About Chuck

I am retired after a career in electronics and in publishing. Today, my wife of 50+ years, Sylvia, and I live in a house on a hill beside a dirt road in rural west Michigan. We enjoy living in this country environment where livestock and wild life out number the human population.

My Wake-Up Call


I heard the sound as I awoke this morning.  Was it a bird call or something else?  I put on my specs and went to the window.  There she was sitting on the satellite TV antenna.  She gave that call again.  Okay, it’s the fly catcher that’s serenading me.

As I watched, she launched and caught a bug and then another before returning to her perch.  She did this a few more times before moving to another location.

If I look out toward the garden I’m quite apt to see her or her mate sitting on a fence post standing guard over our veggies.  I’m always happy to see them or their cousins.  Good friends to have.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Wanted: Caption

I was cruising Facebook today when I saw this picture:

How would you caption this pic?

How would you caption this pic?

As there was no caption, I’m hoping you can help.

Time Flies

Nearly a week has past since I last posted on this blog.  It doesn’t seem that way to me, but my eyes tell that it is so.

Groucho said, “Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like a banana.”

Kermit said, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”

I saw this image online today.  It captures my reaction to this past week.

Hang in there, baby

Hang in there, baby

In truth, I’ve spent a lot (too much?) time sitting with my foot elevated.  I’ve watched a lot of TV and read many pages in the Dale Brown book I am currently enjoying.

Lots of good stuff to report.  The stitches are out of my foot.  I can walk without crutches, if I’m careful.  The foot is healing nicely and X-rays look good.

Sylvia took me out to celebrate my 75th birthday.  They didn’t have a Shake n’ Steak in Hastings, so we went to the Ponderosa steak house.  Grilled prime rib, Cesar salad, and ice cream for dessert.

I talked with my sons on the phone.  Last evening, Briana (our granddaughter), called to wish me happy birthday.  It was the highlight of the week.  A little over six months on the job and she’s doing well, is active on a council and recently did a presentation to hospital staff on the need for special bracelets for certain patients.  These warn of certain conditions.  Might be “use only left arm for bp readings” or the like.  The reaction was mostly, “Why aren’t we already doing this?”

Oops!  I think I just popped a couple of buttons.  Did I ever mention that I really love Briana and am very proud of her?

More Coffee Love

Yesterday, I posted on coffee brewing methods.  Because the post was running long, I didn’t talk about the coffee itself.  Here is the continuation of that story.

The national brands you buy in the grocery store are ground from beans from many locations and perhaps several countries.  This results in a mostly consistent flavor.  It also washes out the subtleties of beans from each individual farm.

I buy my beans from Sozo, a local coffee shop (also on FaceBook)  that engages in direct trade.  That is they buy directly from the farmer/producer.  With a batch of beans all from the same place, those subtleties and nuances are preserved.  However, it is an agricultural product so it may not be the same next year.

For a few years I had been enjoying La Flor del Café from Guatemala.  I like the earthy tones that characterize Central American coffees.  This year’s crop has changed.  Perhaps it results from a change in their weather?

I decided to try something different.  I went with Oaxaca from Mexico.  I enjoy this product very much.

As I mentioned yesterday, the secret to good coffee is to use water at 197 F.  Brewing is an extraction process and that temperature is important.  Cooler and you won’t extract all the goodness.  Hotter and you also extract some bitterness.  Which explains some of the nasty coffee I’ve had in the past.

Brewing time is also important.  For my AeroPress, 30 to 60 seconds is about right.  I’ve turned the process into a ritual.  That way I don’t have to time the brewing.  By just going through the ritual motions, it times itself.

I use an insulated mug.  That way I can enjoy my favorite beverage over two or three hours.  Never leave coffee on a heating pad.  That will cook out the flavor and leave you with an inferior product in your cup.

Do you have a secret for brewing good coffee?

I Love Coffee

Our friend, Ratty, left a comment on my last post.  He mentioned that he had given up instant coffee and was doing his own brew.  That was a wise move my friend.

Here is a re-post of a piece from January 7, 2013.  I hope you enjoy it.

I had signed up for coffee tasting and brewing classes last fall. The tasting (cupping) class taught me how to evaluate coffee and identify flavors and subtleties in various coffees.

In brewing class, I discovered that rinsing the paper filter helped remove that terrible taste from the cup.  In the class we watched our teacher brew coffee using various methods and then evaluated the final product.

The vacuum pot looked like a high-school science project.  The results were just about that good.  We were told that this could produce the finest or the worst results and you could never be 100% sure which you’d end up with.

Then we tried a couple of pour-over methods.  They weren’t bad, but failed to impress.

Some were enamored of the French Press.  I wasn’t.

Then we tried the AeroPress.  Aha!  That produced excellent results.  Cleanup would be relatively easy.  The only catch?  How can you consistently heat water to 197 F?  All of these methods rely on that.

The answer is a cordless electric kettle with a temperature control.  I bought this:

I use it for my coffee and Sylvia uses it for her tea.  How handy that Sylvia has a birthday this week.  Happy birthday honey!   Thanks for letting me use it too.

The rest of the equipment (AeroPress) looks like this:

I don’t use the paper filters.  A stainless steel filter (purchased separately) keeps the grounds out of the brew.  I only have used grounds to dispose of.  These I keep to use on the garden.  The grounds help protect root crops from bugs.  Neat, huh?

I’ll not bother you with the details, but this takes no longer (may be shorter) than brewing with Mr Coffee.  There is less waste and the coffee is incredibly better!

WARNING: Use of this method can turn you into a coffee snob.  Therefore, exercise discretion before purchasing anything like this.

I have one final thought to share with you today.  The coffee beans make a huge difference.  I’ll write about that for tomorrow’s post.

To Start the Day

Adam@Home by Rob Harrel

Adam@Home by Rob Harrell

As I sat here sipping on my morning cup of brew, I came across this cartoon.  It spoke to me, as you might guess it would.

Ahh . . . morning coffee
In the cup that’s in my hand
Right way to start day

My foot is mending nicely.  When I woke there was no feeling of pain whatsoever in that foot.  I frequently have the “pinched” feeling of wearing a tight sock.  Color me one happy camper for today.  (Any day for that matter.)

Been doing e-mail exchanges with my two sons this morning.  In the words of Tony, “It’s going to be a great day!”  I hope it is for you too.

Night Lights

As Sylvia was getting ready for bed last night, she called out to me.  I was still in my recliner.  She asked, “Have you seen the lightning?”  “No, I haven’t,” was my reply.

I slipped on my walking boot, and went to a window.  There was a light show going on to the southwest.

In the office, I held the camera against the window and tried a hand-held 30-second exposure.



Between lightning strikes, the sky was very dark.  Life is like that some times.

After capturing this image, I hobbled back to my recliner and fell into a peaceful sleep.

After Math?

The title for this post doesn’t really fit, but I like it.  I was going to write, “Aftermath.”  This to introduce a report on the first post-op trip to the surgeon.

As we entered the podiatrist’s office, we were met by a pair of friends that live in the neighborhood.  They were leaving as we came in.  How cool is that?  It was a very happy surprise.

When the doctor speaks, I listen.

When my doctor speaks, I listen.

The surgery went well.  The bones are perfectly aligned.  Swelling is less than expected.  Also I’m experiencing less pain than expected.  Hooray!  On Friday, I can shower and I’m already counting minutes.  Okay, hours.

I go back in two weeks to have stitches removed.  That will be nice.


In his Sunday sermon, Pastor Mark talked about planning.  He told of rehearsing a conversation in youe own mind before talking with someone.  As he said, you think about what you will say.  You imagine their response.  You plan your followup.  Only one problem.  It doesn’t work out that way.

I’m thinking that we’ve all experienced an encounter that didn’t go to plan.  Maybe that will help you understand the plight of this poor fellow.


Perhaps he was presumptuous.  I’m sure he didn’t envision this reaction.  Sunday sermon topic: Self Control.

Today’s Task

Five AM and the alarm sounds.  Haven’t heard that in a long time.  Shower.  Take my morning (BP) meds with just enough water to wash them down.  Sylvia and I head out the door.  Next stop Pennock Hospital in Hastings.

Paper work and preliminaries to go through.  Then relax and wait.

My mission?  To get my foot screwed up.

Not really my surgeon.

Not really my surgeon.

Mission accomplished!  The big toe joint has been fused and held in place with a plate and a handful of screws.

We were back home in time for lunch.  I was ready.

Now I wait six weeks for it to heal.

Welcome Visitors

All these guys and gals stopped by to visit on the same morning.

I always experience joy when I see him

I always experience joy when I see him

Maybe it’s in his name, American Gold [Finch].  Yah, that works for me.

A cheery cherry guy

A cheery cherry guy

I didn’t get a picture of the red-tailed hawk.  That’s one that is not a poser.

Breakfast bugs are freshly dug

Breakfast bugs are freshly dug

She takes care of a lot of bugs.  She also digs up the lawn, but I don’t care.  Just so she doesn’t try to nest under my garage again.

That’s the least amount of white I’ve seen on a skunk.  Would she be welcome at your house?