Friday, December 30, 2016

Places To Take Visiting Friends and Relatives

 From where we live in Tracy City, Tennessee, here are some of the places we like to take visiting friends and relatives.

Nashville (Music City) has the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, Country Music Hall of Fame, the Parthenon (full scale replica of the one in Greece), Nashville LDS Temple, and Al Gore😁
Chattanooga (Gateway to the South) has the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Lookout Mountain & Lookout Mtn Incline, Rock City, Ruby Falls, world renowned Tennessee Aquarium & Tennessee River Gorge Riverboat ride
Knoxville area has Pigeon Forge (Dollywood, etc.), Gatlinburg (gateway to Natl Park), Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tail of the Dragon (11-mile stretch of highway in Natl Park containing 318 curves - a motorcycle paradise)
Huntsville AL has the U.S. Space & Rocket Center; International Space Station Operations Center.
Bowling Green, KY has General Motor's Corvette Assembly Plant & Museum, Mammoth Cave National Park nearby

Locally, we have South Cumberland State Park (7 mi), Fiery Gizzard Hiking Trail (5 mi), Foster Falls (10 mi), Fall Creek Falls State Park (highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River, 49 mi away), and Cumberland Caverns (38 mi)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

First exposure to One Voice Children's Choir -- at BYU Education Week

During the Month of August each year since moving to Tennessee, we have gone to BYU Education Week, where over 20,000 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint annually gather together to be instructed by the Church's best and brightest educators.  I dearly wish that every church member could have the opportunity of experiencing BYU Education Week at least one time in their life.  Topics are widely diverse, covering such mundane areas such as personal finance, coping with mental illness, food preparation and storage, intensive gardening, etc.  In the religious realm, one can focus on church doctrine, church history, getting involved in family history, and becoming more effective gospel teachers (Judy's interest as a Seminary teacher here in Tennessee), just to scratch the surface.  My personal interest is in church history (ex., pioneer trails across the west, music sung by the early saints, what became of Emma Smith following the assassination of her husband Joseph, fifty most significant events in LDS church history, etc.).

Janice Kapp Perry and her husband
One thing I have never missed are the LDS musicians featured in the de Jong Concert Hall of the Harris Fine Arts Center.  Their performances have never disappointed.  This year, the music of Janice Kapp Perry was highlighted.  Janice is one of the most prolific song writers that our church has ever produced.  Anyone who has grown up in the church, will be very familiar with her music, which includes such primary songs as "I Love to See the Temple," "A Child's Prayer," "I'm Trying to be like Jesus," and "We'll Bring the World His Truth (Army of Helaman)."
subset of One Voice Children's Choir
This year, Janice introduced some groups of musicians she works with.  One group that I payed particular attention to was Utah-based One Voice Children's Choir, a children's choir led by an amazingly gifted choir director, Masa Fukuda.  I was deeply inspired by their performance and the unusually strong connectivity between choir director and choir. Masa Fukuda's life story is well worth the read.


The solo performance of Reece Oliveira caught everyone's attention.  Here is the video she was in.

Reece Oliveira at BYU Ed Wk
Recently, quite by accident, I stumbled into Reece Oliveira's website.  Suddenly, memories of the experience at BYU Education Week were refreshed.  Members of One Voice Children's Choir were invited to perform a musical number, "One By One," the words written by Elder David  A. Bednar (one of the Twelve Apostles in our Church), and the music by Paul Cardall.

My best wishes to Reece and her friends. They appear to have a very bright future. Here is a link to their singing of "Glorious" by David Archuleta.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Barbershop Singing – the good old days

When I hear the phrase, “Those were the good old days,” two of the things I most fondly look back on are singing in a barbershop chorus and breaking out and singing in a barbershop quartet. I sang in the Utah Valley Skyline Chorus, based in Provo-Orem, Utah during the between years, after I left sugarcane in Hawaii and before I rejoined sugarcane in Louisiana. It was a God-send, because I needed something to take my mind off my perceived woes (being underemployed; working in part-time jobs completely completely outside my training and education) for a few years (see right-column timeline on my Blog). Singing in a Barbershop Chorus fit the bill.There are many barbershop choruses in the U.S.A. The professional organization that represents them is the The Barbershop Harmony Society formerly called the SPEBSQSA (Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber shop Quartet Singing in America. [We used to joke at the Skyline Chorus, “Stake Presidents and Bishops Should Quit Singing Altogether.”] The Barbershop Harmony Societyheld its International Convention in Nashville TN in 2016 (July 3-10), and will be holding the Convention in San Antonio and Las Vegas   in 2017 and 2018.

Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga all have barbershop choirs, each with its own distinctive name: For Nashville, it's the award-winning “Music City Chorus.” For Memphis, it's “Men of Harmony.” For Knoxville, its “Smokyland Sound." And for Chattanooga, it's “Choo Choo Chorus.” Be sure to play the embedded videos on their respective websites to sample their talent.

Competition for the most outstanding barbershop chorus and quartet is intense at the Annual Barbershop Harmony Society convention. The choice of song, matching the personality of the quartet, has a lot to do with whether a highly talented quartet will make it to the top. In 2013 (Toronto convention site), a quartet from Southern California elected to use “Tennessee Waltz,” as their song. It was a great fit for them and they ended up winning it all. They haven't come close since then, so there really is such a thing as a song being a great match for a given quartet.  

I can think of no better chorus than Dallas-based Vocal Majority.  Billed as America's Premier Pops Chorus, Vocal Majority brought down the house at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in 2014, with the Jim Clancy arrangement of the American Civil War anthem "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."  They won the Gold Metal as the best chorus of 2014.  They expend unbelievable energy in their performances, so as to make the music come alive.

Generally, individual Choruses will put on several shows each year. For Skyline Chorus, the biggest show of the year included highlighting a big-name barbershop quartet from the outside (often from California), one that is entertainment oriented, and that will have the audience rolling with laughter. There are several well-known quartets that fit this bill, at least in the barbershop world.

Barbershops generally include in their repertoire, familiar barbershop songs, such as those listed by the Barbershop Harmony Society at their website. Typically, a significant portion of a barbershop chorus's repertoire will include songs intended to evoke laughter, such songs as:  

How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away
I'm a Wild and Wooly Son of the West
Don't Put a Tax on the Beautiful Girls
Everybody Wants to go to Heaven (Last line> “But nobody wants to die”)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tommy Emmanuel – my all-time favorite guitar player with a Nashville connection

Tommy Emmanuel, born and raised in Australia, student of Chet Atkins, currently based out of Nashville, and does over 300 concerts a year around the world. Here are five of my favorite samplings of his work, purposely arranged to tell his story: 1) Somewhere Over the Rainbow, 2) AmazingGrace (South Korea concert), 3) Guitar Boogie (stop at 8:10), 4) OneMan Band, and 5) Tommy and Chet (a little Christmas music).

Tommy has an amazing amount of music “out there.” Although he describes himself as a one-man band, he actually performs with a wide range of other performers, and he loves to make himself accessible to his audience, and to fledgling artists. I deeply respect him, as much for his humanity as I do for his amazing talent. Here is a small sampling of other performers that he has performed with: 1) his brother, Phil, 2) Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo from New York, 3) Emil Ernebro from Sweden, 4) Brad Paisley (Grand Ole Opry, Nashville), 5) Igor Presnyakov from Russia (paying tribute to Eric Clapton), 6) John Knowles from Nashville (How Deep is Your Love), 

Get in the Christmas Spirit by turning on some Christmas music by Tommy Emmanuel & Company, while you go and do other stuff on the internet:  

First eight are a sampling of Tommy Emmanuel's new album (2016), Christmas Memories...

Christmas Time (3:21) featuring TE, Pat Bergeson, Annie Sellick, and John Knowles
Jingle Bells (4:05) ditto
White Christmas (4:05) ditto
Winter Wonderland (2:59) ditto
Let It Snow (2:45) ditto

The Magic of Christmas Time (3:27) with Rick Price
White Christmas (3:17) with John Knowles at the Chet Atkins Tribute Concert in Franklin, TN
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1:55) with John Knowles
One Christmas Night (3:26) solo, written by TE 
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (3:41) with John Knowles

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Village on Sewanee Creek – Our Story

While I was in the midst of purging old letters and documents I had retained while working at the USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Unit, I stumbled across this letter, dated November 19, 2009, apparently written to myself.

In the field, we had one of those years where the cane fell down badly just as we were starting selection in early September. When the cane goes down, it takes approximately three times as long to slog through it, compared to standing cane; in down cane, selection effectiveness drops dramatically. And on top of this, outdoor temperatures and humidity made selection a most miserable experience for nearly two months solid. On several occasions while I was doing selection, I quit earlier than scheduled because I was getting dangerously close to heat exhaustion. I saw more water moccasins this year during selection than in any year previous to this one. So I have been thinking long and hard about early retirement...” 

Judy discovered Grant and Becky Miller's website decribing The Village of Sewanee Creek.  We decided to drive to Tracy City from Houma LA (about 8 hr), meet the Millers, and check out the area.  Our first visit was in 2008.

Judy in a rustic setting

Campground near Nickajack Lake
Grant and Becky Miller with Judy


We visited two more times before purchasing a 1.4-acre parcel of land, and a investing in a modular home. A modular home seemed most logical to us. The price was reasonable. The home would be sturdy. And the delays normally associated with building a home from scratch would not apply. The home was installed on site in a single day with the help of a million-doller crane. We still needed to have a large porch built in the front and a carport in the rear of the house, which took six months, about five months longer than was projected. The timing of selling our home in Louisiana, and taking possession of our Tennessee home, was less than a week about cutting it close!

What makes our intentional community work?  We meet often. We do projects together on the weekends, and Village Family Forum activities on Mondays, which includes attending a monthly bee meeting in Winchester TN.  And, we are quite flexible, so that our group activities and projects don't become burdensome.

July 4th entertainment at the Commons
Group activity at George & Ginger Millers

Work project at the Commons
Target practice after preparing range

Work project at the Tew's - the shed
July 4th relaxation

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Obama declares Tennessee wildfire a major disaster

"Obama declares Tennessee wildfire a major disaster" (USA Today).  Obama signed the disaster declaration today (Thursday, Dec 15), which means that Federal funds can now be made available to victims.  Details for applying, are outlined in another USA Today article, "Obama orders federal funds to aid Sevier County fire victims."  Fires killed 14 people and damaged or destroyed more than 2,400 structures in Gatlinburg and the surrounding communities in east Tennessee.  Officials have estimated the fires caused around $500 million in damages.  Here are two other useful links, 1) Timeline of Gatlinburg fires, and 2) Dolly Parton's star-studded "Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund" telethon, which raised nearly $9 million for the affected community.  Smoky indeed!  Dolly is from this area; her theme park, Dollywood, is in neighboring Pigeon Forge.

Gatlinburg TN area - destroyed buildings along U.S. 321
Destroyed homes above Gatlinburg
Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa above Gatlinburg the day after

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Grundy County, Tennessee – The LDS Chapels

It may come as a surprise that Grundy County in Tennessee attained a higher percentage of Latter-day Saints than any other county east of the Mississippi River in the U.S., following the western exodus of Latter-day Saints to the Salt Lake Valley.  I don't know what the peak percentage was.  Some  claim that the percentage was greater than 50% of the entire County population. I have never been able to verify that claim. However, I found online data that indicate that, as of 2010, 8.6% of Grundy County residents described themselves as Latter-day Saints.  From the data source I linked to, I based my percentage on the hard number counts, because the displayed percentages didn't make sense.  Altamont is the County Seat of Grundy County. In or around Altamont are three LDS chapels, representing three different eras of LDS church history in Grundy County. Even though only one is actively used by the Church, all three are still in tact.  Their locations can be seen on the map below.

One accounting of the history of the Church in Grundy County (PDF file) was submitted by Ralph and Bonnie Rieben, Members, Grundy County Historical Society. It is from this accounting that I have gleaned most of the information below:

Northcutt Chapel, dedicated in 1909. The Northcutt Chapel, called Nunleys Cove Church on Google Maps, is located about seven miles north of Altamont on Northcutts Cove Road near where the Cove reaches the base of the Cumberland Plateau, at 1070 ft elevation above sea level. Today, the property that the Chapel is located on, is owned by a non-LDS family. I'm going to go out on a limb, and guess, the Nunley's. The family has been generous in allowing interested parties to stop and enter its doors, for group gatherings and personal meditation. A cemetery is located just east of the Chapel, which primarily contains graves of the early members of the congregation. Side roads in the area show the influence of the LDS Church in the community, such as Utah Rd in neighboring Beersheba Springs. The Northcutt Chapel is a popular destination of Latter-day Saints in Tennessee and beyond who have an interest in LDS Church History.

Old Altamont Chapel, dedicated in 1946. This chapel is located in Altamont, less than a block from the County Courthouse, and is at 1860 ft elevation. The outside walls of this chapel were constructed of native stone, much of which was gathered out of the surrounding mountains, and hauled on sleds drawn by mules. A quote from an article about this chapel, written by Gordon B. Hinckley in 1948, reads as follows, “ 1938, President William T. Tew of the East Central States Mission, secured from the Church, an appropriation of $1,000 with the understanding that the Altamont saints would furnish whatever else was necessary to complete the project.” President W.T. Tew, it turns out, is my uncle (Uncle Will, as we called him). Services were held in this building from 1946 – 1981. An interesting post-1981 factoid about this Chapel is that, in the 1990's, when the Altamont County Courthouse burned down, it served as the temporary courthouse, until the new permanent courthouse was built. Today, the old Altamont Chapel is unoccupied, but still standing. It will likely remain standing, since it has historical significance to the City of Altamont.

New Altamont Chapel, dedicated in 1981.  As Church membership continued to swell, and the local congregation achieved “Ward” status, it became evident that a larger chapel would be needed to accommodate the growing number of worshipers. A program was begun to acquire the necessary resources to construct a larger facility. Fund raisers were held and auctions of donated items were conducted. Church headquarters in Utah provided funds as well, along with design and construction expertise. In 1980, ground was broken, and by December 1981, the third and final phase of the building was completed. This building meets very rigid construction codes and was intentionally designed as an emergency shelter for the community. The Chapel is one mile WNW of Altamont on Hwy 108, heading toward Viola, TN., and is also at 1860 ft elevation. At the time of its dedication, it was the largest building in the City of Altamont.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Phase out of Sugar Production in Hawaii to be complete by EOY 2016

Regardless of how one defines the end, 

1) when the last field is burned in preparation for Harvest (Dec 10),
2) when the last of the cane is harvested and hauled to the Pu'unene mill (Dec 12),
3) when the last cane is processed into raw sugar at the mill (Dec 14),
4) when the last ship leaves Kahului Harbor at high tide (due to the weight of the full load of sugar) to be refined at the C&H refinery in California (Dec 16),
or 5) when the lights go dark at the mill for the very last time (Dec 23),

the era of sugarcane production in Hawaii will be over by December 31 this year.

The end of the commercial sugarcane production in Hawaii was “set into concrete” a full year ago as was well explained with a 5-min nostalgic segment on KHON TV2 news back in January. Those closely associated with the Hawaiian sugar industry have known for some time that the complete phase out of sugar production in Hawaii was just a matter of time. Nevertheless, the “Operations Winding Down at HC&S” headline, dated Dec 6, in The Maui News (brought to my attention by Chifumi Nagai (a fellow Hawaii-based Sugarcane breeder)) evoked a considerable emotion in me and gave me the “end” dates applied above.

Having dedicated over half of my sugarcane breeding career in Hawaii toward the development of new and improved sugarcane varieties, the Hawaiian Sugar Industry became part of who I was and how I defined myself. I went through nine years of post-high school education to get an advanced degree (PhD), then dedicated my training and energy toward the development of new and improved sugarcane varieties for 14 years of my life, and now those advanced varieties have no future. They may find a home in a living museum of past varieties (possibly in a botanical arboretum on Oahu).  These varieties may end up (if they haven't already done so) in some international breeder's collection such as in Brazil. They should find their way into at least one of the two official world collections of sugarcane cultivars, one being in Coral Gables, FL, USA; the other in Kannur, India. Some of the varieties could also have a sufficiently wide adaptation as to be able to be successfully used elsewhere, either based on their own merits or as parents.

Having made this posting sound doom and gloom, the reality is, my education has obviously served me well elsewhere. And for the sixteen plus years we spent in Hawaii (1977-1993), our family got to enjoy living in paradise. I got to go “off island” a lot, primarily to the four sugar islands (Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii), but also to Molokai occasionally, as part of my job. In the winter, I got to go to our Maunawili Breeding Station on a daily basis, on the Windward side of Oahu, and, during breaks, enjoy apple bananas, guavas, and passion fruit growing naturally around us. And, of course, I could bite into stalks of the sugarcane we were evaluating, just to “test” how sweet they were. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is quite prominent in Hawaii, and is home to the earliest LDS Temple built outside of the North American continent, so we benefited from its presence.

Relative to the Sugarcane Industry in Hawaii, here is some trivia that some of you may not have been aware of:

1) The sugar industry, had much to do with how and why Hawaii forcibly became a Territory of the U.S. in 1896, and ultimately, a State in 1959.  The best read on the history of Hawaii, in my humble opinion, is a book by Australian-born Gavan Daws,    "Shoal of Time -  A History of the Hawaiian Islands"

2) The sugar industry is largely responsible for the ethnic makeup of Hawaii today, (start 2 min into video for the relevant portion) through the importation of labor to facilitate the burgeoning sugar industry. This explains the substantial fraction of Chinese (5%), Japanese (17%), Filipino (14%), and Portuguese (<5%) as part of Hawaii's ethnic composition. As a side, it also explains Podagee jokes (not Polish jokes) in Hawaii (ex., Knock Knock. Who dare. One Podagee burgler). The continued blending of these groups through inter-racial marriages and rearing of children, make Hawaii the ethnic melting pot that it is today.

3) Sugarcane, in its heyday, was referred to as King Cane, owing to its dominance in Hawaii's agricultural industry.

4) Sugarcane impacted the paradise look of Hawaii, as sugarcane graced the landscape, the views that the tourists enjoyed. To me this was especially true on Maui, both at Pioneer Mill plantation (Lahaina), and at HC&S plantation (Pu'unene). HC&S represented the last remaining plantation and that was also always the largest (35,000+ acres), even during the heyday years.

5) The fibrous residue (called bagasse) remaining after the sugarcane juice was extracted from the stalk was used to generate all the electricity needed to run the mill, and excess was used to generate electricity, and put it on the grid. Over 40% of the total electric needs of Maui, Kauai and the Big Island were each met by the burning of sugarcane baggasse during the heyday years.

The commercial sugar industry in Hawaii began in 1835, so it remained viable for over 180 years. This is pretty remarkable, considering that sugar is the most international of any food-related commodity (like soccer in the sports world). We in the U.S. are competing with nations that pay their workers as little as $5 per day for their labor. We were able to stay ahead of the curve because of advanced irrigation and harvesting methodology; integrated pest management; disease, weed, and rat control; precise application of nutrients to the crop; advanced factory processes (sugar recovery and sugar quality); advanced control of ripening; and perhaps, most importantly (tooting the breeders' horn here), advanced genetics. And let's not overlook basic research. One notable example was the co-discovery of the C4 carbon-fixation pathway (Kortschak, together with Hatch & Slack out of Australia) to better understand how carbon is captured and accumulates as sucrose in the cell. All of this application of research and technology kept us in the game for a lot longer than many thought it would, so kudos to a lot of terrific scientists who were well supported by an appreciative industry. Really, it doesn't get much better than how lean and efficient we were in the manner we were able to conduct research. I got a far, far better appreciation of how efficient we were back then, when I later finished off my career with the USDA (so incredibly accountable to the public for every single breath we took and movement we made that precious little time is left over to conduct meaningful research).

I have in my possession, the final Hawaiian Planters' Record (Vol. 61, No. 3, 2009) of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA, now HARC, Haw'n Ag Res Center) which is “A History of the Experiment Station" (HSPA), co-written by Don Heinz and Robert Osgood. It outlines the advances that were made and the players that were involved at HSPA. I re-read its epilogue section with particular interest. If anyone has a further interest, please let me know.

Alohe Oe to an industry that was Hawaii's most important, but that, in the final analysis, simply couldn't continue to compete in such an international commodity as sugar represented.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Assessing and addressing tornado risk where we live

When Judy and I finally took occupancy of our newly built home in Tennessee in April 2011, Judy moving in solo, and I arriving two months later (after finishing up my work obligations at the USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Station in Houma, LA), the effects of three storms involving damaging winds were already evident.

1) During the time our home was being built, we could already see the effects of a previous wind-damage event on the tree farm immediately behind our property. A tornado-like event had created a swath of bent-down pine trees that could even be seen from the road fronting our property. I remember asking myself at the time, “Whatever kind of tornado-like event this was, what if the path of this event had been on our property (instead of immediately behind it) and after we had already had our modular home installed?”

2) On April 27 2011, one of the most deadly, damaging, and costly tornadoes in U.S. history swept a historically-long contiguous path from Tuskaloosa, AL, through the Huntsville area, through Trenton, GA all the way through Ringgold, GA. The effects of that tornado are still evident in Trenton (and other surrounding areas close to where we live) even to this day. People in our local LDS church congregation were called upon to assist in the cleanup.  In Year 2011, there was unusually high tornado activity in the MS-AL-GA-TN region of the U.S. (See map below)

3) Between April and June 2011, while Judy was here on her own, a large tree on our property came crashing down, thankfully not on our house, but, unfortunately onto the road that passes by us, taking down the power lines in its path. Judy and surrounding neighbors were without power for the next 36 hours, while the mess was being cleaned up by the County and power was being restored by the local electric company.

When we took occupancy, we recognized that we still had several large trees on our property that, if blown down in the wrong direction, could do damage to our house. We have since hired professional tree removers to come and cut down a few of those trees that we identified as the most threatening to our home. We are still not entirely out of the woods (no pun intended), when it comes to having trees that could potentially do damage to our home.

Even though we have neighbors who would let us use their shelters if there is enough time to respond and go somewhere else, we have decided to look into storm shelter alternatives and install our own shelter this coming year. Any thoughts you all have relative to storm shelters would be most welcome.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Cumberland Plateau – A true treasure in the Eastern U.S.

The Cumberland Plateau is a deeply dissected plateau that uplifts more than 1000 feet above surrounding valley floors, and that stretches northeastward through northern Alabama and extreme NW Georgia, through Tennessee, and through much of eastern Kentucky. (See enclosed map showing the Cumberland Plateau in yellow). 

The Cumberland region consists of many spectacular cliffs, gorges (locals call them “gulfs”), rock outcroppings, caves, and waterfalls. In Tennessee, the Cumberland Plateau's western border is the Highland Rim east of the Nashville Basin, and its eastern edge is marked by Walden Ridge, which continues south into Alabama as Sand Mountain.  Walden Ridge and Sand Mountain are separated from the main portion of the Cumberland Plateau by the Sequatchie Valley, which extends into central Alabama under other valley names. The Cumberland Plateau is one of the most bio-diverse areas of the United States.  It contains some of the largest stretches of contiguous forest in the eastern U.S.  A great description of Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau can be found here.

We were swept by the sheer beauty of the Cumberlands, and gained a respect for the locals who have learned how to make a living in the Cumberlands' harsh conditions. One person's description of the tenacity it took, less than a century ago, to live in the Cumberlands is found in a book from the publishers of ORGANIC GARDENING magazine, called “Lasagna Gardening,” written by Patricia Lanza, whose grandmother mentored her in the Crossville, TN area.

In the introduction section of her book, Patricia wrote the following: “When I was a child, growing up in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Tennessee, I would watch my widowed grandmother get ready to plant her garden. She would hitch the mule to an old plow and, throwing the reins over her shoulders, guide the plow up and down, making long straight rows. Grandmother was a small woman; the mule was big and the plow heavy. The soil was one part dirt to two parts rock. I can't imagine how hard it was to plow that garden, but watching her do it, made a lasting impression on me. It was there the seed was sown that would grow [me] into a gardener.”

Grant Miller is the founder of the intentional community in which we live, called the Village on Sewanee Creek. He caught the vision of this area about 10 years ago, purchased property, and began selling parcels to those who shared his vision. His “SewaneeCreek” website lured us to check out the area, and ultimately to purchase property here. We have never regretted the decision. In future posts, I will describe the area in more detail and shed a little more light on the Village that we live in, and how we interact in a way that enriches our lives so abundantly. Below are just a couple of photos taken by Grant within the boundaries of the Village.

View from Village at Sewanee Creek
Miller Falls

Friday, December 9, 2016

75th National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration

God bless my old friend Bro. Lawrence Bergeron, from Houma, LA, for bringing this video to my attention.   It is a recording of the 75th National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration held at Pearl Harbor on Pearl Harbor Day (December 7, 2016).  Remaining living survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack were in attendance.  I watched the Commemoration in its entirety, and had a flood of memories come back from the days we lived in Hawaii  The Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association building, where I worked for 14 years, overlooked Pearl lots of nostalgia from the footage in this video.

Every person who considers himself or herself a patriot and/or who has a connection to Hawaii, will want to watch this video, or at the very least, portions of it.

For those who don't have the time to watch it all, here are the significant timelines during the presentation:

  4:45  Four F-22 Raptors flyover in the "Missing Man Formation"
  6:45  National Anthem
  7:35  Pan of the mountainside, including Aiea, where the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Assn. offices were located
  8:20  Hawaii State Song
  9:30  Guided missile destroyer USS Halsey floating by, who rendered honors to the USS Arizona and USS Utah Memorials
10:25  Honoring Pearl Harbor Attack survivors (including a poignant pan of the survivors in attendance)
12:55  Authentic Hawaiian Blessing
16:30  Reverand Tsunekiye Tanaka offering a prayer in Japanese (translation into English following his comments and prayer)
28:45  National Park Service (NPS) representative Jacqueline Ashwell recounting stories from Pearl Harbor attack survivors
35:45  NPS representative Laura Juss reviewing the role of the National Park system in our lives
40:55  Rear Admiral John V. Fuller honoring the living survivors of Pearl Harbor who were in attendance
45:00  Introduction of Keynote Speaker Harry B. Harris Jr, Admiral (whose mother, fittingly, was a Japanese American)
46:10  Keynote Speaker's absolutely stirring address
1:04:55  Wreath presentations to each of the branches of the military affected by the Pearl Harbor attack
1:22:30  Flyover by a vintage plane of the Pearl Harbor attack era

At the outset of his address, U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. took a backhanded swipe at the San Francisco 49ers quarterback and and those who refuse to stand during the national anthem when he said, "You can bet that the men and women that we honor today - and those who died that fateful morning 75 years ago - never took a knee and never failed to stand when they heard our national anthem being played." (standing ovation)

I am reminded of the bumper sticker:  Some people spend an entire life wondering if they made a difference — SOLDIERS don’t have that problem

Thursday, December 8, 2016

New beginning

Today begins a new era for me.  From 2008 - 2011, I posted blog entries in "Tew's Life on the Bayou."  Then, I retired from the USDA-ARS, and Judy and I moved to Tennessee, into an intentional community on the Cumberland Plateau, in the town of Tracy City.  What lured us here was the opportunity 1) to live in an intentional community surrounded by families with similar goals, 2) to cut down on our expenses by living a simple lifestyle, and 3) to be surrounded by the sheer beauty that Tennessee offers.  As a bonus, at the time, the move to Tennessee also brought us closer to our grandchildren, who were then living in Indiana.

It's tough to admit it, but I didn't handle retirement very well, and sort of went underground for nearly six years of my life.  But I'm back now, stronger, but more humble and appreciative than ever.  I thank all of you who wondered whatever happened to me, for your patience.  And for those who helped me back, especially my wife, Judy, I can't begin to express the depth of gratitude for all you did to get me through this vortex in my life, to where I am today.  The transformation from where I was as recently as a month ago is astounding to me.  I will describe it in more detail later, because several elements had to come together in my life simultaneously, like a perfect storm, to bring about this transformation.  In a way, I feel like Scrooge, who woke up giddy, because he realized that he was still in this life, that there was time to make amends and then do the best he could to make up for lost time.  The things that I dreaded as recently as a few weeks ago, such as engaging in Blogging and Facebook, visiting families, going out with missionaries, going to activities, traveling, participating in community projects, even communicating long-distance with friends and family, are things that I now look forward to with great anticipation.

So from here on out, I will be posting blog entries into this new blog, entitled "Tew's Life on the Cumberland Plateau."  I will do my utmost to give family and friends some flavor of what it is like to live a simple life in a close-knit community in the Cumberland Region of Tennessee.