Reasons to Skip Thanksgiving

thankful, thanksgivingI heard an interesting program on the radio yesterday. It started by citing a poll which asked people, “If you were offered a thousand dollars to forgo the traditional Thanksgiving celebration, would you do it?” The majority of those asked stated they would pass on the money because their traditional celebration with family is too important to them.

That’s a good answer: family should be more important than money. But in many cases Thanksgiving seems to have gone the way of most “traditional” holidays: especially this year.

With social and political issues causing deep rifts in families and social groups, can your gathering be kept civil and respectful of one another? Can you be thankful for their presence in your life and at your table?

Every year I hear more people moaning about the amount of work and expense they had to put into preparing The Feast and cleaning up after. If these are things you dread as it approaches and complain about afterward, can you be truly thankful for any of it?

Has this holiday lost its meaning? Do you spend more than 23 seconds just before you eat being thankful for anything, or is it all about a long weekend, gluttony, football, and a big party?

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, make it about being thankful. If you cannot be thankful for what you have, where you are in life, and for your family and friends; you might as well skip the whole thing, or tell the gang, “We’re going out for dinner – and it’s Dutch treat.”

Simple Living and Technology

At first glance, the concepts of living a simple life and embracing modern technology would indeed seem to be strange bedfellows.  And our minimalist cousins are quick to point to the high cost of purchasing, maintaining and upgrading personal electronic gadgetry… and they are right to do so.  Especially when you consider the cost of required ancillary services like cell phone air time and ISP fees for computers.  However, for us not-quite-minimalists, there are some advantages to be had that can allow us to live more simply if we choose carefully and eliminate the unnecessary.



Cell Phones

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Seeking the History of the Screened Porch

Anyone who has experienced one has to admit that a screened porch is a wonderful addition to any house. A screened porch offers the breezes, scents, sounds, and sights of being outdoors – but without the bugs and the blazing sun. In rural areas – before air conditioning became rampant – many people used a screened porch as a bunk room on particularly sweltering summer nights.

Victorian home with a sleeping porch on the second floor. Usually built off a bedroom, the sleeping porch was screened in on three sides for maximum air circulation.

But like so many brilliant architectural adaptations, the screened porch has been shoved aside by more modern innovations and changes in lifestyle. Conversion to a year-round sunroom or blown out into a larger deck or patio that offers a full open-air atmosphere, the screened porch is fast becoming a nostalgic memory.

Have you ever wondered who first thought of enclosing a porch with window screening? Let’s have a seat in the Wayback Whensday machine and see what we can find out. Continue reading “Seeking the History of the Screened Porch”

A Right Fine Settn Porch

senset from the porchThere are few things I find more enjoyable than the simple pleasure of sitting on a proper porch with my beloved and a glass of cold lemonade on a warm summer evening. This evening is one such.

Temperatures during the day had gotten up into the mid 80s, but as the sun slides down behind English Mountain across the valley from us the temperature eases. The sky splashed with pink, rose, mauve and vermilion slowly deepens into amethyst, violet and plum. A few bright stars burn through the gauzy haze of high, thin clouds which provide a canvass for the setting sun to paint upon.

To the south the multiple ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains slowly disappear into the dusk. A Chuck Wills Widow sits in the top of a tree across the hard-road, a hundred feet or so downhill from us, and serenades us with his gentle melody. Crickets chirp, cicadas thrum, tree frogs trill.

A flying beetle thumps determinedly against the glass of the porch light. It looks like a June bug, but it’s the wrong time for June bugs, unless he’s a confused June bug. I switch the light off to save him from endangering his well being (and annoying us) and so we can get a clearer view now that the sky is dark.   Continue reading “A Right Fine Settn Porch”

Snow Day for Blondie

snow dayIt snowed yesterday.  It snowed last night.  It’s snowing again this morning.  We currently have 6 or 7 inches of snow on the ground.  For New Hampshire, that’s nothing; for Tennessee that’s crippling.  The entire region has declared a snow day.  Schools closed yesterday.  Government offices are closed.  Most businesses are closed, those that are open are running on skeleton crews.  The road crews are pleading with folks to stay home: stay off the roads so they can get them cleared.  Stuck vehicles just slow them down.  We’ll just hunker in and make the most of it.  The dogs will enjoy this special play day with both of us here.

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Rooted in Minimalism

minimalist sculpture Tony Smith

As you know, Dear Reader, I have recently been looking at and talking about the concepts of minimalism.  While I can not currently claim membership in that club, it is the direction in which I’m moving, and it occurs to me that it is the direction from whence I came.  Yes, I was once a certifiable minimalist – long before it was popular, before there was a fancy nameplate to hang on one’s door to announce it to the world.  It was just the way it was.  No; I didn’t grow up in the Great Depression, it was something far stranger than that.

You see, it began in childhood.  We were an Air Force family and the government has never been any too generous with Non-Com pay rates.  My parent’s always saw that the 4 of us young’uns had what we needed, but frills were few.  Don’t get me wrong; we weren’t raised in a packing crate or anything, we were comfortable and happy.  The only time I ever felt even a little deprived was when a friend came to school wearing a pair of the latest tennis shoes – you know, the ones that make you run like the wind and allow you to leap over small buildings in a single bound, I’d feel a twinge of envy.  But it passed quickly.  My parents raised us with better values than that.  They taught us to find contentment in what we had.  More or less!   Continue reading “Rooted in Minimalism”

Simple Living and Minimalism

Minimalist and Minimalism, Dear Reader, are terms we hear bandied about quite a bit these days.  So I thought I’d take a look at minimalism in terms of how it relates to living a simpler life.  First let’s look at a brief history of the minimalist movement.

History of Minimalism

minimalist art paintingThe minimalist movement came into being in the 1950’s as an artistic expression in which a painter or sculptor would employ an extreme economy in his or her work; eliminating all complexity and reducing the work to it’s most basic shape or form.  Using very simple shapes and colors to evoke the emotion they desired.

This trend was picked up in the 1970’s by the performing arts when stage productions were done with no sets and only a bare minimum of props; relying on the performers to convey the setting and mood of their location and situation.  A bizarre off-shoot of this trend developed when certain producers decided to take it a step further and put on plays that included no costumes – the performers were naked – or nearly so – as well as the stage.

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The Ups and Downs of Slope Side Living part 2

Last time I covered some of the challenges people will face while setting up home in mountainous terrain.  This time I want to look at some of the rewards and drawbacks of living here.

Our Mountain Home

Before we were married, Marie was a life-long resident of St. Louis, Missouri. She grew up being able to walk to school, the library, and the neighborhood grocery store. Many of her relatives and most of her friends lived right in her neighborhood. When desired, her family could get in the car and drive a few minutes to find most anything their hearts desired. The gratification of going out for something and coming back home with it that day was a way of life.

During my youth, we lived mostly rural. Often in a community that was little more than a handful of homes, a post office and a grain elevator. A few times in a small town with a population of a few hundred, a bank, post office, maybe a couple of grocery stores (just to make it interesting) and a Woolworth’s. Other times truly rural: out in the sticks. We moved a lot, and we preferred a little elbow room.

When Marie and I married, the wisest thing to do was for me to let go of my little rural rental house and move to the city to share a home with her. For a few years I became accustomed to the convenience of being able to buy lumber and supplies as needed for my woodworking because several specialty stores were just a few minutes of driving away.

How we came to move to the mountains is a story unto itself, but as we formulated that plan the biggest hurdle in Marie’s mind was going to be giving up the convenience of having all the trappings of life so close at hand. Her only real demand was that there would be a Wal-Mart within a reasonable distance … and that we have the fireplace she has always wanted.

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Good Mountain Morning

The fragrance of wood smoke scents the crisp December air.  The rosy glow of dawn creeps across clouds over the mountain top, raked by the bare branches of winterized hardwood trees. I grab another armload of firewood to carry it inside the workshop and lay it on the warming rack above the woodstove that heats the workshop. A bright fire is blazing inside the stove. It’s a good start; that will soon take the edge off the chill in the shop.

English Mountain in the morning

I pause to look out across my “front yard” which slopes down the face of Piney Mountain. The town of Newport TN, a collection of specks of light from here, occupies the valley floor. On the other side, English Mountain looms; shaped like a great sperm whale swimming lazily through the grey morning mists.

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Is Honesty Obsolete?

Recently I went to Tractor Supply and bought a roll of 24” high chicken wire – excuse me; Poultry Mesh, for some fence boxes I’m making for my garden. They carry the mesh in 50 foot rolls for $18 and 150 foot rolls for $45. I decided the 50 foot roll would do 3 boxes and might be all I’ll need for a while. The 150 is a better value, but I’m not sure I’ll need 9 more fence boxes.

The gal at the register rang me up, and said, “He’s unloading a truck out back right now, the gate is open, just grab what you need.” So I walked across the parking lot to the fenced-in area where they store lots of stuff, found the rack of chicken wire, saw the blue & while sign attached to the top of a cell reading “24” x 50’ Poultry mesh, just $17.99”, grabbed a roll, took it back to the truck and went on my way.

Mid afternoon I got to where I was ready to build another box and began to open up the roll of mesh. The label on the roll caught my eye: 24” x 150’. RATS! Continue reading “Is Honesty Obsolete?”