Best New Music of 2018: BACKTOBEFORE

BACKTOBEFORE       L to R: Evan Cole Barnes, John McLachlan, David Sparks, Michael Sparks, Tiffany Sparks


Music has been a HUGE part of my life from early childhood.  Growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, and so my imagination and creativity were redirected to writing.  All was not lost, however.  My son, Evan Cole Barnes, is a singer/songwriter for BACKTOBEFORE.  He is multi-talented and contributed acoustic, classical guitar, piano, electric guitar, as well as vocals to their first album, which just dropped December 24.  His band members are a group of amazingly talented musicians:  David Sparks (Lead Guitarist/Writer/Vocalist/Acoustic), Tiffany Sparks (Bass/Uke/Vox), Michael Sparks (Writer/Percussionist/Vocalist/Acoustics) and John McLachlan(Drummer/Writer/Vocalist/Acoustics).  They started writing this record years ago with the hope that one day it would come to fruition.  To quote Evan, “This record had no rules, no producer, and is an honest reflection of who we are as artists.”  Not only are these musicians incredibly talented, they have a heart for human beings.  All proceeds from this album go to fighting human trafficking:

So you want to listen?  Check them out on Spotify:

or on YouTube:

Let me know what you think…




The Long Hot Summer

We really had no Spring this year in the lower half of Indiana and it’s been Summer since about mid-May, with temperatures staying steadily in the upper 80s to mid 90s.  Everything in my herb and vegetable gardens went from being tiny to gargantuan overnight.  I don’t remember ever having cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and peppers so early in the year.  For the first time in my ten years of growing tomatoes I have experienced some type of tomato fungus that has yielded us mottled, thick-skinned tomatoes that look and taste terrible, with most rotting and falling off the vine before we can harvest them.

My cucumbers seem to be babies one day and look like the Hindenburg the very next week, so big and full of seeds I’m not sure how to use them.  I have always been of the mindset to “let nature take its course”, but now I’m understanding that this resolve is not without its consequences.

I’ve been negligent and let my cukes get way too big!  But maybe I can make them into pickles or something…
This one, though, is just about right!  In the future I must  devote myself to regular cucumber harvesting!

As with everything in life, we have our good years and our bad years.  I am truly thankful for a great harvest this year of sun gold cherry tomatoes, beautiful grape tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, tomatillos, summer squash and cucumbers, as well as the usual abundance of herbs (which yield so much goodness with so little effort).

 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.



Top Ten Songs of the ’70s

**NOTE:  This is an article I wrote 7 years ago and which has been reposted and reconstituted by other sites over and over again.  I found it the other day on my old laptop and thought it was worth reposting (with some corrections and updated links).  Though my musical tastes are constantly evolving and ever-expanding, I still feel the same way about these amazing songs from one of my favorite decades.

Forget about your traditional Top Ten Songs of the ’70s. I’m going to use this blog post to tell you about MY personal favorites from the ’70s. Everyone has their own musical favorites, and usually there is a memory associated with each one. I’m not sure if any of my all-time favorites ever made the “The Top 100 Seventies Singles”, but these songs sound as magical today as they did when I spent hours listening to my parents’ 8-track tapes looking through the latest issues of Teen Beat and Tiger Beat.

Me – Summer 1978 (wearing my favorite Shawn Cassidy t-shirt) and looking forward to listening to my new Grease album.

Continue reading “Top Ten Songs of the ’70s”

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Grandma in her flower garden, 1971

One of my fondest childhood memories is helping my grandma pick tomatoes and beans in her garden in southern Kentucky.  She and I would pick big beefsteak tomatoes and sometimes take a salt shaker out to the garden and eat them right off the vine.  I helped her pick beans and then string and break them while sitting on the back porch.  I remember driving out to the mountain where my great Aunt Flon lived and we four (Aunt Flon, Grandma, Mom and me) picking blackberries, which my grandma would later craft into a delicious pie.

Continue reading “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”

Accidental Pumpkin Patch

Sometime in the early Summer of 2015 as I was mowing the grass on the side of our house I noticed some unfamiliar leaves growing there.   I went to grab the weed eater out of the garage when something made me stop.  Somehow these leaves didn’t look “weed-like” and so I decided to forego destroying them until I could identify them.  As I continued to mow I made a possible connection.  The previous November our uncarved Halloween pumpkins had been moved from the porch to the side of the house only when the Christmas decorations made an appearance.  We had waited so long to dispose of them that they never made it to the compost pile; they barely made it to the side of our house before completely falling apart in our hands.  They were left to decompose there in the barren area that lines the south-facing side of our home, where we have never bothered to landscape save for some maintenance-free peppermint.  So now, seven months or so later, that little “ding” that went off in my brain, that natural instinct that makes even a modern human recognize the sometimes barely perceptible differences between a useless weed and an edible plant, was reminding me that we had dumped pumpkins in that very spot.  Could these unfamiliar leaves be pumpkin leaves???

Later in the season we relocated some of our “accidental” pumpkin plants to the back yard where they grew with great success. Continue reading “Accidental Pumpkin Patch”