Communion Of Dreams

We all need a little TLC now and then.
October 25, 2013, 10:00 am
Filed under: Art, Google | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Even 350 year old trees:

McBAINE — Five years ago, when the father-son duo of Bill and Kyle Spradley teamed up to give the state champion bur oak at McBaine some much-needed attention, they were joined by a handful of people.

Yesterday, more than 40 people gave the majestic tree a hefty dose of TLC. The gathering included representatives of 10 organizations and businesses from across the state — most of them arborists or rural electric linemen experienced in tree-trimming and pruning.

That goes to show how much people care about this tree,” said Kyle Spradley, a senior information specialist at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Spradley also has his own photography business, and many of his photos feature the McBaine bur oak.


I’ve written about the tree previously, for the very good reason that it is the image used on the cover of Communion of Dreams (and so, at the top of this blog).  And I’m glad to see this sort of effort to help care for the tree, and preserve it for future generations.   Seriously, if you haven’t ever seen it in person, and you find yourself in the area, it is worth a visit.

In the meantime, you can see images of the work done this week here, and a simple image search will bring up plenty of great shots of it.


Jim Downey

October 24, 2013, 12:50 pm
Filed under: Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: , , , , , , ,

As he came into the open from the narrow spiraling stairs, he saw a man standing on the upper viewing platform, calmly looking out over the city as he leaned on the ramparts. He was tall, even though he had a slight stoop which Darnell sensed came from extreme age. And while he wore a large, wide-brimmed hat, it was clear that he still had a full head of  hair, mostly of the sort of silver color which suggested it had once been deep black. His full yet neat beard was completely white. He wore no glasses, and noticed as Darnell emerged from the darkness of the tower.

Darnell nodded to the man. “Hello.”

“Good afternoon,” said the man in reply. His voice was rich, still solid. There was a touch of an accent that seemed familiar to Darnell, though it was neither American nor Welsh. He turned his attention back to the city below them, but spoke again. “You’ve come a long way.”

And with those words, Darnell was better able to define the accent. Mediterranean. Possibly Greek. “So have you.”

“True enough.” He looked at Darnell, smiled just a bit. His eyes were dark, a little sad. He glanced east to the castle proper, then north, where the mass of the Great Orme disappeared in low-hanging clouds. Then back at Darnell, seeming to size him up. “I suspect that both of us have a ways yet to go.”

“If we’re lucky.”

“Perhaps.” He stepped past Darnell, and disappeared down the stairs without another word.


The writing is going well. Things are coming together nicely.


Jim Downey

Oh. Yeah.

Remember this?

Hab harvest, 2013

Hab harvest, 2013


Well, this morning I got started turning those into this:

Simmer, simmer

Simmer, simmer


Which resulted in this, after other ingredients were added and it was allowed to simmer for a while:




Which was then run through a blender for a bit, then cranked through a Foley food mill to remove seeds and skins, resulting in this:

Oh. Yeah.

Oh. Yeah.


Which became 30 half-pint jars of just incredible sauce. So, there’s about two full habs per ounce of this stuff. I just had about 1/8th a teaspoon on a burger, and my oh my.

I think I’ll call it Scorpion Blood, since it includes (among other varietals) two different ‘Scorpion’ peppers: the Moruga Scorpion, and the Trinidad Scorpion.



Jim Downey

Recipe, for those interested:

  • Approximately 500 peppers, crown removed and cut in half
  • Half a gallon of natural apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 8 tablespoons of Kosher salt
  • Quart of homemade tomato sauce
  • 20 ounce of chopped garlic
  • 2 yellow onions, rough chopped

Prepare all ingredients. Put peppers, onion and vinegar in 5 gallon stock pot, simmer until peppers & onion all soft.  Add other ingredients, simmer about an hour, stirring often.

Scoop into blender, do a rough blend for 15 – 20 seconds. Then pour into Foley food mill, and crank until just seeds and skins are left.  Transfer to jar, can.

Mmm. Cobbler.

Among other things, my Good Lady Wife is the exec of the local chapter of the AIA. And last night they had their annual awards dinner.

Now, you might think that such an event would be formal and fancy. But that would be ‘big city’ thinking. This is where it happened:


No, I’m not kidding. Here’s another pic:


It’s the Claysville Store, just off the Katy Trail at mile 150 outside Hartsburg.

Here’s a nice little video about the place:


Here it is from the Trail:


And here are a couple of images taken from the Trail while I was wandering around:



So, if you find yourself on the Trail, or in mid-Missouri sometime and are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, give them a look. Excellent, simple fare. Limited menu, and hours.

But man, the blackberry cobbler was delicious.


Jim Downey

A good year for peppers.
October 18, 2013, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Gardening, Habanero, Weather | Tags: , , , , ,

My sister dropped me a note. It included this:

Also, now that it has been a bit, how are you doing without Alwyn there?  I’m sure that you miss him terribly!!


* * * * * * *

Typical for this time of year, weather forecasts are now starting to include the possibility of frost. I decided that this afternoon I’d go out and harvest the rest of my Habanero crop in advance of some rain we’ll probably get tonight. This is what I brought in:

Hab harvest, 2013

Hab harvest, 2013


Compare that to three years ago:


Or three years before that:

Habenero Harvest


Notice the difference? Yeah, a *lot* more fully or partially ripe ones in this year’s crop. Even though both of those other picks were taken about two weeks later in the season. Interesting.

There’s about 700 – 800 in this year’s pic, based on the totals listed in those earlier posts. Should make for a nice big batch of insanely hot sauce.


* * * * * * *

My sister dropped me a note. It included this:

Also, now that it has been a bit, how are you doing without Alwyn there?  I’m sure that you miss him terribly!!

My reply:

Yeah, definitely. Still keep expecting to see him when I turn a corner, still by reflex go to call him when I go out to take something to the compost pile, and so forth.

“And so forth.”

That would have included going out with me this afternoon to pick peppers. He just loved going outside with me, any chance he got.

Yeah, I miss him.

But it’s been a good year for peppers.


Jim Downey

To sleep, perchance to clear amyloid plaques.*

Interesting. They may have found the reason that animals sleep: in order to flush the brain of toxins which build up during waking hours.

And more importantly, this may also be part of the explanation for Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementia. From the NPR article linked above:

The brain-cleaning process has been observed in rats and baboons, but not yet in humans, Nedergaard says. Even so, it could offer a new way of understanding human brain diseases including Alzheimer’s. That’s because one of the waste products removed from the brain during sleep is beta amyloid, the substance that forms sticky plaques associated with the disease.

That’s probably not a coincidence, Nedergaard says. “Isn’t it interesting that Alzheimer’s and all other diseases associated with dementia, they are linked to sleep disorders,” she says.

Researchers who study Alzheimer’s say Nedergaard’s research could help explain a number of recent findings related to sleep. One of these involves how sleep affects levels of beta amyloid, says , a professor of neurology Washington University in St. Louis who wasn’t involved in the study.

Perhaps it is time for a nap …


Jim Downey

*With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare.

New perspective.

Via Phil Plait, had to share this:


Saturn, obviously. But from a new perspective, as Plait explains:

But dominating this jaw-dropping scene are Saturn’s magnificent rings, seen here far more circular than usual. Cassini’s mission has been to observe Saturn and its moons, which means it tends to stay near the planet’s equator. But now scientists are playing with the orbit more, to do more interesting science. The spacecraft is swinging well out of the equatorial plane, so here we see the rings at a much steeper angle, and they are less affected by perspective.

And here’s the link to the full-size image, which is definitely worth a look.


Jim Downey