Sweet Potato Alert


For family dinner in Thanksgiving my wife lovingly prepared a sweet potato casserole with my home grown sweet potatoes. I’ll bet it could have been good! We have a new memory to laugh and smile about for future gatherings. FYI I did sample a bit that appeared to be free of broken glass. The emergency room indicates that I should be able to eat again in a few days. Just kidding!




Remembering is holding on to the memories that have shaped and defined our lives. I would love to be sharing a garden post with you today but it will just have to wait…I flew in from California early Friday morning, zipped off to the house, exchanged some hugs, spent 10 minutes seeing how well my wife had cared for the garden(well done Hun!), packed and drove 280 miles to Baton Rouge to see my son Benjamin. Time together that I think we both really needed. (FYI – to my English major friends…yes, some lengthy sentences but that is how my thoughts come out most of the time)

I read a blog post this morning from a young artist who uses acrylics, bold colors and textures depicting the sights and motions of the world around us. I say motion because her paintings, at least to my eye they convey movement, motion and energy. My tastes tend to be less abstract than her art, nonetheless I can still see and feel the energy she captures. She tells of creating a special painting to take to her infirmed mother. Her post caused a flood of thoughts and a vivid memory.

The triggered memory was a vivid day long memory I shared with my father in October of 2001. This was the last time to see him before he passed away at the end of following month. We were able to get him loaded up into the minivan for a drive.  He asked to be driven up into the mountains around Bakersfield, California. We drove up into the Walker Basin, an area where we had spent time hunting quail. The Walker Basin is one of those stark but beautiful places, rarely visited off the major highway passing through the Tehachapi Mountains…..probably just as the residents spread out across the area would prefer.

We returned through Bodfish and stopped at the park in Kernville adjacent to the Kern River. It is a quiet place where we had spent countless hours fishing, both here and far upstream into the Sierras. I unloaded the wheelchair and pushed Dad down the path to be near the river. We could hear the sound of the water gurgling and splashing over the polished rocks and boulders. There was a young man doing his balancing act, hopping from boulder to boulder, trying to find the best locations as he stalked the rainbow trout. I remember as young child marveling at the balance and daring of my father as I watched doing the same ballet across streams and rivers….always wanting to be able do what I witnessed him doing. Our young angler caught several trout while we watched. The simple joy of watching him do something that Dad and I had shared so many times brought a smile to both of our faces, a silent communication that requires no words. His last weeks were a constant battle with the pain that was consuming his body but he still found relief and joy in sharing our memories, even if silently said.

I had an inexpensive disposable camera on the trip. Even in its simplicity it captured images that are priceless reminders of that day and the thousands we shared before those last few days I had with him. Over time our relationship had evolved, from a son looking up to his father, through the tumultuous years of a rebellious hell raising lad and culminating in my father becoming my best friend. The simple picture I share below is a powerful image and memory for me. It represents a view that he and I shared, he saw it, I saw it, it captures a moment in time that touches my heart every time I look at it. It represents memories  that I strive to both create and share with my family.

Cherish those special moments and create as many memories with those that you love as time and God will allow.

The Kern River from the park in Kernville, October 2001.


Looking Around The Central California Coast


I was out to California last week and spent a couple of days over at my mother’s place in the little quiet town of Los Osos/Baywood Park. It is just a short jaunt to Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo from her house. I finished the trip with a drive down the coast to my daughter’s home in Camarillo. That was nice, I spent time with all three grandchildren and was able to see the baby bump of my great-grandson tucked away in the womb – can’t hardly wait for February!

Mom had a list of about 12 items she needed some help with and I worked my way through the list. Some items involved technology issues, i.e., resetting the phone date & time, drafting instructions for printing photos from her computer, scanning and making copies – the stuff that an 83 year old wants to do but this tech stuff is still mystifying….as she says, “Kinda like magic!” I was able to get my hands dirty with repotting some of her succulents and moving the heavier pots around the place. I am so envious of the growing environment she is blessed with. Mom is doing very well and is back to running the Tai Chi class for about 14-16 women in her development 3 days per week. She is a pretty perky old gal and sharp as a tack. During her nap time  I got to wander out and take a few photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nature and Sharing


I am sitting in my kayak about 400 yds offshore, big rollers sweeping by, sharing the morning with my oldest son……….Ben

Saturday August 11th my son Ben and I loaded up and headed down to the Galveston area for a day of fishing. Fishing wasn’t so good and we had quite an adventure “trying” to navigate the much heavier than usual surf getting back in.  Ben shot this photo in the early morning light….he caught the mood of the day – kind of solitary but shared with a fishing buddy and in this case, someone I love and care for.  We don’t normally have lots of conversation….he and I are sometimes pretty quiet. We share a lot quietly. He is back to school at LSU and we will quietly remember this day spent together. The photo perfectly captures my heart and emotiuons…Thanks Ben

On Sunday Ben drove me out to the airport to drop me off. He did more than drop me off though… he walked around to my side of the truck gave me a big hug, it didn’t need words… I felt the love. Thanks again Ben….. I love you too!

Thanks Dad


Kathryn(Kiwiparks) – I read your post this morning and became a little misty eyed. Thoughts of my Dad, who  passed away in 2001, came floooding back. He gave me my love for both the outdoors and of vegetable gardening. I have mentioned in previous posts my love of hand watering, apparently a genetic trait, standing in the garden, surveying the plants, enveloped in a calm and usualy quiet world, the sounds of water gently spashing across the plants and soil, the smell of damp earth and a visual of my Dad with the hose in one hand and a coffee mug of Carlo Rossi Heary Burgandy in the other….Yes, what a memory and what a long rambling complex sentence…that is how my brain works sometimes when the memories flood in….


One of my favorite photos of my Dad, circa 1967, he was about 41 at the time. We were quail hunting up in the Kern River area.


I always carried a camera, this was with my Olympus Pen FT, half frame 35mm SLR. I saw dad sitting on this rock and shot this photo and then walked over for the one shown above. Thanks Dad!

The genetic link goes back even further, Charleston, Illinois – From my mother’s side, the Rennels family was a prominent and respected broom corn farmers. The Decker clan hailed out of Missouri, farmers tracing the farming lineage back into the very early 1700’s in the US, New York, Kentucky and lastly Missouri. Both Grandfathers, Rennels and Decker, left the tough life of farming behind in the 1920’s and moved to California. The oilfields were booming and both made good lives for their families from the oil industry. Roots do grow deep – I remmeber watching grandpa Rennels kill, scald and butcher some hogs around 1958 or 1959. I watched as he and grandma made sausage which we had with breakfast a few days later. Yum! Grandpa Decker kept chickens for both meat and eggs, grew tomatoes and had the best apricot tree and well as a few citrus trees. Grandma Decker attemted to teach me how to wring a chickens neck – I failed miserable in technique but was successful in the results.


Great Grandma and Grandpa Decker in Licking Missouri. Date is a guess – 1940’s????



Grandpa Decker -From farmer to the oilfields – early 1960’s


Grandpa and Grandma Rennels – with my mom and the Aunts and Uncles. 1951 or 1952 time frame.

Pre-Valentine’s Day Blog and Poll


Shown above are key elements of the poll to follow….but first I need to place everything into context so you, the readers, can make the appropriate vote. The poll will be good for only one week so be prompt. Click on the image to see more clearly which gift is the Best!

The context;

I 2009 my wife Kathy and I were able to extend one of my work trips to the Islands for an additional week. We chose to hop over to the island of Kauai and we spent a wonderful week there. I always have my cameras with me and I  filled up a big memory card with the stunning scenery on the island – aptly named the “Garden Isle”…. The memory card helps support my 60+ year old brain….so far so good but…..

The Book

I have been painfully slow getting the photo book put together and printed. (I used Blurb – simple enough even for me)  I was thinking about a gift for this Valentine’s Day so I actually planned far enough out to finish the book, started 10 months ago and recently revived, so that I could deliver it to her on or before Valentine”s Day. The finished book arrived on February 8th, yesterday…well before the day I needed it. I was so excited to, both get it done and wanted to see the surprise/enjoyment on her face…..that I gave it to her yesterday. I will not share how it was recieved in order to not bias your votes nor spend time on the couch. Don’t let that last comment taint your response.

The sink

…….after Kathy looked through the book, she smiled and said, “I got your Valentine’s present out in the back of the car. I followed her out and I was impressed! I had just mentioned to her a week or so ago that “if” she spotted one on Kingwood Yard sale or Craig’s List – for a good price – to grab it. I know how much she loves finding those treasures out there but didn’t expect this kind of quick result. I immediately removed the faucet so I could trace the outline of the sink on the potting bench in preparation for installing it. I think she laughed a little because I was right in the middle of pruning the Crepe Myrtle and just dropped everything to start the sink project. I did manage to get the sink set yesterday before dark but it won’t be functional until the weekend after I plumb up the lines and fittings. It is going to be so perfect….don’t let that influence your vote! I still have a bit more to prune on the Crepe Myrtle……manana, maybe.

So, all ya’ll……those that really do read the blog….please go back up to the poll and select the appropriate answer. I am curious to see which gift is “the best” !!!!!

Just a note for today in the garden – picked a couple more asparagus spears, a couple of strawberries, a handful of sugar snap peas and the remaining lemons…it is going to be a good spring….with a very early start. I have 6 tomato plants in the ground and looking healthy! Note to Bev…I found the soy bean seeds to plant in John’s garden….it is so nice that you have taken an interest in the plantings…and I aim to please.



Remembering A Garden of Days Gone By


Peeking over the fence at a very special Peach tree.

This week I traveled to Midland Texas to earn a little money. Apparently I have some strong powers that affect the weather in Midland. I last traveled to Midland in early December and brought about 4-5 inches of snow into town. On this trip the snow held off until the first full day in town and by noon the town was covered with a blanket of very wet snow. The town can’t handle much snow so we cancelled the training class and sent people home before it became dark. We also took Tuesday off as we did not want folks trying to travel during the potentially icy mornings.  It continued snowing until nearly 10 PM last night (Monday the 9th of January). The weather is now cooperating and we will have full sessions for the Wednesday/Thursday training classes.

There is something magical about the snow for those of us who rarely experience it. My work partner on this trip is from Canada (Calgary, Alberta to be more precise) and he doesn’t quite see it the same way I do. I love the crunching sound underfoot as you walk across the fresh snow. I love the crisp air as you inhale through your nose and the frost on your breath as you exhale. I love the quietness that descends upon you during a snowfall – it is as if the falling snow flakes absorbs and muffles any ambient sound. I love how the landscape changes, how the trees capture a mottled blanket of snow in their boughs and how the morning sunlight sparkles across the ground smothered by that frozen” comforter” spread out before your eyes. And then it melts into slushy nastiness and turns brown or black and your shoes get all messed up……did I just destroy the images????? I just had the throw in the perspective of those living in snow country!!!!

This morning I took a trip down memory lane and drove through the old neighborhood where we lived from January of 1997 through July of 2004. I have always planted a vegetable garden in the yard wherever my former employer, Chevron, dropped us off. Midland was no exception. I will have to admit, Midland was the most difficult location that I have ever been challenged with. The soil, if you can call it that, was thin, rocky and primarily decomposed limestone. It requires lots of help to become a fertile soil. Add to that the incessant wind, scorching like a blast furnace in the summer and in the winter it will chill your bones! I was pretty successful with squash and indigenous weeds and not much else. Unfortunately squash becomes less a gift and more of a curse as you quickly run out of different ideas on how to use it and the weeds……I didn’t find too many recipes for the weeds.

In November of 2001 my father passed away after a valiant fight against bladder cancer. He also loved to see things grow in the garden. He seemed to always have a peach tree or two in his yard. In the spring of 2002 I planted a peach tree  at the western edge of my garden in his memory. I wasn’t overly optimistic at the time but as I can see now, eight years later, the peach tree has more than survived, it has thrived. Our friends and neighbors a couple houses down the street have told us how well the tree has done but this was the first time that I have actually stopped to peek over the fence. I have driven down the alley in past years and noticed how large the tree has grown but never stopped to look. I guess Midland has sufficient chill hours and the soil provides what this peach tree needs.

It was a nice feeling to recapture a bit of the joy I felt when I first planted the tree in Dad’s memory and even more satisfying to see the tree thriving. I will need to peek over the fence again this spring, if my work assignments cooperate, and see the tree in blossom! I know the people living in our old house….maybe if I am back to Midland when the peaches are ripe I can add the taste of a peach from “this tree” to my memories.

Good things are happening for the gardens in Kingwood, both my garden and John’s have been blessed with a lot of rain yesterday. The stressed trees in our forested neighborhood are also drinking deeply….we don’t need another summer of drought like we had in 2011.



Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: