The lot up the road

I live in a rural area; the road we live on is zoned “agricultural.” There are a number of houses along it, but all are pretty widely-spaced apart. During the early morning when the weather is nice I like to go for walks up the road with a Rosary in hand and pray while strolling. I say “up the road” as there is a rise in the grade to crest the top (the road climbs over a hill). Soon after starting out from the end of our driveway there is a pleasant pastoral vista of an empty field “up the road” backed by a long row of evergreens and other trees. (For some crazy reason, I get an almost irresistible urge to grab a copy of Grit magazine and start reading.)



The other day when I was driving home from somewhere I saw to my dismay a sign posted along the roadside by this vacant field, “SOLD: nameofhousingdeveloper and phonenumber.”

Rats. Someone is going to build a house (or houses?) there.

While I don’t begrudge or hold a resentment against anyone from wanting to build a home along a nice, quiet, rural street, I couldn’t help but feel that “I wish they picked somewhere else!”

I stood there with Rosary in hand pondering the scene in my pajamas. Yes, I go for walks along the street in the morning still dressed in my jam-jams. As I said, it’s a rural street, hardly anyone else is around. So there I am, Rosary in my right hand, slippers on feet, floppy gray socks, plaid pajama bottoms and baseball-sleeved shirt with coffee stains on front, and faded thin bathrobe wafting a little in the breeze, the rare vehicle taking wide berths around me (despite my being along the shoulder of the roadside-there are no sidewalks, either.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, pondering the scene. So I’m staring vacantly across the road at the sweet empty field of various grasses and weedy flowers and I’m trying to get all spiritual about it as I want to write a blog post about something, anything. And something did develop in my consciousness.


Someone’s going to build a house there. Maybe more than one. That land has been there for like, millions of years and probably no one has ever lived there before, (population density being on the profoundly low side prior to European colonization of North America). Given the perpetually uncertain future, who knows how long the presumed housing will last and if anyone will replace it centuries hence? So, for uncounted eons no one’s ever lived on that spot until a year or so from now.

We are not here, then we are here, then we are not here, again. The land remains. No wonder some misguided people worship the created instead of the Creator. And it is a wonder that while in the “we are here” phase, some other people, also misguided, confuse “ownership” with a moral absolute to do whatever they wish with the land they own. I am by no means denigrating the private ownership of land; on the contrary, that concept is the bulwark of freedom and autonomy. But we should be cognizant that the things we “own” are far more ancient than we are, and others will come after us and may wish to enjoy the land, too.

We “own” the land but should be mindful that it is more like “held in trust” for future people. What does that have to do with someone possibly building a house on that lot? Probably nothing, really. People come and people go, their dwellings, too. The land remains. And my brain takes off and arrives at conclusions unknown from the starting ponder.

Although my walk was this morning, it didn’t occur to me to take a camera, hence the late afternoon photos.


Posted in Outside, Personal, Spirituality | 5 Comments


This sounds rather unorthodox to me even though it’s been done for thousands of years and it is just laying a bunch of sticks, branches, logs and other wood-like things on the ground, burying it somewhat with compost, soil and dirt, and then planting vegetables on top.

What is this? It’s “hugelkultur” and links to articles on it have been showing up in my Facebook feed quite a lot these past few weeks and so I’m thinking that Someone is suggesting for whatever reason known only to Him that should I try it. Or it is Springtime and many of my friends are open to innovative gardening methods and it is the workings of probability and coincidence. Or both.

I’d never heard of hugelkultur prior to this month. The following article is a popular reference, quoted and propagated (a gardening term! HA!) by others, complete with images depicting the progression of the hugelkultur plot through the years: hugelkultur: the ultimate raised garden beds from RichSoil.

The next picture is NOT of my hugelkutur plot, it is courtesy of Grow Your Own Fruits and Vegetables UK but it most closely resembles what mine might look like if I tried and didn’t horribly mess it up. It looks very successful, is relatively modest and quite do-able. (I did a Google Images search for “hugelkultur.”)


A Facebook friend mentioned a story of a Zimbabwe man who was banished to live on an almost barren hilltop by Robert Mugabe. He had to either farm it or starve. He hugelkutured and lived.

Here’s another blogger’s hugelkultur efforts, with good lessons: Slowlyspreadingandsinking

I love the quote from the Rich Soil article above: “It’s a german word and some people can say it all german-ish. I’m an american doofus, so I say “hoogle culture”. I had to spend some time with google to find the right spelling. Hugal, hoogal, huegal, hugel …. And I really like saying it out loud: “hugelkultur, hoogle culture, hoogal kulture ….” – it could be a chant or something.”

That inspired me to go around for a while just saying “hugelkultur, hoogle culture, hoogal kulture ….” I thought, “This is another way for me to be annoying around the house,” until my wife essentially ignored it. No fun being annoying if the effort is wasted. 😉

We do have tons of wood lying about the land. We had a rougher than usual Winter this past year (sorry I didn’t document it here) and there’s plenty of material about. You do have to be careful as to what kinds of wood that you use; some woods consume a lot of nitrogen while decomposing. Nitrogen is necessary for many plants and vegetables

Like I said earlier regarding the vegetable garden that’s planned, I …may…post…a photographic record of my hugelkultur patch.

hugelkultur hugelkultur hugelkultur hugelkultur hugelkultur hugelkultur hugelkultur

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The Burned-over District

I found a copy of this book in a stack of used books that my wife had gotten from one of the 8,420,972 used book sales we attend yearly. (A light exaggeration, but we do love books. We even read them now and then!)


The “Burned Over District” was a name referring to Central and Western New York and it refers to the religious fervor and poitical zeal which swept over the area “like burning flames” during the first half of the 19th Century.

This is where the Mormons got their start, as well as the utopian, free-love socialists of the Oneida Community.

Say what you will about the relative merits or demerits of any of the movements that found fertile soil in this land, to me it is proof that my part of New York State was the “Land of Fruits and Nuts” long before California ever became a state. No offense was intended by that sentence (I’m a Catholic, which is admittedly a weird religion by most human standards), as there has got to be something positive about a place, be it early 19th Century western NY or 20th Century California, that can foster such diversity.

“Burned-over District was a name applied to a small region, during a limited period of history, to indicate a particular phase of development. It described the religious character of western New York during the first half of the nineteenth century. Time, subject, and area have thus all combined to confine the scope of this book. The study has nevertheless seemed rewarding, mainly because its implications transcend all three limitations. The meaning expands in a geographical sense because this one area provides a case history in the westward transit of New England culture. Likewise, it is representative as a sample of the change from youth to maturity in a single section affected by continuing westward movement. The subject of religion has broader significance in this period and locality than might at first appear. This section was the storm center, and religious forces were the driving propellants of social movements important for the whole country in that generation. As far as time goes, this book is an illustration of the way in which the minds of one era help to form the destinies of succeeding generations. Neither the causes of the Civil War nor the origins of national prohibition, to cite only two prominent examples, can be thoroughly understood without reference to the Burned-over District.” from the Preface”

Source: The Burned-over District: The Social and Intellectual History of … – Whitney R. Cross – Google Books

A local blogger has musch to say about the BOD (this is a link to his BOD post category): Burned-Over District Observer

More info here: Burned-over District at the Rochester Wiki

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

working habits

In working on my novel, I have discovered that I have odd working habits. Not that they are getting in the way of progress, but it’s interesting to observe in myself. 😉 I’m sharing this only because I want to, and you can extract whatever value you can, especially as I’m not a published novelist yet; you should really pay more attention to the work habits of the successfully published ones. But this stuff “works for me” and has kept me from “giving up” on this particular work.

For example, I don’t outline beforehand. I outline after every few dozen pages or so to map where I’ve been and I outline the next several scenes. Otherwise the novel is all in my head and pours out in some manner.

I do keep a separate bulleted list of plotlines, just to keep track of all the disparate action and so that I don’t fall into the rookie novelist’s trap of forgetting to resolve a plot. This is also helping me to direct a convergence of many of them into a epic scene where the novel “finally gets going” in the minds of the millions of readers who will buy the book. 😉

I employ a heavy use of LibreOffice’s highlighting function to color-code ideas in these outlines and lists. I use LibreOffice for everything in writing; I don’t bother with commercial novel writing software or other fancy pieces of software like mindmapping and wikis and such that other writers report using to their great profit. I prefer to keep it simple (albeit messy) in a software that works equally well across operating systems (I use Mac OS X and Linux). I think I’m replicating what I would have used “back in the day” when typewriters and legal pads and notebooks –  the paper kind – were all the rage.

And recently I’ve sidestepped making actual progress on the draft by also doing something backwards: I am now writing up a backstory, actually a biography, of a character who is turning into a pivotal protagonist. In doing so I am also fleshing out ideas for the novel, giving it some meat for certain scenes I’ve already written and will be writing. From what I gather, many writers do much of this sort of thing beforehand. To me, it’s like a cross-pollination. I am developing new ideas for the character, while also incorporating ideas already used into the biography; it’s a synthesis of material.

It’s an interesting exploration of how i’m crafting this work.

Posted in Me, Novel, Writing | Comments Off on working habits

Prairie Hoof Farm

It seems like there’s been a flurry of meritorious GoFundMe campaigns during this Lenten/Easter season. Well, there’s another worthy campaign that I am bringing to your attention…

PLEASE… if you can.. support Prairie Hoof Farm by Kevin and Mary Ford in their attempts to re-establish their farm to the Topeka, Kansas region.

The Fords:


Kindly go to the GoFundMe link and read up on it; Kevin tells it much better than I can.

But in short, the Fords currently run a farm in south-central Kansas. It has experienced a few bad years, “bad” enough that it would have convinced most people to hang up their mucking boots (or whatever it is that farmers wear when they muck around in pig … stuff…) and repurpose their life. But not Kevin. Kevin, you see, is the founder of the “New” Catholic Land Movement. Kevin descibes the NCLM succinctly:

“A great hope we have for our farm is to make it a place where families can come to live, work, and pray together. Our culture so fragments life today that we feel an experience like this on a farm could really help families to be what they are meant to be. Making our business successful will help us to be able to fulfill this ministry. We would like our farm to one day be a base for the New Catholic Land Movement to use to train families in homesteading and farming-related skills.”

This is Kevin with a pig friend: (The boots he’s wearing are what I was referring to a couple of paragraphs above.)


Kevin maintains a site and blog dedicated the the NCLM, where there is a more complete description of it: Introduction to the New Catholic Land Movement.

Please find it within yourself to contribute… This is an excellent opportunity to help an independent business, complete with family to boot AND help an aspect of American culture that need invigoration. If you are a Catholic who supports certain aspects of Catholic Social Teachings such as “solidarity” and Distributist economics, this is a way to get involved. Thanks!

Posted in Distributism, Economics, Solidarity, Works of Mercy | Comments Off on Prairie Hoof Farm

Foray into mundanity!

Well, today was the first day that I was able to get outside and do something besides shovel snow. I wish I had been documenting the lousy Winter we in western NY have been having. You all missed out on a lot of serious whining and complaining.

I had intended to dig the veggie garden over but was unable to as it was too water-saturated from snowmelt and recent rains. So that may be a while. I did attempt to figure out the garden’s new dimensions (I’m expanding it a bit (to 30′ x 21.5′ from the 25′ x 20′). At least I got outside and quite dirty! I’m a firm believer in “going outside to ‘get outside’ yourself.” Admittedly that is much easier when the temps are very warm.

I may… keep a photographic record… of the plot.

St. Anthony took me very seriously when he helped me find my Mom’s Rosaries. Extremely sentimental, I had misplaced them, I knew not where. No clue. Asked St. Tony for help. Usually this comes… after a while. He likes to meander with me. This time, however, within like a minute or two I got a hint to “Check in that thing.”

And that’s where they were. (“That thing” being a mug I retired from coffee and tea use.) There’s a chance I might have placed the Rosaries in it some time ago during a desk reorganizing, but it would be against my typical considerations to put these valuable beads there. It might have been in an atypical moment, however. Thus, a low probability that I would have placed that mug on my search list. No proof of anything miraculous or supernatural, I’m just happy I found them.

These were Rosaries that she had been given by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (of Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA) at my Baptism. The story she and Dad told was that the nuns had looked me over (I was all of 10 days old) and prophesied that I’d become the first American Pope.

Scary thought, that one.

(In an attempt to get this blog more operational, I may have a few ‘personal,’ ‘reflective’, or ‘mundane’ posts through each week. Hence, ‘Foray into mundanity’ as the title for this post…

I’ll try to NOT BE narcissistic. I doubt that’ll be a worry as I’m not that interesting.)

Posted in Gardening, Outside, Personal | 1 Comment

On Solidarity

You probably noticed that there’s been an uptick in the number of posts to this, my so-called “personal blog.” I do hope it’s a trend and not a fad. Of course, that is within my control and is not subject to external factors, much.

For the past few days I’ve been posting “pleas for help” for various people or situations. Homelessness unites two of the pleas, the other is for a friend in need after the death of her husband. One other thing that unites all of them is the notion of “solidarity,” a term from Catholic social teaching that means “we’re in all of this together.”

It is derived from the Biblical doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. As members of the Church, Jesus is the Head, we are the various parts of the Body. When one member suffers, all suffer. When one rejoices, all rejoice. We are not “rugged individualists,” responsible only for ourselves and perhaps a select few others. Our “liberty” and “freedom” isn’t to be used in isolation or to just preserve our own rights. Our actions involving liberty and freedom should be in concert with others, to preserve and enhance it for all.

The early Catholic Church was far more communitarian than it is today. As we see in the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 2: 44-47

“And then all who believed were together, and they held all things in common.

They were selling their possessions and belongings, and dividing them to all, just as any of them had need.

Also, they continued, daily, to be of one accord in the temple and to break bread among the houses; and they took their meals with exultation and simplicity of heart,

praising God greatly, and holding favor with all the people. And every day, the Lord increased those who were being saved among them.”

via Catholic Public Domain Version of the Sacred Bible.

Many read this and claim the early Church exhibited an early form of “Communism.” No, the word I used above, “communitarian” is the better word. It implies a coming together in community, willingly and without coercion. Coercion being the common method of spreading Socialism and Marxism.

The early Christians form a community of believers, in solidarity with one another, each caring for all.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 1939-1942, explains this idea of “solidarity.”

Human Solidarity

1939 The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of “friendship” or “social charity,” is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.

An error, “today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity.”

1940 Solidarity is manifested in the first place by the distribution of goods and remuneration for work. It also presupposes the effort for a more just social order where tensions are better able to be reduced and conflicts more readily settled by negotiation.

1941 Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this.

1942 The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods. In spreading the spiritual goods of the faith, the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods as well. and so throughout the centuries has the Lord’s saying been verified: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well”

For two thousand years this sentiment has lived and endured in the soul of the Church, impelling souls then and now to the heroic charity of monastic farmers, liberators of slaves, healers of the sick, and messengers of faith, civilization, and science to all generations and all peoples for the sake of creating the social conditions capable of offering to everyone possible a life worthy of man and of a Christian.

via Catechism of the Catholic Church – Vatican.

Solidarity: the bond of brotherhood and sisterhood amongst people, the idea that your problems and sufferings are mine, too. As mine are yours.

The bond that should eliminate homelessness.

Do I live up to this? Not by a long shot, but I am endeavoring to try.

More Bible stuff:

Sirach 4: 1-10

“Son, you should not cheat the poor out of alms, nor should you avert your eyes from a poor man.

You should not despise the hungry soul, and you should not aggravate a poor man in his need.

You should not afflict the heart of the needy, and you should not delay an offer to someone in anguish.

You should not make requests of one who is greatly troubled, and you should not avert your face from the indigent.

You should not avert your eyes from the needy out of anger. And you should not abandon those who seek help from you, so that they speak curses behind your back.

For the pleadings of him who speaks curses of you, in the bitterness of his soul, will be heeded. For the One who made him will heed him.

Make yourself a friend to the congregation of the poor, and humble your soul before an elder, and humble your head before the great.

Turn your ear without sadness toward the poor, and repay your debt, and respond to him peacefully in meekness.

Free him who suffers injury at the hand of the arrogant, and do not carry animosity in your soul.

In judging, be merciful to the orphan, like a father, and be merciful to their mother, like a husband.”

via Catholic Public Domain Version of the Sacred Bible.

Posted in Economics, Faith and Justice, Homelessness, Solidarity, Works of Mercy | 1 Comment

Help One Dying Veteran Have a Home

The other day I blogged about my wife’s efforts to help the homeless, in Tents for the Homeless. Now I’m exhorting you to consider another Work of Mercy:

Miki Odendahl, a good online friend of mine from whom I’ve learned many things is raising money to enable a man to die with dignity. This is NOT the “die with dignity” euphemism that covers “assisted suicide,” this is an effort to prevent a homeless American veteran from dying alone in a street or in a ditch somewhere…

To quote from the “GoFundMe” campaign: “My name is Miki Odendahl, and I’m the co-director of the Gilbert House Catholic Worker Community in Western Wisconsin. That sounds like something, but really, it’s just me and my best friends, with a phone line and big mouths doing what we can to serve our local area in whatever ways we are able….

… Clarence lost his apartment, whilst he was in the hospital recovering from a shattered knee injury, because his landlord was jacking up the rent. Bad news, because Clarence has been very sick, receiving kidney dialysis 3 days a week at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Since July I’ve been trying to find affordable housing for this homeless U.S. Veteran with little success. I have talked to multiple people in the mayor’s office … I have called every single number on every single housing list I could get my hands on in three counties, I have connected with every appropriate agency and veterans group, and I have talked to every … politician’s office in my district–…-on Clarence’s behalf, and still, here we are 8 months after my husband and I put all of Clarence’s worldly belongings in a storage locker, and he is exhausted and surfing sofas with family and friends who are bending their own rental agreements to keep him out of the cold. The long and the short of it is this:

He’s dying, slowly but surely, and at the end of this month he will have worn out his welcome with all of those who can help him stay close to his hospital and his two young children. ..

...I hear many people talk about dying with dignity. This man served his country with humility and honour, and I want him to be able to live out the remainder of his young days with the dignity due a man of his station. He served or nation without expectation of anything in return, and now I want him to experience the gratitude he deserves.

To contribute, please go here: Help One Dying Veteran Have a Home by Miki Odendahl – GoFundMe.


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Please help a Marine Corp widow

The other day I blogged about my wife’s efforts to help the homeless, in Tents for the Homeless. Today is another day in which I’ll be exhorting you to consider another Work of Mercy

Stephanie Price, Marine widow.

Stephanie and her late husband met on, where I also had met my wife. We continued our friendship with Steph on Facebook, (her husband wasn’t a member.) Our little group of CatholicMatch alumni were devastated with the news of her husband succumbing to PTSD and depression.

To quote from the gofundme campaign: “Stephanie, his beautiful wife who stood by him and tried all she could to get him the help he deserved is now left to pick up the pieces of their family life.

She is the one who has paid it forward for so many. Now this is our opportunity to not only show gratitude for a friend, but to also say thank you for YOUR service, devoted wife of a US Marine who dedicated his life to improving our lives.”

So, for all those who “Support the Troops,” now is your chance to do something. Michael had served in three branches of the US military (Marines, Army, National Guard.)


Posted in Faith and Justice, Personal, Social networking, Solidarity, Works of Mercy | Comments Off on Please help a Marine Corp widow

Tents for the Homeless

After reading this article in the Buffalo News: A lonely, frigid death on Buffalo’s streets, my wife Rose Santuci-Sofranko decided to do something about it.

She created a Group on Facebook to serve as a sort of liaison or go-between for people and companies or organizations who have resources, and those who can use them. The Group is called: “P.O.P.-U.P. T.E.N.T.S. (Protect Our People – Unite Please – To Ensure Necessary Temporary Shelters) and it “is a Western New York State (and beyond) Grassroots effort to match up people who can donate tents for the homeless with those organizations who can distribute them to the homeless…in particularly those, who for whatever reason, cannot or do not make use of homeless shelters…especially in the bitter cold of Winter.”

“UPDATE: We have several agencies willing to give out the tents….BUT…we need help getting donations of tents so these agencies can give them out. Recently a homeless man died while wandering around in sub-zero temperatures in the city of Buffalo….another was interviewed on the news after having his legs amputated due to exposure to the cold…. nobody should have to live…and die…like that. We all need to do something! If you can donate and/or find companies to donate pop-up tents or other supplies…. or….if you are an organization (homeless shelter, church, social service, etc….) and can distribute these tents to the homeless… please post here, so we can match you up with each other to help those in need. Even a pop-up-tent to block the wind, and keep the snow/rain off the homeless may help to save their lives. Thank you in advance for your help! God bless you one and all!”

“Thank you in advance for anything you can do. God bless you all!”

Go here, to support the effort: 4-THE-HOMELESS-POP-UP TENTS. Please and thank you!

We are not taking any money, just putting people who have in touch with people who don’t have. Perhaps you can buy these kinds of tents and contact a homeless shelter or other advocacy organization where you live, or maybe even contact sporting goods stores and see if they can donate. You can be the go between for your area! The Facebook Group my wife started can be the place where you can coordinate efforts, suggest ideas, plan campaigns…

Ronald Hunter, Jr, via Buffalo News.

Posted in Economics, Faith and Justice, Homelessness, Solidarity, Works of Mercy | 1 Comment