Community Writers

Our community writers:

  1. Spring is my favorite season, and the best time for the annual shearing of the homestead’s flock of sheep.  Having never observed this being done, I spoke with Trish and Steve Barrows in Candor who raise Jacob sheep. 


    Steve prefers late April to shear their sheep, but said that many prefer to shear a bit sooner.  He learned to shear sheep with a few nicks and blood along the way – mostly on the sheep, not unusual.  He showed me his vet kit with all the accoutrements to sew up any cut made by the shears, pointing out that dental floss makes the best suture material because of its strength.  They have a set of old-fashioned hand shears, but it is obviously easier to use power tools.  Steve also said that “because of the dense lanolin in their wool, each of the Jacob sheep clogs up one set of blades while being shorn.” 


    Trish shared her book with me on raising sheep, Your Sheep, A Kid’s Guide to Raising and Showing, by Paula Simmons and Darrell L. Salsbury, DVM.  I found it a helpful read, wishing I’d had a book like that as a teen to raise my lamb.  I also noted with interest in Your Sheep (pg. 52) that among the various reasons we fought for our independence from Great Britain in 1776 was the fact that King George had banned the colonists from buying wool-spinning machinery or sheep from Europe.  So, with typical American ingenuity and pride, we entrepreneurs got going and built our own cottage industries which led to the eventual industrial revolution.


    But, back to our task at hand - shearing a sheep.  Specific holding positions are key to reduced struggling and, thus, less injury to the sheep and the shearer.  To begin shearing, position the sheep in front of you in the seated position.  To get a sheep sitting, not its preferred position, put your thumb into its mouth behind the teeth, bend the head to the right and across its back, lowering the sheep to the ground.  With the sheep resting in a sitting position, hold its upper body between your legs. 


    Shearing position:




    As you bend over your sheep, shear the belly, crotch and legs first.  Then, laying the sheep on its right side with your right knee at its brisket (chest), shear the wool from the rear leg, up across its side toward the ears.  Next, move its head back as you shear the neck and under the jaw.  Continue to shear up its back toward the head as you reposition the sheep between your legs and start to shear the remaining side.  It is also helpful to shear as close as possible in specific patterns for each area until all wool is removed.  Second cuts (going over the same area twice) are discouraged as they leave short pieces of virtually useless wool in the fleece.


    A good source for a pattern of shearing cuts is found online here.


    Shearing time is also a good time to check the health of each sheep.  By taking time to trim the hooves, give vaccinations (not available on the colonists’ farms), worm them, and check for external parasites or any skin infections, you will shepherd a flock of healthy sheep with valuable wool.


    Once the fleece is off your sheep, you need to “skirt” it by spreading it out on a table made of wire racks. This process is to remove debris (i.e. vegetative matter, or VMs as is the common term), such as burdocks or other weeds, bits of hay embedded in the wool, etc.  Next, washing the fleece is vital, either by sending it to a mill for the complete process, or by doing this yourself.  Soak the wool for about 20-30 minutes in very hot soapy water several times to remove dirt and melt off the lanolin.  Trish warns, “Do NOT pour the lanolin-rich water down your drain - you will clog up your sewer system over time.” 


    Do not agitate the wool at this stage.  When done soaking, gently squeeze out excess water and repeat a few more times.  With today’s modern technology, Trish Barrows said she puts the fleece into a pillowcase to wring the water out in the washing machine.  After the soaking/washing process, rinse the wool a few more times to remove the last vestiges of dirt, grime and soap that might still be embedded in the wool.  Finally, lay the fleece out on wire racks to dry where it will have good air circulation. 


    Dyeing the dry wool can be done several ways.  I was surprised to read in Your Sheep that you can use Kool-Aid to dye the wool, but also bright-colored crepe paper in rolls (not streamers), dyes from craft shops, and Rit or Tintex commercial fabric dyes.  Trish showed me her binder from classes she had taken which displays her dyed wool with coloring based on various flowers and other items used in the dyeing process.  In fact, Trish told me, “It took about a large garbage bag full of Black-eyed Susan flowers and stems to dye ten small skeins various shades of yellows and browns!”  Other natural items for dyes include black walnut and butternut hulls, sumac for gray coloring, avocado pits for reds, while vinegar or other additives help vary the shading – for example, copper can give a greenish tinge.  “Basically, the more plant materials you have, the deeper the dyes,” Trish added.


    Different sheep breeds also have different types of wool.  Some have a scratchy fleece, best for rugs, like the Scottish Black Face.  The softest wool, like Merino, is excellent for delicate clothing items, while a medium coarseness is good for those cozy-warm sweaters.  Trish stated, “There is a purpose for every type of wool.  Each sheep is even individual in coloring.  Our Jacob sheep have a medium wool, good for sweaters, hats and socks or mittens.”


    Once the wool is dried after washing and dyeing, it’s a good idea to pick through it again.  “It seems you never get all the bits out of a fleece,” Trish added.  “When that’s done, you need to get the wool ready for spinning.  You can use hand cards which look like cat/dog slicker brushes.  They even out the wool into fluffy rolls called rolags.  [A rolag or roileag is a Scottish/Gaelic term referring to a roll of wool fiber which is used to spin into yarn.] 


    Wool fibers are then pulled from the ends of these rolags and spun into yarn on bobbins (which look like big spools) by using a spinning wheel.  The yarn can then be wound into balls for knitting, or onto smaller bobbins for weaving.”


    Small upright spinner:






    Antique wool spinning wheel, also called a great wheel or walking wheel:




    A great reference for life on the homestead which Trish recommended is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” book series, particularly “Farmer Boy.”  How well I remember reading this series and the TV show.  I retrieved my copy from the bookshelf to reread about the old days and old ways, including weaving.  And it all brought back memories of going to DeSmet, South Dakota while helping our daughter, Emily, move to Brookings, S.D. for grad school. 



    The Ingalls homestead



    It was exciting to have the opportunity to see the prairie land of the Ingalls’ original family homestead, visit their homes in DeSmet, and see photos and learn more of their history.We saw how they would have planted a garden, saw the field of wheat partly destroyed by the previous day’s hailstorm just like what the Ingalls dealt with, a soddy built into the bank, the group of trees which had surrounded their original house, watched a very young foal running and kicking up its heels with great gusto all around its Mama, and a replica of the house Pa built.  On the way back from the one-room schoolhouse, I even had the opportunity to take the reins on the mixed team of a black Percheron and a golden-brown Belgian.  Granted, they knew their way back to the homestead, but I thoroughly enjoyed driving them as I lay the reins on their necks to ease them through curves on the beaten path!






    Prairie house. But not a "soddie" !

  2. The Easter Bunny has come and gone.  Daffodils, hyacinths and grape hyacinths are blooming.  Bees are buzzing with great enthusiasm over our boxwood blossoms.   Hopefully our weather will not immediately turn into summer as is sometimes the case.  The gardens are calling; weeds are growing apace, as well as the flowers we actually planted.  

    We had a lovely time with family over Easter weekend.   Nine of us enjoyed dinner together on Saturday.   While they were here, our granddaughters climbed our hill to visit the water fall that only “falls” during the spring rains.   And our current trio of kittens provided more fun than one could buy in a toy store.   Everything is so very alive at this time of the year; birds are singing morning and night, insects (unfortunately for our dog’s ease of mind) are buzzing and flying about.  Ticks are numerous and we should all be reminded to check ourselves at the close of every day we have been outside.   It is also  time to put the bird seed cans safely inside a shed before our annual pilgrimage of black bears comes, looking for food.

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    Now that we actually see the season opening around us, our thoughts can, perhaps, travel ahead to plans for weekend jaunts or vacations this summer.  We will probably schedule at least one trip south to visit a son’s round, light-filled home in the Blue Ridge, where we get to see soaring vultures, and the goats and chickens as well as family.  Then we need to get back Morrisville-way to sample the good cuisine at the Copper Kettle or that of a couple of fine restaurants in Cazenovia ---- and to reacquaint ourselves with the plethora of cats in our son’s family, as well as enjoying a visit.  Their Madison County scenery, all hills and dales, isn’t too shabby either!  We’ve thought of a whale watch this year; it has been too long since we’ve inhaled the salt air and experienced the wonders of whales soaring out of the ocean.   We also have high hopes that some of you will be coming this way on your travels.  The Finger Lakes are a marvelous place for nearly anything you might want; the water falls, wineries, B&Bs and cuisine simply can’t be topped.

    The peepers have been singing now for three weeks.  They begin at night, but soon their burbling, carrying chorus goes all day too.  Peepers are really little tree frogs, and according to one source, they are to the amphibian world what robins are to the world of birds; a sure sign of the spring season.   One once attached itself to the window screen just in front of my computer and we peered at each other for a time.  By morning, he/she was gone --- off to adventure with some other tree frog companion.  This is about the time of year when, as a child, I collected pollywogs from a seasonal creek on our farm.  I’d keep them for a day, watching them swim around my glass jar, and then return them to their mucky little pools.  It was messy, but great fun.  And mud washes off!   Marsh marigolds/cowslips will soon be  blooming in all their golden glory along small streams.  There is something about being out and about in spring air that refreshes the soul.

    I love seeing the many forms creative thinking takes with people.   When our granddaughters are with us, they do a lot of art work ---- and their sketches and collages are always full of interest and sparkle.  And I’ve mentioned before the writing groups in which I’ve participated.   I am amazed at the wonderful stories, poetry and nonfiction that come spilling out of the pens, guided by the diverse minds in the circles.   The One-Room Sunday school curriculum that we use in our church offers several choices for activities that illustrate whatever the lesson is for the day, and a couple of Sundays ago, I observed kids painting flowers onto large sheets of paper, using their arms and feet as paint brushes.   It was a wonderful example of using the energy of children as part of their learning process as opposed to attempting to turn them into well-behaved, quiet little robots.  Life offers so many opportunities for being open to new things.  “Creativity springs from our curiosity and our inner resources.  All creativity comes from an inner awakening.”  Alexandra Stoddard*

    One of the things I enjoyed most as a child was my paper dolls.  (Perhaps this influenced my dubious choice of a textiles and clothing major in college.)  I had printed books of paper dolls, but even more fun than the commercial dolls were those I made myself and for which I designed the clothing.  My playmates and I would either cut out or copy clothes from Sears catalogs to go on our paper dolls.   And this kept us busy for hours.   I also had some really old collections --- maybe left over from my sister’s play days; Carmen Miranda, Deanna Durbin and other stars from the early 1940s.  I can’t help but think that perhaps our “play” with paper people was more of a learning experience than the hand-held electronic games in which today’s kids are focused.  Or perhaps it is just that we are learning different things in different ways.   Each child comes into life as his/her own person, but curiosity and creativity should be encouraged in all children, no matter what direction it takes.  I’m always appalled at people who are afraid, and consider imagination a bad or useless quality, and who do not introduce their children to myths, fairy tales and make-believe.   Limiting one’s world because of fear defeats life’s possibilities.  What one find possible to imagine can be transporting, life-changing and the root of amazing inventions.

    For those of us who celebrate Easter, we are reminded in this season, that our vision must be more than what we see on TV, on the internet or in the papers.   Easter tells us once again that fear is something we no longer need to endure.  As our faith vision expands, our perspective can alter immeasurably.  Thomas Wolfe** said: “The essence of all faith for people of my belief is that man’s life can be, and will be, better.”   We do not necessarily get to choose what this world brings to us, but we do get to choose how we will respond; how we will live our lives.  In Julian of Norwich’s*** vision of God there is total trust in life’s outcome: “I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well, and you will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well.”  This probably will not be true with humans tomorrow or next week ----- but, eventually, goodness will spread like spilled honey.   At least that’s what Julian and I think.   Happy Spring!!

    Carol may be reached at 

    *- Alexandra Stoddard --- American writer, interior decorator and lifestyle philosopher

    **- Thomas  Wolfe --- American writer; 1900-1938

    ***- Julian of Norwich ---English theologian and Anchoress; 1342-1416



  3. My Mom adored her grandchildren and as far as she was concerned they were her angels.   There was no such thing as too much of whatever as far as she was concerned when it came to her grandchildren.  If we, as parents, tried to say no to a second piece of cake or candy we were told "Grandma's house, Grandma's rules" and that second piece of cake or candy was given by her.  I, as a Grandmother, also adore my grandchildren.  Unlike my mother, however, I accept that they aren't little angels.  Their halos aren't always perfectly straight and glowing.  I try to be a good Mom and respect my childrens' roles as parents and not interfere when discipline is needed.     When a Grandmother makes a statement like that you can be sure it will be followed with a but and I'm no exception. 

    Roy #2 called us last Tuesday evening asking if he could come for a visit.  Of course the answer was yes so Papa picked him and his sister up the next day and they had the pleasure of being with Papa while he had to make a few stops.  Their Dad called to check on when we'd get the kids and I told him his Dad had already left.  "They're grounded from all electronics" my son advised me.   Good Mom that I am I didn't ask him why since I was already planning to speak with my grandchildren later.  You know, just to make sure the punishment fit the crime.  "What if their cousins come over to play and they want the kids to play games on the play station" I asked him.  "They're with you now so Grandma's house, Grandma's rules" he told me.  When the kids arrived we talked for a while and when I asked them why they were grounded they told me with no hesitation.  I shared what their Dad said about Grandma's house, Grandma's rules and all was well.

    Of course they played with their cousins and whether or not they actually used any elecronics didn't matter.  The weather was so nice that they were outside until dark; kids being able to be kids like I remembered my boys playing.  My granddaughter, Roy #6, went grocery shopping with me so I could pick up their favorites for lunch, dinner, breakfast and snacks.  The only kid foods I keep on hand are their cookie jar and M&M bowl which are both kept full on the counter for them.   Even my grown children help themselves to the M&M bowl.  I've told my grandchildren to help themselves but they will always ask me before taking any cookies.   When Papa sometimes comments on the hand full of M&M's or the 3 or 4 cookies taken at a time I remind him too, "Grandma's house, Grandma's rules".  

    We had a little bit of excitement Holy Thursday while the kids were still with us.  I made them their breakfast and then left them with Papa while I met Sister #4 for breakfast.  When I returned home I saw that my husband's truck was gone and the kids were all outside with daughter-in-law #2.  "Where's Compound" I asked her and she explained that he had taken himself to the ER at Arnot.  I knew he hadn't been feeling well for a while but I was surprised that he went.  Compound is not going to be happy with me for telling this but l have to in order to share the rest of the story about Roy #5.  Long story short Compound was admitted overnight, tests done, and to our relief we were told the problems he's having aren't cardiac related.  Roy #2 and #6 were taken home by their Aunt while I was with Compound.  About 9:00 pm that evening the phone rings and I answer thinking it's Hubby. 
     "Hello Grandma, what are you doing" asks Roy #5.  
    "Just reading a bit before bed" I told him.
    "But you don't have anyone to talk to" he says.
    "Well, I have the television and the dog and cat are here".
    "I could come over and sleep on your couch, you know, so you won't be lonely" he tells me.
    "It's fine sweetie, I'll be just fine". 
    His answer is a reluctant "okay" and we hang up.  The phone rings again and it's my Roy, "Grandma I really can sleep on your couch".
    "Sweetie, if you want to come over you're welcome to stay, the back door's unlocked" I tell him.  Before I can put the phone down he's coming in the back door with his pillow and blanket.  He told me it bothered him to think I only had the dog and cat to talk to without Papa being home.  We both slept well that night.

    All our kids and grandkids were here for Easter and it was a wonderful day.  I set things up buffet style, so everyone fixes their plate before sitting at the dinning table.  The kids are now old enough that they fix their own plates, taking what they want and usually  sitting together in the living room using our wooden tv trays.  I don't think they mind not being with the adults in the dinning room because they can have their own conversations and not worry about their parents' eagle eyes watching what they do or don't eat.   Roy #2 came back into the kitchen to get his beverage and I handed him a new jar of chilled dill pickles.  "Thanks Mammy" he said with a big smile taking the jar from me.  You see, he loves pickles of any kind. "It's not opened yet can you get it" I asked him and he assured me he could. 
     "Don't you eat all those pickles" his Mom tells him and he looks at me.  "You eat what you want, how much you want, when you want" I tell him with a smile.  Amid the confusion of family getting food, talking and the laughter I heard one of my daughters-in-law comment when she saw a package of Kings Hawaiian Sweet Rolls on the counter.  "He loves those rolls and will finish the package if you let him".  I found the empty pickle jar along with an empty package of Kings Hawaiian Rolls on the kitchen counter after dinner.  Half the rolls were left in the other package.  "Grandma's house, Grandmas rules".

    My sisters and I don't usually see each other on the acutal Holiday but we always telephone to wish each other a "Happy" or "Merry" depending on the holiday.  Early Easter morning I started by calling Sister #2 and finished with Sister #6 trying not to think about the one phone call I wouldn't be making this Easter.  On past Easter mornings I would call my sister, Andrea, and find her busy cooking and putting the finishing touches to the Easter gifts for her grandchildren before joining her daughter and grandchildren for dinner.  This year, all I could think about as I called my other sisters was "not this Easter" and that hurt.   Throughout the day I thought of her often, how much I missed her and thinking about everything she was missing.  It wasn't until later, after my family had all gone home, that I realized something important.  Andrea wasn't missing anything.  I realized she had a seat at a dinning table shared by others no longer with us.  Most importantly, the host was Christ, whose ultimate sacrifice for us is the reason we celebrate Easter.  I could picture her bustling around making sure everyone had what they needed and offering help to anyone who needed something.  She was able to celebrate this Easter with the grandson who didn't live but a few hours after birth.  Then I wondered, and this made me smile, what would Jesus think of "Grandma's house, Grandma's rules" remembering that He also had a Grandmother.

  4. I am getting fed up with the crap supplement companies are trying to pull on the consumers.  Putting 24 carat gold in a pre-workput and making it seem like it is some kind of magic formula.


  5. Linda Roorda
    Latest Entry

    Impetuous Peter… the disciple like so many of us, if we’re honest.  I tend to speak quickly, not always giving as much thought to my answer as I should.  My husband, on the other hand, takes time to formulate his reply.  And how often I’ve realized the depth of wisdom he shares in what he’s mulled over.


    Then, there’s the side of us which promises never to abandon a friend in their time of need.  Yet we do.  And I can’t help but wonder… aren’t we a bit miffed at denials to protect themselves?  Does their conscience ever pierce their heart?  Is guilt or shame felt?  Don’t they know that a humble heart-felt apology for wrongs done can begin to restore relationships?  But, more importantly, have we forgiven them anyway?  For faithful are we as the friend who remains supportive with encouragement, no matter what.  Which reminds me of the twelve disciples gathered around Jesus and their inner thoughts… no different than us.  Unbeknownst to all but Jesus, one of their own, Judas, was in the process of selling out their Lord for thirty pieces of silver, even as they ate the Passover meal together. (Matthew 26:14-16, 17-30)


    The disciples all knew how much Jesus loved them, so it must have caused great consternation as they heard Him warn Peter that before a rooster crowed twice, Peter would deny ever having known Jesus.  Peter protested that he would go to prison or even die with Jesus, but never renounce his best friend!  They must have all wondered how their Teacher could think such a thing, let alone say it! (Luke 22:31-34; Mark 14:27-31)


    After dinner, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane to rest and pray.  Judas eventually joined them, bringing a large entourage of soldiers.  But then he gave Jesus a traitor’s kiss as soldiers surrounded him.  To prove his own devotion to his best friend, Peter rashly sliced off the ear of one of the Roman guards with his sword.  But, with tender love for those who meant him harm, Jesus gently restored the man’s ear, and rebuked Peter for such hasty behavior. (John 18:10-11)  And then, as Jesus was being arrested, His closest friends turned their backs in abandonment and ran. (Mark 14:50-52) 


    Still later that evening, as Peter warmed himself around a fire in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial, a servant girl thought she recognized him.  Concerned for his own life after Jesus’ arrest, Peter vehemently denied being among Jesus’ closest friends… three times he rebuked their remembrances, the third time swearing like the old fisherman that he was.  Just then a rooster crowed for the second time.  And Peter immediately recalled what Jesus had predicted.  His heart sank in broken-hearted grief.  He had denied that he’d ever do such a thing to his closest of friends, and yet that’s exactly what he had done.  Feeling utterly ashamed and alone, he walked away from everyone, and wept tears of great sorrow and remorse.  (Mark 14:66-72)


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    Once again, Peter reacted rashly, thinking he was deflecting harm to himself by denying the truth without taking the time to think of the consequences.  Yet, Peter loved his Lord.  And Jesus loved Peter… unequivocally.  For, after Jesus’ crucifixion and then resurrection, the angel in the tomb told the women, “[Jesus] is risen! He is not here… Go, tell His disciples and Peter.”  To me, those words signify how deeply our Lord loved Peter.  Despite Peter’s hasty denials, God wanted to be sure Peter heard and understood the good news!  (Mark 16:7)  In Luke 24:9-12, we read that as soon as Peter heard about Jesus’ resurrection, he got up and immediately ran to the tomb to check out the story’s validity for himself.  So like our impetuous Peter, isn’t it?!  But, it also shows how deeply Peter truly loved his Lord!


    Some days later, unexpectedly meeting their Lord on the shore of Galilee after fishing all night, John retold for us how Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  With a tone of voice that likely reflected his deepest feelings, Peter was hurt that Jesus would ask him the same question for a third time, but Peter replied each time the same, “You know I love you!”  (John 21:15-17) Yet, it was all done to help Peter understand that he was truly loved, and forgiven for his denials with his repentant heart… and that Jesus was now giving Him a second chance with a new responsibility.  Peter was to reach out to a world of hurting souls with the same love that he had been given from Jesus after his own failures! 


    The reason Jesus was born into this world… the reason He died on a cross… was to pay for the sinful deeds we’ve done, no matter their size.  “For we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption of Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)  As we confess our sins and need for a Savior, we receive God’s most gracious gift of forgiveness.  What depths of mercy and grace!

    A Blessed and Happy Easter to each of you!


    Do You Love Me?

    Linda A. Roorda


    Do you love me?  More than all these?

    You know I do, Lord!  A loving friendship.

    You know my thoughts, my words and my ways,

    Surely you know how deep is my love.


    Do you love me?  Do you truly love?

    You know I do, Lord!  I’d sacrifice self.

    Then feed My sheep, meet them in their need,

    Go to My flock, and lead them in truth.


    Do you love me?  With your heart and soul?

    Oh Lord, I am grieved!  My heart has been stabbed.

    But oh! the shame of having denied

    One with whom I’d walked, the leader of hearts.


    Did you not warn of what was to come?

    I pledged you my love above all others.

    I’d follow you Lord, even unto death!

    I’d never disown my Savior, my God.


    But when confronted, my heart shrank in fear.

    I heard my own words deny with alarm.

    Twice more they claimed I was with the condemned,

    When out of my mouth came vicious cursing.


    I winced in shock to hear the cock crow.

    My heart sank in shame for what I had done.

    My Lord had said deny Him I would,

    Now all I could do was bitterly weep.


    You gazed thru my heart. You saw my soul’s depth.

    You poured out Your love though faithless was I.

    And now, Lord, you ask, do I truly love?

    Yes, Lord, I do! With heart, soul and strength.


    Then tenderly care for the sheep of My fold.

    Go to the fields and guide them in truth.

    Feed them the Word, everlasting life.

    Shower with mercy and grace in My name.



    All rights reserved.

    May not be reproduced without permission of author.


  6. Samantha Keefer
    Latest Entry

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    It always amazes me how quickly the time passes and as I get older the days in a month seem to decrease, which make us older a lot faster. However, I think 2017 is going to be a great year and my personal intention is growth. Everything I do will be towards that intention whether it's personal or professional. Perhaps picking out a word for your new year will lead you in a positive direction and one that is intentionally focused. 

    Okay. Last organ system is the kidneys, which getting older we need to nourish or strengthen our kidneys on a daily basis. The kidneys are considered the water element and are linked with winter, salt, color of black or dark purple, it is closely related to the bladder, and the emotion of deep rooted fear. When we think of disease in the kidneys, it typically refers to congenital, elderly, or menopause, which are all vacuities in Chinese medicine. 

    The basic deficiencies of the kidneys are yin and yang. 

    Kidney yin deficient signs and symptoms: 
    Think dryness - mouth, throat, orifiaces, dizziness, tinnitus, lower back ache, weak legs, spontaneous sweating, hot flashes, irritation, nervousness, and fear. 

    Foods to nourish kidney yin: millet, barley, tofu, black beans, kidney beans, mung beans, sesame seeds, watermelon, clam, egg, pork and berries. CHICKEN is not your friend, or poultry for the matter. 

    Kidney yang deficient signs and symptoms:
    Think coldness- aversion to cold, cold extremities, pale complexion, weakness in legs and back, mental fatigue and poor spirit, frequent urination, edema, asthma, lack of will power, indecisive and unproductive. 

    Foods to strengthen kidney yang: 
    Clove, fennel and anise seeds, black peppercorn, ginger, cinnamon bark, onion family, chicken, lamb, salmon and quinoa. Walnuts are particularly good for kidney yang deficiency but too many will cause canker sores. Try to avoid cold, raw foods and excessive salt. 

    Food and herbal tonics are the best these diagnoses. Acupuncture is a nice supportive treatment particularly for a kidney yin deficiency. Menopausal women benefit greatly from acupuncture alone and in some harder cases herbal medicine is necessary. 

    To note, all the organ systems are closely related and intertwined  so it is best to eat a meal balanced in all the five flavors to keep the body healthy and happy!

    Until next time
    Peace, love and a bear hug, 

    Samantha Keefer is a licensed acupuncturist at AgeLess Integrative Medical Spa in Horseheads. She can be reached by e mail at

  7. by Rachel Dworkin


    Around 8:30pm on the evening of May 7, 1878, the band played a solemn death march as Elmira’s volunteer firefighters paraded for the last time.  The city council had voted to discontinue the 48-year tradition of volunteer fire companies in favor of a paid department.  As they marched, the members of Elmira Hose No. 1 carried a sign which read “Shoot the Paid Fire Department—Too Thin! We Worked for Glory, They Work for Pay - $100 a Year.” The parade began at the Hose Tower and was supposed to make an orderly loop of downtown, but dissolved into chaos instead when it began to pour.

    In November of 1830, the Village of Elmira Board of Trustees appointed 30 men to serve as the village’s unpaid firemen. These early firemen fought fires with bucket brigades until May 1834, when the village purchased an old goose-neck fire engine. The village firefighters re-christened themselves Torrent Fire Company No. 1. Using their new engine’s hand-pump to draw water directly from the river or canal, they could blast water at the fire for as long as their strength held out.  They used this pumper until the city bought them a steam-powered fire engine in 1864.

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    The volunteer firefighters did more than just douse flames. They were also an important part of Elmira’s social scene. Elmira’s volunteer fire company’s participated in an annual 4th of July parade and held water pumping competitions. Most firefighters were young and physically fit. They hosted dance parties and were some of the most eligible bachelors in town. Even after they retired from firefighting, if they had served five years, they were exempt from jury duty and certain municipal taxes.

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    Fire Engine barn used by Companies 1 & 2 circa 1870

    Between 1834 and 1878, there were over a dozen volunteer fire companies founded in Elmira. Some of my favorites include:

    -  Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 used their ladders to rescue people and their hooks to tear down buildings in order to create fire breaks. They were formed in 1844, but disbanded in a snit in 1846 after being snubbed in the 4th of July parade. They reformed in 1849.

    Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 2.16.47 PM.png

    - Young America Company No. 4 (1854-1863) consisted entirely of teenage boys. In 1855, they won a pumping competition at the New York State Fair and were presented with a silk banner made for them by the young ladies of Elmira. Most of the members ended up joining the army during the Civil War.

    - Ours 4 Hose Company (1868-1872) had a reputation as a bunch of dandies. Their fire station not only housed their fire engine, but also served as a club house with a gaming parlor and reading room. They were so good at firefighting that other companies decided to adopt their decadent ways.

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    Decadent dandies of Ours 4 Hose Company 1868


    -  Independent Hose No. 3 (1866-1878) operated out of a fire station on the Southside at the foot of the Lake Street Bridge. I don’t know much about these guys but I love them, if only because some of their members actually posed for the photo below. 

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    How could you not love these dorks from Independent Hose No. 3 ?


    Rachel Dworkin is the archivist at the Chemung Valley Historical Society. For more information, go to



  8. It’s no secret I love vintage toys. When I say vintage of course I’m referring to the toys of my own childhood, that era from the late 70’s through the mid 80’s. Not that those coming out before my birth aren’t interesting, of course they are, but I don’t have the relationship or the memories of those like I do the ones I grew up with. 

    They were a marvel. A plastic bubble on a cardboard backing with some of the most awesome artwork to accompany a toy before or since. Inside was a molded piece of plastic, colored and shaped like the latest character and whatever accessories accompanying them. On the back of the package perhaps a back story about the character, however the rest was up to your imagination. As many stories and adventures for that three dollar toy as there were children opening it for the first time. 

    Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 2.05.07 PM.png

    So simple. 

    Toys now are more complex, electronic costing hundreds of dollars and more often than not requiring even more money in the form of frequent updates, internet connections, memory cards, controllers, chargers, and other accessories. You can’t take them outside, you can’t get them wet, you can’t play in the dirt with them. You sit and stare at them.

    A soulless screen, digital innards and wires, flashing lights and noise, noise, noise.



    Cold, impersonal, promising only instant gratification. Short lived and disposable. 

    They’re a reflection of our society i suppose.

    We live in an era of “now”. Answer the phone now, stream a tv series now, that item is being shipped now, and speaking out to the world now. We’re plugged in and tuned out to the world around us, updates coming as fast as social media newsfeed can provide them. And sometimes I wonder if it isn’t bothering people more than they realize. Maybe there’s something missing in people’s lives with all this technology and “social” media. That great Tower of Babel built by Zuckerburg and others turning people into a bunch of mindless narcissists screaming out in a virtual wilderness with no real purpose or connection. 

    I don’t know how else to describe it. There’s something missing and I think it’s simplicity. Simplicity offering true connection to the world around us. 

    I’m not saying it’s all bad, there’s certain aspects of digital technology that I love and, ironically, it offers me the chance to say this to the vast online wilderness in the first place. 

    But I know I’m sometimes tempted to turn the whole thing off, especially social media. 

    I sometimes remember how many other things there were to do when we only had two channels, both with crappy pictures on the screen. It’s crossed my mind to get rid of it altogether, except, well, “Game Of Thromes”. 


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    And we didn’t always have to go somewhere to be entertained. We were able to keep busy well enough on our own, even if it was just sitting in the sun watching the world go by. 

    For now, I’ll avoid “Walking Dead”, choosing to watch “M*A*S*H” or “The Waltons”. I’ll go get my hands in the dirt rather than spend fruitless hours pushing buttons on a game console. And yes, I’ll read the books about and collect those old toys.

    If only to remember that which was enjoyed in those simpler times. 


  9. Troop 84

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    Troop 84, after a year of planning, went to Gettysburg PA. The troop attended Gettysburg from August 9th through the 13th. The day of arrival, we all went to the museum and got detailed information about the battle at Gettysburg.

    One of my personal favorite things from the museum was the cycleroma.  It was in a big room that had a very detailed painting from a French painter with people fighting, canons being shot off and people dying. It was an emotional piece and had a narrative over it.

    After the museum closed, the troop returned to camp to set up and eat. The next day, after getting prepared to follow the trail that General Robert E. Lee himself led his men through, we hiked the Johnny Reb trail. It was a 4 mile hike across the back sides of Gettysburg. That day we hiked through woods, learned about the mini ambushes that had happened all learned more facts.

    The next day, the crew of Johnny Rebs died and returned as The Yankee Boys from the 84th New York (play on of Troop 84). The  10 mile hike was lead through out the front line. Walking through Devils Den, where a huge ambush occurred was an excellent site for photo taking. After walking down the Devils Den, the crew hiked up the Little Hill Top where the 20th Maine held down from oncoming Confederate soldiers.

    After a lunch break, the boys went back to headquarters. The next day the boys went to the home(s) of our president Dwight D. Eisenhower. We learned about Ike and Mami (his nickname and his wife) and the history of their family. We visited Eisenhower's home right near the town of Gettysburg.

    After a tour from Hike with Ike, the boys went throughout town and learned about the buildings and the history. The next day, the 84th New York, went back to being Confederates and hiked to the end of the battle, Picket's Charge. Hiking through the fields, the boys were narrated by the final command of General Picket , as the command  was given, the crew ran up the field for a final assault. I imagined later as we stood at the Union line, the 100's of confederates running out of the woods yelling their final cries. It was a truly deep place.

    The 84th New York had won The Battle of Gettysburg. This has been General Kaleb Washcloth, leader of the 84th New York Regiment signing off. (link to Gettysburg Website

  10. I said back in July I was going to take some time off from doing much with the website, especially on social media. Pfft, that lasted about two weeks and I was back at the drawing board.

    If you haven't noticed already, there's been some changes made to the site. In an effort to make the site more mobile friendly, I did away with the category tabs that broke up the site according to each township in the county. Well, I didn't do away with them per se, those sections exist, but they're hidden away. Along with that, we won't be offering reports from town and village boards anymore. We only had a small handful of reports coming in to begin with, and they were time consuming. I encourage folks to attend their local municipality council meetings. 

    With that in mind I broke the news into "World/ National", "Regional/ State" and then "Local" which focuses solely on news within Chemung County. Many people told me they wanted more focus on local news, and that's what we'll try to do. Additionally, we continue to run stories from over the border in PA by Lonny Frost of First News Now. 

    An idea one of the moderators came up with was "Today's Top Stories", a place that has the hottest news first and easiest to find. After a day or two those stories are relocated to the appropriate sections discussed above and remain open for conversation. Life is busy, so if you want to know the big stories of the day, that's the place to start. 

    The "ET Weather Center" continues to be popular, ( so long as I remember to update the widget code ) and offers all the weather news you need right at your fingertips. 

    This Summer I switched the site to a cloud based server which was WAY more affordable than the virtual private server (VPS) we were on, thus ensuring the longevity of the site. Just don't get me going about that "refundable money" on my account that suddenly wasn't refundable once I dropped the money for the cloud. Still, the site was faced with insurmountable costs to continue on the VPS so in the end it was a good thing and we shouldn't need to do any PBS style fundraisers anytime soon. 

    A couple sections were made "Members Only", available only to those with an account for the site. "Teal's Tavern" is a place for more fun chat, jokes, or just to check in and tell others how your day is going. The "Local History" section has lots of great historical photos from around Chemung County and is also for registered users only. Once again this holiday season "Chemung County Holidays" will reappear with new pictures and content so I encourage every one to sign up for an account, it's free and only takes a minute. 

    In addition to trying to write more myself, I continue to look for local folks with a knack for writing who want to become part of our "Community Writers" section. I'm happy to say we've recently added a column by my old friend Dan who writes "Cyber Arms Computer Security" and I'd like to add more. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the team, I'd love to hear your ideas !

    We may tweak the site logo and header a little bit in the future, but I've been advised to stick with what people are familiar with. We'll see. I'm also living in hopes for the slight, ever so remote chance we may have better access to high speed internet here in the hill someday soon, and am thinking of new ideas for if that day comes. I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen though. 

    I think that's about it, at least the major stuff. As always, I appreciate everyone stopping by and reading or joining the discussion. I also am grateful for the folks who take the time to write and send in a regular column or are willing to help with the upkeep of the site, if only telling me when I'm being a bonehead. LOL It's because of you all that the site is doing so well. 

    Thanks !


  11. Why can’t we let go?  What is it within our finite, human brains that causes certain situations, people, songs… even scents… to hold a place  within our minds much longer than we would choose them to??

    And what is it that causes us to hang on, to linger over memories, conversations, past hurts and victories… to keep them close, whether they cause us good or harm?

    I wish I understood how the mind works.  Why at times, it is like a sieve… quickly sorting and discarding what doesn’t matter, letting it flow out of our memory as if it never happened.  And why other things stay close, things we would will away, always at the edge of our mind… even when we have repeatedly put them aside and closed the door.

    They distract… they haunt… they shimmer just out of reach, just out of our understanding, and for a time, we can ignore the shine.  The almost irresistible pull of reaching back for the memory.

    And then, we think – if I indulge myself just for a moment, let the thoughts, the memories, the “what ifs” become reality, just for a moment… it will be easier to once again put them away.

    And the inevitable happens.  We bring back what we can’t let go of – we give it space in our mind, in our heart – just for a MOMENT – and we are done.  Once again fooled by the perception that we had let it go, that we didn’t care, that it didn’t matter.  And we realize we are wrong.


  12. There is a story about a dog that continually chased cars, barking and snarling as they passed his home. One day, a driver decided to give the dog what he wanted and stopped his car and allowed the dog to catch up. the driver rolled down and window and addressed the dog:

    "Okay, you win. You caught me, now what are you going to do with me?"

    Upon hearing this, the dog tilted his head a few times, dropped his tail and walked silently home.

    Well, here we are facing similar beast-like actions played out by supposed rational beings on the streets of many of our cities (Including nearby Ithaca). There is a lot of barking, snarling and chasing (not to mention burning, looting and shooting of firearms).

    The mantra being chanted is this: "No justice! No peace!" - as if there is a valid lack of justice in our legal system and a promise of no peace until that justice is achieved.

    Okay, this is the message I have for those dogs who are barking and snarling in the streets. You win. We give up. You got us. Now, what are you going to do with us?

    Here is your justice you want:

    From now on, we will dissolve the Grand Jury system and abandon the Due Process of Law that was guaranteed to us in the Constitution. We will now determine the guilt or innocence - not by an objective panel of twelve citizens who will be given strict orders about how to interpret the sworn testimony of several eyewitnesses - by the emotional screams of the biggest mob.

    So, if you feel a crime has been committed, all you need to do is gather a larger mob than the other guy and scream a little louder, burn a few more buildings, loot a few more stores, shoot a few more guns, throw a few more Molotov cocktails and you will get the indictment and conviction you feel is appropriate. Evidence to the contrary can be ignored and all that messy ordeal with lawyers and structured protocol will be avoided.

    As for those 'racist pigs' walking around in taxpayer-funded uniforms and driving around in those annoying vehicles with all the flashing lights, we will just disband the whole police department and allow the larger mob to patrol the streets and you will have the 'peace' you seek.

    No more 911 call center to lean on when your domestic partner decides to play basketball with your skull, you can call on the nearest mob and they will be on your doorstep with all the gasoline-soaked rags you need to construct your cocktail and you too can administer justice on your terms.

    Of course, you may run into a problem if your mob is not as large as the other mob, but hey, at least you won't have 'racism', right?