The Salt Shaker – July 2020

Greetings to our family, followers, and friends:

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time . . . there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live . . . and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God.   Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 paraphrased NIV (New International Version)

Praises – Van brakes and tires; reducing some trailer weight; old harp sold

Prayers – Comfort for Connie’s family; continued healing of injuries; Craigslist instrument sales; to do list; RV park(s) for December; students and teachers nationwide

July started with a nice drive and wonderful bike ride.  Our fellow SOWER couple have children who live in the area and invited us to join them for a bike ride along the coast in Santa Cruz, about an hour south of where we are.  It was a paved walkway for multi-purpose use but the breeze, smell of salt water, surfers, and sounds of waves breaking on the rocks as we weaved in and out of the pedestrian traffic was wonderful.  We bicycled north to Natural Bridges State Beach where there were Western Gull chicks on the rocks and natural bridge formations.

Our volunteer work continued with the guys working on two other areas of the same building as last month.  We do a SOWER report at the end of each month and their work was dubbed “fighting corruption” as more and more areas were found to be rotten from water damage and termites.  John also spent a couple of days grinding down a support post to bare metal for priming and painting; the salt air starts corrosion quickly if metal is neglected.  Towards the end the guys helped unload a truck of materials for a large pagoda and then un-stacked the lumber onto the ground for the ladies to seal stain, which they almost finished on the last day.

The ladies continued with some landscaping, putting the chip slide at the bottom of the Elementary School hill back in place, and planting some of our potted starts from last month only to find the chickens enjoyed digging them up to get to the bugs in the moist soil.  We planted 13, lost 4, replanted them and “built” a nylon mesh fence around the area to keep the chickens out – all 13 plants are still alive and growing (which is a great accomplishment as Connie does not have a green thumb).  We also cleaned up the small animal center where the chickens, bunnies, and goats are fenced in.  After herding the two goats into their day pen area, a very amusing sight to see, we were able to paint some of their shelters to spruce up their village, and put some sealer coats on the sign.  The roosters and chickens are kept separate, and sometimes the chickens and goats are allowed free range during the day; the roosters can fly over the fences if they choose but they don’t seem to remember this.  There were 3 baby bunnies just starting to open their eyes that we spent some time with one morning and we sorted out the “game” room in the school, discarding those with pieces missing, putting many aside for another school, and cleaning the shelves before putting those appropriate for older elementary children back on the shelves.  Sadly, with the COVID situation they are closing K-3 this year and eventually phasing out grades 4-5.

Our van received new ceramic brakes on July 2, along with an unexpected purchase of two new tires.  We have had great success in being referred to wonderful mechanics and shops from our hosts and this was no exception.  As they started working on the brakes they found a large bulge on the inside of a tire and they happened to be a tire specialty shop!

We redesigned our music storage shelving, reducing the depth by 9” to save some weight at the back of the trailer for traveling.  That was an interesting weekend project remembering how to get it apart and back together again in a revised configuration.  We have also made the time to go through our multiple folders of music.  They will be cataloged (lots more typing) so we should only need one copy, and have eliminated about 2 reams of paper, 500 plastic sheet protectors, and a couple of binders – again reducing weight and storage space.

John started some heavier exercise routines using the weight room here and wanted a more challenging bike route.  Connie suggested a route and he did it one morning, walking and pushing the bicycle most of the way along the very steep uphill roads.  He was reminded to question her routes more thoroughly and found his own paths for the next few weeks; but he did get to see a car show on her route!  July 4th came and went with lots of noise followed by a great calm the rest of the month, only a few smaller noises once in a while.  Connie stayed in the quieter space of the trailer and John took lots of pictures for her to see.

Injuries were prevalent this month.  Connie had a bicycle mishap 3 years ago and is feeling arthritis in that knee with the moisture/humidity here.  John had about 4 days down with stomach flu, mostly over a weekend as the volunteer work started.  About an hour before the end of the last work day John twisted his ankle and spent our “off” week with it elevated on an ice/heat rotation; it is slowly improving but not back to normal after two weeks now.  Connie clipped her nails and caused a hangnail along her thumb; not to be phased she kept ignoring it for a week and is now soaking it hoping it will heal faster.  She is able to continue knitting, and made a thumb splint so she can type and get the newsletter out, but has not ventured to try the harp yet.  A knitting project was finished up at the end of the month but was not to her liking so it was ripped out, several sample swatches made, and restarted on very large needles with pleasing results so far.  Hopefully it will be done soon for a photo next month.

On Friday, July 10, we took a day trip to Golden Gate Park for a leisurely bike ride.  We covered about 2/3 of the park enjoying buffalo, windmills, waterfalls, and a pavilion donated to the park from Taipei with a “masked/shielded” band playing classic rock music.  We brought snacks, which Connie inadvertently left in the van, so we were fighting off hunger and fatigue as we stopped for the day.  After fueling up our bodies, we made our way (thanks to GPS) to a fabric shop for material, and had a 3 pm lunch at an ocean side restaurant with inside seating.  We enjoyed the great view at Rockaway Beach and walked along the cliffs seeing some funny looking squirrels (?) darting about the boulders looking for handouts.

Connie borrowed a waffle iron from our neighbors and made two batches of waffles (plain and blueberry); they sure were great from the freezer/toaster and lasted most of the month.  Our neighbor also did a lot of sewing for Connie; new covers for the daily used rice packs, a thrift store skirt made ready for an elastic waist, and a harp cover for the new harp.  The old harp was nicknamed “Frankenharp” because of the plate and bolts through its neck, the new one with the cover on may be called “SpongeBob” due to the square design from a box insert to protect the string pins, levers, and inside of the fabric.  John has received the last of his “wish list” tools, a cordless oscillating cutter/sander which our fellow SOWER dubbed “the miracle tool.”  Of course, a new list is starting!  We also received an online Walmart order – John’s favorite coffee was 45 minutes away so we ordered a few things for free delivery, no check-out lines or crazy traffic!

Connie’s mom had hip surgery early in July and several falls after.  Mom has been in dementia care for a few years and the last few weeks she declined, was placed in hospice care, and passed on August 8.  Thankfully the majority of the family were able to be with mom 24/7 for the final days, we were well informed, and are at peace (a memorial service will be held in the spring or summer when we are back in the area).

Now that July has ended the time is getting closer and our “things to get done list before we leave” remains quite daunting.  In changing our instrument shelf and getting a new harp we listed three instruments on the San Francisco bay area Craigslist.  God blessed us with a very excited new harp player to purchase the old harp at full listing price, the instrument that most needed to sell.  It would be great to have the others sell too.  We are still blessed on our evening walks with plenty of deer, and we now have a turkey strutting around as well!

Everything on earth has its own time and its own season . . . birth and death . . . crying and laughing, weeping and dancing . . .   Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 paraphrased CEV (Contemporary English Version)

Until next month – thanks for traveling with us!

John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry

Contact Information:
Mail:  John & Connie Nicholas ~ Salty Strings Music Ministry,
3916 N. Potsdam Ave. #3962, Sioux Falls, SD  57104

Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912
Email –
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
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  • June 8-August 27 – Pacific Bay Christian School, Pacifica, CA (west central coast)
  • August 27-October 29 – Youth With A Mission, Chico, CA (mid-central)
  • September 21-24 – SOWER reunion, Turner, OR (north west)
  • October 27-30 – traveling south through California to Phoenix/Tucson, AZ area
  • October 30-November 25 – Youth Haven Desert Ranch, Eloy, AZ (south-central)