Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hurry Spring: My Patio Awaits

 "I'll make coffee"

 The robins are ready
Now, back to my neglected novel. 
Time to write!!!

Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gardening Challenge: Make the Seeds Grow

This may seem like an easy task, 
but hear me out . . .

My goal is to plant vegetables and flowers from seed, to fill my garden and occasionally give as gifts to my neighbors and friends. Last

year's effort produced a set of spindly shoots that mostly died in the ground. These were seeds planted in peat pots, placed in plastic trays with lids and located in a sunny window facing southwest.

It is important to know that I live in wheat-growing country, in the Palouse on the Washington/Idaho border. Tomatoes seldom can go in the ground before June here. And . . . I generally keep my house at 71 degrees during the day, which is not ideal greenhouse temperature.

I asked a garden expert, a friend at church who has been growing plots of vegetables in the country for years. "Start your seeds early indoors at the end of February," she advised. She also pointed out she has been doing this for twenty years . . . and uses three fluorescent grow lights.

Aha! The secret, I thought to myself. And here's the key, she added. "Don't place them in a window at first. The seedlings will get too leggy."
Well . . . of course :)

So I did some grow light research online and learned about red and blue light spectrum . . . and frankly, more than I cared to learn. But in a nutshell, here's what I now know: red light is needed to produce fruit and flowers and blue light is needed for germination. HID and LED grow lights are full spectrum lights (red and blue) and manufacturers make some extraordinary claims for being the better way to go.

However, here is what I didn't like about HID and LED lighting. HID and its variants (there are several) put out a lot of heat and require a fan (conclusion: not energy efficient). For someone with an indoor green house, the heat may actually be a good thing. LED lights are still being tested by NASA for growing plants in outer space, which is pretty cool, but they appear to be in the experimental stage and also are very expensive.

The winner was my friend's suggestion: fluorescent grow lights. I was pleased to discover both full spectrum and energy efficient fluorescent lights are available. Just buy T-5 fluorescent bulbs (or larger) and you will have bright, full-spectrum lighting at a savings in electricity. I purchased two grow light kits at a local store, $45 each on sale. Not bad, considering the same kit was $69 online. 

The next challenge was where to place the grow light assembly. We had a portable clothes hanger on rollers we no longer used that my husband converted to a plant stand. He added shelving, and a timer we already had (set to 12 hours of light). I love it!
Total cost: $110 plus seeds, soil and tax. Stay tuned for more gardening challenges. I'll let you know how the seeds turn out . . .

Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl

Friday, February 22, 2013

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles: Book Review

Author: Deborah Wiles
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc., 2001
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Ages: 8 to 12, Middle Grade
Pages: 188

This is the second book I have read by middle grade author Deborah Wiles. My first was Each Little Bird That Sings (2005). Both are refreshing, funny and heartwarming. Wiles is a master at ‘showing/not telling’ and weaves a tale with characters that stay with you long after you finish. Travel to Halleluia, Mississippi and meet nine-year-old Ruby Lavender and her chickens—Ivy, Bemmie and Bess. Meet Ruby’s grandmother, Miss Eula, who drives the get-away car when they rescue the chickens from going to the slaughterhouse. Life is good in Halleluia, or at least manageable with Miss Eula around, but when Miss Eula takes off for Hawaii to see her new grandbaby, Ruby is devastated. How will she ever take care of the chickens on her own? One is about to give birth! And how will she ever deal with mean-spirited, “tip-tapping” Melba Jane? Ruby and Melba Jane share a past that neither can talk about: the tragic loss of two people they loved very much, a grandfather and a father—two lives that were lost together on one rainy night a year ago. The resolution comes in the most unconventional way. Be prepared to shed a tear and laugh at the same time. Love, Ruby Lavender was written over ten years ago, but that is the beauty of children's books. They can take on a second life and then some.  This is one of them. 
Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Miracle Ship: the Africa Mercy

A friend of mine is in Texas training as a nurse for service on the Africa Mercy ship. This miracle ship has met the health needs of hundreds of thousands. If you missed the TV presentation about this ship on 60 Minutes last Sunday, here it is:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hey, That Just Isn't Right

Sometimes life kicks you in the shins and you want to stand up and raise a fist, yelling, "Hey, that just isn't right!" We stumble through and when it's all over, we are stronger and more resilient, or at least that is the hope. But sometimes the result is more permanent. A life is changed forever, or worse, a life is lost in its prime. It always seems to happen to the nicest people--the neighbor at the end of the block--the one with the barrel full of daffodils every spring, a teacher you remember loving so much, a kid that struggled in school and finally made it in the world . . . Tragedy strikes and they are snatched from our world here on earth forever. And when we finally catch our breaths, all we can say is, "Why?"

Sometimes it happens to someone or people we have never met before, but we relate to them on a human level. We grieve as a nation, as a community, and alone. This morning I read in the newspaper about a British couple I would never meet. They were living the life of their dreams, bicycling around the world and chronicling their journey in a blog called Two on Four Wheels. 

On Monday, they were struck and killed by a pickup truck in Thailand. The driver survived. Peter Root and Mary Thompson, both 34, lost their lives doing what they loved most, exploring the world on bicycles, a journey that had begun in 2011 (from Guernsey, in the Channel Islands). They had traveled through Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and China, and had plans to visit New Zealand next.

"They were camping wild, as they called it," said Jerry Root, father of Peter Root. "What helps me is to think of how happy they were with each other. They were leading the life they wanted to. It was the happiest, the most fruitful of lives." (Associated Press, 02-19-13)

I truly hope it was, and although they died tragically on a remote road in Thailand, I am almost certain they were in love with that beautiful country. It is sad we will never hear their impressions. Their last blog post had a photo of Cambodia, taken over a week ago. I include a photo from my own files of Thailand in 1995, in their memory.

 (Thailand - author's trip in 1995)

Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

These postcards were sent to my grandfather Carl (Karl) in North Dakota around 1909 and 1910, from Norway and the U.S. Some are so old I can only guess at the signatures on the back. The writing is faded and all is in Norwegian. I believe two of the cards are from a girlfriend, a fiancee Carl left behind. She never joined him in America (some say she got tired of waiting for him to send for her).

[From ??]
Carl immigrated to America in 1906 alone, a brave journey for a young man of 22 years to take. He had the equivalent of $20 in his pocket. He left a girlfriend and his family behind, including his parents Oline and Johan and four brothers, Kristian, Ragnar, Elias, and John. He worked as a farm laborer in North Dakota and eventually moved to Washington state. None of the cards are really valentines, but all are about longing for romance.
[From Ragnar]  
  [From Ragnar]

An interesting picture of the "proper" kiss and culture of the time. The kiss is initiated by the man, and the bedazzled woman is swooning at his touch. Notice the wine glass in her left hand. Her other hand has a watchful guard on his hand, and her eyes are wide open. Mama taught her well, I think. It is just past midnight. Is the occasion New Year's Eve? Past her curfew?  

[From parents, Oline and Johan]
Ah . . . a romantic yearning for love put to words in poetry. Carl did not meet and marry my grandmother (Marie) until 1918, twelve years after his arrival in America. Too bad there is scribbling on the airplane. The world was so in love with airplanes then. 

And . . . I happen to know a pilot today who is just as enamoured with this machine! 


Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl
[postcards from Gravseth family archive]

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

Monday, February 11, 2013

Survivors in a Sinful World

I finished the BBC TV series Survivors on Netflix last week. If you have ever wondered what would happen if there were
a repeat of the 1918 flu epidemic, only worse, this is for you. Only 1% of the population survives. As in the bubonic plague, only a handful of people accosted by the virus are immune. One survivor, Abby, actually comes down with the virus and survives it, which makes her a potential vaccine candidate. This and the central theme of Abby's search for her son moves the story forward. Each character she meets along the way, and joins up with, has some sort of past to overcome. As can be predicted, their plight in a darkened, sinful world brings out the worst and best in everyone. Unfortunately, the series drops off without a fit ending, so I would add that one warning. Nevertheless, with all the recent news about whooping cough and now the influenza outbreak, it was an interesting series to watch. 
With that background in mind, I was surprised to see the following letter in the local newspaper. The letter was written by a minister my husband and I have known (and respected) for many years. His message is simple, direct, and humbling, regardless of one's religious leanings. 

[Excerpt: Jim Wilson, Moscow/Pullman Daily News, Feb. 4, 2013] 

Jim has always been gifted at connecting the present with the teachings of the bible. He goes on to offer his assistance and contact numbers. I am not surprised. He has devoted his life to teaching and ministering to others. His blog, Roots by the River, is quite popular if anyone is interested.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Southeast Indians by Andrew Santella: Book Review

"First Nations of North America" series
Southeast Indians
Author: Andrew Santella
Publisher: Heinemann Library, 2012
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Age: 8 up, Middle Grade nonfiction
Pages: 48

Native Americans were the first people to settle North America. Scientists believe they migrated from Asia across a Bering Straits land bridge 12,000 years ago. Some settled in the southeast region of North America to as far west as present-day Oklahoma and Texas. The ten diverse tribes within this group, the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Catawba, Creek, Choctaw, Natchez, Seminole, Apalachee, Timucua, and Calusa, are known as the Southeast Indians. Santella tells their story, tracing their ancestral history and culture to the present. Readers learn how early Southeast Indians lived and survived—about their diet, crops planted, clothing, body adornments, hunting techniques, tools and weapons, house styles, transportation, and family life in the different clans. Included are the roles expected of boys and girls and their elders, the games they played, religious beliefs, and the popular Green Corn Ceremony still practice today. A turning point in their story came with the first non-Indian contact in 1513, when countless Southeast Indians were killed and enslaved by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León and his expedition. Conflicts and hardships followed as other Europeans settled the region. Over time, the Southeast Indians adapted and many adopted European ways. One Cherokee member, Sequoyah, even invented a syllabary to record their language. However, the centuries old conflict proved futile. In 1830, the tribes were ordered to Indian Territory under the U.S. Indian Removal Act. Thousands traveled west to present-day Oklahoma on what became known as the Trail of Tears. Many died en route and millions of acres of land were later lost. Despite unfair treatment, the tribes survived, and today live throughout the United States. Santella’s presentation is well organized and useful in Native American Social Studies curriculum. Glossary (boldface text) and Timeline are provided. Maps, photos, and sketches are on most pages. Reading level Q.  

Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pining for Ski Days Past

Snow was abundant for a while here in the Pacific Northwest. To the south of us in Utah, my daughter said they were buried up to their hips a week and a half ago. It's melting now, but part of me misses it. There is something serene and centering about the snow when it falls. I love the feel of snowflakes melting on my face and the crispness of the air. And despite the lure of spring gardening (seed catalogs are already filling my mailbox), I find myself pining for ski days past, wishing for one more time on the slopes.

Postcard from Ragnar in Norway sent to Karl in Tacoma, WA (ca. 1918)

 I wish I had a photo of me in the 60s, flying down the slopes of Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state, with my pig tails flapping in the breeze. Those were the days when ski boots were laced tight around the ankles and ski clothing went on in layers: jeans, double socks and gloves, long underwear, sweaters, turtle necks, hat and parka. I did fork out money for bibs later, becoming more stylish, but in the beginning, paying for a ski pass and gas was all I could afford. A day on the slope in the late 1960s was $5.00. It sounds cheap now, but with wages at only $1.10 an hour (my first job), it isn't a whole lot different from today's cost.

Vince - 1971 (Germany)

I received my first pair of downhill skis in the ninth grade. My parents had never learned how to ski, so transportation to the slopes  meant trips on the KJR ski bus, rides in the back of a neighbor's car, or cramming into a high school friend's VW bug. When I later married, my husband and I also skied.

This was a new sport for Vince and he had his first lesson in Germany, while on military leave. We took a ski train to the highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze (near Garmisch), and spent one incredible day. The lesson was challenging. Vince's knees were too stiff from a previous injury and wouldn't bend enough for the standard "snow plow" stop. He was a scary sight going full board down the hill trying to stop. 

Zugspitze - highest mountain in Germany

 Sharon - 1971
We continued to ski with our two children, but stopped when the budget grew too tight. We paid for their downhill passes and stayed home. I have regretted that decision, and have been campaigning to resurrect this sport ever since--even cross country skiing. Big hint to "you know who." I MISS it.

I can honestly say that skiing is in my blood. Most of my family in Norway are skiers, which hardly comes as a surprise. Wasn't skiing invented in Norway? I have received more than one photo of the family cross country skiing somewhere. Maybe I can join them someday . . .   
Reidun in Orvos, Norway - 2008

 Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl
[Postcard from Gravseth family archive]

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Groundhog Day

"Well, it's Groundhog Day . . . again."  My favorite line in Groundhog Day (1993) starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. My husband and I started watching this movie every February several years ago. How many times now? We haven't a clue, but we love the tradition. Any other fans out there? What are your favorite lines?

Ten more of the best lines:
1. "Today is tomorrow! It happened!"
2. "Don't you have some kind of a line that you keep open for emergencies or for celebrities? I'm both. I'm a celebrity in an emergency."
3. "What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"
4. "My years are not advancing as fast as you might think."
5. "He might be OK ... well, no, probably not now ... "
6. "I'm a god. I'm not the God I don't think."
7. "I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank pina coladas. At sunset, we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day. Why couldn't I get that day over and over and over?
8. "I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life."
9. "This is pitiful - 1,000 people freezing their butts off to worship rat."
10. "What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today."

Ten Facts about the Groundhog:
1 - also known as a woodchuck, whistle-pig, or land beaver
2 - a member of the rodent family
3 - most common in the northeast and central United States; but found as far north as Alaska, and as far south as Georgia
4 - measures in size from 16 to 26 inches (tails are 6 inches long)
5 - lives up to 6 years in wild; some reported to live 8 to 14 years; but in captivity only 2 to 3 years
6 - diet includes wild grasses, other vegetation, berries, grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and other small animals, and nuts
7 - lives in a burrow, which can have 2 to 5 entrances to escape predators
8 - hibernates, often in a separate winter burrow; usually from October to March or April; but in milder climates as little as 3 months
9 - can also climb trees and swim
10 - when afraid, the hairs on a groundhog's tail stand straight up; the tail looks like a hairbrush!

Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl


Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

About Me

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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.