Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fruit of the Vine

Our scuppernong vine is pruned and ready for the coming warm weather to sprout new growth and hopefully yield luscious fruit this Fall. The picture with green was taken in July '04 and the other picture was taken last week. We've had bumper harvests in years past with more than this household can consume. So, mark your calendar beginning September 15 through October 15 to help us eat this amber- colored and sweet tasting variety of muscadine. Visit with us during those dates for friendly talk and munching on fruit underneath this trellis.

Of Course, don't feel you need to wait until then to visit.

Have a good day!


Monday, February 27, 2006


I entered the staff workroom and encountered a retired teacher, whom I knew, mentoring an ROTC instructor. After greeting pleasantries, she introduced me to Air Force Lieutenant Colonel _____. After back and forth "nice to meet you" responses, I suggested to him that if he needed a testimony to potential recruits, please let me know. I explained why I was the right person by giving him a brief sketch of my active duty years in the 1960's and my service as a "boots on the ground" soldier in Vietnam. After he listened, he asked "will today work for you?" We compared schedules and my planning period coincided with his class of high school juniors so I accepted his invitation to address the class.

When I arrived, the ROTC cadets were outdoors for drill and inspections so the Colonel and I talked further about our backgrounds and experiences. The cadets returned to the classroom and took their seats. The Colonel spoke to them, introduced me, and then moved to the rear of the class. I moved to the front, thanked the Colonel, and said this to the class:

"I just want to let you know how impressed I am when I see you in the school hallways or in my classroom dressed in your uniform. You are smartly dressed with clean and pressed uniform, decoration ribbons, shined shoes, and you look sharp. It makes me feel so good about you. One reason I feel that way is because there was a period in my life when I wore a uniform and it was a great three-years of active duty I'll never forget. The places I went, the things I did, the people I met, and the assignments I participated were amazing. The training and personal growth I experienced propelled me through college and into life after my volunteer military service."

Their attention was riveted on my every word, every voice inflection, and my body language as I moved slowly across the front of the class to look closely into each face as I spoke. I did not get into gory details of specific incidences of Infantry combat. I'm too smart for that type distasteful talk. I heard enough of talk of hero details from WWII veterans who could talk endlessly and bore me in one minute. One's war medals should say enough.

I continued: "If you choose military service, you can expect to meet good people from all across the great country and work as a team with them. You can expect to go to far away places and receive unbelievable training. You can serve on enormous ships, awesome aircraft, powerful weapons systems, and learn state of the art technology or be a part of military intelligence. You will learn "how to follow" as well as "how to lead" people." I told them about "my experiences parachuting from airplanes like the Hercules C-130, Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, Bell UH-1 Helicopter at night and in daylight. I explained the Army Divisions I served, and the fort locations where I was stationed, and my tour of duty in Vietnam.

I concluded by answering a few questions about my rank, awards and war medals earned, and number of parachute jumps.

If you could have seen what I saw as I looked into the eyes and faces of these young people, you, like me, would be uplifted by this crop of young students. I departed that classroom feeling so good about the potential of these high school juniors. Our future is bright with developing young people like these.

The next time I subbed at that school the Colonel told me I was welcome anytime to address the other classes. I thanked him and indicated that perhaps it would work out.

Have a good day!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Winter Duties

During February's unseasonably warm days, I got motivated to prepare our asparagus bed for the tender shoots that will emerge in about a month. I cleared the weed growth inside the short pickett fence where I have the asparagus planted . The fence is made from red cedar and serves to keep small animals from digging in the fertile and loose soil. This will be the eighth season we should harvest this early spring vegetable. I created this bed by removing dirt to a depth of 12" and replacing it with rich top soil. I planted 3-year old crowns in order to get a yield sooner. My wife uses this ingredient in several recipes as well as steams them solo for a nutritious side dish.

Have a good day!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Walter Buford Anderson 1920 - 1982

Buford, seen here in 1979 eating watermelon at the home of Sylvia Patterson in Dozier community of Forsyth County.

Jasper was born in 1882 and Elvira in 1891. They married and had a family of thirteen children. Large families were common in the rural south to help on the farm during the early twentieth century. The Anderson family lived in a rugged and remote section of Forsyth County of North Carolina where the whole family helped carve out a living from the land. Their children were John, Leota, Jim, Lee, Della, Nette, Buford, Bess, Ann, Worth, Sarah (died at 3 mo.), Pat, and Beatrice. These children grew into adults and had their own families, worked to complete careers in industry, or succeeded on their own except one, Buford. He never married, never worked on "public" jobs for long, and didn't move away from under his parent's roof until his mid-fifties when his mother's health forced her into a nursing home. Only then, with financial help from his mother, did Buford move into a used mobile home on property beside a sister.

My Uncle Buford was a likeable character who lived by his own agenda, and programs like high school, "public work", organized church, social clubs, and marriage were not for him. While in his early adult years, he farmed while his brothers and father were at Ft. Bragg, Goldsboro, New Bern or Oak Ridge, Tennessee helping to build barracks, ships, or power plants for the war effort. He didn't own or operate a vehicle after the state required a license to drive.

When I was a boy and beginning to learn about relatives , the war was over and all aunts and uncles were getting on with building their individual lives. Buford, however, was living the party life of beer and other alcoholic beverages, staying out late at night, and running with characters of his same ilk. He was a worry and heartache to his father and mother as well as to his siblings. Everyone fussed about Buford's behavior. Buford's personality, however, was so pleasing and inviting that he had friends young and old.

People loved to be around Buford, he was comical, quick to debate issues, dispensed advice about life like a psychologist, and assessed affairs of the state like a politician. All his nephews and nieces loved Buford. He was the "life of the party" at Sunday afternoon gatherings at Grandma's house as family members assembled there ritualistically in the 1950's and 60's. Buford was easy to talk to and people opened up to him. He was proud of the successes of his siblings and did not try to draw anyone into his lifestyle. He did odd jobs for neighbors in the community for meager income, raised pigs and chickens, and gardened to contribute to sustenance. An article appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal about Buford and the friendly stick man in front of his trailer home. Buford would sit partially hidden and pull a string attached to the man's arm and the wooden figure would wave at passing motorists. People laughed heartily at the remote controlled gesture.

Buford died of an apparent heart attack at his home in 1982. Friends, neighbors, and family members were deeply saddened by his passing. I appreciate my memories of Uncle Buford Anderson.

Have a good day!

Friday, February 24, 2006

The last of Tutorial

A second day is needed for me to finish the job. I sawed five logs yesterday and I continue the process today, the day after Valentine's. Here are the final statistics from the sawing:

2,040 board feet (one board foot is the equivalent of 12" x 12" x 1")

1,524 square feet

219 six-inch wide boards

42 five-inch wide boards

11 hours from start to finish

3 saw blades used (I send them to Kentucky by FedEx in batches of ten to re-sharpen)

I estimate the logs weighed 7,000 pounds (based on 34 lbs per cubic foot)

Given that estimate of weight, I probably lifted and carried 8,000 pounds during the eleven hour duration. This should explain why I don't see a need to join the "Y" or Gold's Gym.

These boards will dry and shrink slightly then be milled to straighten the edges followed by the tongue and grove preparation. This will reduce the 1524 square feet to around 1000. When the material is installed to make the floor, board-ends will be cut off to fit the floor foot print and there will be further reduction in square feet. I say all this to point out that the final coverage will be much less than the beginning square feet of material.

The slabs and strips were loaded on a special dump trailer as I removed them from the mill. I will deliver loads of slabs to people who request them for use in heating their house. I shoveled the sawdust into another trailer and will dump this cellulose on an accumulating pile at another location on neighboring property. This saw dust will rot and make good compost for gardens. As you can see, the by-products are put to good use.

This concludes the sawmilling tutorial.

Return tomorrow for another posting.

Have a good day!


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Tutorial Continued

The Gala apple was crisp, tasty and will satisfy me until lunch. Now it's time to "work-up" the accumulated flitches into finished boards. Some are so wide that they will yield two six-inch boards after I remove the bark from both edges. Wide flitches are extremely heavy and I can only manually handle them one at a time. Often times, I handle one end at a time due to the long length and weight. This gets me to thinking about the weight of these logs and how much total weight I will manually handle as I process this order. I plan to do some calculations tonight to estimate the weight I will lift and carry during the duration of this job. I'll let you know the answer. I position the flitches on edge and clamp them securely as the mill cuts the top edge. I flip them and repeat the process to remove the second edge and then saw down the middle to yield two boards from the wide flitches. The removed edging is called "strips" by old-timers in the sawmill business so that's the way I refer to them. I place them on the slab pile. This process continues log-by-log. It's taking me one hour and fifteen minutes per log to complete. It's somewhat slow, but the cuts are precision and the uniformity is satisfying to me. I change blades frequently to keep sharp and honed tooth- settings. I also frequently spray the blade to prevent rosin build-up which can make the blade go crazy and cut thick and thin sections along the boards. Pine rosin can build-up quickly and cause problems if left unattended. I don't make any claims about high speed sawing and low cost, but I do claim quality sawing. People I've done sawing for in the past are usually well pleased with the results. That's important to me.

A second day is needed for me to finish this job. I have worked six hours on this job today and I'm tired and ready to quit. Tomorrow, I'll complete this tutorial and tell you statistics about the resulting lumber.

Have a good day!


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tutorial Continued

I manually roll the first log into position for the hydraulic system of the Woodmizer mill to take over and lift the heavy log onto the the mill bed. I turn the switch key to the 25-horsepower Kohler gasoline engine and it fires without delay. After a short warm-up, I pull the lever to lift the log and another lever to clamp it after it rolls into an optimal position for the first cut. The first cuts around the outside are to remove the bark and those removed pieces are called "slabs". More about them later. My plan is to cut these round logs into an eventual near square of 12" X 12 3/8". Arriving at that dimension from a 20" to 22" diameter will require me to cut several "flitches". A flitch is a board that has bark on both edges that will need to be removed at a later step in the process. I'm using the 5/4 scale to saw the thickness in order to yield the "dry" thickness of over one inch as requested by the customer. After I make several cuts and arrive at the 12 X 12 3/8 dimension, I cut the 12" thick side in-half resulting in 2 pieces 6" X 12 3/8". I pull hydraulic levers to direct the mill to turn these two large pieces 90 degrees so they are vertical and side by side. (pictures of this stage will be available tomorrow) Now I'm ready to start cutting from the top, two finished boards with each pass. There will be nine passes resulting in 18 boards.

After completing two logs, it's time for a break to eat an apple so I turn off the mill and walk from under the shelter and quickly observe a clear Carolina blue sky. The temperature has risen to near forty and it's time to shed my down-filled vest jacket. I think "it's wonderful to be retired and outdoors to enjoy days like this".

More tomorrow

Have a good day!


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Tutorial on Sawmilling

It is Valentine's Day, 2006, 8:30 AM, and 25 degrees. My 52- horsepower tractor is moaning and groaning as I turn the key to direct it to start. I've already walked four miles along the trail-loops at C. G. Hill Memorial Park as I exercise there most mornings. My schedule for walking is about two minutes behind the park gatekeeper who opens at 7:00 AM during the winter season. Now, however, I'm ready to move nine prime pine logs into position to begin sawmilling. These logs were delivered by dump truck yesterday by a new acquaintance who lives not far from here. I met him recently after he was referred to me by someone who thought I could mill his logs into lumber for use in re-flooring his home. After meeting and interviewing me, "he decided to give me a try", he said. The logs he and his dad delivered are the nicest pine logs I've seen in the Piedmont of North Carolina. These logs are 20" to 22" in diameter, 12' long, round and smooth, super straight, negligible taper, and no limbs. The son told me they came from only two trees that grew near the Yadkin River. I studied the growth rings and estimate the age between 80 and 100 years. So, 9 logs times 12 feet equals 108 feet divided by 2 trees equals an average of 54 feet and no limbs to that height. Wow! Old-timers have told me about pine trees like these and how common they were in the past. They are rare today.

The son instructs me to saw them into boards 6 inches wide and slightly over 1 inch thick. He said: "this is my wife's project; they will be used in flooring our home". I thought to myself, "Your wife has good taste to request a floor from this material". I know these logs will produce beautiful lumber and a floor from this wood will be outstanding. I've sawed a few thousand logs and can now predict lumber quality underneath the bark before I cut into them.

Tomorrow, I'll show you the beginning cuts.

Have a good day!


Friday, February 17, 2006


I spent two days this week sawmilling the nicest pine logs of my fifteen years experience. You may ask what makes a log "nice"? A prime log is big in diameter, round, long, negligible taper, and no limbs. I sawed nine such logs. If you have the least bit of interest in trees, lumber, wood, sawing, and the process from stump to lumber, then return here next Tuesday when I begin a series using pictures and words to describe converting logs to lumber.

My wife and I will leave tomorrow morning for New Bern for a weekend vacation. We will visit sites there and plan an itinerary for a family gathering on Memorial Day weekend in that area.

As President's Day is near, write an email message to our president that expresses thanks and encouragement. All presidents need that from us in heartland USA. My daddy taught me that value regardless of whether I voted for the current occupant. Serving as president is a tough job at any time. My wife and I sent our message yesterday. Here is the address:

Have a good day and weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Carrie McGavock

Franklin, Tennessee is in Williamson County about thirty minutes south of Nashville. The city and county are among the wealthiest in the United States. On November 30, 1864, eight thousand men died there within a five-hour period. Carrie McGavock lived on a plantation there called Carnton. Her stately home was converted to a field hospital where hundreds of wounded men were treated and dozens of severely injured limbs were amputated. What happened following that Battle of Franklin and for the rest of Carrie McGavock's life is truly amazing. Robert Hicks, a first time author, researched this true story and wrote "The Widow of the South". It's an excellent book and I can recommend it. I continue to be impressed by young and first time authors. Read about him here.

Have a good day!


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Discussion and Period End

I break the silence by standing and saying it's time to discuss the book. Students' heads rise and some body movement begins. It looks as if everyone emerges from underneath water for a breath of fresh air. I call a name from the roster and the student sheepishly identifies himself. I move down a row to the center of the class. I tell everyone to pretend we are best friends, we're in our favorite coffee shop, and you can't wait to tell me about this exciting book. Everyone looks at me with a "yeah, right" look. I ask the first student an easy question. "Without looking at the book, tell me the title, the author, and the date first published"? He responds "Lord of the Flies, William Golding, 1954". I praise him. The next student I ask to tell me something about the author. "He lived in England" was the answer. Several more students raise their hand to add more about the author. Some blurt out answers without being recognized to speak. Some add that Mr. Golding had been a teacher and military pilot. I ask the next student about the setting of the story. The reply is "on an island". I ask "where is the island"? Nobody knows exactly, but everyone agrees it's a tropical island. "Who was there and how did they get there" I ask the next student? "There was an airplane crash and it was a group of young boys from a school" is the answer. "What are the names of the leading characters, I ask next"? Several students contribute names of the boys. Then they go on to tell me about the boys' electing one as their leader, about the pig, and about the boys getting hungry. My questions and their answers continue for about twenty minutes until I notice many looking at the clock. There is less than a minute of period remaining. I move to the front of the class and get everyone's attention and say to them in a declarative tone: "You have been a good class! Thank You! You have a bright future ahead of you!" As the students re-pack their book bags, some say "thank you, Mr. Mabe". The bell rings, the students begin leaving, I feel good, and the cycle starts over in five minutes.

Have a good day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Lesson Begins

After roll call, I tell the class that our assignment is to read chapters seven and eight of "Lord of the Flies". This is a ninth-grade English class and this book is required reading. They have already read the first six chapters if everyone is on schedule. I hear a couple students say they are further along than chapter eight. Each student has a copy of the book as they begin reading silently. I tell them we will read for thirty minutes and then stop to discuss the book. I tell them I will call random names from the roster and ask them to respond to questions I plan to ask about the book.

Real quietness begins to settle across the room. We could almost hear a pin drop. Any movement like flipping a pencil against the desk or shuffling of paper sounds loud. I move quietly about the room to make sure everybody is on task. Some are not and I gently approach and speak to them as if we're in a library setting. I go back to the front of the class to take a seat. I open the book to scan and read sections to catch up to them. I hear one student say "it's too quiet in here". His comment is ignored and not responded to by anyone. He looks around the room and finally starts looking at his book as if to think "this man is serious".
Thirty minutes pass with unbelievable quiet as each of us read silently.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about our discussion of the book.

Have a good day!


Monday, February 13, 2006

The Period Begins

My weight is equally distributed on each foot as I stand in front of the class. In the last five minutes twenty-five to thirty ninth-graders have evacuated the room and twenty-five to thirty different students have moved in to refill the desks. Some of the students are carrying book bags big enough to contain supplies to camp and hike the Appalachian Trail. The period start bell has rung and I look out across the room of faces and make eye contact with many as I introduce myself and explain that I'm their substitute teacher today. I'm holding my neon-green clipboard that I have come to learn is impressive to some students. The clipboard contains the class roster and perhaps written instructions from the regular teacher about the class lesson plan. I have already written my name and the assignment on the classroom board. I announce the assignment and lesson plan for the day after I focus on getting certain students who are standing or talking to settle into their seat. I tell them they should be in their regularly assigned seat. Many students see a sub teacher as a day of play and not much work so I must take command early or risk letting the class get out of control. As quietness begins to cascade across the room, I begin calling the names for the attendance record. I call first names only because it's a waste of time to sound out last names since they know their position on the alphabetical listing. I try to call names in rapid succession as they respond by saying "here" or by raising their hand and with a "here". Calling roll is a time when many think they can talk quietly to their neighbor and noise level can resume if it doesn't move quickly.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you what happens next.

Have a good day!


Sunday, February 12, 2006


A few years ago my wife and I rebuilt the deck attached to our house. We removed the old deck of aging redwood and designed the new deck to be larger and styled differently. I sawed excellent red cedar logs a year earlier in preparation for this building project. The sawed material air-dried for one year. Then I hired a millwright shop to surface the boards to dimension, straighten the edges, and round-over the corners. My wife and I worked together to erect and assembled the deck in around eighty hours. Each board is attached to the joist with screws from underneath. The stair treads are also made of cedar. The rails are cedar with 3/4" copper tubing as pickets. We used type-K copper tubing which is thicker and more rigid than types L and M. Red cedar is a desirable wood for this purpose because it doesn't split, warp, or twist with age. The red in the cedar is resistant to decay and insects. The coloration of the cedar is now gray after three years of elements, but the original color can be restored by pressure washing.

Have a good day!


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Happy Birthday, Daddy

If my father were alive, his age would be 87 today. He died in 1990 at the age of 71 when my age was 43. Except for my wife and children, I spent more time with him than any other one person. He was my lifelong best friend and it feels good for me to recall memories of him.

My daddy had strong character. He worked hard and devoted his life to family. He was intelligent without much formal education. If he had gone to school like many returning WWII vets, he would have succeeded beyond everyone's dreams. If you assess how he contributed to family, he succeeded by any standard measure. He loved this country and believed everyone could succeed if they tried and followed the rules. He despised some decisions coming from the U. S. Supreme Court, but he obeyed all laws. He disliked Labor Unions, OPEC, and Yasir Arafat. He loved the military and law enforcement authority. He disliked alcoholic beverages of any kind, illegal drugs, and hippy young people, but he liked cigarettes. He played and loved baseball, but disliked superior-minded, show-off sports stars. I don't know what he would think of cyberspace, Internet, and blogs, but I know he wouldn't approve of vineyards, wineries, and Lottery.

He and I spent lots of time working on projects, visiting each other, talking on the telephone, and just keeping in touch. I didn't consider him completely open minded to ideas and I was careful when discussing some of my thoughts. Sometimes I didn't discuss them at all. Just like you and me, he had shortcomings, but I learned a lot from him.

When he was living his final days, I had the opportunity to say to him my final departing words. As he lay in bed going in and out of consciousness, I mustered these words:

"Daddy, do you remember when I was a boy and you often pitched baseball to me in our front yard in Dozier? (long pause) Do you remember taking me to M. Long's store and buying ice cream or soda for me? (long pause) Do you remember writing a letter to me almost every day for a year while I was in Vietnam? (long pause) Do you remember us working together so many times to gather firewood and till our gardens? (long pause) Do you remember you and me just hanging out to visit and talk? (long pause) Daddy, thank you for all you did for me."

As I said those words, he would squeeze my hand or nod his head slightly. I could have and should have said much more, but I just couldn't pull it together.

Have you thought about the final departing words you will utter to a loved one? If you haven't, you should. After you contemplate your words, then think about the present. You may begin to see different priorities emerge from within and human relationships become stronger.

As I prepare to click on the "publish" icon to send this message into Cyberspace, I say again, Daddy, thank you for all you did for me.

Have a good day!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Level Playing Field

Thomas L. Friedman wrote an outstanding book titled "The World is Flat". The book is a bestseller and I recommend you read it to really understand the future. If you don't already feel the change sweeping job markets, Mr. Friedman will convince you that people in other countries can do what many workers do here and never leave their country. They can perform these jobs with equal quality and less cost. While we sleep at night here, folks in Bangalore read X-rays for our doctors, process tax returns for U. S. citizens, and serve as administrative assistants to some business executives. Desktop computers, Internet, and free trade have enabled other countries to compete for professional jobs here. He explains the determination of young people in China to learn technology and gain admission to Ivy League schools here. Young people in China scalp tickets and "hang from the rafters" of coliseums to hear speakers like Bill Gates of Microsoft and Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo. He compares them to the young people of the U. S. who flock to coliseums to see entertainers like Britney Spears. Mr. Friedman describes what he calls "the ten forces that flattened the world". He starts with the fall of the Berlin Wall and continues to the current forces "digital, Mobile, Personal, and Virtual".

These competitive forces will be good for us in the long run, but all of us need to hunker down and get better at whatever we do. This is especially true for young students in school at all grade levels. We parents and grandparents must set the example. Don't let up!

Have a good day! I've got to get ready for school.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Most Repugnant Thought

Oliver Stone directed the movie "Wall Street" in 1987 starring Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, a corporate raider. Gekko gave a speech in the movie to stockholders which came to be known as the "Greed is Good" speech. Here is what Gekko said as he walked the auditorium aisle among a large gathering of shareholders: "The point is, ladies and gentlemen: Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good. Greed works, greed is right. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all its forms, greed for life, money, love, knowledge has marked the upward surge in mankind--and greed, you mark my words--will save not only Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called USA."

A couple weeks ago I read an article in Slate Magazine by Daniel Engber titled "Can Someone Else Pay Your Taxes?" The article was about Richard Hatch, the first "Survivor" winner, who was found guilty in court for not paying taxes on his million dollar winnings. Hatch's defense was that he thought the show's producers had paid the taxes. The article went on to report that "Yes. It's not uncommon for corporations to pay taxes on behalf of their high-level executives." This, to me, is repugnant. I don't know what these people are thinking. They live in a country with a system that enables them to achieve their status, yet, some don't support the system by paying their own taxes. I read in yesterday's newspaper that Wallace D. Malone Jr., Vice Chairman Wachovia Bank, is retiring and the company will pay tens of millions of dollars to cover his tax bill on top of the multi-millions he will take with him. Apparently, people like this believe like Gordon Gekko, greed is good. I think these people are disgusting and I'm happy I don't know them!

Have a good day!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Think About It!

On Sunday May 4, 2003 I attended morning services at Newman Catholic Student Center Parish in Chapel Hill. Fr. Phillip Leach delivered the homily. His message was on the topic of "sin". He said "he had recently completed a thorough study of past scholarly works and derived definitions on sin". I will attempt to summarized his message here. These are paraphrases of his message as I heard it.

1. If you put a worldly "good" ahead of the greatest "Good", you sin.

2. If you fail to become what God created you to be, you sin.

3. If you fail to see God in everything around you, you sin.

I thought his message was powerful and put into terms that I hadn't considered. Isn't it enlightening and enriching to get a message from different sources. In December, 2005 my church didn't have the normal early morning worship service for a couple weeks. My wife and I got ready as usual, drove down the road and turned into the first church we encountered. We enjoyed the worship, saw people we knew, and were enriched by the variety.

Have a good day!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Farm Tips

If you live on a farm or large lot, you are aware of how saplings, limbs, and briars can grow along the edge of fields or behind barns or buildings. This is the time of year to cut back this growth. Left unattended this growth will cause your fields to get smaller. Winter is the best time to do this work because it's cooler, snakes are in hibernation, and stinging insects are not active. Here is how I cut and removed growth from behind one of my buildings. I chain sawed the saplings, vines, and hedge. I manually piled the brush in one spot. The pile was as big as a car or truck. I then used the tractor and front-end loader with forks and grapple to lift and carry the brush pile away. I could have chipped this material, but I chose to locate the piles to another place on the property and let it decay there. As this big brush pile decays, it will serve as shelter and nesting place for small animals and birds.

Have a good day!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Expect The Unexpected

Just as I plan for the unexpected when I budget household and family finances, I have learned to do the same when I stand in front of 25 to 30 high school students. I recently subbed for a sick English teacher. The lesson plan given to me was to ask the students to write about an event in their life that had a surprising outcome. I interpreted events like a family vacation that went wrong or a birthday party that was disappointing. I added an option for them to write about "The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" in Arlington Cemetery. As I explained the assignment, the tomb required explaining to some students. Other students helped because they had visited that site. I asked if they chose to write about the tomb, then explain what it is, what it means to them, and how does it make them feel. I further explained there are no right and wrong answers. It's somewhat like art, I said. Our individual interpretation of objects is determined by our background, age, training, education, etc. I asked the class to take twenty minutes and write about their chosen topic. After that time I would randomly call names from the class roster and ask you to read portions of your writing. As the class started to write, I heard two boys and one girl seated near each other laughing and acting up. I moved into their vicinity to quieten them. When I approached them, one of the boys leaned forward and asked "Mr. Mabe, can I write about when I lost my virginity"? Without cracking a smile, I leaned down and said "I don't think that would be an appropriate topic. Now pick another topic and start writing". The group of three giggled and laughed at the boy's bravery.

After twenty minutes, students began reading to the class. I commented and remarked about their reading and praised them for what they shared. Other students reacted with comments about what was said. Over half the students chose to write about the tomb. Most who read their comments had impressive thoughts and articulate presentation. Some refused to share, a few didn't write anything, and one slept through the entire class. The class period was repeated five times.

Have a good day!


Sunday, February 05, 2006


If you send me an email message, I'll receive it within seconds on my desktop computer and within a few more seconds on my BlackBerry device attached to my belt. I can be in the classroom, church, or on my tractor and get your email. Of course, I will not read it if I'm in the middle of something, but I will sense a slight vibration letting me know I've got mail. The BlackBerry is a computer, telephone, and personal assistant to help keep one organized. My son wrote a book about this device and the book cover is pictured to the left. This book is published by O'Reilly Media Inc. and is available at Barnes & Noble, Border's, Amazon.com, and of course from O'Reilly. Go to the link below to see unsolicited comments about the book on Amazon.com. Scroll down the page when you get there to see the reviews.

Amazon.com here.

Have a good day!


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Let it Rain!

As a retiree, I have excess time and it's wonderful. Sometimes I begin a new day with no pressing agenda. Some days the weather is rainy, cold, and not suitable for outdoor activity. On some of the days like that I decide to attend class at Ashland University in Ohio. There is no pre-registration required, no SAT score to submit, no tuition to pay, and no cost at all. I attend classes in the comfort of my den, sitting beside my fireplace in an easy chair, and sipping gourmet coffee. Through my computer and Internet connection, I listen to lectures from scholars to students in the Ashbrook Center of the Ashland University Library. These seminars run 90 to 120 minutes and usually continue over two or three sessions per topic. There are many historical events and famous people from which to choose sessions to listen and learn. If I choose to stop before a sessions ends, I can terminate the audio and return later to the place I stopped. These are very informative classes with questions from the student audience at the end. Of course, I can't ask a question from my den. Technology is wonderful and melds nicely with retirement.

You can visit this site by clicking here.

Also, go to my Blog entry on January 23 about "Saint Ralph" and see the comment response from one reader.

Have a good day!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Burial Ground

In December 2004 my brother and I set out to find the grave of our great-grandfather. We received general directions from our mother about where we should search. He died in the 1920's and was laid to rest in a place where neighbors buried their family members. The place was not a church cemetery or a so called private family cemetery. It was a high ground where people of the area during that period would entomb the dead.

The picture shows what my brother and I found. Trees have grown and the cemetery is now in woods. The headstones were mostly flat rocks turned on edge with no information. One rock had initials scratched into its surface. In front of each stone the ground was sunken. The harvest of trees had occurred around this site by loggers not many years ago, but the trees among the graves were undisturbed. One big tree did contain a deerstand where hunters can get a good view when hunting.

Some markers had names, birth and death dates that were readable. We saw last names of Sprinkle, Brown, Vogler, and Hunter. The oldest date of death readable was 1851 and the newest was 1905. We estimated 35-40 graves there. You can visit this site by entering the below coordinates into your GPS and then follow the device's arrow.

N 36 11.523

W 80 25.249

Hint: This site is in Forsyth County of North Carolina not far from the Yadkin River.

On another day I'll tell you something interesting about this man, my great grandfather.

Have a good day!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Time Management

I rise each day around 4:30 AM. When I'm asked why I get up so early, I respond " I believe seven and one-half hours of sleep is enough". As far as I can remember into my childhood, I have always gone to bed early and waked early. I realize that I'm out of sync with most people when it comes to time spent in bed. During the State of the Union address this past Tuesday, I was experiencing RIM sleep. When my children were teenagers and going out at night, I was often getting ready for bed as they departed the house to join friends to do whatever. Can you sleep that way?

VCR, DVR, and Ipods are wonderful inventions to enable us to not miss out on what is important. I can record programs or presentations and view and listen to them when my agenda permits. I like having control over time and scheduling activities. I enjoy the responsibility of deciding and balancing priorities. I like the concept of Podcast. This is another means of enabling time management so we can get the most out of 24 hours a day. I extend thanks to Steve Jobs and the Apple Computer organization for all they do for me.

Have a good day!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Friendly Talk

A good friend and I were talking while standing in his backyard. Our pleasant and friendly conversation was taking place as we walked from his woodworking shop to my vehicle. We have conversations like this often on the telephone or while visiting. We discuss life, experiences, people, places, philosophy, and opinion.

This moment our conversation turned to knowledge and intelligence. He said to me "everybody is stupid about something. I can inform you about something you don't know and you can do same to me. If somebody doesn't seem informed about a topic, a judgment about that person's intellect should not be concluded". I agreed.

I have long held that view as it relates to adults and young people. All of us have remarked or heard others say something about young people not learning something about which we have knowledge, training, or experience. It is usually said in a denigrating tone. When I think of young people, I remind myself that they were born only a few years ago. It takes them several years to learn to walk, then a few more to talk, and even more to read and write. Be patient! Furthermore, the things they are learning today is, more often than not, better than what I learned at their age.

I've got places to go, things to do, people to interact with, and responsibilities to belly up to!
I must get going. Have a good day!