May first is our wedding anniversary. This past Friday was our thirty-fourth. I took a day off from working at home and turned it into a three day weekend.
Before Terry went upstairs for a nap shortly after noon, he warned me to answer the door if the door bell rang. Since I had no where else to be, I stayed in the living room, watching obscure dramas I stumbled across via the Tubi channel on our Roku. As foretold by Terry, sometime around two or three o’clock the doorbell rang and I receive a beautiful bouquet from a local flower shop with a note that brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart.
Next year, our thirty-fifth, we hope to spend a weekend in a remote location, preferably a dark sky site, so we can enjoy some star gazing and some peace and quiet. I’m hoping for a Flint Hills cabin or camping site myself. But we’ll see. We have a year to plan.
I started writing this post last Monday. Now six days later, on Sunday, I’m composing this first sentence. I got only so far as to think of a title for the post. I’ll be inside most of today as the ‘good weather’ of the past week has finally reversed (as so often happens during springtime on the Great Plains). As I look out my home office window, the trees and lawns wax verdant. My mail box flower garden sports a single red Dahlia bloom while the Gazanias sleep in.
My front yard drama I’ll cover in a separate post that will become a review, possibly scathing, of a local lawn and landscape company. But I will not mar this post with dark brooding thoughts.
Over the past few days, I’ve planted a Dahlia, four Gazanias and sixteen moss roses (also known as Portaluca). I bought a bag of mulch but I had so many moss roses I’m not sure I can squeeze in the mulch between all these plants. All of this in half my flower garden on the south side of my mail box. The north side is still dominated by my two robust day lily plants. I had two on the south side but that bed was damaged sometime in the last year or two and I’ve lost one of the day lilies and the remaining one is small and stressed. At the end of this year, I’ll probably completely redo this flower bed, put in new soil and find some different perennials, leaving some space for annuals to switch out next year.
The weather forecast for today predicted over an eighty percent chance of rain so I either needed to make my observation before midnight or wait a couple of days for cloudless skies. Fifteen minutes before my Mythgard Academy class started last night (at nine o’clock Central Time), I decided to make my first observation. I set the timer on my smartwatch for ten minutes and hung outside while my neighbors to the north decided a fire in their firepit was warranted (not helping my light pollution survey one bit). My neighbor to the south also appeared to have search lights trained on my backyard so adjusting my eyes for optimal viewing already had steep hills to climb. I somewhat patiently waited for the timer to count down.
Meanwhile, I found Venus immediately, very high and extremely bright in the west. Next, both Procyon and Sirius shown brightly in the upper and lower southwest. Even though the sun had set over an hour ago, the western sky still seemed dimly luminescent and I detected a very slight haze obscuring the fainter stars. My timer buzzed and I began sketching out the brightest stars and the only constellation I could identify – Orion – sinking slowly into the southwestern horizon. To the north I could just barely make out Polaris but could not find the Big or Little Dipper (mostly because the trees are starting to leaf out).
Almost directly overhead but still on the eastern side of the zenith, I could barely make out a sickle, an asterism that can be found in the constellation Leo (see diagram below). I had checked the Sky and Telescope Interactive Star Chart before stepping outside so I knew where to crane my neck in the hopes of spotting the lion. In addition to the sickle, I could also make out, barely, the triangle of stars that form the lion’s rear and tail. I could not tell where Leo ended and Virgo began as the stars were so faint I gave up.
I returned to my computer, logged into the Webinar and while I waited for it to start, I verified my sketch against the star chart. I had found Leo, but only by the very brightest of it’s stars (which aren’t that bright when you compare them to Sirius, Vega or Procyon). Fast forward two hours, where I found myself nodding off and decided I’d consumed enough First Age elven antics for one session and bailed out of the webinar (I can always watch the last 15-30 minutes via YouTube later).
I went back outside and noticed immediately the haze had disappeared. The air was crisper and I didn’t even need to wait the full ten minutes before I could clearly see the constellation Leo, now slightly west of top-dead-center overhead. My northern neighbors were still enjoying their outdoor fire but my southern neighbors had toned down the search lights to just one very bright LED porch light.
I returned inside and recorded both of my observations via the Globe at Night web site. I plan to repeat my observations each night weather permitting until the middle of next week.
Tonight and for the next few nights, you can participate in a survey of your night sky and increase awareness of dark skies (and the converse of light pollution). While we are sheltering at home, we have vastly reduced the amount of air pollution, but have we given thought to the loss of our dark skies while we hunker down, sheltering at home? No? Well, here’s your chance to pitch in and save our night skies!
The Case of the Hidden Lion
Can you find the constellation Leo (for Northern latitudes)? For the next week, take a few minutes out of your late evening and follow these simple instructions to locate the missing lion in your night sky.
Use the Globe at Night website to find the latitude and longitude of the location where you are making your observation.
Go outside more than an hour after sunset (8-10 pm local time). The Moon should not be up. Let your eyes become used to the dark for 10 minutes before your first observation.
Match your observation to one of 7 magnitude charts and note the amount of cloud cover.
Report the date, time, location (latitude/longitude), the chart you chose, and the amount of cloud cover at the time of observation. Make more observations from other locations, if possible. Compare your observation to thousands around the world!:
I’ll be making my observations either tomorrow or Friday evening around 10 o’clock Central time. I’m just one degree shy of forty degrees north latitude. We’re in the last quarter of the moon, with the new moon occurring on the 23rd so this is the best opportunity to find that missing lion!
Times for Sunset and Moonrise for Kansas City, KS:
My new desk arrived this morning, earlier than I expected. I returned to the spare bedroom yesterday evening to continue my decluttering and organizing. I spent way too much time on a box full of old print photos all over twenty five years old.
None of the photos I found were taken before we moved back north from the Wichita area to the Kansas City area. Once we relocated, I switched from taking photos to taking video in VHS-C format, at least for the next ten or fifteen years, until both our kids were in college. So all the sports, concerts and family vacations are locked up on video tape that I haven’t converted to a more current digital media format.
I selected a dozen photos from the dozens I sifted through and snapped quick digital versions of them using my smartphone. I can scan these with our multifunction printer device once I get my new office setup this weekend. But for the purposes of this post, I felt this method would suffice.
I made my weekly jaunt to Dillons to partake in my Seniors Moment (aka the senior’s discount granted by virtue of my spouse being over 60 – but now that I think about it I think I’m eligible now anyways as of last October because I’m officially over 55). Anyway, as I was discarding some empty water bottles from the van into the recycle bin, I noticed our cherry tree blooming. Just a few days ago it didn’t show any evidence of buds but now they are all over the limbs.
I also found my old hummingbird feeder and a package of the nectar concentrate mix yesterday. I cleaned everything thoroughly, mixed up a small batch and placed the feeder outside my upper patio door, which I sit near in my current home office setup. I haven’t seen a hummingbird yet, but it’s only been twenty-four hours. I’ll need to switch out the nectar today as it got up to the mid-80s and was very sunny yesterday and will be so again today. My back patios are not in the shade so the nectar will go bad quite quickly. Once I move upstairs to the spare bedroom, that won’t be a problem, if I hang the feeder outside the upper east facing window.
While on my first conference call of the day, I heard strange noises coming from my front yard including on my roof. I surmised, since I could not get up and check, that the lawn service had arrived that we contracted last week to power wash the house, refresh the landscape mulch, haul in some dirt to fill in under our huge black oak tree and seed that portion of the front lawn. The finished the house scrubbing within an hour or so and will be back this afternoon to complete the rest of the work.
For no other reason than I feel the need to write a post about all the ‘firsts’ I’ve done this week.
I scissor cut and clipper trimmed my husband’s hair. I’ve done the latter before but never the former. I watched several YouTube videos and my husband was gracious enough to say it was a better haircut than he normally gets from a salon or barbershop.
Made scrumptious hamburger buns for our grilled burgers Sunday dinner. Melt-in-your-mouth goodness!
Made oatmeal cinnamon raisin bread – an upgrade to my oatmeal sandwich bread recipe that I’ve made at least a half dozen times in the last three weeks.
Terry converted his previously scheduled doctor’s appointment to a telehealth remote link. So we had to get his camera and microphone working on his computer last night. His doctor is using Zoom unfortunately, which is not secure and has been in the headlines this past week. I chastised the scheduling person stating that I work for a law firm and we are not recommending Zoom to our clients and strongly prohibiting its use internally. We successfully tested Terry’s setup and he’s ready for his appointment Tuesday afternoon.
Low and slow – smoking a pork butt today on our pellet smoker (see photos below).
Terry successfully connected remotely with his doctor, who was late, but eventually the chatted via Zoom for about 30 minutes.
Enjoyed smoked pulled poke on homemade buns with smoked baked beans for dinner.
Have a wonderful evening and thanks for stopping by!
The very first email I read this morning in my fourth Monday of sheltering at home and work from home contain this call to fast and prayer this Friday (which also happens to be Good Friday):
This Friday, April 10, I invite you to join with me and many others from around the world in fasting and prayer that the COVID-19 pandemic “may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized.” The principle of fasting transcends denominational and doctrinal differences and is practiced by many world religions including Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Taoists.
A Husch Blackwell Partner, Kansas City, MO
I’ve added this as a reminder to my calendar as an all day event this Friday. It’s been ages since I purposely fasted and prayed so I will probably do a juice fast. I will also research some appropriate verses to study and prepare appropriate meditations and prayers from.
37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight or mildew, locust or grasshopper, if their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 38 whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart, and spreading his hands toward this house; 39 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men,that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You have given to our fathers.
1 Kings 8: 37-40
Join me this Friday for a day of fasting and prayer for all.
Terry asked me earlier this week to make some hamburger or slider buns for Sloppy Joes or grilled hamburgers since the weather is starting to warm up. My son had provided me a recipe he’d made a few weeks ago. I compared it to three or four recipes I found at the King Arthur Flour web site. The first one I leaned towards trying (and dividing in half) was the Hamburger or Hot Dog Bun recipe (and I do actually have the KAF hot dog bun pan). The second one I looked at was the Beautiful Burger Buns recipe, which required a quarter cup of sugar and no milk.
I chatted with Amanda at the King Arthur Flour live chat and asked if I could substitute honey for the sugar. She confirmed I could but I should halve the amount. So for the Beautiful Burger Buns recipe, I would use two tablespoons of local honey instead of a quarter cup of sugar. I also added milk to the water (a half cup of each).
Today I start my third week of sheltering at home and working from home. Also my first week in that scenario of on call rotation. Thankfully, the weekend was quiet, and the weather improved to the point where both Terry and I got out of the house and worked in the yard Sunday afternoon. I needed the exercise to counteract the back and neck pain I’ve been suffering from in my non-ergonomic home office.
Terry also accompanied me to pickup our second order from Dillons (local Kroger affiliate) and we decided to run the van through the car wash. For Terry, it’s been weeks since he has let the house. He’s at increased risk for the coronavirus and it would likely prove fatal for him. He self-isolates during flu season, and the coronavirus pandemic meant he’s had to extend an already months-long isolation. The sunshine and brief excursion did both of us good.
I work up Sunday knowing I needed to make a fresh loaf of the Oatmeal Sandwich bread to go with the sourdough stuffing, boneless chicken thighs and corn I’d made the day before as a ‘care package’ from my father and uncle. I’m still tweaking the recipe and Ron, my uncle, had expressed interest in trying the ‘original’ version which uses three tablespoons of molasses. I had just popped that loaf in the oven when he messaged me to state he and Dad were going on a road trip to Cottonwood Falls. I was a bit confused as I though they were going to meet us at Dillons when we picked up our order and I would transfer the care package to them. Since it was going to be a gorgeous perfect spring day in Kansas, my only warning was the Flint Hills ranchers would probably be burning their fields this time of year (they were) and a request for a sketch of the oldest still in use county courthouse in Kansas. Now I wish I’d let the bread rise just a tad longer since I didn’t need to have it finished by noon and cool by one o’clock.