, in the dark, I can easily track how far we’ve gone.  I really like the total step feature, which is in addition to the seven-day memory.  But I didn’t pass through September completely unscathed.

About midway through the month I took the lanyard off my old pedometer and attached it to my new one.  I wanted a clip to fasten to my pocket opening so I wouldn’t accidentally drop the pedometer.  A day or two after doing that I realized the pedometer had somehow reset itself, losing not only the daily stats, but the memory and the total steps stats as well.  I determined that because this is a pocket pedometer (with no available belt clip accessory), the new lanyard, with the transitional piece of plastic near the pedometer, can become wedge between my body and the reset button (upper left hand button in the photo above), especially if I bend over repeatedly.  I am more careful now about removing the pedometer from my pocket when sitting, driving or doing heavy cleaning and housework.  Jeans proved to be the worst about resetting the pedometer.  My workout pants, looser fitting and with bigger and deeper pockets, were the best at preventing inadvertent resets of the pedometer’s memory.

I returned to the Pedometers USA website, hoping to find a belt clip for my model.  I did not find that accessory but I did notice a price increase.  When I purchased the PE-798 model earlier in September, I only spent $16.95.  Now, with just three days left in the same month, the price shot up to $29.95.  In reviewing other downloadable (but not rechargeable) models, the cute and compact CR-786 model goes for that nearly irresistible price of $16.95.  It looks like a thumb drive (and sort of is) but acts like a pedometer.

But back to how well the new pedometer performed in September after nearly four weeks of continuous use (minus the time I spent sleeping).  Even though the TrakNote software allowed me to export the data collected to a CSV file, I’m so terrible at using Excel 2010, that I gave up and copied/pasted the relevant information into my SparkPeople fitness web tracking account because I liked the charts better.

If I hadn’t accidentally reset my pedometer on the 13th and 14th, I might have actually reached my goal of 7,000 steps per day for most of the month.  The spike you see on September 22nd resulted from cleaning out the garage and an evening of stargazing at Powell Observatory.  I had to take it easy on Sunday the 23rd, when I woke up tired, sore and stiff.

I think it’s time to up my goal.  On the first of October, I will change my target steps, increasing them by a thousand, for a total of 8,000 steps.  I don’t know if I can reach the recommended goal of 10,000 steps by the end of the year (weather permitting of course), but we’ll see how well I do next month with the bar raised a bit higher.  I’ve languished at the seven thousand step mark for far too long.  Apollo wants me to walking him more often anyways.


Oh, and I almost forgot to mention an interesting occurrence between my coworkers and I.  Yesterday afternoon, my cube mates began discussing and guessing how many trips it would take around our floor to equal one mile.  Since I know my stride length and I always wear my pedometer, I volunteered to walk the floor one time to determine the number of steps around the perimeter (the hallway that hugs the exterior windowed offices).  Roughly, it came up to three hundred steps (I rounded up for ease of calculation).  Once I got back to my desk, I fired up Excel (I can at least do simple formulas, if not complicated fancy pivot tables and charts) and did the following calculations:

  • 1 mile = 5,282 feet
  • 5,282 x 12 inches = 63,384 inches
  • stride length (in inches) = 28
  • distance around floor perimeter (in inches) =
    300 * 28 or 8,400 inches
  • trips necessary to walk one mile = 7.56

So depending on your stride length, six or eight trips around our floor would equal approximately one mile walked.

Product/Service Review: OverDrive Media Console Nook App (Released 9/27/2012)

I can probably retire the post I wrote several months ago.  The one that included a flowchart of how to transfer a library ebook from your computer to your Nook.  I received so many calls from fellow Nook owners about how to do this process, that I felt compelled to break it down into bite-size easily digested pieces, with pictures to aid memory retention, and post it here at my blog.  Thankfully, Barnes & Noble released, this morning, the long overdue OverDrive app, making that flowchart, at least the library lending portion of it, obsolete.   Being a fool who rushes in where app angels fear to tread, I downloaded it to my Nook over lunch.

From the OverDrive main menu, I tapped the App Settings icon, where  I activated my Nook device via my existing Adobe Digital Editions account.  I reviewed but did not change any of the other settings.  I returned to the Bookshelf home page, and tapped the Get Books icon from the main menu.  At the bottom of the screen on this page, there is a large ‘Add a Library’ button, which I pressed.  I typed in the name of the Kansas City Public Library and pressed the Search button.  I added my favourite local (literally in the same building) library from the search results. I made sure to star it and save it for future use.

When I clicked on the link to the KC Public Library, I was taken to the Nook’s web browser and the mobile website for the library’s OverDrive system.  I entered my library card and pin number, telling the Nook to remember that information for future visits.  I clicked on the My Wish List link under the Your Account tab and checked out an ebook I had waiting there (Cat’s Cradle in this instance).  I selected the ePub version and pressed the Download button.  Success!  No USB cable necessary.  All done in seconds, wirelessly.

The OverDrive reader software is different from the Nook Color’s primary reading application, and it seems a bit slower.  I will need to review the pop-up quick reference guide more closely to see if I’m missing any gestures or configuration settings to tweak performance.

B&N also released a similar app from 3M, which I also downloaded and installed to my Nook. However, my other local library does not use that service, so I may archive that app.

Sixteen or seventeen months after I received my Nook Color, one hurdle to simpler ebook lending achieved.  Now, if publishers and libraries could just reach a compromise in their disagreement.  Have you read the recently published open letter from the ALA and the response by the Big Six (through the AAP)?  The digital divide is widening daily.

Apple Harvest Preservation: Strawberry Jam and Slightly Spicy Sauce

Photo1714.jpgIn addition to all the applesauce I created last weekend, I tried my hand at some strawberry jam.  I selected a recipe that used apples as well as strawberries, and a bit of lemon (and lemon seeds).  Here’s a link to the blog post where I found the strawberry jam recipe:  “Through My Kitchen Window: Strawberry and Apple Jam.”  I doubled the recipe, but should have refrained from doubling the water.  It took hours to reduce the strawberries, apples and water down to the proper jam consistency.  I also added a bit of low-sugar/no-sugar pectin, when I began to wander if the jam would ever, well, jam.  An entire afternoon spent babysitting the stockpot resulted in four half-pints of strawberry jam.  I guess I’ll find out later if all the effort was worth it.

Unlike the previous two Saturdays, I didn’t immediately jump out of bed yesterday and begin peeling, coring and slicing apples.  Instead, I threw myself into de-junking our garage.  My husband snagged some new(er) garage doors this week, rescuing them from death row and a permanent burial at the local dump.  Compared to our existing garage doors, they look nearly brand new.  With the time-table on the garage door project drastically moved up (we had planned to buy new garage doors next year, probably during the summer), we needed the front half of the garage cleared out.  Terry scheduled the installation for next weekend, and before then he needs to paint the doors to match our trim color.

I gingerly opened the southern side garage door, hoping it would hold together well enough to roll up and not fall on my head.  I needed that door open so I could get to twelve years worth of accumulated junk, some of which had not been seen or touched since we moved into this house in February 1999.  I set my camera up under my large oak tree in the front yard so I could take some time lapse photos of this endeavor (click photo below for slideshow):

Dejunk South Garage Bay

After spending all day on my feet, to the tune of over 15,000 steps (according to my pocket pedometer, which I accidentally reset by bending over and lifting too much), I decided I needed to stand around some more, this time in a dark field gazing up at the stars and planets.  I even invited my dad to come along for the ride to Powell Observatory (more on that outing in an upcoming post).

I laid my head on my pillow some time during the one o’clock in the morning hour.  I did first warm myself up in the hot tub with Terry.  I wanted to be able to feel my fingers and toes again before I fell asleep.  My back and knees thanked me, at least while I stayed in the hot water.

Sunrise brought stiffness and soreness.  I took it easy, brewing some Irish Blend tea to help wake up my brain.  Terry had been up all night, visiting the hot tub two more times thanks to his back.  Since he was up, I whipped up some sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast.  He attempted to watch the Singapore Grand Prix race, but soon succumbed to a food coma and retired upstairs to sleep it off.

With Terry upstairs, I could move freely about the kitchen without worrying about making too much noise (and waking him up).  I began peeling, coring and slicing all the apples I had in the kitchen.  I filled my stockpot up about halfway when I ran out of already picked apples.  I grabbed my large basket and went out to forage for fresh apples.  I came back in with a full basket and selected eight or ten large good ones.  I set those aside to be used in the second apple pie of the harvest.

I prepared another dozen or two apples and filled the stockpot up nearly to the top.  I moved it from the front right burner to the back left burner, so I could put the water bath canner on the large front burner.  I selected nine pint jars and placed them in the canner.  I  began filling the pints with distilled water and then continued filling the canner with distilled water until all the jars were immersed and covered with at least an inch of water.  I turned the burner up to medium high heat to begin the long process of heating the water and jars to nearly boiling temperature.

I let the stockpot simmer for a half hour or more, taking the chance to relax, read part of a book and write a blog post.   I transferred hot mushy apples to the glass blender jar and pureed them four cups at a time.  When I reached the bottom of the stockpot I had nearly twenty cups of applesauce.  Success!  I had enough to fill all nine pint jars in the canner!  I returned the applesauce to the stockpot.  I squeezed a fresh lemon and added the juice to the stockpot.

I planned to spice up this batch of applesauce for my kids.  Derek and Rachelle both love cinnamon apple sauce.  I began with two tablespoons of cinnamon.  After I stirred in the spice, I tasted it, but couldn’t really taste anything different.  I took a spoonful to Terry and he agreed I should add more cinnamon.  I added another tablespoon and tasted again.  I got a hint of cinnamon.  I took Terry another taste.  He thought there was enough spice.  I added a half cup of sugar and tasted again.  There, I could taste the cinnamon with the aid of the sugar.

I processed all the pints in the canner, filling them as recommended, leaving a half-inch of head space.  I cranked up the heat to high and put a timer on for ten minutes.  When the alert sounded, I checked the canner’s interior to confirm a roiling boil, then added another ten minutes to the timer.  At the next beep, I turned off the burner and removed the canner from the heat source, leaving the lid off to help cool down the contents gently.  I came back an hour or so later and placed the jars on the rack to cool overnight.

Nine Pints

This week I plan to make at least one apple pie (the second one of the harvest season) and more apple butter.  I only have four pint jars left, but several half-pints are waiting to be filled with either butter or chutney.   My daughter called to let me know she tried the chutney with some pork and loved it.

The apple tree still has plenty of apples ripening on it’s limbs.  I’ll keep picking them until the tree is bare.  Unless I buy another dozen pint jars, though, I’m probably done making applesauce this harvest.

Seventh Planet Star Hop

Star gazing and planet seeking were not on my Friday night list of must do things.  All I really wanted to do was relax after a long stressful work week.  And for the most part I accomplished that goal.  But I couldn’t resist the siren’s call of the seventh planet.  I peeked out the back patio door after nine o’clock and noted the bright nearly quarter moon shining in the southwest.  The skies were somewhat clear, not perfect, but better than last weekend by a long shot.

I went back inside and grabbed a folding table, my star charts, the binoculars and a portable battery that includes a bright red light I could set on the table to illuminate my maps.  Oh, and my reading glasses so I could actually see said maps.

I took out my observing checklist that I prepared over a week ago for the dark of the moon weekend (the one where the skies remained hidden behind clouds).  I had several stars I needed to locate.  Using my Pocket Star Atlas and my binoculars, I got in the neighborhood, but the objects were too faint and my night sky not dark enough to find them.  I decided to switch from stars to seeking the planet Uranus.

I looked east over the roof of my house.  I could see the Great Square of Pegasus, but not a single star visible in the constellation Pisces.  I needed to find those stars, or I would not be able to find Uranus.  I also needed the stars to move westward a bit more to clear the roof and to get into the thinner atmosphere directly overhead.

I returned to the interior of the house, where Terry and I squeezed seven lemons and added some freshly made raspberry syrup to the blender to make some iced raspberry lemonade.  Our initial taste testings resulted in a quite tart concoction, which we shelved it in the refrigerator to tackle again on Saturday.

I went back outside after ten o’clock and closely reviewed the special chart provided by Sky & Telescope via an article on one of their observing blogs entitled ‘Uranus and Neptune in 2012.’  I made sure to print that PDF (something I rarely do these days) and kept it close by both my binoculars and the telescope.  Despite the fact that I could not see a single star in the constellation Pisces with my naked eyes, I forged ahead with my binoculars, star hopping my way to 44 Pisces and Uranus.  For a good online article on how to use a star map at the telescope, check out this Sky & Telescope link.

Here’s a breakdown of the star hop that worked for me:

Start: Alpha Pegasi
1st hop
2nd hop
3rd hop
4th hop
Finish: 44 Pisces

I followed these landmarks repeatedly with my binoculars.  I got very good at this particular highway in the sky.  Translating these landmarks, first to the finder scope and ultimately to the telescope’s eyepiece proved much harder.  First, the field of view in the finder scope (9×50; 5 degree f.o.v.) appeared wider than my binoculars, which are 7×35.

According to the XT8’s Instruction Manual, both the finder scope and the view through the eyepiece of the telescope produce an image that is upside down.  I guess I should be grateful that the eyepiece field of view is not also reversed, like it is in my ETX-90.  My brain doesn’t have any trouble flipping what my retina receives around.  I learned that trick years ago as a legal secretary, when I had to stand before my attorney’s desk and keep up with what he was discussing from the sheet of paper he was reading from in front of him.  I can also flip things in a mirror with little difficulty.  But doing both takes a bit more brain processing power.

When I looked through the finder scope at Alpha Pegasi, I had to keep reminding myself to go in the opposite direction I had with the binoculars.  Even though the field of view in the finder scope seemed larger, my brain thought it was smaller (probably because I was only using half my eyesight).  I finally got to my destination, 44 Piscium and, drum roll please, Uranus.


After visiting the seventh planet for a few minutes, I moved on to fishing for the eighth and final planet.  With Pluto’s demotion to a dwarf planet, and being a native Kansan, I plan to follow in the footsteps of Clyde Tombaugh and eventually discover Pluto for myself.  But for the moment, I needed to fish for Neptune in the constellation Aquarius.

Start: Delta Capricorni
1st hop
2nd hop
3rd hop
Finish: 38 and 40 Aquarii

I found the stars near Neptune easily with my binoculars.  And the short hops with the finder scope proved easier than finding 44 Pisces and Uranus.  But try as I might, I could not discern which faint star might have a twinkleless blue tinge.  I couldn’t confirm I found the eighth planet, so I won’t check it off my list.  I did feel satisfied that I could at least get to the neighborhood repeatedly, without referring to the star charts as often.

Midnight crept up on me and I marveled at how the time slips away from me when I’m stargazing.  I hoped all my practicing would come in handy Saturday night, when I planned to pack everything in the van and make the trip south to Powell Observatory for some serious observing.

Final Prologue Released Early

Tor announced today the early release of the final Prologue in the Wheel of Time series.

Click on the cover at left for more details on where to obtain your copy of By Grace and Banners Fallen.  Spoiler warning, though, as they comments on that Tor article are full to brimming with them.

I bought my copy over lunch and will read it this evening on my Nook Color.

If you’re looking for a friendly place to join a re-read (or inaugural perusal) of the Wheel of Time series, pop on over to the Fantasy Book Club Series group at GoodReads where we are currently in the middle of Lord of Chaos.

Before and After Antietam

I arrived promptly at six o’clock at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, after dropping my vanpool riders off at their after-work destinations.  I found the first floor of the Library nearly abandoned.  I reviewed the signage for scheduled daily events and determined that Antietam panel occupied the fifth floor in Helzberg Hall.  I took the elevator to the top floor with several other likely audience members.

Amazing how quickly it emptiesI followed the others to the wine line, as the reception was already in full swing.  I glanced at the lecture hall and noted most of the seating appeared to be taken.  I cringed at the sight of the wooden folding chairs, knowing my back and posterior would be complaining painfully before the event concluded.  I asked for some chardonnay, found a seat and took out my Nook Color to get check in via the Library’s free wifi internet.

The panel takes the stage. @kclibrarySoon after I finished my wine, the Executive Director of the Library, Crosby Kemper, and the four historians from the CGSC, took the stage. Director Kemper prefaced his panelist introductions with some background information on the Battle of Antietam, managing to connect himself to an ancestor, a Confederate General James Lawson Kemper, present at Antietam and later at Gettysburg (being the only non-professional military officer in the division that led Pickett’s Charge).

Director Kemper mentioned and recommended Landscape Turned Red by Stephen Sears for those who want to fully immerse themselve in the bloody battle.    The Battle of Antietam may have been one of the least decisive battles of the Civil War, but the political repercussions allowed and encouraged Lincoln to release the Emancipation Proclamation five days afterwards.

A Misty, Moisty Morning . . .

Mr. Kemper introduced the panel leader, Ethan Rafuse, of the military history department of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.   I had some difficulty deciphering everything being said by the various speakers, so I took copious notes and also did some research to find out more about the panelists.  I discovered a blog post by Mr. Rafuse, published on the 150th anniversary of the battle, and much of the contents of that post mirrored his talking points.  Mr. Rafuse previously spoke about the life and accomplishments of Thomas Jonathon ‘Stonewall’ Jackson at a Library event on June 7, 2012 (click here to listen to his lecture or watch the video from that event).  His first comment upon receiving the microphone from Director Kemper humorously let us know that James Kemper’s brigade was driven from their position at the Battle of Antietam.

Mr. Rafuse set the stage for the discussion by drawing us into the battle through an eye witness first person account, via a primary source, a letter from Wilder Dwight to his mother, written on that fateful day in Maryland one hundred fifty years ago.

Near Sharpsburg. Sept. 17th 1862.  On the field

Dear Mother,

It is a misty moisty morning. We are engaging the enemy and are drawn up in support of Hooker who is now banging away most briskly. I write in the saddle to send you my love and to say that I am very well so far —

He also related an interesting tale about a dog and his master, Werner von Bachelle.  He completed his abbreviated recap of the Battle of Antietam and introduced the remaining three panelists (all links below to previous lectures include audio and/or video of the event):

  • Lt. Col. (Ret.) Edward ‘Bud’ Bowie, speaking on behalf of the Confederates, currently writing Twenty-Five Battles That Changed the World.  Earlier this year, Bud Bowie lectured on Confederate President Jefferson Davis, his miscalculations dooming the South economically despite victories on the battlefield.
  • Dr. Gregory Hospodor, providing the Union response.  This past spring, Dr. Hospodor discussed the Battle of Shiloh, explaining how the bloodiest fighting in the Civil War brought home to both sides the grim reality of the conflict.
  • Terry Beckenbaugh, discussing the Emancipation Proclamation.  He provided some of the first lectures for the Library’s Civil War sesquicentennial series, including this one from last October on The First Year of the Civil War in Missouri.

First Six Months of 1862 in the South

Strategic situation 1862Bud Bowie began his short ten minute talk with the Confederate strategic situation in 1862 leading up to the Battle of Antietam.  The South had lost control of most of their waterways and portions of Kentucky and West Virginia.  Robert E. Lee was not the commander of the Conference Army at this time.  He was tasked with securing West Virginia, which he failed to accomplish.  He became the military adviser to Jefferson Davis, who was not amenable to Lee’s advice.

In June, the situation became desperate, and during seven days of battles, Lee completely reversed the tactical situation against McClellan.  This is where Lee made his reputation, even though most of his military planning was made up as he went along.  Bowie mentioned several other facts and feathers in Lee’s cap, including the Second Battle of Bull Run and concluded with the circumstances leading up to the Battle of Harper’s Ferry.

The End of the Beginning of the American Civil War

Second panelist with Union responseDr. Hospodor began by quoting his Methodist minister, who claimed you should ‘talk for ten minutes and make one point.’  Since he had six points to make and only ten minutes to do it in, he proclaimed himself doomed.

Dr. Hospodor began his Union response with some background on George McClellan, appointed by Abraham Lincoln and taking command of the Union forces.  He described McClellan as überconfident, who inherited ‘a heck of a problem’ and accomplished a miracle reorganization of the Union army, likening those forces to a heavy weight boxer.  Conversely, he characterized Lee’s forces to be more like a welter weight.

Bloody statsOne of the biggest ‘what ifs’ from the Battle of Antietam remains why one-third of the Union army remained unengaged.  After Antietam, too much blood had been shed for conciliation between the North and the South, and marked the end of the beginning of the American Civil War.

Effectively Changing the Nature of the Civil War

Third panelist on Emancipation ProcTerry Beckenbaugh enlightened us about the important political results reaped from the Battle of Antietam, specifically the Emancipation Proclamation.  Why did Lincoln do it?  He was personally anti-slavery, but not really an abolitionist.  The Proclamation was read privately to his cabinet in July, two months before it was revealed publicly.  Some of the precursors included:

    • 7/9/1861 – a non-binding resolution from the House of Representatives
    • 8/1861 – 1st Confiscation Act
    • 3/13/1862 – Act Prohibiting Return of Slaves
    • 4/16/1862 – Slavery abolished in District of Columbia, which Lincoln actually signed into law
    • 6/19/1862 – Exclude slavery from U.S. Territories
    • 7/17/1862 – 2nd Confiscation Act
    • 7/22/1862 – Reading of preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to Cabinet

Lincoln’s Secretary of State urged him to wait for a victory in the eastern theater before announcing the Proclamation.  Antietam provided that victory and five days later Lincoln revealed it.  However, it took the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery in non-Confederate states, the logic being that the rebelling Southern states equated to martial law and fell under the jurisdiction of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Terry affirmed the Emancipation Proclamation was first and foremost a military measure and was undeniably effective in changing the nature of the Civil War.  The British worried the Proclamation would incite a race war and almost intervened in the Civil War because of it.

Questions and Answers

Ethan Rafuse returned to the podium and called for questions from the audience.

Q.  After Sunker road was breached, had McClellan committed his reserves, …

A (Hospodor).  Definitely a missed opportunity to end the war.  Six thousand uncommitted troops could have been marched into Sharpsburg.

A (Bowie). Lot of stragglers for Confederate Army (35-40,000).  Lee expected an attack.  Remember, this was Lee’s only tactical engagement.   There was also confusion because half of Hill’s men were wearing blue uniforms because they had stumbled upon some Union supply wagons and replaced their raggedy uniforms with fresh new blue ones.  Lee was a fighting man and when his back was against a well, there was no stopping him unless you knocked him out.

Q. Quote from a USA Today article (from the 9/17/2012) … never understood why Union never forded the creek.

A (Rafuse). I be he didn’t wade it under fire.   West Point cadets actual wade that creek, which is surrounded by high bluffs and steep banks.  They didn’t just have to wade across, they needed to get wagons across, hence the need for the bridge.  Once across, the soldiers needed to get away from the creek (out of the draw) quickly.  Also, we don’t know the condition of the creek in 1862.

Q. More about McClellan

A (Hospodor).  The relationship between Lincoln and McClellan strained.  McClellan considered Lincoln an amateur and himself a professional talented military expert.  Lincoln offended McClellan’s sensibilities, often treating the President with disdain and contempt.

Q. Talk about Frederick Douglas‘ influence on Lincoln.

A (Beckenbaugh).  Lincoln came under immense pressure publicly, through Douglas’ speeches and newspapers.  Lincoln understood Douglas’ frustration and not resentful of the pressure.

Have Faith

Ethan Rafuse closed the question time by bringing us back full circle to Wilder Dwight’s letter to his mother.

Dearest mother,

I am wounded so as to be helpless. Good bye if so it must be.

I think I die in victory. God defend our country. I trust in
God & love you all to the last.

Dearest love to father & all my dear brothers.

Our troops have left the part of the field where I lay —

Mother, yrs

All is well with those that have faith.

Wilder Dwight died two days later and his brother, William, notified the family.

Mr. Rafuse thanked everyone for attending and encouraged the audience to approach the panelists if they had more questions.


I stood up as soon as I could so I could get the blood flowing back into my legs.  I planned to wait and let the rest of the audience fight for elevator space.  I needed to speak to one or two of the panelists, as I did not catch their last names during the introductions.  I hoped to acquire their business cards if possible.  Dr. Hospodor kindly and clearly wrote his name on the back of his printed presentation slides and gave me the sheet of paper, since he didn’t have any business cards on him at the time.  Terry Beckenbaugh did exchange cards with me, but I failed to catch either Rafuse or Bowie before they slipped away.

Firetruck and Ambulance arrive at Library

I visited the exhibits on the first floor before departing the Central Library building.  As I exited the building, a firetruck and an ambulance arrived.  I did not tarry to satisfy my curiosity.  The Library had seemed quiet and peaceful while I had been touring the special exhibits after the lecture concluded.  I walked across the street to the parking garage and began the journey home to Lansing.  I enjoyed a beautiful thin sliver of the new moon most of the way west, until I exited I-70 and headed north on K-7.  I even took a couple of minutes to run the van through a car wash.

I pulled in the driveway at a quarter past nine o’clock and decided Apollo needed a walk, as did my aching back.  Twenty minutes later we both felt better and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Seventh Planet Sensation on Autumnal Equinox

I am excited about the coming weekend.  I love the switch from Summer to Autumn.  But I’m delighted to make it a special occasion by finding and observing Uranus, thanks to it’s rare and unusual close proximity to a star of nearly equal brightness in the constellation Pisces.  If I had very dark skies, I might be able to see the seventh planet without aid, but binoculars will help separate the planet from the star and a telescope at 100x magnification will show even more differences between them.

Click here or a great video on how to observe Uranus this week, and for some history on the discovery of the planet by William Hershcel, with the assistance of his sister, Caroline.

Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday

I may overdose on blood tomorrow.  I perused my weekly newsletter from the Kansas City Public Library this morning and debated (with myself) and ultimately capitulated (again with myself) on attending an event scheduled for Tuesday evening at the downtown Central library location.

I won’t get much of a break from driving tomorrow afternoon.  Since I get back to Lansing around 5:15 p.m., I won’t have time to do much but switch vehicles.  And I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed that the traffic eastbound to/through downtown isn’t backed up due to an accident or sporting event.

I decided to attend because the blurb noted that the panel of historians came from Ft. Leavenworth, specifically the U.S. Army Command and General Staff college.  Practically in my backyard.  It’s the least I can do, supporting the troops and all.  Besides, I know next to nothing about Antietam, but I know it’s been the focus of research, books, movies, etc.

If you live in the Kansas City metro area, and are looking for a way to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, join me tomorrow evening at the Central Library for the reception and program on Antietam: The Bloodiest Day.

Sunrise ~ Ides of September

I went to bed a bit disappointed with the cloud cover. My astronomy club’s monthly star party got cancelled because of lingering overcast.  I spent a pleasant evening with my husband watching the first part of Sergeant York while he napped.  I only made it about thirty minutes myself before I dozed off.

I woke up to clouds creeping up from the south.  I didn’t have any chance at all to glimpse the last vestige of the dying moon (it’s turns new today), so I took the lemons the dawn gave me and made sunrise lemonade.

I went up the hill and setup the camera and tripod east of Lansing City Hall.  I took several photos over the course of thirty or forty minutes, right up until sunrise, when it fizzled.  To see the best of the photos in an album from this morning, click on the image of pre-dawn Venus (centered) below:

Pre-dawn Venus (Sat 9/15/2012) - click image for rest of album
Pre-dawn Venus (Sat 9/15/2012) – click image for rest of album