December 8, 2020

The Riddle of the Labyrinth, by Margalit Fox

I just re-read a book, that was on my kindle. I don't remember reading the first time at all! It was 5 years ago, which I only know because I wrote a review of it on Goodreads (below)! I'm laughing at myself here, because the big reveal at the end--which language was it on the tablets?--came as a complete and satisfying surprise the second time around, too. Hoo boy! 

The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, by Maraglit Fox

3 stars

 The story of American linguist Alice Kober's work to crack the code found on ancient Cretan tablets. As it was an unknown script in an unknown language, it was the hardest type to even attempt. Kober's efforts became the stepping stones used by Michael Ventris to solve the puzzle later. She has been largely left out of the narrative, thus this book.

I enjoyed learning about cryptography, and about the Linear B script in particular. The lives of the principal characters were also very interesting.

Just the kind of narrative nonfiction I like.

This time around, I would up that rating to at least 4 stars, if not 5. It was fascinating (again--ha!) to read about how linguists can figure out what ancient scripts say. Even more so, I would say, because in our homeschooling history lessons right now we have talked a lot about the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt. We read a whole book together on the Rosetta Stone and Champollion, the French man who figured out the language of the hieroglyphics. 

With that new background fresh in mind, I was particularly interested in Fox's discussions on the different types of written languages. Some use alphabets, where one character stands for one sound. Some are syllabary (may have spelled that wrong), where one character stands for the sound of a syllable; some are iconographic, where each word is written with a different symbol or picture; and some are mixed. Looking at a ancient tablet with what has to be writing of some kind on it, though, how in the world do you figure out which it is? 

As in the case of Linear B, you may not only need to figure out which type of language you have, and what all the sounds mean, you may have to figure out which language is actually written on the tablet. That is, if it's even a known language on there. Along with that, there are so many other things that we take for granted with our known languages written in known scripts: do you read it left to right, or some other way? What are the rules of the language--grammar or otherwise?  So you start to look for clues. 

The linguists who work on these ancient languages have to have immense amounts of patience and attention to detail. Kober's work was truly incredible, and it was work! She wrote every character down on homemade file cards (paper was scarce due to the recent war), and then noted where it was in relation to other characters in every word. She had boxes and boxes of little cards by the time of her untimely death. Armed with all of that information she had gathered, she was able to draw up tables of the characters in relation to each other. Her tables are what Ventris based his work on, which finally deciphered the code.

Anyway, we had some great discussions about ancient languages, and what clues are left behind in the language itself for the linguists to track down, like following a rabbit trail in the dark woods on a snowy night. The lives of the principle characters also gave us some good fodder for discussion. 

Next, I think we may try our hand at writing messages in an ancient language. There are several books that have examples of hieroglyphics, for example, that would give us a good start.

November 16, 2020

Rain in the Forecast


[This less-than-spectacular picture is of the resident elk herd--our first sighting.]

So, we made it! Here we are in Oregon!
It is really good to be here.
Also, it is very wet.
Every single day.
That's what coastal living is all about, right? 
That's what brings all the amazing wildflowers, ferns, and gigantic trees!
It's just a huge change.
I mean, I knew it would be, going into this move, but there's knowing and then there's experiencing.

So here's an abbreviated version of the forecast for this week:
RAIN--every single day. Some days more than others, maybe.
If you're lucky.
Oh yeah, and WIND. Also every day.
That about sums it up.
In addition, right now there are 5, count them, 5 separate weather warnings for our area.
Let's see if I can get them all straight:
there's the storm warning for tomorrow--very very windy and rainy, stay indoors, and away from trees and/or windows; okay, add to that a high wind warning (see advice above); let's not forget the gale warning--I think it's basically the same as high wind, but for the ocean/rivers--they discuss wind speed in knots in that one; what am I up to now? only 3. Hmm... oh yeah, two separate coastal storm or wind watches, in which you are strongly warned to stay the heck off the beaches and out of the water already! Basically a coastal jet is forming, which I think means really strong winds, going up the coast. 
So in other words, batten down the hatches, kids, we're in for a blow!

Is this normal for this area? 
I have no idea! We just moved here 2 weeks ago!
It is definitely not normal for anyplace I've ever lived!

In the middle of all of the rain and high winds, the sun will come out and it gets oddly warm for November. This evening it was positively balmy out there--60 degrees or some crazy thing--while lightly sprinkling, of course. 

I'm not complaining, really. 
I'm just...adjusting.
My decade of desert living has left me unprepared to be encompassed by water every day.
There's an old saying that goes something like this:
"In the West, whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting!"
It's so true! 
Well, I can't vouch for the whiskey, but water is a big deal!
People get so worked up about water rights and there's water ditch companies who divvy up the shares of ditch water. (Half a share may get you a 40 minute turn every 10 days, at random times of day and night.) Secondary water is a thing that you have to know about.
Water is a constant worry.
In the winter, you watch the news to see if this year's snowpack is big enough to make a difference in the ongoing drought. Every summer, you watch the reservoirs dip lower and lower with dread. 
Will this be the year the water runs out? 

And now we're here. 
1 mile from the Pacific Ocean.
1 river across the street and another between us and the ocean.
Countless streams and creeks every which way.
One of the biggest rivers in the U.S. just 30 miles north of us.
A puddle at the end of our driveway that has its own tides, based on the way it ebbs and flows on a daily basis.

So we are trying to adapt. We purchased rain coats for all who did not have them. We fixed the broken wiper on my windshield. We are learning that if you wait for the rain to stop to do something outside, you'll never go outside. 
Meanwhile, the lawns are green here. Still, in November! Flowers bloom in many yards, unaware that just 2 states away, they would be covered with snow right now.
We go on hikes in woods so green and verdant that we can hardly believe it.

We are rich with water!
Now if we can just figure out to live in it.
Maybe we need to grow some gills. 

October 4, 2020

A Bit of Last-Minute Canning


We decided about a month ago that we weren't going to do any canning this fall. 
Nope, none. No time--especially not with trying to sell our house and pack. 
Just no.
Then we harvested 4 buckets of apples from our apple tree. 
Wormy apples, most of them, but good tasting despite that.
Then before frost hit, we harvested tomatoes galore--bins and bowls and strainers full. Also, 4 buckets of green tomatoes. Plus onions, peppers (sweet and hot), cucumbers.
I just couldn't stand to see all that produce go to waste!
I made some comments about giving it away, but deep down, I didn't want to! My kids had worked so hard on their gardens this year and we were blessed with this abundant harvest. 
I just had to do something with it.

So. We had already packed all of our empty bottles, and some of the canning equipment, like the Vittorio strainer for applesauce. 
Moms to the rescue! I knew my mom still had her Vittorio strainer, and bless her heart, she also had bottles that she just gave to me! 
I had stocked up on lids last year, which was a good thing, since they are very scarce this fall.
So last week we did our homeschool Monday through Wednesday, then we were off to Grandma's Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday was applesauce day! 
It was so fun to can with my mom! It was actually the first time I've been able to do that.
She has a pretty slick setup for canning in her new house, let me tell you.
25 quarts of applesauce, done!

Then Friday we went down to my mother-in-law's to take care of the rest.
She had offered to just do it for us, but we couldn't let her do that.
We came bearing all of our tomatoes, onions, and peppers, several spices, and various other assorted canning things we could round up.
I think we all underestimated the sheer amount of tomatoes we had to process.
She kept pulling bottles out of her garage--by the time all was said and done, we had used up every last bottle on her shelf, except for the extra small half-pint sizes.
We did 28 quarts of regular red salsa on Friday.
Saturday we did 14 quarts + 7 pints of green tomato pickles.
Since we can't even open those for 3 weeks, we won't know how we like them until after the move.
We finished up the day Saturday with 21 pints of salsa verde, also using the green tomatoes.
In addition, I have a big batch of barbecue sauce that I need to finish up here at home tomorrow, and get it canned. It was way to vinegary for my taste, but we ran out of bottles, so I didn't finish working on it. We will have to pull a box of pint jars out of storage to put the BBQ sauce into!

It's ironic that we made so much salsa this year, since I haven't made it for several years.
I hadn't found a recipe I liked, so it seemed a waste of time.
I am happy to report we all tried the salsa--both varieties--and liked them.
That's a relief!

So after I can BBQ sauce tomorrow, then I'll really be done. For real, this time.
No, I mean it.
Second wave of packing up starts this week! 
We are a little more than 2 weeks out from moving truck.

September 20, 2020

Utah Home, Then and Now

 As we're getting ready to move to Oregon (by the way, we're moving to Oregon!), I thought it would be fun to do the same Before and After series that I did for our Pullman home. 

When we moved in, everything was brown, dead, and dry. There were very few flowers, and a lot more fruit trees. Our outbuildings have changed quite a bit. Are you ready? Here we go!

Front of House



Not a huge difference, except the lawn and the little maple tree are both alive and green.
For those with very sharp eyes, you may notice that the swamp cooler is also no longer on the roof--we switched to central air!

Front Flowerbeds


Admittedly, this bed is chock full of bindweed.
I should have taken a picture after the last time we weeded it!
It has a couple of rose bushes, a peony, some irises, and lots of spring bulbs.

I do enjoy this front corner bed. It's got all kinds of things in it these days: sedum, daylilies, asters, roses, peonies, irises, scabiosa. It makes me happy all summer long.

We also added these front flowerbeds all the way down the fence on either side.
I still feel like I was just getting started with those, but what's in there is pretty.

Front Shade Beds



A little more greenery in there. 
I meant to put matching hydrangeas on each side, but ended up only getting the left side planted with those. I also added lady's mantle, feverfew, heuchera, and hostas.

Back Yard


Garden spot, orchard, and the woodshed there on the right.

Woodshed, fire pit, garden shed

Looking back towards the house.

Far back corner


Garden with greenhouse

A much more sparse orchard, unfortunately.
Chicken Palace in the background.
Our fruit trees have died off like crazy!

Our new fire pit area, and the shed we put in.

Woodshed and garden tool storage add-ons to the shed.
The inside essentially became my husband's workshop.

Garden area, from the back deck.

Looking back at the house. New deck.

Toward the far corner.

Back Flowerbeds



This bed doesn't look all that different than before, but the surroundings are much nicer! :) 

We did finally get this corner flowerbed put in.

This is another flowerbed full of good stuff, and also full of bindweed.
It has been a losing fight on my end with the bindweed here.
This bed also holds 5 peonies, coreopsis, yarrow, daisies, a couple of sickly rosebushes, and several spring bulbs.

Oval Flowerbed



Well, this is not the glamour shot by any means!
Also, I had this bed completely weeded a month ago and now it's full of grass and bindweed again.
So from 6 lonely rose bushes, it now has a pie cherry tree, several roses, a peony, lots of spring bulbs, 2 ninebark bushes, bachelor's buttons, asters, phlox, and coreopsis.

Here was this bed back in May:

A little better representation of the goodness!

I am proud of what we accomplished in the 3 years we've been here. 
Now we're headed off to a rental home, with a tiny little yard, and no landscaping duties at all.
I wonder what we're going to do with our time?