About Us

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Indiana, United States
Debt free empty nesters...ready to stretch our wings. Life is good and we plan on making it even better. This blog is mostly about our trips to Vieques Puerto Rico, with a few odds and ends thrown in about our life after the mortgage.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sat morning rant...

Haven't had one of these in a while.

 I almost wrote about the soda ban in NYC, but thankfully  it got shot down by the NYC supreme court, a mere day before it was to go into effect. While Bloomberg's pompous belief that he and his administration had the right to dictate what volume of soda his constituents' may consume  (never mind the fact that one could to any of local pubs in NYC and order up your favorite ale in a pitcher) had an Orwellian colour about it, this story regarding  a Kansas couple basement garden looks like something directly out of 1984:


Kansas couple: Indoor gardening prompted pot raid

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — Two former CIA employees whose Kansas home was fruitlessly searched for marijuana during a two-state drug sweep claim they were illegally targeted, possibly because they had bought indoor growing supplies to raise vegetables.
Adlynn and Robert Harte sued this week to get more information about why sheriff's deputies searched their home in the upscale Kansas City suburb of Leawood last April 20 as part of Operation Constant Gardener — a sweep conducted by agencies in Kansas and Missouri that netted marijuana plants, processed marijuana, guns, growing paraphernalia and cash from several other locations.
April 20 long has been used by marijuana enthusiasts to celebrate the illegal drug and more recently by law enforcement for raids and crackdowns. But the Hartes' attorney, Cheryl Pilate, said she suspects the couple's 1,825-square-foot split level was targeted because they had bought hydroponic equipment to grow a small number of tomatoes and squash plants in their basement.

"With little or no other evidence of any illegal activity, law enforcement officers make the assumption that shoppers at the store are potential marijuana growers, even though the stores are most commonly frequented by backyard gardeners who grow organically or start seedlings indoors," the couple's lawsuit says.

The couple filed the suit this week under the Kansas Open Records Act after Johnson County and Leawood denied their initial records requests, with Leawood saying it had no relevant records. The Hartes say the public has an interest in knowing whether the sheriff's department's participation in the raids was "based on a well-founded belief of marijuana use and cultivation at the targeted addresses, or whether the raids primarily served a publicity purpose."

"If this can happen to us and we are educated and have reasonable resources, how does somebody who maybe hasn't led a perfect life supposed to be free in this country?" Adlynn Harte said in an interview Friday.

The suit filed in Johnson County District Court said the couple and their two children — a 7-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son — were "shocked and frightened" when deputies armed with assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests pounded on the door of their home around 7:30 a.m. last April 20.

"It was just like on the cops TV shows," Robert Harte told The Associated Press. "It was like 'Zero Dark Thirty' ready to storm the compound."

During the sweep, the court filing said, the Hartes were told they had been under surveillance for months, but the couple "know of no basis for conducting such surveillance nor do they believe such surveillance would have produced any facts supporting the issuance of a search warrant."

Harte said he built the hydroponic garden with his son a couple of years ago. He said they didn't use the powerful light bulbs that are sometimes used to grow marijuana and that the family's electricity usage didn't change dramatically. Changes in utility usage can sometimes lead authorities to such operations.

When law enforcement arrived, the family had just six plants — three tomato plants, one melon plant and two butternut squash plants — growing in the basement, Harte said.

The suit also said deputies "made rude comments" and implied their son was using marijuana. A drug-sniffing dog was brought in to help, but deputies ultimately left after providing a receipt stating, "No items taken."

Pilate said no one in the Harte family uses illegal drugs and no charges were filed. The lawsuit noted Adlynn Harte, who works for a financial planning firm, and Robert Harte, who cares for the couple's children, each were required to pass rigorous background checks for their previous jobs working for the CIA in Washington, D.C. Pilate said she couldn't provide any other details about their CIA employment.

Pilate said any details gleaned from the open records suit could be used in a future federal civil rights lawsuit.

"You can't go into people's homes and conduct searches without probable cause," Pilate said.
Leawood City Administrator Scott Lambers said Friday that he couldn't comment on pending litigation. The sheriff's office also had no comment.

"Obviously with an ongoing lawsuit we are not able to talk about any details of it until it's been played out in court," said Johnson County Deputy Tom Erickson.

Full story here



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Crab update....

Yes...Mr. Crab is still with us and he's growing. He's developed an affinity for all natural peanut butter (the fact that it's the only kind that Lorrie and I eat may have played a factor). The shell he's using in the above picture is one of about 4 that he likes, sometimes changing a few times a week. I keep saying he but it may be be a female. At any rate he/she's survived  5 weeks, only 31 more to go.
Spring has made it to Indiana, well it showed it's face to us yesterday (today we're under a winter storm warning with about 3 inches on the ground as I'm typing, YUK!). More crocuses blooming, more birds making spring music and at last I saw a Mourning Cloak. The Mourning Cloak is the first butterfly I see each year and it's usually on a walk over to the point.
  The one I saw today was in a different area of the woods than I normally find them. It was near where I was cutting up a huge red oak that had fallen late last summer. They are  amazing insects, not only in their beauty but  given the fact that they overwinter, crawling between some loose bark on a tree or even better yet between the logs in a cut woodpile.   
Many times when I'm cutting wood, especially oak, I'm reminded what Aldo Leopold wrote in "The Good Oak":
 There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.  To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue. To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside.
If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind  work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week-end in town astride a radiator. (Aldo Leopold - A Sand County Almanac)
My "good oak" had lived 107 years, at least that's the number of rings I counted and it will provide many a campfire for us.  It was while I was working away that I caught glimpse of Lorrie headed out of the house, wine bottle in hand, over to the cabin. She had a companion following her, Buddy. He showed up on our property about two weeks ago and has yet to leave (the fact that I've been feeding him might play a small part). He looks like a Golden Retriever/Chow or a Golden Retriever/ Shepherd mix to me. Anyway, he's a good looking sorta guy with a great disposition.   Still thinking about seeing Lorrie and Buddy heading over to the cabin and the fact that I had ran out of gas in the saw, meant it was siesta time for me too. With that I made my way over to the point:
There were a lot more crocus up and blooming:
There's a bust of a female that I bought at an auction years ago. We had no idea where to put it when we got back home so I took it out in the woods, along the path back to the point, and just stuck it there among the leaves. We've since planted daffodils all around it, they're just now beginning to come up. It catches people by surprise when they see it:
Buddy met me at the halfway point over to the cabin:
 Lorrie was stretched out enjoying the sun streaming in. Because of all the windows, our little cabin has a fair amount of solar heating. The outside temperature was 51, but inside the cabin it was 67 and it felt even warmer when you were laying in the sunshine:

It didn't take long for warm afternoon sun to lull us all into a nap, even Buddy:

We ended up spending the rest of the day over there, didn't get back to the house until after 8pm. Beautiful day


------------------------ 24 hour update-------------------------

What a difference 24 hours makes, especially if you live in Indiana. We've now got 6 inches on the ground and it's still coming down.  So glad we got to enjoy yesterday.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Paynes Gray days.....

It would seem that nature has a very limited palette  since we've returned home from Vieques, creating mostly Payne's gray skies.  This past week we even had a couple blasts of ice and snow, neither of which lasted long but both  of which I hope were the last gasps of winter.

The winds have been picking up all day long. They've been ushering in some warm air and that I'm thankful for. The mid 50 degree temps were enough to entice me out for a walk this afternoon, regardless of the overcast skies.  What I was looking for was a splash of color to break up the monotone canvas Lorrie and I have been starring at for what seems like months now. I was just lucky enough to be rewarded by a single clump of crocus that had decided to show itself and that was enough to put a smile on my face and give purpose to my afternoon stroll. I'm sure one of the deer will make this little brushstroke of color disappear :

As I made my way back to the point I noticed a change in the sounds of the birds. During the winter is seems the barren woods around our house are dominated by the caws of crows and the raucous chatter of jays. Oh you'll hear a nuthatch sometimes and a few woodpeckers, but the crows and the jays dominate. What I was hearing this afternoon was very different and seemed to confirm the crocus I had just photographed.  I suppose most of us experience this each year (well those of us that are not living in Vieques, that is). I think there's an unconscious association made with spring and those sounds. I did a bit of researching and found this:

For some, the magic moment happened a week ago. For others, it happened just the other day. Many are still waiting, but some morning soon they too will wake to the lilt of a backyard bird pleading for a mate.

Chickadees will whistle "Phoebe," nuthatches will honk like a tinny horn, titmice will screech "Peter, Peter, Peter," and woodpeckers will hammer out their heart's desire with their beaks against hollow branches.

"These are all winter birds. It's still winter, but the light, the changing light, has a hormonal trigger, and that starts the birdsong," said John Hanson Mitchell, an editor with the Massachusetts Audubon Society in Lincoln and author of A Field Guide to Your Own Back Yard.
Mitchell said the singing of the winter-resident birds is among the first signs that spring is around the corner. Birders begin to report the sounds in the middle weeks of February.John Dunning, an ecologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, said birds have photoreceptors in the bases of their brains that record the length of the dark period each day. As the darkness shortens, and as days lengthen, birds get spring fever."The photoperiod is very standard from year to year," he said."Days lengthen at a regular pace." Therefor, using the photoperiod to gauge the season is more reliable than, say, following cues such as an emergence of insects or a freshly sprouting plant.

Winter Residents
The first birds to sing of the pending arrival of spring are the same birds that never left for the winter, Mitchell said. In Massachusetts winter residents include chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, titmice, cardinals, and mockingbirds."They have millions of years of evolution learning to survive the winter," Mitchell said. "They're here because they know how to do it. Other species don't know how to do it, so they go south."
(full article here)

Anyway...the birds were singing and for that I'm glad. I walked back to the point. Daffodils are up, but not blooming yet. Cabin seemed to have made it through it's first winter just fine (I spent a large part of the afternoon over there today).  I took a picture of the outhouse, yes another one. It has seen 5 winters now and has acquired the patina that says it now belongs out there in the woods, like a right of passage, I'll be glad to see the cabin looking the same way:

There was one other bit of color way back behind the cabin. It was the string of prayer flags we bought in Vieques this last trip. I read on Trip Advisor about people worrying about not being able to find everything they might need while vacationing there and here I found Tibetan Prayer Flags. Yeah I know, I could have probably bought them for half of what I paid but that's not the point. I do appreciate what Margaret has done with the Emporium since we first visited it. At that time  it was  a tiny place behind Lazy Jacks. She now  has everything from cigars to organic teas. Great place.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Playa Plata Players....

Just got an email from our good friends David and Andrea. David attached a short film clip  they created while spending time on La Plata. Those of you who follow this blog will know who this little skit is about.