Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Toilet Water Turbine

I have a kernel of an idea. It's not quite congealed yet and some experimentation would have to be done. The idea starting forming after watching several programs on TV and my unfortunate encounter with the Maytag repair man.

1) I saw a show on ancient technologies where the ancients of Rome or Greece used water wheels to saw marble slabs, turn nine mill wheels at once, and power a row of several 100-pound sledgehammers to crush stone. There is a lot of power in falling water and we currently don't harness enough of it. Smaller water dams originally constructed for flood control only are now being retrofitted to be electric power generating stations.

2) A house flipper wanted to rehab a house using "green" technologies, i.e., recycling the ripped out waste materials, using energy efficient windows and appliances, and using environmentally friendly products. This house is supposed to use half the energy requirements than before the rehab. An energy saving house is good, but why not make an energy *generating* house?

3) The Maytag repairman said in three years or so, I would not be able to replace my extra-large capacity washing machine. The only choices will be front loaders that wash 16 pairs of jeans with a cup of water. Dang! I will be forced to conserve water and energy whether I want to or not.

So, all that got me to thinking about what natural resources we have here in the United States that are currently untapped. How can we create energy without crapping out the environment or depleting our natural resources?

Answer: Water plus gravity.

Water is sloshing to and from my house every day by gravity only. Same with my neighbor's house and every house in the city. Once the water falls from the top of the water tower, gravity alone moves it along through the city until it returns to the sewage plant. Millions of miles of fresh water and sewer pipes with running water. That's a lot of potential energy.

Why can't I put a little tiny generator on my fresh water supply line and my outgoing sewer line so that every time I flush my potty, I generate electricity? Just a little bit, mind you, just a little bit. But just as a few drops eventually make a flood, a few sparks will eventually make electricity. I could generate with the water pressure filling the tank; the water falling from the tank to the bowl, from the bowl to the sewer pipe; then several places along the sewer pipe until it reaches the street.

If I could generate a little bit of power with the water running through my residence, think about what the city could do with the water running through their pipes. The downspout on the city water tank is six or eight feet across. Consider the amount of electricity that bad boy could generate. Water is running through that pipe all day every day. It's about as large as the outlet on the dam. Doesn't it have the same potential? I wonder how fast that thing lets out water?

Maybe it goes too slow because it also has to maintain pressure through the system. However, as the size of the pipe decreases, the velocity of the flow increases. (Learned that on Water Works of the Ancient World, The History Channel.) Could a smaller, alternate pipe be diverted to a turbine that would generate electricity?

Power Potties may be economically unfeasible now, but in a few years, they may be a required installation for all new home construction. That and the front-loading, 16-jeans-in-a-cup washing machine.

Just a thought.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Really Bad Day

Our doggie was having trouble breathing. She sounded as if she was drowning because of all the fluid in her lungs. When we called out the vet at 2:00 a.m., I knew what he was going to say. The time had come.

She had been fighting congestive heart failure for several months. Pills three times a day, weight loss, dull coat, coughing, lethargy. It was obvious she didn't feel good, but she tried to be cheerful.

We went to the vet every two weeks whether she needed to or not. I wanted them to see how she was progressing. She was at the maximum dosage on her meds. Last Thursday the vet said there was nothing more that could be done. Keep her happy, keep her quiet, and bring her in if she was having trouble breathing.

I thought we might be able to squeak by another couple of months, but one week later we were making the call. She was in obvious distress and had to have intervention. The vet said it was her time. We signed the papers, said our goodbyes, and held her while she went to sleep for the final time.

We buried her the next day under the Bridal Wreath bush in the backyard.

We loved you very much baby girl. You were a good doggie.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ode to Boiled Okra

Well, it wasn't really my great-grandma, but you coulda fooled me.

Hubby and I lunched at a little downtown hole-in-the wall place today. It was the restaurant space for what used to be the nicest motel in town. It is run down now and you really don't want to be in the parking lot after dark. They have a blue-plate special weekdays at noon. The folks who work downtown talk about eating there all the time, but Hubby and I had never tried it.

I knew it was going to be home-cookin', so I expected good food. I got the meatloaf to begin with (a small portion), but should have held out for the veggie plate. They had purple hull peas, turnip greens, lima beans, and BOILED OKRA! Never, ever have I seen boiled okra on a buffet line or on a menu. WOO HOO! Gimme a double, heapin' helpin' of THAT! Whole slimy pods of beautiful boiled okra and okra only. No stewed tomatos adulterating the taste. Oh, and hot water cornbread too!

I was in seventh heaven. My eyes glazed over as I shoveled in my veggie delights like a starving man in lock-up. Hubby commented I didn't have a lot to say during the meal. I dared not even take a breath for fear this sumptuous meal may disappear like a dream. I told him my great-grandmother had cooked me lunch and I was too busy to talk.

I am once again a small child sitting at my great-grandmother's table. The table is covered in a red checkered plastic tablecloth. Homemade peppersauce lives on the corner of the table by the window. Veggies picked fresh from the garden have been simmering all morning, making my mouth water with each passing moment. Grandma and I sit down for our lunch. She, the staid 85-year-old, scary looking with just one eye, chews silently with her front teeth...all that she has left. I, the quiet little 8-year-old, eat country cookin' that I can't get anywhere else. The fact that I helped pick it this morning makes it all the more tasty. We eat in silence because when you have good food in front of you, eating is what you should be doing. We can talk later.

But I digress. The point is that I found somebody in this town who knows how to cook like God intended...with a generous helping of bacon grease added to everything.

WOO HOO! BOILED OKRA! Turnip greens and purple hull peas in bacon grease! I may die of a coronary, but by golly I will die happy.

We will be eating here as often as possible.

Friday, July 20, 2007

You're Doing It Wrong

Sometimes I watch Hubby struggle with a project. He's struggling because he didn't make good plans for the project before he started. That makes me cringe because he usually ends up doing it the most difficult way possible and ending up with less than stellar results. I try not to be the Control Freak and add my two cents, but sometimes I just can't help myself. I offer, "Try doing it this way honey," and show him an easier solution.

He doesn't interpret this as help, he interprets this as condemnation of his male abilities and hears, "You're doing it wrong." He "hears" this from every woman in his life...his mother, sisters, sisters-in-law, and female coworkers. He thinks it is a female conspiracy.

Now when I find him piddling on some project, I ask, "Whatcha doin'?" Whatever he says, I immediately follow it with, "You're doing it wrong." He expects me to say that, so I go ahead and get it out of the way right up front.

At a funeral recently, the funeral director had locked his keys in his truck. Hubby had a Slim Jim and offered to try to get the truck open. He tried for a while, gave up, and let me take a crack at it. I opted for the coat-hanger-on-the-handle route since I don't know how to run a Slim Jim. I was marginally successful, but still didn't get the door open. Behind me I could hear Hubby telling the funeral director the story of women and "You're doing it wrong."

Hubby tried again with the Slim Jim, but was getting nowhere fast. Then our 9-year-old niece Jen wandered up. She watched Hubby for a while, then finally couldn't stand it any longer. She said, "Gimme that. You're doing it wrong."

Hubby shot the funeral director a knowing look and the funeral director burst out laughing. Hubby looked at me to see if I had been coaching her. I shrugged and said, "It's a Girl Thing."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Obituary Rant

I've noticed lately in obituaries that it has become unpopular to say simply "He died..." In place of that are flowery phrases dealing with the transmogrification of people from the land of the quick to the land of the dead. Here are some examples:

-passed away

-departed this life

-went to be with the Lord

-went home to be with the Lord and Savior

-entered into his new life in Heaven

-passed peacefully on to a better place

-passed gently and triumphantly through death into life everlasting

-was transfixed into infinity

-An angel - perhaps two - came and carried Lillian to her heavenly home to join Jesus, her parents, and other loved ones that preceded her. (Perhaps Lillian was a big woman requiring two angels instead of the requisite one...)

-God called Michael home to a place of rest in His everlasting arms

-The Lord has called one of his good and faithful servants to come home. Roy answered the call on...

-Heaven is shining brighter today with the arrival of Sarah...

I suppose the writers of these obituaries were dealing with the pain of losing a loved one and saying bluntly "he died" would be too much to bear; too final. For them using the word "died" would sound so harsh and impersonal, rather like one was reporting on the fridge that has ceased to function. The refrigerator just dies. People (or their souls) are supposed to be going on to a more wonderful place.

Be that as it may, I really don't want to read rough drafts for somebody's Great American Novel in an obituary. More than three words to convey the idea of death is overkill. I don't want to have to interpret all that fluff as "died." I know the person died, it's an obituary for goodness sake. Just say they died and get on to the good stuff. It's cheaper!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

112 Main St., Prescott, Arkansas

Back in April of this year, April 6th specifically, I had a dream. It was a strange dream, but one so real it was unnerving.

In the dream I was standing on a sidewalk in a downtown area looking at a vacant lot. The lot had broken concrete slabs, cold pack asphalt, and gravel rubble. It was a site where an old building had been torn down. There wasn't anything in particular to see in this lot. It looked the same as any vacant lot in any downtown area in any little town in Arkansas.

What was so odd about the dream is that it came with a specific address: 112 Main Street, Prescott, Arkansas. Now that part was the scary part. Dreams aren't usually that specific. Prescott holds no particular importance for me. I've driven through there once or twice in my life, but that's about all the connection I have to Prescott. This dream was getting curiouser and curiouser.

What was the significance of this rubbley lot? Was I supposed to buy it? Was I supposed to meet someone there? Was I supposed to see something important? Was the former building of some relevance? Was the ghost of someone buried under the slab trying to contact me from The Other Side? I didn't know, but I knew I had to find out.

On April 8th we went to find the address. Lo and behold, it was exactly as I had seen it in my dream. Judging from the addresses of the neighboring buildings, 112 Main Street, Prescott was indeed a rubbley lot. It was serving as a parking lot for the business next door.

I stood in the parking lot with an open mind. I didn't know what would happen next, but I was ready...ready to see, to meet, to listen, to experience.

I was ready, but maybe I was late. Maybe I should have been there on the 7th, I don't know. If I was supposed to met or speak to someone, they didn't appear. Maybe I was supposed to *see* something there, so I took pictures.

What is it that I should be seeing??? Do I need to contact Henry George??? Should I switch to Coca-Cola??? Should I be taking Cardill tonic because I'm a woman???

Friday, July 13, 2007

Pileated Woodpeckers

I got excited when two huge woodpeckers landed in the neighbor's tree this morning. I heard them before I saw them. Their calls sounded like a kitten mewling. I got excited because I thought they might be the rare Ivory-billed woodpeckers causing the big stir here in Arkansas.

After I examined the photos I realized they were the common Pileated woodpeckers found everywhere in Arkansas. They were pretty and I enjoyed watching them interract with each other. Who knew woodpeckers were so loving?

I guess it is a blessing in a way that they weren't the rare birds. While it would have been exciting to be the person who took the landmark photograph, I would have gotten mad when all the crazed bird watchers descended on my house and started stomping around in my garden. Ugh!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Field Trip to Arkansas Post

Yesterday, Hubby announced, "Tomorrow morning, we are going on a field trip."

"Uh Oh", my little kid brain thought, "That sounds educational and I'm not gonna like it."

I was kinda, sorta right. It was educational, but I liked the chosen destination, Arkansas Post. We had discussed doing a day trip there for some time but had never gotten around to it. The part I didn't like was leaving at 8:00 a.m. I don't move well at that hour. This morning we finally got on the road at 10:30 a.m. That's not too bad considering I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. talking to a friend in California.

On the way we passed through the little town of Tillar, Arkansas. The First United Methodist church there had the coolest looking dome. The building is Classical Revival, was built in 1913, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I'm a sucker for interesting architecture and make Hubby screech to a halt at buildings with interesting details.

Most of the landscape over in eastern Arkansas is agricultural fields....miles and miles and miles of soybeans. The sky there is big and wide and you can see forever. It's very different from Lower Arkansas where the landscape is miles and miles of pine trees. I thought this photo of a cloud over a Dumas, Arkansas soybean field was neat and showed the wide-open spaces.

Then there's the quirky stuff. This gigantic tire man was in front of Charlie's Tire Service and TV Repair in Dumas, Arkansas.

The Arkansas River was swollen from all the rain we've gotten lately. The debris was rollin' down the river at a pretty fast clip. I wouldn't want to be a little boat out there on the river any time soon. It would be toooo dangerous.

This is a log cabin just outside of Arkansas Post at the museum.

The grounds of the Arkansas Post National Memorial were beautiful, lush and green. This is a spot on the walking trail by the river.

I was a little disappointed to find there are no historic buildings or re-creations on the grounds, just a few stone foundation outlines. The only existing evidence of the settlement at Arkansas Post was this 24-foot deep brick cistern built about 1811 by Frederic Notrebe, a fur dealer and cotton planter.

There was a scale model of two sides of the fort wall to show how it was constructed. It was built of split red oak. Bullets could penetrate only about an inch into the wood providing protection to the soldiers.

On our way home we passed through the little community of Mist, Arkansas in Ashley County. It's so tiny it doesn't have its own ZIP code. The signposts marking the beginning and end of Mist are about 100 yards apart. I thought Mist was a cool name for a town.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I Hear The Noise of Wings

My friend's momma passed away this week and we attended the funeral. It was held at a little country church in the backwoods of Hot Spring County; Harmony Primitive Baptist in Donaldson, Arkansas.

The service started with congregational singing. The song leader stood and announced the hymn number (but not the title) and lauched into the first verse before I could find the correct page. I recognized the hymn as Blessed Be The Tie That Binds and could get through the first verse by memory. However, by the second line I realized the congregation was singing a cappella in four-part harmony. This was Sacred Harp singing; or shape-note singing, a rarity in today's America of mega-churches and praise bands.

It was beautiful. Simply magnificent, even with the screeching soprano in the back, the tenor who was a little sharp, and the lady behind us who was in a monotone drone. Their deviation made it all the more beautiful.

I wept openly at the stunning simplicity. It touched me somewhere deep inside; deep in my Southern Arkansas roots. My great-great-great grandmother sang it this way, as did all my ancestors before me, just a few miles down the road in another little country church in Clark County. I was transported back in time 200 years and my DNA helixes were vibrating in harmony with the sound.

During Amazing Grace and O Come, Angel Band I fell completely apart. Tears were streaming down my cheeks it was so moving. It was a good thing I was at a funeral and not a wedding or Sunday church service where my tears would not be so appropriate. I had never heard these hymns sung like this live-and-in-person, only in recordings or on video.

Angel Band is one of the best funeral songs ever and is on the soundtrack of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

1.) My latest sun is sinking fast, my race is nearly run,
My strongest trials now are past, my triumph is begun!

O come Angel Band, come and around me stand,
O bear me away on your snowy wings to my immortal home,
O bear me away on your snowy wings to my immortal home.

2.) I know I'm nearing holy ranks of friends and kindred dear,
I brush the dew of Jordan's banks, the crossing must be near,

3.) I've almost gained my heav'nly home, my spirit loudly sings;
The holy ones, behold they come! I hear the noise of wings,

4.) O bear my longing heart to Him who bled and died for me;
Whose blood now cleanses from all sin, and gives me victory.

Harmony Primitive Baptist isn't so primitive after all. They have a web site and a podcast of the entire funeral. Blessed Be and Amazing Grace are at the beginning. Angel Band is about 75% of the way down the slide. Of course the recordings don't do the songs any justice. They were much more beautiful live.

More recordings of congregational singing are on the HPB Sermon Podcasts page at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar.

I love my Methodist pipe organ, but when it comes to singing, the Primitive Baptists have got it goin' on.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Garden Photos - July 01, 2007

The garden is getting a little droopy in the summer heat. My prized celosia were beautiful earlier but are now toast. I'm ripping them all out soon.

The bugs have had a field day eating up the plants this summer. It has been chemical warfare out there and the bugs are still winning. Some critter who is immune to Sevin and miticide and fungicide is destroying the big crock of verbena and geranium. I don't know what to do and have given up hope.

The lantana in the hanging pot that I lusted after for so long has been a big disappointment. I don't know what's wrong with it. It starts to bloom, then the bloom falls off and goes to seed. The bloom never completely develops. This guy gets dust dry in a matter of hours. Is lantana a very thirsty plant???

Here are a few things that are still doing well.

The window boxes on the back deck:
They are luciously full and flowing down the side of the deck just like I had envisioned. Hubby admires these every morning through the window. He likes having bloomy things more than he will admit.

Here is a close-up of Wave petunias.
These guys look like velvet.

This is Kong coleus. They grow huge! I had three last year and they didn't do much. This guy is in a shadier area and is doing mighty fine.

The green and white caladium:
I planted these in the same spot as last year. By June 1st I decided they weren't coming up, so I planted the coleus plants there. Then, of course, the caladium sprouted. I didn't know how the two plants would co-exist right on top of each other, but the caladium seem to be very, very happy living under the skirt of the coleus.

The Freckled Sunshine Canna:
Freckled Sunshine isn't the real name. But it suits it, don't you think? These guys are growing and blooming profusely this year.

The Basketball Marigolds:
I love these orange pom-pom marigolds. The blooms are big and round. I wish I knew what kind they were. There wasn't a plant tag when I bought them.

The Squirrel in the Teacup:
I made this little teacup birdfeeder after seeing the project in the Arkansas Gardener magazine. The instructions were to drill through the cup and saucer with a special drill bit then screw it to a cork. The cork fits into a piece of PVC pipe. That was all too complicated for me. I didn't want to buy a special drill bit, find a screw to fit, then find a cork. Screwing the cup and saucer set-up to the cork would probably break it anyway. I also didn't want to buy PVC pipe. You can't kabammer that stuff into the ground, it shatters.

My re-engineered solution was to glue the cup to the saucer with Gorilla Glue, then glue a small PVC fitting to the bottom of the saucer. Then I jabbed an old broomstick into the ground. The PVC fitting slips over the end of the broomstick. The teacup lifts off easily for cleaning. The whole set-up is sitting right in the middle of the impatiens bed.

The lady who submitted the project wrote that she had not had any trouble with squirrels raiding her teacup feeder. Well, she doesn't live around here where the tree rat population is at infestation level.

If you look closely you can see a skeeter hovering just over the squirrel's ear. I'm glad the skeeters pester the tree rats too.