The Salt Shaker

The Salt Shaker – December 2020

Hello to our friends, family, and followers:

Praises – Thankful for rest and respite from work projects for a couple months this winter; sunny weather to enjoy the outdoors; safe driving in and around Phoenix traffic; Christmas!

Prayers – Continued wisdom and patience for RV repairs; music opportunities; recording and health goals.

“The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

December was our month for shopping!  Seems like most of the month we were traveling somewhere to look at or get something.  We completed our computer shopping which led to needing a table to set up the recording area.  There were many miles and several days spent traveling north and west of Phoenix as well as “trailer dealer row” where we toured 20+ new and used 5th wheel trailers.  From that came Connie’s detailed spreadsheet rating system; 24 was the highest score containing everything we needed (and wanted).  Nothing was quite the right fit, but we see the possibilities of having more space and really feel cluttered and confined in our trailer now.  Can you find the Antillean nighthawk (rock hawk) in the photo?  She was pointed out to us by the salesman, very cozy and not the least afraid of people walking around her sunny resting area.

Arriving here the end of November gave Connie the luxury of putting up our little bit of Christmas decorations early – all done, on and twinkling December 4th!  That is a record!!  Shopping followed again to get a timer so we didn’t have to manually unplug outside in the cold.  Once the sun starts setting (~5pm) the temperature drops fast.  Typically, this is the time we head to the pool to swim and enjoy the hot tub; there have been a few times we skipped the swim and went straight to the tub to stay warm!

We were invited to do a concert on December 11 – what a treat to be able to share some of our favorite Christmas carols and songs.  We didn’t think it went very well, but we were in a room made for 200 people with a COVID limit of 50 in-park people with masks and social distancing.  Just not the same as a closer group with smiling/singing faces. 

The following week the park had their Christmas parade.  Those that wanted dressed up and decorated carts, bikes, trikes, scooters, etc. winding their way through the park with candy treats being tossed to those watching.  That was followed by cookies, hot chocolate, and a movie.

As is the case everywhere, the closer to Christmas we get the more crowded the stores are.  We didn’t plan very well this year and had to stop at Walmart on the 23rd.  What a surprise to find mounted “police” security in Arizona.  They do this every year for crowd control, being up in the air they can observe the parking lot easily.  Four beautiful horses and their riders, complete with a Santa hat and reindeer antlers.  Other “critter” viewings this month – our frequent visitor “I want to be a hummingbird” and the lizard in the passenger side of the van that never has been found again (dead or alive).

Christmas Eve was wonderful.  Connie joined the church bell choir as a last-minute replacement.  The nativity set was a complete version of what we had in Wisconsin/Illinois, bringing back many memories.  Our son in Phoenix drove over and went to church with us, then we had tuna crackers (haven’t made these for many years), holiday banana bread, lattice apple pie (given to us by a neighbor), and eggnog to finish the night.  One of our SOWER friends introduced John to Vietnamese coffee (instant) and John sipped on a cup earlier in the day – a very special day indeed.   

Our church is within walking distance a bit to the north, and we love it there.  We go a bit early to a Sunday School class where our teacher never makes it through his lesson.  He is very knowledgeable, thought provoking, and detailed as we continue through the Christmas story in Luke.  The pastor is also very good, speaking one week on the “discipline” that comes to those who are loved (Hebrews 12).  Our kids grew up with a 9-hold paddle quite similar to his sermon illustration! 

I think we had an “only in California” paragraph a few months ago – therefore this is an “only in Arizona” paragraph!  Connie loves the big dancing wind socks that are advertisements.  She remained in the van while John got more parts for breaking equipment (imagine that) and had the propane tank filled.  This dancing cactus kept her entertained and brought many smiles.  If only we were so flexible and happy in our expression of life!

New Year’s Eve found us in bed early after watching a movie, and hearing the fireworks around our corner of the world.  Traditions, friends, family – relationships we have had and the new ones to come as another year of ministry begins. 

Connie did an experiment in November, making a rock memorial.  She would occasionally pick up a rock during the day and stack it on the pile, recalling the scripture from Joshua 4:1-9.  Much harder than it sounds – picking and stacking.  November 2020 was project #49 through the SOWER ministry along with 4 months at our home church camp in Illinois, two months on an independent church roof project, several months helping family make repairs and clean, and a couple months “off.”  As we look back on our slightly over 5 years of traveling ministry (October 2015-December 2020) we are amazed and humbled at all the memorial stones we have from our journeys.  (Memories of course, it’s not good to carry rocks or stones in an RV!)   

“. . . take up a stone . . . to serve as a sign among you . . . in the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them . . . these stones are to be a memorial . . . forever . . . “    Joshua 4:5-7 paraphrased NIV

Please keep us in your prayers . . . and 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
NOTE:  Mail can come to us directly through February – Golden Sun RV Resort #E32,              999 W Broadway Avenue, Apache Junction, AZ  85120

Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912      Email – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • November 27- March 27, 2021 – Time off, Golden Sun RV Resort, Apache Junction, AZ; being mentored in music recording in our trailer and perhaps a new CD
  • April – northern Texas or Arkansas
  • May – heading back to the Midwest to see our friends and families

The Salt Shaker – November 2020

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16 NIV

Hello to our family, friends, and followers:

Praises – Great to be a part of a “live” worship team and share with special music; John, back getting back to normal; Connie, no further migraine issues; being able to take a few months off the road.

Prayers – Wisdom and patience for RV repairs, appointment January 5; a maintenance man for Youth Haven; music opportunities; recording and health goals.

Our November project found us in the real desert – cracked ground, dusty, dry, and lots of sun.  Our temperatures were upper 90’s the first week, waking to 40’s the second week, and eventually back in the 90’s.  We were hoping to have a few swims in the unheated pool, but it remained far too cold for that!  There was one “rainy” day, a few hours with heavy sprinkles and no accumulation – not like rainy days in the Midwest!  After re-leveling the trailer, we had about 24 hours of dust storms with winds reaching 40 mph and air like a dense fog, but we remained stable.

Our first Saturday was our “group meeting” and tour of the grounds.  We were with two couples we had worked with before along with a newer couple whose son works here.  As we finished our “group meeting” with a walk around the grounds and buildings, we heard lots of goat bleating.  Turns out one of their three goats (Tiny, the smallest) had her head stuck through the fence wires.  Our volunteer time started a bit early with a goat rescue – the four guys rounded up equipment and calming hands while the ladies tried to keep the other goats out of the way and took pictures.  There are also 10 chickens on site, producing wonderful fresh eggs for those who wanted some.

Continuing our trailer repair adventures from last month ~ we completed the main trailer plug replacement for the “shore” line (electric power from the meter) and everything was working fine, for a few days, until the battery power was depleted.  So, back to the battery charger!  After some time with online searches and trailer manuals we will probably need a new converter.  We made a call to a recommended mobile RV company and scheduled their first open appointment (January 5) for a technician to come and trouble-shoot our 4 main problems; battery charging, awning final repairs, brake locking up, and water pump.

John worked with different guys to remove the old playground equipment (buried far too deep in cement), rebuild a rabbit hutch, made a second rabbit hutch, repaired the ramp for the goats and two picnic tables (one with custom railing for rabbit interaction), painted the tables and hutches, and repaired a water line break.  We were a few hours short this month in our volunteer hours due to John’s back going out the last 2 days.  It slowly improved and after 5 days he was well enough to get out and enjoy a trip to the local airport where we had lunch at the Bent Prop restaurant and usually sky divers to watch but it was too windy.  We continued to town to look at trailers and a computer for recording before heading home.

Connie worked with the other ladies to clean, spackle, and paint areas in their “mod” (modular) house, the likely home for the new maintenance man when they find someone.  That included a skylight in the kitchen, two solar lights in the bathrooms, baseboards, walls, closets, and door trim.  Two mornings were spent filing, removing “aged out” folders from the teen files and moving the “new” teens from the kids to the teen files.  Each time she pulled a folder there was a little prayer said for these foster and group home kids.  Some were regulars for a season, others came only once; regardless a life was touched and God’s love shared with each one.  She packed lunches one week for the kids that come on Saturday (they can have up to 15 kids for a day camp now).  The extra time was spent cleaning windows in two of their four dorm lodges, cleaning and organizing the kitchen pantry and toys in the toy room (preparing for Christmas giveaways).  There were a couple of days that she had some sparkles in vision and slight headache, migraine symptoms which hasn’t happened for 30+ years, but it went away quickly.

Our hummingbird feeder went up after a week and was found 2 days later, amazing since you don’t see much life here.  A morning walk past some scrub brush flushed out an amazing rabbit that took about three long bounds followed by one soaring leap, 3-4 feet high and very long, before going back to the three lower shorter bounds.  It looked a lot like an antelope running and there is an antelope jackrabbit, but after some research it was a black-tailed jack rabbit – actually a hare not a rabbit – with extremely long black-edged ears, much larger size than cotton-tail rabbits, and of course a black tail!

Connie was dubbed the “goat whisperer” after spending time trying to get the goats to be more sociable and friendly.  They receive the goats in the spring and the interaction with the kids “tames” them.  (No kids this year with COVID.)  One of our ladies labeled them “persnickety goats” since they wouldn’t eat apples or carrots; not much to bribe or reward them with!  With John’s help Connie was able to get two of the three roped and out of the big pen where they were given some pellets and reluctantly brushed.  Most of their kids come from Phoenix and Tucson and they get to see live farm animals here. 

We attended a First Southern Baptist church in Eloy, AZ.  John played with the worship team two Sundays and we shared a song for special music as well.  We took a day trip to Apache Junction and look at two RV Resorts for our winter sabbatical; choosing a spot and making reservations before heading back for our invite to the home of a couple that had worked with SOWERs while at their home in Alaska.  We had a wonderful meal of reindeer stew, cornbread, and chocolate brownies made with beans.  (Reindeer are overpopulated and have open hunting season in Alaska.) 

We went with another couple to Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch where we were able to feed donkeys, deer, ostrich, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits, lorikeets, parakeets, and “pet” the sting rays.  Connie started with the goats (who tried to eat her hat), moved onto the rabbit and sting ray feeding frenzy, and finally wised up using a seed covered stick for the parakeets!  John took on the ostrich using the tube method after a hard peck to his hand, on to the determined ducks, then the beautiful lorikeets who removed the lids of their cups and hopped around on his shoulder and arm.  DQ blizzards were our supper that evening.  Other entertainment included numerous campfires (some with hot dogs and/or smores), a few potlucks with the staff, and traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 11.

Christmas came early this year!  Connie spilled broth into the wrong parts of her fancy rice cooker which fried the wiring.  Within 2-3 days she ordered our sound interface bundle for recording, purchased a new coffee pot for John and a larger instant pot (with yogurt and cake settings) on sale!  We have enjoyed great yogurt, rice, and beans; and are awaiting delivery of a cake pan to be able to cook bread, cakes, and perhaps even try bagels. 

The Friday after Thanksgiving found us on the road for the 2-hour trip north east to Apache Junction.  There were cotton and alfalfa fields across from the youth camp (Arizona has the best irrigation system) and we passed huge cotton bales on our way.  About 15 miles away from our destination we were aware of the trailer brake locking up again, we pulled over and backed up to release it, but by the time we arrived it was squealing every time we stopped.  John was able to back into our spot, a tight fit, and get things mostly set up before we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the hot tub.  We officially registered on Monday, November 30th to start our three-month winter stay.  Connie has joined the plastic mat class, folding and cutting Walmart-type bags in strips for “plarn” (plastic yarn to make 3’x6’ crochet mats for homeless) and our Christmas lights are actually up early!  Our goals are to learn home audio recording and finish 10-12 songs over the next three months along with walking several miles each day, swimming several times a week, and working up to a weekly hike and bicycle ride on one of the many trails in this area. 

May each of you and your families have a blessed and wonderful Christmas!
John and Connie Nicholas, Salty Strings Music Ministry

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”   Philippians 4:8-9  NIV

Contact Information:      Mail can come directly to us in December and January
John and Connie Nicholas, Golden Sun RV Resort #E32,
999 W Broadway Avenue, Apache Junction, AZ  85120

Phone – John 909-336-8910 or Connie 909-336-8912     
Email – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                        
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site
TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • November 27- February 27, 2021 – Time off, Golden Sun RV Resort, Apache Junction, AZ; being mentored in music recording in our trailer and perhaps a new CD
  • March – heading back to the Midwest to see our friends and families

The Salt Shaker – October, 2020

“For God is fair, not unjust; He will not forget the work you did and the love you showed for him in His name by helping and serving His people.  And He will remember that you are still helping and serving them.  Hebrews 6:10 (The Expanded Bible)

Hello to our followers, friends, and family:

Praises – For those that support us with prayers and funds; safe travels amongst winds and stressful conditions; opportunities to share music; phone and text messages work again!

Prayers – Wisdom and patience for RV repairs; comprehending minds for recording software; patience as we learn new ways of doing things

We remained at YMAM (Youth With A Mission) outside Chico, CA for most of October, enjoying an ice cream social, root beer floats, a family cookout (the 2-week quarantine ended for the Family Discipleship Training folks), and weekly worship times.  Our “boss” took us out to eat before we left and we were invited to a home cooked Italian meal by one of the missionaries; Fiorlisa shared a lot about Italian culture and meals as we had several courses served to us, along with lots of conversation with all the places she had been to. 

We took a few days at the end of September to rest and refresh, had our Sunday hike on Connie’s birthday, then went back to work on the cabin remodeling.  George is the new maintenance lead, on staff, and will be moving into this slightly larger cabin on “Hummingbird Hill” once it is complete.  Our goal was to have all the plumbing complete (so no one else had to crawl around in the crawl space) and the bathroom in working order.  With 156 combined volunteer hours we almost made it!  (One missing part for the toilet.)  We had a lot of fun and were joined the last two weeks by a Mission Builder which made things come together quickly.

John did a lot of crawling around in tight quarters, over and around rocks and boulders, a few places just barely clearing the floor joists.  He did have a friend (whom he never met) that helped keep him entertained.  Some “critter” kept putting his trinkets back on the rocks after John cleared them off.  Some of his collection returned to the same places, and John added a few things (shiny electric wire, old cat collar, and an old pen) that eventually were placed with his favorite foil ball! 

All the PEX plumbing was pulled into place, connected, and tested with only minor leaks to be fixed.  John then connected the drain pipes and “snaked” out the auxiliary sewer pipe for maximum performance.  He also used old baseboard and boards to make what was needed for wall and floor trim, so it matched the old trim in the bathroom and bedroom.  It was also his steady hand that finished trimming the bathroom tile as well.

Connie had various tasks, most dealing with taping, mudding, sanding, and texturing the new areas of drywall (adding a hand print for George to find).  She installed the ceramic tile in the bathroom, the shower light, and painted all the new areas along with a few ceilings too.

We kept track of the various groups of deer, typically 4 or 5 near the trailer, and once 14 with two 4-point bucks near the cabin.  One afternoon as she was finishing up the newsletter mailing, she had 3 deer outside our “dining/office” window!  Our turkeys grew quite a bit, but we lost two by the end of the month.  The humming birds continued to be entertaining, and before we left John was able to stand near the feeder with several flying by and sitting on the line watching him.  There were also lizards (or geckos), a ground squirrel preening herself on the rock edges of a hole in the wall, and a walk one evening finding the YWAM field of goats and llamas.  Most evening walks had clear skies, lots of stars, and even a shooting star!

We returned from our Oregon visit/vacation with new knowledge that the very popular “Dutch Brothers Coffee” shops give free coffee to first time visitors.  On one of our trips to town we waited in line and received great tasting free coffee and chai tea!  (We forgot to mention last month that Oregon has no sales tax, a shock to find the price listed is actually what you pay, as well as attendants that pump your gas for you, it is state law!)  However, California has Sinclair gas stations with the big green dinosaur (how many remember that!). 

We finally received the awning fabric the last week we were there, and the mobile RV repair man and his son arrived one morning to get it installed.  We asked the 6’4” Mission Builder to stick around that morning to help out and he was really needed getting it put back up, followed by an hour or more trying to figure out why one arm wasn’t working properly.  So, we finally had an awning we could put out, but it doesn’t retract property.  We can put it into a zip-tie loop to keep it semi-closed but have to tie it down tightly to travel.

The last two Friday’s we were able to play a few songs and share the stories behind some of them with the elementary kids from their school.  Then we would hold the instrument and let them strum and “play” the autoharp, bowed psaltery, mountain dulcimer, and hammer dulcimer.  They also shared some of their Scripture memory songs with us.  The school is following the themes and scriptures that their parents are studying.  A high school student asked Connie to help her learn a song on recorder for her sister’s birthday (4 days away).  They met one afternoon, both learning a lot, and our old tenor recorder now has a new home.

Would this be the home or work address?

We split up our 3-day drive to Arizona, leaving on a Monday morning and spent an overnight in Bakersfield, CA at an RV park.  Tuesday travel was through the “grapevine” winding through the mountains around Los Angeles and on to Indio, CA.  John started driving for the hilly part and it was still harrowing going down the hills; the final long downhill run into Santa Clarita had a few shudders and some smelly brakes by the end.  Connie drove for a while after that, and had a truck and a few cars motioning us over, getting the idea that there was smoke from the last car.  We pulled off into a Walmart parking lot at the end of the ramp finding a very hot, locked up trailer brake.  We backed up, heard the brake release, and let things cool off for about an hour.  Connie continued driving around Los Angeles, using the brakes as little as possible, and driving in some strong sideways winds with multiple semi-trucks tipped over.  The brakes didn’t have any further problems as we continued to a three-night stay in Indio where we visited with church friends.  This was the same park we were at for April-May and our first night we enjoyed a swim, hot tub soak, large gas fire pit and fireworks (the Dodgers won) to celebrate our arrival (or survival?). 

We had wonderful visits and great swims, but trailer problems crept into the mix as well.  We had a check light on our refrigerator and a power brown-out late Thursday night that we researched and slept on.  The purchase of a new battery before we left Friday morning fixed that problem.  We traveled on to our new home near Eloy, Arizona arriving around 4:30pm.  By 5:30 we had the trailer set up and plugged in, had just sat down for supper, and there were snapping sounds and smoke where our electric plugs in!  We pulled it apart Saturday, tried to find parts nearby (parts departments are closed at RV services on Saturday) and ordered them on Sunday.  We ran extension cords to run fans, borrowed a battery charger so our RV lights and refrigerator would be functional, and learned to rough it without a TV, microwave, and hot water.  Daytime temperatures were in the 90’s, cooling to 65-70 overnight, with parts not arriving until Wednesday!  It was a very long hot five days, especially for Connie, but we managed and had everything working again by noon Thursday (November 5).  You will have to tune in next month for the rest of this ongoing story!

From the darkness into the light!

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one.  The Lord protects me from all danger; I will never be afraid.” . . . “His life is the light that shines through the darkness – and the darkness can never extinguish it.”   Psalm 27:1 Good News Translation and John 1:5 The Living Bible

Thanks for traveling with us and being part of our family too!

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                        
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site
TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • Thanksgiving with 3 SOWER couples at Youth Haven Ranch, Eloy, AZ
  • November 27- February 2021 – Time off, Rock Shadows RV Park, Apache Junction, AZ; being mentored in music recording in our trailer and perhaps a new CD
  • March – heading back to the Midwest and our families and friends there

The Salt Shaker ~ September 2020

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.”  Psalm 95:1-2 NIV

Hello to our family, friends, and followers:

Praises – God’s assistance in removing splinters; safe travels and the beautiful country we live in; God is always in the details and cares about the little things!

Prayers – Awning material to arrive soon; travels to Arizona; winter RV parking where God wants us to be; cabin remodel to come together in next two weeks.

We’ll start our September update remembering what it was like on the 9th.  We woke to darkness and ash falling like snow.  By noon it was “twilight” but with dark, red skies.  At 3:30 pm it was like dusk with lots of ash on the ground and a heavy smoke smell.  By evening Connie captured the feel of the day as being like an overnight stay in a Walmart parking lot under the lights – everything is a bit tinted and off in color.  John had attended the evacuation procedure meeting but thankfully we were not included in the evacuation area; we found out later that once the order is issued you must leave in your vehicle without your trailer because of the road width and possibility of meeting fire engines coming in.  It was a very strange day, someone compared it to a 24-hour day in Alaska!

Although we kept busy with 125 volunteer hours, progress seems slow on the cabin remodeling!  Connie removed carpet pad, staples and nails from the bath/bedroom area, sweeping and finding those missed as she went.  The old shower was removed as well as lots of pipe from the crawl space and the old walls.  John rebuilt new ones to accommodate a separate larger shower and smaller bathroom space.  PEX plumbing was researched, materials purchased, and the plumbing started with a central manifold panel and shut-offs for each line.  An opening and wider entry was made in the kitchen, and lots of sweeping!

We continued with Sunday online church services, sometimes two, and it is so good to “see” our church families!  Not quite the same as physically being there, especially in the fall with abundant produce from the gardeners; here we have post office produce!  One Sunday morning we hiked up to “mushroom rock” with our phones (for pictures and making calls).  This is a well-worn 1940’s path that used to go by Indian Rock (a metal sculpture that is no longer there) as well as the grist mill (curved bowl shapes in the rocks where Indians ground grain).  We listened to 3 songs from our phone, heard “I’ll Fly Away” from YWAM worship, and made calls to our families.  We thought the air was fairly clear during our hike but proceeded to get quite smoky by afternoon.  Our Sunday in Oregon we attended an outdoor service with a great worship team and message, even though it was cold and damp. 

As we worked and walked around, we continued to see our animal friends.  We had hummingbirds at our feeder the morning after hanging it up, much to our surprise with the heat.  The deer eventually were identified with a 4-point buck leading his harem of mama’s and almost grown babies; 7 total.  There is a partridge family of 6-8, they scurry around so fast and come down the road towards the cabin we are at.  Also a few turkeys (11 now that travel together) and have grown a lot, almost ready for Thanksgiving!  Not animal friends, but (perhaps) only in California will you see isle robot sweepers, donut peaches, and key cars! 

We make our walk to get “sweet” water for drinking every day or two.  It is so good and refreshing, and doesn’t have a taste or smell like some water does.  As we see it coming from the “mountain” it presented a thought to ponder:  God created everything including an amount of water that changes form and is recycled and filtered naturally so, is this water some of the original creation?  We introduced our nursing home ministry friend Larry to the mineral water and the “sweet” water during his visit with us this month.  We manage to cross paths in our travels every few years and it was wonderful to have him stay alongside us for a few days.

Part of our time this month was spent in preparing three ½ hour concerts for the SOWER “Western Woundup” Reunion held every two years at Aldersgate in Turner, Oregon.  Connie worked most of the month preparing a knit half-pi shawl for the silent auction, and finished it just in time for our travels.  We spent one day driving north, mostly on I-5, passing a few areas where the fires had crossed over the interstate.  On arrival we had helping hands to get our instruments into our “handicapped” lodge room, saved for us because it had the most floor space along with a small refrigerator and microwave.  Our concerts went well, and it was great to be in music ministry again.  We were also able to show our instruments to a young man who retrieved his grandfather’s guitar from a closet.  John worked with him putting on new strings and showing him some chords to start with, we’re sure this was a divine appointment!  We played a few games, hiked around the grounds, experienced real rain, and enjoyed the cool weather.  This is a beautiful place to “retreat” and step back.

After the Reunion ended, we took an afternoon trip to Silver Falls where we hiked some trails in the rain.  It is a beautiful state park, created in the 1930’s with WPA (Works Projects Administration, skilled men) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps).  This is considered a temperate “rain forest” with 80” of rain annually producing lush green trees, some covered with thick moss.  Our last stop led us on a downhill hike to North falls (136 feet) where we were able to walk behind the falls, something Connie can cross off her bucket list.  Of course, whomever goes down must come back up the trails and multiple steps to get back to the van.  We then took a 15-mile detour to stop at the Gordon House, a Frank Lloyd Wright home designed when he was 89 in 1957.  We saw the road sign on our way to the park and opted to make the extra drive even though we were a bit chilly, damp, and hungry.  With fall in the air and leaves on the ground, it was worth it!

We took the scenic route home for a mini-vacation, hoping to get a glimpse of Mount Hood.  It was cloudy and rainy, but the drive was beautiful despite the weather.  Our first night was spent in Bend, Oregon at a not-so-great hotel with pool and hot tub; exactly as it sounds, very hot water (which was great) and non-working jets.  Day two was visiting Crater Lake where we purchased our senior lifetime National Parks pass at the north entrance.  We intended to do this back in February but all the parks and sights closed down from COVID.  It was a beautiful, although scary sometimes, drive along the west rim with lots of stops at viewing areas.  We had sunshine to help since it was very windy and cold.  We left on Highway 62, a wonderful downhill scenic drive through the forest along Annie Creek that eventually turned to rolling hills where recent fires had come through, seemingly parting around individual homes.  Our motel in Klamath Falls was wonderful and quiet with a country feel that provided a wonderful night’s sleep.  Day three took us through more Indian territory (no public access to any roads leading off the highway) and through Warm Springs, Oregon which had no public restrooms (water shortages according to the signs).  We finally found the pit toilets just outside of town at the Duschambre River landing, along with panhandlers, one of whom asked us to pray for her father Richard Crooked Arm, dealing with depression from COVID restrictions.  We drove through some fairly desolate buttes and most of the way around Mount Shasta; wonderful scenery making you think of old Westerns and Montana “big sky” country.  We made a stop for a few groceries in Red Bluff, CA and headed for home – how wonderful to sleep in your own bed after 9 days!

Last, but certainly not least, our repairs update.  Fresh water tank spigot(s) have been purchased but we have not made the time to complete the repair.  Kitchen faucet is operating fine without the handle, but will need to be replaced sometime.  Trailer brakes have been a costly repair, only 2 of 4 were working with metal/metal (no pads).  Everything is new now as well as lug nuts and John was able to watch and learn for future maintenance.  Awning repair is in the works, a used arm was located for pieces and the fabric has been ordered.  The way things are going, and as a final attempt to keep us from the reunion perhaps, our water filter canister sprang a leak.  We found water on the floor, thought it was something else, and realized about bed time the filter canister was leaking.  Off went the outside water Thursday night.  (Keep in mind we have no fresh water storage with a leaky spigot even if our water pump worked.)  John was able to bypass the filter by connecting the pipes together on Friday afternoon so we could shower and prepare to travel.  Early Saturday morning there was no water again (thankfully no puddles on the floor) and Connie thought she heard something around 5 am.  On getting up we found the brass fitting for the water hose to the trailer had snapped leaving the hose on the ground with a huge puddle of water under the trailer.  Off again went the outside water, and we packed and left.  (We purchased the part needed at a RV dealer in Salem, Oregon and John made the repair the day we returned!)

This whole year of travel was planned around the SOWER Reunion in Oregon.  As Christians we know Satan is always trying to stop us from accomplishing God’s working in and through us, and this year has been a test of faith and trust for us.  We will say it is getting better but still not easy to understand “why us” in the midst of trials – but why not us?  Our faith and trust have definitely grown, and we have confirmation from our projects as well as our music ministry that God is using us, in the midst of our struggles!  To God be the glory.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .”  1 Peter 5:7-9a (NIV)

Thanks for traveling with us!
We so appreciate your prayers and notes of encouragement!!

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • October 26-30 – Traveling to Eloy, AZ with a possible “layover” in Indio, CA
  • October 30-November 25 – Youth Haven Desert Ranch, Eloy, AZ (south-central)
  • December-January-February – Time off?  Destination(s) undetermined

The Salt Shaker – August 2020

Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  How beautiful it is when we sing our praises to the beautiful God, for praise makes you lovely before him and brings him great delight!  How great is our God!  There’s absolutely nothing his power cannot accomplish, and he has infinite understanding of everything.  Psalm 147:1,5 (The Passion Translation) 

Greetings to our friends, family, and followers:

Praises – Ankle much better; insurance; safe travel; God’s amazing creations
Prayers – Wildfires along west coast states; trailer awning and other repairs; Craigslist instrument sales; RV park(s) for our time off

This was our third month in Pacifica, California which was a blessing for us to be in a beautiful place with great weather.  After our week “off” John’s ankle was much better.  He continued to use an ace wrap to strengthen it a bit and only had a few nights that it was sore.  It did make our evening walks a bit shorter and bicycle riding didn’t work at all.  We did spend two days at the coast, sitting on a bluff whale watching (no, we didn’t see any whales) and at the edge of the sand bluff a bit further north just enjoying the wind, waves, and pelicans flying.

John continued repairing the classroom building behind the trailer, working on the corners, fascia, and exterior walls.  More of the same volunteer work, only slower this month working alone.  After getting Connie to help once (?!) he devised a fixture to act as another “set of hands” to continue putting up the new fascia boards.  Final touches included caulking, priming, and painting.

Connie spent most of her volunteer time this month at the Elementary School building, touching up the paint around the base and as high as she could get with a pole.  Her fun project was packing 138 backpacks with candy and goodies for the students to pick up along with books and supplies before online school classes started.  She continued to do the watering along with planting another area with the potted plants started in June, leveling gopher holes, cleaning up a parking area after the storm, and using a saws-all for a couple of hours to trim tree branches.  Evenings were used to redo the pink “Pi Shawl” and our week off we sorted more music with lots of typing to catalog and know where to find each song.  This reduced our weight a bit more and saved some storage space.

Our animal adventures continued as well.  The rest of the deer ball team showed up one evening in a dugout, along with repeated sightings of the 8-point buck and his harem.  Connie said her final farewell to the goats with a handful of leaves and some scratching.  Lots of hummingbirds zooming about the grounds, some new chicks being herded to their pen, and enjoying Ms. Turkey flying over the fence to wander around the ball field and parking areas.

Overall, our weather was wonderful except for a few days with some smoke smell, glowing sky, and ash in the air from fires to the south.  The fires came from lightning strikes from an unusual and unexpected August thunderstorm passing through about 3:30 am Sunday August 16.  Connie woke to John scurrying around outside the trailer, getting things put away and trying to get the awning pulled in.  By the time she was up to help, a gust came up and took the awning to the ground as we were winding it up!  One side up, one side down; one trailer door functioning with a bit of a scrape, the other catching on the protector shield.  Although our insurance will cover the repairs there were lots of calls, paperwork, and connections to be made in less than two weeks’ time.  We had a wonderful insurance adjuster who was able to help John get the awning rolled up and secured so we could travel.  However, finding a mobile RV repair service is turning out to be very difficult, RV service centers are backed up with trailers needed for fire workers in California, and it is very hard to get parts due to COVID shutdowns of factories.

That was the beginning of our stress as we prepared to hit the road again.  There was what we now call our “break” day.  John found cracks along the side edges of our roof which he sealed; we will likely need a new roof in the near future.  In checking out our non-functioning water pump he drained the fresh water tank and the spigot broke off; no fresh water storage, but we didn’t have a way to pump it anyway!  Connie was doing dishes and the kitchen faucet handle fell off; a tiny plastic set-screw type piece broke off so we now use the short rough pokey end until we get a replacement faucet installed. 

Travel “moving day” came and we left on our 5-hour trip inland and north a bit to Chico, CA.  About an hour into the trip the van tire pressure idiot light started flashing, thankfully after driving through the big cities and across the toll bridge.  We pulled over and found our rear tire pressure was over 95# – not good as we requested the oil change service to check the pressure and they should have been 80#.  Once we let some air out, we continued our drive past Vacaville, where a lighting fire had crossed the interstate leaving lots of black grass and white piles of ash where trees had been standing.  There were many other dry brown grass fields and hills with sheep and cattle, and a hulling-shelling business with “gravel” piles of nut shells.  We knew our destination was in the foothills at a resort very popular in the 1940-50s, but didn’t realize the fairly narrow road runs into a canyon and ends at YWAM-Chico formerly “Richardson Springs” known for the mineral (Sulphur) springs that are here.  Yes, there is a rotten-egg smell in the air quite frequently!

It was dry, dusty, sunny, and 95 degrees when we arrived – what a change!  We parked with a swimming pool view out our living room window and discovered the gravel parking area was full of sand burs, which John worked at getting cleared out around the trailer at least.  We have no phone service, no text messaging, but do get 4-5 TV channels and there is great wifi service so we can use email to stay connected to the “outside” world.  Our two air conditioning units are on most of the day (it has cooled off a few nights) and our living room unit has decided to drip water occasionally; add that to our repair list.

We still have wildlife – deer, woodpeckers, squirrels, robins, partridge, hummingbirds (our feeder was up about 12 hours overnight before being found), dragon flies, butterflies, and a report of a mountain lion up the canyon.  On cooler evenings we will take a stroll, seeing a red moon one night.  And we have started our volunteer work – remodeling a small 3-room cabin!

If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks.  If God doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap.  It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone.  Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?
Psalm 127:1-2 (The Message Bible)

Thanks for traveling with us and supporting us with your thoughts and prayers!
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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • August 27-October 29 – Youth With A Mission, Chico, CA (north-central)
  • September 21-24 – SOWER reunion, Turner, OR (north west)
  • October 27-30 – traveling south through California Phoenix/Tucson AZ area
  • October 30-November 25 – Youth Haven Desert Ranch, Eloy, AZ (south-central)
  • December, January (February ?) – Time off, south-east Texas?

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry
Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • 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)

The Salt Shaker ~ June 2020

I will praise God’s name in song.  I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.  (Psalm 69:30 Evangelical Heritage Version EHV)

Greetings to our family, friends, and followers:

Praises – Trailer repairs went well and are finished; fellowship and being together; churches starting to open doors

Prayers – Texas RV park(s) for winter rest/relaxation; van/trailer brakes repair/replacement; school year on-site classrooms

Well, our two days of driving to our volunteer project in Pacifica, CA (just south of San Francisco) were hot, stressful, scary, and exciting as mentioned last month.  At the end of travel day one the freezer door was stuck and “fell apart” as we jiggled it open – not to worry, the panels slid back together fairly easy.  When we got into the trailer at the end of travel day two, we found the freezer door open with food thawing on the floor.  That made for some interesting and creative cooking!  Our first evening brought a full moon rising over the hills bringing peace into our hearts even with all our travel problems. 01 20200604_204448

We welcomed our first SOWER couple on Friday right before we left for a drive north to a music store.  Connie tensely drove through San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge, through the tunnel, and into the suburb city of San Rafael.  We arrived about a half hour before closing to find we were only allowed into the entry of the store with everyone fully masked and trying to stay 6 feet apart.  The folk harp we went to see was brought to us, along with a tub to sit in on so Connie could try it out.  It was hard with the doors open, traffic noise, others coming and going, and not being in tune, to get a real feel for the sound but the levers seemed to work fine so we purchased a “new” harp – slightly smaller but a few pounds heavier.  After all the stops along the way, over an hour of driving, and trying the harp we really had to find a restroom (the music store was not an option due to COVID restrictions).  Thankfully there was a veterinary clinic a short walk up the road with the key to a public restroom that was much appreciated.  We conversed with the friendly receptionist finding she was from the Milwaukee area in Wisconsin.  Sometimes it is the small things of life that make all the difference!

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We started our volunteer work on Monday as a group of 4 and were joined on Tuesday evening with another SOWER couple.  Both of the couples joining us were on their first SOWER project but both had worked mission building trips before and had some idea of what it would be like.  The guys started on the roofs of the buildings, preparing and painting the vents – the salty mist in the air and fog from the ocean are very conducive to rust and corrosion.  There were also some days on their hands and knees filling cracks in the asphalt before a grant came through with the funding to have the seal-coating done professionally.  John fixed some window sills that were rotten (getting to use their wood shop), and caulked and primed them for painting.  The last 10-12 days were spent on a “quick” roof fix that ended up tearing out a lot of rotten wood, designing supports, fitting and rebuilding for much of the soffit and fascia on one 70’ side of the building.

John also spent a lot of time researching and watching videos online to get ideas to fix the back wall of the trailer.  We made a 40-minute trip to Home Depot for some materials for the repair with more shuddering brakes causing Connie to declare there would be no more road trips until they were fixed.  However, our first priority was the trailer repairs.  After we stored all the instruments in the “music room” of the school (where we gather for our morning singing, devotions, break time, and ice cream fellowship), John spent a few days to complete the repairs then moved on to washing and waxing both the front and back of the trailer so it could be caulked.  We could still use the van for our grocery trips but found we could bike and/or walk almost as easy.  The grocery stores and Ace Hardware are a mile or less, and McDonald’s is right on the route!

The ladies spent a few days washing shelves and hauling trash/recycling from elementary school classrooms where the teachers will not be coming back.  With all the COVID uncertainty the decision was made to not have K-3 classes this coming year causing several teachers to be let go.  There is a little animal farm with fancy chickens, goats, and bunnies that the kids enjoy.  The rest of our days were spent “landscaping” at both the elementary school (across the road and up a steep hill) and middle/high school grounds.   Our supervisor was the administrator who was quite handy at giving the plants and trees “haircuts” with the chain saw and bush trimmer.  We filled at least 17 pick-up truck beds with green waste which is dumped amongst the trees on the hill – that’s a lot of picking up and tossing!  There were about 25 seedlings to be potted as we cleaned up various areas, weeding, spreading wood chip mulch, and lots of watering of existing pots and transplants.  Connie spent a day cleaning up the greenhouse, put up some wood pieces for a hose hanger, and with a wee-bit of help from John fixed the door to the greenhouse shed.  As we worked along the fairly busy road, we were informed there is a “friend” that drives by who uses the “drug-free zone” in front of the school to dispose of his little vodka bottles – we found 17 one day in a block-long section!  We still look for (and find) them almost every time we walk the front sidewalks.

With all our travels we have gotten pretty good at adapting and reading the local weather, but not so here.  Mornings bring upper 50’s with clouds/fog, sometimes spilling over the ridge of the south hills which is very beautiful.  It is very green and sunny even though there was no rain all month, typical in the summer dry season here.  By mid-morning you are hot and changing into short-sleeves and by mid-afternoon to evening you have a jacket on even though the temperatures are in the lower 70’s.  We have spent a couple of afternoons checking instrument tuning as they adjust to the new climate, but it is great with low humidity and cool nights for sleeping – we haven’t used our air conditioners at all but do have the heaters on every night.  We have had a few days with some nice breezes and one very gusty day that rocked the trailer a bit, but nothing like central Illinois spring winds.  We are typically in Illinois/Wisconsin in spring and are really missing our friends and family being so far away.

Our first trip to the grocery store was a shock!  We haven’t had to shop for a lot of things for several months and the cost of living here is very high; seems like everything was $1 more than the expected price.  It makes one extremely thankful for the blessings we have had.  We had a lunch trip with our SOWERs at a restaurant down the coast; we had to sit outside of course.  It was a bit cool and breezy with no sun but the food and fellowship were great.  We put up our hummingbird feeder after a week and finally had some takers the 4th day; these are darker with lots of red around and on their heads.  The landscaping around the school has lots of blooming flowers we had to compete with.  Some things we do recognize for trees and plants sure look different here.

Almost every day we were walking or biking.  There is a creek that runs behind the high school property where deer hang out and it is not unusual to see them in the ball field dugouts in the evening.  One walk we came upon a racoon coming down the electric pole and onto the fence top to join his friend, less than 8 feet away.  Other than going for groceries there were a few trips by bicycle to the post office, great at the start but some fairly steep hills coming home!  Connie finished the baby blanket for Mila which incorporated crocheting from 3 generations.  The yellow diamond from Mila’s great-great Grandma, the pink and green from great-Grandma, and the remainder from her Grandma.  It was fun and very enjoyable, so Connie is researching some knitting projects to use up the many odd pieces of yarn she has.  We have also had some conversations on future travels and respite, and are hoping to find an RV park for some winter months to just relax.

But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other.  (1 John 1:7 The Living Bible TLB)

14 20200619_103906Please keep us in your prayers . . . and 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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • June 8-August 27 – Pacific Bay Christian School, Pacifica, CA (central coast)
  • August 27-October 29 – Youth With A Mission, Chico, CA (mid-central)
  • September 21-24 – SOWER reunion, Turner, OR (north west)
  • October 29 – unknown, tentative leisurely driving to Texas

The Salt Shaker – May 2020

Give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.  (Psalm 100:4b-5)

Greetings to our followers, friends, and family:

Praises – Church roof and several “wish list” items done; two screws/nails removed from tire at no charge; new granddaughter Mila Rose Nicholas 6/17/20😊

Prayers – Trailer and van brakes need work; trailer repairs to go smoothly; future travel decisions; health and safety for all

Our “routine” continued in May as we volunteered at the church.  Off mornings were our walks to the RV Resort clubhouse for coffee and hot chocolate, work mornings started with the 5 am alarm.  After 112 volunteer hours the other side of the roof was finished along with moving/replacing door kick-stops, fixing a sun shade pull, working on floor tile adhesive coming through the seams, some cabinet door repairs, adjusting/checking all door locks and strike plates, gluing/clamping doors that were damaged from attempted unlawful entry, painting an area of soffit, and fixing the Fellowship Hall entry with cement patch and new tile.  Connie helped more this month, and our roof helper also scraped/painted the facia and drip edge around the church building.  This church has two buildings, each with large meeting areas and classroom wings (like a school) so there is a lot of upkeep and maintenance.

Flowers, trees, and shrubs continued to bloom; other areas were cleared off as summer sprinkler systems were turned off.  About the second week of May the pool “heaters” were turned off as well, which made some very cold swims.  We couldn’t figure out why the water stayed so cold during triple digit daytime temperatures and in the 70’s at night; the pavement and artificial turf grass around the pool area would burn your feet several days.  Most times once you got in and swimming it was fine, but a couple of times even Connie headed for the hot tub.  There were two, one was turned off for the summer and was just the right temperature for relaxing.  Twice we had ducks join us.  (Or did we join them?)

It is certainly spring – 6 ducklings grew rapidly over the weeks, toddling after mama on a walk from their pond to behind our trailer.  Mama bird became very protective of the surrounding area, sitting on our awning support and flitting around squawking at Connie in the mornings when she was putting the tie-down straps on the awning.  By the end of the month her 3 babies had left the nest.  And we found the pond had at least one turtle, out sunning on one of our morning walks.

Sunday church services continued with online real-time messages and tuning in to Lane Christian Church services any time we wished.  Technology is wonderful but certainly doesn’t replace gathering together.  It is interesting how easily we fall into laziness, we didn’t dress for church, even eating breakfast during some sermons.  We’re sure Satan is enjoying this time of confusion and separation in the fellowship of the family of God.

Music again was at a standstill, although we did pull the instruments out a few times for practice of a new song John has been working on and another that Connie has wanted to work on.  With all the heat there was plenty of inside time for Connie to crochet, practice the harp, search online for a “new” harp with levers, and make some interesting meals from food box items.  We had fresh applesauce, homemade noodles, and strawberry and peach shortcake with lots of whipped cream after bicycling to the store!  Connie brainstormed, designed, and built 4 T-shirt covered Styrofoam panels to fit into our vents and shower skylight.  With the heat and sun our bathroom was warming up rapidly; putting in the panels definitely helped!

One morning we visited our church pianist at the nursery where he works part-time.  This business was started by his father and remains in the family.  We walked around looking at all the plants, saw a rabbit, and lots of humming birds.  He pointed out their nests, like little thimbles, most built in the circle part of eye bolts holding up the shade netting.  One was on top of a plant stake in a large potted bushy plant.  John held the camera up high, pointed down at the nest, and we were surprised to find a humming bird sitting in the nest after looking at the photos; she remained there the whole time we were talking and taking the pictures!  Connie paid attention to the names of various plants to find that many of the flowers we are seeing now are bougainvillea, and there are beautiful thevetia trees with yellow trumpet-shaped flowers in bloom.

Our recreation for the month included more Redbox DVD’s, multiple trips across town and to other communities (typically 30-45 minutes away) getting supplies for the church, and some McDonald’s drive-thru lunches.  On one of our supply trips we found “Treasure Chest” outlet store was open and finally were able to get some new swim suits/trunks!  (Connie’s old suit was getting pretty saggy and John’s trunks were ones he had when we were married.)  Our son from Phoenix drove over and spent a few hours with us one afternoon, bringing pizza from Phoenix with him, much better than California pizza!  The deal was that we would pay for the pizza and ice cream but he would cover the delivery and tip.

We did have another earthquake, this one from further away and only 4.5 on the scale, not quite as scary as the first.  We tried to continue with our evening walks with Connie judging the distance by how far up her body the pavement heat reached.  Knee to hip height was tolerable, but nearing shoulder height was miserable.  It was in the upper 90’s at 7-8 pm, but the sunsets were great.  We had a “super” moon rising in a pink/blue sunset one evening.

We attended church in person on our final Sunday, went out to lunch and sat inside a restaurant (7 total), and said our good-byes to Coachella Valley Christian Church friends.  We had our final swim and hot tub visit Tuesday and were on the road Wednesday morning for our trip north to Pacifica, California.  Southern California has cell towers disguised as palm trees.  We made the transition to pine tree cell towers after the first hour around Banning, skirted Los Angeles on the far east (familiar territory from living in the area 2007-2008), and headed north through the “pass” where we were passed by a semitruck load of boulder rocks.  Temperatures were over 100 and the van displayed “engine hot, turn off A/C” several times as we reached the top at 35 mph.  It is all downhill after that, passing Avenal, CA the pistachio capital of the world and a dead mountain lion on the side of the road.  Shuddering brakes brought us back into the valley where we stayed at a camp site with electricity.  Getting settled in we noticed the heavy plastic back bumper skirt was cracked and buckled, and it took 2 A/C units 3 hours to get the trailer cooled to 78!  While traveling we received a message that our Washington state upcoming projects had been cancelled, so our future plans are uncertain again.

Thursday morning started with bumper skirt duct tape repairs and a ¾-mile walk to Denny’s, realizing we forgot our masks about half way there, but they let us in for a wonderful sit-down breakfast.  Our route through the final mountain pass on state highway 152 with winding up and down roads, more 35 mph hilltops, down hills, and gusts of wind.  Later, our final downhill into Pacifica the brakes were shuddering again but the views of the Pacific Ocean waves were beautiful.  We arrived at 3:30 in our hot weather travel attire to a chilly 62 degrees!  Getting set up we noticed the bumper skirt tape held up well but the back wall of the trailer was separating from the bottom and out of the molding on the sides, and we had some water puddles after getting connected.  John was up at 4:30 am stepping onto cold wet carpet, turned off the water outside, back to bed to be woke again by the water heater gurgling and clanging, back outside to turn that off, and up for the day at 5:30 am.  Thankfully we found no leaks and got the carpet dried out, never knowing what caused it.  So, we have lots of repairs and decisions to make over the next weeks and need renewed faith for getting the trailer out of the mountain areas!

. . . But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again.  On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. (2 Corinthians 1:9-11 NIV)

Thanks for traveling with us!
We so appreciate your prayers and notes of encouragement!!

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • June 8-August ?? – Pacific Bay Christian School, Pacifica, CA (west central)
  • September – unknown
  • September 21-24 – SOWER Reunion, Turner, OR

02 20200508_054020

The Salt Shaker ~ April 2020

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

Greetings to our family, friends, and followers:

Praises – First side of church roof almost finished; beautiful RV resort to be at, swimming pool open; blessed with lots of free food.

Prayers – May SOWER projects cancelled, where to park May 30-June 3; on the road again at the end of the month after 4 months; van tire repair of slow leak; Godly wisdom for SOWER project decisions for July, August, September; church roof second side to be quicker, easier, and for safety while on the roof.

April was a month of adjustments for us, as for everyone.  After moving there is always a change in routine since your surroundings have changed, but this was different since it is “down” time with no structure to fall into, along with social distancing and stay at home orders.  We completed the material quote for the church and waited for approval, almost two weeks, before getting materials to start on April 13.  John and his helper Justin put in over 60 volunteer hours with lots of brain work and fitting to get the slopes and angles right for the adjoining roof sections.  The weather kept getting hotter, the roof and tools as well, and by the end of the month they were starting at 6am for about 3 hours each day.

It was a Friday evening (April 3) right before 6pm that we experienced our first, and hopefully last, earthquake.  We have been in some very strong winds that push the trailer about, but nothing like this!  We looked at each other thinking someone had backed into the trailer tongue as we rocked back and forth, at the same time wondering if “the end was near.”  Immediately we flipped the TV stations and found it was a 4.9 earthquake with 3.6 aftershock waves, the epi-center about 25 miles away.  A few weeks later we had lingering cool weather that brought some overnight rain and dropped snow down to 2500-foot elevations.  We woke to see the lower mountains with white tops, just for a few hours, but a beautiful sight.  (Our two big mountains here get snow regularly in the spring and still have white tops after two weeks of 100-degree temperatures in the desert valley.)

We celebrated Easter with online church services, a great ham dinner, and a zoom chat with our children!  It is good that we have the technology to do things like this, not quite the same as having everyone in the same house, but much easier since we are spread out in 4 states.  And then there was the fried ham and eggs, ham sandwiches, and Connie found a ham that the bone would fit in the insta-pot to make great broth for navy bean soup (with jalapeno corn bread for John)!  We also celebrated our 36th anniversary, as much as possible with no place to go, with a quiet afternoon (after the roofing) at home.  We had to wait a few days before going to Cold Stone Creamery for their “Gotta Have It” size ice cream treats to complete our celebration.

Even though we are 15-20 degrees above normal it doesn’t appear it will be getting much cooler.  Connie spends most of her day inside with the air conditioning as the trailer heats up quickly with sunshine and temperatures over 100.  This has allowed her to get in lots of harp practice, finish up some craft projects, do more cooking, and make lots of carrot juice.  She went off one morning “biking for quarters” to finish the laundry – about a mile to Walmart Market, no luck; to a bank drive through, only ATM machines; entering the bank (it is weird entering a bank with a bandana tied over your face), only ATM machines; and to McDonald’s “drive through” where no contact ordering finally resulted in getting quarters!  (Every stop meant locking the bike, removing the hat and glasses, and tying on the bandana.)  We try to bike to the Redbox locations to rent DVD movies about once a week.  One ride was a bit tougher as we had to go over two overpasses to get there, but the view of the valley and west mountains were great.  We still swim about three times a week; we have been joined by some ducks and had rain sprinkles fall once as we did our laps.  We had rainbows on our trailer ceiling one day reminding us of God’s promises and bringing big smiles as we tried to figure out where they were coming from (still not sure and it has not happened again).

Some things that you take for granted in our pre-pandemic days have proved to be a challenge.  The Goodwill-type stores are closed (swim suits and cooler clothes), and who would have thought that yarn would be hard to find!  Over a week’s time we were out 4 times to get the yarn needed for Connie’s new baby blanket project for our newest granddaughter due in June.  Three trips to 2 different Walmart stores, online research, order made, order cancelled out of stock, more online research, ordering for pickup at a JoAnn Fabric 30 minutes away, and 2 big balls of baby yarn were on hand!  This was a test of patience and perseverance, answered prayers, and now contented crocheting.

On days off from roofing we usually take a leisurely morning walk to the clubhouse where they have free coffee and hot chocolate.  Our hummingbird feeder is very popular and they are getting quite used to John hanging around.  He climbed up onto the trailer bumper with his head about an arm’s length away, hearing them buzz by his head as they came for their bedtime snack.  Occasionally we are able to sit outside at night as the sun sets, enjoying the breeze.  Spring is here and we have birds nesting in a bush behind the trailer and 7 tiny ducklings in the park pond.  Just when we thought the flowers were through, there is more beauty, color, and fragrance here in the desert!

12 2020 04 FlowersAnother milestone in life, John received his first social security check (early retirement) this month!  After many hours of online research, a new cordless drill, circular saw, battery, and charger have been purchased over the last few weeks.  (His $3 auction saw and cordless drill have some issues and don’t always work properly.)  Ebay is wonderful when it comes to saving money over store prices!

We make a weekly trip to the rescue mission on Wednesday mornings to get our “free food” box that always has lots of surprises.  We are stocking up (two large bags now) and still have extra to pass along.  One surprise was Granny Smith apples, about 10 pounds!  Connie has been very creative and made applesauce (in the insta-pot) that turned out very well.  Our 5+ year old juicer has been working overtime and the switch broke, thankfully at the end of the process.  We took it apart, researched a new switch, tracked down UPS for two days, finally got the part, have it back together, and it works – carrot juice again!

Our closing thoughts and prayer for each of you:

Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others ~ so use your gift well.  If you have the gift of speaking, preach God’s message.  If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies.  Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ, who is glorious and powerful forever.  Amen.  1 Peter 4:10-11 (Contemporary English Version)

Thanks for traveling with us and supporting us with your thoughts and prayers!

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 – SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • May – Indio, CA – Church roof project; unknown location May 30-June 3
  • June 3-4 – Travel to Pacifica, CA
  • June 8-30 – Pacific Bay Christian School, Pacifica, CA (west central)
  • ? July 2-August 27 – Warm Beach Senior Community, Stanwood, WA (north west)
  • ? September – tentative month off, Washington or Oregon state
  • ? September 21-24 – SOWER reunion, Turner, OR (north west)
  • ? September 25-October 29 – Aldersgate Camps and Retreats, Turner, OR (north west)

The Salt Shaker ~ March 2020

And the crowds asked him (John the Baptist), “What then shall we do?”  And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics (garments) is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”  Luke 3:10-11 English Standard Version

Praises – Our prayers work!  We remain healthy; beautiful weather

Prayers – Friends and family to remain safe; finances for those without jobs; recording opportunities; continuing exercising; patience and perseverance

Greetings to our friends, followers, and family:

Our last volunteer work in February involved attending a “Gala” fundraising event for the Rescue Mission.  It was quite the event and we were the guest greeters; giving them envelopes with their table assignments and auction bid cards.  We were treated to a fancy meal and observed generous hearts during the auction time.  Our oldest son visited over the weekend and then back to work!  Just the two of us for March volunteers, so we had the task of finishing the dining room project – new paint first which to us means cleaning vents and lights along the way.  The dining room is so busy with the meals and other activities our hours had to vary to find 2-3-hour blocks of time to work, including some evenings for the high traffic areas.  Although we decided to not enjoy the “interviews” with clients this month to make better use of the available time, we did get to know other clients fairly well as we worked in their areas.

We started with the tan walls, removing pictures, moving pop machines, cleaning vents, and light fixtures in the “lower” ceiling.  Week two found us changing to “tangerine” orange with more cleaning.  The angle window blocks are accent colors and once vacuumed and “wiped” down (with a damp rag on the end of a vacuum hose taped to a paint roller extension rod) they brightened up.  Trimming around these blocks was challenging as well, but with patience and perseverance John got it done.  Connie did all the fine trimming around the serving windows, but John did the tedious task of wiping off the lettering!  Above the serving area are lime green letters “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink” that were lightly rolled over with paint, let dry a few minutes, then wiped off letter by letter.  Being detail oriented, John took extra time to get all the old paint off as well for a very professional new text look.

Into the third week we made it to the 160’ of new baseboard which included scraping the floor and washing the walls as needed.  Pieces as long as 37’ were cut off the roll, wrapped around corners, scored for inside corners, and glued up; some days working after 6:30 pm to get to those areas that were too busy during the day.  After that the final finishing touches.  Three stainless steel edge molding pieces were drilled and glued/screwed to high traffic wall edges and the bug lights were reinstalled, one of which had a faulty cord (only 1 prong of 3 on the plug end).  Connie direct-wired a piece of new extension cord so it would work before hanging it back up.  And there was the afternoon that Connie left early, stopping by the walk-in cooler for eggs and “locking” herself in the cooler.  No cell phone reception, but fists pounding on the door finally brought rescue and finding out a powerful firm push on the door would have opened it; how humbling.

Throughout this month the “pandemic” restrictions continued to evolve and change, including ‘no volunteers’ at the mission.  Since we were not told to leave our lives remained pretty much the same.  We continued attending Coachella Valley Christian Church weekly evening Bible study and playing along with the praise team (both groups of less than 8 people).  We were the worship leaders one Sunday morning, provided music for the “Young at Heart” corned beef and cabbage lunch, and did a “Fun Day” concert for three brave souls after California banned gatherings of more than 6 people.  The Rescue Mission quit allowing the public to come into the facility but continued with “to go” meals and their weekly food box distribution.  The “bread run” (outdated items from grocery stores) continued, but without the public access lots of food was thrown away or, once contact was made, given to the “pig farmer.”  During our last week we started shopping for our Chinese family friends and were able to take several boxes of food to them – what a blessing to be able to share our blessings!  John was concerned with the toilet paper shortage and we were out of paper towels which caused us to make a few bike trips to our local Walmart Neighborhood Market (the grocery section of Walmart Supercenters).  After three trips we were able to get what we needed.

We finally had rain!  Over a few days perhaps 4” but enough at one time to cause 6” deep puddles where we had to walk.  We still find ourselves catching black/grey peripheral glimpses thinking a storm is coming then realizing it is some of the mountains surrounding this desert valley, no rain in sight.  One bright sunshiny day there were clouds rolling up from the ocean to the mountain ridge to our west that looked like a huge waterfall as they piled up and spilled over the top.  Photos, at least with our phones, can’t capture things like that!  We continued to build our relationship with Hazel, a homeless kitty, purchasing a small bag of dry food and feeding her (along with 2 homeless chihuahuas nicknamed Pico and Paco by us and lots of pigeons).  Connie was able to pick up Hazel and had her sit in her lap once as well as letting her in to roam the trailer several times.

14 20200331_120135No matter what we tried God closed the door to our travels to Bakersfield (thanks to your prayers).  We had a fairly tense week of indecision on where we were to go and what we were to do, including Coronavirus impact, heading back east and north to family, staying in this area, or heading north.  We made calls to the SOWER ministry office and to our “volunteer project” for May and June, said lots of prayers, and waited for God’s confirmation.  Because we do have church “family” here and our May/June project still needs help we found an affordable RV park (with pool and hot tub) less than 2 miles away for our vacation month off.  We went to church Sunday morning (March 29), returned, hooked up and left at 1:45, arrived, and were set up by 3:30!  While biking we took this photo, perhaps we do need a short vacation?  We are now biking or swimming every day, trying to lose those extra “free grocery” pounds, and sleeping in a bit.  We have lovely birds in the morning, and not so lovely fire sirens from the fire station on the other side of the road.  And we do have work to do – the church needs a fix for a steep roof adjoining a flat overhang – so we have been brainstorming, sketching, and pricing materials.

15 FlowersAs promised, flower pictures from this area.  It is very beautiful here, in a different way, and we are so blessed to be able to travel with the seasons and experience the grandeur of God’s creation and all different types of people.

God speaking to Joshua (and to us): “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9 English Standard Version (thanks Pastor Kilson, Lane Christian Church, Lane, IL)

Thanks for traveling with us and being part of our family too!
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:  SaltyStrings@hotmail.com
Facebook – Salty Strings Music Ministry                         Web site:  SaltyStrings.com

ONLINE DONATIONS via PayPal through our web site

TENTATIVE TRAVEL PLANS AND UPCOMING LOCATIONS

  • April – month off, Indio, CA (south desert valley)
  • April 29-30 – Travel to Pacifica, CA
  • May 1-June 30 – Pacific Bay Christian School, Pacifica, CA (west central)
  • July 2-August 27 – Warm Beach Senior Community, Stanwood, WA (northwest)
  • September – tentative month off, Washington or Oregon state
  • September 21-October 29 – Aldersgate Camps and Retreats, Turner, OR (northwest)