Home, Jack!

Chauffeur. Driver.

Sounds luxurious. Carefree.    Expensive.

I’ve not calculated it. But my guess is that over 99% of the time I’m in a car, I’m the driver. On the odd time I’m not — it’s a luxury. Unless I’ve been requested to navigate I have options. Enjoy the scenery. Look over the edge and check the flood or drought stage of the river. Not think about which streets are one way. Or will the other drivers play nice and take turns at the four-way stop?

My parents picked up the phrase from a movie. Yes, they actually had “talking pictures” at that time. And to the end of his life, when dad got into a car as a passenger it was “Home, James.”

The ride below looks like a treat. On a sunny fall day. With a trained horse. But the driver is not James –

Take us home, Jack!

Take us home, Jack!

Starr Tree Farm includes five acres of pumpkin patch!  Check it out at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.



Today we continue our brief introductions to the sitting Justices on the United States Supreme Court.  I’m taking them in order from oldest to youngest and today we focus on Anthony M. Kennedy.

Justice Kennedy took up his duties on the supreme court in February 1988. Prior to that time he spent time in private practice, as a constitutional law professor, and judge. Immediately before his appointment he served as a federal judge inn the Ninth Circuit.

He’s the oldest, but not the only, current justice to be born in California. He’s the son of a lawyer and studied first at Stanford. Like several of his judicial companions, he also studied at Harvard Law School. He returned to California and centered his career in that state until nominated to the high court by President Reagan.

A formal tie remains in his assignment to handle emergency appeals from the West Coast, including the Ninth Circuit.

Justice Kennedy’s opinions and dissents through the years do not fit entirely into one column of either conservative or liberal. Is the case centered on the reach of government power? Does a social issue intersect with individual liberty? Best to wait until he hears both sides present the facts and deliberates. This is a justice whose opinions you do not want to “assume”.

Sun Lover

Flying Flowers. Masters of Disguise.

Butterflies get oooohs and aaaaahs from all ages. I remember small clouds of them rising from drying mud at the end of a driveway. Small white or sunny yellow were the most popular. Larger, darker Swallowtail visited on occassion.

When we were young and foolish — or perhaps curious and ill-informed — my brother and I found a cocoon and brought it inside in hope of watching it hatch. Nothing happened. Perhaps it was a dud. Or the change in temperature killed it.

I’m more inclined to let them be now. Perhaps if my camera’s handy I’ll snap a photo. But in general I’ll leave caterpillars and cocoons alone in the outdoors. The adults are such fun to watch flitting from blossom to blossom.

the Monarch of them all!

the Monarch of them all!



Antonin Scalia, currently the longest serving Associate Justice of the Supreme Court has a record that is focused and consistent in his method and rational.

One source referred to his philosophy as that of “originalism” and defined it as considering what the writers intended to be decisive. Justice Scalia does not view the Constitution as a “living” or “evolving” document. On this foundation he has become a defender of religious references in the public square and argues against removing them unless by specific statute.

Like many prominent lawyers, he’s an author. The most recent title in my sources was Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts from 2012. The title also reflects his history of using the text, and often only the text, rather than the legislative history of a statute.

He brought a history of private practice, teaching, and government service to the court when appointed by President Reagan in 1986.


Seasonal Hazard

The seasonal reminder came a couple weeks ago. I was visiting a local park and decided to take one of the nature trails for a few hundred yards.

Shhhhhhush. Plop.

I looked around, had a few suspects in mind, but didn’t see anything right away.

A few yards further down the trail I spotted one. Looked up again.

Shhhhhhush. Plop.

That time I saw the culprit. A black walnut. It’s enough for a person to grab their hard hat for a walk in the woods.


This tree, with it’s poised hazardous fruit, lives in St. Louis County.

No black walnut trees featured in the Crystal Springs books. But check out the evergreens and apple trees in Starr Tree Farm and Hiding Places.


This is the first in a series of posts introducing my readers to the justices of the Supreme Court. The court begins a new session on Monday — an event which puts them in the news.

Determined is only one of several words that could be selected to describe the subject of today’s post. The second woman to serve on the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is currently the oldest member.

A few situations in her life where determination became necessary.

Harvard Law School: One of eight women in a class of 500.  As a married student with a young child time management and organizational skills would be tested today. In the 1950’s add open hostility from male faculty and classmates to the issues confronting her daily.

Women’s Right Project for ACLU: Women’s rights. Equal rights. Human rights. In the 1970’s much progress was made. Thanks in part to the six landmark cases she argued before the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court of the United States: In 1993 when she took her seat on the court she joined Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed. She managed to make her voice heard. Difficult at best, strenuous for the three and a half years after O’Connor retired, she continues to express her thoughtful opinions on the cases accepted by the court.

Not all of my readers will admire her stand on certain issues. But I would expect all Americans to respect the hard work, intelligence, and determination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Tree Inspired

Trees are no stranger to this blog. I’ve chatted about a spruce planted during my 4-H days. I’ve mentioned bald cypress and their tricks with needles that make a Northerner think they’ve died.

And this year I’ve highlighted the neighborhood apple tree from twig, to bud, to bloom to fruit. I’ve even mentioned roots more than once – in reference to the need for a water supply in either the form of a refreshing rain or help from humans.

This takes roots to an entirely new level. They’re exposed. Naked. Embarrassed?

I’m thinking this is great inspiration for the engineers who create playground climbing structures.

What's under the stump?

What’s under the stump?

Apples are in season. Visit an infant orchard in Hiding Places.

Corn Belt

Corn belt. Wheat belt. Cotton belt.

In historical times, when I attended elementary school, we studied the major crops of the different regions of the United States. One year we even prepared product maps. Remember them?

I specifically remember a comment that my salmon jumping off the Washington coast looked like he was going to swallow the apple in the center of that same state.

Corn, cotton, wheat, rice, tobacco decorated vast areas in the center of the country. Photos of manufactured products — steel, cars, planes, and books highlighted other areas.

We did not, however, create a “corn belt” quite like the one this thin, seasonal restaurant greeter wears.

Corn fashion statement.

Corn fashion statement.


Cue the spooky, space epic, movie soundtrack.

Coming closer...closer...

Coming closer…closer…

We’re being invaded. Or is that the moon rising in broad daylight.

A few days ago I visited the sculpture park. To see what I could see and gather a few more examples of public sculpture to share on this blog. This park is known for large items. As I started up the grassy slope it first appeared as a white bump, perhaps equivalent to a mushroom popping up in spring grass.

It’s not spring. It’s bigger than a mushroom — much larger. Fine red lines interrupt the smooth white surface.

Step, step, step. I continue climbing up the gentle hill to see what I can see.

It looks back.

It looks back.

A Tale of Misfortune

You see photos of them in Kansas tourist literature.

They made an appearance after a tragedy in Ukraine.

Row after row of tall, green, sturdy stalks holding sunflower heads. Outlined with rim of yellow to attract pollinators, the seed heads mature in long summer days.

It went a little different in my garden.

They sprouted in a row. Critters nipped and snacked on several. A few (three) survived with stalks pushing the forming heads above the tomatoes. The shortest blossomed first. As they matured they drooped. One over the fence to greet the neighbor, another over the tomato ring to entangle with the vines.

When are they ready? Do I wait for them to dry on the stalk? I inspected one head, found formed seeds. I picked it to dry and set it aside on the patio.

It vanished. The thief left a mess of shells. Ah…should I blame chipmunks or squirrels?

The very next day I watched the thief in action. He wore gray and used his tail for balance as he skipped along the bent stalk. Chomp. Chomp. He carried away the smaller of the remaining heads.

Within minutes he returned with a friend. This time they pulled the seed container down and nibbled along the edges.

No seed will be saved by human to plant next year. Hope they enjoyed their treat.

Squirrel Snack Machine

Squirrel Snack Machine