Monday, December 6, 2010

Cousins! Cousins! Everywhere there are cousins!

Cousins, there's nothing quite like cousins!

They are built in friends for life!

They are laughter and tears!

They are smiles and hugs!

Cousins, you just can't beat cousins!

Our Last Three Days

I haven't written anything about my last three days with Grandma, because every time I think about those days, I cry. Not just tears that say, "My heart is breaking because I no longer have my Grandma!" but also tears that say, "I was so lucky to have had a Grandma like her!" But those days were precious days and so I will try my best to share them.

When we first got to Blacksburg - around 9:00 o'clock in the evening, Dad called to tell us to come first to the Grandparent's since everyone was awake! My first thought was that I was amazed that Grandaddy was awake, but he was and so I went in to kiss him on his forehead as I have done for years. And he said with a grin, "I hope you didn't leave any lipstick up there!" Of course, having just been riding or driving for the best part of a day, any lipstick that I might have had on was long gone! I then went to Grandma's room to see her and I kissed her too and told her what Grandaddy had said. She said, "He just likes to show off his kisses!" You can be certain; I was never without lipstick for kissing his head the rest of my visit! She told me, "I am awfully spoiled - I wish my sister were here to see it!" - meaning Evelyn, of course!

Later on while I was standing next to Grandma's bed, Mary was asking about Joshua and Matthew and I told her how big they are. Without missing a beat, Grandma looked up at me and said, "I guess they get their height from you!" That has been her standard line for as long as the boys have been taller than me! And then that was always followed by "And how tall is Craig?" or if he was in the room she ask him "How tall are you?" Craig's height has always fascinated her - I guess because he towers over me by so much! Grandma began to get sleepy so I left her to go to the doll house for the night!

The next morning, I went straight to Grandma's bedside, after leaving bright lip prints on Grandaddy's forehead. I found that sitting in the seat of the walker, made me high enough to hold her hand over the railing of the hospital bed that the McPherson's had moved into her room before she came home from the hospital. Every time I took her hand, she said to me, "You have the hottest little hands." It reminded me of how I used to love to hold her hands while growing up and she would rub them and say, "Your hands are so soft, don't ever let them get wrinkled and spotted like mine." Whenever, I look at my hands these days and see the lines, I think of her telling me that all those years ago.

Daddy had the Beyer's cd playing, but it was too much for me, so I changed it to a cd of hymns. After a little while, Grandma said, "Is that Reggie singing?" I said, "I don't know, does Reggie sing?" And she chuckled, "Not much!" Later on, I started reading to her from a book about Grandparents! As often happens, something I read touched me and I started to cry. She said, "You cry so easily, you're just like your Grandaddy!"

When the home health nurse came to bathe her, I went to the living room to sit with Grandaddy for a while. He was telling World War II stories to a friend from church. I just sat and listened. These were stories I had never heard before and I was fascinated. When he told the story of one of the only two deaths by members in his company, he cried. He is such a caring man that 50+ years have not softened the blow of that loss. Amazing. After the man left, I said, "Grandaddy, I had never heard those stories before!" And he said, "Mindy, when I came back from the war, I didn't talk much about what happened. Not because I was ashamed of anything, but because this is my home and I didn't want to bring that war into it." I asked, "What is different now?" And he said, choking on tears, "There aren't many of us left!"

Later on I pulled out my computer to see if the internet signal from Dad's house would reach theirs. Amazingly it did, and so Grandaddy Skyped with Beth. I thought it was so cute when after talking to "Beffy" for a while, he asked if Jonathan was home. Beth said he was and ran up the stairs to find him. Grandaddy said, "Well there she goes!" Jonathan said "Hi Greatdaddy, I love you!" and that was the end of that!

Pastor Reggie came for communion and Grandaddy, Barbara Jean, Daddy and I all gathered around her bed to share it with her. When he was getting ready to leave, he said to Grandma, "I love you!" and she responded, "And, I love people." He said, "No, that's not the response I was looking for, let's try that again. I love you." She responded with a bit of that old twinkle in her eye, "I like you an awful lot." He shook his head and said, 'No, still not right. I LOVE YOU!" To which she said, "And I love you, but I wouldn't want anyone to know it!"

Grandma had several visitors and she was so alert most of that day! Grandaddy also was so well that day. Margaret, Leroy and Lee came to spend some time with her and that was special for her and she really seemed to rally. After going back to the doll house that evening, I called Craig and told him that Grandaddy was the best I had seen him in three years!

The next morning, I followed the pattern of planting a kiss and then going to Grandma's bedside. That day Daddy had Andy Griffin's CD of hymns playing and it seems to be restful for Grandma, so I left it on. I would rub her hands and she drifted in and out of sleep. Every time she nodded off, I would watch her chest to see the rise and fall, it was comforting to me. Sometimes, I would sing or hum quietly along with Andy. She opened her eyes and I told her I was sorry, I didn't mean to wake her. She said, "I wasn't asleep!" (How many times has she said to us over the years, "I'm not asleep, I heard every word!") I said I hoped my singing didn't disturb her since I don't have the best voice, and she said, "That doesn't stop other people from singing, don't let it stop you!"

Later in the morning, I pulled out my computer and got enough signal to pull up Dad's blog. I read to her - the stories that Dad had written about Grandaddy and her. - the story Beth wrote about Grandaddy. - And the stories Anita and I wrote about Mom. Through most of these, I read through tears and sometimes I had to stop to sob. At one point, she said "Your Mom died too young." And I said, "She did Grandma, but she knew you were here to take care of us." She patted my hand and said, "I think you all are big enough to take care of yourselves, now." And so I sobbed some more.

I spent a lot of time talking to her that day, telling her things that I remembered doing with her or for her that were special to me! I talked and she mostly just smiled or patted my hand, sometimes she would have a little response but nothing very lengthy. I talked about how she and I had gotten up at 3:00 am to watch the Royal Wedding. She said, "Why did we get up so early?" and I said, "Because they got married in England and with the time difference we had to get up that early to see it." She replied, "Well, that wasn't very considerate of them!"

Evelyn came to see her and said, "I tell Jean she is so spoiled!" and Grandma said, "And she is right! But I love it!' Evelyn only stayed a short while; she said "I just came to look at her!" I thought that was so sweet!

Sometime that day, Kaye and I were the only ones at the house - Kaye was in Grandma's recliner, sleeping and Grandaddy was sleeping in his. Hearing light snoring coming from the living room, Grandma asked who was at the house. I told her and she said, "Where's Kaye?' and I said, "In there sleeping with Grandaddy." And without missing a beat she said, "Don't tell your Daddy!" I laughed and laughed.

Grandma slept more this day and when she wasn't sleeping she was uncomfortable, not that she complained, she was just fidgety so we would move her pillows or her legs and rub lotion on her skin or sometimes I would just rub her back. She always said, "Now that feels better." Even though I am not sure it did, I think she wanted us to feel like we were easing her discomfort in some small measure. That was just her way.

Throughout my time there, Grandaddy would come in for short little visits or stick his head in the door on the way to or from the bathroom. Whenever I would know he was coming, I would say, "Grandma, your boyfriend is coming to visit!" and she would say, "Well comb my hair" or "Straighten my gown" or some other such preparation. They were always so gentle with each other, Grandaddy always checked her hands whenever he came in and would comment on how cold or warm they were. One time he came in and Janice was standing by the bed feeding ice chips and she said, "Sir Bill, I will move out of the way so you can come talk to your lady." When Grandaddy got to Grandma's side he said, "I don't know what she wanted me to talk about, I just came to say I love you!" Yes, I teared up yet again!

On the morning before I left, I spent a couple more hours with Grandma. I knew this would be my last visit with my grandmother, whose life has had such a profound effect on mine. I didn't want to leave but knew I must. She said, "Thanks for being such a good granddaughter." and I said, "Well, thanks for being my grandma!" "I didn't have any say about that." she replied. "Thanks for being a good grandma!" I answered and she said, "Yes, I had something to do with that!" After I told her I loved her and she had responded appropriately (I didn't even have to coax it out of her like Pastor Reggie!) I was standing at the foot of her bed and said, "I'm leaving Grandma, I love you!" and the last thing she said to me was, "Don't speed!" Yes, my Grandma knew me! "And, that's the truth!"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

William Jessie Absher's special 90th Birthday gift.

Our Dad, Bill Absher, turned 90 on Wednesday 9/29/2010.  Many friends and family let him know how special  his life has been.  I think I know Dad pretty well and I'm sure he did what he thought was right to do and not actions that would bring him praise.  However, Dad, like everyone else, appreciates it when people remember that he did something that made a difference in people's lives.
We were reminded of something that Dad was a part of several years ago by a friend, Pat Berger, who came by the house to wish Dad a Happy Birthday by singing to him.  And then she reminded him of a special memory she held dear.

Pat is an African-American soloist that is often asked to sing at Christian functions around Blacksburg. The time she told us about was several years ago when she had been asked to sing at an Easter Sunrise Service.  The weather was not fit for an outside service, due either to rain or snow.  Thus it was held at the Blacksburg United Methodist Church.  Dad was very active in the BUMC at the time and as he thanked her for singing he followed with a request that at any time her church needed anything to let him know.  She said she just felt like the Lord was talking to her since they had just learned that the furnace had gone out at her historically segregated church.  She shared that with Dad and before long they had heat.  I remember something about him organizing support from BUMC for this project.

I'm sure there are many more stories of how Dad was a part of  meaningful projects.
He led from the side!
I'm always reminded of the phone call Mom made to the church office.  She told the secretary that she had a few jobs at home that she wanted to add to Bill Absher's list.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Memory Garden

One of the great things about family is the memory growing opportunities. This weekend provided fertile ground for memory growth.

There are many moments I will treasure, such as watching Katelyn thoroughly enjoy her first birthday cake, which brought back memories of Kristin’s first cake eating experience – it is a wonder I made it through that one! Being photographed by Kathlyn was a unique experience – while she never said that I wasn’t photogenic, she did require multiple takes to get one she sort of liked! However, I’ve got to appreciate that as long as she deletes the ones she didn’t like, I will always know she was looking out for my best interest!

Other touching moments:

  • seeing Juliana display all of her fashion inspired Silly Bandz on Craig’s leg
  • having Meggen crawl up into my lap just to chat
  • getting big bear hugs and one piece of candy corn from the host with the most, Ian
  • watching all the cousins play together
  • watching the oldest granddaughter and the oldest grandson help the youngest granddaughter tiptoe through the grass so she could feel like she was "playing" with all the other cousins
  • laughing with my sisters
  • celebrating Matthew's thirteenth birthday with his cousins
  • And of course, just being together was great!

I think Anita mentioned that it was fun to be together in the summer and I have to agree. Being together, without having to worry about running off to someone else’s house for a holiday celebration or other obligation was a special treat.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sometimes I forget how much fun it was to grow up in a big family. I am glad that every once in a while, at least, my children get to experience big family life while spending time with their aunts, uncles, and cousins, not to mention the grandparents !

Photo credit: Anita Absher Beyer with Kathlyn Rose Beyer's camera

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Celebration # 1 was in Branson , MO with the Beyers, Tim and Sara.

Celebration#2 at home in KY.  The 70 looked right to me.
I had to share #2 with you know who,  the birthday snatcher, Mindy  her family, Nancy, Dan, Roberta and...

And Ian (since we actually celebrated on his birth date).

#3 was in Blacksburg with parents, Karen, Evelyn and Donna Jo.  Barbara Jean left the cake for me and probably selected the special candle.

When you get to be 70 I think it appropriate to celebrate  until you are 71.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Barren Co., KY Has Unique Pot Luck (copied)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Visit With THE Wendell Berry

I'm writing this for my own record, but elected to share this with you since you might appreciate my observations about Wendell.  Wendell Berry might be Kentucky's best known writer. You can google him to learn more, but he writes as a calling to remind people and society of simplified ways of life, the importance of  family and community, and reverence and conservation of the land, farms and forest.  He is an advocate for sustainable agriculture and sustainable communities.  My contact with Wendell was because of my work in sustainable agriculture and Partners for Family Farms.

Wendell, Bonnie Tanner and I were charged as a committee to think of a way to honor Sue Weant, who retired as Ex Dir. of PFF.  Bonnie and I went to Wendell and Tonya's farm in Port RoyalKY.  Wendell and Tonya live in a simple frame house perched on a steep hillside overlooking the Ky River.  Bonnie knew that it was best for us to park at the road and walk up the steps to the house.  Wendell greeted us from the porch and offered to come get us in his pick up if the climb was more than we needed.  We climbed.

  One step into the living room revealed that Wendell lived the way he writes.  I don't remember a TV set anywhere, but there were walls of filled bookshelves.  I wish I had taken the time to browse at least the spines of his library collection. The home was cozily furnished with furniture of the 20th century and warmed with two small but efficient wood stoves.  We met around a round table in the kitchen/dining room.  I thought of the many discussions that had probably taken place around that table.  As we sat there, Wendell mentioned that the new governor's office had contacted him to see what he thought about their efforts to "green" state government.  I'm sure the official got more than they expected when Wendell gave his list, after hearing the list of what Wendell called token efforts.

While we got our work done it was fun to meet with the Berrys.  Wendell could illustrate about every point of our conversation with a story.  At one point he told a story and said "I might have written about that."  Not only could he tell stories, but he was an eager listener. While Wendell is serious about his mission, he is quick to burst into a chuckle that turns briefly into a belly laugh. The tall man that he is keeps that belly laugh from reverberating long.

We finished our work quickly so that we could tour the farm.  Out front, between River Road and the river, was a narrow pasture where his flock of Cheviot sheep were grazing with their guard donkey and a llama. We went by his team; one white and one black gelding that Wendell had purchased from an Amish friend when they were colts.  He broke them to a mowing machine (and tore up one when low flying jets spooked the young team).  He said his son would come get them to plow, since they worked better than his own horses. Wendell pointed to a steep cleared field and said, "it's a work of art to mow that field.  I lay it off in several lands (sections) so that the horses don't have to do so much steep work."

We drove through a wooded area and he described the timber that had finally gotten above the water weeds and was beginning to "take off ."  He named the varieties of trees in the stand as if they were children and then said, "there is one Walnut that I can't see just now."

He took us to both his children's farms.  A son farms several acres and had a big turning plow and a large cultivator in the barn lot that were pulled by horses.  Fields were all laid out on a contour and in a specific rotation that returned them to sod frequently.

At the Smith-Berry winery we saw the vineyards, with Wendell's sheep cleaning out the weeds between the vines. "They've removed the need to cultivate the vineyards,  but Chuck needs to get them out before the sugar comes up in the grapes."  We saw the tobacco barn that was serving as a storage shed, but could be readily transformed into a stage for music groups  that help make this a diversified farm. The stage was such that the audience could enjoy the music from an adjoining field or, if weather dictated it, from inside the barn.  I recognized the site as where I think the first Extension-sponsored "Sustainable Agriculture Field Day"  was held with Steve Moore, Henry County Ag Agent, as the organizer.  I remembered that this was probably where I first met Wendell.  The then Governor Brereton Jones and Libby attended as farmers and asked not to be introduced.

It was a great trip through and around Port Royal with Wendell as a guide and historical commentator.

We saw Wendell's "factory."  It was a small, one-room building built on stilts to keep it above the raging Ky River at flood stage. It had a porch facing the river, a chimney to carry out the wood smoke, and an outhouse out back.  Wendell goes to his river cabin most every day to ponder and write.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Off the Beaten in Branson

Branson, Mo is a popular tourist spot.  Music, comedy, shopping and all kinds of activities draw people to this Ozark spot. Our family time at Branson was very special since we found things off the beaten path that  most tourist would never see.  Most of these side features came about because the Beyer children are home schooled  and the family volunteers at camp Sagrada, a summer camp for children of incarcerated parents.
Home schooled kids seem to be magnetized. We visited the shop of Art Reed in the Mill Wheel Crafter's mall.  Two teenagers, Okie and Rocky were helping the instrument maker in his shop.  The Beyers and the Teske youth struck up a conversation that led to an impromptu concert.

That led to information  about a jam session that happens every Monday night at Brunner, Mo.
The jam session at Brunner is held at a school house that celebrated its 100th birthday this year.  It has been 50 years since it was used as a school and it had to be renovated by neighbors to make it a pleasant community center.  We found it with about 15 musicians jamming a very friendly audience.
Back to the Beyer's  Sagrada friends; they are the Lingner family and they normally play at the Branson Landing on Saturdays.  The kids called to get time and place and learned that the extreme heat was canceling their street performance but they invited us to their church and to have Sunday lunch at their house.  We said yes to both and we are glad we did.
Their church met in a beautiful chapel, The Chapel at Integrity Hills. The chapel overlooked Table Rock Lake and was built to the Glory of the Lord by Rob Voss, a former Executive Vice President of Walmart.  The message that Rob heard from the Lord is printed on the wall.

We finised that rememberable Sunday afternoon with a private concert by the Lingners in their home in Northern Arkansas.

These experiences made our vacation in Branson a very special get away!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


 We attended the National Association of County Agricultural Agent's 2010 Annual Meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  We enjoyed spending time with Karen (she was a section chair) and Neal who came in for the last part of the meeting.  We had many interesting side trips.

The first was a visit to Will Roger's boyhood home.(above)

The visit to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial was a very emotional Experience. A feature of the memorial is a reflecting pool with "doors" or passage ways on either end. On one the time 9:01 is inscribed: on the other, 9:03.  In the narrative it is explained in that brief passage of time
168 people lost their lives and all of our lives were changed forever.

A large chair was erected on the lawn to memorialize each adult who lost their life;  19 small chairs were erected for the children killed in the day care center.
The somber mood of the trip was brightened by the spectacular art at the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City and a fun time at Discoveryland back in Tulsa.  At Discoveryland we had a great steak, saw the OSU mascot, a black Quarter Horse, and enjoyed the singing/dance troupe as they performed a sample of the musical, Oklahoma and other Western classics.
Our surprise discovery was an excellent restaurant spot on 2nd Street just up the street from our hotel. We wouldn't have gone in without a recommendation but the Blue Dome Diner is now on our recommended list!
While the side trips were great, a highlight for Curtis was to be present when his major professor from Oklahoma State, Dr. Bob Totusek, received the Service to World Agriculture Award.  He accepted in his humble way and made some significant remarks that implied useful guidelines for Land Grant Universities. He expressed dismay that he received awards for jobs he was paid to do.  After he was my major professor he served as Animal Science Chairman. A former student reported that Dr. Totusek introduced every Animal Science teacher at the start of each class.  His wife of 62 years accompanied him at the presentation.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cozy Cottage is filling the need

We call the renovated Poff House, "The Cozy Cottage." We purchased and renovated the little house to provide a comfortable environment for family, friends, and guests.  We have tried to make the cottage a place where family, friends, or guest want to spend some of their vacation time while visiting family members or friends as well as visiting some of the natural and historical attractions in the area.  We've tried to furnish it with surplus and used furniture to keep it affordable for short-term renters.  Family comes first when it comes to use of the Cozy Cottage.  Friends of family can rent it for even less than the already competitive rates.

The living room  and master bed room has been furnished with antiques and family hand-me-downs to preserve the feel of an old but simple farm house.

A second bedroom has a bunk bed with a full size mattress on the bottom and a twin on top.

The Cozy Cottage actually has two featured living areas. One is the front porch furnished with Cracker Barrel  rocking chairs and a panoramic view of the mountains.

A carport was converted to a "family port" with vaulted ceilings and a flat screen television.

The Cozy Cottage is already serving its purpose.  Families have stayed there while visiting the grand parents.  Several families have spent some of their vacation in Blacksburg because of the house.   A family was there for the funeral of a loved one.  A family celebrated a daughter's graduation and a family has  used it as headquarters for a wedding.   The Cottage has been shared by couples  on a football week end. And we hope their will be more.

Grandson Joshua McCulley is  developing a website, 
and we have a blog, ,
where we archive stories about people, places and events  around the area.
We hope you can visit either electronically or physically.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Remembering Barbara's Final Gifts

Barbara Jones Absher died on June 27, 2000.  This coming Sunday will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of her body,  but there are frequent reminders of her spirit that lives on in the lives of those who knew and loved her and those that only know about her such as her grandchildren, born since her death. I want to reflect on that time, 10 years ago and hope others will add  comment and memories.
About this date before her death I asked if we should call Hospice.  She said, "No,I think it's too early," but then went on to prepare an outline of her memorial service.  There is a book distributed by Hospice, Final Gifts.  The outline of her memorial service was a huge gift.  She had even listed the paul bearers, each with a meaningful reason for being on the list.  She had her favorite songs and her favorite soloists on the hand written program.  She requested three pastors to give her eulogy.  I know she didn't pick Howard, Bill, and Ron to brag about her but to talk about things that they knew were important to her life and legacy.  And they did just that with passion and humor, just  as she would have had it.  We failed to get the service recorded except in the archives of our hearts and minds.  Here are the highlights of what I remember:
Howard Reynolds was pastor at NUMC when we came to Nicholasville.  Barbara and Dee, Howard's wife, became close friends as did the young children from both families.  Howard and Dee asked us to be God Parents to their 3.  Howard spoke of that and gave tribute to Barbara as an exceptional mother and friend.  Bill Moore spoke, played his guitar, and sang to fulfill Barbara's request.  He brought laughter as he said he had been on "Barbara's Staff" at church for four years.  He described the kind of help she gave him as secretary at the church.  Ron Young, The last pastor that she served under got laughs when he described her reaction to a new idea.  He explained it was the tone of her "Um Huh" that clued him in as to whether it was a good idea or not.  He valued her subtle guidance.
Pat Miksch could not make it back for the service so Pat Jones,  Barbara's step-mother, suggested that her daughter knew the requested song and might be able to do it.  Lisa agreed and started out beautifully; but her voice broke with emotion.  I row of daughters, sisters and cousin women were next to me in the pew.  As Lisa's voice broke the women's voices welled up from the pew and helped her finish the song.  To me it was as if angels sang!  I even wondered if anyone knew that Lisa's voice had broken.
A similar incident happened in the room just before Barbara died.  All of the children except Anita had
spent some time with their mother as she was in her final coma.  I think each sang from the list of favorite hymns she had compiled.  Then Anita arrived and all gathered around Barbara's bed.  I sat at the back of the room.  Anita began to sing and they all joined her.
At least twice, I stood to see if Barbara was singing.  The kid's voices had never before blended so well and I heard their mother's voice seemed to crescendo with theirs.
A couple notes that came after the funeral were very meaningful.  Randy Patrick, the local newspaper editor, noted that he expected tears but he was surprised by the laughter at the service.  Beth's boss' wife observed from the  balcony that there we sniffles throughout the packed church, "not just from the front rows."  I can remember the members of her circle, The Barbara Absher Circle, standing like honor guards as Barbara's casket was taken from the church to the hearse.  Barbara died on the date when she had given birth to our first-born, Karen.  That date will forever commemorate the two births: one into life and one into Eternal Life.
Barbara loved flowers.  Her casket wreath was made mostly of flowers from her garden.  So many of those flowers have bloomed beautifully this year.  Barbara , can you see them?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Special Father's Day

During 2001 I got involved in the Hispanic Church,  Cristo Reina.  I drove the van, made crock-pot barbecue, and decorated tables with flowers from our garden.  The van I used was the one we purchased for Barbara to make flower pick up deliveries. 
Many of the worshipers at Cristo Reina were Mexican migrant workers who were earning money to send back to their families in their homeland.  We recognized that a Father's Day celebration may be a sad time for the absentee dads.  So Pastor Lupina came up with a plan.  We filled several buckets with a variety of flowers from our yard and placed them at the back of the worship area.  Then Lupina explained;   the van had been purchased to transport flowers, now it was being used to gather flowers for God's bouquet.  God's bouquet included all of our children.  She asked each father to get a flower for each child they had back in Mexico and bring it to the front and add to a container on the altar.  As the men filed by some had a hand full of flowers.  There were tears from the tough laborers.  Sine then, I have been reminded that flowers are for Father's Day as well as Mother's Day and bouquets are always appropriate reminders of God's Love

Garden Memories

Gardening is so much fun in the spring!  Reading seed catalogs has always been a problem for me-I buy more varieties and seed than I could ever plant or cultivate.  But the promise of a bountiful crop and the generally pleasant working weather makes putting in a garden an exhilarating experience.  The first harvest is exciting.
Dad, Bill Absher, really was a master gardener.
Near our Kentucky home is a farm called "June Rich Farm."  That is so descriptive of the season.  As I harvested vegetables and flowers this weekend so many gardening memories flooded my mind.  Dad taught me to garden.  I can remember picking green beans and hauling them on my American Flyer  wagon to the Bluegrass Market in Blacksburg to make a cash sale.  I probably got $0.50 or $1 for my labor and I was pleased.  Dad was always a good gardener even though he work long and hard during the day.  Until he retired he did most of his gardening in the cool of the before-breakfast-time.  Years of building the soil with compost and picking up the big rocks made his garden spot a productive area.  But the deer figured that out to so he had a 6 feet high chain link fence built to protect his crops. Mom called it his "play pen."

Dad's example made me think I needed a garden wherever we lived.  I remember the kids liked to help pick peas but I don't think many made it to the table.  They loved to eat the peas straight out of the hull.
Beth wonders if they were told not to eat the peas on purpose or to get them to eat them since they wouldn't eat cooked ones off the plate.  She said she and David would take turns standing guard and eating peas.  She remembers this happening at our Nicholasville house on Main Street.  Our garden there was mostly on sub-soil and was exposed to all travelers on busy Highway 27 before the by-pass was completed.  Our dentist, Dr. Henkle, monitored our garden and had something to say about it at every visit.

I didn't get into flower gardening much until we moved to Hamlet Hill.  Barbara joined a gardening club and developed a real passion for growing and arranging flowers.  In fact she did the flowers for Chilton Reynolds' wedding about six weeks before she died.  For that event she was more or less the "executive arranger" with Beth and Cindy doing a lot of the work.  Barbara died June 27, 2000.  Flowers were in full bloom.  We got one of her friends to arrange the casket bouquet using as many flowers from our garden as she could.  She used daylilies and refreshed them and hosta blooms, which I had never seen used as cut flowers as well as daisies and a variety of flowers that we had accumulated.  JoAnn Walla and Ruth Warner had given us a lot of plants.

I vividly remember going to the garden early the Sunday morning after Barbara's funeral.  The hymn,"In the garden" rang in my heart's ears.  Then Helmet rode by on his horse and said something to lift my spirits.  But, actually my spirits were pretty high at that point since I knew my wife of 37 years was no longer suffering and was probably in the Lord's garden, and as the verse of that hymn says, "he walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own,  And they Joy we share..."

We were gone  this year when daylilies started blooming.  Beth liked to keep tabs on their progress.  She would generally tell us when the first one would bloom, how many had bloomed the second and third days, and usually by the fourth day there would be too many to count.  The daylilies at the end of the house are the only ones planted by the "book."  They came from the Warners and I dug a trench, put sand in the bottom, and did what Southern Living advised.  The cultured lilies along the patio came from Nancy Bowling and they were just planted my way, but they seem to be doing fine.

Kaye and I have really enjoyed gardening together.  One raised bed we developed (or are developing)
we call our "Memory Garden."  It has plants, plaques, figurines, and rocks that have  special meaning to us.
There are two rose bushes in the bed.  One was one I gave Barbara, maybe for Mother's Day some year. It provide rose buds for her for most of the last month of her life.  The other rose bush came from the Sunday School class at NUMC when Kaye's mother died.  I'm afraid what was grafted on did not survive and what we have now is from the vigorous root stock.  There is a statue that the Mikschs gave us as a wedding gift, and a plaque about gardens that was a gift to Barbara. There are geodes from one of the Beyer's Missouri homes, and some petrified wood that Jacob Beyer gave us from Arizona.
There is a statue of a boy on a turtle's back that came from Kaye's home place in Tulsa.
We are still adding memories to that and other beds.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wonderful Work Week

The last week in May, 2010 was one of the most intense weeks of work that I’ve had for awhile.  And, looking back, I feel so good about it!  Yes, I got tired, hot and sweaty!  Yes, I got my 4x4 stuck, and yes, the differential plug came out of Dan’s tractor on the highway—but these short-term problems ended up with satisfactory solutions.

What is so “wonderful” about work?  My first thought is that I couldn’t have done what I did if I had not had my knee replaced 15 months ago.  Secondly, at 69, I didn’t know of what I was capable.

My satisfying week started on Saturday, May 22.  A team from our Sunday School class constructed 5 raised beds at a free health clinic in the inner city of Lexington.  A class member, Dale, and I hauled 3 ½ cubic yards of dirt to fill the beds, and they were all planted by noon.  Our planting was timely, since we had rains Saturday afternoon and night.

A tree had fallen across a lane that gives us access to the lower side of our property.  It was a large Elm tree that had started sending limbs straight up like new trees.  A grape vine almost as large as my wrist encircled the tree.  I cut the stem into 3 large logs and was going to pull them out with my Titan.  But, alas, the rain-soaked roadway was too slippery—even for my 4-wheel drive—so I had to shut down and let the sun and wind dry out the surface enough for me to get some traction.  That’s one of the good things about retirement—I can wait until conditions get better.  And, that strategy worked.  Got the truck and the logs out by evening.  Those logs plus some salvaged from the burn pile gave me sides for two new raised beds. 

Amidst the work, Kaye and I took an evening to celebrate!  We used an 8-year-old wedding gift to dine at one of Lexington’s finest restaurants.  We truly celebrated 8 years of happy marriage.  We have lived by the example set in the book of Ruth, “Your people are my people; your God will be my God.”  We’ve cared for parents and grandchildren, we’ve worshipped together at both of our churches and shared work with friends at each church to serve people.  I wish we had logged the miles; there would be a bunch, with many of them round trips from Nicholasville to Tulsa or Nicholasville to Blacksburg.  Air miles have been accumulated with trips to California, Washington state, Hawaii and Chile.  We’ve also been to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and we’ve taken “History and Heritage” trips with grandchildren.  We still have 13 grandchildren who haven’t made the H&H trip.  Do you suppose the Lord will grant us health to finish this project?

The longest, but also some of the most fun, days were Wednesday and Thursday, working with Dan to make hay.  The hay-making took me back to my younger days and the great desire I had to farm.  I’d spent a lot of time in the hay field, but not on the bailer.  Dan trusted me with that task, and it took us awhile to get the unfamiliar machine adjusted.  But, by the second day, we got the tension on the bailer right.  On the way home, the transmission cap came off.  Dan’s ingenuity patched that problem until a permanent fix could be acquired.

I was tired at the end of those two days, but so happy that I could be useful to a friend and could be a team member to meet the ever-changing crises of farming.  The grandkids were impressed that old Grandpa could actually drive a tractor.  So that, along with a couple years’ worth of hay for Duke, was ample pay!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Raised Bed Gardening

Memory Garden

Kaye and I are enjoying raised bed gardening! David and I made some partial raised beds when we first landscaped the house, but my tradition was that vegetables were grown in rows.  Part of Kaye's dowery included raised beds that Jason had made for Kaye's backyard on Winthrop.  I reconstructed those and have added more.  We could have named this blog, "Absentee Gardening" because it seems we can manage the raised beds more effectively than we could a conventional garden.

These three beds were Kaye's. They now contain broccoli and cabbage; beets, lettuce, radishes, and kale; and onions.

Sugar Snap peas- probably followed by green beans.

This 6'x2' bed is a good size and shape, especially if you could only work it from one side. Three feet width is good if you can access both sides.

Railroad ties seem to make an optimum size. Ties are 8 feet long and half ties as ends make a bed 8'x3'
which allowed us to use landscape fabric as a ground cover/ weed and moisture barrier.  We are trying bush type zucchini,  yellow squash, and cucumber.  Rhubarb is in the background and we haven't tried it in a raised bed yet.

I am pleased with this new addition. It should last for a long time since it is made from locust logs.  I salvaged these from the burn pile.  Our neighbor is an arborist and had removed this tree from another garden. Little pepper plants, an egg plant, a container tomato plant and several "guard" marigolds are in this 5 day old bed with zinnias planted in the corners.

This is the newest of the raised beds. The big logs were heavy to wrestle into place.  Similar plants as the first log bed without the zinnias.

Our most productive beds are the patio beds that David and I constructed soon after we moved to the Hill.

The bed to the left has cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers. The bed to the right is our herb bed.

Lemon Balm can get out of control- we can't drink enough tea made from its leaves.  We also have cilantro, dill, common sage, rosemary, basil, oregano,  and thyme.

The bed below the patio has produced a good crop of tomatoes and can be watered by a soaker hose connected to two rain barrels.  Reused tree tubs are used to grow lettuce and spinach.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Community Garden at Refuge Health Center

We enjoyed working with a dozen or so others on Saturday to put in a vegetable garden for patients at the Refuge (free) Medical Clinic in downtown Lexington.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


My Sister-in-Law, Eileen Jones, sent this to me and I thought it was good enough to put wher I could find it:

Recently, I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged, and the mother said, 'I love you, and I pray you enough.'

The daughter replied, 'Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I pray you enough, too, Mom.'

They kissed, and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there, I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy, but she welcomed me in by asking, 'Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?'

Yes, I have,' I replied. 'Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?'

'Well...I'm not as young as I once was, she lives so far away & has her own busy life.  I have some challenges ahead, and the reality is - her next trip back will be for my funeral,' she said.

'When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I pray you enough.' May I ask what that means?'

She began to smile. 'That's a prayer that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.' She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and she smiled even more. 'When we said, 'I pray you enough,' we wanted the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.'

Then, turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory.

     I pray you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

     I pray you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

     I pray you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and

     I pray you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

     I pray you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

     I pray you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

     I pray you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

     Then, she began to cry, and walked away.

They say, it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but an entire life to forget them.

* Only if you pray, send this to the people you will never forget, and remember to send it back to the person who sent it to you.  If you don't send it to anyone, it may mean that you are in such a hurry that you have forgotten your friends.


To all my friends and loved ones,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In My Daughter's Eyes

For a very long time, I have been trying to figure out how to post this tribute to my nieces (as I obviously have no daughters!) If this works, turn up the volume and I hope you enjoy!

By the way, I started putting this together about 5 years ago. My plan was to give it on a DVD to the mothers of these girls for Christmas or Mother's day or something. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. . . Anyway, I got sidetracked and didn't do it and about three years ago or so, I updated it a little. I started trying to upload it to this blog about two years ago, and until yesterday had been unsuccessful. I did use it in a Homemaker lesson about Gifts from the Heart, several years ago. So, lots of ladies in South Central Kentucky have seen this, even if it has taken me all these years to get it to a place where family could see.

Monday, May 17, 2010

W. J. Absher Chapter 1

William Jesse Absher was born on September 29, 1920, although his birth certificate marks the date as Sept 21.  His sisters who were "walking family encyclopedias" were sure the 29th date was correct and attributed the error to a country doctor who was sometimes slow about getting birth records filed.  He was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia, but was moved to Montgomery County as an infant.  His dad, William Avery, was an entrepreneur and owned and operated sawmills and general stores about everywhere he went.  He moved his family to Montgomery County after buying a stand of timber.  He bought a house and General store on the Catawba Road in the McDonalds Mill community about a mile from the Roanoke County line.
            The Absher family was already large when W. J. was born.  His older brothers were Tivis, Frazier, Limuell, Harold and Creed. The older sisters were Helen, Viola, and Willie.  Two sisters, Fannie and Thelma, were born in Montgomery County.  William A. was a traveling man and was not always faithful to the mother of all those children, the former Dallas Allifair Cook.  Apparent infidelity produced a half brother for the Absher kids, Avery.  Avery Absher was taken in and raised like a son by Uncle Tivis’ family.  It is an interesting side note that W. J, and his half brother, the youngest of W. A.'s sons, finally got the names William and Avery.  Records indicate that these were both family names used over several generations.  William Avery used the abbreviation, Wm., to designate himself and used "Wm. Absher and Sons" for his business title.

  Bill’s mother, Dallas Allifair Cook, was from Richlands, VA.   Her brother, B. J. Cook, served as mayor of Richlands for several years.

  Much happened in Bill's early life but the tragedy of his father’s murder had to be a major obstacle for the young boy to overcome.  There was always speculation as to why  William Avery was murdered but the story William J. told me is as follows:

Wm. was working in Tazewell County.  He had a half sister, Cynthia.  Cynthia married John McGee, but their marriage was troubled.  John attempted to patch up the marriage by purchasing a nearly new Model A Ford for her to drive.  Must have been "too little, too late," since she told John that she was going to sell the car.  John’ response was that he would kill anyone that bought the car.  It’s unclear why Wm. proceeded to buy the car; had he known about the threat, did he think it had been retracted, or he just didn’t think it would happen?  At any rate he purchased the car and was driving Cynthia, her mother and a young boy up the dirt road from the coal tipple at Raven in Tazewell County toward Buchanan County.  They met a logging truck and pulled over to let it pass.  The truck was driven by John McGee and when he saw who was in the car he got out of his truck rather than passing and pulled out a gun, aiming it at Wm..  Wm. Raised his arm or reached for the gun but John pulled the trigger shooting William in the chest, killing him instantly.   John, in his enraged state, shot his estranged wife and her mother as they sat stunned in the car. The young boy was spared John’s wrath. The two wounded women survived the shots but at the scene, it appeared to be a massacre.  Wm’s brother, Charles, was first on the scene, and he summoned the law.  A deputy sheriff and a posse came and followed John to his house that was nearby.  John took refuge under his porch and began spraying bullets at the approaching posse.  Gunfire was returned and a bullet, allegedly from the deputy’s gun, struck and killed John.  This ended the case, so there was never a trial that may have detailed the events that led up to the shooting.

This all took place in the Spring of 1931.  Wm. was buried in a lonely grave at the crest of a ridge just up the hill from where he died.  His grave and head stone were moved to Blacksburg on October 31, 2003.
The tomb stone name is W. M. Absher but should have been "Wm." or "Wm. A. "
Growing up fast.

Bill was 10 years old when his all happened.  He lived at home with his mother and the younger brothers and sisters.  Most of the Absher kids left home to find work in their teens so it wasn’t long until Bill was the man of the house.  He felt the responsibility of caring for his mother and doing what he could to keep the subsistence farm producing something that they could eat or sell.  Bill grew up hunting, not as a sportsman but as a provider of food for the meager Absher table.  He always spoke of fried squirrel as a delicacy on the Absher table.  When the garden wasn’t in, cornmeal mush might be all that was on the table besides milk and butter that came from their few cows, unless Bill had shot a rabbit or a squirrel.  Their farm flock of chickens produced an occasional Sunday dinner.  This made the family look forward to Thanksgiving, since that was generally hog killing time.  Butchering was a community activity.  Hogs were fed to get heavy and fat so that there would be sufficient lard and cured meats to last most of the year.  Dressing hogs as a community activity made a lot of sense, since the hair had to be scalded and scraped off the pork carcasses.  Water was heated over a wood fire, and it took a lot of manpower to handle, scrape and hang the big carcasses.  Most farms had their own smoke houses, so the bellies, hams and shoulders were salted and smoked so they could keep for a long time without refrigeration.

Bill’s formal education began pretty informally in the old building that still stands
 (2010) on what used to be the Stanley Wright place, across the road from the home place and up the road a short distance toward the church.  The building was a church (before about 1880) and became an Odd Fellows’ Lodge.  The Lodge allowed the room downstairs to be used as a school.  The second school he attended was near Dry Run.  As the name implies, Dry Run is a streambed that is dry most of the time.  A dirt and/or gravel roadbed sometimes follows the streambed, and in wet weather the stream may use the roadbed.  Dry Run is a connector lane between the Catawba Road  (VA 785) and the Back Road. The Dry Run School was remodeled and a brick veneer was added by Bill Grub, fully disguising the old seat of education.  The third building in which Bill attended school also still stands and has been converted to an attractive home by Lonnie Agnew.  The lines of the building suggest a well-built structure.