Friday, May 29, 2009

One year anniversary!

Today is our first anniversary in our new home.

I'm still unpacking boxes; the last of them are the ones for my office and ones out in the shed. Everything else is done, with the excess hauled to Goodwill. My office will be finished by the end of this summer and the shed will be finished by December (don't fool with it during the hot, hot summer).

We have renovations planned: the kitchen and both bathrooms. All the ceiling fans have been replaced and most of the light fixtures (no more "contractor specials"!). We have installed a new front door and a new door to downstairs. And plan on replacing all the other interior plastic doors with wooden 3 panel doors. We are going to rebuild and expand the deck and put on a front porch. And there is painting to do. This isn't all at once... we have years to work on our home.

I've spent a year watching the yard, and now I am ready to start working on it. There were some beautiful springtime surprises of daffodils, tulips and crocus (most of which I have to move!). This year we will be laying out some of the bones of our gardens... lots up weed/grass killing and mulching (some areas are just too much a pain to fool with mowing), putting in flower beds, a cactus garden, in the lower corner an area of grasses (ones that like it dry!) and a fire pit. Taking out bushes planted wrong (growing too big for where they are) and adding in some in other areas. One of the mulched areas will be a butterfly and bird garden. Herbs and veggies are going to have to wait another year, too much needs to be done to prep the soil.

Not such a fun surprise was the bad drainage problem (the sellers of this home had some gravel hauled in to hide the ruts when they put on the market... first hard rain showed what they did!). So this month we are having the "upper drive" redone... making the approach from the road wider, the drive less angular and the parking area MUCH larger. Also will be addressing the drainage issues by have a ditch worked on and the walls of a French drain repaired.

It has been an adjustment being a 'country mouse' rather than a 'city mouse'. I make a very careful shopping list because to "run to town" to pick up something I forgot is a 14 mile one-way trip (unless I want to stop at the VERY spendy little market 4 miles away). Six miles up the road is the "convenience center": known to us as the "mini dump". No trash pick-up in the country and I've learned I can't have 2 ton trash bags anymore...since I have to lift each bag over my head to throw it in the dumpster! That's where the nearest gas station is too.

In the country you brake for deer and strutting turkeys, not dogs and snarly teens. In the country you stop and help a neighbor catch up his loose bull before you head into town. In the country you realize that people still wave 'hello' and aren't using another hand gesture... In the country you find out that a house makes all sorts of sounds you never heard over the noise in town. In the country you realize that birds still sing and ones you have never seen before come to your feeders. And in the country you look up at a million stars in the night sky and know you don't want to ever live any place else again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why we give

In Zimbabwe, children pick up single corn kernels that have been spilled on to the road by trucks ferrying maize imported from South Africa.

In Kenya, children unload food donated by Feed The Children. Tonight 1000 children will not be hungry when they go to bed... many for the first time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Hero for Today: Pemba Gyalje Sherpa

The savior and the storm on K2

Heroism: Pemba Gyalje Sherpa

Text by Christian DeBenedetti
Photograph by Daniel Pepper

On August 1, 2008, at just about 8 p.m., a massive serac cleaved from a glacier near the summit of K2, the world's second highest mountain, and barreled down a section of the Cesen climbing route called the Bottleneck. In an instant, one climber was dead, key safety lines were swept away, and 17 climbers were trapped above 27,000 feet with little chance of escape.

In the days ahead, the disaster on K2 would become one of the deadliest mountaineering incidents in history, leaving 11 victims in its wake. The tragedy would shake modern mountaineering to its core. And it would yield a hero, Pemba Gyalje Sherpa.

Pemba, 34, and three members of his Norit K2 team—leader Wilco van Rooijen, Marco Confortola, and Gerard McDonnell—reached the Bottleneck minutes after the serac fell. Rather than face a dangerous descent in total darkness, Pemba's three teammates decided to bivouac for the night. At 27,000 feet the temperatures would reach minus 40ºF. Pemba, a seven-time Everest veteran, knew the dangers of the death zone. He chose instead to descend the Bottleneck alone, without oxygen, picking his way down the 60-degree couloir guided by a single tattered safety line that had survived the avalanche. He reached Camp IV by 1 a.m. His teammates, he assumed, would be down at first light.

By daybreak on August 2, chaos reigned. More than a dozen climbers were missing or dead, and the weather had worsened considerably. Van Rooijen had staggered away from the team, desperate to get down by a different route, and soon became hopelessly lost. McDonnell had wandered back uphill, apparently confused. Frostbitten and delirious, Confortola had climbed partway down the Bottleneck, unable to remember how he'd done it. Just before he passed out from altitude sickness, a second avalanche swept toward him carrying McDonnell's mangled corpse.

With his team in shambles, Pemba had to act fast. He heard over the radio that Confortola had been spotted midway up the Bottleneck. "I thought, OK, if we are lucky, I can rescue Marco," Pemba says. So he began to climb, soloing through swirling snow up the couloir. "It was very scary, but I knew Marco was still alive," he says. "I could not turn back."

When Pemba reached Confortola some hours later, the Italian was in bad shape, unconscious and suffering from severe altitude sickness. Somehow Pemba managed to revive him with oxygen and guide him to the base of the Bottleneck. At that moment another slide roared from above, this time carrying the bloodied bodies of two Sherpas and two Korean climbers. A chunk of falling ice blasted Confortola in the back of the head. Dazed, the Italian began to slip. "I was falling," he told a reporter. "The avalanche would have taken me away. But Pemba grabbed me from behind. He was holding my neck. He saved my life."

By the time the pair made it to Camp IV, Pemba was shattered, collapsing into his tentfor a few hours' sleep. When he woke that evening, he got word that van Rooijen, the lost Norit K2 leader, was still alive. He had to go out again.

After a night alone in the open with no water and no ice ax, van Rooijen had been presumed dead. Then, unexpectedly, he called his wife on his satellite phone. Using the call data, the Norit K2 team fixed his location on the mountain's South Face, far from any known routes.

Armed with only rough coordinates, Pemba, along with another survivor, Cas van de Gevel, struck into terra incognita, picking across avalanche-prone terrain at night. After searching for hours, the pair decided to resume the next day. They finally found van Rooijen in the late afternoon by following the sound of his ringing cell phone. The three men staggered into Camp III well after dark, on August 3, exhausted but alive.

In the weeks after the tragedy, Pemba returned to his Kathmandu home, far from the horrors he'd just witnessed. You'd think that after such an experience, he would never want to climb again, soured forever. But Pemba has no such plans. He'll be back in the mountains, he says, by the time next season rolls around. Thank goodness. Climbing needs more heroes like him.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bonsai Workshop

Himself and I traveled an hour and a half east to Lebanon, TN to attend a bonsai workshop. The workshop lesson was on how to pick out trees to work with from nursery stock. Excellent!

We were told to bring anything we were working on that we’d like to get some help with. For me… that was EVERYTHING! All five of them. One was the tree I’d worked on in March (the sticks – which by the way have leafed out nicely), three were nursery plants I had gotten at Lowes because I thought they had potential and the last was a Japanese maple that I had nearly killed in the move last year (trees do need watering occasionally!).

Now imagine my surprise when the lecturer used my table as his examples of what to look for! And my bigger surprise when he had only nice things to say about what I’d picked out!! That made me feel really good.

Next we went out into the nursery grounds and Owen showed what trees were good candidates and what were a bit too fussy to try to do bonsai on. He said “in general” nursery stock is a good choice because the plant is already used to being abused. He also said that the reject area of a nursery is a good place to look, as the plants go cheap and need some serious pruning anyway.

I found 2 plants in the reject area and 3 in the regular area that I want to work on.

So these 10 should keep me busy for this year!

My nursery stock prospects.

Working on a tree

Wiring the branches

Finished... for now...

Making the tree look aged

Pruning for the perfect shape