Monday, April 30, 2012

I'm so confused

I use Google Chrome as my browser.  When I made the previous entry and posted it, the print seemed so small it was almost unreadable, even though I had used the font size I always use.  So I went back and made the print larger.
So then I decided to view my blog from Safari and Firefox.  Low and behold, the font looked larger when I used those.  
Let me know if this print seems smaller than usual to you.  I'm using the font size I have been using for years, in this entry.

Never mind.  Cliff told me what the problem was.  Sheesh.

Happy things

I am amazed at how the return of the hummingbirds lifts my spirits each spring.  
Yesterday at church Judy, our neighbor across the road, sat next to us and said she noticed on Facebook that I had hummingbirds already; she had not seen any yet, and said obviously all her hummingbirds were coming to my house... joking, of course.  So I took this picture and posted on Facebook that I told this particular bird to go visit her.  Later in the afternoon she finally saw her first hummer.  I guess that makes me a hummingbird whisperer.  
Yesterday I saw my first Baltimore Oriole of the year.  The orange of my oriole feeder has faded, and really isn't very orange any more; I intended to have Cliff paint it Allis Chalmers orange, fearing the orioles wouldn't use it if it didn't look orange enough.  But after seeing that oriole in the yard, I went ahead and hung the feeder as is, and loaded it with grape jelly and strawberry jam.  It wasn't long before I saw that colorful male oriole feasting on strawberry jam, so I guess they aren't particular about how orange their feeder is.  This particular feeder is equipped with a holder for an orange, a place to put nectar, and little pockets for jelly.  I usually only put jelly out for them; it seems as though that's the main thing they like, although once in a while I'll see one partaking of the nectar in a hummingbird feeder, and I have on occasion put an orange out for them, too.

Our daughter came to hang out yesterday morning, forgetting that we attend church these days.  I told her to make herself comfortable, that we'd be back in a little over an hour.  
Getting back to church has been good for Cliff and me, by the way.  We have had some deep and interesting conversations about spirituality and what we believe, and have found out we pretty much believe the same things!  We've been married almost forty-six years, and had never really had conversations along these lines.   

Now on to some not-so-happy thoughts.
I have had people ask how Cliff and I are doing with Rachel's diagnosis of cancer.  We are  taking things one day at a time, digesting each piece of information as we get it and assuming that she will beat this thing, but of course there is always a nagging fear in the background that tries to shove the hope aside.   And then there's the dread of her having to go through chemo; yes, I know chemo isn't as bad as it used to be, and that it will be her salvation.  That doesn't mean I have to like the fact that my daughter has to deal with it.  I know she is having similar thoughts, multiplied by at least ten, because she is the one walking this lonesome valley:  As the old folk song says, "nobody else can go there for you; you gotta walk it by yourself."  
She visits the oncologist Thursday, so perhaps then we'll know the battle plan.  
Sometimes I wish there was no Google, because it gives you answers, but the answers aren't complete if you don't have all the information.  Google is scary at best when we're talking about medical issues, and you can find answers that are dead wrong if you end up on the wrong site.   
What bothers me most right now is that Rachel is uncomfortable all the time, with those tubes still in place.  She doesn't say a lot about it, but I see the discomfort on her face when she moves.  
Cancer sucks.   

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Things I saw yesterday

We went to the swap meet put on by the Lathrop tractor club.  Cliff bought a few items; I walked around browsing interesting junk, and people-watching.  

I washed on a wringer washer until the early 1970's, but it wasn't this primitive.  Mine was electric, at least!  (Oops, Cliff just corrected me.  This machine is electric.)

Here's some motor oil to use in that washing machine.  

Before my daddy quit smoking, he rolled his own cigarettes.  I recall cans like this being a common item around the house, although I think he most often bought his tobacco in a little cloth bag with drawstrings.

I passed this several times, but Cliff wasn't with me any of those times.  I want to know what that long-handled thing is.  Cliff?  Do you know what that thing would be used for?  (Cliff says he's pretty sure that's something they used in making mollasses.)

On the way home, we stopped by Orscheln's.  

This is a pretty nifty chicken house.  It has egg boxes on one end, so you can lift up the top and gather eggs.  There's a removable plastic floor to catch the chicken poop in their living quarters, so you can pull it out and dump it.  However, this chicken house costs almost $400.  I could buy a lot of eggs for $400.  It really isn't that sturdy.  When Cliff and I give up the motorcycle, I'd like to have a couple of chickens, but their abode would be much more humble than this one, and hopefully more sturdy.  

After we got home, I glanced out the window to see Mama Kitty carrying a mouse toward the barn.  This reminded me that I forgot to feed the cats before we left yesterday morning, so I dashed out to take care of that chore.  Mama Kitty was in the main part of the barn calling to her children, who were in the other part of the barn where I feed them.  She followed me in there, still calling to her kittens with a unique and plaintive "meow" unlike her normal conversing tone.  When I put cat food in the pan, she dropped the mouse and went to eat; the wildest of her kittens practically stumbled over the dropped, dead mouse, realized what it was, grabbed it, growling, and headed off to a dark corner to feast in peace.  A day seldom passes that we don't see Mama Kitty with a mouse.  She is worth her weight in gold.  Hopefully her kittens are learning from her.

Friday, April 27, 2012


I have a woodpecker with a drinking problem.  Seriously.  He hits the hummingbird feeder many times each day.  I don't know how he gets a taste of the nectar, but he does:  He lowers his beak to the tiny openings, then lifts his head up and smacks his lips.  Maybe his tongue fits in there, I don't know.  

Of course, he scares off any hummingbirds drinking from this fountain of life.  At least I have another feeder about three yards from this one, so they can drink there unmolested.   

Hyperblogal David has been having his usual fun.  I especially like this photo, though, because Jack and the Beanstalk was one of my favorite stories in the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale book my sister gave me for Christmas when I was about seven years old.  I sure wish I still had that book.  There's just something about the phrase "they lived happily ever after" that sticks with a person.    

Other favorite fairy tales were: the one about the princess at the top of a glass mountain; Rapunzel; Rumplestiltskin; and the guy who killed seven with one blow (seven flies, that is).  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Another pretty day in Missouri

We do need rain badly, but it's no use worrying about things you can't change.  I don't usually pray for rain because I figure somebody in my neighborhood is going on a picnic or working outdoor construction and is praying for it not to rain.  
Granddog Titan, the great Dane, is visiting today and tomorrow.  After being on meds for three weeks, he seems to be getting around just fine and suffering not at all.  This may not last, but we will enjoy him while it does last.  

  As soon as Titan arrived, the dogs and I went for a walk.  Cliff twisted his knee the other day climbing off and on the tractor, so he didn't go along.  

When we got back to the house I harvested some spinach.  We'll be having it, cooked, for dinner.  Of course, that big bucketful only amounts to about four servings, once it cooks down.  
I picked enough strawberries for strawberry shortcake today! 

Titan went to the shade to rest after his walk.  He likes to think he is guarding the cows.  After a recent overnight stay at the vet's, he had separation anxiety for awhile, and fretted when Heather or Arick left him here.  He seems to have gotten over that.  

Here's the row of potatoes I planted on St. Patrick's Day.  I sprayed them with Sevin after I noticed some bug-holes in the leaves.

The potatoes planted on Good Friday are just now coming through the dry, crusty ground.  I'm glad there is this much of a spread between the two plantings, so we'll have a steady supply while they last.  

Those super-early green beans are doing great, and I haven't covered them to protect them from the frost even once.  It could still be necessary at some point, though.  We aren't really out of the woods until after the first week in May.  

This looks promising:  An air conditioner repair person over at the vacated, vandalized house next door.  
Cliff saw a hummingbird this morning as he walked outside.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cliff wonders why I spend so much time outside in the morning

I love to watch the sun as it starts to shed light on my home.  

The cottonwood tree in the pasture is so pretty at dawn.  

There's always some new flower blooming.  

The garden holds surprises for me every day.  My mother told me that when she was a little girl, she always hoped a few strawberries would be ripe in time for her birthday, May 21.  Mine are a month earlier than that, this year.  Of course, I'm 100 miles south of my mother's childhood home.  

The tomato plant I put out ridiculously early, about three weeks ago, is blooming.  I may have to cover it Sunday night; we'll see.  

The cages are in place around my main crop of Celebrity tomatoes... eight plants.  Down at the end in the row on the right is a single caged plant I bought Monday, a very special plant.  

It's a Rutgers, which is considered an heirloom variety.  It was developed in the 1930's.  This was my mainstay tomato for canning and table use until blight became an every-year problem and I had to switch to newer kinds, like Celebrity.  They are nice tomatoes, but not nearly as tasty as the Rutgers.  I would be deliriously happy if this single plant would somehow beat the blight and give us some decent-tasting tomatoes.  

Everybody knows what the Mayapple, or Mayflower, plant looks like, but have you ever seen an actual flower on the plant?  Or the apple?  Here it is!  I noticed it blooming the other day, and watched for the Mayapple fruit to appear.  I don't know that it's edible, and since it's only about 1/2 inch through, it wouldn't make much of a meal anyhow.  This is one of the mayflower plants I brought up out of the woods to see if it was possible to transplant them.  They are thriving so well that I will probably eliminate some of the plants before long.  It's the same with the wild violets, which would love to take over my flowerbed.  

Red is such a pretty color, especially on things that come from my garden.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


As in years past, I've been clearing the bluebird house almost daily of sparrow's nests.  I kept at it last year until the sparrows finally gave up and the bluebirds moved in.  This morning I opened up the bird house, pulled out a sloppily-built half-a-sparrow's-nest, and with it came a dead bluebird.  
I could have cried.  This is just one more reason why I hate English sparrows.  
The poor bluebird had been pecked unmercifully about the head by sparrows until it died.  If you've ever looked at a dead bluebird closeup, the bright blue color is amazing.  
On a brighter note, we picked up my daughter and brought her home with us to spend the day.  I totally enjoyed having her here, even while she was napping in a recliner.  Just to show my support, I took a nap in my recliner, too.  
The kittens have been branching out on their journeys and have mostly moved into the main part of the barn, rather than my milking area.  The problem is that they don't seem to recall how to get back to their old home to their food and water.  I helped them return today.  I'm sure they will soon learn to make their way back.  
Cliff put the alfalfa hay in the barn today.  Alfalfa hay has a unique smell unlike anything else.  It's something you can forget for years, but when you get wind of it finally, you know what it is.  Sorta like billy goats.  
I didn't see any hummingbirds today, but if they came around, they would have been deterred by the stupid woodpecker who has decided the hummingbird feeder is his private bar.  

fourteen bales

This is the early-morning scene from my back porch today.  The alfalfa we didn't plan on having produced fourteen bales.  Our old baler doesn't make the huge bales you commonly see; it would probably take two of ours to equal the bigger bales, but these are a nice size for our use; Cliff's little John Deere can handle them nicely.  Besides, this is the only baler we could find for $500; Cliff's brother in Kansas found it for us.  

The baler doesn't quite work properly, so Cliff has to get off the tractor with every single bale and help the baler tie the twine.  This has always made me nervous; it looks dangerous to me.  I can guarantee that Cliff was one tired puppy after all that walking around the tractor and climbing up on the baler.   That's probably why he fell back asleep after drinking two cups of coffee in bed.
Anyway, our cows will have alfalfa for at least three months of the winter next year.  We won't turn the horses in on this hay.  In fact, we don't let them have access to big bales at all, not since Blue foundered and was put down.  Last winter Adam took over the feeding of his horses, which made less work for us and more money in his pocket.  

I saw one hummingbird yesterday, could have been the same one as the day before.  I get so excited when the hummingbirds return.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cliff is raking hay in 2012 with a 1950 tractor

That's what's going on here today.  Oh, by the way:  I saw my first mockingbird yesterday.

The saga of Lonesome Dove

Before I start whining, let me show you another pretty iris.

One of Cliff's favorite westerns is "Lonesome Dove", the four-part miniseries.  I recently ordered the DVD set for him, taking care to check and see that it was closed-captioned.  

Cliff can't enjoy watching anything on TV without it.  In fact, he won't even attempt watching anything without captions.  
Last night he decided to enjoy his favorite western.  For some reason, when I would go to the DVD menu and select closed captions, it refused to allow it.  Cliff tried his best to make out what was going on without them, but it just wasn't working for him.  
This morning I went to Google and found a discussion indicating that the TV had to be set for captions in order for some DVDs to work.  This really didn't seem right to me, since on all our other DVDs, captions work just fine.  But I thought, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."  
After a half-hour fiddling with the remote, it hit me that I was messing with the wrong remote, the Direct TV one.  I had not seen our actual television remote in at least a year, but Cliff told me where it was.  We never use it, ever.  
So of course I had to get the TV instruction manual to figure out how to use the TV remote.  
I finally found the information I needed and turned on the TV captions.  
Still no captions on Lonesome Dove.  OK, I had better find out where I got this and see if they can help me, or at least give me my money back.  I checked for recent orders.  No Lonesome Dove.  Cliff was up by now and suggested I look on the outer box the DVD came in.  Ah!  A Best Buy sticker that had been half-way scratched off!  
I went to my account on the Best Buy site and found I had not ordered anything from them in over a year.  
Insert a deep sigh of frustration here.  
"OK," I said.  "That only leaves Ebay and  Maybe I will complain to the seller."  
Sure enough, I got the set on Ebay for under $9, shipping included.  As I was getting ready to contact the seller, I saw the name.  
Seattle Goodwill.  
I don't believe I will bug a charitable organization about captions.  At least our money went to a good cause.   
Two hours of a perfectly good morning, totally wasted.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

View from my yard

A sometime reader commented recently that she was surprised to see the two-story monstrosity of a house so close to our home.  She thought we were in the middle of forty acres, just like she is.  Since she hasn't followed my blog for a long time, I understand her surprise.  
Four years ago I was fed up with neighbors, neighbors everywhere I looked.  Oh yes, we're in the country. But we had no solitude or sense of privacy at all, unless we went to the pasture.  
We aren't exactly rolling in money; our 401K wouldn't even buy a car; so I devised a plan that would allow me to move back several yards on our property and have some peace and quiet.  We'd refinance, buy a cheap, used mobile home, and I'd be able to look in any direction and see wide open spaces.  
At the very same time, the neighbors to the west whose house had burned to the ground decided to put their new house back farther from the road.  
You guessed it.  Right next to our "new" home.  
Those neighbors never completely finished their home.  They never planted grass in the yard.  They didn't mow their pasture.  The siding started blowing off one side of their three-year-old house and they let it blow.  Finally the house was foreclosed on.  
I have made a point, when taking pictures outside, of keeping that house out of view.  This might be why my reader expressed surprise that it was there.  I am hoping and praying that whoever buys that property will do something with it that will make it look better.    
Here are some pictures that will show just how populated my little part of the country is.  

Why yes, I do have a barn in my front yard.  I love it, by the way.  Looking south from my front porch, this is what I see.  On the far side of the barn to the left are three houses, one of them abandoned and up for sale.  The faraway pole barn is on that property.  

Up there on the other side of Cliff's man-cave (the shop) and behind a two-car garage is our old two-story house where Cliff's sister lives.  It's still our house, we're just not the ones living in it.

Here's the view from our front porch, looking west.  This is reality, folks.   
Thank goodness I have my back yard.   

The only sign of life out there?  Horses, cows, and birds.  That reminds me, I have another load of clothes to hang on the line before church.  

My favorite view of all from my back porch:  Toward the north!  

And looking west, the only signs of that unkept property you can see from my back yard are the head-tall weeds that grow up in summer.  I love my back yard; it's as though we didn't have a neighbor for miles and miles.  

So that's your tour of my home-sweet-home, out behind the barn.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

To check on my daughter's updates

I know a lot of my friends and readers are coming here to see what's going on with my daughter, Rachel.  Rather than tell you every time she does an update, I've put her picture on the sidebar of my blog.  If you click on that picture, it will take you to her blog and you can see if she has updated.  I will continue to share her updates on Facebook from time to time, since not all my Facebook friends read this blog. 

Cutting down the poplar trees

Remember four years ago when we planted a row of Lombardy Poplars to hide the unkept yard and pasture (and unfinished, unkept house) next door?  
I was so proud of our baby trees.  We knew, however, that they wouldn't be around forever.  Lombardy Poplars don't live long, and if you look closely in the foreground you can see a couple of Norway Spruce trees; they are here for the long haul.  
We moved my garden spot last year, and when I noticed how much shade the garden was getting from the poplars, I knew it was time for them to go.  We've been waiting for a calm day with no wind, and today was the day.  

Within fifteen minutes, Cliff had several of them laid in a nice, neat line atop one another.  I was surprised at how well it went.  I was afraid some of the poplars would land on my little spruce trees, but Cliff simply cut almost through each tree leaving a little "hinge", and pushed them over.  

Not one of my Norway Spruce trees was damaged.

I'm going to miss those trees and the way they hid that mess from view.  Hurry up and grow, my little Norway Spruce trees!

Cliff had his work cut out for him.  He had to move the trees one at a time without hitting a spruce tree AND without backing into my garden.  He deserves a gold star.

He dragged the trees to the ditch.  Oh, his work isn't finished, but I won't bore you with more details.

This is my row of Norway Spruce trees.  There's quite a variation in the sizes, since some died and we replaced them the next year, and a couple got mowed, which set them back.  Hopefully the size difference won'd be so great when they're bigger.  They can grow over three feet a year, once they get started.  I don't think they'll be seriously shading my garden for awhile.  
Meanwhile, maybe the next owners of the place next door will fix it up so it won't be such an eyesore. 

A true story to make you smile

Isn't this lovely?  Blogger has changed things, and I don't see how to apply a new header.  My readers may get pretty tired of seeing the same old picture for the rest of the life of this blog. 

Yesterday Cliff and I got in the hot tub.  I don't know what time it was, perhaps 8 A.M.  It had been a long time since we'd used it, because when I got the tattoo I was told to stay out of hot tubs for two to four weeks.  Yesterday was three weeks.  

If you walk in our front door, you can see the corner of the hot tub.  When it's in use, the cover is off, and leaning against the side of it.  
Cliff and I spent our fifteen minutes in the hot tub, enjoying the view and the warmth.  We got out and I put my fluffy white terrycloth robe on.  Cliff always forgets he has a fluffy white robe and grabs a towel that barely goes around him; consequently, he freezes on the trip from the hot tub into the house.  He headed for his bathroom, I headed through the living room toward mine.  As I passed the front door, I heard someone walking around on the front porch, and someone's voice.  
I opened the door and there was Arick, with big-foot Titan at his side.  Arick was on the phone.  
"You can come on in," I said.  "We've been in the hot tub."  
"I know," he answered.  "When I opened the door a while ago, I saw the cover leaning against the hot tub and came right back out.  I thought, 'Oh no!  Grandma and Grandpa are in the hot tub, and they're NAKED!'"  
He sounded like the very thought scared him to death.  
It's true.  We're in the country, there's nothing but pasture in back of the house; why would we bother with bathing suits?  
And to be honest, Cliff and I are a pretty scary sight when we're naked.  
If we were in the hot tub now, we would be looking at frost on the alfalfa Cliff mowed yesterday.  In past years I would would have worrying and grieving over the tomato and pepper plants I'll likely lose, out in the garden.   This year?  Not so much.  My daughter has breast cancer; who cares about a few plants?  I can buy more.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Update from my daughter

I have no comment.  Just read her update; it speaks for itself:  click HERE.

Whatever happened to chiggers?

Pauline in Texas mentioned walking through the weeds to see a calf, and later being tormented by chigger bites.  This got me wondering why I am never bothered by chiggers any more.  When I was a kid, I was tortured by them every summer, especially during the week I spent at Grandma's house in north Missouri.  According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, chiggers still abound in Missouri.  
I'm sure part of the reason I had so much trouble with the little critters as a child is that I was always sitting, laying, and rolling around in the grass.  I also walked through tall weeds any time I felt like it.  I still sometimes sit on the grass in my yard, when I'm fiddling around with flowers and weeds, but I haven't had a chigger bite in years, as far as I know.  
Oh, but I remember them well:  They would get in places where clothing is tight, like the legs and waistbands of undergarments.  They loved to burrow as deeply into my belly button as possible, creating an itch I could not scratch enough, and making my belly button stink to high heaven.  (Too much information?)  
They liked the coziness they found in armpits, too, and the nice, snug, hidden areas under my socks.  
Reading the article I linked to above, I see chiggers prefer the tender skin of women and children.  Maybe in my old age my skin is so tough the chiggers won't have me.  
Finally!  Something good about getting old.  Chiggers reject me.  But they still like the taste of Pauline in Texas.  
We used to think the chiggers were living under the skin, so we'd paint the chigger bite with fingernail polish hoping to smother the tiny bugs we thought were living in us.  Turns out they didn't burrow under the skin; that was just another old wive's tale.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I have never raised parsnips.  I gave it a try a couple of times, but they never came through the earth as seedlings.  It's small wonder, really:  From the information I've found, parsnips take three to four weeks to germinate.  By the time they would have germinated, I probably gave up in despair and planted something else in their spot.    
I remember my mother raising parsnips once, when we lived in Eagleville.  She fixed them in the oven somehow, and it seems as though she may have used some sort of glaze on them like I use making glazed carrots.  I remember that I loved them at first bite.  That's the last time I tasted parsnips, I suppose.  Perhaps the only time.  
I was at a place in Buckner that was selling packets of last years seeds for a dime each; I noticed the package of parsnip seeds and got it.  That was at least a couple of weeks ago, and so far the only green breaking through the soil where I planted them is the occasional weed or blade of grass.  
Reading an article on how to grow parsnips, I learned that parsnips are sweeter if they are left in the ground until there have been a few frosts, and they can actually be overwintered if a foot-deep layer of straw is placed on top of them.  They are sweetest in the spring, after wintering in the ground while dormant.  
I also looked at various sites telling how to prepare parsnips.  None of them mention a glaze; I wonder, are they just naturally that sweet, or did my mom add sugar?  Maybe my sister will remember.  I'll have to ask her.
If any of my readers have experience with raising and cooking parsnips, I'd love to hear your tips.