Tuesday, March 31, 2020


built this today (much harder than it looks!), it is a copy of a villager house from Minecraft 1.15.2.  I found it on a multiplayer server, and Esme told me it was part of the new update.  I took a screenshot of it and then tried to duplicate it in my Empire world.

I also went for a short walk in the sun (but it was quite cold), did some Welsh lessons, stared hard at my math but wasn't into it... so much laundry... made Esme's favorite chicken rice and eggs for dinner. She says we are having 'breakfast for dinner' so often now - but we're using our eggs while the chickens are laying them.

Now I'm watching Stargate SG-1 season 3 and knitting

a dandelion might be a 'weed', but this is a beautiful specimen, and the chickens really like them for dinner, too


Things my mom and grandparents said...
near Grand Rapids, Minnesota and the farm at Arbo road

parents and grandparents and elderly neighbors and relatives...
these are the kinds of things that were both directed at me and at cousins and siblings, neighbor kids and so forth...
sayings, idioms, encouragement, discouragement and some colorful insults

Hold down the Fort
More it a 'skitch' over there, Move over a skitch
Call me anything but Too Late for Supper
You, her and the Spirit of Trouble
Batten down the Hatches
Slow as molasses
bee in his / her bonnet 
angry as a hornet
mad as a wet hen
Better than a poke in the eye
burning the candle at both ends
I brought you into this world, and....
Caterwauling (quit yer caterwauling)
Out till the cows come home
I'll bet you a nickel
If I had a nickel for every time..
smack upside the bead
sock in the eye
chase after him with a broom 
tan his hide (all the way to Sunday / all the way to town etc.) 
you're walking a thin line there
you'd better believe it (not you betcha)
that's clear as day 
like a black cat at midnight (something is hard to see, or impossible)
that's just a scratch, you want me to cut it off? (to remind us a cut hand is better than a lost finger?  who knows) 
we'll you're not going to bleed to death
as happy as a priest on Sunday
as happy as a pig in the mud / like a pig in the mud
(and sometimes, they'd mix up the two - as happy as a pig on Sunday.. which didn't make any sense at all if he was dinner!)
I'm about to put my foot down
A stitch in time saves nine
we'll (have to) get a needle and thread after it
oaks and acorns, the greatest of oaks (were once small acorns)
the apple didn't fall far from that tree
hit every branch on the (stupid / ugly) tree on the way down
I'm not sure if their family tree forks
Out in the boonies
 To the boondocks and back
The frogs are down in the crick singing to their children / singing their children to sleep
Up a creek without a paddle
Sawing logs (snoring)
That's a whole lot of downriver there (there is a lot of space to travel between the two things you just said, work, happenstances etc..) 
don't put the cart before the horse
Up with the chickens / at the crack of dawn
Get down to business (stop dallying)
Dilly dallying and lollygagging
Getting down to hard tacks (having problems to solve)
what's good for the goose is good for the gander
don't be a cuckoo-bird (idiot)
he's a real cuckoo, I tell you
don't get yourself all wound up
somebody is a real stinky davis (somebody needs to shower etc. change clothes)
quiet as a churchmouse
blind as a bat
quick as a bunny
bob's your uncle
like a moth to the flame
lonesome hang dog expression
hung out to dry 
all wrung out
you look like you're about to drop
sit down before you fall down
don't be such a wiggle worm
you got ants in your britches?
like a dog in the noonday sun 
mad dogs and Englishmen (go out in the noonday sun)
dumb as a doorknob (supposed to be doornail, right?)
running his motor (somebody is talking a lot)
standing out like a sore thumb
round the bend
over yonder
a peck and a parcel
in for a peck in for a parcel (I hear it's supposed to be pound or bushel?)
in for a penny in for a pound 
let me put my two cents in / don't you go putting your two cents in
there was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead (when she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad she was AWFUL
in two shakes of a lamb's tail 
Josephine and her flying machine (my mom's name)
down to the last morsel / down to the last drop
beat the bejeebus out of it (usually stirring while baking, sometimes rugs, old ladies said this when they wanted to emphasize but not swear)
jumping jehosephat (also old ladies) 
for the love of mike / because 'for christ's sake' was still blasphemy reserved for when everything was really bad
going down the tubes
scrape the bottom of the bowl (clean up all you have) clean your plate etc.
scrape the bottom of the barrel (try everything you can to make ends meet)
all riled up 
you scared the daylights out of me 
you scared the ever living daylights out of me (even worse)
well I'm not (just) standing here for my health 
get a move on, (nickname)
buster brown
hey there, chickie-poo
well giddy up then / get a long little dogie
we ain't got all day
we're growing icicles here!
(I've been watching) and I ain't seen nothing yet...
get crackin'
put your back into it
it's 52 pick up (you dropped everything, and I'm not helping you pick it up)
to the ends of the earth and back
michael row the boat ashore (get the job done)
a bottle of soda
a can of pop
a tin of (coffee / beans / almost any food stuff)
put a lid on it  
eat your beans
you're all full of beans
and pigs want wings
by the skin of your teeth
down in the fences (in trouble, where you aren't supposed to be)
an eye for an eye and a tooth for the tooth and the whole world will be blind...
like a month of Sundays
circle the wagons
like ships in the night
the blind leading the blind
barreling like a freight train
before you were even a twinkle in your daddy's eye
knee high to a grasshopper
getting too big for your britches
don't get your panties in a knot / shorts twisted
hitch up your sleeves and get to work (this could be pantsleeves (cuffs) for garden or shirt sleeves for dishes etc..)
reap what you sow
hold your horses
like a bat out of hell
I've got a stitch in my side
stop making such a racket
what are you doing, tearing the house down? (for making lots of noise) 
foxes and henhouses (watch out for trouble, trouble is brewing)
trouble is brewing!
the game is afoot 
what were you thinking?!  Oh right, you weren't thinking, were you....
something is about to go down over there (a fight or an accident)
can't see the nose on his face
couldn't find his (arse) with both hands
couldn't find a hole in the ground if he was standing in it
gave him the old chicken eye
I've got my eye on you
you're on my radar
that guy cold-cocked him upside the head
over the mountains and through the fields
he's a real hothead, that one
stumbling like a drunken sailor
doesn't have the sense God gave a horse
I'd trust him (only) as far as I could throw him
I will paddle you all the way to the house if I have to (very young!)
in a heap of trouble
you'd better straighten up  (and fly right)
don't make me come in there 
by the time I come in there
you're just adding fuel to the fire (you're making it worse)
stop digging yourself a hole (ie: you're not improving your situation)
if so and so jumped off a cliff, would you?
sticks and stones
wolf in sheep's clothing
pulled the wool over his / her eyes
you got yourself into this mess, I should let you get yourself out of it (followed by the story of when mom was up a tree when she was young and her dad had to talk her down branch by branch, and a reminder of where the tree was, and where she was in it)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Build a Mountain Tree Farm in Minecraft

Today we are investigating different ways to build a tree farm in Minecraft.  You would build a tree farm on an island, in the sky, or anywhere you would like a steady supply of wood.  And in the case of this farm - you get the bonus of getting lots of apples (if you're lucky).

This farm provides drops from the oak trees of wood, sticks, saplings and apples.

Oak trees are best for producing apples, but Spruce and Birch trees do drop them as well.

Remember to cut all of the wood away from the trunk and branches of each tree - and then the leaves will begin to disintegrate.  The saplings, apples and sticks will drop from the leaves to be gathered up on the ground.

This is the way my daughter likes to make her tree farms.  She puts a 6 by 6 square of dirt down, and plants a sapling in the middle of each 9 square.  I tried another one behind it of 8 by 8, to provide a bit more space for bigger trees to grow.  She says the 6 by 6 is the best for making sky tree farms.

I like two different ways of making tree farms.  Either, completely free form on a plain, planting them as I run - or to put them down in holes in the stone or gravel, like this.  I actually found that the 'holes' method produced grown trees much faster right beside the dirt squares shown above. 

I couldn't explain it - but the trees were popping up almost as fast as I could cut them down and replant them, compared to an entire day's worth with the other method.

H2oDragon says that it is probably playing off the fact that a large tree can spawn more readily than a small tree if the spaces immediately around it are blocked.

All comfy and cozy in our mountain home
I just wish we could make apple pie in Vanilla Minecraft!

Pease porridge hot... pea soup for breakfast

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot, nine days old

Not really, it is about twenty minutes old.
And my coonhound is sitting by my elbow, wanting some.

It doesn't hurt that I like pea soup.  I grew up eating it.  And when I haven't had any in a while, I feel like I'm missing some key vitamins.

Pea soup is a natural medicine, and a tasty one! 
Pea soup has a lot of zinc and magnesium in it, especially if you make it from scratch from good ingredients.

It is perfect for chasing off sinus infections and the winter colds. I get sinus infections every year (it's just the terrible way my sinuses are formed), and this is always a great kicker to get that 'gym sock' taste out of the back of your nose.

Pea Soup for Breakfast

Fill the saucepan a little over 1/2 full
Put it on the stove to boil

Add a dash of good olive oil - how do you tell if it is good? (see below)
Add one or two small chicken or beef bouillon cubes
Add celery seed, black pepper, some cayenne pepper if you wish
The bouillon will probably have enough salt in it without adding extra.

Measure out 1/2 cup or a few handfuls (your choice) of dry green peas
wash the green peas in a colander or strainer, then add to the pot
Bring pot to a slow boil while...

Chop one yellow or white onion fine
Add to the pot

You can throw a curry cube or curry powder in this now, if you wish, or just before serving

Slow boil your mixture or simmer on low, your choice, stir often and don't let it stick to the bottom of the pan

Test to see when it is finished by fishing out a bit of green pea with a spoon or knife, and testing to see if it crushes between your fingertips.  If it doesn't smash easily, it isn't going to be a nice soup yet.  When it does, take it and set it aside to cool for a few minutes.  Get out your stick blender or pour whole mess into a regular blender.  Be careful, it is still hot!  Blend up until smooth.

Feed some to hounds, if there is any left.
Now I have three of them pacing at my knees, asking if there is any left for dogs!

Olive Oil Blues

So, how do you tell if your olive oil is 'good' olive oil?
So much gets sold in the stores that is not actually good quality olive oil.

Here is the way to find our what you have by chemistry.

Take a small portion of what you have bought - enough to cover the bottom of any small container you have.  Place the container in the refrigerator for several hours, up to overnight.

If it congeals like butter in the bottom of your container, that is good olive oil.  If it remains liquid at refrigeration temperatures - your olive oil is actually safflower or sunflower or some other similar oil that has been mixed with olive oil and passed off.

But it says 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
You can't tell by the labels.  It's like them getting to pass off rabbit as fish - some sort of deal that they can call it what they want to call it as long as it passes their tests of smoke temperature and whatever else it is they have for FDA requirements to meet 'olive oil'.  But this test will tell you what it actually is, as few things that meet those tests will congeal at refrigeration temps.

Once you find a good reliable brand you're probably set.  It wouldn't hurt to test a new bottle once in a while, depending on how long it is between your uses.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Build a stone house in Minecraft


I am going to show you how to build a simple stone house, like the ones in my  town here, with these four materials.  You will need lots of plain cobblestone, wooden stairs of whatever type you like (I've used oak), glass pane, and a door of your choosing.  It will probably take several stacks of stone and stairs to do any of these houses.  I'm going to show you a large house I built.


Start out with a flat building space 

Lay out a square on the ground, leaving a space for which way you would like the door to face.  You can place the door anywhere you want, but I tend to put it in the middle or a few blocks away from the corner, as shown.

Start to build your walls up, leaving a two-high opening for the door, and if you use 4 high walls, two-high openings for your windows.  In smaller houses, you might use three-high walls and one-high windows.

Finish completing the walls to the same height.  Now, have your stairs ready, and more stone, as we are going to begin to make the roof.

The thing about using stairs is trying to keep what you see happening in the above picture from happening.  If you are too far to one side, the stair you are trying to place will come out as a corner.  You will need to be more 'head on' and aiming towards the bottom of the last stair, to place them properly.

As you move farther up the roof, you will place more stones into the side wall to meet the height.  You can leave a couple of gaps in the side wall to add more windows later, and it will bring more light into the room.

In some houses like this, I will choose a place to make a second story, and build stairs up to it.  The second story will then be an attic room.

Continuing to build up the roof

Make sure to place lots of torches inside the bigger houses, to keep monsters from spawning.  Where there is no light there can be spider!

On this house I stopped the roof at this point and finished off with polished andesite.  You can change this up and make your houses all a little different, or all the same.

Good luck building your town!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Took a mile walk this morning, still in the COVID-19 quarantine.  Our schedules are all off -- I am up at 3 am making soup, Mark is just getting to bed, and Esme won't wake up until 10:30 in the morning.  This is not like us.. but we have about two weeks more until school starts back up.. unless they cancel it for the rest of the year.

I ;am still deemed an 'essential' worker in both of my jobs - postal worker and medical technology service - but the actual hours are few and far between.  I do not see many people.  So, there's that.  I went out to two medical tech jobs the other day and wore gloves for both.  I'm doing what I can for those patients - even though I can't stay entirely at home.

I love the stages of the hickory trees, and the redbuds, and the dogwoods.  The sarvis (serviceberry) trees have finished now with their flowers, falling away to green leaves only.  The dogwoods that are blooming now are a green color and large flowered.  The more delicate white flowered ones will be popping in the woods soon I'm sure.  It seems like it was just a few months ago I was photographing them -- but I know it has been nearly a year.

Time has been so odd this year, even before the coronavirus, with changing jobs and getting through the anxiety of that - then Dad died in October - and I had a lot more anxiety and PTSD type epiphanies.  But  that is a human response, and I am feeling like I've swum to the other side of the shore.

I made soup, following my nose.
I'm a champion at thinking up weird combinations in my sleep... woke up and decided to make onion soup at about 3 am.  Then, as I grabbed for ingredients, things fell together to this.  The actual soup looks awful - kind of like the shiitake mushroom tapenade someone once tried to make with me - and it was so awful the cats and dogs wouldn't touch it..  But, this was amazingly good.

Lentil Seaweed Soup with Onion

About 2 to three cups of water
About 2 tbsp olive oil
celery salt, black pepper, garlic powder, ginger powder
1 medium onion, diced small
about 1/2 cup of brown lentils (washed)
1 sheet of Kombui seaweed
2 cubes of chicken boullion
1 packet of miso tofu (red style) soup
Some leftover packets of tofu cubes and green onion flakes from another bag of miso where they come separate from the paste

It started with waking up thinking about onion soup.  I have eaten a couple of cans of French Onion soup the past week and found them very satisfying.  But - looking at the recipes for how to make it from scratch did nothing for me.  It wasn't right for me.  So, this morning I was thinking I would just start with olive oil and onions and see where it took me.

I put in the spices, and then I knew I wanted the brown lentils.  Then the thought filtered in about the bouillon.  After all of that was together and bubbling nicely, the miso soup that came in the mail the other day entered into the edge of my mind and I added that in.  It was when I put the tofu soup packet in that I smelled the little bits of seaweed that are in it, and it made me think - I bought sheets of kombu last year for soba soup making.. which I've only made a couple of times since.  They were still in the cupboard, waiting.  They add a lot of salt, along with the bouillon, so NO need to add any extra.

After I had let that entire combination boil then simmer for an hour or so, I took the stick blender and gave it a few careful pulses.  You could pour the whole thing in a blender and do the same thing.  I am always careful about hot soup - volcanic bursts onto skin if you do it wrong etc.  But a few pulses was all it took to wake up Esme, too - she had slept through our entire conversation about 'soup at 3 am' but the stick blender woke her up.  She came out and looked at it, made some comments about games she had been playing, and went back to bed.

To serve the soup I put in an extra fresh grind of black pepper and a full teaspoon of hot madras curry powder right into my bowl.  It was one of the best things I've eaten in a while - but yes - it LOOKED gross.  Nova dog highly approved when I woke up at 8 am and had more for breakfast.

This camera has better eyes than I do - it almost gets down to the grain of the wood and the 'feather and fur' of each little leaf.

There was an ant crawling in the redbuds, and bees buzzing everywhere.  I couldn't get any of the insects in focus, but I wanted to remember that they were there.  The sun was coming up over the trees behind me and it made the redbud glow.

My right ankle gave out on me, as well, this morning.  It sent me crumping to the ground just like that time I was pregnant with Esme.  I remember that one often because I was so scared for her.  I fall down in this way quite a bit - just the other week in the garden, as well, but that was the time I had to worry for more than myself.  I was also thankful this morning I wasn't carrying the camera yet.  But, because I was now bleeding from my hand and knee - I was even more determined to capture some images of the things that were unique about this morning, the things that turned a walk to the mailbox into an expedition.

The red brown brush beside the road always piques my attention.  I wonder if there are many other people who find it as beautiful as I do.  This, and the red gold grasses bring me back to a time in the field at Arbo Road - standing in the middle of the sky, one tree to my back and a full circle clearing farther than I could run in one breath to all sides.  I was alone with the sky and the tree there.  I spent a lot of time there, far beyond the garden, but not too far Mom couldn't hear me when she yelled.  I sat at the base of that tree and thought about my ancestors, about my future, about the woods around me.  I was a deep little nine year old.. but there was something about that place - something it imbued me with - that comes back to me when I am out in the grasses.  It is one of the reasons I like to drive up by Martin, TN, too - the wide open sky, like an eyeball looking down on me from above, and the grasses, and the trees like eyelashes at the edges, waiting to blink.

Red brown feathers, delicate structures.  They seem to shine almost pink and looking through them is like looking many strings and webworks repeating over and over to infinity.  When it rains, they collect shining drops of water in their branches and intersections.  When it frosts, they collect tiny crystals of ice.

I think I spend more time looking at the tiny bits of plants around me than most people - it is something I find joy in, the changes, the differences, the transformations.

Mark found this out in the driveway yesterday, he says a woodpecker has been hard at work on it.  It was almost hollow inside - insect work that the woodpecker then went after the insects?

I'm sewing up the ends of dischloths, knitting on yet another lap blanket, bright green this time. Our black tortoiseshell Minion is truly enjoying where the pink one ended up I made over the last few months.

Besides that , more soup, maybe a bit more work in the garden.  It is supposed to rain today so I don't think it is right to put the seedlings out to day.. but it is so warm it is almost there.

We also finally downloaded the game GardenPaws, and it is very sweet.  Esme and I have been exploring that new world and discovering all of the creative things to do in it.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

South Carolina Scenic Route (essay)

This was written on a site for a writing prompt 'I remember the time I drove onto the gravel.'... well ,this is what I thought about.  It is a true story.  It happened in South Carolina, in October of 2019.

South Carolina Scenic Route
by Marie Lamb

I remember what it was like to drive into that gravel of the wrong turn, that wasn’t a turn. I drove straight ahead, right off the paved road with a huge jarring KERPLUNK and skidding into the sand and gravel of a quickly narrowing road. The directions hadn't said to turn right, and I hadn't turned.  But I had quickly regretted it.  This was the last place with a shoulder, but I was going too fast to take advantage of it. There was a big truck behind me, and it turned, the way I thought I should have gone. I skidded to a stop as the tree canopy above me closed in, turning the broad daylight to shadows.

My eleven year old daughter turned to me, her eyes widening, and asked ‘Mom, are you sure this is the right road?’ I couldn’t turn around. I couldn’t back up, with more small traffic coming in behind me. It was this way or the highway, now, and the highway was back there.

So we continued, along the tiny six foot wide road, going ten miles per hour around corners. We met three other cars coming the opposite direction, slowly thank God, just like we were traveling. There were even a few mailboxes with gated driveways along the way - tiny paths leading up and into the National Forest beyond. At one point, we came to a near stop on a 90 degree turn and saw the expanse of a lake stretching out for nearly as far as the eye could see, about twenty feet down from the surface of the road. It was one of the longest hours I have ever driven as a parent, not counting the first time I drove a stick shift to the post office with a month old infant in her carseat beside me.

We finally emerged from the forest cover, to a tiny four way stop beside a church. I was a little shaky at this time, and punched up my phone to find out where in the Sam Hill I was, and how badly I had gotten lost. And then I sat there and stared at Google for a good minute. I turned to my daughter and told her ‘That was the road. That tiny road was State Route 1536. That really was the road we were supposed to be on.’ I took a moment to see that the right hand turn I thought I missed actually went an hour out of the way along a perfectly normal highway and would have gotten us there eventually. But this had been the route printed up on the map we made before we left, and scary or not, it had gotten us here.

I still wonder what I learned that day. Not to follow Google directions without looking really hard at the map? That sometimes the road we are supposed to be on is scary, dark and looks entirely preposterous? Mostly, I learned on that trip to communicate with my daughter that I don’t always have all the answers to what is in front of us, but I’m working really hard to get where we need to be.  And, when things get worrisome we slow down, keep our wits about us, and keep going to the other side.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Build an Empire style play Minecraft - population and jobs

This is an extension of my original post 'Let's Play Build an Empire style Minecraft'

This is an example of a spawn point town, in  swamp, using the available resources.  The houses have a cohesive style, but they have some individuality, too.  This town is called Cantrall (after the courthouse Abe Lincoln stood his first case in, I don't know why, it popped up in my head and I ran with it) 

We Will Survive

The original 'house' is built into the side of the hill and becomes the city center.  It contains the mine down to bedrock, a bed, a loom, and the beginning storage chests.  This is played with Monsters ON, and Normal mode.  So, the player is going to get hurt (a lot) and need to eat (a lot).  Luckily, there were some sheep and chickens to the North.

 The very first thing is cut down a tree or two, make a crafting table, get a wooden pickaxe, mine some stone, build a shelter with a door, and build a furnace to burn some logs in to make charcoal for torches.  You might get lucky and find iron or coal but you want to be in a small shelter with a roof, a door, and torches before the Sun Goes Down.  Or, you're toast... in the middle of a zombie/spider/skeleton sandwich.

Make a sword.  You will need it before you want to need it.

Have extra torches, and an extra tree or two worth of logs to make more sticks for torches and tools.  Then go mine, and hope for iron.

Home Sweet Home

If you can't get a bed right away (and you probably won't, because unless you go killing your sheep you will need to mine iron to get shears).. then stay underground with lots of torches until daybreak, then go back out and collect wood, kill fish in the lakes for food, gather kelp (if you're by the ocean) and dry it, etc etc.. 

Start building your farm as soon as possible.  I killed four spiders right at the beginning, so was able to make a fishing rod.  I also collected every apple from every harvested tree.  Food is no joke.  Get your gardens and food sources producing and make sure some is stored for later.  It's just like a real town in that way.

When you are comfortable with surviving  - and have your necessities covered, you can burn some sand for glass and make a fancier shelter on top or beside your emergency shelter.  You can also begin to plan your town with roads, fields, and footprints for houses.  You will end up with lots of materials from mining, so use your creativity!

Give your Towns Unique Identity - with Names and City Colors

Each town needs to have at least one custom banner, and a wooden sign saying the name of the village.  So one of the first goals of the city center, beyond food sources, is to have shears, a bucket and a loom.  Iron and string - not easy things to get for each village.  It's the basic 'iron age' technology.

Let your town have 'roads' and fences and a real flow of moving around from place to place within the village.  You might build it into the side of a hill and use the natural landscape, or flatten it out and start from a big square plane.  It's up to you.  And you can do something different for each place, evolving over time.

A Real Town would have Population

Villager mobs can be very annoying and take up CPU power, slowing the game.  We will experiment with those in another 'style' of Minecraft, where we don't expand across the entire world - which by itself takes up CPU power.  For now, we will just pretend that we have people in these houses, and that these people are here for a reason.  Each one will have a working house (as if you wanted to spend a Minecraft weekend there) and a 'job' that makes sense with the town.

For each 'imaginary villager' in a home there will be a separate bed, and a separate chest.  That means wool, and wood is needed for those things.  There will also be a crafting table and furnace for every house, usually near the entrance.  Each house needs torches for lighting, and glass for windows.

The kinds of 'jobs' you will be doing indicates what kind of population the real 'town' would need.  Farmers - the more fields, the more houses you might need to build.  A fisherman?  A woodcutter?  This town also has a paperworks (for the sugar cane farms) and a baker (where do you get your bread?)  It will need a sheep paddock and housing for the sheep farmer.

When you can - Specialize

Have lots of wool and a field of colorful dye-producing flowers?  How about an artist shop with paintings? 

In one of my towns there was a large amount of gold and redstone found deep underground.  That town became the first (And only, so far) town to have a clock tower building, sort of like a miniature Big Ben.

The Hard Way

If you REALLY wanted to get bones about it - you would provide in the 'villager' chest food, tools and clothing or armor.  But THAT would be going pretty far.  In a richer village, each chest would have some example of that to show someone 'lives' there - and the floors would be decorated with wood, carpets, glazed terracotta, brick etc - with item frames and paintings on the walls, terracotta flower pots and cauldrons - all the trappings of a town.

Get Yourself a Great View

One of the great things about Minecraft is the uniqueness of the places that are created - sometimes you just have to stand back and say 'Wow' - like the image above.  Try it out for yourself - version 1.15.2 Vanilla
seed# 2144314632329636425
and the coordinates for this plateau are -543.563, 77, -141.453
find an ocean monument at -880.396, 62, 255.962

How do you Win?

The joy is in the journey - but you will know you're making progress by expanding your territory.  When a village is self-sustaining, make yourself an 'export' building and chest - and begin to put excess food, materials and special items in there to 'seed' a new colony.   You may build roads in each direction trying to find a new place with unique resources, or a pretty view, or a different biome etc, to build the next town. Once you have scouted out a place - or before (if you're brave), head out with only what you can carry and build the next 'city center' to expand your Empire.

This World is an Island
Like to play islands?  This one spawns on a small island that may or may not have enough sheep to breed a population from.  There are a few trees, and some ores in the ground nearby.  If you really can't make the island work for you there is another larger flower-field landmass a distance due East... 
Try it out - version 1.15.2 Vanilla
seed# 8746182473153761204 

Note  If your town is an island, you have a unique opportunity to learn to reserve, multiply and expand your resources.  Trees are precious, as are wheat seeds and animals.  Beware creepers don't destroy everything!  How much space do you use for fields, and for buildings -- do you pull dirt from underground to expand your landmass in the water?  Don't spring a leak in your underground buildings while you mine!

To navigate away from your island (without just writing down coordinates at each place) - build a spire 20 blocks or more high and place a torch on top of it.  If you jump down into the water (and not onto the land) you will not hurt yourself.  Then, when you have built your boat, you can place your back to the spire and head off in a direction, and - if you build a spire on your newfound opposite shore, you have a landmark that will allow you to return back home 'easily'.


Goal : Self-sustaining villages that provide protection from monsters, and food for the player.  Iron and other resources.  'Domesticate' and breed flocks and herds of animals.  Create roads, signs and / or landmarks to allow you to navigate your Empire from place to place.  Export materials to other colonies and share materials and resources like a real Empire would - a system of 'trade'.  Explore!  Try to collect as many unique materials as you can and distribute them across the 'known' world.

Monday, March 23, 2020

bits and pieces

I have been knitting more dishcloths, finished one net bag and halfway through another.  The first one was too big for books but probably just right for beach towels.  I miss those sweet days going to the Carroll Lake beach with Esme last summer, sitting with my big floppy hat and knitting while she played in the sand and water, trying out her new swimming skills.  Back then, I was stressed out but had no idea exactly what was coming in the next few months, June, July and then August - which as when everything hit the fan - Tony ramping up his intimidation thing at work, and Dad getting sicker, and my teeth... all of it came into play.  And of course, if anyone had told me about everything that has happened with the coronavirus even last November, I would have told them that it sounded like a science fiction story plot for a B rated movie.

Today I have been playing Minecraft survival mode with monsters, Normal Mode (get hungry from walking, swimming, jumping, and need to eat or start to lose health).. and binge watching Stargate SG-1.  Esme played some Skyrim, and then went to her room to play Minecraft server mode with her online friends.  Mark and I talked a lot about the news.  Paid some bills.  Ready to run my postal route tomorrow.  Not sure about the medical supply/ device job - they say it is essential but the supplies are not 'essential' for most people.  But it would be for some.  Trying to think how to phrase that when calling my customer to ask if they need the item now or want to wait a few days...

Brought some eggs up to Irene today.  Did lots of laundry that needed doing.  It was getting much nicer outside, sunny but still cold.  The seedlings in the window have to be transplanted to new bigger pots soon or put outside - and with the hard downpours we've been having I'm reluctant to put them out.  I need to plant the kale, lettuces and mustard , too - and maybe some radishes.

Had French onion soup for breakfast and that was excellent.. then rice pudding with zante currants and cinnamon for lunch.  Been thinking about getting more supply of my miso soup and green tea that I like but they were hard to find even before everyone started panic buying... and I don't want to make a trip out to find them.  I have other green tea, and have been drinking that and my citrus vitamin C rosehips tea. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Lving in the Forest in the Arbo township

A picture of our daughter in her 'forest house'

The place we live in now in Tennessee is a bit removed from the city, twenty minutes drive in any direction.  We are isolated, sometimes involuntarily by the weather and icy roads, but mostly because we like it out here, away from the noise and population centers.  There are 'ghost towns' nearby, little villages that once were, and are now no more than names on the map.  That has been like that for many years - they still have railroad stops and empty grocery stores on their empty main streets.  When I moved down here in Minnesota, the closest I had seen to a 'ghost town' was the non-existant 'Zemple' on the map near Deer River, or famously, the old location of Hibbing in the hills which was moved during the blastings in the mines in 1919.

Relocation of Hibbing Minnesota

Most of the area around where I grew up was just 'blank' on the  map, compared to here.  It was much more than twenty miles (about thirteen minutes today) between cities.  The farm I grew up on, from about the age of 9 until it burned in a sweeping fire in my teenage years - was in Arbo Twonship in Minnesota, down Arbo Road, just south of the Prairie River bridge.  It had a collection of small houses on it, a garage, a huge barn, and a field full of cars, machines, tractors, semis and logging equipment.  When we lived there, it felt truly remote, like going back in time or into a national forest reserve.  I had thoughts, while I was there, of how far it must have been to get to by horse and buggy, and then by Model-A car, and now, in the back of a suburban or pickup truck, carrying tools and animal feed and sleeping bags.

A Different World, in Technology and Time

I think about the cast iron barrel stove, with its cooking racks on top, and kindle supply of branches and logs in a coalshed beside the brick wall.  The entire little house was built onto, tar paper shack built over a small brick house, merging the two into one.  There was the room with the big clawfoot bathtub, a hand-pump for water mounted on stone beside it, and a plastic five gallon bucket beside it for pumping water and then pouring down the toilet attached to a modern septic tank, installed at a later date in the small room to the side.  At nine, I had never seen anything like it - and the novelty soon wore off on that part, I tell you.  When it was cold, the water would be carried in big spaghetti pots from the kitchen to add to the cold water from the pump.  Now that I am older, and have some plumbing knowledge, I am truly amazed I cannot remember a single time the interior pump froze.

We learned to light the fire - while being taught to be extremely afraid of it.  We used Coleman lanterns in the rooms that didn't have electricity, and in the underground dirt-cellar, which was accessed through a trap door in the middle of the living room - just a square hole under the living room rug with a tight-fitting plank door.  There were no stairs, no ladder down, and that was also unlike anything I had ever seen.  In the summertime- we would can in huge kettles on the stove, and line the jars up in the cellar, beans, tomatoes, corn - my mom knew how to do it all from our garden in town. 

We cut grass with an old fashioned push mower.  We made toys, walking sticks, learned sewing and crochet (which I had already started to learn in town), and washed and dried some of our clothes outside, using an old fashioned wringer.  I learned washboards weren't just for making music, and that they tore up your knuckles, pretty badly!   We strung wire fences and chopped wood and fished in the creek from a huge webwork iron bridge (which sadly, no longer exists).  We walked down old railroad tracks and crossed wooden foot bridges and were scared to death by ghost stories of an abandoned house miles down the road.  I marvelled in the mathematical structures of the old things, and the wilds, and the right-in-front-of-me examples of how things had changed over time.  I felt a closeness to the idea that some things last long after we are gone, and some things are fleeting, and that one of the reasons we live is to see the difference.

But a World full of Detail and Wonders

I was already a kid that didn't quite fit in with the others at my school.  My parents had divorced, and I took it very hard for several years.  Then, my mother remarried, and we 'inherited' this new world - the farm - paths through the woods, old barns, tractors, junk piles, cats with kittens trailing behind them, fields of corn and pumpkins - more gardening space than I ever had in our little town plot, and the garden in town had always been as big as the house.  I remember in particular seeing trees I never saw in town - huge yellow basswood leaves, the tiny blue and purple flowers of creeping charlie.  There were so many things I had never seen - and weren't accessible by going to pick up a library book really... I remember getting up close and personal with bear, deer and a porcupine that wouldn't take 'No' for an answer and chased me -s l o w l y - for over a mile down the dirt road between my uncle's house and ours.  It was a terrible feeling of dread to know he wasn't giving up, and it was a long way home!

An Expanse of Time, shared 

I was a voracious reader, and consumed old newspapers, books and comics that were in the rooms of the house, learning archaic words and reading advertisements and submerging into a new world that had already gone away - but had seemingly left open a window.  I didn't feel as 'odd' among those books, among Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz, and the heroines of Mary Jane Holmes and the street urchins of Horatio Alger- I read the Count of Monte Cristo, and Edgar Allen Poe and the Three Musketeers and the Daughter of Dracula, and knew that the world was so much larger than the pop culture I had seen up to then.  There were gorgeously illustrated children's books on American History and animals and plants and also some pretty dark tales of horror and science fiction that my brain turned over and over in the night.  I could feel the difference in how in previous eras they had thought of children, and women, and jobs and everything else reading those words.  I read different languages, and antique ideas of astronomy, geography, math and science, and then tried to shore them up against what I saw around me.  I also read a ton of 1940s science fiction, Asimov, Norton, Niven, A.E. Van Vogt and others - and compared their past thoughts of a future that had and had not yet come to be.

Also we had no phone (our uncle did) and being 1980s Minnesota, we only had a few channels coming in on the rabbit-ears.  When we were out there - it felt like we were disconnected from what was going on in the town, and time seemed to pass slower, so a week away could feel like more.  It was more - it was FULL of so much more detail and change, plants, animals, seasons ... like a space of time within a space.

Living at the Edge of the Wilderness
far off of Hwy 38 

We would spend weekends, breaks, whole summers out there - and there would be other days that as soon as we came home from school in town it was time to shoot out to the farm, feed the animals and so forth, and then come back home.  It took hours, but they were good hours.  I also remember how we would stop halfway at the God's Country gas station, where they had everything, toys, candy, clothes, food, ammunition, gas cans, fishing rods, nets and duck decoys, animal traps, medicines, pots and pans - it was a waypoint for those living out there so they didn't have to get all the way to town for everything they needed.  I remember the lady Cathy would spend time talking with me and looking at the bait in big tanks, and we would catch up on news and what everyone was doing.  I had read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder in first and second grade with my teacher, and the God's Country was my version of the Nelson's store - brought to life, and fulfilling all of those same purposes.

We worried about sharp objects, nails, tetanus, snakes - any sort of accident, because t would take a very long time - time we might not have - to get into town for help.  I remember one day we were out in the woods cutting a tree and my stepfather's lopper tool came down awkwardly and hit him in the side of the head - my older sister and I tied a bandana around his bleeding head and she drove him into the emergency room.  We were lucky it wasn't worse, but it was scary.  I could only imagine what might have happened in an even earlier era, when the doctor had to be sent for and found, and almost everything was taken care of 'at home'.

I remember one day it was early summer and we had all gathered to go pick plums in an orchard down the road, with another family.  We brought baskets and buckets and filled them up with the ripe fruit.  There were mosquitoes everywhere.  I was bitten so many times I actually got nauseous and had to lay down for most of the rest of the day.  There were days and days of plum jam-making after that, which I got to skip.  Another summer, the day after I turned eleven, I was swept down a culvert and trapped underwater for a short terrifying time, caught up on the straps of my life jacket.  We had went swimming with a few cousins in a large rushing creek, and I had made a misstep.  My sister's boyfriend, yanked me up from the debris under the water and luckily I made a fully recovery - but for days and days I felt vertigo, like the water would take me away while I was sitting still.

And Memories.. still.. and living in this world having seen that one up close...

So now I think back on all of those little vignettes.  They seem so clear to me still, and I know they shaped how I looked at the world from there to come.  When I lived in Fargo in a tiny apartment, I saw no huge problem with washing my clothes in the bathtub and hanging them to dry, if the one washing machine for the complex was broken or in use.  I get out in my garden on a regular basis with only a hoe and a bucket - even though my husband reminds me about the tiller in the garage (such a hassle sometimes!) and the hose twenty feet away on the pump...  I can't explain the water in a bucket thing.. it just has a different feel to it - the weight of the water, the flow from the cup... I know it in my bones better than the hose and sprinklers, even though they are faster and more 'efficient'.

I'm often out there in my garden with a camera and a drawing pad looking at plants, tracking growth, collecting seeds and drawing the development of leaves.  And yet, I am no botanist.  I'm just interested, and find this fun.   I can sit on the shore or in a chair in the garden and just watch everything happening around me and be happier than an hour in a movie theater.  I only wish others could share it quite the same way.  My husband, Mark, has this rare ability and 'eyes'.. but so many others are in a hurry or look but don't see the wonder in the details.  It is really hard sometimes because I am so excited and there is no one to share that moment with except Nature itself... time in a bucket, revolutions, cycles of regeneration and so forth.

That is why I put detail photography and charts and track things over the years here on this blog.  It is only a droplet in the sea of time that brims in my memory, but over the years I am seeking some bigger picture, what am I missing, what have I found, what should I be recording and saving.. who will read about or see or experience this land after we are gone? 

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Post Office
When I was out on the route last week or so both my door handles broke - both of them! I was doing 'Dukes of Hazzard' for the last half hour of my route after the driver's side one froze up. The mechanic fixed them soon after. I just finished rebuilding the shelf for the mail trays, as it was too fragile. Tomorrow we'll get the stickers and the lights put on and the 'taco truck' (it is a tacoma) will be ready to roll for the mail Saturday and Tuesday, The mail still has to go through, so people can get the things that will keep them through these weeks!

I went out and planted some green onions today and broke up sod in three beds, clearing weeds and leaves.  The chickens got some more greens - they are very happy it is almost Spring

My empire now has five cities.  This is the one I started on the  14th.  Each city has crops and fishing, multiple houses with beds, furnaces and so forth.  There are two that will need sheep transported to them.  I am quite proud of the island nation city I built in the middle of four glaciers.  It was mostly sand and a little dirt - and I built a huge castle, three houses and a big crop field there with Spruce saplings that I imported and some seeds.  I brought 25 wool with me to that city from the original colony, too.  There are roads connecting every city except the island one, and it has a dock on both sides.