Turtle Days 2018

Turtle Days 2017 was a milestone for me. I was 7 months into working on losing weight and getting healthy and the 2017 Turtle Days 5K was a goal I had set for myself.

Fast forward to 2018 and I’m toeing the line again at the Turtle Days 5K. The weight and health work has continued and I’m down 50 pounds from my peak and doing triathlon training. On a miserably hot and muggy June Saturday I clocked a 27:01 for a 5K. 3 minutes (or 10%) improvement over last year, but I’d hoped for more.

The race course this year, as it did in 2017, finished on the high school track. And as in 2017 today I thought about my glory days as an 880 runner in high school, 40 years and more gone by now.

Back then, as now, I was a mediocre runner. I could win a race in a dual meet against a weak opponent, finish in the middle of the pack in a race with good opponents, and when our coach for some reason entered me in an AAU meet with kids headed for Division I track programs, the last I saw were my competitors disappearing into the distance.

I read an advice column early this week where the columnist said, “Think about the letter you’d write to 20 years ago you. And now think about the letter 20 years from now you might write to you today.”

Thinking about a letter to 40 years ago me, I’d say, “Revel in your strength and speed. A 2:08 880, how incredible is that? Yeah, you’re not and aren’t going to be a D-I athlete, but you’re strong and fast and your life is going to be amazing [1].”

Which got me thinking about the letter 100 years old me might send to 60 years old me. “A 27 minute 5K, how incredible is that? Swimming 1,000 yards in 20 minutes? Biking for 60 miles? Revel in your strength and speed!”

I’m feeling slow after a 27 minute 5K? 100 year old me says I’m a speed demon.

I think I’ll listen to 100 year old me.

1. But not at all what you’re planning, 17 year old me.

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Pinned Under Heavy Things. Version 1.

In the spring of 1968 I was 10 years old, and I broke my leg. My brother Dave and I were driving an Allis Chalmers C and fighting over who should control the throttle. We were so busy fighting over it that we didn’t notice the garden wall until we were going over it. I was sitting on the right, Dave on the left, and Anne was riding on the back. When the tractor went over the wall and started to roll, I jumped right and Dave jumped left and Anne stepped off the back. The tractor rolled to the right and pinned me underneath it, snapping both my fibula and tibia just above the ankle.

Rolled

Anne went running into the house to get Dad. Mom was at IPFW, working on her bachelor’s degree. Dad came out and heaved the tractor off of me. I don’t remember this, but Dad told me later he’d just spread manure on the garden. So in addition to being pinned under a tractor with a broken leg, I was face down in fresh manure. “I’m ok, I’m ok. Put me down. [1]” I remember saying to Dad as he carried me into the house. Meanwhile my right foot was waving back and forth, unconnected by bone to the rest of my leg.

These were the good old days, before 911, before there were more cars than people in a household. Mom had taken the car to school that evening. Before cell phones so Dad could call Mom and tell her what happened. Dad called my Grandma who lived 3 miles away and she came up to take us to the hospital in the 1966 Rambler. Years later it occurred to me to ask who stayed with Dave and Anne when I went to the hospital. Grandma did while Dad took me in. [2]

Dr Minnick, the same Dr. Minnick who would look at me 13 years later when I pinned my stupid self under a combine (pinned again), set my leg in the emergency room at the Whitley County Hospital. When I swam up from the anesthesia my Mom was there and everything was ok. [3]

Fixed

My right foot points about 15 degrees to the right, and my right leg’s somewhat shorter than my left, but other than that, it’s just an amusing anecdote; of being young and dumb, of loving parents and grandparents, of good country doctors, and of life – tragic and comic.

1. I knew I was in trouble (and didn’t realize I had a “get out of trouble free card” since my leg was broken)

2. It has somehow never occurred to me before now that my Dad drove me to the hospital again when I got pinned under a piece of farm machinery in 1968, and again in 1981. Farming is a rough gig.

I would much rather get pinned under a few tons of iron than to ever have to pry my son out from under them. It’s a horror as old as time, “The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you–O Absalom, my son, my son!” – 2 Samuel 18:33. Did my father weep for me? I wish I could ask him.

3. Mom told me later she felt so horribly guilty for not being there when in it happened. All I remember is her being there when I woke up and feeling so safe because she was [4].

4. 50 years gone by now, I was sitting with Mom again in the Whitley County Hospital this weekend. I wish I could’ve been the comfort to her that she was to me.

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A Not Bad Day

It was a bad day at work. The particulars don’t matter, just that if computers can store a ton of data, you can also lose that ton of data in a blink.

My boss was melting down through the day as we worked through it, but as we left for the day she said to me,

“It’s just data, right?” [1]

“Yep,” I replied, “nobody got hurt and we all get to go home.”

“Where we’re loved.” she answered.

And that’s the truth. I’ve had days [2] where someone got hurt, where someone didn’t get to go home.

It’s just data, and I’m at home, with my beloved.

It’s not a bad day.

1. I have the best boss ever.

2. Not too many, but even a few are too many.

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A Good Day

It’s hard to imagine a better day than today.

Incredibly, the Wonder Dogs [1] slept until 5am. So we all got up and went down to get the paper, and the paper was actually there. Back up to the house and a delicious breakfast of dog food (for the Wonder Dogs) and oatmeal and reading the paper (for me).

Kicked off a script that takes 8 hours to run on the web portal, and then headed to the Y for my Saturday ‘Swim and Spin.’ I did 2 x 500 yards intervals hard in the pool, and then an hour spin class. I was pleasantly exhausted afterwards.

Back home to plan the menu for the week and put together a grocery list. Then I put my bicycle in my pickup to take it into Summit City Bicycles for a tune up in anticipation of the coming good weather and outdoor cycling.

I dropped my bike off at my favorite bike store (see above) and (after a lingering gaze at all the wonderful bikes and gear they have there) headed for the Coliseum to see Debbie [2] where she was working at the Home and Garden Show. I turned onto Coliseum Blvd at Lima Road and whoa! It was stopped dead. I sat between Lima and Glenbrook Mall for 20 minutes before deciding to give up. I pulled a u-turn and went back down Coliseum to Lima, turned left and then right onto Ice Way Drive and had lunch at Skyline Chili.

A small 5-Way and a Cheese Coney later I felt fortified to try to get to the Coliseum again. I cut through Glenbrook Mall and the neighborhoods south of Coliseum Blvd and dashed across Parnell and I was there.

Well, almost. Crazy busy for the Home and Garden Show. I parked way out yonder, where the Wizards stadium used to be. I hiked up to the Coliseum and used my super exclusive pre-paid pass to skip the line that was 300 people deep and walked right in.

Bonus! I clear the gate and walk in and here comes Debbie [2] motoring up the entrance ramp. “Debbie!” I shout and wave. She holds up a hand and says “I’ll be right back,” and motors on.

And she is right back and we cruise the Arbor Farms booth and some of the lesser booths. I’ve seen all I need to see and Debbie walks me out and then says, “Wait.” She walks over to the ramp and points out a shrub. “We need a witch hazel, don’t you think?” And I do, I do think we need a witch hazel, and honestly I’ve been waiting since 1973 for someone to say that to me [3].

Leaving the Home and Garden Show I swing by Wine Time to pick up a bottle of our favorite white wine, then to the grocery store to pick up our groceries for the week (see ‘plan the menu’ above). My cart is full of good things, veggies and fruits, and I get out of there for hardly any dollars.

Then back home and the Wonder Dogs are besides themselves with joy see me. We go out and start pruning the fruit trees in our orchard. We only have about 10 trees, but I don’t know what I’m doing, so it goes slowly. I get 5 trees done and it’s getting late and Debbie [2] will be home soon, so I go in to start supper.

Supper is lamb chops, Moroccan-style, marinated in spices and yogurt and then grilled, with farro with herbs and a green salad.

And now Purdue whips Penn State in the Big Ten tourney.

It’s hard to imagine a better day than today.

Except…

Tomorrow is Sunday, which means it’s color funnies in the newspaper, and it’s long run day [4] and we’re going to have homemade pizza for supper.

It’s hard to imagine a better day than tomorrow…

1. Spenser and Owen.

2. My beloved.

3. From Sometimes A Great Notion, the book that informed me as a young man.

And Viv, through a lock of hair, watches Lee as he pats uncertainly
at the dripping face of Joe Ben’s girl with a towel. He’s never washed
a little kid before in his life, she realizes; can you beat that? What
an odd boy, so gaunt and ghosty sort of. With eyes like he’s been
to the edge and looked over . . .

His shirt gets splashed as he washes the child, and he puts aside the
towel to roll up his sleeves. Viv sees his inflamed skin.

“Oh . . . your arms!”

He shrugs and blows on a smarting wrist. “They were a little too
long for my shirtsleeves. I’m afraid.”

“Let me put on some witch hazel. Squeaky, honey,” she calls to
the porch, “would you toss in that bottle of witch hazel? Here, Lee,
sit a minute. Old Henry hasn’t come in anyhow. Sit here . . .”

She dabs on the liquid with a folded dishtowel. Pungent smells
of spice and alcohol burn in the warm air of the kitchen. His arms
lie on the checkered tablecloth, as inert as two cuts of meat on the
butcher’s counter. Neither of them speaks. They hear the approach
of the motorboat, and old Henry’s drunken singing. Viv shakes her
head at the sound, smiling. Lee asks how she feels about having an-
other animal to care for.

4. ‘Long run day’ used to mean 20 miles. Now it means a 10K, but I don’t care. I’m still out there and on my feet.

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The Tale of Super Pinky

In 2009 I bought a Super M.

My Dad was old and sick in 2009 and about the only thing in life that interested him was farming. The first new tractor he ever bought was a Super M, back around 1953. I came across one along the road with a “For Sale” sign on it and I thought, “Dad would like that.” So I bought it and brought it home.

Dad, Me, and the Super M

Those old Farmalls have a very distinctive sound. You start one up and you know it’s an M or an H. Dad once told me he’d been the equivalent of around the world 3 times on a tractor at 3 mph [1]. Most of that on a Farmall M.

I’d fire that M up and drive it around the farmyard and Dad loved it.

Fast forward to 2012. Dad is really sick by this time and has moved to town where he can get better care. The Super M is languishing in the shed. I’m trying to keep the production machinery running and I just don’t have the time to keep the M going.

Late in 2012 I see this post on newagtalk.com. [2]

Looking for an M

And I replied:

I’ve got a M

And the rest, as they say, is history. Randy came and got the tractor. They pull all over the Midwest raising money for breast cancer research. And despite putting endless hours of labor and many, many dollars into making my old beat-up Super M into Super Pinky…

Super Pinky

… Randy still has “Zumbrun Farms” on it. If you zoom that picture you can see that on the left edge of the hood.

And to me, that’s what farming is. You take what the old fellas have done, you pour your heart and soul into making it better, taking it further than those old fellas could ever imagine, and you always honor them.

Well done, Randy, well done.

1. I come by my love of numbers and “doing the math” honestly.

2. And this is why you should never post anything on the Internet you don’t want someone to post for everyone to see years later. I didn’t save this post, I just went and searched for it today and found it in moments.

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Playing the Odds

We’re about to chow down on romaine[1], the leafy greens of death.

Leafy Green Death

I understand statistics, so I eat romaine and I don’t play the lottery[2]. My chances of getting sick, or winning the lottery, are vanishingly small.

1. The internet has been atwitter about 58 people have been sickened, possibly by contaminated romaine lettuce. If you do the math your odds of getting bad romaine are no worse than 1 in 1 million. By comparison, your odds of dying (not just getting violently ill) in an automobile are over 100 in a million. If you want to stay healthy eat your greens and stay off the roads.

2. The internet (and the statistically challenged) have also been atwitter over the $500 million plus Powerball jackpot. Odds, 1 in 292 million.

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Suitable for Any

Debbie works at Arbor Farms Nursery [1] and every year they have a company party to celebrate Christmas and the end of another nursery season. They do a white elephant gift exchange and this year I was lucky enough to get a good gift, a basket of Burmese goodies from one of Debbie’s co-workers who’s married to a Burmese man.

One of the items in the basket was something called Cake Mout Chout which was described as a dried butter cake to dip into tea or coffee. It was cold and dark and windy and snowing this morning, so I thought it would be a good day to dip some butter cake in tea.

I got the package out and noticed something on it I hadn’t seen before.

Cake Mote Chout

Down at the bottom right it says “Suitable for any race & Religion.”

“What a nice sentiment,” I thought, “what a good idea to think about to start my day.” Oh, I know what they mean, it’s kosher and not made with lard. But in these days when I can barely stand to open the newspaper in the morning I chose to see it as open and inclusive, a gentle greeting for my day.

Our country seems off the rails, there’s so much hate and bigotry and misogyny and religious persecution that seems to have become mainstream and acceptable. But I don’t believe that will last, I believe some day, some day soon, America will be a place that fulfills its promise, a place “Suitable for any race & Religion.”

1. Plants, not children.

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One Year

One year ago on December 1st I made a change. Changed jobs, started working out on regular basis, started eating better.

Things happen slowly, that’s the hardest part. You don’t really notice the changes day to day or even month to month. But looking back over a year you can see good things have happened.

Then and Now

A year ago I weighed 234 pounds. Today I weigh 183. [1]

Runnning Then
Runnning Now

A year ago I was doing 2 miles at a 16 minute pace. Today I’m doing 4 miles at 9:40 pace.

A year goes by fast. Looking back at I what I did last year I’m wondering… what to do with the coming year?

1. I pointed out to my son Josh that being proud of losing weight is much like being proud of fixing a bug in my software. I conveniently forget that I caused the problem I solved. But I don’t care, both of those give me a lot of satisfaction.

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When Life Gives You Cherries

My mom moved to a smaller place and gave us her freezer. She cleaned it out, but she had a couple bags of frozen fruit that I said I’d like to have: a bag of pie cherries and a bag of blackberries.

Today’s a cold and rainy Saturday so with nothing else to do I thought it was a good day to do something with that fruit.

Fruit 3 Ways

That’s, from left to right, cherry jam, cherry barbecue sauce, and blackberry barbecue sauce.

The cherry jam is tasty, sweet and tart and tasting like cherries. The cherry bbq sauce is great, hot and spicy with a sweet undertone from the cherries. The blackberry bbq is different, it has smoked paprika and chipotles and it’s smokey and spicy and fruity. I think it will be really good on the right dish, but I’m not sure what dish that is.

Sour Cherry Jam

From “Food In Jars” by Marisa McClellan
Ingredients

About six cups of mashed, pitted sour cherries. That takes about 3 – 4 pounds of pitted, frozen cherries
3 cups sugar
1 packet liquid pectin, or 2 tablespoons of sure-jell

Process

Combine the cherries, sugar, and Sure-Jell in a saucepan and boil for 20 minutes.
(If using liquid pectin add it at the end.) Skim off any foam that arises. After
20 minutes it should be very thick.

Process in a boiling water bath like any jam.

The recipe says this makes 3 pints. I don’t know what I did, but mine made about 3 1/2 half pints. It tastes right, not like it has twice too much sugar.

Sour Cherry Barbecue Sauce

From Serious Eats
Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped frozen, pitted cherries
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Process
Saute the onions in the butter until soft, add the garlic and cook until fragrant
Add everything else and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until it’s thickened.
Process in a blender.

Makes about 2 pints.

Blackberry Barbecue Sauce

From Food & Wine

Ingredients

1 pound blackberries
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium onion, finely chopped, plus 1/4 cup minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons seeded and minced chipotles in adobo sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons oregano

Process
Saute the onion in the oil until soft, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add everything else except the 1/4 cup minced onion and oregano. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Process in a blender, then stir in the oregano and minced onion.

Makes about 2 pints.

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