Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cottage cheese: Success!

The way I grew up making cottage cheese, you would let skim milk sit on the counter until it clabbered, which sometimes took several days.  Then you dumped it into a large pan, put the burner on low, and gently stirred until the curds separated from the whey.  You'd put cheesecloth in a colander, place the colander over a pan or bucket, and pour the contents of your big pan into this.  The whey was then poured into the slop bucket (wow, it's been ages since I've heard that term) to give to pigs or chickens.  The curds were rinsed off, drained as well as possible, and hung on the clothesline so any remaining liquid could drain away.  
Using an online recipe as a guide, I changed a couple of things.  Rather than wait for the milk to curdle on its own, I added some buttermilk to hurry the process along.  After twenty-four hours, it was nicely curdled.  The recipe suggested that I should pasteurize the milk first; I did not do that.  A different recipe suggested adding rennet, as did one of my readers.  I will try that next time, if I can find rennet at the store.    
The most drastic change from my old way of making cottage cheese was that I used a big enamel canner, put water in it, and set the container with the clabbered milk inside it, so it worked like a double boiler.  Using a cooking thermometer, I followed the rules on temperatures.  It wasn't nearly as "hit-and-miss" as my old method.  
 Here is the stainless steel pan sitting inside the canner.  Curds and whey are all in there, heating up.  


Here are the drained curds.  


This is my kitchen after making low-fat brownies and healthy bran muffins for Cliff, followed by the cottage cheese-making.  


I saved the whey because it tasted good, and whey is good for you.  With my old method of making cottage cheese, the whey was not so good.  The pigs and chickens liked it, though.  


I added salt and pepper and rich Jersey cream, and took a couple of bites of the best home-made cottage cheese I've ever tasted.  

Monday, August 30, 2010

Interesting question

Meesha posed this question in a comment on my previous entry about having to milk my cow until the calf can consume it all:   "How is it supposed to happen in "the wild" when there is no one to milk the cow?"
Perhaps others of you have wondered the same thing.  
Cattle were not meant to give the unnatural amount of milk that dairy breeds give today.  Breeders have selected the top-yielding cows and bred them to sons of other top-producers, and each generation gives more milk than the last; this is what dairymen want... fewer cows to feed, but more milk.  Of course, higher production usually brings more problems with the cows.  The average dairy cow only lasts five years in the herd before she is culled for health problems, even though a cow's natural life span is ten to fifteen years. 
Beef breeds, on the other hand, give only enough milk for one calf.  
Whatever kind of cows lived "in the wild" had not been messed with by humans, and they would have had no need to be milked.  
If I had a beef cow, I would never have to milk; in fact, there wouldn't be any milk left for me.  If I had a dairy/beef cross cow, I could milk if I wanted to, but she'd probably not give over four gallons a day; her calf would soon be able to take all the milk.  
What would happen if I did not milk Bonnie daily until her calf can take all the milk?  
She would likely get mastitis.  
Perhaps someone is wondering why I don't get a non-dairy breed or a dairy/beef cross.  Well, it's because I love Jersey cattle, and I have a history with them.  They are petite and feminine and pretty and friendly.  I'd love to find a Jersey cow that a dairy was culling for low production, but I haven't been able to locate such an animal.  That would be ideal for me.  
It only took a couple of weeks last year for Sir Loin to be able to take all of Bonnie's milk; Clyde is a big boy, and I imagine in another week or two he'll be sucking down every drop.  Then I'll be back to simply taking him away from his mom overnight when I want some milk.  

The land of milk...

Eventually I will only be milking Bonnie when I need milk, which is once or twice a week.  Until the calf is able to take all her milk, though, I'm milking every morning.  I end up with a little over a gallon each time.  
I could pour it down the sink, but I want to make some butter, since I have to milk anyhow.  So I'm skimming off the cream.  As I was about to pour the skimmed excess milk down the drain, I remembered how I used to make cottage cheese and decided to try it again.  
Now, the way my mom and grandma taught me was just to heat the clabbered milk very slowly over a low burner until curds formed.  Recipes I've found on the Internet is a little different and a lot more complicated:



Pasteurizing and Setting the Milk Raw skim milk must be pasteurized by bringing it to 145oF and holding at that temperature for 30 minutes. Pasteurization can be accomplished by placing the milk in a microwaveable container and heating with the temperature probe in place. Another way to pasteurize is to place the skim milk in a double boiler and bring to temperature. Pasteurized skim milk should then be cooled to 70 to 75oF. Next, inoculate the skim milk with 1 1/2 cups (5% level) of buttermilk or sour cream, used as "starter" if you want the curd to set within five hours. Use only 1/2 cup if you want to set the curd over night. In this case it is most convenient to add the starter in the afternoon so that the curd will be formed and ready to be cut by the following morning.
Cutting the Curd The proper time for cutting the curd is determined by the condition of the curd. If the curd breaks cleanly away from the sides of the vessel when depressed slightly with a spoon, the proper cut time has been reached. The curd should then be cut (not broken) into cubes approximately 3/8 inch in each dimension. Do this by cutting horizontally with a spatula or knife, then rolling the strands gently over so that they may be cut crosswise. At this time the whey will be expelled from the curd. Dry cheese will result if curds are cut too small.
Heating the Curd Heat or cook the curd by placing the vessel containing the cut curd in a larger vessel containing water at a temperature of 140oF. The curd should be stirred gently with a large spoon while bringing the temperature to 120 to 125oF. Hold at this temperature for about half an hour, stirring gently from time to time. One of the common mistakes in making home-made cottage cheese is heating at too high a temperature and for too long. High temperature causes the pieces of curd to contract, squeezing out too much whey and making the cheese too dry. To determine when the cooking is done, place about 1 tablespoon of curds in ice water for 3 minutes, then squeeze them in the palm of the hand. A rubbery texture indicates that cooking should be ended.
Draining the Whey Pour or drain off the whey. Wash the curd (with about the same amount of ice water as there was whey) by filling the kettle with ice water and pouring it off 3 times. This will wash a good deal of the acid from the cheese so that it will not taste so sour, and at the same time it will cool the cheese to about 70oF. The last water may be drained away either by placing the cheese in a small cheesecloth bag or on a piece of cheesecloth spread on a rack or colander. Draining may be hastened by changing the position of the cheese in the bag or on the cheesecloth.
Working, Seasoning, and Creaming the Cheese After nearly all the water has been drained away, or at least stopped running in a steady stream, the cheese should be removed to a clean dish and worked to an even texture with a spoon. Salt may be added to suit the taste. Usually salt at a level of 1% of the weight of the curd and cream is appropriate (about a half ounce or 1 tablespoon). About 1½ cups of half and half cream (approx 12% fat) or light cream (approx 20% fat) will improve the taste of the cheese a great deal, although it is not necessary. If light cream is added at this level (about 1/3 the weight of the curd) a creamed cottage cheese of about 4% fat content will be produced. For a low-fat cottage cheese add 1½ cups of pasteurized/homogenized milk. The cottage cheese thickens after about 20 hours of refrigeration.  


Now, I happen to have a little cultured buttermilk in the refrigerator, so that's no problem.  But pasteurize my raw milk?  Grandma never did that.  Of course, she and my mom didn't use cultured buttermilk with their method, either.  
Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Calf disappeared

Not to worry; I found him.  
It's been a week since Bonnie had her calf, and I decided to turn them out into the big pasture where Bonnie could get better quality grazing and she and her calf would have lots of shade trees where they could hang out and cool off.  Cliff asked me what my hurry was, and I told him, "No hurry; I'd just like her to have better pasture."  
"I don't see what they're hurting in the pen," he said.  
Turning them out, I watched to see that the horses didn't try anything with the new calf, but they were mainly interested in getting into the pen they've been locked out of for three weeks.  
A couple hours later, Cliff and I took our walk; toward the end of that, we found Bonnie in one of her favorite hideaways, chewing her cud.  Alas, no Clyde was evident.  I noticed Bonnie kept her gaze in the one certain direction at all times, so I figured I'd go in that direction until I found the calf.  Iris was with me, and her presence always makes the cow nervous.  
I'd walked several yards when Bonnie got nervous and decided to follow me.  I kept walking, and pretty soon she started lowing for her calf.  Then the lowing turned to bellowing.  I was looking to my right, figuring the calf was in the tall weeds and brush along the fence.  Cliff got tired of this nonsense and headed for the house.  
When the calf is older and wiser, he'll have learned to answer his mom's bawling; now, however, he only bawls if he's hungry and she isn't in sight.  
I noticed all the ditches and ravines along the east fence-line where a calf might get into trouble, even a strong, week-old calf, and silently cursed myself for not listening to Cliff.  
I gave up the hunt, figuring eventually Clyde would answer his mom and they would re-unite; I headed west, away from the fence, and found myself looking at Clyde.  He wasn't hidden at all, but was curled up comfortably in the full sun.  
I tried driving them back to the barn, but Bonnie knew my plan, and turned and ran in the opposite direction.  I was getting hot out there and it was almost time to cook dinner, so I gave up the chase.  
Just a while ago, with dinner over, I took my stock prod and went looking for the pair again.  They were in the shade, not so far from where I had left them before.  This time Bonnie allowed herself to be herded straight in the direction of the barn.  I wondered what had caused her change in attitude; turns out she wasn't thinking about going to the barn, she was headed to the waterer.  She drank deeply, and while she drank, Clyde went through the big gate into the pen; with her thirst quenched, Bonnie followed.  
For a few days, at least, I think I'll keep the calf in the stall at night and allow Bonnie access to the big pasture if she wants to go out there.  During the day, they can both stay in the big lot where I can keep an eye on Clyde.

Moving right along...

Actually, I don't have much to blog about; I just figured it was time to move the toilet paper on down the page.  You'll notice that nasty fingerprint is still on the lens of my camera.  I've tried and tried, but it stays there.  I don't know how it could be on the inside, when it wasn't there originally.  I'm hoping to replace the camera before Cliff retires.  


Yesterday we went for a motorcycle ride.  


We took the long way, through Chillicothe, the home of sliced bread.  


There are signs that let you know you're approaching Jamesport.  


We shopped in several Amish stores.  I bought a tomato-slicing knife in one, and some banana chips and a pint of sorghum in another.  


The horses the Amish use strike me as homely and skinny, but they sure do get down the road at a good clip.  


This was outside one store.  


We found a nice park in which to eat our sardines, but we were tormented by a luscious-looking cake a nearby group had sitting out in the open, tempting us.  You'll be able to see it on the left of the orange cooler, if you click on the picture to make it bigger.  


We rode through downtown, but didn't stop.  


We made this trip two years ago; I blogged about it HERE.  You can read more about the Amish community in Jamesport HERE.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Let's talk about toilet paper

I'm on a quest to find the best toilet paper for the money.  Actually, I'm trying to get the best bang for my buck on lots of consumer goods, but this one is at the top of my list.  
My experience with cheap, no-name TP has not been good.  Yes, the price is very low, but it seems as though one has to use three times as much of it to be effective, which pretty much wipes out the savings.  
The big name brands these days give a choice of "soft" and "strong"; I can't really tell that much difference in the two.  
I posed the question about which TP is best on Facebook and got some feedback from a few friends.  One brand was mentioned by three different people who are widely separated geographically and do not know one another:  Scott 1000.  So I bought a few rolls.  I haven't tested it yet, but we're almost out of the other kind.  Then we'll see.  
Here's an interesting thing:  Consumer Reports gives Scott 1000 a terrible ratting.  Click on the picture to see it better:  




Is Consumer Reports out of touch with real people?  I'm about to find out.  
Dear readers, if you buy a brand you think is the best deal for the money... not cheapest price per roll, mind you, but the cheapest in the long run... let me know in a comment.  
And yes, I do remember the days when we used Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogues.  You tore out a page, wadded it up tight to get the slickness out, then straightened it out and folded it into a square.  That way you also had something to read while you sat in the outhouse and pondered.  

Friday, August 27, 2010

Still using the Ramsey envelope system, but...

I am not above a little "outside-the-envelope" spending.  I've been wanting to get some essentials at Sam's Club for a few days.  Trouble is, I can't seem to amass an extra seventy bucks in my grocery envelope.  
Oh, I'm staying well below the $70 allotted per week, and there's always a little left over each week; this week I spent only $45 at the store.  But just as I was well on my way to a Sam's Club cache, I found out the Gala apples are starting to ripen.  So we made a trip to Rasa's Orchard.  By the time I bought ten pounds of #1 apples, a watermelon, and two butternut squashes, my little "extra" grocery money was really little.  
Then Amber came to spend the night last night, and I got the urge for pizza.  So I took $5 from the grocery envelope and $7 from the "fun" envelope to cover that.
There's some occasional money that comes rolling in from another source besides Cliff's job, and tonight was the night.  Normally it goes in the bank and is used for some good purpose.  You know, like into the savings account, or onto the principle of our home loan.  But the oldest granddaughter was here, and a little demon on my shoulder started whispering, "You could go to Sam's Club with some of that money; Amber is here to take you."  
I struggled briefly, then said to myself, "Cliff isn't retired yet; what the heck!"  
On the plus side, I only spent the $70 I intended to spend.  On the minus side, I told Amber if she wanted something from a fast-food place, I'd treat her, as long as it wasn't too pricey.  So that was another five bucks.  
Cliff is going to have a ball with this:  "Oh, you didn't use money from the envelope?  I thought we were sticking to the envelope plan."  
I can hear him now.   
I foresee another little problem with the envelopes.  After weeks of adding to the funds in each one and only using out of certain ones, I realize how much money I have in all those envelopes, combined.  We've never kept that kind of cash in reserve.  I think the little demon is going to have a blast with that.  
Get thee behind me, satan.  

Same old stuff

Hummingbirds are swarming like bees around here; I've never had so many, but the World Wide Web tells me this time of year is best for hummingbird-watchers.  Six cups of nectar placed in the feeders lasts only about twenty-four hours.  
Have you received an email saying that on August 27, 2010, Mars will be as big as the moon?  Check it out on Snopes; it's a hoax.  
Bonnie and Clyde seem to be doing fine, and we're consuming raw milk again.  
The horse guy was back yesterday; since I helped him put an ad on Craigslist, guess who gets to email the people who respond to the ad wanting bigger pictures and a copy of the horse's pedigree?  
That'd be me (imagine me taking a bow... NOT).   
The oldest granddaughter is spending a couple of days here; she and I might do a little shopping after Cliff goes to work to meet his quota of overtime for the month.  Two Fridays a month will satisfy his employer's demand for twenty hours of overtime work.  
I'm hoping Cliff and I can work in a motorcycle ride tomorrow.  
After all the earlier worrying about my tomato crop, those pitiful, bedraggled plants are still giving me tomatoes.  That late zucchini plant is still thriving and supplying zucchinis, the first zucchini plant I've had in years that haven't been killed by squash bugs!  
We've gone several days without rain, and there's none in the forecast until Wednesday.  The past three days have been heavenly, with early-morning lows in the fifties.  What a treat!  
So, that's my report for today.    

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I shared this on Facebook

Since not everybody has a Facebook account, I'm sharing it here also.  I just love the feeling that this two-year-old girl puts into her recitation of the 23rd Psalm.  And how about that southern accent?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The new calf's name....

is Clyde.  I was going to have a fun little voting thing, but five different people have suggested Clyde as a name; so  I have a feeling that would be the winner anyhow.  Two people suggested Augie, because he was born in August.  
So now I have Bonnie and Clyde.

Sometimes I'm glad I have naturally curly hair

This is me after I got a haircut this morning.  


This is before; I was starting to get that "Little Orphan Annie" look.  

Things are looking up

Bonnie, of course, was unhappy at having her baby taken away from her overnight, so she did a lot of vocalizing.
Back when I was raising fifty or so "bobby" calves a year, the procedure with a scouring calf was to keep it off milk for at least twenty-four hours, giving it only the electrolyte solution during that time.  However, I needed help with the milking!
I knew it was a good sign when I found him bawling for his mom; he was feeling better.  I gave him a pill and watched him for a few minutes; I soon got the evidence I needed to show that his diarrhea was gone.
I put him on the off side of the cow, and he nursed on that side while I milked on the other.  Once we were finished I turned him out with Bonnie, but I will be keeping a close eye on him and giving him another pill tonight and one tomorrow morning.  
I made a video of him trotting and cavorting a little, not acting sick at all.  At one point you'll see his mom kick up her heels a little.


 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SCOURS!

One thing you do when there's a new calf around is watch his poop often.  Yesterday Bonnie's baby's stools were loose, but OK.  This morning I noticed the poop was looser.  A while ago I went out and stood around until baby pooped:  it was very watery.  This is very dangerous for a young calf; it can kill them.
I expected it, in a way, because Bonnie gives more milk that any calf was ever intended to ingest, and it's very rich milk.  Sir Loin got by fine last year, but I considered that to be pure luck.  
So, the first thing I had to do was get Baby away from mom, because he needs to be taken off milk while he has scours (that's what they call diarrhea in calves).  I shut him in the stall. 
Then I mixed up a half-gallon of electrolyte solution.  The calf no doubt has a tummy-ache.  I knew he wouldn't suck a bottle, so I tube-fed him the solution.  
I also gave him a pill for scours that I picked up last year before Bonnie had Sir Loin.  "Be prepared" is my motto when it comes to calves.  
I surely do not want to lose any calf, but I especially don't want to lose a calf of Bonnie's. I don't want to think about having to milk her every day.  Last year it wasn't so easy just getting my gallon of milk a couple times a week, and it would really be hard to have to milk her out all the way, daily.  I took a couple of Arthritis Tylenol to be prepared for this evening.  
So, keep me and the calf in your thoughts and prayers.  I need him to have a speedy recovery.  

trees


I was so proud of my Lombardy poplars in the fall of 2008.  In a few short months they had grown from twigs to trees.  Those weeds in the background are part of the reason I wanted the neighbor's place hidden; that, and I wanted a little privacy.  


You can see that those babies are now doing the job, after only two years.  The trouble is, Lombardy Poplars don't live long.  Also, they send out shoots everywhere, so you have little trees sprouting where you don't want them.  Because of the way they spread, you must make sure they aren't too close to the septic lines; we did that.  
I had a plan:  I'd plant Norway Spruce trees on the east side of the poplars; once those got a good start, we'd remove the poplars.  


See near the base of the first poplar, on the left?  I know it looks tiny, but it's actually about three feet tall.  


This shows you the row of spruce; some don't show up too well because we had a slight problem.  Four of them died, and this year I replaced the dead ones with new baby spruce trees.  


Like this one; isn't he cute?  


A couple of them got mowed the first year.  So they suffered a setback.  


Here's the other one.  


I have a problem: In order for the spruce trees to make it, we're going to have to remove the poplar trees this year because, obviously, as close as they are, they'll smother or crowd out the little trees.  At this point I wish I had not gotten the Norway Spruce trees; the poplars are doing such an excellent job.  They don't have a long life span, but we could have planted more when they began to die.  
But because of money invested in the Norway Spruce trees, I refuse to sacrifice them.  
My only hope is that I will live long enough to see the spruce trees doing their job.  

High School

Classmates.com is adding school yearbooks to their website, and they just happen to have the 1962 Purgold, North Kansas City High School's yearbook; that's the year I graduated.  
I've mentioned Miss Dedman, one of my favorite teachers, before.  I found a picture of her online some time back, but it was taken when she was younger than she was as my Senior Lit. teacher.  


That's her, on the right.  I had her in both my junior and senior years.  


I'm the one on the far right of the top row.  On my left is my cousin, Alice;  the first picture on the second row is my cousin Frances.  My dad and three of his brothers got themselves baby girls in 1944.  Lela's family never moved to the big city, so she isn't in the Purgold.  
This picture was taken from the second story of North Kansas City High School.  The facility was bursting at the seams by my graduation year, and a high school was being built to relieve some of the strain:  Oak Park High School.  Meanwhile, some classes were held in the old McElroy Dagg building, previously an elementary school.  It was a block away from the main building; we had to walk there, rain or shine, in the five minutes between classes.  
My high school years are pretty much of a blur because I was such a loner.  I joined nothing, participated in no extra-curricular activities, had no boy friends, and did not attend the prom.  You know how, when some crazed person does something like trying to kill a president or shooting into a crowd and killing several people, they interview neighbors?  And the neighbors say things like, "He really kept to himself; he was quiet and didn't bother anybody."  
If the cops were to profile me, I'd come up looking like a serial killer.  Don't worry, though; I've never had thoughts of shooting anybody.  
I look through the hundreds of pictures of 1962 and see only a handful of people I recognize.  Someone contacts me every time a class reunion is scheduled, and I think, "I didn't know any of you then; I certainly wouldn't know you now!"  
But it is pretty neat to be able to be able to look at the pictures in the yearbook.  
This morning I found out the 1961 Purgold has been put on Classmates.com.  That's good, because I was able to find a picture of the guy I had a secret crush on for at least four years.  
 The one on the left, Allan.  He must have dropped out of school after his junior year, because he isn't in the 1962 edition; but on the right is his twin brother, to whom I transferred my affections after Allan disappeared.  I'm fairly sure neither of them knew about my crush.  
And there you have it, a glimpse into the high-school life of a total weirdo and misfit.  
I think I might have done better in a smaller school.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pictures

I already had some pale pink hibiscus' and also dark pink.  Last fall my cousin, Betty, gave me seeds from her red hibiscus.  Wow, this is going to be my prettiest one yet!


The machinery and gadgets that keep our well pump running are housed under this little roof.  


There's Cliff, fixing our problem.  It's nasty down there; slugs abound.


Here's our big boy, waiting for your name suggestions.  


There his poor, proud, very skinny mom is, worrying about him.  

The demon on my shoulder was WRONG

Regarding the previous entry:  Cliff was right; he wired the light wrong.  Our pump is working just fine.  I thought I should share.  Reminds me of something I read long ago:  90% of the things we worry about never happen.

Waking up too early

I wake up around 3 A.M. most every day; normally I'm able to go back to sleep for a couple of hours, unless there's something that grabs hold of my thoughts, some concern or problem.  In that case, I'm just awake, and there's nothing to do about it.  My mind travels through all the possibilities and concerns of "what could go wrong" and "what might happen" and I'm awake for the day.  
For the past two weeks it's been my cow.  I'd wake up and lie there for awhile, trying to still my thoughts.  Then I'd think, "As long as I'm up, I may as well go check on her."  
And after a trip to the barn, there was no way I was going to go back to sleep, so I'd make my coffee.  
The cow is still somewhat an issue, because there are things that could go wrong; but a new problem (if it is a problem) has taken precedence.  
Yesterday afternoon, out of the clear blue, we had no water.  The pump in the well that supplies the old house, the shop, the livestock's in-ground waterer, and our mobile home stopped working.  The pump is old, and probably due for replacement, so we braced ourselves for the worst.  Because replacing the pump is neither cheap nor easy.   
However, Cliff traced the problem to some thingamajig in the well-house; he happened to have a replacement thingamajig he'd purchased years ago at a garage sale.  He put in the replacement and, once again, we had water.  
There's a light on a pole out there that comes on when the well-pump is running; that way we know if the pump isn't shutting off for some reason.  
That light would not go off yesterday after Cliff's repair job.  He told his sister to go out and unscrew the bulb.  He's hoping he simply hooked the light up wrong; he'll check it out today.  
I took my shower, watched TV, and went to bed, not a worry in my head.  
At 3 A.M. I woke up with a little demon on my shoulder whispering, "foot valve, foot valve, foot valve," a phrase I've neither heard nor thought about for at least ten years.  
If I recollect properly from years gone by, when the foot valve goes bad on the pump, the pump runs all the time.  
What if the light is hooked up properly?  Maybe the pump is running all the time.  
The foot valve is cheap to replace, but it's down at the bottom of the well that's over 100 feet deep.  
I hate it when Cliff and I have to pull that pump.  
I could almost hope it's the pump that's bad; then we just fork over several hundred dollars and let Bruce fix it.  (Bruce is the local guy who works on well-related problems.)  
Cliff is still sleeping, so I can't ask him if my fears are valid.  
*sigh*
    

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mother and son appear to be doing well

Bonnie got rid of the placenta; this is one thing you watch for, because the afterbirth must every bit be out of the cow or there are problems.  One hurdle down.
Cliff put the rubber band around the calf's scrotum, so he will no longer be a bull; he's on his way to becoming a steer, but of course he doesn't know this.
I probably won't even attempt to milk Bonnie out completely for three or four days; her udder is huge, but a lot of that is swelling.  And if I took too much milk too soon, I'd be asking for milk fever.  This is something I'll be watching for closely, for several days, because it can be a killer.
It sure will be nice to have some good Jersey milk to drink again.  I'm hoping everything goes fine.
I've already had three names suggested for the baby; if you have one in mind, leave it in comments or tell me on Facebook.


We have a calf; it's a boy

When I went to the barn this morning, here's what Bonnie was doing.





Even though she's been doing this for a week, she seemed more serious about it today.


At one point she went to the gate, trying to indicate to me that she'd much rather have her baby in the pasture.  Yeah, we tried that last year and ended up with a calf at the bottom of a canyon.


Once the water balloon came out, I knew it wouldn't be long.


Then came the feet.


 Sister-in-law Rena joined me for the excitement about the time the feet showed up, and she got to see me sit down in a pool of cow amniotic fluids so I could grab the baby's feet and give a little pull to help Bonnie, each time she started pushing.   I handed Rena the camera, since I had fluids all over my hands, and she took the first pictures.


"Who turned on the lights?"  

Cute face, eh?


He thought this was the breakfast bar, so I guided him to the real source of his nourishment.


Now the only thing left for Bonnie to do is get rid of the afterbirth.  I don't think I'll take any pictures of that.  


Several have asked if there will be a naming contest like last year.  Since he's a boy, I think probably the answer is yes; but I will ask that the names have nothing to do with what the baby will become after he's butchered.  Not that I'm squeamish; I'd just rather have another kind of name.  I'm not sure my freezer will be ready for him in a year, so we may end up selling him at weaning.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sardines

At some point in the first year after Cliff's open heart surgery, we happened to read that sardines are one of the most heart-healthy things you can add to your diet.  Rich in Omega-3's and not full of pollutants, since they are at the bottom of the food chain.  We decided to make them our entree of choice when we went picnicking on the motorcycle.
Funny thing, though:  The cans of sardines we bought for less than a dollar didn't jive with our prior knowledge of sardines.  What we got was three fat fishes floating a lot of oil, mustard sauce, or whatever, depending on which kind you chose.  They were not "packed like sardines".
Being a cheapskate, I bought them repeatedly, though.  If there wasn't enough there to be filling, we ate a few crackers along with them.
When I was shopping, I noticed another brand of sardines on the shelf, but I didn't pay much attention to them because they cost about twice as much.
Cliff and I would be sitting in a park trying to pretend like those three fat fishes were enough for anybody, and we'd have the same conversation, over and over.  "When I was a kid, there were a whole bunch of tiny little sardines packed into a can."
"Yeah, I know!"
A while back I took a closer look at the pricey sardines.  King Oscar, the brand was.  And the can was wrapped up in cellophane, real fancy-like.
I threw caution to the wind and dropped two cans into my cart.
Our motorcycle has been disabled for awhile (bad alternator), and it was finally repaired yesterday.  Today we rode it to a tractor show; on the way home, we had our hobo picnic.
Oh, my dears, those King Oscar sardines were gourmet fare!  The old adage, "You get what you pay for," was never more true.
I may start eating sardines at home once in awhile.  Seriously!
I know many of you are gagging at the thought of sardines, but they're good.  Just trust me on this.  Fifty million hobos can't be wrong.


Oh, here's a little slide-show/video from the tractor show.


Have a good laugh at my expense

I awoke before five this morning, as usual.  Now that the days are getting shorter, it's still dark at that time of day, so rather than going outside to watch the sunrise, I go to the computer.  This morning, I had no Internet.  
My first thought was to go finish my cup of coffee before calling support for help; I should have hung onto that thought.  But I said to myself, "Let's get this over with."  
Calling Internet support always involves crawling around on the floor looking for wires, plugging them in, unplugging them.  As I get older, I can't read the little words on the back of the modem and router very well and have to use a flashlight to see what's what.  
I hate all that.  But I love my Internet, so what am I to do?  
So I hunt up my list of numbers and call Dish.  
Yes, friends and neighbors, I called my television provider looking for support with my Internet.  
The man tells me I'll have to call Century Link; I grumbled at him, hung up, and then realized what I had done.  I'll bet he thought I was totally crazy.
One good thing about Century-Link (which used to be Embarq, which used to be something else) is that their tech support people are from this country, so there's no accent to deal with.  I told the guy who answered that I had no Internet; I asked him if he wanted me to unplug from the router, because that's usually what they ask me to do; he said no, and then was silent for a good five minutes.  
Then he said, "Oh, I see the problem.  Can someone be at home between three and five o'clock today so we can send someone out?"  
"Well... I guess so."  
And that was that.  I've never had a problem they couldn't help me with on the phone, and I didn't want to commit to staying home on a Saturday, but whatever.  
I got to looking at things after I hung up the phone and saw a blue wire plugged into the router with the other end not plugged into anything.  Somehow that didn't seem right, so I plugged it into my computer in an appropriate hole.  I rebooted the modem and the computer, and viola, I had Internet.  
Now to call and cancel the appointment for this afternoon.  
This time I got hold of a female tech person, and asked her to cancel.  I could barely hear her.  It seems the older I get, the quieter people talk.  Anyhow, she informed me that my Internet connection was "intermittent", I could lose service at any time, and I needed to check the telephone wire leading to the computer.  
By then it was 5:30 A.M., my Internet was working just dandy, thank-you-very-much, and I don't like to play with wires.  I didn't want to fix what wasn't broken.  I told her that if and when I had a connection problem, I would call back.  She suggested I might want to replace the phone cord and we said our grumpy goodbyes.  As I type this, everything is still working as well as it ever has.  
We'll see what happens.
   

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wow

This blog is getting a lot more hits lately; I suspect it's people checking in to see if there's a calf born yet.  The answer is no, but I can assure you the calf is alive and trying to kick mommy's sides out.  And that's all I have to report.  

Eggplant

I never would have thought in a million years I'd be saying, "I didn't put enough eggplant in the garden."  
It's something my mother, aunts, and grandmother never thought about raising.  I'll bet I was a teenager before I even knew what an eggplant was, and I was married with a couple of toddlers when I first tasted it.  I wasn't impressed, simply because I didn't know what to do with it; I think I may have steamed it.  
Then I discovered ratatouille and understood what this mysterious eggplant could do for a dish.  
The Russian Gourmet gave a recipe for eggplant salsa in his blog a couple of years ago, and in the spring of 2009, I decided to put one eggplant plant (that doesn't look right) in my garden so I could try it.  
I loved the salsa, and I rediscovered ratatouille.  I made Eggplant Parmesan, and it was good.     
This year I put four plants in the garden.  They can't keep up with my usage!  
Today I had to make a choice between eggplant salsa and ratatouille because the eggplants aren't producing so well now.  I almost had to flip a coin, but finally settled on ratatouille because I had a couple of zucchinis to use.  So far this year I've made this dish five times, a double batch each time, and I've personally had perhaps two cups altogether, because everybody else likes it too.  If we have any of it in the refrigerator, Cliff wants to take it for his lunch at work.  And he would take it ever day, I do believe.   
He's gone for the day, so this will be my chance to eat my fill.  Ha! 
So next year I suppose I'll plant a half-dozen eggplants and hope for the best.  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh brother

So, the guy I talked about in a post this morning came back tonight so we could finish up his Craigslist ad.  He didn't like the fact that I lost a couple of the pictures, but I told him I wasn't going to scan any more pictures and that he'd have to get along with just the ones I had.  
I helped him word the ad, added pictures that turned out too small... made the pictures bigger, and so forth.  
Once his ads were on, he wanted to see how they looked.  Then he wanted me to look through Craigslist to see what other people were asking for walking horses and foxtrotters.  I found a few, then told him, "I don't intend to sit here all night; you have a computer, go home and look it up yourself."
"My computer is down," he said.  
"Well," I told him, "there are other things I'd rather be doing with my evening.  If I were you, I'd find somebody who's more skilled with computers so they could get the pictures and everything else just the way you like them."  
Even with me insulting him, it took me an hour to get rid of him.
As I said before:  Somebody just shoot me!

When does a trumpet vine bloom?

That's what I typed into google today; last entry I did mentioning my trumpet vine, two readers commented that they'd had healthy trumpet vines for quite awhile, and they had yet to see them bloom.  
I found my answer HERE.  I also learned some other things.  
A: It can take up to five years for a trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) to burst into bloom. It flowers on the new season's wood, but before it matures enough to bloom, it's best not to cut it back too severely in winter. Fertilize it lightly or not at all, for fertilizer tends to promote luxuriant foliage over flower. Be patient with your vine and don't pamper it; it does best in lean conditions. The gorgeous flowers will be worth the wait, for you and the hummingbirds. Remember when you handle this vine that all parts are poisonous. 
Poisonous?  And my cow has been eating it?  ACK!!!  
A little more research, though, gave me this information: The trumpet vine sports the unattractive nickname, "cow-itch vine." Some individuals who come in contact with the vine may experience redness, itching and burning on their skin. As a precaution, gloves are recommended when handling the vine.  

Oh, that kind of poison.  I can live with that.


I am adding this note a year later because Google is bringing a lot of people to this entry that wonder when their trumpet vine will bloom.  I can now tell you that mine started blooming this year, 2011, three years after setting it out.

Looking forward

One thing I look forward to when Cliff retires is his rising earlier in the morning.  
On the shift he's working now, he sleeps until 10 A.M.  That only gives him seven hours of sleep, but he wants to be awakened at 10, and I comply.  
When we were first married, Cliff could sleep till noon with no problem.  I was the early bird.  Things have changed, and if Cliff is off work for any length of time, he adjusts and adapts to my early-bird schedule, give or take an hour or so.  I like a one-hour difference in our getting-up time, because I prefer to drink my three cups of coffee alone before I deal with meeting somebody else's needs.  
Once I have my quiet time, though, I'm ready for Cliff to get up.  I'm a morning person, and I'm tired of not being able to vacuum until after Cliff is gone to work.  Fact is, I don't vacuum much these days, because with him sleeping I don't want to make a bunch of racket.  Here's what happens:  Cliff gets up at 10; he drinks coffee and watches parts of the morning news recorded on the DVR until 11.  We go for our walk, getting back to the house sometime between 11:30 and noon.  Then it's time to prepare dinner, which we normally eat at 1.  If there's something we both like on DVR (The Closer, Memphis Beat, Lie To Me, Pawn Stars) we'll watch that with our meal, and then it's time for Cliff to take a shower and get ready for work.  While he's doing that, I pack his lunch box.  
He leaves at 2:30, and by then, this morning person is totally out of the mood to do much of anything.  


On another note:  There's this man in town who occasionally comes around demanding I do something on the computer for him.  He isn't a friend, just an acquaintance from whom I once bought a horse (not Blue, the horse before him).  Weeks and month can go by without my seeing him, then here he comes; when he comes calling, I know he wants something.  Yesterday he showed up at my door as we were watching Memphis Beat and eating dinner.  I opened the door and greeted him, and here's what he had to say:  "I need you to put an ad on Craigslist; I have a horse I want to sell.  And then I have a bumper to sell, and I want you to put that on Ebay."  
Not "would you please," or "Do you mind" or "could you".  
And no, he doesn't offer me anything in return for these services.  He used to ask me to print stuff for him often, but I finally told him printer ink cartridges are too expensive for me to be doing that.  Oh, and by the way, he has Internet and a computer at home; he just doesn't know how to make use of them.  
My first reply to the orders he barked out was "I don't do Ebay."  
Because you can imagine how complicated it could get with people asking questions and bidding on the item; good grief, the man would be here every day, and I can barely tolerate him for five minutes!  
"Oh, you don't?"  He sounded disappointed.  "Well, OK; but you can put an ad on Craigslist for me?"  
Yes, I told him.  Just don't come at this time of day, because this is when we eat.  
So he's supposed to be here at nine o'clock this morning.  
Last year when I had an abundance of butternut squash and tomatoes in the garden, I made the mistake of telling him on one of his visits to help himself to the produce, and he gladly obliged.  A week or so later I happened to look out my window, and there he was in my garden again.  Uninvited.  Picking sweet peppers that I never had any intention of giving away.  
I'm not shy; I yelled out at him, "Hey, stay out of the sweet peppers."
 So yeah, I can hardly wait until 9 o'clock.  Cliff, of course, will be in bed, and that's a good thing.  He dislikes the guy.  I'm thinking about firing up the laptop and doing this Craigslist thing out in the yard, just to keep the man out of my house.  
Are you wondering why I agreed to even help him?  
Well, it's so simple to put an ad on Craigslist that a six-year-old could do it.  I can't bring myself to refuse to do something that takes so little effort on my part.  Maybe I'll even try to teach him how to do it himself.
Wish me luck.  
By the way, I haven't said anything here that I wouldn't say to his face.
P.S.  It's 9:30 and he hasn't shown up yet.  
P.P.S.  I'll bet he found somebody who would do Ebay AND Craigslist.  Good!  
P.P.P.S.  He showed up.  At ten.  Exactly when I get Cliff up, get him his coffee, fix his cereal, etc. Oh, and what I said about "so little effort"?  Somebody just shoot me.  I must have been out of my mind.  I had to scan pictures, listen to war stories about breaking wild horses, have the guy insinuate "Say It Isn't So", Cliff's favorite movie that's laying on my desk, was a porn flick... I finally told him to leave and come back between 2:30 and 6 and I'd have the pictures ready to put on the ad.  This time I am not optimistic.  I somehow lost two of the four pictures I scanned for him, and I am NOT going to scan them again.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tweaking the budget

This business of writing down where every nickel goes is an education.  Whew.  Because we've had enough funds around here during the past ten years to do pretty much as we pleased, we've gone hog wild.  
Just when I think I've listed every expense we'll have after retirement, I think of something else.  
Like Cliff's XM radio.  $14 a month.  
In the last two months, Cliff has put $250 worth of diesel fuel through various tractors.  No biggie now, but it has to be budgeted in somewhere, somehow.  There won't be an envelope for this one; he has to use a credit card to buy diesel close to home, so we'll have to keep that amount in the bank.  
I'm dropping subscriptions to a couple of magazines and a local newspaper. I won't really miss them that much.  
I'm very careful with my grocery shopping now, because once the money in that envelope is gone, I'm done shopping.
I stay under my grocery budget most weeks, so I'm building up a little extra.  That means before long we can go to Sam's Club.  
Walmart at Richmond has a tent sale going on, with some excellent buys on bedding.  Then there was a nice set of T-Fal for $50 over which I salivated for a minute.  A month ago, I would have bought it.  The truth is, my old set is serving me well.  I stop to think about every purchase now, and most of the time I walk away from those fleeting temptations empty-handed.  
I love tulips; you can get fifteen bulbs for $5 at Walmart, and I had enough in my grocery funds to get a couple of packages this week.  
But I just couldn't.  I may get them next time.  
In practicing for retirement, I'm no longer asking Cliff to use his pocket money if we eat out, because he won't have so much pocket money after he retires.  Eating out has to come from our "fun" fund, and so far, I haven't wanted to eat out badly enough to deplete that fund.  
I know I tend to get on certain bandwagons for awhile and then jump off (some of you might remember my on-again, off-again alliances with Flylady); but this is something that is for keeps, because there's really no choice.  
And to tell the truth, all this budgeting is rather addictive.  


Some of you may notice I haven't made mention of a certain bovine creature lately.  That's because I'm ignoring her existence until she does something useful, like having a calf.

What's the worst thing that could happen?

Now that we've started discussing Cliff's retirement, he is really getting excited about it.
He's also getting nervous.
"With this economy," he said yesterday, "if worse comes to worse and we have to sell the place, will it bring enough money to do any good?"
Well, I'm pretty sure, even in this economy, that the place would bring enough to pay off the mortgage.  We might not be left with much, but we'd survive.
It scary situations, I always ask myself, "What's the worse thing that could happen?"  
(Warning:  This question does not work when the scary situation involves illness; don't even go there.)  
This is my way of coming up with a "Plan B" in case "Plan A" doesn't work out.
So last night while Cliff was at work, I decided to take an imaginary journey to the worst-case scenario.
Let's say we can no longer make ends meet on social security and we are forced to sell this place for the amount owed against it.  Where will we go from here?
Of course we could rent a small house in a nearby town.  But poor Cliff would be lost without his tractors; he's not a town guy. What about that?
Wait a minute... he has a brother not so far away with a farm twice the size of this place, and lots of sheds.  I'll bet he'd let Cliff park a tractor or two there.  And I know for a fact he'd let Cliff plow and mow to his heart's content.
And in case that didn't work out, I happen to know about a vacant farmhouse whose owners would love to have us as tenants, and the rent would be pretty darned cheap.  Again, there would be room for Cliff to plow and mow and play with tractors to his heart's content.
I'm not scared.





You don't have to worry
And don't you be afraid
Joy comes in the morning
Troubles they don't last always
For there's a friend named Jesus
Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken
Just lift your hands and say

CHORUS
Oh! I know that I can make it
I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in your hands

You don't have to worry
And don't you be afraid
Joy comes in the morning
Troubles they don't last always
For there's a friend named Jesus
Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken
Just lift your hands and say

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Okra

One plant that never seems to have a problem in my garden is okra.  If it's too wet, the okra thrives; if it's dry as the Sahara, the okra flourishes.  It seems to have no natural enemies:  bugs leave it alone, and it doesn't have any form of blight or pestilence that kills it, like so many of my favorite garden vegetables do.  
It's easy to freeze, no mess, no fuss:  Just slice it and put it in a freezer bag, and it's ready to be used in winter soups and stews.  
The trouble is that there's only so much you can do with okra, so far as I know:  fry it or use it in soups and stews.  Oh yes, and okra and tomatoes.  Which to me is just chicken gumbo without the chicken.  
Cliff and I absolutely love southern-fried okra, and we've had far more than we should have had this year.  The granddaughters spent this past weekend with us and I fixed fried okra for them twice in two days' time.    They would have eaten more, had I offered.   
As I type this, the low-fat, healthy version of chicken gumbo is simmering on the stove, so dinner will be ready whenever we're ready to eat, which will probably be shortly after 10 o'clock when Cliff gets out of bed.   
I enjoy cooking, baking, and trying new foods.  All I require of a recipe is that the ingredients can be found in a normal grocery store and that it doesn't require my purchasing a special bowl, pot, or pan in order to make it.  


I've made baking powder biscuits ever since I took Home Economics that one year, and I've never had any complaints.  I've tasted better biscuits, though.  The better ones were always made by ladies raised in the south; and in the back of my mind I couldn't help wondering what a person could do to improve a recipe that's so simple and basic.  What could you change to get that subtle difference?  
Now don't tell me to go buy those frozen biscuits; yes, they are as good as home-made.  But where's the fun in that?  
The book I'm reading aloud in the car as we travel, The Bridge, takes place in the south and has as one of its main characters an elderly woman who makes biscuits often.  For some reason, this stirred up in me, once more, the desire to improve my already-pretty-darned-good biscuits.  
I don't watch cooking shows; I haven't since the Frugal Gourmet turned out to be a molester of little boys.  My son has one TV cook he likes, though, and mentions often... the guy on "Good Eats".   
Well, I thought, if he's good enough for my son, he's good enough for me.  So I googled up his recipe for biscuits, only to find it's pretty much like the recipe I've used all my life.  Beneath that recipe, though, was this comment from his grandmother: 




  • Advice courtesy Mae Skelton
    I don't have much use for recipes but the one you get on a bag of White Lily self-rising flour is hard to beat. And it's a lot easier than the one my crazy grandson dreamed up.  
So I finally found the two secret ingredients:  self-rising flour and buttermilk.  Cliff and I don't have biscuits often, but from now on when we do, they will be the biscuits I've always wanted to be able to make.   
How's this for a rambling post?

Let's talk about my dog

Iris has lived with us almost four months.  She is the most affectionate dog we've had in a long time.  She likes to be picked up and carried around, an unusual thing for a mid-sized dog.  She watches television, and recognizes on the screen: dogs, horses, cats, birds, and people fighting... and tries to attack them all.  She gets distressed at the sound of a baby crying on TV.
She now has a new hobby:  chasing swallows across our pasture.   I can't really get a decent video of her doing this because she covers so much ground so fast, but here's a short piece to give you some idea.  The birds actually seem to taunt her and play along with her silly game.



Even on the 100ยบ days, Iris will run to the point of exhaustion.  If she is close enough to hear me, I can shout "Nooooooo" and she will stop.  When it isn't so hot, I just let her have her fun.  It's good exercise.  (Ignore the spot on my lens:  I've repeatedly tried to get it off, but evidently it's there to stay.  It wasn't there when I bought the camera.  I'll likely buy a new camera before Cliff retires, just to get rid of the spot.)  
When she's done, she collapses somewhere near me.  


Crazy dog.  

Monday, August 16, 2010

A little peek inside our house at dinnertime

Cliff came in at 1 P.M. for dinner, as usual.  I filled his plate, and it was a thing of beauty:  Meat loaf, a baked potato, sliced tomato, a wedge of cooked cabbage, and a serving of cucumbers and onion.  He often says to me, "I don't know whether to eat this or take a picture of it."  
He picked up his plate, took a step toward the living room (yes, we usually eat in the living room so Cliff can watch that stupid show, "My Name is Earl").  
Then he made a quick U-turn, deciding to try and wring some ketchup out of the almost empty ketchup bottle.  
Somehow he bumped a kitchen chair with his plate, and the plate full of food landed upside-down on the floor.  
Of course he was extremely upset, and at one point looked as though he was about to get down on hands and knees and lick all that mess up off the floor; maybe he would have if we didn't have a constantly-shedding dog.  I handed him my own filled plate and told him to go ahead and eat, I'd clean up the mess.  Actually, Iris helped.  She happens to like meat loaf.    
I wasn't in the mood to run out to the shop to get another baking-sized potato, clean it up, and microwave it, so I warmed up some leftover noodles.  Starch is starch, right?   


Oh, and I'm sorry if you're a women's lib person and don't think I should be filling Cliff's plate.  He tends to take too much if he fills his own.  Besides, he heads out the door to work pretty soon, while I stay home and do whatever my heart desires.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just so you'll know why I keep thinking my cow is about to calve

She's been doing this for four days.  I've seen lots of cows in labor, and this is exactly how they act.





She'll seem to have a contraction every five minutes or so for perhaps forty-five minutes, then she gets up, goes out to graze, and comes back to peacefully chew her cud.  I think she's doing it for attention!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Patrick's Saturday Six


Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment at Patrick's Place, or put the answers in an entry on your journal…but either way, leave a link to your journal at Patrick's Place so that everyone else can visit! Permission is not granted to copy the questions to message boards for the purpose of having members answer and play along there. Enjoy!
1. Do you usually feel physically younger or older than you actually are?  I'd say about exactly as old as I am.
2. When it comes to your own sensibilities and personal taste, do you usually feel younger or older than you actually are?  Older
3. Do you think you were better at being a kid or an adult?  A kid, even now.
4. Do you find yourself trying to make more time for play or rest these days? Equal amounts of each, I think.
5. Take the quiz: Are You a Puppy or a Kitten?


You Are a Kitten




You are playful and sweet, but you also treasure your alone time.

You're pretty independent, and you resent anyone trying to tell you what to do.



You don't get bored easily. You are quite good at entertaining yourself.

Deep down, you are quite sensitive and intuitive. You are less standoffish than you seem.

6. Which have you had more of in your life: dogs or cats?  Dogs, always.  

Today

The daughter's girls are here for the weekend, so I woke them up for pancakes this morning.  They've pretty much vegged out in front of the computers all day.
I've spent my day keeping an eye on Bonnie-the-cow, who exhibits signs of stage one of labor; but then, she's been doing that for three days.  We opened up the back door of Blue's old stall so she can have some shade whenever she needs it, and she's been spending a lot of time in there.  This morning I told Cliff, "I'd hate to see her have a calf on that filthy stall floor."
Cliff stopped his weed-eating to say, "Get the wheel barrow and haul some straw out there to put in the floor; that'll freshen it up."
Thanks a lot, Cliff.
I did it, though, and Bonnie was so grateful, she laid right down in the first load I spread in the corner of the stall.  
I spent some time sitting with her in the stall, eating cantaloupe.  She was curious and kept on bugging me until I gave her a bite.  Big mistake, because then she wouldn't get her snotty nose out of my dish.


Then I talked Cliff, bless his heart, into fixing her up with a fan.  She loves it, as you can see, and stands in front of it to cool off.  She thinks she's the Queen of Sheba.




Cliff spent the better part of the day mowing and weed-eating, but he found some time to work on his latest tractor purchase, the Oliver 550.  I have no idea what he's doing in this picture.  I do know one thing he fixed, though.
  

When we bought the 550, it had to be started with a wire contraption.  Cliff figured out the problem with little effort this evening, and now it starts with a key!  This brief video would have been better taken outside, but this is what you get.  
Most of the parts on the Super 55 interchange with the 550, and Cliff is going to take axles and other parts from that tractor and put them on this one, his pet.  Once he's taken the best from the Super 55 and traded for the more-worn parts on the 550, he'll sell the older tractor.  It's mechanically sound, and he'll enjoy getting it in good shape before he sells it.  I'm fairly certain he will make a few bucks on it.  
Good Lord willing, the 550 will stay with us for awhile.