The first Russian martyrs

Today, July 24, we join the Russian Orthodox in celebrating the feast day of Saints Boris and Gleb, the Passion-bearers – the first Russian Martyrs.

Extract from the Synaxarion:  The holy Passion-bearers Boris and Gleb, named Romanus and David in sacred Baptism, were the pious sons of the holy Great Prince Vladimir. In 1015 they were slain at the command of their brother Svyatopolk – Saint Boris, on July 24 on the Alta River, near Pereyaslavl, and Saint Gleb, on September 5 on the bank of the Smyadinya River, near Smolensk. Although both had understood their brother’s designs against them, they refused to take up arms against him and bring civil war upon their land, preferring to fulfill the commandment, “Resist not evil” (Matt. 5:39). The holy relics of Saint Boris were then buried in Vyshgorod, to which the holy relics of his brother were transferred five years later. Miracles were worked through the holy relics of the meek and guileless brothers during the consecration in Vyshgorod of a church in their honor on this day in 1021.

Apolytikion:  O Righteous Passion-bearers and true fulfillers of the Gospel of Christ, Chaste Boris and guileless Gleb, ye did not oppose the onslaughts of your enemy, your brother, who though killing your bodies was unable to touch your souls. Let the evil lover of power mourn therefore, while ye rejoice with the angelic choirs; and as ye stand before the Holy Trinity, pray for the souls of them that honour your memory, that they may be pleasing to God: and by your intercessions, pray that all Orthodox people may be saved.

Kontakion:  On this day your memory hath shone forth, splendid with glory, O ye noble sufferers and Passion-bearers of Christ God. It hath called us to give glory to Christ our Saviour; wherefore those that draw nigh to the shrine of your relics, do ye swiftly heal as wise and divine physicians, O hallowed Boris and Gleb.

What’s in a name?

Sometime back the British navy conducted an online poll to pick a name for a polar research vessel under construction. The hands down winning name was “Boaty McBoatface”. Unfortunately, the government decided against popular opinion (surprise, surprise) and named the boat the “Richard Attenborough” after the well known actor and naturalist.

Boaty McBoatface … aka the Richard Attenborough

Fast forward to the present – the Swedish rail firm MTR Express held an online poll to name its new train running between Stockholm and Gothenburg. Guess what? the winning name was ….. wait for it ….. Trainy McTrainface!

Trainy McTrainface

MTR has vowed to name the train Trainy McTrainface, saying it would bring joy to people disappointed when Britain rejected the name Boaty McBoatface for its polar research ship. “[This is] news that will be received with joy by many, not just in Sweden,” MTR wrote in a statement.

Following the MTR statement, the British government announced, in a consolatory gesture, that the research ship’s remotely operated undersea vehicle, designed to collect samples from the deep waters of the Arctic and Antarctic, will be named Boaty McBoatface. A distinct case of ‘too little too late’ in our book!



The empty lot next to us is a natural South Texas overgrowth. In addition to the usual plethora of mesquite, cat’s claw and ebony, there is a 7 or 8 ft tall shrub with yellow berries that pokes through our fence. Our interest was piqued since we had no idea what it was and the berries looked a little like very tiny tomatoes – perhaps edible? Here’s the shrub:


We took the question to the internet and discovered that it is a Spiny Hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana previously pallida) also known as the Desert Hackberry. It is native to and common in the RGV and the Chihuahuan desert.

Spiny Hackberry is an evergreen shrub with whitish gray zigzag shape branches that produces shiny orange pea sized fruit throughout the year, regardless of the season. The plentiful fruit provides food as well as acting as a water source for a wide variety of birds such as green jays, doves, and thrashers. A number of butterfly caterpillars rely on the Spiny Hackberry as a food source such as Emperors, American Snout, and Red-bordered Metalmark.

So, yes, the fruit is edible. We harvested a couple of handfuls and discovered they are sweet and well worth eating. The seed is large, so there is not much flesh on the berries. However the seeds are easy to crunch and apparently are a good source of calcium. According to some reports, the berries are 20% crude protein as well – healthy too!

It’s true that you can learn something new every day.

Heart-warming story

calfire1The Colton, CA fire department is busy fighting the raging California wildfires. About 25 firefighters were eating at the local Denny’s after a shift when an anonymous women called the waiter over and insisted on picking up their tab – a hefty $400! not only that, she put up another $100 for dessert. God bless her. The Colton Fire Department thanked the anonymous citizen for her “generous show of support.” “We are all honored to serve the citizens of our communities,” the department wrote.

Colton, CA Denny’s at a quiet moment

The Arroyo City Volunteer Fire Department wishes all the fire fighters battling the blazes God’s blessing and protection.



The Texas shrimping season starts on July 15. In Port Isabel and the Brownsville shrimp basin shrimpers are getting their boats ready for what they hope will be a bumper season. Father Mark Watters’ blessed the fleet on Monday at the Brownsville Shrimp Basin.


The Texas shrimp industry faces a daunting challenge this year since Congress failed to renew the H-2B Returning Worker Program, leaving boat owners and shrimp processors without many of their regular workers. The industry is fighting a misconception that it would rather hire Mexican H-2B visa workers than U.S. workers because they’re cheaper. However the truth is that finding Americans to crew shrimp boats is practically impossible despite the industry’s best efforts. Many boats will stay in port or head out with skeleton crews. Shrimp are reported to be in abundance in the Gulf this year and fuel prices are reasonably low, so it’s a tragedy that our local shrimpers are facing an uphill battle to bring us these delectable little treats.

Our prayers go out for a bountiful harvest and safe passage for all of them. May God bless their endeavors and keep them safe.